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braced by that science; and on the dependence of our civil rights and immunities upon it, for their support and preservation.
The law, considered as a science, has so intimate a connexion with the sciences in general, that, at first view, we are ready to wonder, why it was not made earlier a branch of education in Universities; or how it should have ever been deemed practicable to prosecute the study of it, successfully, elsewhere. The causes of this delay to place the study of the law under the auspices of general science, will be sufficiently indicated by a brief outline of a very familiar history.
• Laws,' says Montesquieu, are the necessary relations resulting from the nature of things. Now the relations of things in Great Britain, from which country our laws are chiefly derived, were, during the early periods of its historic existence, antecedent to the Norman conquest, those which naturally exist among a rude, uncultivated people, ignorant of letters.' During that whole time, a knowledge of the laws was necessarily sought among its rough professors, habituated practically to pursue its loose, evanescent principles, as they were continually modified by faction, insurrection, civil wars, invasion, and conquest. Strictly speaking, there were no sciences known in the nation, with which the law could be connected as an associate of the band.
Nor was the state of things greatly different after the era of the Norman conquest, and even down to the beginning of the last century. In the successive contests which, in the course of that long period, arose between the crown and the nobility, the people and the crown, the hierarchy and the reformers, the principles of the law followed the fates of the court, the camp, or the church. They were instruments, of which each party, in its power, availed itself to strengthen its own cause, or to depress that of its adversary, and they were shaped, or changed, according to the perpetually shifting influences of the times. “Antecedent to the revolution of 1688, the oracles of the law were dependent upon the caprice of the crown ; men of pliant dispositions were raised to the bench; justice gave way to policy, and was converted into means of revenge.” During far
· Hume's History of England. Appendix I. ? Runnington's Life of Sir Mathew Hale.
the greater part of that period, as a great system of universal reason, deduced from the nature of things, and adapted to fix society on the immutable foundations of truth and justice, the English law was hardly considered by any, except perhaps by some of its most eminent professors. Strange fictions, customs of unknown origin, precedents whose reasons were hidden in an unexplored antiquity, interminable forms, mystifying verbiage, and repulsive technicalities, deprived it of all claim, in the eyes of the philosopher, as well as in those of the multitude, to the rank of a branch of knowledge resting on fixed principles. Its language was trilingual; a composite of indifferent English, bad Latin, and worse French. Its shape, “if shape it might be called, which shape had none,' was stained with the variation of each soil betwixt' the Euxine and the Baltic; Grecian, Roman, German, Saxon, Danish, Norman. In the arrangement of these contending elements, to the uninitiated eye, 'Chaos seemed to sit umpire,' and high arbiter Chance to govern all.' To manage these elements was an art to be learned ; an affair altogether of practical skill, which the young lawyer was sent to the Inns of Court to acquire, precisely, and for the same reason, as the young soldier was sent to the camp to acquire the military art ; to the end that, amid scenes of actual contest, each might learn the nature of the materials, and gain a facility in the use of the weapons for attack and defence, of their respective
in both of which victory was the sole object, and the means of success, equally, the subject of no scruple.
This state of things continued until after the commencement of the last century. Antecedent to that period, Sir Matthew Hale had indeed composed an · Analysis of the Law,' for the purpose, as he avowed, of showing that it was not altogether impossible, by much attention and labor, to reduce the laws of England, at least into a tolerable method.' This analysis was nothing more than an incomplete outline, of use, comparatively, to none except professors of the law, or professional students. So little progress had been made, either by Sir Matthew Hale or by any other jurist, in the work of reducing the laws of England into an orderly method, that Thomas Wood, who, in 1722, engaged in the same design, represents it as thought to be wholly impracticable,' and states that the prejudice, even among men of parts and learning prevailed, that a knowledge of the VOL. IX.-NO. XVII.
English laws was only to be obtained by the greatest application and a long attendance on the highest courts of justice, and by a tedious wandering about.' He refers to the law, as • an art which one is to teach,' and so far from speaking of it as a science, to be sought in its great and general principles, he calls it'a heap of good learning, which he hoped it would not be impossible to sort and put into some order.' He laments the arts of pettyfogging, sophistry, and cavil,' as too prevalent. He represents the ways of the laws to be dark and rugged, and full of turnings and windings. These he declares it to be his intent to endeavor to smooth and shorten,' and thus enable the student'to travel in a straight line.'
For more than fifty years this work of Thomas Wood was the cynosure of the law student in this country; to which he was taught first to direct his eye, and by which to guide his steps. Yet how dull, how repulsive does this work appear to the law-student of the present day! How would he reluct at entering upon the study of the law, and deem himself cast into a wilderness, without map or compass, if this were the only great light by which he was first to direct his course!
Now it is a curious fact, and illustrative of the topic of this address, that the first successful attempt to reduce the English law into an orderly system, and to give it effectively the character of a science, was made under the auspices of a university. To the establishment of the Vinerian Professorship, at Oxford, the English law was indebted for the Commentaries of Sir William Blackstone, pronounced by Sir William Jones' to be an incomparable work; and the most correct and beautiful outline that was ever exhibited of any human science.'
The publication of that work formed a new era in the study of the law, both in this country and in Great Britain. From that time the law assumed the aspect of a well-defined science, which had its limits, its proportions, its divisions, its principles, its objects, all arranged in an orderly method, facilitating research, aiding the memory, and making every step of the student's progress light and satisfactory.
How different is the lot of the student at this day, from that of him, who entered upon the pursuit of the law before the appearance of that work. By way of illustration, hear a very condensed abstract of Lord Chief Justice Reeve's directions for the first stage in the study of the law :
1 Essay on the law of Bailments.
– Read Wood's Institutes cursorily, and for explanation of the same, Jacob's Dictionary. Next strike out what lights you can from Bohun's Institutio Legalis, and Jacob's Practising Attorney's Companion, and the like; helping yourself by Indexes. Then read and consider Littleton's Tenures, without notes, and abridge it. Then venture on Coke's Commentaries. After reading it once, read it again ; for it will require many readings. Abridge it. Common-place it. Make it your own; applying to it all the faculties of your mind. Then read Serjeant Hawkins to throw light on Lord Coke. Then read Wood again to throw light on Serjeant Hawkins. And then read the statutes at large to throw light on Mr. Wood. —
It will not be necessary to adduce farther evidence upon this point. Enough has been said to place in a strong light the advantages derived by the student of law from the great work of Sir William Blackstone. For the purpose of the present argument, let it be borne in mind, that this work was the first fruits of the connexion between the English law and English Universities.
Now when we recollect that it is an admitted fact, that a great proportion of the boasted wisdom of the English common law, was acquired by a silent transfer into it of the wisdom of the Roman law, through the medium of the courts of justice, and that thereby the English law was raised from its original state of rudeness and imperfection;" and when we also recollect, that a knowledge of the Roman law itself was first introduced into England, early in the twelfth century by the means of Professorships, established by the monks and clergy at Oxford, and through the influence of public lectures delivered by their Professors; and when to these facts is added the undeniable and unparalleled benefit conferred upon the study of the English law by this work of Blackstone, itself the fruit of the connexion of the study of the science of the law with that of the other sciences in the University of Oxford, is it not indeed won
i See Collectanea Juridica, Vol. I.
79. 2 Hume's History of England, Chapter xxiii.
derful, that doubts concerning the utility of such Professorships should be entertained, even at this day, in England, and by men, also, who are eminent for their legal rank and attainments ? That such is the fact, we learn from the Introductory Lecture delivered at King's College, London,' in November, 1831, by Mr. Park, · Professor of English Law and Jurisprudence to the College.'
Nor can it be concealed, that similar doubts are sometimes expressed, even in this country; though, from the habits of the community being less fixed, and the spirit of innovation more congenial to its constitution than is the case in Great Britain, probably with less universality as it respects numbers, and less eminence as it respects talents; it being generally understood, that by far the greater number of those, who are distinguished lights of the law, in this country, hail the establishment of such Prosessorships, as constituting a union highly propitious to the improvement of the law, and to the elevation of the character of the profession.
It will not, however, be amiss to give to this topic a more detailed examination, to the end that the community may be made to understand the real advantages to be anticipated from this engrafting of the study of the law upon seminaries destined for public education ; and that lawyers themselves may be made more truly to appreciate the privileges they and their profession must derive from this association.
Lord Bacon, a great master-mind of our race, has stated, in his conclusive way, the general doctrine, and given the sound reason for it. "To disincorporate,' says he, any particular science from general knowledge, is one great impediment to its advancement. For there is a supply of light and information, which the particulars and instances of one science do yield and present for the framing and correcting the axioms of another science, in their very truth and notion. For each particular science has a dependence upon universal knowledge, to be augmented and rectified by the superior light thereof."
In no way, perhaps, can the truth of this doctrine be better illustrated, than by the history of the progress of the English law, from its ancient, barbarous, and perplexed, to its present