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reader, that I have not been unmindful of the impressive precept of a wise man of old; "whatever thy hand findeth to de, do it with thy might; for there is no work. nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave whither thou goest." And 1 would ask, what efforts can be more worthy the pursuit of a citizen of a free government, than to elucidate and inculcate the principles of civil liberty? For where these are correctly discerned and truly practised, there, and there alone, may mankind be said to enjoy their inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But where these are pot understood, or the civil laws obscured in the view of the people, or not comprehended by them, there these principles and those laws, not only lose their beauty and value, but a way is opened to public degeneracy and ruin. Besides, civil liberty is the parent and guardian of religious freedom and toleration. Where that is suffered to be prostrated, there one is apt to behold a wretched debasement of human intellect, exposed to all the horrors of eligious persecution. With propriety, therefore, might a celebrated writer say, "where liberty dwells, there is my country." An elucidation of a theme thus noble, I must confess, might have received a more appropriate treatment from an abler pen and more competent lawyer: But I have waited, and waited in a vain expectation, to see a delineation of it according to my view of its conduct and arrangement. Much as the common law of England is appreciated by many of our jurists, it cannot be denied, that it receives its intrinsic merit from being engrafted on our free institutions. In a digest, therefore, of our jurisprudence, intended to direct our County and Town Officers in a correct discharge of their several official duties, that law must be an imperfect guide indeed, when unaccompanied with the details of its modifications by our legislature and minute expositions of the laws of our own land. How far the force of this fact has been recognized or evinced in the American edition of the Conductor Generalis, published some years ago, or the late edition of the New-York Justice, (the only American books that have hitherto appeared having any relation to the subject matter of the following work,) we leave it to the public consideration to judge. It will, however, we believe, be found, that neither of those books are of general practical utility to the County or Town Officer, whatever may be their use to professional gentlemen. For them, in my opinion, they may be better adapted, than for plain country farmers, who have not always lawyer near them to expound the common law learning they contain: And here it may not be improper to remark, that as to a knowledge of the technical terms which abound in that law, I consider it not material for any County or Town Officer whom

soever, except, perhaps for a judge of the common pleas; inasmuch as it is the business of the district attorney to draw all bills of indictment on offences in the county, upon which it is the province of the jury, under the direction of the court, or the court solely, to pronounce a decision; and that in relation to the country magistrate, it cannot be expected, and ought not to be required, that he should define all crimes which happen to be cognizable before him, with all the minutia of legal precision or technical nicety. All law being a rule of action, prescribed by the rulers, and which it is incumbent on the ruled to obey, it follows that the more plainly it is worded, the better will it be understood, and the more readily conformed to. The reader will find the following pages to have been conducted on that plan, as supposed to be the most proper to introduce our citizens to a familiar acquaintance with the laws of our state; than which, no subject can be more interesting to every individual; in that while it indicates his duty, his interest and his happiness, it developes those inestimable principles of civil liberty embraced by the constitution of this great and free state, which protects him in the enjoyment of all his political immunities and domestic comforts. All here enjoy equal rights, and hence all are equally concerned in the due administration of the laws. But surely, none can, or ought to have a more immediate concern on this topic, than the servants of the people, or the officers to whom are confided the management of the interests of the community. If to such this book should be auxiliary in the discharge of their official duties, I shall experience the happy consolation, of having been useful to my fellow citizens, which I consider the greatest of all rewards.


Kingston, Oct. 14, 1816.

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