« PreviousContinue »
it is not easy to speak in terms of becoming moderation, and which, with all deference to the authority for such damnable iteration,' we believe to be quite unparalleled in any other book. If it were not impossible to entertain the suspicion, one would be tempted to think that instead of expressing its meaning with the utmost clearness, the legislature had some end to serve by involving it in the greatest possible obscurity. Indeed it would be unaccountable how men of such rank and education, as those of which the two Houses of Parliament are composed, should have so patiently suffered such undigested compositions to be so long ushered into the world under the sanction of their names, unless experience proved, that the most enlightened bodies frequently do that in their collective capacity without the least compunction, for which there is not a single individual among them that would be responsible in his private character.
These reinarks on the language and arrangement of the clauses of acts of Parliament proceed from no love of grammatical criticism or fastidiousness of taste, but from a firm conviction that the unnecessary multiplication of words on the occasion, is a serious public mischief. If there is any one species of composition in which it is peculiarly desirable to expunge every word not indispensibly requisite to complete the meaning, and where propriety of expression is reasonably expected, we apprehend it to be in acts of Parliament. If due attention were paid to this, the different sections would be read and understood with infinitely greater ease and certainty than at present, and among other improvements we should be relieved from the endless repetition of he, she, and they,' him, her, and them,'' person and persons,” • all, and every body and bodies,' &c. and many other pleonasms, for which the words · he,' • him,' and them,' without any addition ought to be declared sufficient substitutes. As an example of prolis phraseology carried to the utmost possible extent, the 54 Geo. III. c. 56. for the encouragement of Statuaries and Bust-makers, may be referred to, which is the more liable to censure, as, both on account of the persons for whose benefit it was made, and because it is an amendment of a former act which it declares to have been insufficient, it ought to have been unusually perspicuous. It runs in the following terms: • Be it enacted, &c. that from and after the passing of this act, every person or persons who shall make or cause to be made any new and original sculpture, or model, or copy, or cast of the human figure or human tigures, or of any bust or busts, or of any part or parts of the human figure clothed in drapery or otherwise, or
any animal or animals, or of any part or parts of any animal combined with the human figure or otherwise, or of any subject being matter of invention in sculpture, as of any alto or basso relievo,
representing any of the matters or things hereinbefore mentioned, or any cast from nature of the human figure, or of any part or parts of the human figure, or of any cast from nature of any animal, or of any part or parts of any animal, or of any such subject containing or representing any of the matters and things hereinbefore mentioned, whether separate or combined, shall have the sale, right, and property of all and in every such new original sculpture, model, copy, and cast of the human figure or human figures, and of all and in every such bust or busts, and of all in every such part or parts of the human figure, clothed in drapery or otherwise, and of all and in every such new and original sculpture, model, copy, and cast representing any animal or animals, and of all and in every such work representing any part or parts of any animal combined with the human figure or otherwise
, and of all, and in every such new and original sculpture, model, copy, and cast of any subject being matter of invention in sculpture, and of all and in every such new and original sculpture, model, copy, and cast in alto or basso relievo representing any of the matters or things hereinbefore mentioned, and of every such cast from nature, for the term of fourteen years, froni first putting forth or publishing the same,' &c. Now supposing this act bad simply declared, That after the passing of this act, every person who shall make or cause to be made any piece of sculpture or model being matter of invention, or any original mould or cast of any objects animate or inanimate, or of any part or combination thereof, or who shall make any original copy of any such sculpture, model, mould, or cast, shall have the sole right and property to, and in the same for the term of fourteen years from first putting forth or publishing the same,' &c. it would have been much shorter, and perhaps have expressed the same meaning more distinctly. At least what appears to us to be the meaning of the act'; for in spite of the profusion of words, we are not sure, after having read it twenty times over, that we fully comprehend it. There are no fewer than three questions which it leaves undetermined: whether if a sculptor invents a statue, and afterwards makes casts from it of the same size, such casts are protected for fourteen years against imitation, though it is probable that they are. 2dly, whether if a sculptor or moulder makes an exact resemblance of an ancient theatre or temple, which has never been copied before, reduced to a tenth of the real size, such copy or work of invention, is covered by the statute? And 3dly, whether it is unlawful again to reduce the copy, or only to make and vend a fraudulent fac-simile of it?
We have perhaps said more on this act than the subject required, but we thought it right to shew by an examination of the first example that presented itself, how unavoidably prolixity of language
impairs instead of promoting legal precision, while on the other hand we are anxious to guard ourselves against the supposition of recommending perspicuity or neatness at the expense of security, Another strong instance of the carelessness with which acts of Parliament are drawn, occurs in 56 Geo. III. c. 86. respecting aliens. By the lst. ed. and 3d. sections, aliens neglecting or refusing to obey proclamations for departing the realm, may, by warrant of the Secretary of State, be committed to a messenger, in order to their being conveyed out of the realm ; but if such secretary has been informed that an excuse or reason for such neglect or refusal is alleged by the alien, he shall suspend the order till the same has been heard before the Privy Council. But by sect. 10. certain magistrates and officers of state, merely on suspicion that an alien is a dangerous person, may commit the alien; and one of the principal Secretaries of State, by warrant under his hand and seal, may direct such alien to be ordered out of the kingdom, without being heard by the Privy Council or any other person. We are far from supposing that any unnecessary severity was intended, but foreigners may perhaps think the laws of the country strange, if an alien merely suspected should be more harshly treated than one who las actually neglected or refused to obey a proclamation. The whole act bears marks of haste aud unskilfulness.
If it is allowed, that acts of Parliament are framed in the faulty manner now described, it signifies little how the evil arises; whether they are prepared by the solicitors to the different public boards, by equity draftsmen or special pleaders, and whether it happens that want of time, skill, or adequate remuneration is the cause of their 'mal-formation. It is no consolation to the community suffering under any particular grievance, to be informed of the manner in which that grievance bas arisen. Such explanation never can excuse its existence, much less its continuance, provided it is practicable to remove it.
5. The last and most powerful cause of the increase and imperfection of acts of Parliament arises from an excessive love of legislation. Weak men who have seats in either House are so apt to be pleased with their own noise and bustle; there are so many applications either to introduce or support bills for the benefit of districts or bodies of men, with whom members of Parliament are connected; and there is something so apparently meritorious in the attempt, however unavailing it may prove, to relieve the distress or difficulties under which our fellow-subjects suffer, that to abstain from introducing injudicious Bills, or Bills to promote private interest, requires no ordinary exertion of understanding and firmness. It is not therefore surprising, though not the less lamentable, that unceasing attempts should thus be made to alter and extend the reDD 3
straints of law by those very persons who would be the first to admit it to be generally true, that of all the excesses which a free government can commit, an excess of legislation is the most mischievous. Indisputable and supremely important as this principle is, a reference to the Statute book will shew, that it has never been more frequently or palpably disregarded than in recent times. It would be both tedious and unprofitable to wade through all the acts where this violation is perceptible. We shall content ourselves with the following specimen of regulating statutes, the whole of which have been passed in the present reign: 8 Geo. III. c. 17. for regulating the wages of taylors; 13 Geo. III. c. 68. empowering magistrates to regulate silk manufacturers ; 28 Geo. III. c. 7. to improve gold and silver lace making; 28 Geo. III. c. 17. for the better regulation of making ounce thread; 32 Geo. III. c. 44. for regulating the wages of silk weavers ; 36 Geo. III. c. 60. for regulating the making of buttons ; 36 Geo. III. c. 85. for regulating corn mills; 44 Geo. III. c. 69. for regulating the linen manufacture of Ireland, and c. 87. of the same act for regulating the cotton manufacture of England; 46 Geo. III. c. 59. regulating the packing of butter in Ireland ; 49 Geo. III. c. 109. regulating the woollen manufacture; and 53 Geo. III. c. 46. regulating the butter trade of Ireland. To the same class may be referred 28 Geo. III. c. 57. followed by several others, limiting the number of persons carried on the outside of stage-coaches; and an act in the beginning of the present reign, the exact date of which we cannot recollect, to prevent the depasturing of forests, commons, and open fields with sheep and lambs infected with the scab or mange; and 43 Geo. III. c. 56., 56 Geo. III. c. 114. and 57 Geo. III. c. 10. regulating the number of persons to be taken on board any vessel from this country to America according to its tonnage. If we remember right a bill for rendering steam-boats more safe for passengers was thrown out in the House of Lords two years ago. The Climbing Boys bill was thrown out in the same House during the present session; and Mr. Bennett immediately announced in the House of Commons his intention to introduce a bill for regulating climbing, as he could not abolish it altogether. Another has since been introduced for the regulation of country bakers; and a third has been printed, the object of which is to enable the grand juries in Ireland to present a sum sufficient to purchase a sword and dress to secure proper respect for the person of the coroners of baronies in that country. Two others, one for providing board and lodging for certain sorts of apprentices, and another for regulating the numbers on clocks and watches, have actually passed the Commons and een sent up to the Lords. We do not think it would be altogether respectful to enter more
minutely minutely into an examination of the recent proceedings of the legisJature, although we may be permitted to remark, that it would be difficult to select a session in the whole course of our parliamentary history in which so great a number of public bills have made their appearance in the two Houses, and more especially in the House of Commons, where individual members appear in this respect to be too much relieved from that restraint which ought to be inposed upon them by the judgment and gravity of the assembled body. Many bills introduced bear unequivocal marks of never having been maturely considered either in their immediate or remote effects. They make their appearance in the House nobody knows how, and it seems a good deal to depend upon the accident of their attracting or escaping observation whether they are lost or carried. But it does not now seem to enter into the contemplation of any one, that the reputation of a member of parliament is intimately coupled with the character of the bills he proposes. Before this course of legislation proceeds farther, we beg leave respectfully but decidedly to protest against it. The shape in which it usually displays itself is that of regulating acts, and they involve almost every objectionable quality which public laws can possess. They begin by trenching more or less on the liberty of the subject, which nothing but great and unquestionable general good can justify, and in the end do nothing but produce some unmeaning forms, while their substantial enactments remain perfectly nugatory. They endeavour to insure that fair dealing between buyer and seller, master and servant, which they neither can nor ought to accomplish, because they would destroy that circumspection which every person should be obliged to exercise in the management of his own affairs : and they make the law of the land intricate and unequal, by subjecting one trade or occupation to restraint, while another, where there is the same reason for interference, remains unfettered.
Were Parliament in its paternal kindness to frame a separate set of rules for the regulation of every craft or employment, exercised in this rich and trading country, it would make our municipal institutions irksome beyond endurance, and produce infinitely more inconvenience, fraud, and oppression than they were intended to remove. On the ground therefore of acts of regulation being mischievous in theinselves, and affording encouragement to others of the same sort, we feel an insurmountable objection to the whole order, without excepting even that which was introduced last year by Sir Robert Peel in favour of children employed in cotton manufactures, though it is by far the strongest case for interference which has yet occurred. The laws 'respecting passengers by coaches and ships are liable to the same observation). If the Common law was insufficient to insure the safety of the subject, why should not a Ꭰ Ꭰ Ꮞ