Page images

Nor is this all; for (as few persons of birth, or fortune, or even of scholastic education, will submit to the drudgery of servitude and the manual labour of copying the trash of an office) should this infatuation prevail to any considerable degree, we must rarely expect to see a gentleman of distinction or learning at the bar. And what the consequence may be, to have the interpretation and enforcement of the laws (which include the entire disposal of our properties, liberties, and lives) fall wholly into the hands of obscure or illiterate men, is matter of very public concern.

The inconveniences here pointed out can never be effectually prevented, but by making academical education a previous step to the profession of the common law, and at the same time making the rudiments of the law a part of academical education. For sciences are of a sociable difpoLition, and flourish best in the neighbourhood of each other : nor is there any branch of learning, but may be helped and improved by allistances drawn from other arts. If therefore the student in our laws hath formed both his sentiments and style, by perufal and imitation of the purest classical writers, among whom the historians and orators will best deserve his regard; if he can reason with precision, and separate argument from fallacy, by the clear simple rules of pure unsophisticated logic; if he can fix his attention, and steadily pursue truth through any the most intricate deduction, by the use of mathematical demonstrations ; if he has enlarged his conceptions of nature and art, by a view of the several branches of genuine, experimental philosophy; if he has impressed on his mind the found maxims of the law of nature, the best and most authentic foundation of human laws ; if, laftly, he has contemplated those maxims reduced to a practical system in the laws of imperial Rome; if he has done this or any part of it, (though all may be easily done under as able instructors as ever graced any feats of learning) a student thus qualified may enter upon the study of the law with incredible advantage and reputation. And if, at the conclusion, or during VOL. I.


the acquisition of these accomplishments, he will afford himself here a year or two's farther leisure, to lay the foundation of his future labours in a solid scientifical method, without thirsting too early to attend that practice which it is impossible he should rightly comprehend, he will afterwards proceed with the greatest ease, and will unfold the most intricate points with an intuitive rapidity and clearnefs.

I SHALL not infist upon such motives as might be drawn from principles of economy, and are applicable to particulars only : I reafon upon more general topics. And therefore to the qualities of the head, which I have just cnumerated, I cannot but add those of the heart; affectionate loyalty to the king, a zeal for liberty and the conftitution, a fense of real honour, and well-grounded principles of religion; as necessary to form a truly valuable English lawyer, a Hyde, a Hale, or a 'Talbot. And, whatever the ignorance of some, or unkindness of others, may have heretofore untruly fuggested, experience will warrant us to affirm, that thefe endowments of loyalty and public fpirit, of honour and religion, are no where to be found in more high perfection than in the two universities of this kingdom.

BEFORE I conclude, it may perhaps be expected, that I lay before you a fhort and general account of the method I proa pose to follow, in endeavouring to execute the trust you have been pleased to repose in my hands. And in these folemn lectures, which are ordained to be read at the entrance of every term, (more perhaps to do public honour to this laudable institution, than for the private instruction of individuals P) I presume it will beit answer the intent of our benefactor and the expectation of this learned body, if I attempt to illustrate at times such detached titles of the law, as are the most easy to be understood, and most capable of historical or critical ornament. But in reading the complete course, which is annually consigned to my care, a more regular method will be necessary; and, till a better is proposed, I P See Lowth's Oratio Crewiena, p. 365.


shall take the liberty follow the same that I have already submitted to the public 4. To fill up and finish that outline with propriety and correctness, and to render the whole intelligible to the uninformed minds of beginners, (whom we are too apt to suppose acquainted with terms and ideas, which they never had opportunity to learn,) this must be my ardent endeavour, though by no means my promise, to accomplish. You will permit me however very briefly to describe, rather what I conceive an academical expounder of the laws should do, than what I have ever known to be done.

He should consider his course as a general map of the law, marking out the shape of the country, it's connexions and boundaries, it's greater divisions and principal cities : it is not his business to describe minutely the subordinate limits, or to fix the longitude and latitude of every inconsiderable hamlet. His attention should be engaged, like that of the readers in Fortescue's inns of chancery, “ in tracing out the it originals, and as it were the elements of the law." For if, as Justinian' has observed, the tender understanding of the student be loaded at the first with a multitude and variety of matter, it will either occasion him to defert his studies, or will carry him heavily through them, with much labour, delay, and despondence. These originals should be traced to their fountains, as well as our distance will permit; to the customs of the Britons and Germans, as recorded by Cæsar and Tacitus; to the codes of the northern nations on the continent, and more especially to those of our own Saxon princes; to the rules of the Roman law either left here in the days of Papinian, or imported by Vacarius and his fol

The analyfis of the laws of Eng- fingula tradantur : alioqui, fi fiatim ab land, first published, A. D. 1756, and initio rudem adbuc e: infirmum animum exhibiting the order and principal divi- ftudiofi multitudine ac varietatc rerum crea fons of the ensuing COMMENTARIES ; revinius, dusrum alterum, aut dejortor97 which were originally submitted to the studiorum efficiemus, aut cum magno labore, university in a private course of lectures, faepe etiam cum difidentia ( quae plerum A, D. 1753.

que juvenes avertit) serius ad id perduceIncipienribus nobis exponere jura poc mus, ad quod, levicre via dusius, fire gali Romani, ita videntur tradi pelle come magno labore, et fire alla diffidentia matumedilline, fi primo levi ac fimplici via rius perduci foruifjer. Int. d. 1. 2.



lowers; but, above all, to that inexhaustible reservoir of legal antiquities and learning, the feodal law, or, as Spel. man has entitled it, the law of nations in our western orb.

These primary rules and fundamental principles should be weighed and compared with the precepts of the law of nature, and the practice of other countries ; should be explained by reasons, illustrated by examples, and confirmed by undoubted authorities; their history should be deduced, their changes and revolutions observed, and it should be shewn how far they are connected with, or have at any time been affected by, the civil transactions of the kingdom.

A PLAN of this nature, if executed with care and ability, cannot fail of administering a most useful and rational entertainment to students of all ranks and professions ; and yet it must be confessed that the study of the laws is not merely a matter of amusement; for, as a very judicious writer · has observed upon a similar occasion, the learner « will be con“ fiderably disappointed, if he looks for entertainment with“ out the expence of attention.” An attention, however, not greater than is usually bestowed in mastering the rudiments of other sciences, or sometimes in pursuing a favourite recreation or exercise. And this attention is not equally necessary to be exerted by every student upon every occasion. Some branches of the law, as the formal process of civil suits, and the subtile distinctions incident to landed property, which are the most difficult to be thoroughly understood, are the least worth the pains of understanding, except to such gentlemen as intend to pursue the profession. To others I may venture to apply, with a flight alteration, the words of fir John Fortescue ", when firit his royal pupil determines to engage in this study. “ It will not be necessary for a gentleman, as “ such, to examine with a close application the critical nice" ties of the law. It will fully be sufficient, and he may well « law, even to their original elements. Therefore in a very « short period, and with very little labour, he may be fuffi“ ciently informed in the laws of his country, if he will but “ apply his mind in good earnest to receive and apprehend 6 them. For, though such knowlege as is necessary for a “ judge is hardly to be acquired by the lucubrations of twenty “ years, yet, with a genius of tolerable perspicacity, that “ knowlege which is fit for a person of birth or condition “ may be learned in a single year, without neglecting his « other improvements.”

enough be denominated a lawyer, if under the instruction “ of a master he traces up the principles and grounds of the

s Of parliaments. 57.
• Dr. Tay.or s pref. tc. Elem. of civil law.

u Delard. Leg. c. 8.

To the few therefore (the very few I am persuaded) that entertain such unworthy notions of an university, as to fuppose it intended for mere dissipation of thought; to such as mean only to while away the aukward interval from childhood to twenty-one, between the restraints of the school and the licentiousness of politer life, in a calm middle state of mental and of moral inactivity; to these Mr Viner gives no invitation to an entertainment which they never can relish. But to the long and illustrious train of noble and ingenuous youth, who are not more distinguished among us by their birth and poflessions, than by the regularity of their conduct and their thirst after useful knowlege, to these our benefactor has consecrated the fruits of a long and laborious life, worn out in the duties of his calling; and will joyfully reflect (if such reflections can be now the employment of his thoughts) that he could not more effectually have benefited posterity, or contributed to the service of the public, than by founding an institution which may instruct the rising generation in the wisdom of our civil polity, and inspire them with a desire to be still better acquainted with the laws and constitution of their country,

« PreviousContinue »