Imágenes de páginas


Nevertheless, some of them seem manifestly to refer to manuscript authority, giving only the year of Elizabeth's reign, and to have been about contemporaneous with the text.1 These I have preserved. The references to the Year Books seem to have accumulated under the hands of transcribers, and very carelessly. I have expunged a great many which seemed to me clearly irrelevant, but do not feel confident that all which I have retained will be found correct or worth consulting.2 Where I found a ref erence to Brook or Fitzherbert, I have thought that sufficient and suppressed the Year Book; the abridgments being much the pleasanter references, and giving any reader the opportunity of further investigation if he thinks it worth while.

1 See note in 1st Rule.

2 Those in brackets have not been verified.


I DO here most humbly present and dedicate to your Majesty a sheaf and cluster of fruit of that good and favourable season, which by the influence of your happy government we enjoy. For if it be true that silent leges inter arma, it is also as true, that your Majesty is in a double respect the life of our laws; once, because without your authority they are but litera mortua; and again, because you are the life of our peace, without which laws are put to silence. And as the vital spirits do not only maintain and move the body, but also contend to perfect and renew it, so your sacred Majesty, who is anima legis, doth not only give unto your laws force and vigour, but also hath been careful of their amendment and reforming. Wherein your Majesty's proceeding may be compared, as in that part of your government, (for if your government be considered in all the parts, it is incomparable,) with the former doings of the most excellent princes that have reigned, who have ever studied to adorn and honour times of peace with the amendment of the policy of their laws.

Of this proceeding in Augustus Cæsar the testimony remaineth:

Pace data terris, animum ad civilia vertit
Jura suum; legesque tulit justissimus auctor.

Hence was collected the difference between gesta in armis and acta in toga, whereof he disputeth thus:

Ecquid est, quod tam propriè dici potest actum ejus qui togatus in republica cum potestate imperioque versatus sit quam lex? quære acta Gracchi: leges Sempronice proferentur. Quære Syllo: Cornelia. Quid? Cn. Pompeii tertius consulatus in quibus actis consistit? nempe in legibus. A Caesare ipso si quæreres quidnam egisset in urbe et toga: leges multas se responderet, et præclaras tulisse.


The same desire long after did spring in the emperor Justinian, being rightly called ultimus Imperatorum Romanorum; who, having peace in the heart of his empire, and making his wars prosperously in the remote places of his dominions by his lieutenants, chose it for a monument and honour of his government, to revisit the Roman laws, and to reduce them from infinite volumes and much repugnancy into one competent and uniform corps of law. which matter himself doth speak gloriously, and yet aptly, calling it proprium et sanctissimum templum Justitiæ consecratum: a work of great excellency indeed, as may well appear, in that France, Italy, and Spain, which have long ago shaken off the yoke of the Roman empire, do yet nevertheless continue to use the policy of that law: but more excellent had the work been, save that the more ignorant and obscure time undertook to correct the more learned and flourishing time. To conclude with the domestical example of one of your Majesty's royal ancestors: King Edward I. your Majesty's famous progenitor, and principal lawgiver of our nation, after he had in his younger years given himself satisfaction in the glory of arms,

by the enterprise of the Holy Land, having inward peace, (otherwise than for the invasions which himself made upon Wales and Scotland, parts far distant from the centre of the realm,) he bent himself to endow his state with sundry notable and fundamental laws, upon which the government ever since hath principally rested.1

Of these examples, and others the like, two reasons may be given; the one, because that kings, which, either by the moderation of their natures, or the maturity of their years and judgment, do temper their magnanimity with justice, do wisely consider and conceive of the exploits of ambitious wars, as actions rather great than good; and so, distasted with that course of winning honour, they convert their minds rather to do somewhat for the better uniting of human society, than for the dissolving or disturbing of the same. Another reason is, because times of peace, drawing for the most part with them abundance of wealth and fineness of cunning, do draw also, in further consequence, multitude of suits and controversies, and abuses of laws by evasions and devices; which inconveniences in such times growing more general, do more instantly solicit for the amendment of laws to restrain and repress them.

Your Majesty's reign having been blest from the

1 The Cambridge MS. here adds: -"And lastly, the King Your Majesty's father had this royal design in such regard and so deeply looked into the state of his laws, as it is to be seen that he made more statutes (not speaking of penal laws, but such as were in amendment of the common laws) than all the Kings between him and the same King Edward I. and that specially in the 32nd year of his reign, what time this kingdom flourished in peace."

A less courtly or more mature judgment of Henry VIII.'s merits as a lawgiver is found in the Offer of a Digest of the Laws of England.

« AnteriorContinuar »