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and corrected by Lord Chancellor Nottingham. Like the reports of Lord Coke, they are defective in method and precision, and are replete with copious legal discussions. Hobart was chief justice of the C. B., and a very great lawyer. Judge Jenkins, the contemporary of Coke and Hobart, bas given us, in the preface to his reports, an exalted eulogy on those distinguished men, and the biographical sketch of their characters is peculiarly animated and lively. Jenkins compiled his reports, or centuries, (as he quaintly terms them,) during the tumult of the civil wars under Charles I. and the commonwealth; and they resemble more a digest of decisions after the manner of Fitzherbert and Brooke, than regular reports of adjudged cases. From his intemperate language, and hard fate, it is evident he was a zealous royalist, and had provoked the resentment of his enemies. He composed his work, as he says, when he was “broken with old age and confinement in prison where his fellow subjects, grown wild with rage, had detained him for fifteen years, and that he was surrounded with an odious multitude of barbarians." He renders a just tribute of veneration to the memory of Lord Coke and Lord Hobart, as two men who had furnished surprising light to the professors of the law. They were judges of great authority and dignity, who, to the most accurate eloquence, joined a superlative knowledge of the laws, and consummate integrity, and whose names, he said, would flourish as long as the laws and the kingdom should endure. Lord Hobart, as he continues to observe, was adorned with the brightest endowments, and a piercing understanding, and he had always equity before his eyes. Lord Coke was a judge whom power could not break nor favour bend. He enjoyed the smiles and frowns of the court by turns, and possesed an immense fortune, which he had honestly acquired. The only thing objected to him as a fault was, that he was thought to go too great lengths with the republican party; but he admits that he died in the highest estimation.
Croke's Reports of decisions in the courts of law in the Croke. reigns of Elizabeth, James, and Charles, are a work of credit and celebrity among the old reporters. They commence about the time that Dyer ended, and were first published under the protectorate of Cromwell. From the character of the judge, his gravity, learning, diligence, and advantages, and from the precision and brevity of his cases, these reports have sustained their character in every succeeding age, and are, to this day, familiarly referred to, as an authentic depository of the rules of the common law.
The reports of Yelverton are a small collection of select Yelvorton. cases, in the latter part of the 'reign of Elizabeth, and the first ten years of the reign of James. He was a judge of the C. B., and one of the most eminent lawyers of that age, and which was truly the Augustan age of the old common Jaw learning. These reports have been lately recommended to the notice of the American lawyer, by a new edition published in this country, and enriched with copious, valuable, and accurate notes, by Mr. Metcalf.
In the reign of Charles II. the most distinguished of the Saundero. reports are those of Chief Justice Saunders. They are confined to decisions in the K. B. for the space of six years, between the 18th and 24th years of the reign of Charles II., and contain the pleadings and entries in the cases decided, as well as the arguments of counsel, and the judgment of the court. They are recommended for the accuracy of the entries, and the concise, clear, and pointed method of decision; and are particularly valuable to the practising lawyer, as a book of precedents as well as of decisions. They have always been esteemed the most accurate and valuable reports of that age, and this is the character which has been repeatedly given of them by the judges in modern times. A new edition of these reports was published in 1799 by Serjeant Williams, with very copious notes, which, in many
a 3 Burr, 1730. 2 Bos, & Pull. 23.
instances, are distinct and elaborate essays on the subjects of which they treat. Lord Eldon has said, in reference to this edition, that to any one in a judicial situation, it would be sufficiently flattering to have it said of him, that he was as good a common lawyer as Sergeant Williams, and that no man ever lived, to whom the character of a great common lawyer more properly applied. I have no doubt of the merit of the edition, and of the great learning of the editor. The authorities, new and old, applicable to the subject, are industriously collected, and methodically arranged. But with all the praise justly due to the edition, it is liable to the great objection of making one of the old reporters the vehicle of voluminous dissertations. They introduce perplexity and confusion by their number and length. If such treatises were published by themselves, the student would know better where to find them; but when appended to a plain reporter, they seem to be out of place. Notes would appear to be more appropriate, if they were confined simply and drily to the illustration of the case in the text, and to show, by a reference to other decisions, how far it might still be regarded as an authority, and when and where it had been confirmed, or questioned, or extended, or restricted, or overruled. The convenience and economy of the profession would certainly be well consulted by this course. This edition of Saunders so far surpasses in extent and variety of learning, the original work, as to become a new work of itself, which might properly be denominated Williams' notes; and the venerable simplicity of the reporter is obscured and lost, in the commentaries of the annotator.
The reports of Chief Justice Vaughan contain some very interesting cases. He was a grave and excellent judge, and his reports consist chiefly of his own arguments and opinions, delivered while he was chief justice, and they are distinguished for great variety of learning. The reports of Sir Thomas Jones, who was also chief justice in the reign of Charles II. ; of Sir Creswell Levinz, who was a judge of the
C.B.; of Sir Geffrey Palmer, who was attorney general under Charles II. ; of Lord Chief Justice Pollexfen, whose reports consist of cases argued by him while he was at the bar; and of Sir Wm. Jones, who was for twenty-two years a judge, are all of them works of authority, though a considerable part of the discussions and decisions which they record, ceases at this day to excite much attention, or to be very applicable to the new and varied course of human affairs. And, indeed, it may be here observed, that a very bad reports large proportion of the matter contained in the old reporters, prior to the English revolution, has become superseded, and is now cast into the shade, by the improvements of modern times; by the disuse of real actions, and of the subtleties of special pleadings; by the cultivation of maritime jurisprudence; by the growing value and variety of personal contracts; by the spirit of commerce, and the enlargement of equity jurisdiction; by the introduction of more liberal and enlightened views of justice and public policy ; and, in short, by the study and influence of the civil law.
In perusing the old reports, we cannot but be struck with the long, laborious, and subtle arguments, and the great delay, which accompanied the investigation of points of law. Thus, for instance, the case of Stowell v. Zouch, in Plowden, was argued twice in the C. B., and then twice in the Exchequer Chamber, before all the judges of England. Calvin's case, in Coke, was argued first at the bar of the K. B. by counsel, then in the Exchequer Chamber, first by counsel, and then by all the judges. It was afterwards argued by counsel at two different times, and then by all the judges at the next term, upon four different days; and at another term thereafter, by all the judges on four different days. So again, in Manby & Richards v. Scoil, in Levinz, the case was argued at the bar three several times, by distinct counsel each time, and afterwards by all the judges at the bench. It was quite cominon in former times to bave a case spoken to at two, and three, and four several times, and each time at a different term, before judgment was rendered. In
Lord Chief Justice Willes' reports, in the reign of George II., we find a case which was argued five times, and at five distinct terms, and the judgment was not rendered until the space of five years had elapsed from the first argument. It was not until the time of Lord Mansfield, that such repeated arguments were disused, and great despatch and unexampled facility and vigour given to the administration of justice. There were some advantages attending these repeated discussions, which served as a compensation for the delay and expense attending them. They tended to dissipate shadows and doubts, and to unite the opinions on the bench, and prevent that constant division among the judges, which has much weakened the authority of some of our American courts.
From the era of the English revolution, the reports increase in value and importance; and they deal more in points of law applicable to the great changes in property, and the commerce and business of the present times. I shall not undertake to speak critically of the particular
merits of the modern reports, for this would lead me into Modern Rotoo extensive details. Those of Lord Raymond and Ser
jeant Salkeld embrace the reigns of William and Mary, and Queen Anne; and during that period Lord Chief Justice Holt gave lustre to the jurisprudence of his country. The reports of Sir John Strange, of Lord Chief Baron Comyns, of Lord Chief Justice Willes, and part of the reports of Serjeant Wilson, occupy the reigns of George I. and II. ; and they are all respectable, and the reports of Willes and Wilson, in particular, very accurate repositories of the judicial decisions of those reigns. The reports of Lord Raymond and of Serjeant Wilson are also peculiarly valuable to the pleader, for the many useful entries and forms of pleadings which accompany the cases. From that period, the English reports are to be read and studied with profound attention. The reports of Burrow, Cowper, and Douglass, contain the substance of Lord Mansfield's judicial decisions, and they are among the most interesting reports in the En