Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/480

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Lord Cranworth in the House of Peers, 16th February, 1853, the judges were supposed to he acquainted with all these laws, but, in fact, no human mind could master them, and ignorance had ceased to be a disgrace.[1] To this has to be added the accumulation of civil laws, similarly multitudinous, involved, unclassified, and to this, again, the enormous mass of "case law," filling over 1,200 volumes, and rapidly increasing, before there can be formed an idea of the chaos. And then consider how there has come this chaos, out of which not even the highest legal functionaries, much less the lower functionaries, much less the ordinary citizens, can educe definite conclusions. Session after session the confusion has been worse confounded by the passing of separate Acts, and successive amendments of Acts, which are left unconnected with the multitudinous kindred Acts and amendments that lie scattered through the accumulated records of centuries. Suppose a trader should make, day by day, separate memoranda of his transactions with A, B, C, and the rest of his debtors and creditors. Suppose he should stick these on a file one after the other as they were made, never even putting them in order, much less entering them in his ledger. Suppose he should thus go on throughout his life, and that, to learn the state of his account with A, B, or C, his clerks had to search through this enormous confused file of memoranda, being helped only by their memories and by certain private note-books which preceding clerks had made for their own guidance, and left behind them. What would be the state of the business? What chance would A, B, and C, have of being rightly dealt with? Yet this, which, as a method of conducting private business, is almost too ludicrous for fiction, is in public business nothing more than grave fact. And the result of the method is exactly the one to be anticipated. At the present time we have two ex-Chancellors giving conflicting judgments in assurance-arbitrations. The conflict may be taken as typical of the system from top to bottom. Every day's law-reports remind us that each decision given is so uncertain that the probability of appeal depends chiefly on the courage or pecuniary ability of the beaten litigant—not on the nature of the verdict; and, if the appeal is made, a reversal of the verdict is looked for as by no means unlikely. And then, on contemplating the ultimate result, we find it to be—the multiplication of aggressions. Were the law clear, were the verdicts certain to be in conformity with it, and did asking for its protection entail no chance of great loss or of ruin, very many of the causes that come before our courts would never be heard of, for the reason that the wrongs they disclose would not be committed; and there would not be committed those yet more numerous wrongs to which the bad are prompted by the belief that the persons wronged will not dare to seek redress. Here, where State-agency has had centuries upon centuries in which to develop its appliances and show its efficiency, it is so

  1. Fischel's "English Constitution," translated by Shee. p. 487.