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is quite obvious, that the author more frequently consulted the works of other abridgers, than the original reports, to abbreviate and digest for himself. We agree, however, with Mr. Hargrave, (Co. Litt. 9. a. note 3.) that “ Notwithstanding all its defects and inaccuracies, it must be allowed to be a necessary part of every lawyer's library. It is, indeed, a most useful compilation, and would have been infinitely more so, if the author had been less singular and more nice in his arrangement and method, and more studious in avoiding repetitions. Bacon's (or, more properly, Gilbert's) Abridgment is more full in the development of principles and the statement of cases; and, in every respect but copiousness, is a superior production. It is incomplete ; but this was the hard fate of all the writings of the most learned author, which were sent into the literary world with all their original imperfections on their head. For ourselves, we confess, that in our opinion every other abridgment suffers greatly in comparison with the Digest of Lord Chief Baron Comyns. For succinctness and brevity, for exact method and arrangement, for perspicuity and accuracy, for copiousness in principles and illustrations, and for comprehensive analysis, it stands unrivalled in the annals of the law. On one occasion, Lord Kenyon (Pasley v. Freeman, 3 T. R. 51, 64.) said, “ I find it laid down by the Lord C. B. Comyns, &c. He has not, indeed, cited any authority for his opinion; but his opinion alone is of great authority, since he was considered by his contemporaries, as the most able lawyer in Westminster Hall.” In some other more recent cases, the court of King's Bench have proceeded to adjudicate some very important questions, upon the sole authority of his Digest,* an honor, which, we believe, has never been conceded to any other compiler. It has frequently occured to us, that our professional brethren of the South did not sufficiently appreciate the merits of this work. They appear to be devoted to Bacon's Abridgment, and pass over Comyns's Digest, as a book merely of occasional reference, entitled to little either of praise or blame. How, otherwise, can we account for Mr. Hoffman's omission, under the article of pleading, to recommend the admirable title, Pleader, in the Digest, a title, which has collected and exhausted, in a most scientific order, the whole principles of the science. The title, “ Pleas and Pleadings,” in Bacon's Abrid gment, is an excellent sketch; but it is but a sketch, and, compared with the title of Comyns just mentioned, is but twilight to the meridian day. We would respectfully ask the attention of Mr. Hoffinan, and of southern lawyers in general, to the following observations of Mr. Hargrave : “ The whole of Lord Chief Baron Comyns's work is equally remarkable for its great variety of matter, its compendious and accurate expressions, and the excellence of its methodical distribution ; but the title, Pleader,' seems to have been the author's favorite one, and that in which he principally exerted himself.” (Co. Litt. 17. a. note 1.)

* We take this opportunity to enter our protest against that book-making spirit, which has distigured all the modern editions of this incomparable work. The original edition in folio (1762) is far superior to all the later editions. These have the addition of the modern cases, it is true ; but they consist of the marginal notes of the reporters, thrust into the text without order or propriety, and destroy its symmetry and connexion. A supplement of modern cases and principles upon the plan of Comyns's Digest, in a distinct work, would be an invaluable present to the profession.

The remark, too, of Mr. Hoffman, that “ The books of reports contain the law in the precise phraseology, in which it was administered by the judges,” requires some qualification. With the exception of the Reports of Plowden, Coke, and Vaughan, and a very few great cases in other Reports, the remark can scarcely be said to be true of any Reporter, before the time of Sir James Burrow. There are some other unimportant particulars, in which we differ from Mr. Hoffman ; but, with these trifling exceptions, we entirely agree in the opinions of Mr. Hoffman, as to the importance and utility of reading the original Reports. We presume, that the omission to notice the Massachusetts Reports, in company with Mr. Johnson's, Mr. Binney's, and Messrs. Henning and Munford's, was accidental ; for, if we do not deceive ourselves, in point of learning and accuracy they yield to few, if any, in our country.

What particularly pleases us is the enlarged and liberal view, with which Mr. Hoffinan recommends the student of the common law to a full and careful study of the admiralty, maritime, and civil law. If the note on the excellence of the civil law (p. 254) were not too long, we should gladly insert it in this place. We commend it, however, as well as his observations on the law of nations and the admiralty law, most earnestly, to all those, who aspire to eminence as statesmen, or scholars, or lawyers. To Mr. Hoffman's list of books, on these subjects, we beg leave to add Heineccius's Elements, of the Civil Law, according to the order of the Institutes and the Pandects, whom Sir James Mackintosh has not scrupled to pronounce “ The best writer of elementary books,

with whom he is acquainted on any subject.”*

We also recommend Ferrière's Dictionnaire de Droit et de Pratique, Calvinus's Lexicon Juridicum, M. Dessaules' Dictionnaire du Digeste, Exton, and Zouch, and Spelman on the Admiralty Jurisdiction, Cleirac's Us et Coutumes de la Mer, Emérigon Traité des Assurances, Pothier's Works, and particularly his Treatises on Maritime Contracts, Boucher's translation of the Consolato del Mare, Peckius ad Rem Nauticum, D’Abreu sur les Prises, and though last, not least, Casaregis's Discursus de Commercio.

We must now hasten to a close, although there are some discussions, which the perusal of Mr. Hoffman's work has suggested, which we very reluctantly pass over. In quitting the work, we have not the slightest hesitation to declare, that it contains by far the most perfect system for the study of the law, which has ever been offered to the public. The writers, whom he recommends, are of the very best authority ; and his own notes are composed in a tone of the most enlarged philosophy, and abound in just and discriminating criticism, and in precepts calculated to elevate the moral, as well as intellectual, character of the profession. The course, proposed by him, is very ample, and would probably consume seven years of close study. But much may be omitted, where time and opportunity are wanting to exhaust it. We cordially recommend it to all lawyers, as a model for the direction of the students, who may be committed to their care ; and we hazard nothing in asserting, that, if its precepts are steadily pursued, high as the profession now stands in our country, it will attain a higher elevation, an elevation, which shall command the reverence of Europe, and reflect back light and glory upon the land and the law of our forefathers.

We have another motive, besides the intrinsic value of the work, for recommending it earnestly to the perusal of our readers. It will demonstrate to the understanding of every discerning man, the importance, nay, the necessity, of the law-school, which the Government of Harvard College have, so honorably to themselves, established at Cambridge. No work can sooner dissipate the common delusion, that the law may be thoroughly acquired in the immethodical, interrupted, and desultory studies of the office of a practising counsellor. Such a situation is indispensable after

* Sir James Mackintosh's Introductory Discourse, on the Study of the Law of Nature and Nations, is a most finished composition, abounding in all the graces of juridical eloquence, and pregnant with most important and edifying learning.

the student shall have laid a foundation in elementary principles, under the guidance of a learned and discreet lecturer. He will then be prepared to reap the full benefits of the practice of an attorney's office. But, without such elementary instruction, he will waste a great deal of time in useless and discouraging efforts; or become a patient drudge, versed in the forms of conveyancing and pleading, but incapable of ascending to the principles, which guide and govern them; or sink into a listless indolence and inactivity, waiting for the arrival of the regular period for his admission to the bar, without one qualification to justify the honor, which he receives. One year passed at the University, in attendance upon the lectures of the very respectable gentleman, who has recently been appointed to preside over the law-school there, would lay a foundation of solid learning, upon which our ingenuous and ambitious youth might confidently hope to build a fabric of professional fame, which would carry them to the first honors of the bar, and make them, on the bench, the ornaments of their country.




(First published in the North American Review, 1818.]

The Ancients have left us but little on the subject of commercial law; and that little has lost much of its value in modern times. It may, perhaps, be supposed, that a great deal has perished amidst the ruins of the dark ages; or has been swallowed up in the desolations of conquest, or the overwhelming obliterations of time. Much splendid declamation has been employed in describing the maritime glory of the Phænicians, and the Cretans, and the Rhodians, and the Egyptians, and the Greeks, and the Carthaginians, and the Romans. Without question, the coasts of the Mediterranean were, from early times, inhabited by warlike, enterprising, and industrious races of people. They had different commodities to exchange, adapted to the natural and artificial wants, the necessities and the luxuries of the different societies, into which they were divided. It was of course, that ambition and enterprise, the love of wealth, and the desire of gratifying curiosity, should create an active interchange of these commodities, both by sea and land. The spirit of commerce, once excited, is not easily extinguished or controlled. It is a useful spirit, which imparts life and intelligence to the body politic, increases the comforts and enjoyments of every class of people, and gradually liberalizes and expands the mind, as well as fosters the best interests of humanity. Many usages must necessarily grow up in such a state of things, where many independent nations are engaged in trade with each other; which usages, at first determined by accident, or convenience, or the dictates of common sense, must gradually ripen into rights and duties, and thus regulate

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