Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

ment which they now enjoy—nor have the immense capabilities of the island been ever before in a state of development so rapid. With respect to that peace which it has now enjoyed for nearly thirty years, and which has produced so wonderful a revolution in its condition, we are sure every well-wisher to the island will exclaim—esto perpetua. We cannot conclude this brief outline of Ceylonese History, without once more adverting to the superior merits of the work which is placed at the head of this article. Many and elaborate have been the publications on the History and Antiquities of Ceylon; but to the general reader, these are, for the most part, inaccessible, if not unintelligible. Valentyn's great work on Ceylon and other Asiatic territories, written in the Dutch language and extending to five folio volumes, has never been translated into English, and, in the original, is very rarely to be met with. Somewhat similar remarks may be made respecting other elaborate treatises, in different languages, ancient and modern, eastern and western. Even the recent researches of Turnour and Upham are comparatively little known, beyond the limited pale of a learned orientalism. Now, the grand design of Mr. Knighton appears to have been, carefully to consult all available authorities on the subject, and from a collation of their various statements, conjectures, and inferential conclusions, to compile a popular and intelligible digest of all that has with certainty, or a high degree of probability, been established. And it is no small praise to say, that in the realization of this important object, our author has been eminently successful. His work may not abound with those vividly graphic portraitures which dazzle, or those profound reflections which startle and amaze; but it is written throughout in a pleasing, elegant, unambitions style, and exhibits a flow of thought and remark at once easy, natural, and suited to the particular topics discussed. He has made the history of Ceylon accessible, intelligible, and attractive to the ordinary reader; while he has furnished materials fitted to gratify the curiosity of the learned, and call into exercise the contemplative powers of the philosophic sage.

ART. III.-1. Marshman's Guide to the Civil Laws, 1843.
2. Marshman's Guide to the Revenue Laws, 1840.
3. Skipwith's Magistrate's Guide, 1843.
4. Lectures on Law, Part 1, 1845.
5. Elberling on Inheritance Gift, &c. 1845.
6. Boutros's Elements of Law, 1844.

t

. Report of the Superintendent and Remembrancer of Legal Affairs, 1844–45.

8. Reported cases of the Sudder Dawani Adalut.

9. Norris’ Decisions of the Sudder Dawani Adalut recorded in English in conformity to Act 12, 1843–1845-46.

IT is not our intention to review minutely, the various works placed at the head of this article, though we shall occasionally refer to them. The list is given as an evidence that a craving for a knowledge of law has begun to manifest itself among the Indian community;-a craving which the works enumerated, have but partially and imperfectly gratified. Legal knowledge, we are compelled to admit, is at a very low ebb in India, even among those whose duty it is to administer the laws in the Company's Courts, and it is almost unknown to those who are supposed to obey the laws. In England, the law is regarded as a profession, as a means of acquiring a fortune; and the study and practice of it during along period of life, are considered as scarcely sufficient for the acquirement of a sound knowledge of it. It is certain that but few attain to any eminence in it. By persons not intended to be enrolled among the members of its profession, the law is scarcely ever made a subject of study; and such are for the most part content to pass through life in blind obedience to laws, of the effect of which upon themselves, or others, they are in total or in partial ignorance. In India, on the contrary, every one is supposed to be a lawyer without any preparation at all, and the man who declared himself ignorant of law, because he had never studied it, would be regarded with astonishment, if he were not treated with contempt. It is true that Indian law, commonly called the Company's Regulations, is more simple, and is naturally, from its recent introduction, less bulky than English law, and consequently a shorter period of study is necessary to master it: but we are desirous of removing the erroneous impression, that no

P

study of it at all is necessary, an impression, which, pervading the whole of the Indian community, has established itself so firmly in the minds of the members of the executive Government, that their own legal adviser in suits connected with the Mofussil or Country Courts, may be a man wholly unacquainted with law, and is selected, not on account of his attainments as a lawyer, but because he has distinguished himself as an executive, criminal, or revenue officer; in other words, because he has given promise of becoming, in time, a better practical lawyer than the Judges of the Company's Courts, who, themselves selected perhaps for similar reasons, have, with equal talents, the advantage over the Company's Superintendent of some years practice. The report of the Superintendent and Remembrancer of legal affairs for the years 1844-45, in our list of works, sufficiently points out the error of such a system. It shews that its writer is a man of talent and of a reflective and methodical turn of mind, but it shews also that his mind is unstored with legal knowledge, and it evinces, on the part of its author, an utter want of reliance upon himself, by the often repeated hope, not the conviction, that the views he has taken of the cases before him, will prove correct. There is an absence of decision in the opinions expressed, indicative that the writer is feeling for, not that he has found, or thinks he has found, his way, and is boldly pursuing it to the end. This apparent indecision must be attributed to the influence of natural candour, and a sense of the want of a sound legal education,--a want, which the writer shares with the other members of the service to which he belongs. In Paragraph 43 we find the following observation regarding the classification of sales effected by Collectors of Revenue:–“In future years this minuteness will not perhaps be necessary, but on the present occasion I was anxious to study the question myself, and believe that it is more accessible in its present form.” These words clearly prove that the legal adviser of the Government, was unacquainted with the question upon which he was called upon to give his advice— “he was anxious to study it”—and leaves it doubtful whether he had studied and made himself master of the subject when he wrote his report; he believes, but he does not assert from experience, “that it is more accessible in its present form.” But we do not allude to this report with a mind blinded to the difficulty of writing it; of the difficulty of proving to the -Government that its interests have not been neglected, yet in such language as to conceal from the eyes of all, but those of the Government, the course proposed to be pursued in maintaining them; and still less do we notice it with a desire to disparage Mr. Alexander its author, for if this were the time and place to do so, we should have much pleasure in adding our testimony to his ability, impartiality, and conscientious zeal for the public service, as well as to the philanthropy and uprightness of his character; but we refer to it with the sole object of calling the attention of Government, to the fact, that so long as their own legal adviser is not thoroughly acquainted with the principles of law, so long will the acquisition of legal knowledge by the Natives be retarded. For if Government considers its legal interests secured by the superintendence of an officer, who, from the nature of his previous appointments, cannot be expected to be particularly eminent for legal knowledge, the people of India who are influenced by its example, will continue to enstrust theirs to the cheap agency of an uneducated Vakil, rather than to the expensive advocacy of an educated Advocate. The Regulations and Acts of the East India Company are not comprised in many volumes, and the contents of half, at least, have been rescinded, so that an ordinarily diligent student might with facility analyze and master the whole within the period of twelve months. His labour moreover might be greatly abridged by consulting the constructions of the law given by the Company's Judges in doubtful points, and which have been published, and may be obtained, with the laws themselves. The Regulations, however, as we shall shew hereafter, form but a small part of the legal studies of the Indian Student. For its general practical acquaintance with these voluminous Regulations, the Indian Public is to a certain extent indebted to the three compilations at the head of our list, as they are epitomes of the Regulations and Acts in force. They constitute, in many instances, the whole of the law library of the Native Judges, and Deputy Magistrates; and had they not been published, it is probable that the generality of these public officers would have been content to blunder on, in the same manner as their predecessors did, previous to their publication. They would have continued to imagine they were administering law, when they were in fact enforcing as law, the crude creations of their own untutored imaginations. But compilations are clearly not designed to take the place of the laws, and as such to be administered to the people. They are designed, by smoothing the path, to be incentives to the study of the laws, or as their names designate, to be simply guides to the laws, from which they are themselves compiled—guides chiefly to the students of the law, and as such they have been directed to be used in the Government Schools. But is such a course of reading sufficient 2 Is a complete knowledge of the letter of the law sufficient, ultimately to produce that reformation in the Company's Courts which is admitted on all hands to be imperatively required 2 Is it sufficient to create good lawyers, or, what is a chief object of law, good subjects * We unhesitatingly answer, No. We might as well expect an experienced clerk of the House of Commons, familiar with all its rules and precedents, to be by virtue of that knowledge, a skilful parliamentary leader and tactician. Or we might as well expect a man who knew the London Pharmacopeia by heart, to be, in consequence, a skilful Physician. In both cases there might be a mere mechanical memory at work, without any capacity to embrace enlarged principles of action; there might be in the one case a total absence of all knowledge of the statesmanship, and in the other, a barren ignorance of the diagnosis of disease. And so with the lawyer who has only been taught the letter of the law, —he will never, without instruction in the principles of law, know properly how to apply his knowledge so as to benefit his client. “If he be uninstructed,” says Sir W. Blackstone,— “in the elements and first principles upon which the rules of “ practice are founded, the least variation from established * precedents will totally distract and bewilder him.—‘Such * is the letter of the law’—will be the summit of his know* ledge; he must never aspire to form, and seldom expect * to comprehend, any arguments drawn anew from the spirit * of the Laws and the natural foundations of Justice.” In the address to the Students under its superintendence from the President of the Council of Education, which is to be found in Mr. Kerr's new edition of Bacon's Novum Organum, we find the following passage—As much as I should rejoice to ‘ see the bar of India supplied with Native gentlemen, elevated and purified by all polite learning, and trained to apply the great and beneficent principles of law and jurisprudence to the complicated affairs of a busy and improving community; as much as I should rejoice in this, so deeply should I deplore, if, instead of this, we were to fill the Courts with petti-foggers, ignorant of every thing but rules and forms, acts and regulations and reports, their wits sharpened by the study of hair-splitting distinctions and captious objections, stirring up litigation to make their own fortunes out of it, or, at best, if they should think of duty at all, thinking only of their duty to their clients, and forgetting that any is owing to Truth and Justice.” In these sentiments we most

« AnteriorContinua »