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,
provisions frequently appear repugnant, and the best judges are puzzled
them. Where too the sense is involved in a multitude of words, and
a total defect in the arrangement of the clauses, it sometimes happens,
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
words are so foreign from what it now declared to have been the sense of
makers, the minds of men have been so often irritated and inflamed, and
convenient pretext of necessity has in consequence produced so many arbitrary
opinions, that he genuine rules of construction, such as ought to prevail
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
of justice, our liberties and rights would, in a short time, be rendered
precarious. Let the reader's own mind suggest the reflections which
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
not be repugnant to their plain and common acceptation. When the
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,
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
Sometimes it is revived before it has expired. Sometimes it is suffered
and afterwards revived; and not unfrequently a continuing act is continued
of the principal. All these circumstances have added greatly to his
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.
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.
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
imagined, it is by no means impracticable to a legislature, from which
of the law are happily not excluded. If every important bill
penned, and if the press should furnish each member with a copy before
reading, the expence and delay would be abundantly compensated by the
superior accuracy and perspicuity of its language, and the superior efficacy
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
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
admits of a particular application, were improper, there is scarcely a
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 has, indeed, laid in a store of bitter regrets, if any thing he has
shall hereafter be considered as a monument of his malevolence.
HE cannot conclude, without offering his grateful acknowledgments
liberality with which his labour has been requited, and particularly for
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
rewards; and he reprobates the sordid grovelling idea, that a servant of
is to be represented as their enemy, for no other reason but because he
of the public treasury.