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with other feelings, than we suspect she at present entertains, to the ludicrous proposition of her Congress, to declare herself the ⚫ most enlightened nation on the globe.
In these volumes, we have found a great many words and phrases which English criticism refuses to acknowledge. America has thrown off the yoke of the British nation; but she would do well, for some time, to take the laws of composition from the Addisons, the Swifts, and the Robertsons, of her antient sovereign. In short, our previous impressions of American literature have by no means been weakened by the perusal of these books; and we think it pretty strong proof of the poverty of her literary attainments, that she has not yet been able to tell the story of her own revolution, and to pourtray the character of her hero and sage, in language worthy such subjects. These remarks, however, are not dictated by any paltry feelings of jealousy or pride. We glory in the diffusion of our language over a new world, where we hope it is yet destined to collect new triumphs; and in the brilliant perspective of American greatness, we see only pleasing images of associated prosperity and glory to the land in which we live.
ART. XI. A Letter to the Livery of London, relative to the Views of the Writer in executing the Office of Sheriff. By Sir Richard Phillips, Knight. One of the Sheriffs of London and Middlefex. London. Small Octavo. pp. 294. 1808.
SIR RICHARD PHILLIPS, we have been informed, has a bad opinion of reviews; and has been publicly called a great fool for this and fome other opinions. We have the misfortune to be perfectly indifferent as to his opinions,-or his capacity to form them: but, judging from the work before us, from which alone it is lawful for us to know any thing about him, we have no hefitation in faying, that he feems to be neither fool nor kive. It is a bold, fenfible, and ufeful publication: and, though not compofed in the most judicious or conciliating manner, contains many statements and suggestions which deferve to be attended to.
After fome general obfervations on the origin and importance of the fhrievalty, and a few judicious remarks on the propriety of felecting for this office fuch persons only as are qualified to execute its duties with courage, probity, and talent, Sir Richard proceeds to flate, that, when he was propofed for this high office,
* See Debate, Vol. V. p. 618.
he uniformly declared, in all his converfations with those members of the corporation of London who were active in promoting his election, that he would not be confidered as a mere parade officer; that he should recur to the conftitutional duties of the office, and honeftly discharge them; and that it was only upon this principle he would accept the truft. His election having taken place, one of the first objects of his public attention was a reformation of the annual lift of freeholders liable to ferve on the petty, fpecial, and grand juries. This was in great measure accomplished, by a letter from the fheriffs to the head-boroughs and conflables of the county, apprizing them of the refponfibility attached to the correct preparation of their respective lifts. The letter was accompanied with extracts from the feveral acts of Parliament relating to the fubject. To infure complete fuccefs, it is recommended that this duty fhould be committed to a more intelligent defcription of perfons, and that the legal penalties fhould be inflicted in all cafes of wilful or negligent omiffion. In the courfe of his letter to the Livery, he purfues this fubject at confiderable length; and his obfervations upon it discover an anxiety for a pure and unexceptionable formation of juries.
His jealoufy of individuais ferving on petty juries, however, feems to be fomewhat exceffive and fantaftical. He fubdivided the county of Middlesex into fix parts, and composed each jury of individuals refiding in three of these different divifions, from an idea that a fort of average of public feeling would thus fecure a decifion unbiaffed by local influence ;-entirely overlooking the fubftantial advantages which, in fome cafes, are derived from the local knowledge of the jury; and which, at the fame time, is perfectly compatible with independence of fentiment. The perfons qualified by law to act as petty jurors, form a very numerous clafs; and little difficulty can arife in ftriking from fo ample a lift, fuch jurors as are likely to act with judgment and impartiality. The adminiftration of juftice, either in civil or criminal cafes, cannot furely require, that a variety of parishes or villages fhould be put in requifition to furnish a dozen intelligent or uninfluenced jurors. No complaint upon this point has hitherto arifen; and, fo long as a juft medium is preferved, between a very limited, and a very extenfive number of jurors, the ends of juftice will, in all probability, be effectually fecured. It is certainly of importance, that a frequent recurrence of the fame jurors fhould be avoided, left an inclination to yield too much deference to the Bench fhould be imperceptibly produced. On the other hand, an unexpected demand throughout the county upon all perfons liable to ferve, would probably lead to many inconveniences, irregularities, and complaints. But, fince the freeholders' lift furnishes the
materials for the formation of juries, it is defirable that it should
Proceeding with exemplary activity, he next attempted to give, as he thought, an additional degree of refpectability to grand juries, by fummoning elder fons of Peers and Baronets to serve on them. This experiment, however, entirely failed ;-and grand juries, we believe, are just as refpectable as if it had fucceeded.
Our author appears to have reserved his most strenuous exertions for a better regulation of special juries. By the 4th Geo. II. c. 7, no person in the county of Middlesex can be summoned to serve as a juror (generally), at any session of nisi prius, if he has been returned in the two preceding terms or vacations. In this case, the sheriff may be fined 57. or under by the judge; but these fines, it should be remarked, are at no time levied. Sir Richard, however, discovered, that special juries had consisted, with little variation, of nearly the same individuals, in almost every cause, for terms and years together. Conceiving this repetition of service by no means consonant to the statute above cited, and apprehensive that such a monopoly might lead to many practical disadvantages, under a less pure administration of justice, he addressed a letter on the subject to the Lord Chief Baron. From the experience of twenty-four years, in the capacity of his Majesty's law officer, and as Chief Baron, this learned judge is induced to express a dissenting opinion. He states, that he has never seen the least practical disadvantage arise from the established mode of summoning special jurors. On the other hand, he apprehends, that if the plan were adopted of summoning them in rotation, from all parts of the county, it would be attended with great personal inconvenience in many instances; and the benefit resulting from some experience in serving upon Exchequer special juries, would, upon many occasions, be lost to the parties concerned.
The grand object of the trial by jury, is, no doubt, to secure an impartial administration of the laws; and it is therefore provided, that all persons possessing certain qualifications, shall not only be entitled to serve on juries, but shall be summoned to the performance of this duty. So long, however, as jurors, admitted to be intelligent and impartial by both parties, can at all times be had according to the practice alluded to by the Chief Baron, we should rather think that there can be no great reason for jea
lousy on the part of the public. If the question, however, be solemnly brought to issue, we should feel disposed to enforce their attendance according to law. It is dangerous to tamper with any part of such an institution, or to narrow, in any degree, those securities which may at some time be essential to the great ends of justice.
Previously to every session of gaol delivery, the sheriffs are required to prepare for the judges a calendar of the various persons committed for trial. It is obvious that, unless such delinquents, as may have been sent to the magistrates' prisons, shall have been transferred to those which are under the sheriff's jurisdiction, a complete list cannot be prepared; and, from accidents, negligence, or design, persons may, contrary to law, be detained till after the period for their trial has elapsed. Sensible of the occasional existence of such irregularities, Sir Richard, shortly after being sworn into office, proceeded to ascertain whether all the prisoners committed for trial were at that time in his custody. His worthy predecessor, he says, could give him no accurate information on this point. He then addressed a general convention of gaolers, in a short speech, which he has preserved with the most scrupulous accuracy, and inserted in this work as a specimen of his rhetorical powers.
"I am aware,' he observes, there are, and ought to be, houses of correction and punishment in the county, to which prisoners be sent, after conviction, agreeably to the sentence of a court, or to which, under certain penal statutes, they may be ⚫ committed for summary punishment by a justice of the peace; but are you not accustomed to receive, previously to every session, of gaol delivery, a certain number of persons, who have for some time previously been fully committed for trial to various prisons, whose keepers I do not see here,-such as, the house of correction, Cold-Bath-Fields, the house of correction, Tothill-Fields, and the new prison, Clerkenwell?' This question being answered in the affirmative, he again addressed his audience, and, in particular, his predecessor in office. 'Do you know that all the persons, which have been thus committed to prisons, where the sheriff has no controul, are every one of them brought to the sheriff's gaol of Newgate; or, may not others be detained behind without your knowledge? The former sheriff replied, that, as he possessed no controul over the magistrates in this respect, he could not personally ascertain the fact.
It is exceedingly desirable, that the powers of the magistrates should, if possible, be clearly and distinctly determined. Discretionary authority is liable to abuse, and, upon the point in question, it may expose a magistrate to interference with the ju
risdiction of the sheriff. By the provisions of several statutes, it appears that justices cannot legally send felons, committed for trial, to prisons that are not within the cognizance of the sheriff. They persist, however, in sending them to the house of correction in Cold-Bath-Fields, and conceive they are authorised to continue this practice. As a mere matter of regulation, such a practice might at first have been adopted, when Newgate was too much crowded to admit of their reception: a practice, thus begun from necessity, may have been unnecessarily continued by an extension of discretionary power. The case of Evans, in the Termly Reports, Vol. VIII. p. 172, seems indeed, in some degree, to countenance this proceeding of the magistrates. In this case, it was determined that the house of correction for the county of Middlesex was a legal prison for the safe custody of persons under a charge of high treason. It might consequently be supposed that, upon the ground of safe custody, persons committed for felonies of less magnitude might legally be sent to the same place of confinement. Our author's view of this subject appears, however, to be the most correct; for it surely is both reasonable, and conformable to law, that the sheriff should have in his own custody those persons whom it is his exclusive duty to bring into the judge's court for trial.
It would be premature, in this place, to enter on an examination of Sir Richard's statement of the abuses which are said to prevail in the house of correction in Cold-Bath-Fields. Several documents on the subject have been laid before the public, and submitted to the consideration of Parliament; and his Majesty's government have, in consequence, felt it necessary to appoint a royal commission for the express purpose of inquiring into the existence and extent of these evils, and reporting to the House of Commons the result of their investigations. The determination of ministers to institute this inquiry, is perhaps, in a great measure, to be attributed to the petition presented to Parliament by Mr Stephens, in which many very culpable abuses were clearly and strongly stated, and such relief solicited as they appeared to require. As the report of the commissioners has not yet been presented to the public through the ordinary channel of Parliament, it would be unjust to expatiate on the magnitude or enormity of evils, which, in consequence of this investigation, may be considered in a preliminary stage of correction. It is impossible not to wish that the report may be brought up early in the ensuing session, in order that the necessary remedies may be applied with all reasonable expedition. We feel the more anxiety upon this subject, from a hope that the preeminence of Great Britain over other countries in the administration of justice, may