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tional part of our nature, so that we are able to do more seeming with greater skill and endurance.'*
And it is so ; we allow ourselves in falsehood, and actually stoop to the uttering of small lies,' (If there be such? Solomon does not seem to recognise them !) rather than compel our churlish hearts to feel kindly towards an interrupting visitor, magnanimously to a triumphant opponent, or liberally towards some claim which compels us to sacrifice personal convenience to the comfort or welfare of another. Who was it that, with every knock at his study door (or such Kke hindrance to his important work) used to remind himself that it, also, was God's Voice, demanding his patient and willing attention? Would it not be a great help towards courteous sincerity thus to meet all the petty distractions and tediums of everyday life? It is my Father's call to help or cheer another of His great Family.' The difficulty of being agreeable and yet truthful would to a great extent vanish, if we thus began at the right end, and trained our hearts instead of only our manners. And, oh ! how much more easily would children learn thus to be nicely behaved in company,' as the phrase goes; for children are as a rule warm-hearted, but careless of appearances ; they would infinitely sooner control themselves from the higher motive of a real charity (that seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, doth not behave herself unseemly ') than for the irksome and often incomprehensible dicta of mere propriety.'
SHORT PAPERS ON THE LAW OF ENGLAND.
No. 1. ONE of the fundamental maxims of English jurisprudence is, that 'ignorance of the law is no excuse,' or, as it stands in Latin, ignorantia legis non excusat, that is to say, that ignorance of the law is never admitted as a plea in defence of a wrong-doer, for every one is supposed to know the law. At first sight this might seem a somewhat hard saying, since no one yet has ever mastered thoroughly English law in all its branches, while by far the majority of English men and women have the very barest acquaintance with its rudiments; and yet, if the reader will consider a moment, he will at once see that if ignorance of the law were once admitted as a valid excuse, it would be impossible either to redress wrongs or punish crimes, unless it could be proved that the offender bad full knowledge that what he had done was forbidden, and to attempt to prove such knowledge on his part would in many, I might say most, cases, be well nigh a hopeless task. Wisely then does the law proclaim that ignorance cannot be pleaded as a shield for offences against its authority, and that every man
* 'Friends in Council,' Essay on Truth. We have italicised the closing sentence because of its exceeding and useful suggestiveness in this question of social truth.
shall be deemed to have full knowledge of his country's code ; for no mere human system of government can enter thoroughly into the motives that sway humanity, or make full allowance for the possible circumstances and temptations of offenders against its rules.
The maxim quoted above, however, seems perhaps more severe in our own country than in others where it is also received, for no existing system of jurisprudence is more complicated than the English law, founded as it was originally on the feudal customs of our ancestors, and supplemented by the decisions of judges during eight centuries, and the statutes of successive Parliaments.
All law is founded on the conscience of mankind, not, be it observed on the consciences of individuals, but on the general feeling of the community, and hence its provisions must be at best general, and bear hardly, at times, on particular cases. Not even the noble system of Equity, introduced into our legal code by the piety and wisdom of the mediæval Church, and afterwards administered by the Court of Chancery, can be said to be perfect in its working, though of all human codes it comes perhaps nearest to the golden rule on which it was ostensibly founded, viz., 'that men should do unto others as they would have others do unto them ;' while the harder and narrower system administered by the ordinary tribunals, and known in distinction from equity, as law, too often deals bitter injustice to those whom it was designed to protect; for the more consolidated and crystallised any human system of government becomes, the more likely is it to leave many wrongs without remedy, while if on the other hand it aims at redressing all evils, its decisions and rules are apt to become uncertain and even contradictory, since new forms of crime and fraud are ever starting up, and have to be dealt with as new and unprecedented cases.
I hope my readers will have sufficient patience to wade through these preliminary remarks, for it is only right that they should know somewhat of the hardships which beset our law-makers, and not expect the code under which they live to be perfect and infallible; but remember that unswerving justice cannot be always expected from laws framed by fallible men to meet the needs of a daily-increasing population, and an ever-advancing state of society.
I have been emboldened to write these few papers on the laws of England, from a feeling that in these days more knowledge of this important subject of which they treat is becoming an imperative necessity to the mass of the laity, and especially perhaps to English women, who are too often left, through no fault of their own, in situations of the greatest difficulty ; situations for which the law makes no allowance. These papers therefore must be considered to be written mainly for the use of the lady readers of the Monthly Packet, but I shall be only too glad if they prove to be of use to others.
We heår much in the present day of the higher education of women, we even see them too often forsaking their natural duties for vocations in which their success is doubtful, if not impossible, owing, so some tell us, to defects in their previous training, but more probably, I believe, to their positive want of natural power to grapple with such pursuits; yet with all this talk about higher education, how often do we find the wives and daughters of professional and business men utterly ignorant of the A B C of ordinary business details. This prevailing ignorance on the part of ladies, I can assure my readers, is one of the greatest difficulties solicitors have to cope with : when called suddenly to arrange and wind up: the affairs of deceased clients they find themselves unable to extract the slightest information from their nearest and dearest relatives, obliged to work almost entirely in the dark, and liable to make mistakes more or less important at every step, however cautiously they may proceed.
No one can feel more acutely than the family solicitor the gravity of the situation when a client, engaged either in an active profession or in commercial pursuits, dies suddenly, leaving perhaps a young widow or an only daughter totally ignorant of, and incapable of grappling with, the difficulties of her situation. The clergyman may give spiritual comfort in the first days of mourning, and the medical attendant show both kindness and sympathy to the bereaved one; but when the first shock of the loss has passed away, and the mourner has to face her position and liabilities, then the solicitor's task begins, and, believo me, it is no easy one.
He finds her probably ignorant of the merest details of her husband's or father's affairs, often not aware even of the extent or source of his income, unable to say if he has made a will or not, unaware of the amount of his debts; and the difficulties of the situation too often only increase with time. An infinity of trouble and vexation, and no little expense would be spared were ladies better acquainted with the rudiments of law and general business, and the design I have in this and the subsequent papers, is to give my lady readers some insight into such matters so that they may not, if left suddenly in such a situation as I have above depicted, feel utterly lost and helpless.
Let us imagine now the case of a lady left suddenly the widow (a too frequent case) of a gentleman engaged in busines, who, perhaps, beyond giving her an allowance for housekeeping expenses, has left her in total ignorance of his income and liabilities, she naturally,
soon as she is able to attend to business, sends for her late husband's solicitor to advise her what course to pursue, and he, most probably knowing little more of her husband's affairs than she does, depends on her for information as to how to proceed. He remembers probably that the deceased made a will, and asks where it is-she does not know. Has she got it. She does not know where it can be. The solicitor suggests that it may possibly be with the bankers of the deceased, and asks what are their names—the widow is uncertain. Has she the banker's book? She is not sure—oh, yes, she has a book in a leather covering bearing her husband's name. Is it a banker's
book? Certainly it is. The solicitor considers ; certainly Mr. — made a will, but it may be at his house of business or at his bankers. He will inquire; but, meanwhile, does she know anything of his affairs? She believes he was very well off ; she always had money for the asking, and the house and servants are expensive in their way
-she should suppose her husband was well to do. The solicitor looks doubtful. Does she know how her husband's income was derived-was it derived from his earnings, or had he money invested ? Ah, she does not know. Well, had he insured his life? Yes, she thinks so. Well then, in what office ? She does not know, but he had said often that his life was insured. Had he invested any money? Invested ! yes. Had be bought any railway stock? Stock / what is that? Well, shares ? She thinks he had. Had she looked through his papers ? Certainly, and burnt a great many. Had she found any certificates of stock? Certificates of stock! what are they? Certificates of stock, papers stating that he held railway stock or money in the funds. What is a certificate of stock like, is it anything like a five pound note ? No, not exactly ; but it is a paper, signed by the secretary of a company, stating that Mr. — was the holder of a certain amount of stock representing a sum of money. Ah! she is not sure, she thinks she has seen such a paper ; she hopes she has not burnt it; will Mr. --(the solicitor) look through her husband's papers himself ; she is so ignorant of business, and scarcely able yet to go into matters, &c., &c.
This perhaps is somewhat an exaggerated case, but similar ones are not uncommon, and the reader will easily see that the solicitor's task in such a case is no light one. While desirous to do his best, he feels that he is working in the dark, and scarcely able to give his unfor. tunate client the full benefit of his advice. Interviews are multiplied, for he is sent for on every possible occasion; needless letters are written, and expense mounts up considerably. Perhaps after taking every ordinary step, he finds liabilities which cannot be guarded against, suddenly brought to light, and in the end, if he avoids a chancery suit, his legitimate bill is of no mean dimensions; and great expense is incurred which a little insight into business, or (to be strictly fair) a little more confidence on the part of the husband might have rendered unnecessary.
There can be no reason why young ladies in these days should not have some acquaintance with the elements of law and ordinary business, and hence I propose to do my best, through the columns of the Monthly Packet, to give them some idea of these important matters. The first essay is purely, as will be seen, preliminary; but I hope in the three subsequent papers to treat of the following subjects :—'The general state of the law at present, and the duties of those who administer it ;' the law relating to marriage settlements; ' and 'the law of wills and intestacies ; ' and also (a most important subject I regret to say) ‘ the law relating to lunatics.'
I cannot hope or pretend to treat these important subjects exhaustively. I can only trust to give my readers some insight into them that they may feel somewhat at ease when left in situations of unexpected difficulty, and (while remembering that the law has no mercy on ignorance, or even on a little knowledge, for ignorantia legis non excusat, and the services of a solicitor can never be dispensed with safely) they may yet not be quite overcome; but may be able to feel that, though they do not know much, they are yet in a position not to vexatiously hinder their legal advisers, but to aid them in their anxious work, (to quote a common legal phrase), to the best of their knowledge, information, and belief.
R. F. J.
NIGHT AND DAY.
BY A RUSSIAN.
All sorts of horrid tales that I had heard crowded into my mind, when I learnt that I too had to cross the broad Neva, and that too in the evening. We reached the river very soon, and slowly and carefully did we descend the banks; but the horse, a beautiful Arab, no sooner found himself upon the ice than he increased his pace
to almost a gallop, as if instinct warned him of the danger. Already we were safely across half the river, when-oh, horrors !—I heard close by the ice breaking, and then the splashing of water. What is it? We are still safe on firm ice. Is it then M. Fourger, or is it somebody else who is in danger ? It is poor M. Fourger! He is in front of us, his sledge is partly in water; but luckily indeed it is only the thin upper coating of ice, and we can see his brave horse, struggling and splashing through it all, dash up the opposite bank. There they wait
That moment will never be forgotten by me. What might not have been my fate? It was but the first day that sledges had crossed the ice.
Samucha, knowing the great danger, called out peremptorily to me -if I valued my life, to hold tight to the sides of the sledge, and to sit as quietly as I could. Then on he urged the willing but yet frightened horse, and first turning sharply to the left, to avoid the broken ice, and then again to the right, we flew along the dangerous part, and at last up the other bank.
Thank Heaven, we too are safe! We were obliged to stop for a few minutes, for man as well as horse was out of breath.
After that the station was soon reached, for it was not far. Is that huge square thing, with all the quantity of luggage piled on the top, the diligence? Is it in that vehicle that we are to travel ?' I asked, as I beheld the biggest and strangest-looking sledge that I had