Графични страници
PDF файл


This promise, or rather threat, we do not observe that Mr. B. has fuilfilled in the present tract: but he may intend it for the subsequent letters; and we shall be gratified to find it Carried into execution. Yet of this sophistry, as far as it belongs to Montesquieu, we must own ourselves to be to this moment the dupes; and we are not prepared to charge Bhckstone with any other fault than that of having applied it much too largely. Mr. Bentbam will not expect that language betraying intemperate warmth, and mere assertions however confidently made, or however respectable the quarter from which they proceed, should work conviction on our minds.'

Differing as we do from the author in our general views of this important subject, we stiil have great pleasure in admitting that he has explored it w|th a penetrating and searching eye; never, to our knowlege, has it been so thoroughly probed and examined; and never have the defects which are inherent in it, and the inconveniences which are incidental to it, been more fully exposed. We unftignedly respect Mr. Bentham's talents for investigations of this nature; and truly glad shall we be to see this favourite institution, highly as it is revered by us, submitted to his most rigorous analysis, and its proper functions and real utility determined and ascertained. We hope that he will fulfil the promise which the subsequent passage holds out:

* In some other place, I propose to myself to submit to your Lordship some sort of appcr^u of the price paid — paid by the people—* paid in the several shapes ot delay, expence, and denial of justice, not to speak of misdecision—for the benefit of Jury-trial, at its present stage, grafted as at present on the technical system ; - and for the services rendered by learned Lords and Gentlemen—to some body doubt* less, hut to whom I can not find, except to learned Lords and Gentlemen—by the upholding of that, together with the other branches :— as likewise what are not, as well as what are, the considerations, by which'this popular branch of the technical mode of procedure has never ceased to command their eulogy, any more than the natural mode their silence.'

If we cannot afford Mr. B. any hopes of our becoming proselytes to his doctrine, we pledge ourselves to give it an impartial examination. At present, we are far indeed from thinking that a Court of Conscience is a fit.model on which to form all the tribunals of the country. Were we called to the moft thorough investigation of these great subjects, or were we less impressed with a maxim of Mr. Bentham, which the ingenious editor of his last work (M. Dumont) has thus neatly worded, que de choses dans une loi, we should perhaps concede to Mr. B. that the jurisdiction of his favourite court should be materially less

restrained ■,

restrained; or at least that tbe suitor should hare the option of using it to a much larger extent than at present. We own that it is with some astonishment, that we discover a person so distinguished by a capacity for close investigation and deep reflection as Mr. Bentham, holding up the dispatch of the Courts of Conscience as a matter of reproach to the superior tribunals of the country ; as well, we conceive, may a skilful optician be cenfured, because an inferior artist prepares a thousand pairs of spectacles, while the other is constructing a first-rate telescope.' This predilection, which appears to us to be so little worthy of the author, discovered itself in his ad« mirable work on Legislation, and we duly adverted to and protested against it. Highly important as we allow practical legislation to be, still it may, like the trial by jury, be over-rated, and this we conceive to have been done by Mr. Bentham. He makes it too much a panacea for all human ills; while it appears to us that it is only secondary, and auxiliary to education! and to efficient systems of moral and religious instruction. Perfect these, and we shall contract the province of the legislator, and reduce the business of tribunals. Litigation, it appears to us, is not to be confounded with the ordinary pursuits of life,—it is not within the regular course of human affairs,—but is to be regarded as an aberration from them, into which individuals, are occasionally thrown. It ever has been an evil, and no legislative enactments qan make it cease to be such: but every consideration requires that it should be rendered the least possibly prejudicial to the fair fuitor.

We think that the reader, who should take his impressions of both the theory and the practice of our jurisprudence frbm the prefent letters, would regard them as being little short of a pure evit: such may not have been Mr. Bentham's intention: but, wer are speaking of the fact. We are as little disposed as he is to blind ourselves against the defects of the one or the Other : but so far are we from concurring in the vie\f of them which is here given, that we share in the conviction which seems to have been general among those who have duly considered this subject, that our jurisprudence, especially in its practice, stands pre-eminently distinguished at least' by comparative excellence; and which ascribes to this cause our superior national prosperity. Obvious facts, indeed, seem fully to warrant the opinion. In what country has such a spring been given to industry, where has she produced effects so extraordinary, where have her fruits been so secure, where have they yielded equal enjoyment? This testimonial, which cannot be impeached, forces on us the conviction that these

letters letters possess much unintentional misrepresentation and false colouring. Though our systems, then, which boast (as" wc really think that they do) of much excellence, also labour under numerous and great imperfections, and though to point out and remove these is the most honourable service which can be rendered by wisdom and patriotism,—yet, when we sec Mr. Bentham, instead qf proposing to amend our institutions, loading them with opprobrium, and wishing to discard them altogether in order to make room for his new and untried plans, we are inclined to apply to him what Montesquieu said of our honest and ingenious Harington, " il a bdti Chalcedointt ejant It rivage de Byzance devant let yeux."

In the present production, we do not recognize the original of that exquisite picture which is sketched in the Discours Pt'climinaire to the Traitis de Legislation; nor a due observance by the author of his own admirable maxim already quoted. Were'we to judge of Mr. Bentham by these letters, we should conclude that practical reform is not his province* Long fixed on the heights of speculation, apart from the business of life and the commerce of man, he seems too much to disdain our institutions, to sympathize too little with our infirmities, and to place bur imperfections too much out of his calculation, for the proper sustentation of this character: but there is another mission which is more the element of genius, and leads to more expensive and lasting fame, to which this bold, acute, and deep thinker seems to have been appointed, viz. that of philosophical speculation, as applied to the province and objects of legislation, and the rules and procedures of jurisprudence 5 and to draw from this rich and productive source, those precious materials which may be employed at future periods by patriotism and virtue, in reforming and amending our institutions, as occasion may offer, and the spirit of the times may permit. To the ability with which he fulfills the duties of this high vocation, we have had opportunities of bearing our testimony, and we sincerely wish that we may have many more. If, 'reflecting on the uncertain course of human affairs, we can insure him no other reward, he will at least secure the exquisite enjoyment of which the mind is conscious when it is arduously and worthily engaged ; aitd that which it derives from the grateful acknowlegements of those superior persons, to whom his labours will administer delight and instruction. Wc rejoice in the information which the following part of his address to Lord Grenville communicates:

'Your Lordship's invitation found me employed in putting, as I had flattered myself, the last hand to a ivork of a somewhat new

14 complexion complexion on the subject of EvintNCH j a work which, thongk of greater bulk than J could have wished, was itself but an off-set of a stili larger one, not wanting much of its completion, and designed to give a comprehensive view of what, in that extensive subject, taken in all its branches, appeared fit to be done in the way of law. Of that off set, the object was—to bring to view the reasons, by which I had bfcen satisfied that whether the Roman, the English, or •any other system were resorted to, the established mles of evidence, occupied principnlly in putting exclusions upon the light of evidence, i were almost without exception adverse t» the ends of justice; a •conclusion facilitated in no small degree by the observation, that there is not one of them, in English practice at least, that is not departed from, and, without inconvenience or suspicion of inconvenience, set at naught, and that for reasons that csn have no weight or *trurh in them, on any other supposition, than that of the impropriety of the rule, in every instance in which it is observed.*

Instructively and on the whole pleasantly as we have been occupied by these letters, we cannot help wishing that the author had riot made the present diversion from labours so much more worthy of his talents, and which would prove more permanent. May he resume them without farther loss of time! The reflection, that they will be embalmed.in the elegant and luminous composition of the accomplished and ingenious editor and translator of the Traith tie Legislation, ought to be no slight inducement with Mr. B. to persevere in a, career, in which he has already proceeded so far under such happy auspices. The revising and methodizing pen of M. Dumont, while it will relieve the author from vast labour of a kind to which we understand he is by no means partial, will in a considerable degree abridge ours, as well as add to our gratification and that of the public. We own that we cannot help feeling some regret, at seeing the choice thoughts of one who does honour to our country make their first appearance in a foreign garb: but we must forego our jealousy in this respect, fince who will undertake to furnish a dre6S of home manufacture that shall be equally attractive and becoming?

Admirers ourselves of that philosophy which descends to the low state of man and adapts herself to his condition, while we hold in aversion the maxims of certain modern patriots who profess to wish that things may grow worse in order that they may grow better, and who make no discrimination between imperfect patriotism and avowed corruption, we viewed with high satisfaction and lively gratitude the reform commenced and projected by the noble patron of the measure here examined, and by his colleagues. It was at least a halt, made in a road which led to rain j it was a •


wheeling about, a looking towards the goal at which salvation might be obtained. As friends to moderate and practical reform, we feel ourselves bound to pay a due tribute to those ■who were at once its supporters and its victims ; for if such tribute and such consolation be denied them, who will again engage in or countenance the ungracious employ? While we abstain from expressing our sentiments on the fluctuations of political power, we claim a right to lament the retrograde movement lately communicated to the public mind, and which so nearly coincides in date with a recent political change. "We must regret to hear it uttered by the voice of authority, that to correct a practice which, though antient, never ought to have existed, and the mischiefs of which have been enhanced tenfold by modern corruption, is to shake the throne of a free State, and to endanger the government of a wise and enlightened nation j that to make a man's real estate liable, after his death, to the payment of his debts, is to render property insecure; and that to annihilate intolerance is to subvert a religion *f charity. We cannot deem those measures improvements which consist in a violation of right in our intercourse with foreign states; nor the introduction of internal measures which tempt the subject to improvidence, and which exclude from our notion of government every idea of paternity and benignity. Inauspicious, indeed, docs the sera seem to be to the very semblance of reform! For the present, not only must the huge broom of Mr. Benthsm be locked up, but even the gentle and wary hand of Lord Grenville must not be raised against a single abuse!


For M A Y, 1808.


Art. 1$. Commercial Arithmetic, or the British Youth's Companion. By W. Butterman. i2mo. 3s. 6d. Law, &c.

IT appears to us that this treatise differs very little from those of Vyse and Walsingham, of established reputation ; and, as far as we are able to discern, it does not possess any advantages over those books. The author, indeed, thinks that his publication was necessary, because preceding elementary tracts have been calculated more for the display of science than the mstruction of youth: but here he must allude 10 productions which, to our regret, have never come uader o«r notice.




« ПредишнаНапред »