« PreviousContinue »
ciples and the purity of his motives. We object not to the general authenticity of his narration ; nor do we feel any difficulty in admitting his conclusion, that 'democracy is a pernicious government:' but it must also be allowed that the fame facts have been adduced by other writers, with a view of establishing opposite doctrines ; and many have been led to believe, with respect to governments, that
6 Whate'er is best administer'd is best.' The result of Dr. Bisset's inquiry into this important, and at present very interesting subject, is a decided preference of the English constitution. He begins by taking a view of the principles and conduct of modern democrats and pretended reformers: he then pursues the history of democracy through the Greek and Roman annals, and concludes with a sketch of English democracy, and an eulogium on the British constitution.
The work bears the marks of learning; and the following extract from the conclusion of the volume will afford a favourable specimen of the writer's style.
' A government' (the commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell] • fo abfurd in principles, so pernicious in effects, remained not long in Britain. The sound sense of our ancestors taught by experience, returned to monarchy. Our constitution, for a century afcertained and confirmed, is of all political systems recorded in history, the most perfectly fitted for the attainment and preservation of individual and national happiness. Our jurisprudence has a most exact coincidence with natural ethics. It allows every action, every exertion of freedom, which morality sanctions. Its restraints are commensurate with the restraints of conscience. We may speak, write, do whatever we please, if we abstain from injury. Our polity secures to our law the full operation and effect. The judicial examiners of our conduct are men taken from ourselves, and having the most powerful motives to justice, as on the purity of their judgments depends their own security.
• Our lawgivers can make no laws which do not equally bind themselves as the rest of the community. Our parliament has an identity of interests with us; that being the case, it matters little to individuals whether they have a vote or not in the election of its members. My rights, who have no vote, are as well féçured as those of any elector in the kingdom. No man can be deprived of his liberty, property, or life, but for his own act of private or public injury. Every one of common understanding, industry and conduct, may generally earn a comfortable independent livelihood, and is in case of unavoidable misfortune relieved front want, Individual distress is removed by general prosperity, and general libesality resulting from excellence of political system.
* To secure the enjoyment of our happiness undisturbed by do. mestic and foreign enemies, fome of our property is applied. The tegislature finds it neceffary to expend a part to preserve the whole. Its wisdom and humanity apportion impofts to the ability of the
contributer, from the average property of its members, paying it' self a very large share.
• Our church is equally removed from fanaticism and infidelity; pious without enthusiasm, liberal without laxity; by precept and example inculcating virtue and religion. The political principles it teaches are those of our civil polity. It grants indulgence to nonconformists, in every opinion pot productive of vices and im. piety, or subversive of our happy establiflament,
Our king has an identity of interest with the several orders, civil and ecclefiaftical, and with the people at large. The friends and enemies of the people, the establishment, and the sovereign are the same.
Every true patriot is a lover of the conftitution and of the king.
. Under such a system, and the characters which it produces, we of this country enjoy, and have long enjoyed, a happiness unequalled in the annals of history. Malignants may try to make the weak and ignorant fancy otherwise, but it must be either ignorance of fact or incapacity of reasoning, that can produce assent to such notions. The more a man is conversant with the history of mankind, and their comparative state in different situations, the more clearly will he see, that none in the various conftituents of happiness equal, or ever equalled the subjects of the British government.
A New Abridgment of the Law. By Matthew Bacon, of the
Middle Temple, Esq. The Fifth Edition, corrected, with considerable Additions, including the latest Authorities ; by Henry Gwillim, of the Middle Temple, Esq. Barrister at Law. 7 Vols. Royal 8vo. 51. 55. Boards. Robinsons, 1798.
THE work now republished has been long and deservedly esteemed by the professors of the law. Many of the treatises which it contains, are known to have been the productions of the lord chief baron Gilbert, by whose labours and genius almost every path of the legal science has been explored and illumitated. But, while profeffional gratitude has acknowledged the inerit of that great man, it has been frequently lamented that his various compositions did not attain that correctness which is particularly desirable in differtations on legal fubjects, and that they have for the most part been published with
little editorial care. Such was the fate of the valuable remains which were incorporated into Bacon's Abridge, ment. Notwithstanding these defects, the New Abridgement met with a favourable reception, as an elementary work adapted to the elucidation of an intricate science. Its publication, therefore, in a more correct and convenient form, cannot fail of being highly acceptable; and it will be useful, in the present instance, to extract from the preface those paffages in which the editor details his plan.
• In preparing the present edition for the press, it has been the first care of the editor to retrench what was redundant in the work, and to expunge what appeared to him impertinent. In retrenching, he has substituted reference for repetition; and where the fame matter which had occurred under one title seemed naturally to fall under and belong to another, he has referred to the preced: ing title instead of introducing it again. In expunging, he has not indulged himself in any arbitrary or capricious licence; nor has he prefumed to strike out one supervenient authority of a later editor, before he had satisfied himself by careful examination that it had no pretensions to the place it affected to occupy.
• In the original text he has rarely ventured to make any alteration, except where it was manifestly corrupted by the carelessness of the copyist or of the press, or rendered perplexed by the want of due attention to punctuation. One or two paffages indeed, where the meaning could not be collected either from the expression or the references, he thought himself at liberty to expunge. Conjectural emendation is not admissible in a work of this kind; and he irusts, no man will complain of the loss of nonsense.
• He has attempted to mark, and guard his readers against, the mistakes of the author : but he is sensible that many, too many er. roneous passages have been suffered to pass without observation, In the course of so long a work it cannot be expected that the exerţions of the mind tould be always equal, or that it should always be alike disposed to proceed in the task it had undertaken. It must occasionally ficken at some parts of the labour as beneath its attention, and thrink from others as beyond its powers. It is well known that the most obvious errors sometimes most eally escape detection. In reading, every man must have felt that his mind is sometimes more attentive to its own preconceptions on the subject, than to the ideas of the author, and the better it is satisfied with the rectitude of the former, the inore steadily it pursues them, and the less sensible it is of the aberrations of the latter. The form too in which error presents itself to us may help to facilitate its escape: it is more likely to pass filently and unobserved when proposed in the form of a fimple affirmation, than when it challenges our inquiry in that of an interrogation, We often readily
admit upon a statement what we should instantly deny, if it were offered to us in the way of question.
• It should be observed, that even where the editor has detected erros, he has not always immediately apprised his reader of it: he has sometimes subjoined his remarks upon the erroneous passage at the end of the division where it has occurred : he has at other times left its confutation to its inconsistency with the better-confidered and more recent determinations which he has afterwards introduced.
• In the additions he was to make, he found it necessary to prefcribe to himself some limitations: he therefore in general attempted no more than to fill up the charms that were left under those general divisions into which he found the work already disposed, and then to engraft upon the whole the later decisions. He has indeed given two new titles, viz. “ Pifchary" and "Set-off;" and he knows that he might have given others, as the work is at prefent far from a complete Abridgment of the Law. But he had neither time nor encouragement to go farther. Besides, much of the learning which is wanting, is to be met with in books that are in every one's hand: and what was to have been gleaned from other writings of the same kind, though it might have increased the bulk of the work, would not have added to its intrinsick value, or have done any credit to the industry or integrity of the editor. If there should be some who complain that more might have been done, there will be others, he fears, who will say, perhaps with more justice, that much of that which has been done might have been spared.' Vol. i. P, v,
Mr. Gwillim has spoken of his labours with a commenda able modesty; and we feel it our duty to give himn the praise to which, for an elaborate edition of an important work, he is fairly entitled. He merits the thanks of the profeffion, for having corrected the errors, and enlarged the information, of a work which, incomplete as it yet may be, we recommend to the attentive perusal of those who wish to be well ground, ed in the study of the law.
• He thought himself at full liberty to transplant into the work as much of the chief baron Gilbert's tracts as he had occasion for : it was in truth only re-uniting disjointed members, many parts of the work itself being only parts of several of those tracts. One of the learned judge's treatises, viz. the Treatise upon the Doctrine of Remainders, from which the collections in the abridgment under that title were extracted, he has been enabled to give entire by the kindness of Mr. Hargrave. The manuscript had been purchased by that gentleman at no inconfiderable price: but, disdaining all private considerations where the interests of that profession, of which he is so diftinguished an ornament, seemned in any degrec,
concerned, he made a voluntary tender of it to the editor, as foon as he was informed that he was engaged in preparing another edition of the prefent work. By this generous act, Mr. Hargrave has highly flattered the editor, and has added one more to the many obligations his profession were already under to him.' Vol. i. p. vii.
We are happy in the opportunity of introducing a passage which bears such honourable testimony to the professional li. berality of Mr. Hargrave, and of remarking that this gentleman has done much more than would have been sufficient to discharge the debt which, in the opinion of fir Edward Coke, every man owes to his profeffion,
The Cause of Truth, containing, besides a great Variety of other
Matter, a Refutation of Errors in the political Works of Thomas Paine, and other Publications of a similar Kind. In a Series of Letters, of a religious, moral, and political Nature. By Robert Thomas, Minister of Abdie. 12mo. 352 Boards, Vernor and Hood. 1797.
QUI nimis probat, nihil probat.-This writer has a zeal for truth, and does not forget, in his political disquisitions, what ought to be their basis-the sentiment of the dominion of God over the world: but his regard for the truth, attacked by Paine and men of a similar turn of mind, leads him to think, that he cannot overthrow their notions without throwing all his weight into the opposite scale, or defending too strenuously a battered out-post, which is in reality of more advantage to the aisailant than to the citadel. In few places can we open the book without remarking the prevalence of this disposition. Every thing in the present state seems to the author to be right, or scarcely susceptible of any improvement; and the British constitution, in theory and practice, feels none of the effects of human imperfection.
The representative part of our government has evidently its abuses and defects. Some have been introduced by time; and ä man must be blind to the real excellence of our constitution, if he can defend the practice of choosing members for a place deftitute of inhabitants, while many considerable towns are unrepresented. Besides,' however proper it may be to require certain qualifications from the electors, it cannot juftly be faid that the non-electors are represented.
In a civil society such as ours, it is not only necessary, that the legislative power should be shared by a king, lords, and com