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ship’s advantage; for that the administration of the Criminal Justice of the Kingdom should long remain under the vigilant inspection of an able and impartial Supreme Criminal Judge, is but the wish of a good Citizen for the security of the lives and liberties of his fellow subjects.
I have the honour to be
Most obedient humble Servant,
THE presenting a new Edition of Mr. SERJEANT Hawkins's Work on the PLEAS OF THE CRown to the Profession, the Editor feels does not require any apology. For although the law has been greatly altered in many respects since the work was first published, yet the great mass of it still remains law to this day; and the work has, down to the present period, retained an undiminished reputation. To render the work more extensively useful, by inserting the variations made in the criminal law by modern statutes, and noting subsequent decisions of the Judges, is what the Editor has attempted. The manner of performing this task may perhaps require an apology:—but he submits his labours to the indulgent consideration of the Profession. There is, however, one liberty that he has taken with the original arrangement of the work, which he feels himself bound to explain his reasons for adopting. In the original arrangement of the learned author, he followed the course before adopted by the more ancient authors on Crown Law, viz. Staundforde, Hale, Pulton and Dalton, of dividing his felonies, into felonies at common law and felonies by statute. At a time when the felonies by statute were comparatively few, they formed but a sort of short appendix to the others, and did not derange the natural distribution of the work. But now they have become so numerous, as to far exceed those at common law; and it became necessary to distribute them under proper heads, according to the subject matter to which they related. In doing this, it struck the Editor, that the whole of the First Book relative to Offences might be newly arranged, according to the Analysis of Mr. J. Blackstone; which he ventures to consider the most perfect Analysis of the law that has yet appeared. He has accordingly so arranged the First Book; but in doing it, he has left the text of Mr. S. Hawkins unimpaired, and has faithfully preserved it entire.
With respect to former Editions.—The last was published by Mr. Leach, in the year 1795. But it appears to the Editor of the present edition, that the book was swelled to an unnecessary bulk, by the insertion of much matter wholly irrelevant, or but slightly connected with a work which professed to treat only of “Pleas of the Crown:” for instance, the whole of the then Highway Act, verbatim, the Turnpike Act, &c. These excrescences are rejected in the present edition; but as Mr. Leach did also bring down the statutes and decisions to the date of his publication, the matter which he inserted, and is still retained, is distinguished by the mark with which he himself distinguished his own additions. (+) The subsequent statutes and the principal notes are the work of the pre- . sent Editor. There is one other matter to which the
Editor wishes to advert, before he concludes. His objects are conciseness and correctness. He has not, therefore, accumulated all the cases which he could collect, and detailed them at length. He has also very sparingly referred to the rulings of single Judges. This is not done from disrespect to such decisions; but he has repeatedly heard the most able Judges,—the present and late Lord Chief Justices of the King's Bench, and others,-express their wish never to hear of Nisi Prius decisions quoted as authority. If they ought not to be received as settled law in civil actions, still less ought they in the construction of criminal statutes, particularly when it is considered under what circumstances of mere momentary consideration, a judge is frequently called upon at the Assizes to deliver an opinion upon the construction perhaps of a confusedly penned statute.
He has now only to repeat the hope, he has before expressed, that his labours will meet an indulgent consideration, and a pardon for the many imperfections which he fears may be found in the execution of his task.