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of their demerits. The essence of such Reports, if any they contain, is soon extracted from the mass by those who are not slow to avail themselves of labours of Reporters; and the Reports themselves, when they become useless, may be neglected. The serious evils therefore, which by speculative persons seem to be apprehended from the accumulating number of Reports, are little better than phantoms of the imagination. There is one practical answer to the complaint and cry of danger, which may satisfy common sense, though it fails to quiet the apprehensions of the theoretical objector: Reports will be published, bought and digested as long as they are found to be useful; and when they cease to be so, they will be thrown aside and sleep with the folios of polemic divinity, harmless and forgotten in the dust of undisturbed libraries.
The purchaser in the abstract, having no view to present use, naturally complains of prolixity, which adds to expense without an equivalent. The student sees, with dread, continued addition to the labour of a mind already overcharged; and the minister of law, whose notions are settled, is prone to repose
on his acquired stores of knowledge. But it has been observed, that the ground of objection occasionally changes with the circumstances and condition of the objector. As a mere purchaser the practitioner would be satisfied with the briefest abstract of the decisions of the Courts ; but when a case occurs in his practice, where he wants authority to remove his doubts, to confirm his opinion, or to support the cause of his client, then the complaint most familiar to the ears of those who are accustomed to courts of justice is, that the case resorted to as an authority is much too briefly reported,—that material statements of fact, pleading, argument and decision are omitted ; and the same report which before was deemed burthensome, because it contained too much of matter, is now reviled as negligent and worthless, because it contains too little. In the midst of these conflicting objections the task of Reporters is neither easy nor enviable.
The cases which the Editor has undertaken to report, cannot fall under that speculative censure which condemns the labour of the Reporter as useless or pernicious. These cases record the decisions of a tribunal where the errors of inferior courts are corrected,
where new law is established or old law restored ; or where Aluctuating law and the conflicting decisions of the inferior courts, are settled or reconciled. The judgments of that ultimate tribunal furnish unalterable rules to the inferior ministers of the law, by which the rights of property are to be affected and administered, and the Reports consist principally of cases in which the judgments of the inferior courts have been reversed or altered.
: Of such decisions the public cannot be ignorant with safety; and in that view of the utility of his labours, so far as regards the subject matter, the Editor reposes with confidence. In the collection and compilation of that matter, the danger of mistake and failure is infinite. How much of that which has been rejected ought to have been retained,—how little has been thrown out of a mass of matter which might have been more carefully sifted,— to what extent the power of compression might have been carried, it is not for him but for the public to determine. He can only suggest, that the unremitted attention required in amassing the matter, in digesting, compressing, selecting, revising, and above all, the study not to omit any material fact which
forms an ingredient of the judgment, and is part of the landmark to future decision, constitutes a severity of labour which none but those who have condemned themselves to that penalty, by a voluntary sentence, can easily conceive. It is a labour which may be useless to the world, but if it be so, it is worse than useless to the labourer; for it yields neither pleasure nor profit in proportion to the task.
The present volume comprises a selection of the cases decided in the session of 1819. Some of the cases which belong to that session have been omitted for the present, and reserved for future deliberation. These, with the unpublished cases of former years, may hereafter be collected in a separate volume ; a possible event, which the Editor deems it expedient to notice; since, in the variety of censure to which reporting is exposed, the omission of cases is denounced as a serious offence. That, which in the judgment of one critic it would be almost criminal to publish, in the judgment of another it is a gross delinquency to omit.
The Editor has only to add, that he has endeavoured to exercise a sound judgment in the selection of the cases, and in the mode of compilation. He trusts also, that the high
judicial opinions which he has undertaken to report, are recorded * without error or material blemish.
From the profession in general, and many kind friends, whom he would name with respect and gratitude, if it could be done with their approbation, the Editor has received in the prosecution of his labours much of encouragement, and frequent assistance by the use of notes and documents.
To the profession, and those friends, he now makes, the only return they will permit, this public acknowledgment of their kindness ; and is pleased with the assurance, that, in their .contemplation, the moral debtor who cherishes a due sense of his obligation stands at once indebted and discharged.
* In page 478 there is the appearance of mistake in the opinion expressed by the Lord Chancellor as to the powers of an English tenant in tail. The Report agrees with the note of the short-hand writer, and the sense in which the passage is to be understood will appear by considering the point of comparison between the Scotch tenant of tailzie and the English tenant in tail. In that sense it is accordingly abstracted in the Index under the Title “ Power".