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in parliament, and on the bench in Westminsterhall, of whose discernment I had the highest opi. nion; and those sentiments I propose to unfold in this letter, with as much brevity as the magnitude of the subject will admit.
If we had a complete digest of Hindu and Mohammedan laws, after the model of Justinian's inestimable Pandects, compiled by the most learned of the native lawyers, with an accurate verbal translation of it into English ; and if copies of the work were deposited in the proper offices of the Sedr Divani Adaulat, * and of the supreme court, that they might occasionally be consulted as a standard of justice-we should rarely be at a loss for principles at least, and rules of law applicable to the cases before us; and should never perhaps be led astray by the pundits or inaulavis, who would hardly venture to impose on us, when their imposition might so easily be detected. The great work, of which Justinian has the credit, consists of texts collected from law books of approved authority, which in his time were extant at Rome; and those texts are digested according to a scientifical analysis—the names of the original authors, and the titles of their several books, being constantly cited, with references even to the parts of their works from which the different passages were selected : but although it comprehends the whole system of jurisprudence, public, private, and criminal, yet that vast compilation was finished, we are told, in three years : it bears marks, unquestionably, of great precipitation, and of a desire to
• The court of appeals in civil suits.
gratify the emperor by quickness of dispatch ; but, with all its imperfections, it is a most valuable mine of judicial knowledge; it gives law, at this hour, to the greatest part of Europe; and, though few Eng. lish lawyers dare make such an acknowledgment, it is the true source of nearly all our English laws, that are not of a feudal origin. It would not be unworthy of a British government, to give the natives of these Indian provinces a permanent security for the due administration of justice among them, similar to that which Justinian gave to his Greek and Roman subjects : but our compilation would require far less labour, and might be completed with far greater exactness, in as-short a time, since it would be confined to the laws of contracts and inheritances, which are of the most extensive use in private life, and to which the legislature has limited the decisions of the supreme court, in causes between native parties : the labour of the work would also be greatly diminished by two compilations al. ready made in Sanscrit and Arabic, which approach nearly, in merit and in method, to the digest of Justinian : the first was composed, a few centuries ago, by a Brahman of this province, named Raghunanden, and is comprised in twenty-seven books at least, cu every branch of Hindu law : the second, which the Arabs called the Indian Decisions, is known here by the title of Fetaweh Aalemgiri, and was compiled by the order of Aurangzeb, in five large volumes, of which I possess a perfect and wellcollated copy. To translate these immense works, would be superfluous labour; but they will greatly facilitate the compilation of a digest on the laws of inheritance and contracts; and the code, as it is called, of Hindu law, which was compiled at the request of Mr. Hastings, will be useful for the same purpose, though it by no means obviates the difficulties before stated, nor supersedes the necessity or the expedience at least of a more ample repertory of Hindu laws, especially on the twelve different contracts to which Ulpian has given specific names; and on all the others, which, though not specifically named, are reducible to four general heads. The last-mentioned work is entitled Vivadamavasetu, and consists, like the Roman digests, of authentic texts, with the names of their several authors regularly prefixed to them, and explained, (where an explanation is requisite) in short notes, taken from commentaries of high authority: it is, as far as it goes, a very excellent work ; but though it appear extremely diffuse on subjects rather curious than useful, and though the chapter on inheritances be copious and exact-yet the other important branch of jurisprudence, the law of contracts, is very succinctly and superficially discussed, and bears an inconsiderable proportion to the rest of the work. But whatever be the merit of the original, the translation of it has no authority, and is of no other use than to suggest inquiries on the many dark pas. sages which we find in it: properly speaking, indeed, we cannot call it a translation; for though Mr. Halhed performed his part with fidelity, yet the · Persian interpreter had supplied him only with a
loose injudicious epitome of the original Sanscrit, in which abstract many essential passages are omitted; though several notes of little consequence are interpolated, from a vain idea of elucidating or improving the text. All this I say with confidence ; having already perused no small part of the original with a learned pundit, comparing it, as I proceeded, with the English version. Having shown, therefore, the expedience of a new compilation for each system of Indian law, I beg leave to state the dif. ficulties which must attend the work, and to sug· gest the means of removing them.
The difficulty which first presents itself, is the expense of paying the pundits and maulavis who must compile the digest, and the vative writers who must be employed to transcribe it. Since two provinces are immediately under this government, in each of which there are many customary laws, it would be proper to employ one pundit of Bengal and another from Bahar; and since there are two Mohammedan sects, who differ in regard to many traditions from their prophet, and to some decisions of their respective doctors; it might be thought equally proper to engage one maulavi of each sect : and this mode would have another advantage; since two lawyers, conferring freely together on fundamental principles common to both, would assist, direct, and check each other, *
. Although I can have no personal interest, imme. diate or consequential, in the work proposed, yet I would cheerfully have borne the whole expense of it, if common prudence had not restrained me, and if my private establishment of native readers and writers, which I cannot with convenience discon. tinue at present, did not require more than half of the monthly expense, which the completion of a
1. • A passage, relating to the remuneration of the natives
to be employed, is here omitted.
digest would, in my opinion, demand : I am under a necessity, therefore, of intimating, that if the work be thought expedient, the charges of it should be defrayed by the government, and the salaries paid by their officers. The second difficulty is, to find a director of the work, and a translator of it, who, with a competent knowledge of the Sanscrit and Arabic, has a general acquaintance with the principles of jurisprudence, and a sufficient share even of legislative spirit, to arrange the plan of a digest, superintend the coinpilâtion of it, and render the whole, as it proceeds, into perspicuous English; so that even the translation may acquire a degree of authority proportioned to the public opinion of his accuracy. Now, though I am truly conscious of possessing a very moderate portion of those talents which I should require in the superintendent of such a work; yet I may, without vanity, profess myself equal to the labour of it; and though I would much rather see the work well conducted by any man than myself, yet I would rather give myself the trouble of it, than not live to see it conducted at all; and I cannot but know, that the qualifications required, even in the low degree in which I possess them, are not often found united in the same person, for a reason before suggested. If your lordship, therefore, after full consideration of the subject, shall be of opinion, that a digest of Hindu and Mohammedan laws would be a work of national honour and utility-I so cherish both, that I offer the nation my humble labour, as far as I can dispose of my time consistently with the faithful discharge of my duty as a magistrate. Should this offer be accepted, I should then request your lord.