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middling and lower classes of tradesmen, who cannot well afford to throw away the time and money necessary for prosecuting. Certainty of punishment, the surest preventive of crime, is removed, and the necessary consequences follow.
Another most oppressive branch of our legal system, though in fact it has well nigh become "law," is conveyancing, which is fixed like an incubus on almost every transaction. Of its mysteries, it is not presumed to speak. They are, except to the chosen few, inscrutable. The acute attorney, if attorney yet there be, the learned barrister, here alike avow their incompetence. Were not the subject rather too serious, the extreme absurdity of all this would be highly amusing. An individual who, to-morrow may be placed in a situation to decide on the lives and fortunes of the first and noblest of the realm, is not competent to make an every-day transfer of property. This abuse, to be sure, is rather more impartial in its attacks on the wealth and concerns of the nation. The premier peer in the contract for a manor, and the humble mechanic in the lease for his little workshop, are equally in the hands of the masters of this black art—and their children may discover that the conjuring has not been duly done-the talisman deficient in some of its mysterious characters, some dot or tittle wanting in the "deed;" and then comes the alternative-a lawsuit, much lost, or relinquishment of the property, all lost.
Last, but not least, there is the Chancery-that "tenth wave" of legal misery-over the entrance of which should be placed Dante's well-known lines. In saying this, no reflection is meant on Lord Eldon, either as a man or a judge. In both capacities the writer of this does himself the honor to estimate him very highly, and considers the dreadful state of things in his court not as a reproach to him, but as a proof that as matters now stand, no abilities or exertion would suffice for producing any tolerable amendment. There is a limit to all human exertions; and it is not perceived that more could have been done by the Chancellor than he has performed. A good cause has been much discredited by attacking him, instead of attacking the abuses, which he could not alter or remedy. Indeed it has been said lately, if not justly, yet with some point, that the Chancellor was attacked, to draw the attention of the public from the true source of all those evils. From whatever causes, however, there is no doubt of the "inconvenience" having risen to such a pitch, that the plain English of many complaints seems to be, "It were better the cause were decided against me at once, than that I should suffer from farther delay." To all the torture of suspense, is added the enormous expense-fees: which in this, even more than in the other courts, are beyond belief; and if any thing similar to many of them were
found in a coachmaker's bill,' the counsel would go near to saying "swindling," and a Middlesex jury would strike them out. But who dares to say "swindling," when a bill of costs, taxed or untaxed, is in question? and such a matter is too sacred to be even thought of by a jury. On the other side of the Atlantic, I am told, the thing is different; juries there take the liberty of enquiring whether bills of costs are legal and just. But this is perhaps anarchical, and no doubt ought to meet with no countenance here.
This state of things, however, cannot last much longer; the nation at large is wearied out. It is not now the suitors only who complain of the burden: it is intolerable, and has become virtually as oppressive as the most tyrannical kings of England made it directly. Their "special commissions" and "star chambers" fell here and there on individuals, generally of note, and not unfrequently instruments of oppression as they too often were, administered justice to those who could not otherwise have obtained it. The humble were comparatively safe from their power: but now, no rank, no obscurity, is a shield from the all-pervading mischief. Where now is the "Nulli deferemus, nulli negabimus justitiam ?" Either this should be erased from the statute-book, or causes should not be for half a century in Chancery, and the poor man should have some chance of obtaining justice.
It will be readily asked, why, if there be such unanimity in the public opinion, do we not hear such complaints both in and out of Parliament, as would compel an alteration? The answer is obvious. Few English gentlemen know any thing of law, still fewer of its "practice"-of which, indeed, a good general lawyer may be completely ignorant. Perhaps there is not one such in the House of Commons. If there be, fortune and situation in life prevent their forming a proper estimate of the extensive and ruinous evils we are considering. As to the lawyers in Parliament, it would be a very unreasonable expectation, that those who have toiled through the difficulties of the profession, and are now reaping the fruits of their labors, should attack that which is giving them fame and fortune. Besides an old practising lawyer naturally forms an association of excellence with, a complacent feeling for, those roads which he has successfully travelled-habit and gratitude mixed-which extends even to things which the briefless barrister will readily condemn, but which the grave sergeant feels are to be defended and cherished, even in the inferior
See some details in the Morning Chronicle of January 27.
2 It is not to the interest of the barristers that this mass of abuses in the shape of fees, &c, should exist; but if they should be willing to come for
branches of the profession-and if they were offended, where would be his briefs? The physician orders bread pills and colored water for the good of the apothecary; who, in his turn, makes work for, and calls in the physician. There is no lack of discussion in Parliament for the best way of pillaging the church, or establishing new Negro kingdoms in the West Indies, in place of the whites, who ought to be exterminated, or perhaps mercifully allowed to come to England, and swell the poor-rates; but there little said about those who are lingering out their lives in attendance on the different courts-those whom poverty prevents from asserting their just claims, whose little all is swallowed up ere it can be rescued' from the servants of that court" which is to supply the defects of law"-those who lose their effects by the blunders of a conveyancer, or who are for months confined as felons, without the possibility of a trial by " God and their country." Nulli deferemus justitiam! By the bye, as "old law" is confessedly the best law," this ancient clause should find more favor in certain quarters, than it has done for many years, or than, it is to be feared, it is likely to do for many more.
The great obstacle in the way of improvement, is certainly, as has been before hinted with regard to the House of Commons, the want of practical knowlege on the subject. This, no doubt, has also caused the comparative silence of some of our leading periodical prints. If that "moral steam-engine" could have fairly mastered the subject, there would long ago have been little cause left for complaint. A vast majority are agreed that something ought to be done; but there is a great want of confidence not only in themselves, but in those who have undertaken to advise them in the premises. This has been much increased by propositions of "reform" made by men of ability, it is true, but involving innovations and changes both of forms and principles too violent to
ward to remedy them, they cannot-their hands are completely tied. On the other hand, it is the advantage of all the inferior officers, attorneys, proctors, clerks, &c. &c. that no reformation should take place-delays are continually created-causes put off-to be sure, there are more costs! Surely it is sufficiently vexatious to one, and frequently to both parties, that a cause should be continued, without the shameful additional expense. Why is not the bare order of the court, "that the cause be continued," sufficient? It certainly is so for all the purposes of justice. To an argument of this kind it was not long since answered, "attorneys must live”—in the bitterness of his heart, the unfortunate suitor repeated the well-known reply of the French lieutenant de police, "Monsieur, je n'en vois pas la necessité."
The statement said to have been lately made in the Court of Chancery, "that a portion of an estate worth (the portion) £100 was not worth seeking for, as it would be absorbed by the expenses!" Nulli negabimus!"
be agreeable to the discontented, who being also the uninitiated, could not well comprehend the arguments brought forward in their support, and consequently estimate fairly their weight, let it have been what it might. The old and excellent, in one point of view, most honorable feeling-"Nolumus leges Angliæ mutare”—has, fortunately for the country, still almost unbounded influence. It prevents rash and rapid changes-it gives the nation among nations, that kind of advantage a representative government has over a democracy-cool and deliberate discussion and determination. It belongs to that part of the national character which makes an Englishman that which he is, xar x, in the field;-that which made of a retreating, disorganised body of men, to all appearance incapable of an efficient resistance, the army that at Corunna defeated the best troops of France, accustomed to victory, flushed with advantages, and encouraged by their superior numbers. It defeated the address of ancient popes, and has equally stood in the way of modern innovators. Mere ingenuity or eloquence, have, even of late years, lost much of whatever influence they may have possessed in England. To carry any measure, it is necessary to bring it home to the common sense of the nation-that done, the rest must follow at no distant interval.
It is unquestionably desirable, in all changes where important interests are compromised, that the original principle should be as nearly as possible preserved. We already know how that operates, and can guess pretty nearly what effect the modification may produce: if expectation should not be satisfied, it is not difficult to return to the starting point, and while is it scarcely possible something should not have been gained in point of knowlege by the experiment, but little mischief can have arisen. It would be an insult to any tolerable understanding, to attempt any detail of the consequences likely to flow from a different mode of proceeding.
The present organisation of our law-courts has been essentially the same for centuries; and it is not to be wondered at, that in the lapse of so long a period, with all the changes that have taken place in men and things, in manners, wealth, and commerce, it should not now "work" as well as it once did. We are told of the wisdom of our ancestors, and justly. Their wisdom is, however, as a guide rather to be sought for in their aims and intentions, than in their actual doings. The institutions which in their days were wise, are not necessarily so now, as indeed they might counteract the very ends for which they were originally established. We have out-grown, in every sense of the word, not only their expectations, but their dreams. They, for
example, built churches which were ample for the accommodation of the people shall we now, in the increased state of our popu lation, refer to "the wisdom of our ancestors" for building no more? or is it any disrespect to their memory, that a 74 woul dbe equivalent to one of their fleets?
When the twelve judges" were first appointed, it would be difficult to give an idea of the comparative nothingness of the business they had to transact-especially, as some of the most important and intricate questions of our law had then scarcely a name. But under all the changes of time, the extension of our empirethe increase of numbers and of wealth, not only of business but of law, they remain "twelve" judges still. Surely this is not according to the "wisdom of our ancestors." It seems at first a singular anomaly in the history of the last hundred years, that while ingenuity itself could scarcely have been more astute in finding pretexts for new offices, and while the complaints of the accumulation of business, and the consequent mischiefs, in both civil and criminal cases, were clamorous and continual, the natural and obvious remedy of increasing the number of judges in each court should not have been embraced, and as it is believed not even proposed. But, in fact, a judge has so little to hope or to fear, can, and we may proudly say will, do so little-indeed nothing, for party, that as the appointment of a few additional judges would have been inefficient in that point of view, nobody thought, or at least cared, anything about it. The only argument that can be adduced against such a measure is, that increasing the number lessens the responsibility; but the weight of this, in the particular case, is not perceived. One judge only would still sit at Nisi Prius; his responsibility would be the same, whether he were one of a bench of four or six.
What a magical change would this very simple arrangement produce, and that too without departing from the ancient principle in the slightest degree. There would be no longer never-ceasing complaints of want of judges-want of time-of accused persons remaining for many months in jail. A jail-delivery might and
The contamination of a jail affords no weak argument for shortening, by every possible means, the confinement before trial. Even persons in prison for debt, who went there honest, too often leave it sadly corrupted. As the prisons would not be so full, the facility of classing the prisoners, on all hands considered a measure of the greatest importance, would be much increased. So true it is, that one improvement leads the way to another, as one error is generally the precursor of more. The county expenses would also be lessened. It is stated that men commit some trifling offence, to be put in jail during the winter, while their families must be maintained by the parish.