Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

the manner of doing homage in law? Always it is with a saving of his faith to the king and his other lords; and therefore, my lord, said I, I can be no more yours than I was, and it must be with the ancient savings; and if I grow to be a rich man, you will give me leave to give it back again to some of your unrewarded followers.”

Touched, perhaps, with the generosity or gratitude of his friend, or hoping still for courtly favour, Bacon now abandoned his second scheme of retirement, and applied himself, as it appears, with increased vigour, to the study and practice of the law. It was about this period of his life, that Bacon composed his treatise on the Elements of the Common Law, to which he prefixed a dedication to the Queen. This tract,

* Bacon's Works, vol. 6, pp. 249, 250.

+ It was published in 1630, with the following title :- The Common Lawes of England, brunched into a double: tract; the one containing a collection of some principall Rules and Maximes of the Common Law, and their

it has been thought, * was written to convince Elizabeth, that the author was not so shallow a lawyer as Cecil or Coke had represented him to be: but if this was his design, why did he not publish it? The truth seems to be, that he hesitated to give to the world what he himself considered an unfinished work. In his proposition to king James, for compiling and amending the law, he speaks of a treatise de regulis juris,' as of all things the most important to the health and good institutions of any laws, being, like the ballast of a ship, to keep all upright and stable ; 'but I have seen,' he says, 'little in this kind, either in our law or other laws, that satisfieth me. The naked rule or maxim doth not the effect; it must be made useful by good differences, ampliations, and limitations, warranted by good authorities, and this not by raising up of quotations and references, but by discourse and deducement in a just tractate.' 'In this,' he adds, evidently alluding to his Maxims, 'I have travelled myself, at the first more cursorily, since with more diligence, and will go on with it.'*

latitude and extent ; explicated for the more facile Introduction of such as are studiously addicted to that noble Profession : the other, the Use of the Common Law, for the preservation of our Persons, Goods, and Good Names, according to the Luwes and Customes of this land.'

* D'Israeli's Curiosities of Literature, vol. 6, p. 111.

The generalizing character of Bacon's mind,—that habit of always contemplating particulars in their principles, and principles in their particulars, which he had in so eminent a degree, appears not only in his great philosophical works, but even in this his first Law Tract.

It is obvious, that the subject of this trea

* Bacon's Works, vol. 5, p. 350. 'I am in good hope,' he adds, though in this he was mistaken, 'that when sir Edward Coke's Reports and my rules and decisions shall come to posterity, there will be, whatsoever is now thought, question, who was the greatest lawyer?'

tise was too technical to admit of that · fusion of imagination with reason'* which characterizes his principal works. In the Preface, however, Bacon's genius displays itself in a fine piece of composition, full of those noble thoughts which at once stamp the author as the intellectual sovereign of his age. It is much too long for our limits, and, as Fuller said of John Huss's notable speech, it is all so excellent, that compendium would be dispendium thereof.' +

Although at one time popular, this work

* Sir James Mackintosh, Life of sir Thomas More, p. 1,—the most finished and beautiful piece of biography, (with the exception of Mr. Southey's Life of Nelson,) which has been published in modern times. It is to be regretted, that sir James Mackintosh has not yet met with a suitable biographer. We know that whilst in India he drew up a short memoir of himself :—why is this not published ?

† Fuller's Abel Redevivus, p. 18. •Fuller,' said the late Charles Lamb to one of the friends of the author, had a language of his own. His was not fine writing or good English, &c.;-nothing of the sort. Sir, he wrote in wit!''

is now held in little or no esteem, principally, no doubt, on account of its not being upon a level with the present state of our jurisprudence. Since the time of Bacon, British industry and enterprise, by opening sources of wealth and commerce unimagined before, have multiplied the relations of civil life, and necessarily originated innumerable usages, which the judges and the legislature have, from time to time, incorporated into our legal system. So long, indeed, as society continues to advance, the science of jurisprudence cannot remain stationary ;-the one involves the other. *

But if the substance of lord Bacon's work on the Elements of the Law has thus become defective, the plan of it deserves, we think, attention, as an excellent model,

* See Von Savigny's Vocation of our Age for Legislation and Jurisprudence, in which this subject is developed with the author's wonted ingenuity and erudition. He again adverts to it in the opening of his History of the Roman Law. See also Jackson's Four Ages, p. 46.

« ForrigeFortsæt »