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there will be the right of appeal to the magistrates—a body distinct from that exercising the power of expenditure; and as the electors will on every fresh election be enabled to express their opinion respecting the manner in which the councillors have discharged their duty, we think it would be unnecessary, and we are sure it would be inconvenient, to have the discussions of the council carried on in public. An annual instead of a quarterly audit would also, we conceive, be sufficient, and would indeed convey a more accurate idea of the annual charges than if split into unequal quarterly sections; unequal, because a variety of payments for the whole year would occur in one or other of the quarters. The requiring the payments to be made direct from the overseers to the county treasurer is a great improvement upon the present system. The principle being, if we apprehend it rightly, to vest the financial administration of the county in the council, apart from all judicial functions, we suggest that it would be better that the council should not interfere in the appointment of constables, or in the recommendation of magistrates, but confine their attention to the pecuniary department. They would always have the same power with respect to magistrates and constables, and other functionaries of the law within the county, which the House of Commons possesses with respect to the ministry; viz., that of diminishing or stopping the supplies, which would be a sufficiently effectual method of signifying their wishes on any particular subject. We object also to the petty sessions in each ward, for the special purpose of determining appeals against county rates, because we see no use in creating new machinery when the old will as well, or better, answer the purpose; and we think it preferable that appeals should be determined by the magistrates of the county at the general quarter sessions, than by the magistrates resident in the particular district out of which the appeal arises. The county magistrates would then form the ultimate court of appeal in all disputes respecting county rates.

We have endeavoured, in considering the subject, to free ourselves from the influence of any prejudices either for or against the magistrates on the one hand, or for or against Mr. Hume on the other; the real merits of the question have

been the only object of our inquiry, and the public good our only admitted guide; and it is therefore quite possible that our remarks may not entirely satisfy any party. Having suggested that, in our humble judgment, the council ought to have no other concern with the constables but to determine respecting their payment, we leave the question of a rural police for future consideration.

G

ART. V.-INTERPRETATION OF LAW.

THE KING V. THE POOR LAW COMMISSIONERS.

1 Nev. & Per. 371.

VARIOUS attempts have been made to call the attention of the legal profession to the necessity of a systematic study of the principles of verbal expression and interpretation, more especially, of course, as far as those principles apply to law. It might have been reasonably hoped, that the attempts would have met with more success; for the whole body of every system of positive law is contained in verbal expressions; and the effect of the law, in every possible or conceivable instance, obviously depends on such expressions, or, what is the same thing, on the construction to be given to those expressions. Every civil right and obligation is either directly defined by the words used by the legislature in its acts, or is involved in the expressions in which the general rules of the customary law are contained, or in the terms by which men express their intentions in insuring voluntary obligations. In fact, a lawyer's whole occupation is to ascertain how far each individual case is included in some expression of the general law, or to ascertain the effect of the expressions used in private instruments, or in oral communications.

It has always been admitted that rules of interpretation are necessary, and maxims are constantly cited in legal discussions, as determining the construction in the particular case in question at the time. These maxims have, however, never yet been collected in a systematic form, their exact

meanings have rarely been defined, or even examined,—and their mutual relations one to another, whether in any instances they conflict, what limitations they require to be made consistent, what extension they require, or what further rules may be necessary to render the doctrines of construction complete, or whether they already contain in the aggregate a complete system of interpretation, are questions which have never yet been made the subject of anything like complete or exhaustive inquiry.

The reason for the neglect is clear.. The want of the inquiry is not suspected. If the necessity of a clear understanding of the principles of interpretation be urged, the recommendation is regarded as common-place-like a critical essay in praise of virtue, or a rhetorical exhibition in favour of what nobody impugns; and the natural consequence is, the tedium of the hearers on the jarring question—Quis vituperavit?

Yet that the law is uncertain is a proverb, not yet proved to be false; and this uncertainty does not alone prevail because the law does not exist, or because its provisions cannot be discovered, among the statutes or in the other depositories of our jurisprudence, but because the meaning of that law can so seldom be evolved with certainty from the expressions in which it is enunciated.

As far as the common law is to be found in the breast of the judges, in their reported decisions, or in institutional books, the expression of the law is exclusively the work of lawyers, and good or bad they, as a body, must alone answer for the form in which it is expressed. So with respect to private legal instruments, the expression of the vast majority of these is left wholly to the lawyer; and although the expression of the statute law cannot be entirely charged on lawyers, nor the wording of some few written instruments, nor the oral communications of individuals on which questions of right arise, yet it is the peculiar province of the lawyer, both as lawyer and as judge, to ascertain the effect of these; and the amount of uncertainty in both the expression and interpretation of the first of these classes of verbal evidences of the law, and in the interpretation of the latter class, obviously depends upon the rules of expression or in

terpretation which the lawyer or judge may be prepared to apply.

What is wanting to compel a systematic study of the principles of these rules is not an encomium on their utilitytheir utility will be readily admitted—it is evidence, clear and incontestible, of the general neglect of these principles, which is now scarcely suspected; and evidence, equally clear and irresistible, of the uncertainty of the law, and of the prejudice to the usefulness and consequent character of the profession and of the judicature, which ensue from that neglect.

It is proposed, therefore, to collect, in a series of articles, the rules of expression and interpretation in an orderly method, and to accompany them with an exposition of the principles on which they depend, by which they must be connected into a consistent system, and by which they must be restrained from mutual interference. But it is proposed first to show the necessity of all this, by instances of the neglect of such principles. Though the rules of verbal expression by which legal intentions are to be accurately described, and the rules of interpretation by which such intentions are to be correctly inferred from verbal expressions, are so related, that the exposition of both must be proceeded with together; still they differ in this, that rules of expression contemplate none but perfect expression as their proper object, while rules of interpretation are, in a great measure, necessary to collect the meaning of imperfect or ambiguous expressions. Thus, if the principles of expression were perfectly observed, all those rules of interpretation which seem to collect the intended meaning of imperfect or ambiguous expressions, would have no existence.

Interpretation is therefore the more extensive subject of investigation, and comprises all the doctrine of verbal expression. It is, besides, the more exclusive province of the lawyer and the judge, while the legislature, and the whole of the members of the community, share with him the occupation of giving verbal expressions to their intentions.

Instances abound in the reports of almost every species of excellency and defect, both of expression and of interpretation: in our older reports especially, where all the rules of

interpretation now extant are to be found usually expressed in apt and characteristic maxims,-and where they appear to be constantly present to the mind of the pleader and the judge, by whom they were learned as a necessary branch of liberal education, of which logic, the science which comprized them all, then constituted a most important element. This period, ending with Coke, will, in the course of these articles, furnish many instances of argumentation, as remarkable for the admirable certainty and cohesiveness of the reasoning as for its equally admirable subtlety. It will furnish also its instances of over-refinement in distinction, and super-subtlety of argument: but when the reports are reputed to be worthy of the matter they report, there will be found to be but few instances in which the pleader or the judge appear not to be thoroughly impregnated with the doctrine of these rules. In this period our system of special pleading was perfected, and the foundations of the doctrines of our common law laid and confirmed; our law of real property rescued, as far as possible, by most subtle and consistent fictions and masterly contrivances, from the trammels of feudality and the restrictions of a barbarous legislation, by means of the very doctrines of that feudality and legislation, and the whole put into a form as consistent with the wants of the community, as was possible without the co-operation of a more enlightened legislature. As far as succeeding lawyers and courts are concerned, little has been done but to expound the doctrines of those days with a proportionate diminution of their coherence.

As the old school studies declined, so did the intimate acquaintance with the rules of interpretation; and in the reports from the time of the Commonwealth the rules appear to be less at the command of lawyers and judges; but while the old reporters contained the only legal precedents, an acquaintance still intimate was maintained with these rules, although they now wanted that firm and sure connection in the mind of the lawyers, which was formerly prepared for them by the universal study of logic as a liberal art. From about the time of the Revolution, the more prevalent study of sounder philosophy, especially of moral and intellectual philosophy, superseded the study of logic generally; and as regards legal education, the supply of new precedents daily

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