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THE MARITIME COURTS, or such as have power and jurisdiction to determine all maritime injuries, arising upon the seas, or in parts out of the reach of the common law, are only the court of ADMIRALTY and its courts of appeal. The court of admiralty is held before the lord high admiral of England or his deputy, who is called the judge of the court. Its proceedings are according to the method of the civil law, like those of the ecclesiastical courts; upon which account it is usually held at the same place with the superior ecclesiastical courts at doctors' commons in London. It is not a court of record any more than the spiritual courts. An appeal always lies in ordinary course from the sentences of the admiralty judge to the king in chancery. But it is expressly declared by statute, that upon appeal made to the chancery, the sentence definitive of the delegates appointed by the commission shall be final.

Appeals from the courts of vice-admiralty in America, and our other plantations and settlements, may be brought before the courts of admiralty in England, as being a branch of the admiral's jurisdiction, though they may also be brought before the king in council. But in case of prize-vessels taken in time of war, in any part of the world, and condemned in any courts of admiralty or vice-admiralty as lawful prize, the appeal lies to certain commissioners of appeals, consisting chiefly of the privy council, and not to judges delegates. The original court, to which this court is permitted in England, is the court of admiralty; and the court of appeal is in effect the king's privy council, the members of which are in consequence of treaties, commissioned under the great seal for this purpose.

To the crown of Great Britain belongs the dominion of all the narrow seas which surround the island, by ancient and immemorial right, and of which it has kept possession in all past times. Mr Selden makes it appear, that before the invasion of Julius Cæsar, the aboriginal inhabitants possessed this right, and after their subjugation, the Romans held it by the right of conquest. On the expulsion of the Romans, the Saxon conquerors claimed, and held the sovereignty of the surrounding narrow seas; and king Edgar, among his royal titles, styled himself "sovereign of the narrow seas." The claim of sovereignty was continued by the Norman conqueror; and under that more rigorous dynasty, the Swedes, Danes, Hanse Towns, Dutch, Zealanders, &c., were compelled to ask permission and to take licenses for fishing in the British seas; and as a token of the British sovereignty, were obliged to lower their top-sails when passing a British ship of war, in conformity with an ordinance made by king John at Hastings in Sussex.


IN the two preceding sections, we have considered several courts whose jurisdiction is public and general; and are so contrived that some or other of them may administer redress to every possible injury that can arise in the kingdom at large. There yet remains certain others, confined to particular spots, or instituted only for the redress of particular injuries, and whose jurisdiction is private and special.

These are, I. THE FOREST COURTS, instituted for the government of the king's forests in different parts of the kingdom, and for the punishment of all injuries done to the king's deer or venison, to the vert or greensward, and to the covert in which such deer are lodged. These are the courts of attachments, of regard, of swein mote, and of justice-seat. But since the era of the Revolution in 1688, the forest laws have fallen into total disuse, to the great advantage of the subject.

II. A second species of private courts, is that of commissioners of sewers. This is a temporary tribunal, erected by virtue of a commission under the great seal; which formerly used to be granted pro re nata, at the pleasure of the crown but now at the discretion and nomination of the lord chancellor, lord treasurer, and chief justices, pursuant to the statute 23 Henry VIII. Their jurisdiction is to overlook the repairs of sea banks and sea walls; and the cleansing of rivers, public streams, ditches, and other conduits, whereby any waters are carried off; and is confined to such county or particular district, as the commission shall expressly name. The commissioners are a court of record, and may fine and imprison for contempts; and in the execution of their duty, may proceed by jury or upon their own view, and may take order for the removal of any annoyances, or for the safeguard or conservation of the sewers within their commission, either according to the laws and customs of Romney-marsh or otherwise at their own discretion. They may also assess such rates, or scots, upon the owners of lands within their district, as they shall judge necessary: and if any person refuses to pay them, the commissioners may levy the same by distress of his goods and chattels; or they may, by statute 23 Henry VIII., sell his freehold lands in order to pay such scots or assessments. But their conduct is under the control of the court of king's bench, which will prevent or punish any illegal or tyrannical proceedings.

III. The court of policies of assurance, when subsisting, is erected in pursuance of the statute 43 Elizabeth, which enables the lord chancellor to grant yearly a standing commission to the judge of the admiralty, the recorder of London, two doctors of the civil law, two common lawyers, and eight merchants; any three of which, one being a civilian or a barrister,

are thereby, and by statute 13 and 14 Char. II. empowered to determine in a summary way, all causes concerning policies of assurance in London, with an appeal (by way of bill) to the court of chancery. But the jurisdiction being somewhat defective, as extending only to London, and to no other assurances but those on merchandise, and to suits brought by the insured only, and not by the insurers, no such commission has of late years been issued; but insurance causes are now usually determined by the verdict of a jury of merchants, and the opinion of the judges in case of any legal doubts; whereby the decision is more speedy, satisfactory, and final.

IV. The court of MARCHALSEA and the PALACE COURT at Westminster, though two distinct courts, are frequently confounded together. These courts have jurisdiction to hold plea of all manner of personal actions whatsoever, which shall arise between any parties within twelve miles of his Majesty's palace at Whitehall, and are now held once a-week in the borough of Southwark, and a writ of error lies from thence to the court of king's bench. But if the cause is of any considerable consequence, it is usually removed on its first commencement, together with the custody of the defendant, either into the king's bench or common pleas, by a writ of habeas corpus cum causa; but the inferior business of the court has of late years been much reduced by the new courts of conscience erected in the environs of London.

V. Another species of private courts of a limited though extensive jurisdiction, are those of the principality of Wales. By several statutes of Henry VIII., courts-baron, hundred, and the county courts are established there, the same as in England. A session is also to be held once in every year, in each county, by judges appointed by the king, called the great sessions of the several counties in Wales; in which all pleas of real and personal actions shall be held, with the same form of process, and in as ample a manner as in the court of common pleas at Westminster; and writs of error shall lie from judgments therein (it being a court of record), to the court of king's bench at Westminster.

VI. The court of the duchy chamber of Lancaster is another special jurisdiction, held before the chancellor of that duchy or his deputy, concerning all matters of equity relating to lands holden of the king in right of the duchy of Lancaster; which is a thing very different from a county palatine, (which has its separate chancery for sealing of writs and the like,) and comprises much territory which lies at a vast distance from it, particularly a very large district surrounded by the city of Westminster. The proceedings in this court are the same as on the equity side in the courts of exchequer and chancery, so that it seems not to be a court of record ; and indeed it has been holden that these courts have a concurrent jurisdiction with the duchy court, and may take cognizance of the same causes.

VII. There are a species of private courts which are of a limited local jurisdiction, and have at the same time an exclusive cognizance of pleas, in matters both of law and equity, as those which appertain to the counties palatine of Chester, Lancaster, and Durham, and the royal franchise of Ely. In all these, as in the principality of Wales, the king's ordinary writs, issuing under the great seal out of chancery, do not run; that is, they are of no force. For originally all jura regalia having been granted to the lords of these counties palatine, they had of course the sole administration of justice, by their own judges appointed by themselves and not by the crown. It would therefore be incongruous for the king to send his writ to direct the judge of another prince's court in what manner to administer justice between the suitors. But when Henry VIII. abridged the privileges and franchises of these county palatines, it was enacted by statute 27 Henry VIII. that all writs and processes should be made in the king's name, but should be witnessed in the name of the owner of the franchise. Wherefore, all writs whereon actions are founded, and which have current authority in the counties palatine, must be under the seal of the respective franchises; the two former of which are now united to the crown, and the two latter under the government of their several bishops. And the judges of assize who sit therein, hold their seat by virtue of a special commission from the owners of the several franchises, and under the seal thereof, and not by the usual commission under the great seal of England. Hither also may be referred the courts of the cinque ports, or five most important havens, as they were formerly esteemed; viz. Dover, Sandwich, Romney, Hastings, and Hythe, to which Winchelsea and Rye have been since added; which have also similar franchises in many respects with the counties palatine, and particularly an exclusive jurisdiction before the mayor and jurats of the ports, within which exclusive jurisdiction the king's writ does not run. A writ of error lies from the mayor and jurats of each port, to the lord warden of the cinque ports in his court of Shepway, and from the court of Shepway to the king's bench. And a writ of error lies also from all the other jurisdictions to the same supreme court of judicature, as an ensign of superiority reserved by the crown at the original creation of the franchises. And all prerogative writs, such as habeas corpus, prohibition, certiorari, and mandamus, may issue for the same reason to all these exempt jurisdictions; because the privilege, that the king's writ runs not, must be intended between party and party, for there can be no such privilege against the king.

VIII. The STANNARY Courts in Devonshire and Cornwall for the administration of justice among the tinners, are also courts of record, but of the same private and exclusive nature. They are held before the lord Warden and his substitutes, in virtue of a privilege granted to the workers in the tin mines there, to sue and be sued only in their own courts, that

they may not be drawn from their business, which is highly profitable to the public, by attending their lawsuits in other courts. What relates to our present purpose is only this, that all tinners and labourers, in and about the stannaries, shall, during the time of their working therein bona fide, be privileged from suits of other courts, and be only impleaded in the Stannary court in all matters, excepting pleas of land, life, and member. No writ of error lies here to any court in Westminster hall. But an appeal lies here from the steward of the court, to the under warden, and from him to the lord warden, and thence to the privy council of the prince of Wales, as duke of Cornwall, when he hath had livery or investiture of the same. And from thence the appeal lies to the king himself in the last resort.

IX. The several courts of justice within the city of London, and other cities, boroughs, and corporations throughout the kingdom, held by prescription, charter, or act of parliament, are also of the same private and limited species. It would exceed the limits of this work to enter into a particular detail of these, and to examine into the nature and extent of their several jurisdictions.

But there is one species of courts constituted by act of parliament in the city of London, and other trading and populous districts, which differs so much in its proceedings from the course of the common law, that it deserves a more particular consideration. We mean the COURTS OF REQUESTS, or courts of conscience, for the recovery of small debts. In these courts, two aldermen and four commoners sit twice a week, to hear all causes of debt not exceeding the value of forty shillings; which they examine in a summary way, by the oath of the parties, or other witnesses and make such order therein, as is consonant to equity and good conscience. The time and expense of obtaining this summary redress, are very inconsiderable, which make it a great benefit to trade; and in consequence, several trading towns, and other districts, have obtained acts of parliament for establishing courts of conscience upon nearly the same plan as that in the city of London.

X. There is yet another species of private courts, which must not be omitted in this notice, viz. the chancellor's courts in the two universities of Oxford and Cambridge; which two learned bodies enjoy the sole jurisdiction, in exclusion of the king's courts, over all civil actions and suits whatsoever when a scholar or privileged person is one of the parties, excepting in such cases where the right of freehold is concerned. So far as the privilege relates to civil causes, it is exercised at Oxford in the chancellor's court; the judge of which is the vice-chancellor, his deputy, or assessor; from whose sentence an appeal lies to delegates appointed by the Congregation; from thence to other delegates of the house of Convocation, and if they all three concur in the same sentence, it is final; at least by the statutes of the university, according to the rule of the civil

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