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commons from the bondage they were in to themselves. Now, as all the laws of the land have been made by the king, the great lords, gentry, and lawyers, when the lower house, one-third part whereof usually consisted of lawyers, had gratified the king and upper house; so also did the king gratify the lower house, both the gentry and lawyers, and agreed to laws for their advantage. For indeed, it is not much for the advantage of the gentry, that seeing the laws are so corrupt and chargeable, they thereby can, and indeed have done, and in most parts do still keep the poor in such subjection, that not only their own tenants, but other poor that live near them, must run and go, and work, and obey them, as they shall please to command them, else they run the hazard of being undone; and what advantage the charge and delay of law. suits is to the great lawyers, you may judge. How have some lawyers, from being worth nothing but their books, come to purchase thousands yearly lands, as it is commonly called, by the sins of the people! This is the reason why parliaments have not made the nation free; our pretending deliverers have been our destroyers; and, indeed, it was irrational to expect better things. Who will expect grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles? Who will expect case from oppression, from masters of oppression, the lawyers ? If you will have clean streams flow from the fountain, you must be sure to cleanse the fountain itself.
That the lawyers have only sought their own advantage, al. thongh to the total impoverishing the nation, consider this fol. lowing:
I have often, both in city and country, made as near an in. quiry as possibly I could in a general way, what number of law. yers there might be in Englaud and Wales, in all offices, as judges, masters of chancery, serjeants at law, counsellors, attornies, sol. licitors, with the rest of the rabble; and I cannot find, by calcu. lation, but that there are, great and small, masters and servants, by the best account I can estimate, above thirty thousand. Now, consider at what high rates the very meanest of these live; see but a very country hackney, and you will find he goeth clothed in a genteel garb, and all his family; he keeps company with the gentry, and yet usually quickly getteth an estate over and above his expences, which cannot possibly be less than one hundred and fifty pounds per annum. Now, if such country lawyers live at that rate, bring the judges, masters of rolls, counsellors, attornies, registers, cum multis aliis, in the common law, chancery, and admiralty, and you will find that this mercenary generation, one with another, do not receive less yearly from the people, in their law practice, I say the number of thirty thousand, than two huldred and fifty pounds per annum each man. What, if some have but fifty, then know some have thousands. Surely, I believe, that Prideaux and Maynard will not, nor can deny it. Now, at this rate, to say, two hundred and fifty pounds per annum to each lawyer, these thirty thousand receive seven millions and half of money yearly, which is seventy-five hundred thousand pounds;
and what a charge are the people at to attend their tedious and rexatious trials! Consider, what doth it cost to ride and go from all countries and towns to London, to attend the terms. not be less than one million of money yearly; and to what purpose observe:
Whosoever contends in law against another either for land, debt, or trespass, must, by the law, try his title, debt, or das mage, by witness, after it hath been dever so long delayed by sophistry, quirks, and quibbles of the lawyers. Now, therefore, if it must be of necessity proved at the last, why is it not better to have it tried in the neighbourhood, while it is fresh, green, and new, when the witnesses are alive, and in places, wherein their lives and conversations are known, than seven, ten, twenty, or thirty years after the suit is commenced, when knights of the post may be taken as witnesses, when the lawyers shall bafile and con. found witness and jury by their impudent sophistry and prattle, when things at great courts assizes are passed over in hugger-mugger for want of time to examine them, there being more care taken. to keep a precise hour for a dinner, than precisely and strictly to see the execution of justice and true judgment, in behalf of the poor, the fatherless, the widow, and the orphan; and when either party sees he is like to have the worst, by common law, then they hare liberty to remove unto the Chancery, where a suit commonly depends as long as a buff coat will endure wearing, especially if the parties have, as it is said, good stomachs and strong purses; but, when their purses grow empty, their stomachs fail; then, when no more corn is like to be brought to the lawyer's mill, it is usual to ordain some men to hear and end the business; but, alas! then it is too late, for then, probably, both parties, or at least one of them, are ruined utterly in prosecuting the suit, want of his stock, and following of his calling. What a folly is it, that all bargains in trade and commerce, foreign and domestick, must unavoidably run into this channel, to be debated by lawyers, that understand it as little as they have uprightness, and be tried by jurymen, of which, probably, not one of the number hath the least knowledge in merchandise? What an injustice is it, that all wills must be proved in London, at such a vast charge and distance from the place where the party deceased, where they usually cannot know the truth of things, or little care whether they do or no, so their fees be paid ; where they often either take no security at all, or, if they do, it may be it is such that is as good as nothing; where every tapster or chamberlain, &c. that pretends himself a freeman, is legal security; how many fatherless, widows, and orphans, are utterly ruined by this? The scripture saith, “ he is worse than an infidel, that provides not for his family;" and to what purpose is it in these times of corruption to work for children? If men die, while their children are young, then they chuse some, whom they expect will prove shepherds to preserve their children; but if they prove wolves, where is the remedy? If men be in a way of trade, it is probable they may have, in goods, twice or three times
as much left in their hands, as they are really worth. These goods the executors or overseers may and often have procured means to be appraised at half, or one-third of the value; so accordingly they pay debts with a plene administravit.
These poor young children or simple women think not, neither know how to prevent it. By this means, let a man die that is worth one thousand pounds, and the goods in his custody worth three or four thousand pounds, his creditors may be cheated of the most part of their debts, and his children left a burthen to the parish. O England ! England! why dost thou profess thyself the most sinecre nation for christianity on the earth, and dost suffer these things, that the very heathens have abhorred.
Object. --But, if men were not contentious, they might speedily and cheaply try any suit at law. It is the fault of froward spirits that cause the great charge and delay, and not the law itself: and it is just that the law should be chargeable, else every man would be at strife with his neighbour, when the charges were little.
Answ. It is true, that injustice, of one part or other, is in.' disputably the cause of all difference, for both the plaintiff and defendant cannot be in the right; but, were the law made accord. ing to the mind of God, for punishment of those that do evil, and for encouragement of those that do well, then it would be founded on principles of justice indeed; it would suppress strife, conten. tion, and debate; it would quickly put an end to all suits and controversies; it would not protect the contentious spirits, nor nourish their devilish nature; it would not suffer might to overcome right, as usually it doth in these days; it would not shelter great landed men in prison, in the King's Bench and Fleet, &c. that have large, real estates, which they spend volu; tuously and riotously, whilst their poor creditors lie starving in nasty prisons. This is monstrum horrendum, an abomination that, let what will be pretended for it, is not tolerable under the government of a right constituted commonwealth, how long soever it hath been continued under tyrannical monarchy. But, to sum up all in brief, the law in the generality is unjust and irrational, the execution desperately dangerous and chargeable; it is easier to find a thousand evils in it, than one true principle in matter and form, What, if an attorney or council take cunningly a bribe from an adversary, and make a compact with him to cheat his client, as it is too often practised, and seldom discovered ?
What, if a judge accept of a bribe, and, by over-awing tho court, carry a case against law and right? if he make it a prece. dent, may it not be the ground to cheat many after it? markable, when neither the letter of the law nor reason carry a business, then those, that are subtle counsellors, and are highly feed, for, without that, nithing can be expected, usually produce precedents; and these are imposed on the jury for current justice, when probably the ground of them was bribery and baseness.
It is rec
There is law, reason, or cquity, in England, to try and end all titles, debts, and trespasses, depending by suits, in all courts, or there is not. If there be, let the parliament appoint a certain number of knowing men, the most conscientious they can think of, in several cities and counties, to make it their sole business, in a limited time, to hear and determine all old suits, allowing them a moderate salary by the pound, to be paid by him that is found the offender; and let not things depend ad infinitum in courts. There may be as much injury suffered by the delay of justice, as by denial of justice. When all old suits are ended, were there order taken in hundreds and counties to have all laws, leases, mortgages registered, and all those that should pretend any title, to make their claim in such a limited time, as in reason may be thought fit, reserving some exceptions for some years for children, men in foreign parts, &c.; and, when all old suits were ended, all lands registered, and none to be leased, sold, or mortgaged, in each respective hundred, within one month after the contract, it would take away the cause of most contention, and, until the cause be taken away, the effect will never cease. Having often discoursed with lawyers and others about the delays, burthen, and uncertainty of trials at law, I very seldom found any averse to merchants courts; in regard, that it is apparent the affairs and dealings of merchants cannot properly be understood but by mer. chants who know the mystery of trade, which neither judge, couil. cil, nor gentlemen, that never were educated therein, can possibly do; for what a ridiculous thing is it, that the judges in chancery must determine of merchants negotiations transacted in foreign parts, which they understand no better than do their scats they sit on; and so they are as capable to do equity therein, as a blind man to shoot a bare. Now, if courts of merchantş are inost, nay, I say, absolutely necessary for deciding of controversies in commerce, (and the reason given for it is, because they best understand it); the same reason holds good, that countrymen, clothiers, weavers, &c. are most competent judges of country affairs, of those callings they live on, and understand. They better know the value of trespass that is committed by cattle on corn, &c. than do the citizens that hardly know how corn groweth. Can the people of London, or masters of chancery, judge the equity of things acted in Corn. wal or Wales, better than the chief able men of the neighbour.. hood? Now, if England was so happy to have respective hun. dred courts, and no appeals to be made further than the quarter sessions ; were these courts rightly constituted, and strict penalties to be inflicted on the receivers of bribes, as cutting off their noses, banishment, or the like (which is absolutely necessary for a false judge, as both a thief and murtherer), where none of the court, the register excepted, should continue in power to judge, but one year together ; where they should not be mercenary; where a man might speak his own cause, or employ his friend whom he pleased to speak for him ; there would be then ground to expect justice and equity speedily: there would not be, neither rationally could,
lying sophistry, or quibbles, to pervert the understanding of the
A WORD TO THE PARLIAMENT.
Right HONOURABLE, I do not give this title to flatter and collogue with you, but do really hope that your future actions and designs will make you worthy of it. Ye have now a great and weighty work to per