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TO THE LAST LONDON EDITION.
THE discharge of a duty similar to that to which the world
is indebted for the Commentaries on the Laws of England, led the Editor to presume, that in the course of his researches he might be able to collect some observations which might be useful to the Public, and at the same time it suggested the propriety of his endeavouring to contribute to the further improvement of that valuable production.
THE extensive sale of the preceding Editions has abundantly proved that the design meets with general approbation.
No alteration has been made in the author's text; but the principal changes, which either the legislature or the decisions of the courts have introduced into the law since the last corrections of the Author, are specified and explained by the Editor in the notest.
THE Commentaries on the Laws of England form an essential part of every Gentleman's library: the beautiful and lucid arrangement, the purity of the language, the classic elegance of the quotations and allusions, the clear and intelligible explanation of every subject, must always yield the reader as much pleasure as improvement; and wherever any constitutional or legal question is agitated, they are the first, and, in general, the best authority referred to. In order to add to their utility in this respect, the Editor has annexed such exceptions and particular instances as he thought would render the information still fuller and more complete. Where he has presumed to question any of the learned Commentator's doctrines, he has assigned his reasons for his doubt or dissent; but where he has discovered any inaccuracy arising merely from inadvertence, he has stated it without scruple or ceremony. We should expect
†The Editor's Notes are separated from the Text and Notes of the Author, by a line, and are referred to by figures, thus (1); and the pages of the former editions are preserved in the margin.
more than human excellence, if we imagined that a work, comprising almost the whole system of English jurisprudence, could be entirely free from mistakes. But it is a matter of great concern to the Profession and to the Public at large, that, in an Author so universally read, so deservedly admired, and in whom such confidence is reposed, every subject should be reviewed with scrupulous and critical precision. It has been, and it will continue to be, the Editor's peculiar study and ambition to advance this learned performance to as great a degree of accuracy and perfection as his attention and ability can effect; and he will always be grateful for any correction of his own errors, or for any useful remarks which may not have occurred to him in his examination of the Commentaries.
To prevent any unfounded animadversions, the Editor, or he ought rather perhaps to call himself the Annotator, wishes the purchasers of this Work to be informed, that he holds himself responsible for the utility and accuracy of the Notes in every edition to which his name is prefixed; but that, with regard to every other circumstance attending the publication, he has no direction or control whatever.
THOUGH the Notes in this Edition have been considerably extended, yet there are some important subjects, which the Author has either entirely omitted, or too concisely touched upon; the Editor is therefore preparing to publish separately such additions as these deficiencies in the Commentaries seem to require.
THE professional reader ought to be apprized, that the Editor in the Notes has frequently referred to Annotators and the Authors of Law Treatises in preference to original cases, those learned writers in the places cited having generally collected all the original authorities, which would be too numerous to be introduced into a note to the Commentaries.
May 1, 1803.
SINCE this Edition of the Commentaries was printed, a statute has been introduced by Lord Ellenborough, viz. the 43 Geo. III. c. 58. which has made the six following important alterations in the criminal law of this country:
1. Ir any person shall wilfully and maliciously administer to, or cause to be administered to or taken by, any woman then quick with child, any noxious and destructive substance, with intent thereby to procure the miscarriage of her child, such person, and all who counsel, aid, and abet, shall be guilty of felony without benefit of clergy.
So it is now punishable with death to attempt, by administering drugs, to destroy a living infant in ventre sa mere, though it may in no degree be injured. But where medicines are so administered, or any instrument or other means shall be used, to cause an abortion, and the woman shall not be, or shall not be proved to be, at the time quick with child, then such offenders shall be guilty of felony, and shall be liable to be fined, imprisoned, set in the pillory, or whipped, or to one or more of these punishments; or to be transported for any time not exceeding fourteen years, at the discretion of the court.- -See Vol. I. 130. n. 8.
II. If any person shall wilfully and maliciously administer to, or cause to be administered to or taken by, any of his majesty's subjects, any deadly poison, with intent to murder, he, his counsellors, aiders, and abettors, shall be guilty of felony without benefit of clergy.Vol. IV. 196.
III. THE severe statute the 21 Jac. I. c. 27. and the similar Irish act the 6 Anne, which made it a capital crime for a mother to conceal the birth of her bastard child, are repealed; and it is enacted, that trials in England and Ireland, of women charged with the murder of their bastard children, shall be conducted by the same rules of evidence as other trials for murder.
BUT if the prisoner is acquitted of the murder, the jury may find that she endeavoured to conceal the birth of her child; and for that offence, the court may adjudge her to be imprisoned in the gaol, or house of correction, for any time not exceeding two years.- -See Vol. IV. 198.
IV. IF any person shall wilfully and maliciously stab or cut any of his majesty's subjects, with intent to murder, rob, maim, disfigure, or disable him, or to do him some grievous bodily harm, or with intent to resist or prevent the apprehension and detainer of the person so stabbing or cutting, or of any of his accomplices, for offences for which they might be lawfully apprehended and detained, he, his counsellors, aiders, and abettors, shall be guilty of felony without benefit of clergy. -See Vol. IV. 207. n. 1.
V. IF any person shall wilfully and maliciously shoot at any of his majesty's subjects, or shall present or level any kind of loaded fire-arms at any one, and shall attempt to discharge the same by drawing the trigger, or in any other manner, with intent to murder, rob, maim, disfigure, or disable him, or to do him some grievous bodily harm, he, his counsellors, aiders, and abettors, shall be guilty of felony without benefit of clergy.
PROVIDED, that if it shall appear upon the trial, that such acts of stabbing and cutting, and such shooting and attempt to discharge fire-arms, were committed under circumstances that, if death had ensued, the same would not have amounted to the crime of murder, then the person indicted shall be acquitted.—See Vol. IV. 208. n. 2.
VI. If any person shall wilfully and maliciously set fire to any house, outhouse, mill, warehouse, or shop, whether they are in the possession of himself, or of any other person, with intent to injure or defraud his majesty, any of his subjects, or any body corporate, he, his counsellors, aiders, and abettors, shall be guilty of felony without benefit of clergy. -See Vol. IV. 221. n. 2.
IN Vol. III. p. 368. n. 11. it is said, that the judges of the king's bench were divided in opinion, whether the declarations of paupers respecting their settlement ought to be received in evidence after their death, but they have since unanimously determined, that no hearsay-evidence can be received at the quarter sessions, but such as would be admitted in all other courts.See the case of King v. Ferryfrystone, in 1 East's Reports,