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Proceedings and Debates of the 1850 Constitutional Convention
Volume 101, Volume 1, Debates 317   View pdf image
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atory remarks. The gentleman from Baltimore
city, (Mr. Presstman,) had maintained that it
would be impracticable to make the laws so
plain to every man, "that he who runs may
.read." He, (Mr. S..) had seen a commentary in
which it was maintained, that according to the
original language of the phrase, it should be read
"he who reads may run." With this revision, he
might well apply it to the laws of the State. He,
(Mr. S.,) had not, and would not, promise that
his amendment, if adopted, would make every
man a lawyer, but. he believed, it would prevent
much unwise legislation, and would tend greatly
to simplify the laws. Referring to his amend-
ment, he said that he had looked into the Consti-
tution of the State of Louisiana, and had found
therein an article, that embraced much of the
principle of his amendment. He had examined
the laws of that State, since the adoption of the
new Constitution, and found the laws plain and
easy to understand. He had first been led to in-
vestigate this subject, some years since, by read-
ing the life of the Hon. S. W. Downs, at present
United States Senator from Louisiana, who was
an able and warm advocate of reform in his State
for many years, before the Convention of that
State, in 1844, of which Convention he was a
member. He had the whole banking interest of
the State arrayed against him, yet over all opposi-
tion he triumphed.
In reply to the statement so repeatedly urged,
that the members of the Legislature could not
know all the laws of the State, and that the
amendment would operate to prevent farmers and
mechanics from going to the Legislature, he must
say he saw no force in the argument. He denied
that it would have that effect. He considered it
an acknowledgment, on the part of the opponents
to the amendment, that it would produce industry
and watchfulness in the Legislature. It was
right that legislators should well understand the
subject on which they were engaged. It would
place the labor of research and investigation up-
on the members of the Legislature, whore it pro-
perly belonged.
The gentleman from Dorchester, (Mr. Hicks,)
had stated that the members of the bar, knew
how to charge. Perhaps they took lessons from
the Registers. He, (Mr. S.,) vindicated the pro-
fession of the law; and refered to the history of
the country, to show that lawyers had always
took a prominent part in contests for liberty.
They had contributed their means, time and
talent, verily, their blood to its procurement.
Lawyers might occasionally rail each other, but
if others undertook it, they would find themselves
in the condition of the man, who interfered with
the quarrels of husband and wife, and thereby
brought them both upon him. He expressed his
great esteem and regard for the gentleman from
Queen Anne's, (Mr. Spencer,) and the pleasure
he always felt in co-operating with him, but, in
this matter, he must differ with him. He thought
from the tone and manner of the gentleman from
Queen Anne's, that some startling disclosure was
about to be made; some dreadful evil would
come upon the State by the adoption of the
amendment. He, (Mr. S.,) could see no danger.

The principle, so far as it had been adopted in
Louisiana, had worked well.
Mr. MERRICK asked if the Constitution of
Louisiana did not refer to the revisal of laws ?
Mr. STEWART replied, that in the Constitution
of that State, the word revised was used; but, on
turning to the debates of the Convention that
adopted the Constitution, he found that the word
revised, was, on motion of Mr. Lewis, stricken
out of the article reported, and the word revived
inserted, and he could not find where it was after-
wards changed, so he inferred that the word re-
viled in the Louisiana Constitution, ought to be
revived. However that might be, he preferred
the word revived. He could see no difficulty
from the operation of his amendment. If gentle-
men in the Legislature, were not able to prepare
a law, it could be done in the committees. He
thought that it would render the fountain pure, and
then the stream would flow clear. The honor-
able gentleman from Frederick, (Mr. Thomas,)
has so fully and ably advocated the amendment,
and so forcibly portrayed the evils that it is to cor-
rect, that he, (Mr. S.,) would not longer detain
the Convention.
Mr. THOMAS briefly replied to the remarks of
the gentleman from Baltimore city, (Mr. Presst-
man,) and thanked him for adopting and endors-
ing his opinions. With reference to the effect of
the amendment to repeal all pre-existing laws
which might be omitted in codifying the laws, he
expressed a willingness to give it that tendency.
He was disposed to repeal all laws of a doubtful
or occult character. Such, he believed, was the
object of codification.
He asked if it was not the practice to repeal
all previous laws on the same subject, whenever
a new law was enacted? The gentleman from
Baltimore city had said, that we could not simplify
laws so as that every man who "runs may
read." It was his desire that they should be too
clear to be misapprehended.
After speaking of the profession of the law in
terms of the highest eulogy, he stated that the
cause of the multiplicity of suits was the doubt in
the minds of lawyers themselves, of the true con-
struction of laws, or because they had only read
a portion of the laws relating to the subject.
They may have been poring diligently over the
laws, and after all, may have missed some sup-
plementary act.
He briefly adverted to the remarks of the gen-
tleman from Charles, (Mr. Merrick,) on the
opinion he bad expressed that, lawyers only should
be employed in the task of codification. Sup-
pose, said he, the gentleman and myself were ap-
pointed to revise the system of special pleading.
He felt very certain that he would not be compe-
tent to the task, unaided by advice from any
quarter, and as the gentleman from Charles had
been some time out of the practice of the law, he
also might feel some diffidence as to his own abil-
ity; and how could we expect that the most in-
telligent persons, not in the profession of the
law, would be fit to undertake the task? We are
not all like Minerva sprung from the head of Ju-
piter, ready for the conflict, or like Venus, in all
her beauty, rising from the foam of the sea, but

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Proceedings and Debates of the 1850 Constitutional Convention
Volume 101, Volume 1, Debates 317   View pdf image
 Jump to  

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