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were now less foundation for this severe reproach, than when it was uttered!-now even, despite the showy pretensions everywhere exhibited, the increased attention to political matters that has been excited, the restless energy that has been developed in all ranks of the community!
Genuine patriotism, however, will not expend itself upon duties of so general and public a description as those just alluded to, but will incline its possessor to the careful consideration of his own position as an individual member of the state, the personal privileges and duties conferred and imposed by the constitution under which he lives. If it produce not this result, it is nothing but a name—a delusion.
Vir bonus est quis?
Qui consulta patrum, qui leges juraque servat!
It is to ensure so desirable a result as this, that a real lover of his country would wish to see his fellow-countrymen everywhere animated with a desire to be really well-informed upon a matter of such high concernment as how he may conduct himself in all respects as a good citizen, in the discharge of both his public and his private duties. Can it be necessary to search for illustrations? They will be found in almost every page of this volume. One or two may, however, be here briefly presented to the intelligent and candid reader.—Who is there, for instance, in any rank of life, that may not at one time or other be called upon to become an executor, an administrator, or a trustee, or be placed otherwise in situations where
he will be called upon for advice, and also to act, in sudden and very serious emergencies amongst his relatives and friends, or when such shall have happened to himself? In what a situation will he be placed if he should find himself wholly ignorant of the matters which are then forced upon his attention-if compelled either to confess his incapacity, and be utterly useless in the most grievous exigences, or if he should rashly undertake to act, and by his ignorance entail distress, and perhaps ruin, upon himself, and upon those whom he anxiously wished to serve! If, on the contrary, at the expense of but very moderate exertions, he should have made himself acquainted with even the little that is contained in this volume upon the subjects above alluded to, how sensible will he be of the advantages it has conferred upon him!— the very least of which will be that he is aware of the general nature of the duties that may devolve upon him, the responsibility he has incurred or is about to incur, and so he will be guided accordingly. It were endless, however, to cite examples such as this-to point out the advantage, and indeed the necessity, of being in some measure acquainted with the "laws and institutions of our country," even on occasions so private as that just alluded to: but there is one other instance which may be cited, and that, too, in the impressive language of a very great authority, Sir Michael Foster, quoted by Sir William Blackstone in his Commentaries *.
"The knowledge of that branch of jurisprudence
Post, page 329.
which teaches the nature, extent, and degrees of every crime, and adjusts to it its adequate and necessary penalty, is of the utmost importance to every individual in the state. For, as a very great master of the crown law (Sir M. Foster) has observed upon a similar occasion, no rank or elevation in life, no uprightness of heart, no prudence or circumspection of conduct, should tempt a man to conclude that he may not at some time or other be deeply interested in these researches. The infirmities of the best among us, the vices and ungovernable passions of others, the instability of all human affairs, and the numberless unforeseen events which the compass of a day may bring forth, will teach us, upon a moment's reflection, that to know with precision what the laws of our country have forbidden, and the deplorable consequences to which a wilful disobedience may expose us, is a matter of universal concern *."
What situation in life, in short, what position, can be occupied, from the very lowest to the highest in the ecclesiastical, the military, the naval, or the civil state, with all its numerous departments and gradations—that has not its particular laws and regulations to be punctually observed, before it can be filled with decency, or dignity? Wisely, therefore, has it been laid down by the distinguished author of the Commentaries on the Laws of England," as an undeniable position, that a competent knowledge of the laws
* See the outlines of the leading doctrines of the criminal law, post pp. 329-379.
of that society in which we live is the proper accomplishment of every gentleman and scholar, a highly useful,—almost an essential part of a liberal and polite education *. And in this," he adds, "I am warranted by the example of ancient Rome; where, as Cicero informs us, the very boys were obliged to learn the twelve tables by heart, as a carmen necessarium, or indispensable lesson, to imprint on their tender minds an early knowledge of the laws and constitution of their country +.”
The necessity of early supplying our youth, especially intelligent and respectable youth, with correct information on so interesting and all-important a subject as the laws and constitution of their country, at least their leading doctrines, may be deduced from one circumstance peculiar to the present stirring and eventful times: that from whatever cause, and with whatever result, political topics are every day forcing themselves more and more upon the attention of all classes of society. There are many who rejoice at this, many that deplore it; but that such is the fact no one will doubt. The eyes of all are directed incessantly, some with an affectionate and anxious, others with an eager and insolent scrutiny towards the structure of our laws and constitution, in order to test its fitness for the exigences of the times, to detect its imperfections, and devise the necessary remedies. In such a view of the case, what can be more desirable than early to instil into the young and inquiring mind, from a pure source, accurate and
enlightened notions! What a safeguard will be thus supplied against false and dangerous doctrines, what a facility for comprehending the scope and effect of the important changes that are from time to time proposed, and effectuated-for entering into and understanding the many great questions of parliamentary discussion! In these practical times what avails it that the intelligent youth is, after years of severe drudgery, duly skilled in the ancient metres, the mysteries of mythology, the varieties of dialect, the niceties of grammatical construction; that he has the geography of Greece and Rome, with every spot, in every province and colony, so accurately delineated in his mind that he can point out in an instant the scene of every event, great or small, in their respective histories; that he has got, moreover, something like an inkling of the elements of algebra and geometry,-if, all the while, he knows little or nothing of the land he lives in,' its laws and institutions? Very far be it from us to undervalue the precious fruits of a sound classical education; to echo the ignorant absurdities that are now and then vented upon this subject; to lose sight of the advantages it confers, in point even of mere mental discipline, or the high and generous tone it is calculated to communicate to the minds of youth: but one may be permitted to doubt the expediency of so exclusive and absorbing an attention to classical subjects, as that which has been, and still is too generally exacted by those who direct the education of youth. With regard, for instance, to English history-what is the real amount of knowledge possessed of it