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Since its first publication in 1875, the treatise of Judge Max. well “On the Interpretation of Statutes" has deservedly taken high rank in England among the acknowledged authorities upon this branch of the law, and has made its way to judicial recognition in this country. Its simplicity and practical directness in the treatment of an intricate and seemingly abstruse subject would, if there were nothing else to commend the work, distinguish it as one of pre-eminent usefulness to the profession.
The volume herewith submitted is founded upon and embodies the larger portion of that treatise. My original undertaking, indeed, was merely that of an American editor of the English work. While engaged upon that duty, I found the mass of new matter to be incorporated so great and so important to the American lawyer that its relegation to foot-notes appeared impracticable. On the other hand, I ascertained that much in the work of the learned English jurist was inapplicable to the law of this country ; that many essentials in the understanding and application, under our system, of the principles of statutory interpretation were neither recognized nor alluded to in his work, because alien to the English jurisprudence; and that certain changes of arrangement might be made with advantage to the American reader. To have interwoven with the original text this mass of new matter, often of a character entirely foreign to anything contemplated by the author ; to have omitted portions of his work, no doubt by him regarded as material; to have changed his arrangement, the divisions of his book and the titles he had given them, and still to have called it his work, would have been a wrong to him and to me. The only proper course, it seemed, was to make a new book, which should declare itself to be founded and built upon Judge Maxwell's treatise, in which full credit should be prominently given for all that is derived from it, but which should cast no apparent responsibility upon him for any changes, omissions or additions.
This it is that I have done, and such is the character of the present work. Two-thirds of its matter, in text and notes, are the result of my labors. I have changed the grouping together of subjects in the various chapters, and of course their titles; and whilst, in the main, the order in which the subjects are treated has been retained, in some instances portions of the text have been transferred to other connections or incorporated with footnotes. The whole has been divided into numbered sections, with appropriate captions, and a new index has been added. Whatever of Judge Maxwell's work I could retain I have retained, as far as possible, literally, preferring always his language to my own. The original notes to the text reproduced are given in full as they appear in the English work, with such trilling corrections as were necessary. And in order to mark and enforce the credit I owe and desire to see given to Judge Maxwell's work, I have enclosed in brackets all the new matter added by me to the original text or notes, and all interpolations or changes of phraseology (except such as substituting “legislature” for “parliament,” “government” or “state” for “crown,” etc., where such alterations seemed called for in an American book), and have retained the reference to the original notes by letters, whilst numbering the new consecutively throughout the chapter. Transpositions and omissions I could not, of course, indicate without becoming tedious.
In the plan of the work I have labored to carry into the larger and more diversified field of American decisions the system that distinguishes the learned English author's admirable treatisethat of example, which, possibly more in this than in any other subject, excels mere precept. The innumerable maxims and technical rules of statutory interpretation, shrouded for the most part in a dead language, are well enough known. The difficulty is in their application. Judge Maxwell, in his work, has not cast them aside as useless ; but he has translated them into a living language, reduced them to a few easily grasped, obvious general principles, and elucidated their force and effect by showing the methods, limits and results of their application in decided cases. I have not, however, confined my view to American decisions, but made a selection of those also of the English courts rendered since the publication of the last edition of Judge Maxwell's work.
Although, in a work of this character, many distinct branches of the law-e. g., Criminal Statute Law, International Law, the Conflict of Laws, the Law of Usury, Contracts, Corporations, &c.
must be drawn and touched upon more or less in detail, I disclaim for this work any pretensions to be regarded as containing exhaustive examinations of any collateral and independent topics of legal discussion. They are introduced only as incidental to and illustrative of the general subject, the interpretation of statutes. Nor, in my opinion, does this subject involve that of constitutional interpretation. The latter, therefore, has been excluded, except in the last chapter, where it is entered into for the purpose and to the extent of pointing out the differences and analogies existing between the two.
The text-books I have principally used and referred to are the following : Bishop, Written Laws and their Interpretation, 1882 (cited as Bish., W. L.); Buckalew, Constitution of Pennsylvania, 1883 (cited as Buckalew, Const. of Pa.); Cooley, Constitutional Limitations (5th ed.), 1883 (cited as Cooley, C. L.); Field, Constitution and Jurisdiction of the Courts of the United States, 1883 (cited as Field, Fed. Cts.); Jarman, Wills (5th Am. ed., Randolph & Talcott), 1880 (cited as Jarm., Wills); Potter's Dwarris, Statutes and Constitutions, 1871 (cited as Potter's Dwarris) ; Sedgwick, Interpretation and Construction of Statutory and Constitutional Law (2d, Pomeroy's, ed.), 1874 (cited as Sedgw.) ; Wilberforce, Statute Law, London, 1881 (cited as Wilb., S. L., or merely Wilb).
G. A. E READING, PA, May 1st, 1888.