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Hanson's Laws of Maryland 1763-1784
Volume 203, Page 3   View pdf image (33K)
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                       I  N  T  R  O  D  U  C  T  I  O  N.

    THE editor in this place must be indulged with the freedom of the press.
From the unreasonable length of an act, and the vast variety of this matter, the
provisions frequently appear repugnant, and the best judges are puzzled to reconcile
them.  Where too the sense is involved in a multitude of words, and there is
a total defect in the arrangement of the clauses, it sometimes happens, that an
erroneous judgment is formed of one part from not recollecting, or sufficiently
attending, to every other.
    THE evils already noticed are not all that have originated from the loose manner
of framing most of the laws since the revolution.  In many instances the
words are so foreign from what it now declared to have been the sense of the
makers, the minds of men have been so often irritated and inflamed, and the 
convenient pretext of necessity has in consequence produced so many arbitrary
opinions, that he genuine rules of construction, such as ought to prevail in all
governments at all times, and in all circumstances; these salutary rules, in a great
degree, seem forgotten; and if the latitude were admitted by the superior tribunals
of justice, our liberties and rights would, in a short time, be rendered altogether
precarious.  Let the reader's own mind suggest the reflections which are
proper on this occasion.
    THE first great rule is, that a law be constructed from its own words; but if
these, taken altogether, be really doubtful, the construction nevertheless must
not be repugnant to their plain and common acceptation.  When the construction
is made on what may vaguely be supposed the general spirit of a law, without
words to support it, the rules which concern property, life and freedom, will
vary, according to the different ideas of different judges.
    THE editor hath had ample reason to complain of the inaccuracy of committees
appointed to report on expiring laws.  Sometimes a temporary act has
been continued several years before the period limited for its duration has elapsed.
Sometimes it is revived before it has expired.  Sometimes it is suffered to expire,
and afterwards revived; and not unfrequently a continuing act is continued instead
of the principal.  All these circumstances have added greatly to his labour
in pursuing a temporary law from its date to the session of 1785.
    IT is far from his wish to discredit the legislature.  Wise, liberal, and honest
men, will have no objection to profit from the suggestions of an inferior.  A
want of precision in the laws when we were pressed on every side, and when
there was a necessity for attempting new expedients, was excusable.  It is
otherwise during a peace.  Although the framing of laws that shall at once be
concise, explicit, clear and comprehensive, be not so easy a task as is generally
imagined, it is by no means impracticable to a legislature, from which gentlemen
of the law are happily not excluded.  If every important bill were deliberately
penned, and if the press should furnish each member with a copy before is second
reading, the expence and delay would be abundantly compensated by the
superior accuracy and perspicuity of its language, and the superior efficacy and
wisdom of its provisions.  
    IF these few remarks be considered foreign to the editors duty, they can at
least do no injury.  But surely no general observations on the manner of framing
laws, can be improper in an introduction to a collection of laws.  They are such
as suggested themselves long ago.  If every general position, that by possibility
admits of a particular application, were improper, there is scarcely a moral essay,
or a sermon, that might not be denominated a libel.
    FROM an impression that his remarks might conduce to an improvement in
legislation, the editor has hazarded perhaps the good-will of men whom he esteems.
He has, indeed, laid in a store of bitter regrets, if any thing he has said
shall hereafter be considered as a monument of his malevolence.
    HE cannot conclude, without offering his grateful acknowledgments for the 
liberality with which his labour has been requited, and particularly for the generous
and manly exertions which were made in his favour.  He is confident,
that no government had ever an occasion to repent of a distribution of reasonable
rewards; and he reprobates the sordid grovelling idea, that a servant of the people
is to be represented as their enemy, for no other reason but because he participates
of the public treasury.

 

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Hanson's Laws of Maryland 1763-1784
Volume 203, Page 3   View pdf image (33K)
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