« AnteriorContinuar »
King of Great Britain, and all friend. seem to be in a much better state ly Powers." “ And is it,” he ex than in any other large city, intemclaims, in the fervour of his loyalty, perance being the bane of the lower “ only because he is one of the classes, and leading, as a necessary friendly powers, that Scotsmen, at a consequence, to every degrading form national anniversary, drink their good of vice and misery. His remarks on old King's health”And for what the inns, the mode of living, the other reason, we should be glad to travelling coaches, the police, and know, should those naturalized Scots- other points connected with manners, men toast his health? The tie which are judicious and amusing; and, connected them to the King of Great lastly, his remarks on the important Britain is entirely dissolved by their subject of the American Governemigration. The relation which sub ment are in a strain of great calmsisted between the two parties con- ness, and are, in general, reasonable, sisted entirely in the reciprocal duties though with a slight tinge of parof protection and allegiance. It was tiality, or, perhaps, preference, for a connection of pure convenience. his own national institutions, to the There was nothing in it to touch the defects of which, however, he does heart or affections, and it is the ex- not shew himself blind. He ad. treme of folly or affectation to hold mits, that the American Governit out in any other light, or to speak ment is the freest in the world, and of true Scotsmen as if they had had the one in which the power of the soine interchange of friendly regards people, as sovereigns in the state, with their Sovereign, of which they is most distinctly recognised, both in might have carried off to America theory and practice. He admits, also, the endearing recollection. All the that this form of Government is best duties which they formerly owed adapted to display the energies of the their King were now due to the so- nation. But his objections are, that vereign of their adopted country; the many are not sufficiently enlightand, accordingly, as our author him. ened for the exercise of this important self states, when our armies landed privilege, not being capable of judgas enemies on the American shores, ing in legislative questions of any Scotsmen were found obeying the nicety; and he hints at probable general call to arms, and fighting dangers which may arise, when the against the troops of their former population grows more dense, the Sovereign. Any other notion of loy- means of living not so easy, and the alty is absurd and unconstitutional— people, in consequence, liable to be it will not stand the test of common discontented. In this case, he sees sense; and we should have thought, no safeguard against a general partithat, during his commerce with de- tion of property. He then goes on : mocracy, our author's mind would
I do not, in these remarks, institute any have been cleared of those prejudi- comparison between Americans and na ces, which would hold out loyalty to tives of other countries. I feel persuaded be some feeling of personal affection that a pure democracy is not fitted for to the Sovereign, in place of being, fallen creatures, and was never intended as it really is, an obligation of pure for them. Vox Populi, so far from being political expediency. That this Scots- at all times Vox Dei, is not unfrequently man, red-hot from his native land, the very reverse. The natural aristocracy should be mortified at the diluted of intellect, and still more, perhaps, the nationality of those his countrymen artificial aristocracy of property, must in New York, we do not wonder; have a preponderating influence in the but it is no proof of it, that they scale; or the bond of cohesion is broken, had transferred all their political al- and the principle of order overthrown. legiance to the sovereign powers of The happy medium is, where the equiliAmerica, and that they expressed, in brium between property and numbers is their toasts, the permanent interest
most steadily preserved, where security
of which they felt in their newly-ad- full opportunity afforded for talent and
person and property is enjoyed, and opted rulers.
industry to benefit themselves without We have a good account of New injuring their neighbours. Whether the York, and of the manners and mo supreme magistrates be hereditary or elecrals of the people, which do not tive, a king or a president, is a matter of
comparative indifference ; if he is the for. cracies founded on the artificial inmer, the country is saved from the inces. fluence of property. As to the nasant annoyance and intriguing connected tural aristocracy of intellect, it is with popular elections, and all the misery precisely when the free voice of an resulting from disputed nominations ; no
intelligent people is allowed to opedoubt, the chance is, that a smaller ave. rage amount of talent will usually be there only where talents of every
rate, that it is most perfect. It is found for the duties of the office; but where description rise to their just level, the public mind is well informed and pro there being no other rival influence perly directed, this is not generally of great importance. The abstract of perfec. to keep them down. With regard tion in political systems has certainly not to the misery of a disputed nominayet been seen in the world ; but I cannot tion, no such evil is known in the
There help thinking, that the British is still the American Commonwealth. nearest to it. I should rejoice to see our cannot well be any dispute about the great representative body rendered more nomination of a President. The maconsistent with its professed constitution; jority decides it; and where is the and I feel strongly persuaded, that not individual who could have the least many years will go round till the strength hope of disputing this decision ? As of public opinion will compel its improve to the notion of a partition of properment; but I would rather that it should
ty, this is the wildest chimera that remain as it is, than see it assimilated, in could be suggested, and is entirely character and properties, to that of the at variance with the otherwise sober United States. We err on the safer side, and reasoning tone of our author's and that is a great matter in human in
remarks. There is no nation in the stitutions.
world in which any such proposi. We may observe in general, of tion was ever made; and it is not these remarks, that the writer's facts likely that any thing so mischievous and inferences are generally at va should first spring out of a highly-inriance. He tells us, that a demo- telligent community. As to the percracy is not for fallen creatures, and manence of the American Governwas never intended for them ; yet ment, we see no reason to doubt this. he has before his eyes a successful We are always told that it has not example of democracy. This popu- had a sufficient trial. We really do lar form of government does not im not understand this. If a bar of iron ply so much any extraordinary de- bear a certain weight one day, why gree of virtue, properly so called, as will it not bear the same weight eveof intelligence. The people must be ry other day? Are we to measure the so far instructed, as to see the value durability of governments by the of these institutions, and they must time which they have stood ? Does also be trained to the necessary re this make them stronger, or better straints of order and law. But with able to support the accidents to which such an instrument, we do not see in they are exposed ? How did this apwhat point the popular institutions of pear in the case of the old French America are deficient, in respect to Government, when it was assailed by their great ends. Without the natu- the Revolutionary tempest? Did its ral aristocracy of intellect, and, still antiquity save it? If a Government more, the artificial aristocracy of pro- stand 50 or 100 years, why may it not perty, the principle of order, he tells stand 500? We see no germ of disus, is overtbrown. Is it then over- turbance in the American system. thrown in America ? Is there any The people are the rulers. They see country in which there is a greater plainly how things are managed. degree of order, or in which Govern- Every thing is open and above-board. ment answers all its chief purposes, There is the most cautious managein which less money is expended, - ment of the public money; and if in which personal liberty is better they are dissatisfied with any
branch secured,-ör in which the people, in of the public management, as they general, are more flourishing and themselves chuse almost all the great happy? These are the tests of good functionaries of the State, they have government, in which the demo- only to change them at the next eleccracy of America may challenge a tion, in order to rectify the error. comparison with any of those aristo We do not see, therefore, where
would be the object of a revolution rican system, where there is only in these circumstances, nor is it, we one permanent ruling interest, think, at all probable that the peo- where the conflict of opposite principle would sanction any change in ples cau never, therefore, shake the which they themselves would have state,--and where it is least of all their own' importance diminished. likely that the people should ever If other Governments, then, are sta lend themselves to artful demable, where there are jarring and con gogues, who could not here make out trary interests, much more ought a case that would not be hooted this to be the case with the Ame- down at the very first hearing.
RITCHIE ON CONSTITUTIONAL LAW *. No temporal subject more deeply manner and in proper time. If, affects the public interest than that however, the parents either have of Law, and yet to none is it so diffi made no inquiry concerning the cult to draw general attention. Men, public rules of succession, or have in general, conceive law to consist lacked courage, when in health, to corof a collection of abstract rules, and rect them by a deed of settlement, and of absurd precedents, destitute equal. died in the belief that they had no ly of sense and principle ; it is re interest or concern with the law, the garded, at a distance, with a kind of whole miseries which may be suffered indescribable horror ; and a deter- by their children, from an unequal mined resolution is formed, by each distribution of their estate, if such individual, never to come within take place, are attributable to them. reach of its influence. In conse. The law of intestate succession, to be quence, every one imagines that le- of any value, must be fixed ; it is ingal principles and forms do not con- tended, in short, to be a general will cern himself; and while he thinks for the whole community, which it proper that those who have to do they may adopt if they please, or set with them should look to their con- aside by executing a special destinadition and improvement, he secretly tion of their funds ; but being preresolves, for his own part, to keep as cise and unbending, it is impossible far off from their operation and con- that it can be framed by the skill of sideration as possible. The wisdom man, so as to quadrate in all circumof such views, however, is more than stances of property, and connexion questionable. In a very rude state with the dictates of natural justice. of society, when men enjoyed no po- If it approach these in the cases litical rights, and held no property, which most generally occur, it is all this neglect might have been practi- that can be expected ; but, neverthecable without any serious evil conse less, great suffering frequently arises quences; but in a civilized and opu- from its departures from justice in lent community, the regulations of particular instances. If, for examthe civil and criminal code, on one ple, a father be proprietor of an esoccasion or another, will assuredly tate worth £.50,000, and live up to affect the dearest interests of every his income and die, leaving ten child. individual raised in any degree above ren; by the common law, the eldest absolute poverty. The law of suc son takes the whole estate, and the cession, for example, reaches every nine younger children are left sudfamily at the death of the parents. denly in splendid beggary. But the Certain rules, for the distribution of real fault here lies with the parent. the fortune of the father and mother The law proclaimed to him and his among the children, are recognised family, that if he made no settlement, by the public law; but power, within this result would ensue, committing certain limits, is committed to indi- to him, at the same time, the power viduals to alter these rules, if they of avoiding it, by a more suitable disexercise the privilege in a proper tribution, and if he either neglected
Essays on Constitutional Law, and Form of Process, &c. By Wm. Ritchie, Solicitor of Supreme Courts in Scotland. Edinburgh : Bell & Bradfute. 1824.
to inform himself of the law, under the hand of the defendant, or wanted prudence to avert its conse of the testimony of witnesses, but by quences, he alone is chargeable with no means of his own writings, statethe evils which ensue.
ments, or oath, as evidence in his At marriage, also, the law may favour. The bargain, however, was come to affect the interests of the pare made without the intervention of ties. The wife's moveable estate be writing, and in the absence of witcomes instantly the property of the nesses ; and the claimant finds himhusband, in return for which, he be. self destitute of proof. The defendcomes subject to all her debts, whe. ant's denial, therefore, prevails, and ther incurred previous or subsequent the claimant loses his suit, and is to the marriage. At the dissolution subjected in costs, while, probably, of the marriage, by the death of the he is conscious of being completely wife, if there be no children, her rela- in the right. The Judge may even tions may claim one-half of the inove. be impressed with the saine opinion ; able property of the husband ; and but as it would be a most dangerous if he be a merchant or manufacturer, rule to adnit the statements of one his whole effects may be in this form party, when denied by the other, as of investment. We knew an instance evidence of a contract, he is obliged of an old man, who, having realized to decide against him, even although two thousand pounds, retired from he believe the defendant to be a trade, and married a woman younger rogue. The remedy for this evil than himself by fifteen or twenty would clearly have consisted in the years, as a companion and solace to merchant making himself acquainted him in his advancing infirmities. with the kind of evidence which the She had no property, and he never law would acknowledge as sufficient dreamed of a contract of marriage, to establish an agreement, and takor troubling himself about the law. ing care to preservc it. After two years, she caught a fever Law, therefore, ought to be a coland died, and her relations demanded, lection of rules founded on the most and obtained, one-half of all he pos- enlarged views of equity and general sessed, it being all moveable. This utility, and calculated for the deterconsequence was entirely owing to mination of the rights of parties, in his own inattention ; for the law ale all cases in which they may come into lowed him to defeat this distribution conflict. In its general spirit, the by a contract before marriage, or law of Scotland, and that of every enabled his wife to set it aside by a civilized country, corresponds to this testament executed after it.
description; and in these cases in In mercantile affairs, again, it is which aberrations from principle apinconceivable how much loss is sus pear, it will be found, that the rules tained, and anxiety endured, through complained of were instituted in a ignorance of the provisions of the different state of society, and were law. Two parties enter into a verbal really consistent with reason, as agreement for the sale and purchase things then stood, and have come to of goods, and think they have clearly stand in opposition to it only through settled the whole points of the con- the change of outward circumstances, tract, when perhaps a great rise or to which the law has not been acfall in the price of the commodity commodated. Law, therefore, ought takes place before delivery, and it to be progressive with the manners becomes the interest of one party to and institutions of society; and this draw back, and, of the other, to com- brings us to the question, by whom pel him to implement his contract. ought it to be carried forward, with The dispute is carried into Court, the current of knowledge and social and the claimant gives his statement improvement? The public, as we of the conditions of the bargain, and have said, conceive it to be an uninthe defendant tells a wholly different telligible mystery, lying altogether story. The judge mentions, that as beyond the reach of their comprethe claimant is the party demanding hension, and, therefore, disburden implement, he must prove the terms themselves of all concern about its of bis agreement.; and that the law amelioration. The lawyers, on the admits only of written documents, other hand, positively, profit by its
abuses, and are, besides, trained up even popularly written. At the first to its artificial views and arrange- perusal, the inere lawyer may unments, and become blind to the evils dervalue theni, because they do not they produce ; and, between the two, deal extensively in subtlety and resociety advances, and law stands still. finement; and the merely speculative But whose are the loss and damage ? philosopher may feel disappointed at Altogether those of the public. They the absence of disquisition on the suffer the vexations of bad laws, abstruser points of legal principle; but they endure the anxieties arising every man, possessing good sense and from obscure laws,—they pay the a comprehensive understanding, will cost of debating uncertain laws, and, find them to contain precisely what in short, the whole calamities results is suited to his use ; namely, views ing from a defective or absurd legal of principle clearly expounded, and code fall upon them. The only cir- familiarly and judiciously applied. cumstance that renders them patient The Essays, indeed, relate more to under all this pressure is, that only public and constitutional law than a few suffer at a time: one man
to that which affects private rights ; writhes to-day, and denounces his but they are more calculated, on this bitterest execrations against both law account, to attract attention, and to and lawyers; but, by to-morrow, the prepare the reading population for sorrow is past, and the plague has considering these other branches of infected his neighbour. He, in his the law, on which we hope Mr Ritturn, goes through the same ordeal, chie may, at a future period, afford with equal impatience ; but time re
them instruction. lieves him, and conveys the burden
The work commences with an to a third. Thus, at every given
“ Introductory Notice,” in which we period, there are many sufferers, and are informed, that as many persons anxiously desiring an amendment of legal rules and - the author is not so presumptuous as forms; but they are isloated and to imagine that he has built an edifice ; unconnected, and each despairing of but he would fain hope that he has clear. being able to effect any reformation ed away some rubbish, and provided a by his own exertions, calls pa
few materials. The object to which some tience to his aid, and comes at last to
of his suggestions are directed,—the meview the law's vexations and delay liorations of our forms of process,—is like a fever or shipwreck, as a disa probably, though not certainly, of tempo. pensation from Providence, which rary interest ; but the principles with
which he endeavours to deal are permamust be submitted to, because it is inevitable, and without a remedy. these principles can never cease to be in
If sound, as he trusts they are, Such views, however, are extremely teresting; and, though convinced, that, in ill founded and superficial. If the
the progress of society, the reforms in intelligent part of the community our Courts will be carried, and, in the would employ their ordinary good same direction, much farther than he has sense upon the law, they would ventured to recommend at present, he is perceive both its excellencies and by no means sure that his very moderate defects ; and if they would boldly suggestions will be antiquated for a cenproclaim the latter, and insist upon tury to come. He is quite certain, however, their being removed, we cannot doubt that improvement in our forms of process of a speedy amelioration.
and form has here a great deal to do Impressed with these views, we
with substance_must proceed with a very were particularly pleased with the
slow pace, until the public generally feel Essays before us. They are just the
so much interested in the subject, as to kind of work that was wanted to
take the trouble of understanding it. Nor draw the public attention in the
is the task so difficult as is commonly im. direction now pointed out.
agined; the foundations of law and morals
They coinbine that knowledge of legal prin- tial to either which good sense, with a
are the same; and there is nothing essenciple which distinguishes the lawyer, reasonable degree of attention, may not with these comprehensive views of speedily comprehend. There is no bargeneral utility which characterise the rier here which the educated and intelliphilosopher, and interest all; and, at gent part of the public may not readily the same time, they are plainly and surmount. On their part, nothing is re