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after the expiration of the same space of time, augmented by as many days as there were distances of twenty leagues between the seat of government and the place. The NewYork Revised Statutes have also declared the very equitable rule, that every law, unless a different time be prescribed therein, takes effect throughout the state, on, and not before, the 20th day after the day of its final passage.
If the statute be constitutional in its character, and has duly gone into operation, the next inquiry is respecting its meaning ; and this leads us to a consideration of the established rules of construction, by which its sense and operation are to be understood.
There is a material distinction between public and pri- Acts, public vate statutes, and the books abound with cases explaining this distinction in its application to particular statutes. is sometimes difficult to draw the line between a public and private act, for statutes frequently relate to matters and things that are partly public and partly private. Generally speaking, statutes are public; and a private statute may rather be considered as an exception to a general rule. It operates upon particular individuals, or upon private persons. It is said not to bind or include strangers in interest to its provisions, and they are not bound to take notice of a private act, even though there be no general saving clause of the rights of third persons. This is a safe and just rule of construction; and it was adopted by the English courts in very early times, and does great credit to their liberality and spirit of justice. It is supported by the opinion of Sir Matthew Hale, in Lucy v. Levington, where he lays down the rule to be, that though every man be so far a party to a private act of parliament, as not to gainsay it, yet he is not so far a party as to give up his interest. To take the
a Vol. 1. 157. sec. 12.
b 37 Hen. VI. 15. Bro. Parliament, pl. 27. Boswell's case, 25 and 26 Eliz. cited in Barrington's case, 8 Co. 138. a.
ci Vent. 175.
case stated by Sir Matthew Hale, suppose a statute recites, that whereas there was a controversy concerning land between A. and B., and enacts that A. shall enjoy it, this would not bind the interest of third persons in that land, because they are not strictly parties to the act, but strangers, and it would be manifest injustice that the statute should affect them. This rule, as to the limitation of the operation of private statutes, was adopted by the Supreme Court of New York, and afterwards by the Court of Errors, in Jackson v. Catlin. It is likewise a general rule, in the interpretation of statutes limiting rights and interests, not to construe them to embrace the sovereign power or government, unless the same be expressly named therein, or intended by necessary implication. Private statutes are placed under another limitation. The courts of justice are bound, ex officio, to take notice of public acts without their being pleaded, for they are part of the general law of the land, which all persons, and particularly the judges, are presumed to know; but they are not bound to take notice of private acts, unless they be specially pleaded, and shown in
proof, by the party claiming the effect of them. Rules for the The title of the act, and the preamble to the act, are, interpretation of strictly speaking, no parts of it. They may serve to show
the general scope and purport of the act, and the inducements which led to its enactment. They may, at times, aid in the construction of it; but generally they are very loosely and carelessly inserted, and are not safe expositors of the Jaw. The title frequently alludes to the subject matter of the act only in general or sweeping terms, or it alludes only to a part of the multifarious matter of which the statute is composed. The title, as it was observed in United States v. Fisher, when taken in connexion with other parts, may
a 2 Johnson's Rep. 263. 8 Johnson's Rep. 520. S. C.
6 1 Blacks. Com, 261. Comyn's Dig. tit. Parliament, R. 8. Story, J., 4 Mason, 431.
c 2 Cranch, 386.
assist in removing ambiguities where the intent is not plain ; for when the inind labours to discover the intention of the legislature, it seizes every thing, even the title, from which aid can be derived. So, the preamble may be resorted to in order to ascertain the inducements to the making of the statute ; but when the words of the enacting clause are clear and positive, recourse must not be had to the preamble. Notwithstanding that Lord Coke considers the preamble as a key to open the understanding of the statute, Mr. Barrington, in his Observations on the Statutes, has shown, by many instances, that a statute frequently recites that which was not the real occasion of the law, or states that doubts existed as to the law, when, in fact, none had existed. The true rule is, as was declared by Mr. J. Buller in Crespigny v. Wittenoom, that the preamble may be resorted to in restraint of the generality of the enacting clause, when it would be inconvenient if not restrained, or it may be resorted to in explanation of the enacting clause, if it be doubtful. This is the whole extent of the influence of the title and preamble in the construction of the statute. The true meaning of the statute is generally and properly to be sought from the body of the act itself. But, such is the imperfection of human language, and the want of technical skill in the makers of the law, that statutes often give occasion to the most perplexing and distressing doubts and discussions, arising from the ambiguity that attends them. It requires great experience, as well as the command of a perspicuous diction, to frame a law in such clear and precise terms as to secure it from ambiguous expressions, and from all doubt and criticism upon its meaning.
It is an established rule in the exposition of statutes, that the intention of the lawgiver is to be deduced from a view of the whole, and of every part of a statute, taken and compared together. The real intention, when accurately ascertained, will always prevail over the literal sense of terms. Scire leges, non hoc est verba earum tenere sed vim ac potestatem, and the reason and intention of the lawgiver will control the strict letter of the law, when the latter would lead to palpable injustice, contradiction, and absurdity. This was the doctrine of Modestinus, Scævola, Paulus, and Ulpianus, the most illustrious commentators on the Roman law. When the words are not explicit, the intention is to be collected from the occasion and necessity of the law, from the mischief felt, and the remedy in view; and the intention is to be taken or presumed, according to what is consonant to reason and good discretion. These rules, by which the sages of the law, according to Plowden, have ever been guided in seeking for the intention of the legislature, are maxims of sound interpretation, which have been accumulated by the experience, and ratified by the approbation of ages.
a Co. Litt. 79. a.
6 P. 300.
c 4 Term, 793.
The words of a statute are to be taken in their natural and ordinary signification and import; and if technical words are used, they are to be taken in a technical sense. A saving clause in a statute is to be rejected, when it is directly repugnant to the purview or body of the act, and could not stand without rendering the act inconsistent and destructive of itself. Lord Coke, in Alton Wood's case,' gives a particular illustration of this rule, by a case which would be false doctrine with us, but which serves to show the force of the rule. Thus, if the manor of Dale be by express words given by statute to the king, saving the right of all persons interested therein, or if the statute vests the lands of A. in the king, saving the rights of A., the interest of the owner is not
a Dig. 1. 3. 17. Ibid. Jib. 27. 1. 13. 2. b Plowd. Rep. p. 205. c Plowd. 565. 8 Taunton, 13-18. d 1 Co. 47, a.
saved, inasmuch as the saving clause is repugnant to the grant; and if it were allowed to operate, it would render the grant vain and nugatory. But there is a distinction in some of the books between a saving clause and a proviso in the statute, though the reason of the distinction is not very apparent. It was held by all the barons of the exchequer, in the case of The Attorney General v. The Governor and Company of Chelsea Water Works,d that where the proviso of an act of parliament was directly repugnant to the purview of it, the proviso should stand, and be held a repeal of the purview, because it speaks the last intention of the lawgiver. It was compared to a will, in which the latter part, if inconsistent with the former, supersedes and revokes it. But it may be remarked, upon this case of Fitzgibbon, that a proviso repugnant to the purview of the statute, renders it equally nugatory and void as a repugnant saving clause; and it is difficult to see why the act should be destroyed by the one, and not by the other, or why the proviso and the saving clause, when inconsistent with the body of the act, should not both of them be equally rejected. There is also a technical distinction between a proviso and an exception in a statute. If there be an exception in the enacting clause of a statute, it must be negatived in pleading ; but if there be a separate proviso, that need not."
Several acts in pari materia, and relating to the same subject, are to be taken together, and compared, in the construction of them, because they are considered as having one object in view, and as acting upon one system. This rule was declared in the cases of Rex v. Loxdall, and the Earl of Ailesbury v. Patterson ;c and the rule applies, though some of the statutes may have expired, or are not referred to in the other acts. The object of the rule is to ascertain and carry into effect the intention; and it is to be in
a Fitzg. 195. 4 Geo. II. b Abbot, J. i Barn. f. Ald. 99. c 1 Burr. 445. Doug. 27. See also, Vernon's Case, 4 Co. 4.