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man; for every one, instead of making a peculiar reading, and claiming a vested interest in it, will be anxious to discover and abide by that intention of the legislature, according to which he knows that his conduct will be interpreted. Whoever would understand how much more simple it would be to legislate for a public, anxious merely to understand the lawgiver's meaning, than for a set of people each struggling to get his own view of it adopted, may compare the bill of fares at a railway station with a tariff act. Table of fares' announces to the willing mind as much as several sections of a statute are required to put beyond the cavils of an impugner. First class,' second class,' third class,'-need no elaborate interpretation of their meaning. Passengers' luggage must be at the terminus ten minutes before starting,' is easily understood; for it is the passengers' interest to comprehend it, not to discover and support any peculiar interpretation of it. Even where there are acts of Parliament fortified by the usual accumulation of phrases, it is sometimes found expedient to provide of that which has been made long and elaborate to obviate sinister perversion of its meaning-a short abridgement, for the aid of those who honestly seek to know the intention of the framer. Thus, at a Turnpike gate, we see a board announcing a series of rules, and a table of tolls. It contains all that it would have been necessary to give in place of many pages of the turnpike act, had those who read it done so only for information; but the very persons who read and obey these abbreviated rules and tabular rates, would not consent to be bound by a law so briefly set forth; but, acquiring their knowledge in the abbreviated form, are only prevented from disputing the meaning of that which is simple and intelligible, because they know that it is fortified by the elaborate and well weighed clauses of an act of Parliament; which they have never seen, and which they would be utterly unable to comprehend if it were before them.'


The circumstance that the delicate and difficult duty of drawing acts of Parliament was left to the unregulated practice of individuals, early attracted the attention of the Sages of the Law. Sir Edward Coke laments that the quantity of unscientific irregular draftsmanship, for which both private documents and the public laws were in his day conspicuous, gave birth to much litigation.

The greatest questions,' says he, arise, not upon any of the rules of the common law, but upon conveyances and instruments made by men unlearned, many times made upon wills intricately, absurdly, and repugnantly set down by parsons, scriveners, and such other

imperiti; and oftentimes upon acts of Parliament overladen with premises and additions, and many times on a sudden penned and corrected by men of none or very little judgment in law.


If men would take sound advice and counsel in making of their conveyances, assurances, instruments, and wills; and counsellors would take pains to be rightly and truly informed of the true state of their clients' case, so as their advice and counsel might be apt and agreeable to their clients' estate; and if acts of Parliament were after the old fashion penned, and by such as perfectly knew what the common law was, before the making of any act of Parliament concerning that matter; as also how far forth former statutes had provided, remedy for former mischiefs and defects discovered by experience, therefore should very few questions in law arise; and the learned should not so often and so much perplex their heads to make atonement and peace by construction of law between insensible and disagreeing words, sentences and provisoes, as they now do.'*

It may be inferred from this passage, that the great oracle of the Common Law would have desired to see the statutes drawn and revised by the Judges, according to old practice; but though we are anxious to see legal skill and uniformity of system applied to the manufacture of our laws, we do not think that those who are afterwards to have the duty of interpreting them, should also be trusted with the task of drawing them. The Judge who gives decisions on the meaning of a law framed by himself, may be the person to know best what he intended to set forth; but he is for that very reason ill qualified to decide whether the words he has chosen have really given expression to what he meant, and must so be understood by every person who considerately weighs them. He will decide according to his intention; but his Successor will decide according to the meaning of his words. For the same reason, Solicitors know that the most unsafe person of whom to take an opinion on the application of a statute, is the Counsel who framed it. It would appear, indeed, that those who are most acute in their judicial capacity, in weighing the value of subtle criticisms on acts, are not the best constructors of intelligible clauses. Perhaps their own ingenuity in discovering latent objections, makes them too diffident of clear, broad, simple phraseology; and anxious to surround it with explanatory and exceptional expressions suited to meet their own doubts. Lord Eldon, who boasted of being able to drive a coach and six through other men's statutes, was, it appears, himself a singularly confused draftsman.


He one day,' says Sir Samuel Romilly, sent for me into his room at Lincoln's Inn Hall, and showed me two clauses which he had drawn,

*Second part of Coke's Reports Address To the Reader.'

and which he proposed to add to the bill, and asked me what I thought of them. They were so obscure, that after reading them repeatedly, I found myself very reluctantly obliged to ask him what the object of them was. He explained to me, that they were intended to enable the heir of a trader who should die, seized of a real estate more than sufficient to pay his debts, to sell part of the estate, leaving the rest to answer the demands of creditors. Without this explanation, I certainly never should have collected, from the words of the proposed clauses, that that was their object.'


In the passage cited above from Sir Edward Coke, his allusion was probably not directed to the revisal of Parliamentary Bills during their progress by persons of skill; but to the an cient practice by which the judges framed the statutes out of the proceedings of Parliament. It is to the curious constitutional movement, by which a change was effected in this system,. that we must attribute the circumstance of the structure of the laws passed by Parliament having been neglected; while the internal forms of the legislative assemblies by which they are discussed and sanctioned, have been carefully refined to the utmost pitch of philosophical and practical precision. It has long been an essential principle in these forms, that nothing can make its appearance as the determination, sense, or will of Parliament, unless it has been put in writing before the discussion has begun; so that it shall be in the power of each member to know, not only the general purport, but the very words of that which he is adopting or rejecting. There was thus nothing left for any recording officer, but the statement of the vote as in the affirmative or negative; and no reliance was placed on the honesty or discretion of any official person as the organ of the proceedings of the legislative body. The practice of voting on amendments seriatim, and finally adopting or rejecting, by a distinct vote, the proposition in reference to which they have been proposed, is an essential part of this beautiful system; and, simple as it may appear, is one of the most exquisite designs of high logical art, for unravelling the various threads of a complex series of contending proposals, discussing each one separately from the others, and giving each the benefit of a distinct debate on its merits, if that be demanded by its opponents, and a deliberate vote of the House. This system, like many others that unite simplicity with high art, was the growth of ages. Hatsell tells us, that "It was the ancient practice for the Speaker to collect the sense of the House from the debate, and from thence to form a question on

*Romilly's Life, vol. ii. p. 23.

which to take the opinion of the House; but this has long been discontinued, and at present the usual and almost universal method is, for the member who moves a question to put it into writing and deliver it to the Speaker, who, when it has. 'been seconded, proposes it to the House, and then the House, are said to be in possession of the question.'

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We find from the same authority, that so early as 10th April 1571, it was laid down by the Speaker, That from henceforth 'men making motions shall bring them in writing.' As an instance, however, of the power which the Speaker, or a Chairman of a Committee, might have at a much later period in giving a direction to the proceedings, Clarendon tells us that

They called in the morning for the Bill for the extirpation of Episcopacy, and gave it a second reading; and resolved, "that it should be committed to a committee of the whole House, and that it should be proceeded upon next morning." It was a very long debate the next morning after the Speaker had left the chair, who should be in the chair for the committee. They who wished well to the Bill having resolved "to put Mr Hyde into the chair, that he might not give them trouble by frequent speaking, and so too much obstruct the expediting of the Bill." They who were against the Bill, pressed and called loud to Mr Crew to be in the chair; but in conclusion Mr Hyde was commanded to the chair, they who were enemies to the Bill being divided in opinion, many believing, that he would obstruct the Bill more in that place than if he remained at liberty, and they found it to be true.'†...



In the next page we are told that they were forced to dis'continue their beloved Bill, and let it rest; Sir Arthur Haselrig declaring that he would never hereafter put an enemy in the chair; nor had they ever after the courage to resume consider'ation of the Bill, even after the war was entered into.'

In the reigns of the earlier English Monarchs, any statute of a session was framed by the judges out of the petitions of Parliament, and the relative consents of the Monarchs. This system naturally gave rise not only to much doubt whether the true meaning of the legislature had been incorporated in their recorded act; but from the frequent remonstrances of parliament anterior to the reign of Henry IV., it appears to have given room for intentional tampering and vitiation,-the Monarch sometimes altering the terms of the petition before he granted it, and the judges occasionally taking liberties with the materials from which it was their duty to compose the laws. Down to the time of Henry V., it was usual,' says Mr Ruffhead, upon entering

* Hatşell's Precedents, ii. 112.

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Vol. i. p. 275.

the Bill upon the statute roll, to make additions, diminutions, and alterations, whereby the act was made to vary materially from the substance of the commons' petitions, and sometimes framed directly contrary to their sense and meaning. Several instances of this kind occur on the rolls; but it will be sufficient to mention one, which is extremely remarkable, viz. the 36 Ed. III. Stat. 1 c. 15, providing, that all pleas shall be pleaded in 'the English tongue, which is the purport of that petition on the 'parliament roll; but on the statute roll we find these words added, and that they be entered and enrolled in Latin, &c., which 'words are not in the parliament roll.'*

The history of that silent and important revolution by which parliament provided for the integrity and genuineness of its legislative proceedings, is thus told by Sir Matthew Hale:• But because sometimes difficulties and troubles arose, by this 'extracting out of the petition and answer, about the latter end of Henry VI. and beginning of Edward IV., they took a course to reduce them, even in the first instance, into the full and complete form-Item quædam petitio exhibita fuit in hoc "Parliamento, formam actus in se continens, &c.; and abating that style, the method continues much the same; namely, that the entire act is drawn up in form, and so comes to the King for his assent.' †

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In Scotland, to the last, the legislation of a session of Parliament appears to have been digested by the Clerk-Register, from the materials furnished by the reports of the Lords of the Articles, and the proceedings of the House in relation to them; and the consequence is thus exhibited in an incident related by Sir George Mackenzie :- The Earl of Middleton, after the Parlia'ment was adjourned, returned to court, taking along with him 'the Register and Acts of Parliament made in the last session; which favour the Register, who then governed all, earnestly desired, upon design to be rewarded for his pains in drawing 'the acts so advantageously for his Majesty's interest.' By this anecdote, we may measure the importance to the integrity of our law, and to the constitutional power of Parliament, of the change in the English practice described by Sir Matthew Hale.

When to this expedient was added the routine of the three readings, and the method of discussion in committee, the

*Preface to the Statutes at Large. † History of the Common Law, p. 14. + Memoirs of the Affairs of Scotland, p. 92.

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