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is the proper accomplishment of every gentleman and fcholar; an highly useful, I had almost said effential, part of liberal and polite education. And in this I am warranted by the example of ancient Rome; where, as Cicero informs us, the very boys were obliged to learn the twelve tables by heart, as a carmen neceffarium or indifpenfable leffon, to imprint on their tender minds an early knowlege of the laws and conftitution of their country.
BUT as the long and universal neglect of this ftudy, with us in England, feems in fome degree to call in question the truth of this evident pofition, it fhall therefore be the bufinefs of this introductory difcourfe, in the first place, to demonstrate the utility of fome general acquaintance with the municipal law of the land, by pointing out its particular ufes in all confiderable fituations of life. Some conjectures will then be offered with regard to the caufes of neglecting this useful ftudy: to which will be fubjoined a few reflexions on the peculiar propriety of reviving it in our own universities.
AND, firft, to demonftrate the utility of fome acquaintance with the laws of the land, let us only reflect a moment on the fingular frame and polity of that land, which is governed by this fyitem of laws. A land, perhaps the only one in the universe, in which political or civil liberty is the very end and scope of the conftitution. This liberty, rightly understood, confifts in the power of doing whatever the laws permit; which is only to be effected by a general conformity of all orders and degrees to those equitable rules of action, by which the meaneft individual is protected from the infults and oppreffion of the greatest. As there fore every fubject is interested in the prefervation of the laws, it is incumbent upon every man to be acquainted with those at least, with which he is immediately concerned; left he incur the cen fure, as well as inconvenience, of living in fociety without knowing the obligations which it lays him under. And thus much
a De Legg. 2. 23.
b Montefq. F. L. 1. 11. c. 5.
Facultas ejus, quod cuique facere libet, nifi quid vi, aut jure prohibetur. Inft. 1. 3. 1.
may fuffice for perfons of inferior condition, who have neither time nor capacity to enlarge their views beyond that contracted fphere in which they are appointed to move. But those, on whom nature and fortune have bestowed more abilities and greater leifure, cannot be so easily excused. These advantages are given them, not for the benefit of themselves only, but also of the public and yet they cannot, in any scene of life, discharge properly their duty either to the public or themfelves, without fome degree of knowledge in the laws. To evince this the more clearly, it may not be amifs to defcend to a few particulars.
LET us therefore begin with our gentlemen of independent eftates and fortune, the most useful as well as confiderable body of men in the nation; whom even to fuppofe ignorant in this branch of learning is treated by Mr. Locke as a strange abfurdity. It is their landed property, with its long and voluminous train of descents and conveyances, fettlements, entails, and incumbrances, that forms the most intricate and most extenfive object of legal knowledge. The thorough comprehenfion of these, in all their minute distinctions, is perhaps too laborious a task for any but a lawyer by profeffion; yet ftill the understanding of a few leading principles, relating to eftates and conveyancing, may form fome check and guard upon a gentleman's inferior agents, and preserve him at least from very grofs and notorious impofition,
AGAIN, the policy of all laws has made fome forms neceffary in the wording of laft wills and teftaments, and more with regard to their atteftation. An ignorance in thefe muft always be of dangerous confequence, to fuch as by choice or neceflity compile their own teftaments without any technical affiftance. Those who have attended the courts of juftice are the beft witnefles of the confufion and diftreffes that are hereby occafioned in families; and of the difficultics that arife in difcerning the true meaning
d Education. §. 187.
of the teftator, or fometimes in difcovering any meaning at all: fo that in the end his eftate may often be vested quite contrary to thefe his enigmatical intentions, because perhaps he has omitted one or two formal words which are neceffary to ascertain the fenfe with indifputable legal precifion, or has executed his will in the prefence of fewer witnesses than the law requires.
BUT to proceed from private concerns to those of a more public confideration. All gentlemen of fortune are, in confequence of their property, liable to be called upon to establish the rights, to estimate the injuries, to weigh the accufations, and fometimes to dispose of the lives of their fellow-fubjects, by ferving upon juries. In this fituation they have frequently a right to decide, and that upon their oaths, queftions of nice importance, in the folution of which fome legal skill is requifite; especially where the law and the fact, as it often happens, are intimately blended together. And the general incapacity, even of our beft juries, to do this with any tolerable propriety, has greatly debased their authority; and has unavoidably thrown more power into the hands of the judges, to direct, control, and even reverse their verdicts, than perhaps the conftitution intended.
BUT it is not as a juror only that the English gentleman is called upon to determine queftions of right, and diftribute justice to his fellow-fubjects: it is principally with this order of men that the commiffion of the peace is filled. And here a very ample field is opened for a gentleman to exert his talents, by maintaining good order in his neighbourhood; by punishing the diffolute and idle; by protecting the peaceable and induftrious; and, above all, by healing petty differences and preventing vexatious profecutions. But in order to attain thefe defirable ends, it is neceffary that the magiftrate fhould understand his bufinefs; and have not only the will, but the power alfo, (under which must be included the knowledge) of adminiftring legal and effectual Justice. Elfe, when he has mistaken his authority, through paffion, through ignorance, or abfurdity, he will be the object of contempt
contempt from his inferiors, and of cenfure from thofe to whom he is accountable for his conduct.
YET farther; most gentlemen of confiderable property, at fome period or other in their lives, are ambitious of representing their country in parliament: and thofe, who are ambitious of receiving fo high a truft, would alfo do well to remember it's nature and importance. They are not thus honourably diftinguished from the rest of their fellow-fubjects, merely that they may privilege their perfons, their eftates, or their domeftics; that they may lift under party banners; may grant or with-hold fupplies; may vote with or vote against a popular or unpopular administration; but upon confiderations far more interesting and important. They are the guardians of the English constitution; the makers, repealers, and interpreters of the English laws; delegated to watch, to check, and to avert every dangerous innovation, to propofe, to adopt, and to cherish any folid and wellweighed improvement; bound by every tie of nature, of honour, and of religion, to tranfmit that conftitution and thofe laws to their pofterity, amended if poflible, at least without any derogation. And how unbecoming muft it appear in a member of the legislature to vote for a new law, who is utterly ignorant of the old! what kind of interpretation can he be enabled to give, who is a ftranger to the text upon which he
INDEED it is perfectly amazing, that there should be no other state of life, no other occupation, art, or science, in which fome method of inftruction is not looked upon as requifite, except only the fcience of legiflation, the nobleft and moft difficult of any. Apprenticeships are held neceffary to almost every art, commercial or mechanical: a long courfe of reading and study muft form the divine, the phyfician, and the practical profeffor of the laws: but every man of fuperior fortune thinks himself born a legiflator. Yet Tully was of a different opinion: " it is neccf
fary, fays he, for a fenator to be thoroughly acquainted with "the conftitution; and this, he declares, is a knowledge of the "moft extenfive nature; a matter of fcience, of diligence, of "reflexion; without which no fenator can poffibly be fit for "his office."
THE mifchiefs that have arifen to the public from inconfiderate alterations in our laws, are too obvious to be called in queftion; and how far they have been owing to the defective education of our fenators, is a point well worthy the public attention. The common law of England has fared like other venerable edifices of antiquity, which rafh and unexperienced workmen have ventured to new-dress and refine, with all the rage of modern improvement. Hence frequently it's fymmetry has been deftroyed, it's proportions diftorted, and it's majeftic fimplicity exchanged for fpecious embellishments and fantaftic novelties. For to say the truth, almost all the perplexed questions, almost all the niceties, intricacies, and delays (which have fometimes difgraced the English, as well as other, courts of justice) owe their original not to the common law itself, but to innovations that have been made in it by acts of parliament; "overladen (as fir Ed"ward Coke expreffes it) with provifoes and additions, and "many times on a fudden penned or corrected by men of none "or very little judgment in law." This great and well-experienced judge declares, that in all his time he never knew two queftions made upon rights merely depending upon the common law; and warmly laments the confufion introduced by ill-judging and unlearned legiflators." But if," he fubjoins, " acts of par"liament were after the old fashion penned, by fuch only as "perfectly knew what the common law was before the making "of any act of parliament concerning that matter, as alfo how "far forth former ftatutes had provided remedy for former mif"chicls, and defects difcovered by experience; then fhould very
De Legg. 3.18. Ff fonatori neceffarion fine quoparatus of fenater mill. ↑ all roupallisara; idque late pot † :12 Rep. Prof. Ava's one foto tia, dinganna, mamatu j