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IT struck me some time ago that it would be a work of utility for the Student of the Pennsylvania law; and also an exercise, or disquisition not without benefit to the judge himself, to examine in what particulars, the common and statute law of this state was different from that of the common, or statute law of England. This, it seemed to me might be best done by taking up the commentaries of Blackstone, and by notes to the text, marking these variations. Pursuing this thought, it occurred to me that an edition might be given under the title of the Pennsylvania Blackstone. Accordingly. I had begun, and proceeded some length; writing out an introduction to such proposed edition; and some chapters tending to throw light on the connection between the law as it is in England, and with us; moreover going on with notes to particular passages in the pages of the commentaries as they came in order. But, on reflection it occurred to me that a printer would not be likely to find his account in publishing such an edition. For though like an almanac calculated for a particular latitude, it might without sensible variation in some parts, serve others, yet the bulk of the notes, or observations, having a respect to the law of Pennsylvania only, it must be confined in a great degree to the students of this state; and these, though daily growing in number, could not be supposed, for a great length of time to be sufficient to take off such an edition, even supposing it to supersede with them, any other. It was more than I could expect, even though a part of the notes of judge Tucker to his Virginia edition could be added, but which from the copy right under Con-. gress, a publisher would not be at liberty to do.
It seemed to me also, that a principal advantage of the remarks which I found myself led to make, were present and temporary; so far at least as respected the successive amendments of the law by the legislature of this state, or the
particulars, in which, speaking with deference, they appeared to have intermingled some things in their endeavours to improve the law, not altogether coinciding with my ideas of good policy, or general convenience. If so, it might not be labour lost to suggest to the legislature for the time being; or to the people from amongst whom they must, from time to time be chosen, what might seem advisable to be a subject of their consideration, as they might be led to consider the law generally, or particular acts which had already passed, or were meditated to be passed in future.
These were my reasons for dropping the idea which I had at first entertained; and confining myself to a narrower compass; but more especially as I found that I would not have leisure from my official duties to bestow much time upon this collateral object; and in that case, it was not likely that I could live to finish it.
"Vitæ summa brevis spem nos vetat inchoare longam.”
Perhaps also I might add without an affectation of mo desty, that upon experiment I was not quite sure, that it was not an undertaking beyond my strength; or at least that it would be thought so. Or even if not always thought, yet abundantly said; I will not say, SUNG, amongst the profession. For what is extrajudicial cannot expect the same quarter from the learned of the law, as that which the judge is bound to express, let it be right or wrong. He is considered as a volunteer, in what is said off the bench; and his opinion, or notions as they will perhaps be termed, are canvassed with less deference. Hence perhaps the propriety of a judge leaving to a posthumous publication, such lucubrations as may have employed his time. But the secret of my resignation on this occasion, is the not considering myself as having attained such a height of reputation, that if I did not add to it, I must descend from it. Not that I will affect not to have deserved reputation; for I hate affectation in any shape; but not possessing any great celebrity on this head, it has not been fashionable to overrate the small talents which I may possess. And to this I have been most cordially reconciled; because, in troublous times,
it is safest to court the shade. And I have long since seen the vanity of human ambition. If so, it will be said, why do I write at all? Does, it not argue some wish to please? For profit cannot be an object in such a performance. When I analyze my own feelings, I find it to. be at bottom in a great degree the same principle which induced me, when a child to build houses of chips; or when a boy more grown to make a dam across a small stream, and to place a water wheel of thin boards to receive the fall. And this kind of pleasure in seeing the work of one's hands, "that it is good," would seem to be an emanation of the divine mind implanted in man, prompting him to improvements, in his small. sphere, and according to the limited capacity of his invention. But it is this principle which distinguishes him from the brutal world, and is the foundation of his happiness; as well as an evidence of his superior nature. At the same time, I do not doubt, though I cannot so well recollect, that there was a secret consideration mixed with the amusement, that some one would see what I had done. So that man or boy, in literary or baby edifice, there is something of the qua me quoque possim
At the bottom of every undertaking..
Scire tuum nihil est nisi te scire hoc, sciat alter. On a desert island without hope of society, one would read or write little. But it is not the motive that will be called in question, or ought to be, but the execution;. though a good motive may form some excuse with the indulgent, and blunt the edge of censure; or at least it is with this view that it is urged, though, perhaps with not much effect. It is probably not much more than to say in conversation; you will excuse my detaining you, or I beg pardon for the trouble I have given. But even this is conciliatory, and is a compliment which decency exacts, for the attention with which we have been heard.
PARTICULAR INTRODUCTION TO THESE
THE following notes and observations might seem imply some presumption of thinking to instruct the learned in the law, were I not to disclaim this pretension, and profess myself to mean nothing more, than to instruct the Student, and less learned in the legal science. In fact, the occasion of most of these things was to assist one studying under my direction. It is unnecessary to say whether it was a son or another person. But being dictated to him or noted, and copied by him, it appeared to me that they might be also of some use to others. I will acknowledge that I had also another view in giving them publicity. It seemed to me that there were some of the observations which might be brought before the eye of the Legislature of this state, with a view to supply, abrogate, or amend acts of assembly. This was unquestionably a primary motive with me in the publishing; and I cannot but flatter myself, if they will deign to attend a little to the collection, they will be able to pick out something that may be useful.
At the same time there are many things which I cannot but think may be useful in other states of the Union; though chiefly calculated for that of Pennsylvania, looking to its laws and jurisprudence. I had once entertained as has been said, the idea, of preparing for the press, and publishing what might be called the Pennsylvania Blackstone. That was in fact, an edition of Blackstone's Commentaries, with notes in the manner of Tucker, referring to the variations in the law as it is in the state of Pennsylvania from that of England: the variations in the introduction to the common law, and in the statute law as it has been changed, or superseded, by our acts of assembly. But this appeared, upon more deliberation, and experience of the task, to be a work for which my official duties did not leave sufficient leisure. I have therefore thought proper to con tract the design, and leave it to some one more learned in the law, or having more leisure that may come after. Some
outline of the law of Pennsylvania in the manner of Blackstone, would seem to me a desideratum for the student, and would be of use to the legislature. There was also another objection to such undertaking, without legislative aid. For, being more peculiarly intended for the use of an individual state, a sale could not be expected to be so general, as would secure a certainty, or even a PROBABILITY of defraying the expenses of a whole edition. These miscellanies are, in fact, therefore, nothing more than some materials out of which such a work might be composed, or notes of some of which, such an edition of the Commentaries might consist.
It had been my plan, with the one studying under my direction, at the third reading of the Commentaries to note, in loco, the variation of our common law from that of England, as not having been introduced, originally here; or as having been altered by our own statutes; referring for this purpose, to acts of Assembly, and to the reports of judicial decisions. Before this, at the second reading, I had referred him to the decisions of the English courts, chiefly such as are cited in the margin of the Commentaries; so that, in reading these, the bulk of the reporters in England were consulted; and referring to the acts of Assembly, and the reports of decisions in this state, these were also read; which, whether more or less pleasant, is, certainly, the only profitable way of reading. A particular point of law, or practice, is fixed upon the memory, by thus dwelling on it and referring to several books. The reason of the principle also, as a part of the science, is better understood.
Be this as it may, it will account for my labour; which might otherwise, appear somewhat extra to my judicial occupation; and will, at all events relieve me, in some degree, from the imputation of considering myself as having such pre-eminence in legal knowledge, that I could undertake to write notes on a legal code; and, not rather leave it to those, some of whom, at the bar, I could point out, as, if not having more leisure, have unquestionably more ability. It is not from affectation that I premise this; but, on the ground of self-preservation. For there is nothing that produces person