Lapas attēli

who had occasion to make the research in 1813, that but few of them are preserved in the Secretary's office. The earliest edition known of the colonial laws, is Bradford's, published in 1710, and containing the laws from 1691. He published another edition in 1726, bringing the laws down to that time. In 1762, the colonial laws then in force, were collected, revised, and published under the authority of the General Assembly, by William Smith, Junior, and William Livingston. Another authoritative revision and republication of the colonial laws took place in 1774. The first revision and collection of the laws of the State of New York, was published in 1789, by Samuel Jones and Richard Varrick, containing, in two volumes, the laws passed from the adoption of the Constitution in 1777, and an appendix of certain colonial laws. No other general revision by direction of the legislature took place until 1801, when James Kent, the late Chancellor, then Chief Justice, and Jacob Radcliff, then a Justice of the Supreme Court, were appointed to prepare for the press, and to cause to be printed in as many volumes, and under such heads, or divisions, as they shall think proper, all the acts and parts of acts of the legislature of this State now in force. This labor was accomplished in two volumes, published the following year, and commonly known in the reports as the Revised Laws of New York. These took effect from the 1st of October, 1801, from which time all acts and parts of acts, coming within the purview and operation of the revised acts, were repealed. In 1813, a similar authority to revise and arrange the laws, was conferred on William P. Van Ness and John Woodworth; and the result of their labors, exhibiting the actual state of the statute law of New York at that date, appears likewise in two volumes, published the same year. This edition, commonly known as the New Revised Laws, contains references to all the preceding editions of Colonial and State laws, to the English and British acts of Parliament, in pari materiâ, and also to the English and American reporters upon points of construction. Both in this edition and that of Messrs Kent and Radcliff, all the provisions then in force relating to the same particular, are consolidated into separate acts; but there is little attempt at a scientific arrangement or classification of the subjects. A considerable accumulation of laws, passed since 1813, must now remain wholly without arrangement; yet what has been done by the former revisers will doubtless abridge considerably the labors of the present commissioners, whose plan, as developed in the Report, we now propose to consider.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

The whole Statute Book is divided into five parts, arranging and classifying the laws as follows.

'I. Those which relate to the territory; the political divisions; the civil polity; and the internal administration of the State. 'II. Those which relate to the acquisition, the enjoyment, and the transmission of property, real and personal; to the domestic relations; and generally to all matters connected with private rights.

III. Those which relate to the judiciary establishments, and the mode of procedure in civil cases.

IV. Those which relate to crimes and punishments; to the mode of procedure in criminal cases; and to prison discipline. V. Public laws of a local and miscellaneous character; including the laws concerning the city of New York; acts incorporating cities and villages; and such other acts of incorporation as it may be deemed necessary to publish.' p. 7.

This general arrangement, borrowed apparently from Blackstone, is simple, and adequate to its end.

The first part is then subdivided into nineteen chapters, the titles of which sufficiently indicate the nature of the classification.

Chapter I, to be entitled, Of the boundaries of the State and its territorial jurisdiction.

II. Of the civil divisions of the State.

III. Of the census, or enumeration of the inhabitants of the State.

IV. Of the public officers, their qualifications, privileges, and disabilities; the mode of their election or appointment; and the tenure of their respective offices.

V. Of elections other than for town officers.

VI. Of the duties, privileges, and disabilities of the legislative and principal executive officers of the State.

VII. Of the powers, duties, and privileges of towns.

VIII. Of the powers, duties, and privileges of counties.

IX. Of the salaries and fees of the several offices of this State,

except those connected with the judiciary.

X. Of the public property and the funds of the State.

XI. Of the assessment and collection of taxes.

XII. Of the militia, and the public defence.

XIII. Of the public health.

XIV. Of public instruction.

XV. Of agriculture, trade, and manufactures.
XVI. Of highways and bridges.

XVII. Of ferries.

XVIII. Of the internal police of the State.

XIX. Of the publication and construction of the statutes of this State.' pp. 9-12

We regret, that our limits will not allow us to extract one of the chapters, exhibited in the pamphlet as a specimen, entire. We can, however, briefly exhibit something of the mode of farther subdivision. Chapter VII. Of the powers, duties, and privileges of towns,' is distributed under six titles.

[ocr errors]

'Title I. Of the powers and rights of towns as bodies politic, and the mode of exercising them.

Title II. Of town meetings, and the time, purposes, ner of holding the same.

and man

Title III. Of the qualifications of town officers, and the tenure of their offices.

Title IV. Of vacancies in town offices, and the mode of supplying them.

Title V. Of the duties of certain town officers.

Title VI. Of town charges, and the mode of defraying them.' Some of these titles are again subdivided into several articles; and each article, or title not divided into articles, is again subdivided into sections. Title II. for instance, consists of the four following articles.

'Article I. Of annual and special town meetings.'

This article directs when and where the meetings shall be held; what officers shall be chosen; what notice shall be given; and defines the powers of the electors at such meetings.

Article II. Of the mode of conducting town meetings.' This article directs, who shall preside at such meetings; defines the powers of the presiding officers; prescribes the duties of the clerk; fixes the duration of the meeting, the mode of determining questions by vote, &c.

'Article III. of the election of town officers.'

This directs the manner in which the polls shall be opened and closed, the form of the ballot, the mode of counting, and declaring, and recording the votes.

'Article IV. contains all such miscellaneous and local provisions concerning town meetings as could not well be disposed of under the foregoing heads.'

As a short specimen of the phraseology, we will cite the whole of the first title of this chapter.

1. Each town in this State is a body politic, and as such has capacity

• To sue and be sued, in the manner prescribed in the laws of this State;

To purchase and hold lands within its own limits, and for the use of its inhabitants; subject to the power of the legislature over such limits;

'To make such contracts, and to purchase and hold such personal property, as may be necessary to the exercise of its corporate or administrative powers;

And to make such orders for the disposition, regulation, or use of its corporate property, as may be deemed conducive to the interest of its inhabitants.

2. No town shall possess or exercise any corporate powers, except such as are enumerated in this chapter; or shall be specially given by law; or shall be necessary to the exercise of the powers so enumerated or given.

3. All acts and proceedings by or against a town, in its corporate capacity, shall be in the name of such town; but every conveyance of lands within the limits of such town, made in any manner, for the use or benefit of its inhabitants, shall have the same effect as if made to the town by name.

4. The powers of a town, as a body politic, can only be exercised in town meeting, or in pursuance of a resolution there adopted.'

No enacting clause is proposed to be introduced, excepting at the beginning of each of the five general divisions, where it is preceded by a short preamble, setting forth the expediency of simplifying, consolidating, arranging, and amending the statutes relative to the subjects of that division.


The commissioners have not yet proceeded in their analysis beyond the first general division, the preparation of which, with the necessary preliminary studies and inquiries, they state had furnished them sufficient employment between the periods of their appointment and of the report. Indeed they add, more than three fourths of the existing public statutes fall under this head, now occupying nearly one thousand two hundred pages, which they hope to reduce, however, notwithstanding the addition of many new provisions, to about half their present extent. The task they have undertaken, with the scrupulous fidelity of execution, which we doubt not belongs to them, is indeed a prodigious labor not to be accomplished in a day. Some of its intrinsic difficulties cannot be better set forth than in their own words.

[ocr errors]

In the progress of the work, many changes in the arrange

ment originally contemplated; frequent transpositions in the order of the subjects; and new divisions and subdivisions of the different parts, became necessary. It is not until successive experiments have been actually made, that it can be satisfactorily ascertained, under what general head the subjects of some of the acts, may most properly be comprised. But the most serious portion of our labor is the drawing up of the text itself. To reduce the sections to a proper brevity; to distribute them in a suitable manner; and to simplify the language in which they are written; it becomes absolutely necessary to write the whole with our own hands, and often to give our draughts several revisions, before we can so far satisfy ourselves, in regard to arrangement and expression, as to authorise the employment of a copyist. We can therefore derive but little aid from clerks or amanuenses; nor have we thought it consistent with the great importance of the trust confided to us, to leave to any one of our number exclusively, the completion of any part of the work, though by such a division of labor, our progress might have been hastened. To preserve uniformity of expression, and to make our performances in every sense of the words, joint and several, we have adopted the plan of alloting to each other, from time to time, convenient portions of the statutes; of committing the draughts prepared by each to the separate and critical revisal of the others; and then of subjecting them to the joint examination of all.' p. 14.

From the brief outline we have given of this scheme, and the foregoing account of labor bestowed upon it by the commissioners, the professional reader can duly estimate the magnitude of the task, and perceive at once the great practical convenience of a code so digested, by such hands, when compared with the clumsy and confused mass of contradictory materials, which now encumbers our statute books. For the difficulty is hardly less with us, than it was with the English in the time of James; and Lord Bacon, in his proposal to that monarch, for the amending of the laws of his realm, takes occasion to press upon his Majesty a vigorous argumentum ad hominem, by reminding him, that there is such an accumulation of statutes concerning one matter, and they so cross and intricate, as the certainty of the law is lost in the heap; as your Majesty had occasion to experience last day upon the point, whether the incendiary of Newmarket should have the benefit of his clergy.' Still there is always room to fear, that in the general methodizing and amending even of the statute law alone, too much of substance may be sacrificed to mere method; or rather too much


« iepriekšējāTurpināt »