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decision of the judges. If the judges of the inferior courts are mistaken in their construction of a law, their decision must be reviewed and corrected by the courts of superior jurisdiction. But by what maxims are the judges of both courts to be guided in their expositions on what ground will their determinations rest? Are the courts to proceed upon established principles—to be governed by fixed rules; or, exercising a liberal discretion, to have recourse, in doubtful cases, to natural principles,--to aid and to moderate the law according to equitable considerations,-to include in their deliberations those cases and circumstances, which the legislator himself would have expressed, had he foreseen them?

§ 410. To an English lawyer, brought up with a sober veneration of the wise maxim, (so consonant to the spirit of our constitution, and so constantly to be traced pervading the whole body of our jurisprudence,)--that Optima est lex, quæ minimum relinquit arbitrio judicis, optimus judex, qui minimum sibi,(a) the question would seem to present little difficulty. An English judge, however, would be in no slight degree astonished, at finding it laid down as a dogma of law, as in the fourth article of the Titre préliminaire de la publication des Lois :-"Le juge qui refusera de juger, sous prétexte du silence, de l'obscurité, ou de l'insuffisance de la loi, pourra être poursuivi comme coupable de déni de justice."(6) On which law, the following passage in the Discours Préliminaire(c) may be considered as a commentary:~"Sur le fondement de la maxime qui les juges doivent obéir aux lois, et qu'il leur est défendu de les interpreter, les tribunaux, dans ces dernieres années, renvoyaient par des référés les justiciables au pouvoir

(a) Aphorism, 46 ; Bacon's Works, vol. 7, p. 148.
(6) P. 26, Titre Préliminaire.
(c) P. 25. Discours Préliminaire.

législatif, toutes les fois qu'ils manquaient de loi, on que la loi existante leur parassait obscure. Le tribunal de cassation a constamment réprimé cet abus, comme un déni de justice.” From which important passage it is to be collected, that even among our enlightened neighbors, and at a very recent period, the boundaries of legislation and of judicial interpretation were so vaguely defined, and so imperfectly understood, that the judges were constantly either mistaking the principles, or erring in the application of them.

§ 411. The doctrine laid down in the fourth article of the Titre Préliminaire, before cited, will probably appear to the ordinary reader, even in its present shape, not a little calculated to produce the effect which the Consul Cambacérès denounced as the probable result before the adoption of an amendment suggested by him to control it :-"peut faciliter les usurpations des tribunaux sur le pouvoir législatif.(a) The explanations, however, of this article, which were afforded during the discussion of the projet, are highly valuable.(6)

§ 412. Le Minister de la Justice dit, “qu'il y a deux sortes d'interpretations, celle de legislation et celle de doctrine; que cette derniere appartient essentiellement aux tribunaux ; que la premiere est celle que leur est interdite ; que lorsqu'il est défenda aux juges d'interpreter, il est évident que c'est de l'interpretation legislative que 'il s'agit. Il cite l'art. VII., du titre 1er a de l'ordonnance de 1667, qui défend aux juges d'interpreter les ordonnances." Le C. Tronchet dit, “que l'on a abusé, pour réduire les juges à un état purement passif, de la défense que leur avait faite l'assemble constituante, d'interpréter des lois et de réglementer. Cette défense

(a) Deuxieme rédaction, séance de 14 therm. an IX. (6) Titre Préliminaire, p. 28.

n'avait pour objet que d'empêcher les tribunaux d'exercer une partie de pouvoir législatif, comme l'avaient fait les anciennes cours, en fixant le sens des lois par des interprétations abstraites et générales, ou en les suppléant par des arréts de reglement. Mais, pour éviter l'abus qu'on en a fait, il faut laisser au juge l' interpretation, sans laquelle il ne peut exercer son ministere. En effet, les contestations civiles portent sur les sens différent

que chacune des parties prête a la loi; ce n'est donc pas par une loi nouvelle, mais par l'opinion du juge, que la cause doit être décidée. On craint que les juges n'en abusent pour juger contre le texte de la loi ; s'ils se le permettaient, le tribunal de cassation anéantirait leurs jugements.” Le C. Ræderer dit,“ que l'article IV. donne trop de pouvoir au juge, en l'obligeant de prononcer même dans le silence de la loi. Il appartient au judge d'appliquer la loi; il ne lui appartient pas de remplir les lacunes de la législation, quand la loi garde un silence absola.” Le C. Portalis repond, “que le cours de la justice serait interrompu, s'il n'etait permis aux juges de prononcer que lorsque la loi a parlé. Peu de causes sont susceptibles d'être décidées d'apres une loi, d'apres une texte précis; c'est par les principes genéraux, par la doctrine, par la science du droit, qu'on a toujours prononcé sur la plupart des contestations. En matiere criminelle le juge ne doit prononcer que lorsque la loi a qualifié de délit le fait qui est déféré a la justice, et qu'elle y attache une peine; en matiere civille au contraire, le juge ne peut se refuser a prononcer indistinctement sur toutes les causes qui lui sont présentées, parceque, s'il ne trouve pas dans la loi de regles pour décider, il doit recourer a l'équité naturelle. Ce serait trop multiplier les lois, que de les faire naitre des doutes des juges.”

§ 413. It is necessary to bear these explanations in mind in perusing the following passages from the mas

terly discourse prefixed to these Discussions sur le Code Civil; and it is not less important to remember that in all civilized countries except England, (a) the jurisdiction of common law and of equity is committed to the same courts, and that, by blending law and equity together, greater latitude is given to the judges in matters of property, to mould and adapt, that is, (discarding figurative language,) without absolutely altering, to modify, the laws, in order to meet the purposes of justice in particular cases, than where the judges are bound by settled rules. With us, even in the courts of equity, which are supposed in some instances, to admit of determinations according to conscience, and arbitrium boni viri, it has been a question with enlightened lawyers, how far this most liberal description of equitable jurisdiction should be permitted; and whether courts of equity ought not to be, in all cases, governed by general rules. On the one hand it is admitted, that if this were the case, the consequence would inevitably follow, that a judge would sometimes be bound to pronounce decrees which would be materially unjust; since no rule can be equally just in the application to a whole class of cases, that are far from being the same in every circumstance. But on the other hand, it has been thought, that even this dreadful evil should be tolerated, to avoid a greater;—that of rendering judges arbitrary, and their decrees so fluctuating, that the public could never trust to them as a rule of conduct.(6) § 414. The observations of Lord Hardwicke upon

this subject, (of the establishment of general rules in our courts of equity,) are entitled to great attention, and his remarks upon the subject of frauds, seem quite conclusive upon that part of the subject. “Some general rules

(a) Some of the American states also.
() Lorů Kame's Principles of Equity.

there ought to be, for otherwise, the great inconvenience of jus vagum et incertum will follow; and yet the Pretor must not be so absolutely and invariably bound by them, as the judges are by the rules of the common law. In the construction of trusts, which are one great head of equity jurisdiction, the rules are pretty well ascertained; so they are in cases of redemption of mortgages, which makes another great branch of that business. But as to relief against frauds, no invariable rules can be established. Fraud is infinite, and were a court of equity once to lay down rules, how far they would go, and no farther, in extending their relief against it, or to define strictly the species, or evidence of it, the jurisdiction would be cramped, and perpetually eluded by new schemes, which the fertility of man's invention would contrive."(a)

$: 415. In the same letter, but in the handling of a different topic, (which will be the subject of notice hereafter,) Lord Hardwicke expresses a decided feeling against a measure, the tendency of which would be to make the judges of the common law, law-makers in matters of property. Not so, mutatis mutandis, the French codifiers; by whom some contempt is indicated, for the practical wisdom of those qui osent prescire impérieusement au législateur la terrible tâche de ne rien abandonner a la décision du juge. Quoi que l'on fassé, ceeds the same profound and analytical discourse,(6)— les lois positives ne sauraient jamais entierement remplacer l'usage de la raison naturelle dans les affaires de la vie ; les besoins de la société sont si variés, les communication des hommes est si active, leurs interests sont


(a) Letter to Lord Kames ; Lord Woodhouslee's Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Lord Kame. Parke's History of the Court of Chancery, Appendix No. 4.

(6) Discours Prelim. p. 20.

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