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closing the shop at night between the fire-place and certain very inflammable goods, does the whole trick, and the fire by its success de stroys all trace of its origin.
In the absence of statistics we have recourse to the opinions of those who may be held authorities on the subject of fires.
In a work on Fires published last year by Mr Charles Young, Civil Engineer, London, there occurs the following expression of opinion: “Fires are continually said to occur by accident, or are, as they are termed, accidental : it has been said that 99 fires out of every 100 are preventible, and may be divided into two kinds—those which are wilful and those which arise from carelessness." No higher authority on any matter connected with fires can be found than the late Captain Braidwood, who so long and successfully commanded the London Fire Brigade, and he states in his posthumous work on this subject that nineteen-twentieths of the fires which take place are attributable to negligence alone. He mentions a case where upwards of £100,000 were lost through the partner of a large establishment lighting gas with a piece of paper which he carelessly threw away, although it was a strict rule in the place that gas was to be lighted with tapers which were supplied for the purpose. With regard to incendiarism he says (p. 46) that while malicious and monomaniac incendiarism is very rare in London, fraudulent incendiarism is rather common.
Much more of personal interest might have been imparted to this article by narrating the criminal career of the Frenchman, Douat, on whom sentence of death was passed at Antwerp in November. This man graduated in crime at Bordeaux, in 1864, by committing one or two good felonies of the ordinary type—fraudulent bankruptcy and forging bills of lading to the value of £36,000. He then began to manifest a genius able to grasp the immense criminal capabilities of insurance, in all its branches of life, fire, and marine. cannot set up as a criminal in either of the two latter without some capital for the purchase of the property to be insured. But life insurance requires only the amount of the first premium ; and if he has no wife-unlike Palmer and Pritchard—whose life he could insure and then terminate, he has always an insurable interest in his own. Douat accordingly effected, in certain Parisian offices, on his own life, insurances to the extent of £4000. He then retired to London in order to die there. This he speedily accomplished, and promptly despatched to his accomplices a certificate of the mournful event. While they were following up his scheme against the Parisian insurance companies, he was following his coffin to a London suburban cemetery, where, with the usual indications of sorrow, (he wept at the trial when he thought of it) and the customary ceremonies of religion, he committed to the grave a lump of lead. His was the frequent fate of genius—not to be appreciated by his age. Many portions of his biography are wrapt in obscurity; but in July last he turned up in Antwerp. He chartered a vessel to take a cargo of watches, jewellery, &c., valued at 250,000 fr., to India, and attempted to effect large insurances on them in the Dutch companies. These, however, being too stolid and cautious, demanded a sight of the goods. There they were in iminense hampers, lying on the harbour in the immediate vicinity of the shipping; but a minuter inspection could not be allowed, because the cases were lined with zinc, and the goods so skilfully and carefully packed, that no man there could replace them. The companies were too stupid to be convinced, and got an order from the judge to have the hampers opened. A day was appointed for the purpose, and Douat received notice to attend. On the night before that day the hampers burst into a fierce conflagration, the flames communicated with the nearest vessels, and the whole shipping in the harbour was in imminent danger of total destruction, but for the prompt efforts of the harbour officials and a favourable wind, The hampers were not totally consumed, and among the debris was found a good sample of their contents ;-instead of watches and jewellery, shavings and chips, tar, powder, and alcohol. The indi: vidual, who had been observed skulking out of the harbour almost immediately before the fire broke out, was identified as Douat, and sentence of death has been the consequence.
We have left but little space to discuss the remedies which have been suggested for these evils. With reference to incendiarism, that which at once occurs is more thorough investigation into the origin of fires. The two English writers, to whom reference has been made, being familiar with the operation of coroners' inquests, suggest that an inquest on each fire would be the true mode of lessening this evil. In Scotland the procurator-fiscal is our substitute for the English coroner and his jury; and the Lord Advocate has in a recent circular
a directed the special attention of these officials to this subject. Whenever a fire occurs, and there are circumstances of suspicion about its origin, an investigation is to be instituted and followed out; and in cases of extensive destruction of property, or where life has been endangered, the fiscal is to satisfy himself as to the absence of any ground of suspicion.
No doubt such provisions may prove remedial to a certain extent; for the danger of detection is always a prime deterrent from crime. But such a remedy is limited in its application, and falls short of complete efficacy. It can affect incendiarism alone, and leaves unmet the greater evil of fraudulent marine insurance. Besides, the fear of detection, so long as it does not amount to certainty, can only repress crime; it cannot exterminate it. This greater and perfect result can be accomplished only by the removal of the incentive to crime. An unnistakeable illustration of this principle is the utter annihilation of the crime of smuggling across the border, produced by the equalisation on both sides of it of the excise duties. When the Scotch duty on whisky was 2s. 43d. a gallon, and the English duty was 11s. 84d., there existed a bribe and incentive to crime which no danger of detection was sufficient to repress. Whenever a uniform duty of 8s. was imposed, smuggling ceased. The only hope for such
a remedy in the case in question is in a legislative enactment, prohibiting full insurance, and necessitating in every case of loss by fire or sea that the owner should himself bear a certain proportion of that loss. This principle, if it could be elaborated into a workable scheme by practical insurers and legislators, would place our whole system of insurance on a much sounder basis than it has ever yet occupied. It is in perfect harmony with the essential theory of insurance, which is the division of risk among many, and not the entire removal of all risk from him who alone has any power to avert danger. There would then be no equilibrium of interest between the loss and the success of mercantile ventures, and no balance over to weigh down the scale of culpable negligence or crime. It would purge our jurisprudence of that rank anomaly—the total practical exemption of shipowners from the injurious consequences of the negligence or ignorance of their employés. It would make their interest to have only the 30 “ inevitable”e collisions, rather than the 324 avoidable ones; and for this purpose it would necessitate the employment of more and better seamen. Thus would the deficiency in our naval nursery be remedied, and Mr Graves be satisfied. At the same time, the premiums of insurance would be inunensely lessened. At present the underwriter charges the honest and careful as well as the dishonest and negligent trader, according to a scale calculated to protect him against all losses, however occasioned. He estimates at present that there shall be 354 collisions ; then, he would reckon on only 30. The saving thus effected on insurance would fully cover the increased expenditure in seamen's wages. The same holds true with regard to tires. According to one of the authorities quoted above, nineteen-twentieths of the fires are preventible, being the result of negligence; and by another authority, ninety-nine per cent. are caused by negligence and fraud. That insurance premiums would fall with the lessening risk is demonstrated by the experience of Liverpool. During the five years from 1838 to 1845, there was lost in that town £776,762 on warehouse risks. Insurance premiums rose from 8s. per cent to 30s., 40s., and even 45s. per cent. As trade was unable to bear such a heavy additional impost, a local Act of Parliament, 6 and 7 Vict., c. 109, was obtained, restricting the size and height of warehouses, and enacting other expensive precautionary measures. A retrospective effect was given to the Act, and tenants in old warehouses were authorised to make the prescribed alterations and retain their rents till the cost was defrayed. The beneficial effect of this energetic piece of legislative interference was speedily indicated by the return of insurance premiums to their old figure of 8s.
The British public has a natural, and, on the whole, a salutary repugnance to legislative interference with civil contracts. They hold, that every man is the best guardian of his own interests. General expediency, however, necessitates, in certain instances, a departure from this principle; and we think that a good prima face case for such departure is made out with reference to mercantile insurance. Were government to interfere, it would not be the first occasion on which it has regulated this contract of insurance. Towards the close of last century the pernicious practice of gambling life-insurances so endangered the safety of the community as to necessitate the passing of 14 Geo. III., c. 48. The grounds for legislative interference now are quite different from what they were then, but they are equally valid—the preservation of property and
the repression of crime.
PROCEDURE IN THE COURT OF SESSION.
TO THE EDITOR OF "THE JOURNAL OF JURISPRUDENCE."
81R,—The recent changes in the Court of Session offer a favourable opportunity for considering the whole mode of dispensing justice in our Supreme Courts. I approach the subject with no political or party bias, and with no wish to detract from the learning and dignity of the bench; our judges are all upright and admirable men; but the legal machinery which they have to work is cumbrous and out of keeping with the mercantile and mercurial spirit of the present day. It has always seemed to me a matter of surprise how the Court of Session should not be one of the most popular, as it is one of the most time-honoured, institutions of the country. It is useless to shut our eyes to the fact that it is not so. The better class of town agents shun it; even those who have made their reputation by it avoid it, while the whole class of well-to-do practitioners and conveyancers in the country, persuade their clients to settle their disputes in any way, rather than go through the ordeal of the Court of Session; and in consequence its business is a mere fractional part of the litigation of the country, or rather of what that litigation would be, if the Court of Session enjoyed the esteem of the profession and the public, to the same extent as the Supreme Courts in England do. Much has been worthily done by the late Lord President M'Neill, to facilitate business, and to wipe off arrears ; his example gave an impulse and energy to the whole bench; but, notwithstanding his unflinching integrity and devotion to work, there are six months' arrears of cases waiting to be heard in the First Division. Now when one considers that the Court of Session sits only for seven months in the year, that amount of arrears is a serious impediment to business, and a source of much heart-burning. Lord Brougham boasted that when he got the Chancellorship of England, there were eight years of arrears of cases, and that when he left the woolsack he had cleared them all off. Few men have Brougham's capacity for work; but his example and his energy, it is to be hoped, will be imitated by Lord President Inglis --who has yet a
reputation to make as a judge at the head of the Court. Hitherto, in the Second Division, his lordship has occupied a subordinate place, and this may have somewhat hampered and crippled his energies; but the profession now looks to him to inaugurate a new reign and order of business; and, with all deference to his great experience and wisdom, we respectfully make the following suggestions. First of all, the vacations of the Court ought to be shortened, at least until the arrears of business are wiped off; the blank days of the Lords Ordinary should be abolished, and the Court ought to sit on Mondays as on other days of the week. The latter suggestion, if carried out, would, doubtless, interfere with the Criminal Court, which is held on Mondays, but Saturday might be set apart for this purpose, and except as regards criminal business, which is now for the most part of a petty description, occupying only a few hours, we would make Saturday in reality, what practically it has long been, a holiday. From Friday to Monday would afford sufficient rest and time to the learned judges to read their papers before entering upon the labours of a new week. These changes would make the Outer-house judges work five out of seven days of the week, instead of only three days and a half as at present. When one considers that the country pays thirteen judges £3000 a year and upwards for life, that they sit only for seven months in the year, and only for four days and a-half each week during these seven months, one is not surprised at the longevity of the judges, the diminution of business, or the amount of arrears. It is ludicrous to call their work hard work, as compared with what English judges, or members of Parliament, or medical and literary men, or even prosperous merchants, have to undergo. What would Sir James Simpson or Professor Christison give for one whole day's rest in the week to study their cases? The country, it is true, never wants a court,— for there is always a Lord Ordinary on the bills,-but the civil business of the country is in reality in statu quo for five months in the year. I take leave to say, there is no public establishment in this or any other country, that enjoys the same immunity from work as the Court of Session. One would not greatly grudge this, if the business of the country did not suffer thereby. All that is required is, that the judges should remain at their posts, like others, so long as there is work to do.
The next change which I would suggest is the abolition, as at present constituted, of the Commission or High Court of Teinds. Like the wooden horse of Troy, the Teind Court is too big and unwieldy for any useful purpose, but to stop the way and impede the general business of the courts. Clergymen and antiquarians may have some remnant of veneration for the large antique animal, but few lawyers understand its movements or symbols; its nomenclature is barbarous; its history obscure; and though it sometimes makes the "unskilful laugh" to see young counsel thrust and hurl their pointless spears into its hollow sides,-it cannot but make the "judicious grieve," when they consider the vast cost of time and money at which it is kept up. For though the Teind Clerk regularly scatters the incense of flowers over its deliberations, and it is in itself, a solemn and stately sight, it is also a melancholy sacrifice of time, for nine supreme and learned judges to assemble like so many conscript fathers, in solemn conclave, to determine whether a poor underpaid country minister is to have an extra chalder of meal added to his income. One judge in the Outer-House, and four in the Inner, can determine and decide a case involving the succession