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equity power, and then we shall have completed the career of folly, upon which we seem now to have entered with such strange and ominous precipitancy. We pass by all the doubts and difficulties to which the jurisdiction of these circuit judges, as defined in the words of the report, must inevitably give rise. But we ask, what will be the nature of titles to real property with eight courts of chancery and eight registers' offices? We confess we find it impossible to conceal the alarm we feel at all the danger, and confusion, and insecurity, which this fatal recommendation, if acted on by the legislature, will certainly produce. We conceive that the plan of employing one or more vice-chancellors is the only one which is both safe and feasible, and we hope that some member of the legislature will consult his own honour and the interests of his constituents, in submitting such a proposition to the early consideration of that body. We regret that we cannot enter more fully into the discussion of this interesting topic; we trust, however, that these hasty remarks

may

not be without their value.

THE

ATHENEUM MAGAZINE.

FEBRUARY, 1826.

LETTER OF LEVINZ COMBERBACH.

[We have been permitted to publish the following letter, by the gentleman to whom it was addressed. Certain blackletter associations, connected with the name of the writer, make us suspect that it has been assumed for the occasion, and that he is not altogether serious in his encomiums on the common law. We could not, however, even if we differed from him in opinion on this subject, object to the good-natured irony with which it is treated.]

I have long been much, and I think quite justly, alarmed, at the prevailing rage for codification. You cannot deem my fears causeless, if you duly weigh the temper of the times, and the superficial character of the present generation.

Every smatterer in legal science, now pretends to comprehend the mysteries which our laborious predecessors never hoped to attain, but by the most indefatigable application and persevering study. Venimus ad summun fortune. The pert advocate of only ten years standing, now thinks that he has ability to judge of the reason of the law; competent understanding to fathom it; and skill to reform it. Instead of that diffidence which tasked itself with twenty years preparatory study; that prostration of intellect, which assumed the elements of law to be laid deep in wisdom, and was content with the what, without presumptuously asking about the wherefore, we have now herds of beardless and flippant inquirers, daring reformers, codification men, and classification-mongers. Some propose to reform the practice in chancery, others that of the common law. This man finds fault with that admirable compendium of ancient logic, the rules for special pleading; another questions the expediency of a separate jurisdiction for law and equity. I have seen a fellow, ignorant of the difference between an executory devise and a contingent remainder, turn up his nose, and sneer at the whole beautiful doctrine which explains, disVOL. II.

28

tributes, and defines our rights and interests in real property. I have heard another, who could not distinguish between the operation of a fine and a recovery, and who eternally confounded a use with a trust, gravely declaim against the perplexing formality, and the barbarous artifice of common conveyancing. In the bitterness of my soul, I have wished to all such careless and impudent objectors, as a just punishment for their folly, a full course of Saunders, Pigott, Powell, and Fearne, until they were fully saturated with the law which they reviled. In very truth, my declining years are embittered by this scrutinizing spirit of profane inquiry; this feverish thirst for something that may be better than what is. Not content to enjoy, the men of the present age have always something to change ;

in the language of their modern affectation, something to simplify. Not docile enough patiently to acquire the intricate wisdom of that inheritance which has been left to them, nor humble enough to acquiesce in it, they are perpetually doubting the utility of one thing, and the expediency of another. They reason before they understand, and perplex the learning of others, while they confuse themselves.' The student of my time was content to listen and to learn with reverence and respect, from the sages of the law, what they chose to impart. To moot points, to suggest a query, to bring to light, from some old manuscript, a forgotten authority—these were amongst the legitimate objects of the tyro's inquiries of former times. To doubt the soundness, or to reason about the elements of legal science, would then have been deemed as desperate and foolish, as it is at this day to question the verity of a mathematical demonstration, or the utility of a canal. The learning formerly earned by toil, and ripened by time, was riches in manhood, and honour in old age. I have paid my debt to those who preceded me, but they who are elbowing me out of the world, are more inclined to teach me than to be taught. They distress me—these shallow spirits—with their crude notions of utility and expediency. They anger me with their insane ideas of reducing the most abstruse of the sciences to a simplicity, which will make it level to the understandings of ordinary diligence, and ordinary capacity. They force me to contemn them, when descending to particulars. They boast of giving to the law that perfect form of scientific arrangement, accurate definition, full and unambiguous description, by which the mere reading public, the farmer, the merchant, and the artisan, is to become able to understand, and understandingly to control and check, the judgments at bar, and the decrees in chancery. Alas! these dangerous and rash speculators in a

science they have not studied, know as little what is possible, as what is salutary. Let them begin their course anew. Let them examine and perfectly comprehend the system they condemn; they will find abundant matter to approve and to admire. Could my feeble voice recal the rising youth to the study of Coke, and Fleta, and Britton, and Bracton, and Shellman, and Littleton, and Hall, and Hawkins, I might then hope that the progress of this accursed spirit would at length be ar. rested. Nay, if I did but know one who could truly say, that

he gave

Six hours to law, to soothing slumber seven,
Ten to the world, and all the rest to Heaven-*

I would not despair. But I fear the pestilence is too widely spread. It is so easy to be superficial, so arduous to be profound, that no votary is willing to dedicate himself, at this day, by the above formula, after the example of our great legal hierophant.

You have frequently solicited me to write something upon this subject; and my silence heretofore, has arisen from a hope, that some great name would be called out to defend the ramparts of our legal fortress. Little it is that so humble an admirer of antiquity can hope to perform ; but something is due from every man to his profession, and my part of the debt I will endeavour to discharge.

The difficulty, my dear sir, is not to find out what is excellent in our polity, but to explain it to others. It is impossible to teach any art or science, unless the student will study its language, and overmaster its elements. You will not, therefore, expect me to address myself directly to the illiterate, though a hope may be indulged, that they may be brought to tolerate what learned scholars conspire to admire and to praise.

Sir Edward Coke has well observed, that the wisdom of the law is not this man's wisdom, nor that man's wisdom, nor the wisdom of any particular age, but that it is the abstract essence of many simples, the rectified spirit of rationality itself, very hard to be apprehended, but surprisingly clear when fairly caught. There are, indeed, many things which seem, at the onset, very strange, and even absurd, that by dint of being diligently examined, in time, and with patience, become, through the operation of this universal reason, to be wondered at as most apt and wise contrivances. There are other things, which do carry before them the light of their own brightness,

* Printed from the MS.-Ed.

1

and by merely being seen, show forth, at once, the beauty and symmetry of their forms. I shall begin with the last first, as it may afford an easier entrance to those truths that are, upon a slight view, as it were, repulsive and revolting. Permit me, however, before entering into these details, to conclude this letter by requesting your attention to that curious adaptation of our system of jurisprudence to the actual business of the existing community ; to the time when, and the manner in which its different parts were brought out, and systematically put together; to the stages of society, for whose varying and contrary wants it was unchangeably framed; to that rigorous power, by which it has bent to itself every different modification and manners-states of complete ignorance and barbarism, alike with the most refined and enlightened form which society has ever assumed. Indeed, were it not for the undeniable existence of the fact, it would be almost incredible, that a system invented by barbarous and ignorant chieftains, of warlike and predatory clans, improved from time to time to suit the wishes of regal prerogatives—broken in upon, at long intervals, by commercial opulence, intelligence, and strengthattempered in all its progress to the munificent support of the great dignitaries of an established clergy-moulded to its present perfect form by a legislative aristocracy of rank and riches, should be equally well fitted, with slight variations, to the times of the Edwards and the Henrys; to the age of Elizabeth, and the Second Charles; to the days of the Plantagenets, the Stuarts, and the Guelphs; to England and to America. Nor need we stop here—for, such is the plastic power of our law, such its vehement tendency to combine, that upon a few trials of Sir William Jones, and others, assisted by the learned Pundits of the east, it readily disclosed the vigorous play of its chemical affinities, and coalesced, after a slight effervescence, with the Feta Web Aalemgiri of Aurangzeb, and is now the equal wonder of the fiery Moslem and the patient Hindoo. Yours,

LEVINZ COMBERBACH.

STANZAS,

I Cannot forget the high spell that enchanted,

Nor the visions that brightened my earlier days,
When verse was a passion, and warmly I panted

To wreath my young brows with unwithering bays.

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