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of liberty and humanity, a generous support; they have so far succeeded to the satisfaction of the virtuous and enlightened of every country.”*.
The constitution of this Republic would be, if it were not for negro slavery in the southern States, a spectacle for gods and men to rejoice at. It must however be confessed, that slavery is a blot of such magnitude and enormity, as greatly to diminish our admiration for the whole system
Madame de Staël very properly says, “ There is a people who will one day be very great ;-I mean the Americans. One stain only obscures the perfect splendour of reason which vivifies that country--slavery still exists in the southern provinces ; but when Congress shall have found a remedy for that evil, how shall we be able to refuse the most profound respect to the institutions of the United States ?" · I shall conclude my remarks upon the Government of this great Republic by quoting the following beautiful lines of Sir W. Jones.
What constitutes a state?--
Thick wall or moated gate ;
Not bays and broad arm’d ports,
Not starr'd and spangled courts,
* President's Message, 1822.
1. Nomen, high minded men, .
In forest, brake, or den,
Men, who their duties know,
Prevent the long aim'd blow,
- These constitute a state- ' : And sovereign law, that state's collected will,
O'er thrones and globes elate
The laws of the United States are, generally speaking, the same as those of England; but in the civil as well as in the penal code, numerous and excellent improvements have been introduced; for where the people alone is sovereign, abuses are reformed as soon as they are remarked. In other countries, men are always to be found bigoted in favour of every thing that is ancient, and who consider precedent, however bad, as the safest rule of conduct. Such men are always opposed to reformation, however obvious, and however advantageous to the commonwealth. But the Government of the United States is Republican ; and consequently the common law of England, which was transplanted to the colonies by the first settlers, has, from principle as well as from circumstances, been to a certain degree altered.
“ We shall not institute this comparison boastingly, however justly we may pride ourselves upon the improvement which we have made in this country upon the common law, properly so called with whatever emotions of honest exultation we might reasonably point to those improvements. For we apprehend that oftentimes, when professional men among us are bestowing exalted praise upon the
common law, they lose sight of the important fact, that the common law of England is radically different from the system that bears the same name in America. The common law, properly speaking, is that in which Hale, and Holt, and Mansfield, and Ellenborough abjudicated, which Coke and Blackstone commented upon, which upholds England's government, by king, lords, and commons, -- which marks out the jurisdiction of the Courts of Chancery, King's Bench, Common Pleas, and Exchequer,—which fixes the rules for the descent of property, which engendered and perpetuates the rotten borough principles of representation --which authorized the tenure of knights' service, with the rest of the antiquated burdens of the feudal system : for all these things, with a thousand others of the same stamp, are among the peculiar discriminating qualities of the common law, inherent in its very essence, but irreconcileably at war with all our dearest institutions. It is the common law of Virginia, of Massachusetts, of New York, or of Pennsylvania, which Americans must intend when they eulogize the common law; and we unite heart and band with them in their warmest expressions of veneration for this law; since light does not differ more from dark ness, than does this from the common law as flourishing on its native English soil."*
# North American Review, July 1823. The whole of this article, on the subject of the laws of Massachusetts, is well
The Americans have greatly mitigated the severity of the penal code, so much sơ indeed, that executions are extremely rare; and besides this, so mild is the system adopted by the executive power, that the President generally remits the punishment, unless the crime committed be of uncommon atrocity. Although one cannot but ada mire the humanity that prompts the saving a fellow creature's life, yet I think myself, that the law ought to have its course, and that punishment should, in all cases, follow condemnation ; for when a criminal is led to hope that he may escape by the humanity of the President, the terror of the law has less influence upon evil doers, and crime is thereby, to a certain degree, encouraged.
A great improvement is just about to be made in American jurisprudence; viz. the abolition of imprisonment for debt. Even at present, in most of the States, imprisonment for debt exists more in name than in reality. . By the insolvent laws, which are perhaps too much in favour of the debtor, his person in ten, or at most in thirty days, is for ever released, on a surrender of his property to a trustee appointed by the court. In the mean time, on giving sufficient security, he is entitled to per fect freedom within the prison bounds, which frequently comprise half the town or county in which
worth the perusal of those, who wish for copious information on the subject of the common law, as at present in force in the United States.. :