« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
THE following compilation of the Laws of Alabama, embraces all the statutes of a public and general nature in force at the date of its publication, with the exception of those relating to the county boundaries, which it was found impossible to present in an intelligible shape, without the incorporation of many obsolete and local matters, totally incompatible with the scope of the work. It was undertaken early in the year 1832, in discharge of the duties of an appointment conferred by the general assembly for that purpose; and was, with much difficulty, completed in time to be laid before a committee of revision, who assembled at the seat of government, a few weeks before the meeting of the succeeding legislature. The commissioners, after a laborious and minute examination, which resulted in the correction of some redundancies, as well as an obvious and necessary improvement of the phraseology of most of the laws, made their report to the general assembly then sitting, in which they were pleased to notice the performance of the digester, in terms commendatory alike of the plan of the work, and of the scrupulous fidelity with which his task had been executed. The manuscript was afterwards referred to the judiciary committee of the house of representatives, by whom it underwent a cursory examination, without the detection of any errors. In including the acts of the last session, and in expunging from the original compilation, such laws and parts of laws as had ceased to be in force, although the benefit of this revision was necessarily wanting, yet it is believed the requisite means have been employed to ensure accuracy, both by an unremitting diligence on the part of the compiler, and such free recourse to the advice of eminent members of the bench and bar, as prudence recommended in cases of real or supposed difficulty. To attempt an apology, therefore, for any mistakes or deficiencies which may still exist, would seem to be a needless appeal to public courtesy and forbearance; as the' errors, if any, are evidently not the offspring of haste or carelessness, but rather of that fallibility which attends every exercise of the human judgment:-errors which no caution can obviate, nor counsel dispel.
As it respects the general plan and arrangement of the work, a circumstance upon which much of its utility must depend, and in which the merits or demerits of the digester will be most conspicuous, I am sensible, that an equal claim to the favorable opinion of the public, is not to be derived from these high testimonials. Of it, every one will judge for himself, and form his own estimate, how far it falls short of that standard of ideal perfection, which might have been more nearly approached, by the concurrence of abler hands and better materials. To win the praise that is due only to a faultless performance, is as far beyond my hopes, as the ability to deserve it would exceed the expectations of others. But yet, when the intrinsic difficulties of the undertaking are impartially weighed: when it is considered how much those difficulties were enhanced in the present instance by the brief time and inadequate powers allowed me, as well as by the great volume and mixed character of our laws, and the seemingly studied confusion in which they were involved, I may surely promise myself, that a slight difference of opinion, will not be hastily magnified into a ground of censure. All experience proves how chimerical is any attempt, even in regard to matters the most simple, to give universal satisfaction:-and when
it is observed how much men of acknowledged abilities have differed from each other, as to the models most proper to be followed in similar works, it is but too easy to foresee, that my labors will form no exception to the usual difficulties of the achievement. Indeed, there are few things about which so great a diversity of tastes is likely to be indulged, as what constitutes the standard of excellence in a digest of statute laws. While some can be pleased with nothing which falls short of a strictly scientific method, and a selection confined to the spirit of the enactment, there are others who carry their veneration for the sources of the law so far, as to be willing to make a digest, not so much a receptacle of the law in force, as a history of the legislation of the country-not only a conservatory of the valuable lights which disciplined minds have shed upon the path of jurisprudence, but a servile and unprofitable memento of everything, whether of form or substance, to which inexperience, caprice, or temerity, has lent the casual impress of a legislative sanction. To the former I need scarcely say, that had their fastidiousness been consulted, it would have rendered the work unfit for general use; while it is hoped the prejudices of the latter will undergo some mitigation from the experience of the last ten years, which sufficiently proves, that laws promulgated in this form are of little more benefit to the public at large, than if they had remained undivulged in the breasts that conceived them. In the middle ground between these extremes, it has seemed to me that the maximum of utility was to be sought for: by discarding all laws not in force, unless when necessary to connect a series of dependent enactments, avoiding all repetition, pruning away, as far as practicable, the redundant verbiage, and arranging the matter thus prepared, rather according to that simple method which common sense suggested, than in subservience to technical rules, which, however they may assist the mind in grasping a subject as an entire whole, are usually productive of more embarrassment than advantage when made auxiliary to any attempt to exhibit it in detail. That it was found much easier to conceive of such a model in theory, than to exemplify it practically, will be readily admitted. The inequality of the materials, necessarily produced corresponding variations in the texture of the work. Passages sometimes occurred which from their generality, and the diversity of subjects embraced in them, seemed to present no peculiar claims to a location under any given title. Others, again, were unintelligible, at least in their true sense, without a reference to laws now obsolete:-and in some instances references were made with so little care that, except on a most thorough research, they could scarcely fail to mislead the inquirer. The defects of arrangement unavoidably arising out of these causes, as well as the inherent obscurity of the text itself, I have endeavored to obviate by explanatory notes. The judicial constructions of the statutes by the supreme court, being the only interpretations which can be safely relied on, and, as far as individuals and inferior jurisdictions are concerned, as imperative as the law itself, are, on all material points, briefly adverted to. The decisions upon the attachment laws, and most of those upon the statutes of jeofails are, however, omitted, as they are too numerous even to refer to, and in many instances rendered of difficult application, if not of doubtful authority, the former by recent legislation, and the latter by the rules of proceedings and practice adopted by the supreme court. These rules will be found in an appendix; and also extracts from the acts of congress of 1790, and 1804, directing in what manner the acts, records, and judicial proceedings of the other states shall be authenticated. The frequent demand for those acts in the courts, and the impossibility of obtaining them on the spur of the moment, in many parts of the state, will, with every member of the bar at least, be a sufficient apology for their insertion.
For the plan of the digest, the process adopted in its composition, and the means employed to bring the whole body of our public statute law into so
small a compass without any substantial omissions, those who deem the inquiry worth pursuing, are referred to the subjoined report of the commissioners who collated the manuscript with the originals from which it was compiled. And in concluding this brief notice with a reference to that report, it only remains for me to express, however inadequately, the lively sense of obligation I feel towards the commissioners, for the favorable terms in which they ushered my labors into public notice, and to the legislature, for the courteous and confiding spirit in which those expressions were received. Whether the general voice, on a more deliberate examination, will confirm that judgment, remains to be seen. If it should, I will be gratified:not because praise or censure can qualify that highest source of self approval, the conviction of having given my best abilities, and an untiring zeal to the discharge of the duties committed to me, but because it is grateful to all, even the humblest, to know they have escaped from that fatality which, too often, couples good intentions with abortive deeds.
JOHN G. AIKIN.
REPORT OF THE COMMISSIONERS, EXPLAINING THE PLAN OF THE DIGEST, &c.
To the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Alabama in General Assembly convened:
THE undersigned, commissioners appointed by the last general assembly, to examine the compilation of laws prepared by John G. Aikin, Esquire, under the act passed for that purpose, ask leave, respectfully, to report, that, within the time prescribed by the act, they entered upon the labor, under a just sense of its responsibility, and with a zeal to perform it, in such a manner as to justify the confidence which their selection indicated.
Influenced by these considerations, they first sought to ascertain if the directions of the act had been complied with, by including in the compilation, all laws now in force, of a public and general nature, and whether they had been faithfully transcribed and arranged under proper heads. In doing this, they had necessarily to take a comprehensive survey of the whole ground which had been passed over, consisting of the voluminous and confused body of our statute laws,-which presented obstacles, at every point, utterly insurmountable within the limited time allowed them, without the aid afforded by the copious notes of the digester, made in preparation for, and during the progress of the work,-from which they have not only derived a signal advantage, but have received a sensible demonstration of the labor it has cost, and of the pains taken to achieve an accuracy, which no memory however retentive could ensure these, by his leave, are submitted to the legislature, together with the digest, in order that any member who chooses, or any committee to which the work may be referred, may employ them in the collation of laws of different dates upon the same subject, and be enabled thereby to determine, at a comparatively nominal expense of time, the extent to which a law is repealed, modified, or superseded, by another subsequently passed.
This examination embraced a minute and laborious comparison of the manuscript with the printed copy of the law, so determined to be in force, and resulted in the correction of all palpable errors it contained; and by a construction of their powers, perhaps somewhat liberal, the commissioners have` in many instances, in addition to those which had attracted the attention of