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tirely obsolete with us; and particularly much of the matter in the chapters on estates in fee tail, copybolds, feudal services, discontinuance, attornment, remitter, confirmation, and warranty. But, even at this day, what remains concerning tenures, cannot be well understood without a general knowledge of what is abolished; and even the obsolete parts of Littleton can be studied with pleasure and profit, by all who are desirous to trace the history and grounds of the law. It has been supposed by Mr. Butler, that Littleton's treatise would still be a proper introduction to the institutes of the English law on the subject of real estates.
Perkins' Treatise of the Laws of England, written in the reign of Henry VIII., has always been deemed a valuable book for the learning and ingenuity displayed in it relating to the title and conveyance of real property. Coke said it was wittily and learnedly composed; and Lord Mansfield held it to be a good authority in point of law. It treats of grants, deeds, feoffments, exehange, dower, curtesy, devises, surrenders, reservations, and conditions; and it abounds with citations, and supports the positions laid down by a reference to the Year Books, or Fitzherbert's Abridg. ment.
The Dialogue between a Doctor of Divinity and a Student in Law, was written by St. Germain, in the reign of Henry VIII., and discusses in a popular manner many principles and points of the common law. The seventeenth edition of this work was published in 1787, and dedicated to the younger students and professors of law. It has always been considered by the courts, and the best of the juridical writers, as a book of merit and authority. The form of writing by dialogue was much in use among the ancients, and some of the finest treatises of the Greeks and Romans were written in that form, and particularly the remains of the Socratic school in the writings of Xenophon and Plato, and the rhetorical and philosophical treatises of Cicero. The three most interesting productions, in the form of dialogue, on the English law, are Fortescue, already mention
ed, this work of St. Germain, and the elegant and classical work entitled Eunomus, or Dialogues concerning the Law and Constitution of England, by Mr. Wynne.
But the legal productions of the preceding ages were all Lord Bacon. surpassed in value and extent in the reigns of Elizabeth and James, by the results of the splendid talents and immense erudition of Bacon and Coke. The writings of Lord Bacon on the municipal law of England are not to be compared in reputation to his productions in metaphysical and moral science; but it is, nevertheless, true, that he shed light and learning, and left the impression of profound and original thought, on every subject which he touched. It was the course of his life to connect law with other studies, and, therefore, he admitted, that his arguments might have the more variety, and perhaps the greater depth of reason. His principal law tracts are, his Elements of the Common Law, containing an illustration of the most important maxims of the common law, and of the use of the law in its application to the protection of person, property, and character, and his Reading upon the Statute of Uses. Lord Bacon seems to have disdained to cite authorities in his law treatises; and in that respect he approved of the method of Littleton and Fitzherbert, and condemned that of Perkins and Staunforde. He admits, however, that in his own private copy, he had all his authorities quoted, and that he did sometimes “ weigh down authorities by evidence of reason ;' and that he intended rather to correct the law than sooth received error, or endeavour to reconcile contradictions by unprofitable subtlety. He made a proposal to King James, for a digest of the whole body of the common and statute law of England; and if he had been encouraged and enabled to employ the resources of his great mind on such a noble work, he would have done infinite service to mankind, and have settled in his favour the ques
tion, which he said would be made with posterity, whether he or Coke was the greater lawyer. The writings of Lord Bacon are distinguished for the perspicuity and simplicity with which every subject is treated.
Lord Coke's Institutes have had a most extensive and permanent influence on the common law of England. The first part is a commentary upon Littleton's Tenures; and notwithstanding the magnitude of the work, it has reached seventeen editions. Many of the doctrines which his writings explain and illustrate, have become obsolete, or have been swept away by the current of events. The influence of two centuries must inevitably work a great revolution in the laws and usages, as well as in the manners and taste, of a nation. Perhaps every thing useful in the institutes of Coke may be found more methodically arranged, and more interestingly taught, in the modern compilations and digests; yet his authority on all subjects connected with the ancient law, is too great and too venerable to be neglected. The writings of Coke, as Butler has observed," stand between and connect the ancient and the modern law-the old and the new jurisprudence. He explains the ancient system of law as it stood in his day, and he points out the leading circumstances of the innovation which was begun. We have in his works the beginning of the disuse of real actions : the tendency of the nation to abolish the military tenures; the rise of a system of equity jurisdiction ; and the outlines of every point of modern law.
The second part of the Institutes of Coke is a commen tary upon the ancient statutes, beginning with magna charta, and proceeding down to the reign of Henry VIII.; and his commentaries upon the ancient statutes consisted, as he himself declared, of the authentic resolutions of the courts of justice, and were not like the glosses of the civilians upon the text of the civil law, which contain so many diversities
a Pref. to Co. Lill.
of opinion as to increase rather than to resolve doubts and uncertainties. His commentary upon magna charta, and particularly on the celebrated 29th chapter, is deeply interesting to the lawyers of the present age, as well from the value and dignity of the text, as the spirit of justice and of civil liberty which pervades and animates the work. In this respect Lord Coke eclipses his contemporary and great rival, Lord Bacon, who was as inferior to Coke in a just sense and manly vindication of the freedom and privileges of the subject, as he was superior in general science and philosophy. Lord Coke, in a very advanced age, took a principal share in proposing and framing the celebrated Petition of Right, containing a parliamentary sanction of those constitutional limitations upon the royal prerogative, which were deemed essential to the liberties of the nation.
The third and fourth parts of the institutes treat of high treason, and the other pleas of the crown, and the history and antiquities of the English courts. The harshness and severity of the ancient criminal code of England are not suited to the taste and moral sense of the present age; and those parts of the institutes are of very inconsiderable value and use, except it be to enlighten the researches of the legal antiquary. In this respect, Coke's Pleas of the Crown are inferior to the work under that title by Staunforde, who wrote in the age of Philip and Mary, and was the earliest writer who treated didactically on that subject. Staunforde wrote in law French ; but Lord Coke, more wisely and benevolently, wrote in English, because, he said, the matter of which he treated concerned all the subjects of the realm.
Before we quit the period of the old law, we must not omit to notice the grand abridgments of Statham, Fitzherbert, and Brooke. Statham was a baron of the Exchequer Statham. in the time of Edward IV. His abridgment of the law was a digest of most titles of the law, and comprising under each head adjudged cases from the Year Books, given in a concise manner. The cases were strung together without regard to connexion of matter. It is doubtful whether it was
printed before or after Fitzherbert's work, but the latter Filzherber'. entirely superseded it. Fitzherbert was published in the
reign of Henry VIII., and came out in 1514, and was a work Brooke. for that period of singular learning and utility. Brooke was
published in 1573, and in a great degree superseded the others. These two last abridgments contain the substance of the Year Books regularly digested; and by the form and order which they gave to the rude materials before them, and the great facility which they afforded to the acquisition of knowledge, they must have contributed very greatly and rapidly to the improvement of legal science. Even those exceedingly laborious abridgments were in their turn to be
superseded by the abridgments of Rolle, and his successors. Cowell. Dr. Cowell, who was contemporary with Coke, published
in Latin an Institute of the Laws of England, after the manner of Justinian's Institutes. His work was founded upon the old feudal tenures, such as the law of wards and liveries, tenures in capite, and knight service. While the writings of Lord Coke have descended with fame and honour to posterity, it was the fate of the learned labours of Dr. Cowell, to pass unheeded and unknown, into irreclaimable
oblivion. And, with respect to all the preceding periods, Reove. Reeves' History of the English Law contains the best ac
count that we have of the progress of the law, from the time of the Saxons to the reign of Elizabeth. It covers the whole ground of the law included in the old abridge ments, and it is a work deserving of the highest commen
a Dr. Cowell published a Law Dictionary, or the Interpreter of Words and Terms used either in the Common or Statute Law, and in the Tenures. Cowell's Interpreter is frequently cited by the English antiquarians, and Mr. Seldon makes much use of it in his notes to Fortescue. It is one of the authorities used by Jacob in compiling his Law Dictionary; but the first edition under James I. met with the singular fate of being suppressed by a proclamation of the king, at the instance of the House of Commons, for containing the heretical and monstrous doctrine, that the king was an absolute monarch, and above the law, which he might alter or suspend at his pleasure.