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expound

Car. ; which

courts, that they may not be drawn from their businefs which is highly profitable to the public, by attending their lawsuits in other courts. The privileges of the tinners are confirmed by a charter, 33 Edw, I. and fully expounded by a private statute“, go Edw. III. which has fince been explained by a public act, 16 Car. I. c. 15. What relates to our present purpofe is only this : that all tinners and labourers in and about the stannaries shall, during the time of their working therein bona fide, be privileged from suits of other courts, and be only impleaded in the stannary court in all matters, excepting pleas of land, life, and member. No writ of error lies from hence to any court in Westminsterhall; as was agreed by all the judgese in 4 Jac. I. But ani appeal lies from the steward of the court to the under-warden; and from him to the lord-warden; and thence to the privy council of the prince of Wales, as duke of Cornwall', when he hath had livery or investiture of the fame. And from thence the appeal lies to the king himself, in the last resortb.

IX. The several courts within the city of London', and other cities, boroughs, and corporations throughout the kingdom, held by prescription, charter, or act of parliament, are also of the same private and limited species. It would exceed the design and compass of our present inquiries, if I were to en-, ter into a particular detail of these, and to examine the nature and extent of their several jurisdictions. It may in general be fufficient to say, that they arose originally from the favour of the crown to those particular districts, wherein we find them erected, upon the same principle that hundred-courts, and the like, were established; for the convenience of the inhabitants, that they may prosecute their suits and receive justice at home: C4 Irít. 232.

error lies to the court of buffings, before & see this at length in 4 Int. 232. the mayor, recorder, and sheriffs; and • 4 Inst. 231.

from thence to justices appointed by the 1 Ibid. 230.

king's commission, who used to fit in & 3 Bulit. 183. ,

the church of St. Martin le grand, Doderidge hift. of Cornw. 94. (F.N.B.32.) And from the judgement * The chief of those in London are of those justices a writ of error lies im. the periffs courts, holden before their nediately to the house of lords fleward or judge; from which a writ of

that,

that, for the most part, the courts at Westminster-hall have a concurrent jurisdiction with these, or else a super-intendency over them; and are bound by the statute 19 Geo. III. c. 70. to give allistance to such of them as are courts of record, by issuing writs of execution, where the person or effects of the defendant are not within the inferior jurisdiction : and that the proceedings in these special courts ought to be according to the course of the common law, unless otherwise ordered by parliament; for though the king may ertet new courts, yet he cannot alter the established course of law.

But there is one species of courts, constituted by act of parliament, in the city of London and other trading and populous districts, which in their proceedings so vary from the course of the common law, that they may deserve a more particular consideration. I mean the courts of requests, or courts of conscience, for the recovery of small debts. The first of these was established in London, so early as the reign of Henry the eighth, by an act of their common council; which however was certainly insufficient for that purpose and illegal, till confirmed by statute 3 Jac. I. c. 15. which has fince been explained and amended by statute 14 Geo. II. c. 10. 1 he conttitution is this: two aldermen, and four commoners, fit twice a week to hear all causes of debt not exceeding the value of forty shillings; which they examine in a summary wav, by the oath of the parties or other witnesses, and make such order therein as is consonant to equity and good confcience. The time and expense of obtaining this summary Tedrefs are very inconsiderable, which make it a great benefit to trade; and thereupon divers trading towns and other disa tricts have obtained acts of parliament, for establishing in them courts of conscience upon nearly the same plan as that in the city of London (2).

j Salk. 144. 263.

(2) By the 25 Gco. III. c. 45. and 26 Geo. III. c. 38. no debtor or defendant, in any court for the recovery of small debts, The anxious desire, that has been shewn to obtain these several acts, proves clearly that the nation in general is truly, sensible of the great inconvenience, arising from the disuse of the antient county and hundred courts; wherein causes of this small value were always formerly decided, with very little trouble and expense to the parties. But it is to be feared, that the general remedy which of late hath been princi-, pally applied to this inconvenience, (the erecting these new jurisdictions) may itself be attended in time with very ill consequences : as the method of proceeding therein is entirely in derogation of the common law; as their large discretionary powers create a petty tyranny in a set of standing commiffioners; and as the disuse of the trial by jury may tend to estrange the minds of the people from that valuable prerogative of Englishmen, which has already been more than sufficiently excluded in many instances. How much rather is it to be wilhed, that the proceedings in the county and hundredcourts could again be revived, without burthening the freeholders with too frequent and tedious attendances; and at the same time removing the delays that have infensibly crept into their proceedings, and the power that either party have of transferring at pleasure their suits to the courts at Westminster! And we may with fatisfaction observe, that this experiment has been actually tried, and has succeeded in the populous county of Middlesex; which might serve as an example for others. For by statute 23 Geo. II. c. 33. it is enacted, 1. That a special county court shall be held, at least once a month, in every hundred of the county of Middlesex, by the county clerk. 2. That twelve freeholders of that hundred, qualified to serve on juries, and struck by the sheriff,

where

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where the debt does not exceed twenty shillings, shall be committed to prison for more than twenty days, and if the debt does not exceed forty shillings, for more than forty days ; unless it be proved to the fatisfaction of the court, that he has money or goods which he fraudulently conceals, and in the first case the imprisonment may be extended to thirty days, and in the latter to fixty.

· shall

fhalt be suinmoned to appear at fuch court by rotation ; fo as sone shall be fummoned oftener than once a year. ' 3. That in all causes, not exceeding the value of forty shillings, the county clerk and twelve suitors shall proceed in a summary way, examining the parties and witnesses on oath, without the formal process antiently used: and shall make suchorder there.. in as they shall judge agreeable to conscience. 4. That no plaints shall be removed out of this court, by any process what. soever; but the determination herein shall be final. 5. That if any action be brought in any of the superior courts against a person resident in Middlesex, for a debt or contract, upon the trial whereof the jury shall find less than 40s. damages, the plaintiff shall recover no costs, but shall pay the defendant double costs; unless upon fome special circumstances, to be çertified by the judge who tried it. 6. Lastly, a table of very moderate fees is prescribed and set down in the act ; which are not to be exceeded upon any account whatsoever. This is å plan entirely agreeable to the constitution and genius of the nation : calculated to prevent a multitude of vexatious actions in the superior courts, and at the same time to give honest creditors an opportunity of recovering fmall fums; which now they are frequently deterred from by the expense of a fuit at law : a plan which, one would think, wants only to be generally known, in order to it's universal reception.

X. THERE is yet another species of private courts, which I must not pafs over in silence': viz. the chancellor's courts in the two universities of England. Which two learned

bodies enjoy the fole jurisdiction, in exclusion of the king's [ 84 7 courts, over all civil actions and suits whatsoever, when a

scholar or privileged person is one of the parties; excepting
in such cases where the right of freehold is concerned. And
these by the university charter they are at liberty to try and
determine, either according to the common law of the land,
or according to their own local customs, at their discretion ;
which has generally led them to carry on their process in a
course much conformed to the civil law, for reasons fuffi-
ciently explained in a former volume k.
*Vol. I. introd. $1.

THESE

THESE privileges were granted, that the students might not be distracted from their studies by legal process froin diftant courts, and other forensic avocations. And privileges of this kind are of very high antiquity, being generally enjoyed by all foreign universities as well as our own, in consequence (I apprehend) of a constitution of the emperor Frederick, A. D. 1158! But as to England in particular, the oldest charter that I have seen, containing this grant to the univerlity of Oxford, svas 28 Hen. III. A. D. 1244. And the same privileges were confirmed and enlarged by almost every fucceeding prince, down to king Henry the eighth; in the fourteenth year of whose reign the largest and most extensive charter of all was granted. One similar to which was after, wards granted to Cambridge in the third year of queen Eliza, beth. But yet, notwithstanding these charters, the privileges granted therein, of proceeding in a course different from the law of the land, were of fo high a nature, that they were held to be invalid; for though the king might erect new courts, yet he could not alter the course of law by his letters patent. Therefore in the reign of queen Elizabeth an act of parliament was obtained ", confirming all the charters of the two universities, and those of 14 Hen. VIH. and 3 Eliz. by wame. Which blessed act, as fir Edward Coke entitles it i, establihed this high privilege without any doubt or opposie tiono: or, as fir Matthew Halep very fully expresses the sense of the common law and the operation of the act of parlia-s 85 7 ment, “ although king Henry the eighth, 14 A. R. fui, “ granted to the university a liberal charter, to proceed aco cording to the use of the university; viz. by a course much " conformed to the civil law; yet that charter had not been « sufficient to have warranted such proceedings without the “ help of an act of parliament. And therefore in 13 Eliz, « an act passed, whereby that charter was in effect enacted; 6 and it is thereby that at this day they have a kind of civil “ law procedure, even in matters that are of themselves of 1 Cod. 4. tit. 13.

• Jenk. Cent. 2. pl. 88. Cent. 3. m 13 Eliz. c. 29.

pl. 33. Hardr. 504. Godbolt. 201.

20

' 24 Inf. 227.

? Hift. C. L. 33.

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