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able institution, than for the private instruction of individuals P) I presume it will best answer the intent of our benefactor and the expectation of this learned body, if I attempt to illustrate at times such detached titles of the law, as are the most easy to be understood, and most capable of his.. torical or critical ornament. But in reading the complete course, which is annually consigned to my care, a more regular method will be necessary; and, till a better is proposed, I shall take the liberty to follow the same that I have already [ 35 ] submitted to the public 4. To fill up and finish that outline with propriety and correctness, and to render the whole intelligible to the uninformed minds of beginners, (whom we are too apt to suppose acquainted with terms and ideas, which they never had opportunity to learn) this must be my ardent endeavour, though by no means my promise, to accomplish. You will permit me however very briefly to describe, rather what I conceive an academical expounder of the laws should do, than what I have ever known to be done.
He should consider his course as a general map of the law, marking out the shape of the country, it's connexions and boundaries, it's greater divisions and principal cities: it is not his business to describe minutely the subordinate limits, or to fix the longitude and latitude of every inconsiderable hamlet. His attention should be engaged, like that of the readers in Fortescue's inns of chancery, “ in tracing out the “ originals and as it were the elements of the law.” For if, as Justinian' has observed, the tender understanding of
p See Lowth's Oratio Cruwiana, P: 365.
1 The analylis of the laws of Eng. land, first published, A. D. 1756, and exhibiting the order and principal divibons of the ensuing COMMENTARIES; which were originally submitted to the univerfity in a private course of lectures, A.D. 1753.
• Incipientibus nobis exponere jura po. fuli Romani, ita videntur tradi poljecome
modissime, fi primo levi ac fimplici via fingula tradantur : alioqui, fi farim ab initio rudem adbuc et infirmum animum studiosi multitudinc ac varietate rerum once ravimus, duorum alterum, aut deferterem ftudiorum efficiemus, aut cum magno labo. re, faepe etiam cum diffidentia ( quae plerumque juvenes avertit) serius ad id perducemus, ad quod, leviore via duetus, fine magno labore, et fine ulla diffidentia maturius perduci poruilet. Inft. I. 1. 2. 3
the student be loaded at the first with a multitude and variety of matter, it will either occasion him to desert his studies, or will carry him heavily through them, with much labour, delay, and defpondence. Thése originals should be traced to their fountains, as well as our distance will permit; to the customs of the Britons and Germans, as recorded by Caefar and Tacitus ; to the codes of the northern nations on the continent, and more especially to those of our own Saxon princes; to the rules of the Roman law either left
here in the days of Papinian, or imported by Vacarius and [ 36 ] his followers; but above all, to that inexhaustible reservoir of
legal antiquities and learning, the feodal law, or, as Spelmans has entitled it, the law of nations in our western orb. These primary rules and fundamental principles should be weighed and compared with the precepts of the law of nature, and the practice of other countries ; should be explained by reasons, illustrated by examples, and confirmed by undoubted authorities; their history should be deduced, their changes and revolutions observed, and it should be shewn how far they are connected with, or have at any time been affected by, the civil transactions of the kingdom
A PLAN of this nature, if executed with care and ability, cannot fail of administering a most useful and rational entertainment to students of all ranks and professions; and yet it must be confessed that the study of the laws is not merely a matter of amusement; for, as a very judicious writer has observed upon a similar occasion, the learner “ will be con“ Giderably disappointed, if he looks for entertainment with« out the expence of attention.” An attention, however, not greater than is usually bestowed in mastering the rudiments of other sciences, or sometimes in pursuing a favourite recreation or exercise. And this attention is not equally necessary to be exerted by every student upon every occasion. Some branches of the law, as the formal process of civil suits, and the subtle distinctions incident to landed pro
• Of parliaments. 57
Dr Taylor's pref. to Elem. of civil law.
perty, perty, which are the most difficult to be thoroughly underftood, are the least worth the pains of understanding, except to such gentlemen as intend to pursue the profession. To others I may venture to apply, with a flight alteration, the words of Sir John Fortescue“, when first his ro: al pupil. determines to engage in this study. " It will not be neces“ sary for a gentleman, as such, to examine with a close ap“ plication the critical niceties of the law. It will fully be 6 sufficient, and he may well enough be denominated a “ lawyer, if under the instruction of a master he traces up “ the principles and grounds of the law, even to their ori- [ 37 ] “ ginal elements. Therefore in a very short period, and « with very little labour, he may be sufficiently informed in “ the laws of his country, if he will but apply his mind in “ good earnest to receive and apprehend them. For, though
such knowlege as is necessary for a judge is hardly to “ be acquired by the lucubrations of twenty years, yet, “ with a genius of tolerable perfpicacity, that knowlege “ which is fit for a person of birth or condition may be “ learned in a single year, without neglecting his other im“ pirovements."
To the few therefore (the very few I am persuaded,) that entertain such unworthy notions of an university, as to suppose it intended for mere diffipation of thought; to such as mean only to while away the aukward interval from childhood to twenty-one, between the restraints of the school and the licentiousness of politer life, in a calm middle Itate of mental and of moral inactivity; to these Mr Viner gives no invitation to an entertainment which they never can relish, But to the long and illustrious train of noble and ingenuous youth, who are not more distinguished among us by their birth and poffefsions, than by the regularity of their conduct and their thirst after useful knowlege, to these our benefactor has consecrated the fruits of a long and laborious life, worn out in the duties of his calling; and will joyfully reflect (if such reflections can be now the employment of his
thoughts) that he could not more effectually have benefited posterity, or contributed to the service of the public, than by founding an institution which may instruct the rising generation in the wisdom of our civil polity, and inspire'them with a desire to be still better acquainted with the laws and constitution of their country.
Of the NATURE of Laws in general. 38
• SECTION THE SECOND.
OF THE NATURE or LAWS IN GENERAL.
T AW, in it's most general and comprehensive sense,
I signifies a rule of action; and is applied indiscriminately to all kinds of action, whether animate or inanimate, rational or irrational. Thus we say, the laws of motion, of gravitation, of optics, or mechanics, as well as the laws of nature and of nations. And it is that rule of action, which is prescribed by some superior, and which the inferior is bound to obey.
Thus when the supreme being formed the universe, and created matter out of nothing, he impressed certain principles upon that matter, from which it can never depart, and without which it would cease to be. When he put that matter into motion, he established certain laws of motion, to which all moveable bodies must conform. And, to do scend from the greatest operations to the smallest, when a workman forms a clock, or other piece of mechanism, he establishes at his own pleasure certain arbitrary laws for it's direction ; as that the hand shall describe a given space in a given time; to which law as long as the work conforms, so long it continues in perfection, and answers the end of it's formation,
If we farther advance, from mere inactive matter to regetable and animal life, we shall find them ftill governed by laws; more numerous indeed, but equally fixed and invariable. The whole progress of plants, from the seed to the root, and from thence to the feed again; the method of animal