Page images
PDF
EPUB

complicated and difficult contrivances invented for the purpose of “barring dower” have been by a few simple enactments rendered unnecessary. While these improvements have been made in the merely formal parts of the law, its essential principles and substantial parts have remained unchanged. The great principles by which the rights of men are protected, and the morals and order of society are preserved, remain substantially the same, and the English reports still continue to be cited on all the great points of law, with nearly or quite as much authority as the reports of our own tribunals. To take a general view of the American institutions, to show the constitution of the United States government, and to give a concise account of American law, was the object of chancellor Kent. To say that a work which has rapidly run through three editions and reached the fourth, and which has become a text-book almost as universal as Blackstone, is executed with surpassing ability, seems to be but tardy justice. He has earned the lasting gratitude of every student of American law, who in the midst of his doubting and hesitation, as to how much and what of the English law, as he finds it in English books, is to be taken for American law, finds his doubts and difficulties removed when he turns to this admirable work. The first part of the commentaries is devoted to the law of nations. Of course it was necessary to use great brevity, especially in this portion of the work. But in the space of two hundred pages he has contrived to compress all that relates to the law of nations which can be needed as a foundation of large and liberal knowledge of municipal law, and, at the same time, indicated the chief sources, from which more ample information may be sought by those who need it. Part second relates to the government and constitutional jurisprudence of the United States, and contains a general and highly interesting view of the several branches of the government of the United States, their powers, duties, and constitutional limitations; and especially an account of the judiciary system as established by laws of congress under the constitution, the different courts in which the judicial power of the United States has been vested, their constitution, jurisdiction, and general history. For this part of his work, the American student of the law, as well as all general readers of large and liberal desires and tastes, will thank him. There are few who have the means, the time, or even the industry, to seek in the statute book and through the reports, for the information which chancellor Kent has collected and placed before his readers in a clear and systematic manner. Part third is a brief and interesting account of the various sources of the municipal law. Part fourth relates to the law concerning the rights of persons. Part fifth, the law concerning personal property. Part sixth, the law concerning real property. The plan of the work did not call for a display of that vast amount of rich antiquarian lore, which is with such exquisite neatness and taste inwrought into the whole texture and substance of Blackstone. That work had been already once done, and so well done that any attempt to do it again would have been useless Accordingly there is much more room and opportunity to trace the changes and growth of the law since Blackstone's time, and to convey a vast amount of useful and interesting details. Especially those particulars in which our American jurisprudence has departed from the English, and in which the resources of the civil and European law have been drawn upon by American jurists, have been noticed and discussed. Many of the verata questiones of the law have been the subject of copious and interesting commentary. The various and conflicting decisions of the English and American tribunals have been

[ocr errors]

carefully collected, contrasted, weighed, and commented upon with the spirit and freedom of an American judge, chastened and restrained by the soundest sense, and the practical wisdom and sagacity of long and widely varied experience. Among these discussions may be mentioned, those relating to the capacity of married women to sue and be sued alone, the doctrine of caveat emptor, and the subject of fraudulent sales and conveyances of property. The sixth part is devoted to the subject of real law. This was by far the most difficult, as it seems to us, and perhaps, the least successful part of the work. The beginnings of the real law are so far back in the history of English institutions, its principles are founded in a state of manners and society so different from our own, and the system into which they have been bent and moulded, so as to suit the wants of modern times, is so eminently artificial, that there is probably no branch of the law, of which it would be so difficult to give a condensed and satisfactory account. But the learned author has chosen his subjects in this department with the soundest judgment, and discussed them with eminent ability. In the lecture on the foundation of the title to land, the manner in which the lands in this country have been acquired by the different settlers, is considered, and the rights of the present possessors placed on a solid foundation of reason and common sense. The sound and practical remarks of the author on this subject contrast favorably with the miserable nambypamby of those sentimental speculators, who have been pleased in their extatic philanthropy, to consider the reclamation of the American wilderness, and the establishment of civilized communities, as acts founded in mere robbery and oppression. But while the general policy of this country is ably vindicated, the recent high-handed acts of oppression, done to the southern Indians, have met with no justification or apology at his hands.

On the whole, we conclude with offering to the learned author, our warmest thanks for the benefit which his work has conferred on the profession. We can pay him no higher compliment, than by saying, that he has made a worthy companion to the noble commentaries of Blackstone—a work, which like that should be the first to be placed in, and the last to leave the hands of the American student of the law; who, while he acknowledges the necessity of gaining a thorough practical mastery of his science, by studying choice cases in detail, is desirous also of giving method and comprehensiveness to his studies, by taking broad and philosophical general views of the whole.

E. L. C. Charlestown, N. H.

JURISPRUDENCE.

I.—DIGEST OF AMERICAN CASES.

Selections from 18 Pickering's (Mass.); 11 Vermont; 9 Porter's (Alabama); and 3 Sumner's Reports.

ABATEMENT. (Pendency of another suit.) It is not a good plea in abatement to a suit in the circuit court of the United States, for the recovery of land, that another action, in which the present defendant is plaintiff, and the present plaintiff is defendant, is pending in the state court, for the recovery of the same land. Wadleigh v. Veazie, 3 Sumner, 164. 2. (Same.) To sustain a plea of the pendency of another action, it must be generally shewn, that the two actions are by the same plaintiff against the same defendant, and founded on the same cause of action. Ib. 3. (Same.) Quatre; where the plaintiff is the same and the cause of action the same, whether there is any case, where the defendant must not be the same in the two suits, in order to sustain the plea. Ib. ACCOUNTS. (Mutual.) In cases of mutual running accounts, every item, whether for pay, services, or otherwise, ending in a debt, is to be deemed a credit in favor of the party pro tanto. Gass v. Stinson, 3 Sumner, 99. ACTION. (Warranty of property.) If a person affirm that he is the owner of a chattel, and sells the same, and by the bill of sale releases all his right and interest in a specific chattel, when he was not the owner of any such chattel, he is liable. Strong v. Barnes, 11 Vermont, 221.

« PreviousContinue »