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might urge some very powerful reasons for upholding her ancient system, which we in England should vainly seek to parallel. She might hold up her sta

. tute book in three small pocket volumes, the whole fruit of as many centuries of legislation, while your table bends beneath the laws of a single reign—and of your whole jurisprudence, it may be said, as of the Roman before Justinian, that it would overload many camels. But I do not merely cite, against alarms and scruples, that bold and wise and safe measure of Lord Grenville; older authorities, and in the Courts of Westminster, are with me. I will rely on Lord Hale, whose celebrated Treatise Of the Amendment of the Law (far less studied, I fear, by our jurisconsults, than that of Fortescue *) well exposes the folly of such fears, with their origin.

By long use and custom (says he), men, especially that are aged, and have been long educated to the profession and practice of the law, contract a kind of superstitious veneration of it beyond what is just and reasonable. They tenaciously and rigorously maintain these very forms and proceedings and practices, which, though possibly at first they were seasonable and useful, yet by the very change of matters they become not only useless and impertinent, but burthensome and inconvenient, and prejudicial to the common justice and the common good of mankind ; not considering the forms and prescripts of laws were not introduced for their own sakes, but for the use of public justice ; and therefore, when they became insipid, useless, impertinent, and possibly derogatory to the end, they may and must be removed.” Such is the language of Sir M. Hale.

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• De Laudibus Legum Angliæ.

After Lord Coke and Littleton himself, there is no higher authority in the law than Shepherd, the author of the Touchstone, who, in another of his works, called

England's Balm, or Proposals by way of Grievance and Remedy, &c., towards the Regulation of the Law and better Administration of Justice,” reminds his legal brethren, that “taking away the abuse of the law will establish the use of the law-stabilit usum qui tollit abusumand that rooting up the tares will not destroy the wheat."* If the House require further authorities upon this point, I can refer them to one of the most instructive books published of late years upon this matter, that of Mr. Parkes, a respectable solicitor in Warwickshire, who, in giving a history of the Court of Chancery, has collected most of the authorities upon the subject of Legal Reform.

But our predecessors, members of this House in the 17th century, an age fruitful of great improvements, most of which were retained in more quiet times, undertook the amendment of the Law systematically, and with a spirit and a wisdom every way worthy of so great a work. In 1654, a Commission was formed partly of the House, partly of learned strangers. At the head of the former, I find my honourable friend the Solicitor General's less learned and more martial predecessor, called in the Journals “ Lord General Cromwell.”+ But in front of the latter stands“ Mr. Mathew Hale,” afterwards the great Chief Justice, whose name is ever cited amongst the most venerable

* There is certainly a notion of Mr. Jastice Doddridge being the author of this excellent book, or at least standing in the same relation to it that C. B. Gilbert does to Bacon's Ab.; for the dates of some works cited in it make it impossible he should have written it all.

+ 0. Cromwell was member for Cambridge town ; Mr. Tindal for the university.

VOL. II.

2 H

supporters of our civil and our religious establishment. With them were joined all the great jurisconsults and states men of that illustrious age. They sat for five years, and proposed a number of the most important and general reforms. I will read the titles of a few Acts, the draughts of which the Commissioners prepared.

1. For taking away fines upon bills, declarations, and original writs.

2. For taking away common recoveries, and the unnecessary charges of fines, and to pass and charge lands entailed as lands in fee-simple.

3. For ascertaining of arbitrary fines upon descent and alienation of copyholds of inheritance.

4. For the more speedy recovery of Rents.

5. For the better regulating of Pleaders and their Fees.

6. For the more speedy and easy recovery of Debts and Damages not exceeding the sum of Four Pounds.

7. For the further declaration and prevention of Fraudulent Contracts and Conveyances.

8. Against the Sale of Offices. 9. For the recovery of Debts owing by Corporations. 10. To make Debts assignable.

11. To prevent solicitation of Judges, Bribery, Extortion, Charge of Motions, and for restriction of Pleaders.

12. An Act for all County Registers, Will, and Administrators; and for preventing Inconvenience, Delay, Charge, and Irregularity, in Chancery and Common Law, (as well in common pleas as criminal causes.)

13. Acts for settling County Judicatures, Guardians of Orphans, Courts of Appeal, County Treasurers, and Workhouses, with Tables of Fees and Short Forms of Declaration.

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14. An Act to allow Witnesses to be Sworn for Prisoners.

The House is aware that, till much later in our history, by the great wisdom, justice, and humanity of our ancestors, it was provided that the witnesses for a defendant should not deliver their testimony upon oath ; until the time of Queen Anne, the prosecutor only was allowed to prove his case by sworn evidence; and the communication of the same right to the defendant, may be looked upon by some as a rude invasion of the ancient system, and a cruel departure from the perfections of the olden time.

This is not the only measure prepared by that celebrated Commission which has been since adopted, as the House will see by the enumeration I have given* But steps were taken immediately after the

. restoration, for prosecuting its plans more systematically. A Committee was appointed by this House to examine the state of the Law and its practice; Sergeant Maynard and other eminent lawyers were members of it. From their numbers, fifty-one, I presume they subdivided themselves for the convenience of inquiring separately into different branches of the subject. Upon their reports several Bills were brought in for the general Reform of the Law; but in tracing their progress through the House, the prorogation appears to have come before any of them was passed. After a long interval of various fortune, and filled with vast events, but marked from age to age by a steady course of improvement, we are again called to the grand labour of surveying and amending our Laws. For this task it well becomes us to begird ourselves, as the honest representatives of the people. Dispatch and vigour are imperiously demanded; but that deliberation, too, must not be lost sight of which so mighty an enterprise requires. When we shall have done the work, we may fairly challenge the utmost approval of our constituents, for in none other have they so deep a stake.

* Sir S. Romilly's valuable MSS., as has been already stated, contain the exposition and discussion of many reforms in the law, written forty or fifty years ago. More than one-half of the measures there propounded, have, of late years, and most of them since his lamented decease, been adopted by the legislature; a strong presumption in favour of his plans generally.

In pursuing the course which I now invite you to enter upon, I avow that I look for the co-operation of the King's Government; and on what are my hopes founded ? Men gather not grapes from thorns, nor figs from thistles. But that the vine should no longer yield its wonted fruit—that the fig-tree should refuse its natural increase-required a miracle to strike it with barrenness. There are those in the present Ministry, whose known liberal opinions have lately been proclaimed anew to the world, and pledges have been avouched for their influence upon the policy of the State. With them, others may not, upon all subjects, agree ; upon this, I would fain hope there will be found little difference. But, be that as it may, whether I have the support of the Ministers or noto the House I look with confident expectation, that it will control them, and assist me; if I go too far, checking my progress; if too fast, abating my speed; but heartily and honestly helping me in the best and greatest work which the hands of the lawgiver can undertake. The course is clear before us; the race is glorious to run. You have the power of sending your name down through all times, illustrated by deeds of higher fame, and more useful import, than ever were done within these walls. You saw the greatest warrior of the age-conqueror of Italy-humbler of Germany-terror of the North—saw him account all his

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