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shall consecrate themselves to the work of awakening in men a consciousness of the rights, powers, purposes, and greatness of human nature; which shall oppose to force the heroism of intellect and conscience, and the spirit of self-sacrifice. We believe that, at this moment, there are virtue and wisdom enough to shake despotic thrones, were they as confiding, as they should be, in God and in their own might, and were they to pour themselves through every channel into the public mind. We close our present labors with commending to the protection of Almighty God the cause of human freedom and improvement. We adore the wisdom and goodness of his providence, which has ordained that liberty shall be wrought out by the magnanimity, courage, and sacrifices of men. We bless him for the glorious efforts which this cause has already called forth; for the intrepid defenders who have gathered round it, and whose fame is a most precious legacy of past ages; for the toils and sufferings by which it has been upheld ; for the awakening and thrilling voice which comes to us from the dungeon and scaffold, where the martyrs of liberty have pined or bled. We bless him that even tyranny has been overruled for good by exciting a resistance, which has revealed to us the strength of virtuous principle in the human soul. We beseech this great and good Parent, from whom all pure influences proceed, to enkindle, by his quickening breath, an unquenchable love of virtue and freedom in those favored men, whom he hath enriched and signalised by eminent gifts and powers, that they may fulfil the high function of inspiring their fellowbeings with a consciousness of the birth-right and destination of human nature. Wearied with violence and blood, we beseech him to subvert oppressive governments by the gentle yet awful power of truth and virtue; by the teachings of uncorrupted Christianity; by the sovereignty of enlightened opinion; by the triumph of sentiments of magnanimity; by mild, rational, and purifying influences, which will raise the spirit of the enslaved, and which sovereigns will be unable to withstand. For this peaceful revolution we earnestly pray. If, however, after long forbearing and unavailing applications to justice and humanity, the friends of freedom should be summoned by the voice of God within, and by his providence abroad, to vindicate their rights with other arms to do a sterner work, to repel despotic force by force, may they not forget, even in this hour of provocation, the spirit which their high calling demands. Let them take the sword with awe, as those on whom a holy function is devolved. Let them regard themselves as ministers and delegates of Him, whose dearest attribute is mercy. Let them not stain their sacred cause by one cruel deed, by the infliction of one needless pang, by shedding without cause one drop of human blood.

LETTERS

TO THE

RIGHT HON. ROBERT PEEL, M.P.

ON THE EFFECT AND OBJECT OF HIS ALTERATION

IN THE LAW OF ENGLAND,

WITH REFERENCE TO THE EXTENSION OF THE JURISDICTION OF JUSTICES OF THE PEACE.

BY CHARLES BIRD, BARRISTER-AT-LAW,

SECOND EDITION.

LONDON:–1897.

LETTER I.

Sir,

Gascoyne Place, Plymouth, 28 Nov. 1827. IGNORANCE or treachery has crowned your brows with the civic, wreath ; in the name of Justice and of Truth, for what?-For the extension of a jurisdiction which the judges of England have ever viewed with jealousy, and have invariably pronounced to be a restriction of the Common Law, of a jurisdiction which was in the days of Lord Holt, compared with its present magnitude, as a mole-hill to a mountain, and which even then, that intrepid lawyer denounced as a violation of the Great Charter of our rights. Such, Sir, is the unaccountable infatuation and blindness of your tooconfiding country, that it would little astonish me, after the perusal of that Act, which will transmit your name to posterity either with honor or with infamy, to hear that at the constitutional meetings in London, the truly patriotic toast of “ Erskine and Trial by Jury,” had given place to that of “ Peel and Trial by Priests." "How is it, Sir, that the eyes of that great man are scarcely closed in death, ere you step forth, and, with unholy hand, deface the glorious palladium of our laws, the fearless advocacy of which raised him to the highest civil office in the state which a subject can enjoy, and conferred on his name honor immortal ?-Great God! what a

VOL. XXIX. - Pam. NO. LVII.

revolution in the laws of my country ! In how short a space of time, and how quietly and silently has it been effected. Startle not, Sir, at the word revolution, for history will inform you that revolutions oft-times revel in the calm, though they sometimes ride on the storm. But, Sir,

We will meet at Westminster,

where I now pledge myself to my country to join issue with you on the most awful question that can interest a free people. Should the present age do to either of us injustice, my prayer shall be that posterity may reverse the judgment. I will there, when the parliament assembles, petition the legislature for the restoration of trial by jury, the revision of the subordinate courts of justice, the institution of competent legal tribunals, and for the gradual and eventually the total exclusion of the priesthood from the magistracy of England.

LETTER II.

Gascoyne Place, Plymouth, Devon, SIR, 5th December, 1827.

SIN ce my last address to you, I have been informed that you are not deeply versed in the laws of your country: this, I must believe, or conclude, that at the moment when you framed the second section of your Act (as it is commonly called) which abolished the Common Law distinction between Grand Larceny and Petty Larceny, you knew that the Act of Parliament which passed in the eleventh year of the reign of Henry the Seventh, extending the summary jurisdiction of justices of the peace to all offences short of felony, brought Empson and Dudley to the block; and that so intolerable were the consequent oppressions, that its repeal is recorded in our statute-book, as one amongst the mild mercies of his successor's reign; and that you also knew that Sir Edward Coke afterwards referred to it in his institute on the laws of England, not as a model for imitation, but as a beacon to warn future generations of the danger of altering the Common Law; but, Sir, as it is possible that you may never #. consulted this great legal authority, I will give you his very words. Alluding to the twenty-ninth chapter of Magna Charta, which confirms to

the people of England their right to trial by jury, he says: “Against this ancient and fundamental law, and in the face thereof, I find an Act of Parliament made, that as well justices of assize as justices of the peace (without any finding or present. ment by twelve men), on a bare information for the king before them made, should have power and authority by their discretions to hear and determine all offences and contempts committed or done by any person or persons, against the form, ordinance, and effect of any statute made and not repealed, &c.; by colour of which Act, shaking this fundamental law, it is not credible what horrible oppressions and exactions, to the undoing of infinite numbers of people, were committed by Sir Richard Empson, Kpt., and Dudley, being justices of peace throughout England; and on this unjust and injurious Act (as commonly in like cases it falleth out) a new office was erected, and they made masters of the king's forfeitures.

“But at the parliament holden in the first year of Henry the Eighth, this Act of Henry the Seventh is recited, and made void, and repealed; and the reason thereof is yielded : for that by force of the said Act, it was manifestly known that many sinister and crafty, feigned and forged informations, had been pursued against divers of the king's subjects, to their great damage and wrongful vexation; and the fearful success hereof, and the fearful ends of these two oppressors, should deter others from committing the like, and should admonish parliaments, that instead of this ordinary and precious trial by the law of the land, they bring not in absolute and partial trials by discretion."

It is possible, Sir, that you may have been unacquainted with this terrible example, which appears not only in the learned Judge's excellent work, but also in the statute-book of the realm ; but can you bave been ignorant that, only sixty years ago, the elegant commentator on the laws of England, Sir William Blackstone, expressed his fearful apprehensions of the dangerous consequences of further extending summary jurisdictions, not only in criminal but likewise in civil cases ? After alluding to the summary nature of all trials of offences, as frauds contrary to the laws of excise and other branches of the revenue, on which he says, “ we shall find that the power of the officers of the crown over the properly of the people is increased to a very formidable height," he thus proceeds :

“Another branch of summary proceedings is that before justices of the peace, in order to inflici divers petty pecuniary mulcts and corporal penalties denounced by Act of Parliament for many disorderly offences; such as common swearing, drunkenness, vagrancy, idleness, and a vast variety of others, which used to be formerly punished by a verdict of a jury in the court-leet. This change in the administration of justice hath however had some mischievous effects; as, 1. The almost entire disuse

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