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THE FIRST EDITION.
The subject of the following Treatise comprehends a great variety of points, in which the public are very generally interested. In the ordinary course of human affairs, almost all persons at some period of their lives are called to exercise the office of a personal representative, or to transact business with such as are invested with it. An attempt, therefore, to unfold its nature, to describe its rights, and to point out its duties, as there is no modern work of any reputation which professes exclusively to treat of these topics, will, I persuade myself, be regarded with favour.
The book of the most distinguished merit on this subject, is that which is entitled “ The Office and
Duty of Executors ;” and which, although it bear the name of Thomas Wentworth, is now generally ascribed to Mr. Justice Dodderidge. It was first published anonymously in the year 1641: to the third edition, printed in the same year, was prefixed, for the first time, the fictitious name I have just mentioned. The eighth edition appeared in 1689, to which Chief Baron Comyns, in his Digest, constantly refers. In 1703, the ninth edition was published, with a supplement by H. Curzon : the twelfth edition was published in 1762, with references by a Gentleman of the Inner Temple ; and in 1774, the thirteenth and last edition, by Mr. Serjeant Wilson.
Of the original work it is no undue praise to assert, that it is worthy the pen of so learned an author. It is calculated to engage the attention of the reader, and contains very sound principles, and authentic information. At the same time it must be confessed, that it is often uncouth, and sometimes obscure in its language; altogether inartificial in its method ; and of necessity defective in regard to later adjudications; which at law are numerous and important; and in equity constitute a new system. It is also silent respecting the office of an administrator. Nor is it much indebted to its several
editors. The Supplement, as it is called, is a mere collection of cases, without order, and without precision.
Under these circumstances I was induced to compile the present Treatise. The subject appeared to me capable of an arrangement more natural and distinct than any which has hitherto been adopted. Such arrangement I have endeavoured to form and to preserve. It has also been my object to comprise the multifarious matter, of which I have been treating, within as narrow limits as it would admit; and to express myself at once with brevity and with clear
The authorities I have stated very fully in the margin, with a view of facilitating farther researches into points of a nature so interesting, and of so perpetual a recurrence. And it will afford me much satisfaction, if I shall have contributed to extend so useful a species of knowledge.