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antient. The new were more enlightened, the old more venerable. Some adopted the comment, others stuck to the text. The confusion increased, the mist thickened, until it could be discovered no longer what was allowed or forbidden, what things were in property and what common. In this uncertainty, (uncertain even to the professors, an Egyptian darkness to the rest of mankind the contending parties felt themselves more eff & sally ruined by the delay than they could have been by the injustice of any decision. Our inheritances. are become a prize for disputation; and disputes and litigations are become an inheritance.
The professors of artificial law have always walked hand in hand with the professors of aruficial theology. As their end, in confounding the reason of man, and abridging his natural freedom, is exactly the saine, they have adjusted the means to that end in a way entirely similar. The divine thunders out his anathemas with more noise and terror against the breach of one of his positive in-. stitutions, or the neglect of some of his trivial forms, than against the neglect or breach of those duties. and commandments of natural religion, which by these forms and institutions he pretends to enforce. The lawyer has his forms and his positive institu-. tions too, and he adheres to them with a veneration altogether as religious. The worst cause cannot be so prejudicial to the litigant, as his advocate'sor attorney's ignorance or neglect of these forms. A law-suit is like an ill managed dispute, in which the first object is soon out of sight, and the parties end upon a matter wholly foreign to that on which
they began. In a law-suit the question is, who has a right to a certain house or farm? And this question is daily determined, not upon the evidences of the right, but upon the observance or neglect of some forms of words in use with the gentlemen of the robe, about which there is even amongst themselves such a disagreement, that the most experienced veterans in the profession can never be positively assured that they are not mistaken.
Let us expostulate with these learned sages, these priests of the sacred temple of justice. Are we judges of our own property? By no means. You then, who are initiated into the mysteries of the blindfold Goddess, inform me whether I have a right to eat the bread I have earned by the hazard of my life or the sweat of my brow? The grave doctor answers me in the affirmative. The reverend serjeant replies in the negative. The learned barrister reasons upon one side and upon the other, and concludes nothing. What shall I do? An antagonist starts up and presses me hard. I enter the field, and retain these three persons to defend my cause. My cause, which two farmers
from the plough could have decided in half an hour, takes the court twenty years. I am however at the end of my labour, and have in reward for all my toil and vexation, a judgment in my favour. But hold-a sagacious commander in the adversary's army has found a flaw in the proceeding. My triumph is turned into mourning. I have used or, instead of and, or some mistake, small in appearance, but dreadful in its consequences, and have the whole of my success quashed
ed in a writ of error. I remove my suit; I shift from court to court; I fly from equity to law, and from law to equity; equal uncertainty attends me every where and a mistake, in which I had no share, decides at once upon my liberty and property, sending me from a court to a prison, and adjudging my family to beggary and famine. I am innocent, gentlemen, of the darkness and uncertainty of your science. I never darkened it with absurd and contradictory notions, nor confounded it with chicane and sophistry. You have excluded me from any share in the conduct of my own cause; the science was too deep for me; I acknowledged it; but it was too deep even for yourselves you have made the way so intricate, that you are yourselves lost in it: you err, and you punish me for your errors.
The delay of the law, you will tell me, is a trite topic; and which of its abuses have not been too severely felt not to be often complained of? A man's property is to serve for the purposes of his support; and therefore to delay a determination concerning that, is the worst injustice, because it cuts off the very end and purpose for which I applied to the judicature for relief. Quite contrary in case of a man's life, there the determination can hardly be too much protracted. Mistakes in this case are as often fallen into as in any other, and if the judgment is sudden, the mistakes are the most irretrievable of all others. Of this. the gentlemen of the robe are themselves sensible, and they have brought it into a maxim. De morte
hominis nulla est cunctatio longa. But what could have induced them to reverse the rules, and to contradict that reason which dictated them, I am utterly unable to guess. A point concerning property, which ought, for the reasons I just mentioned, to be most speedily decided, frequently exercises the wit of successions of lawyers, for many generations. Multa virúm volvens durando sœ eula vincit. But the question concerning a man's life, that great question in which no delay ought to be counted tedious, is commonly determined in twenty-four hours at the utmost. It is not to be wondered at, that injustice and absurdity should be inseparable companions.
Ask of politicians the end for which laws were originally designed, and they will answer, that
the laws were designed as a protection for the poor and weak, against the oppression of the rich and powerful. But surely no pretence can be
so ridiculous; a man might as well tell me he has taken off my load, because he has changed the burthen. If the poor man is not able to support his suit, according to the vexatious and expensive manner established in civilized countries, has not the rich as great an advantage over him as the strong has over the weak in a state of nature?
A good parson once said, that where mystery begins, religion ends. Cannot I say, as truly at least, of human laws, that where mystery begins, justice ends? It is hard to say, whether the doctors of law or divinity have made the greater advances in the lucrative business of mystery. The
lawyers, as well as the theologians, have erected another reason besides natural reason; and the result has been another justice besides natural justice. They have so bewildered the world and themselves in unmeaning forms and ceremonies, and so perplexed the plainest matters with metaphy sical jargon, that it carries the highest danger to a man out of that profession, to make the least step! without their advice and assistance. Thus by confining to themselves the knowledge of the foundation of all men's lives and properties, they have reduced all mankind to the most abject and servile dependence. We are tenants at the will of these gentlemen for every thing; and a metaphysical quibble is to decide whether the greatest villain breathing shall meet his deserts, or escape with impunity; or whether the best man in the society shall not be reduced to the lowest and most despicable condition it affords. In a word, the injustice, delay, puerility, false refinement, and affected mystery of the law, are such, that 1many who live under it come to admire and envy the expedition, simplicity, and equality of arbitrary judgments.
953 and 19)
Campanha a Vindication of Natural Society, p. 80-89.
I HAD informed [my master] that some of our crew left their country on account of their being ruined by law. I had already explained the -meaning of the word: but he was at a loss, how it should come to pass, that the law, which was intended for every man's preservation, should be