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an English Court of Law, in which it becomes necessary to discuss the notarial practice, the information which could easily be afforded by experienced and intelligent notaries, and perhaps by bankers or merchants, is too frequently sought for in the works, often very defective, of foreign authors: a circumstance which would excite surprise, if it were not for the fact, that there is not any treatise now known and read, if such ever existed, written exclusively upon the office and practice of an English Notary, although one or two authors, occasionally cited, such as Beawes, as long ago as 1750, and Montefiore, in 1801, published works, in which the notarial practice and precedents were alluded to, or introduced to a certain extent, but merely as blended with other subjects.
The usages and practice of the notaries of England may, in some measure, be considered as traditional, because they are not defined by published Rules of the Court of Faculties, or by Statute; but that is only true to a certain extent, for they are not only transmitted by oral communication from notary to apprentice, and from senior to junior notary, but the general Notarial Register Books, the Protest and Noting Books, which are in general preserved with care, and often handed down from one generation of notaries to another,
contain valuable information, respecting the forms used in times past, and the practice of those, who have since been removed from active pursuits, or from existence, by time or death; and which may, possibly be one principal cause of the uniformity in the practice of the notaries, which is in general so observable throughout England.
It is, perhaps, to be lamented, that some of those experienced and talented individuals, who are now in their graves"), but who were in most extensive practice, as solicitors and notaries, in Liverpool, when I commenced mine, in the year 1814, did not devote a portion of their time to the production of a work upon the office or functions of a notary, for when so much depends upon an intimate knowledge of usages and practical matters, it is clear that an author of such a treatise ought to be personally accustomed to, and experienced in the notarial practice; however, as no one has thought fit to attempt it, I have been induced
(1) The Author hopes that it will not be considered other than as a respectful tribute to departed worth and talents, to particularise the names of John Leigh, William Stanistreet, George Orred, George Rowe, and James Baines, who were all Solicitors and Notaries, well known to, and it may perhaps not be too much to add, respected for their practice and conduct, by most of the Judges on the Bench at that period.
to do so, after having been, for nearly a quarter of a century, engaged in active practice, as a solicitor and notary.
I cannot pretend to present to the public, a treatise free from faults; but, at least, I may be allowed to hope, that they will be treated with indulgence, when it is borne in mind, that, in writing it, much must necessarily depend upon memory, and personal observation in matters of usage, and practice; I have however, endeavoured to give faithfully, the result of my own experience during so many years, combined with the best information which I could obtain
from others. To persons of my own standing in the profession, it may possibly not be altogether useless, and with respect to the juniors, and to those who have yet to become members of it, I have only to observe, that, in giving publicity to this treatise, I am now doing for others, what I have often, in my own practice in former days, had occasion to wish had been done for me, by one of those lamented and talented individuals already alluded to.
In endeavouring to make this publication serviceable to the profession, I have at the same time been anxious to render it useful to bankers and merchants; and the
chapters relating to Bills of Exchange, Promissory Notes, Ship and other Protests, Charterparties, Bottomry Bonds, Powers of Attorney, Declarations substituted for Affidavits, Commissions from Foreign Courts of Judicature, and to various instruments connected with Shipping and Mercantile Matters, are written with the intention of being of practical use to them, and of easy reference.
I have now, in concluding, respectfully to tender my thanks to all those professional and mercantile friends, and the number is considerable, who have kindly afforded me information upon matters of usage, the result of their own observations. I beg leave also to express my acknowledgments to my friend Fletcher Raincock, Esq., the senior of the Northern Bar, a gentleman whose extensive and combined knowledge, as a lawyer, a scholar, and an antiquary, is rarely equalled, and perhaps never excelled; and to whose kindness I am indebted for several important suggestions, as well as for access, both on this and on other occasions, to various rare and curious books in his extensive and valuable library.
Liverpool, 1st December, 1838.