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rate, and necessarily ill-paid in the business, would be the nearest of kin to every intestate; for it is he who would take the largest share of the property, the value of which, be it remembered, must be reckoned not by thousands, but at most by a few hundreds of pounds.
We have yet the case of a lease to consider. This would be the least objectionable mode of dealing with the small property ; the expenses would not be so heavy as the expenses in either of the other cases, and each of the next of kin might, perhaps, receive two or three pounds a-year. But would this be so considerable an advantage to them as to induce the legislature to change a law which, after all, has worked pretty well for eight hundred years? And although all the next of kin may agree to a lease in the first instance, yet what is to preverit any of them, including the husbands of daughters, from subsequently insisting upon a sale ?
In the event of any of the next of kin being incapable or unwilling to con cur in these arrangements, the property must either be sold by the administrator, or recourse may be had to the Court of Chancery! The bill makes special provision for such a state of affairs; for by its second section the Court of Chancery is authorized to give such directions, upon the summary application of the administrator, or of any of the parties entitled, as the court shall think expedient. Mr. Henley, in his observations on this bill, remarked that he did not think it was necesasry to enact that
any man might go into the Court of Chancery, because he always laboured, unfortunately, under the impression that the Court of Chancery, like another nameless place, was always open. Be this as it may, the Court of Chancery is not exactly the court one would wish to see imposed upon the poor; and yet if this bill bad passed it would have been almost impossible for them to avoid resorting to it.
The law as it now stands does not operate with any degree of hardship upon the poor. The widow, we may say, is invariably provided for by her dower; and though instances may be found of a harsh elder brother, who may refuse countenance to the younger
branches of the family, yet these are the exceptions among the poor, whatever may be the case among the richer members of the community. The good old English heart is not yet extinct, and the cottage which, under the proposed system, would in nine cases out of ten, come into the hands of the stranger, is still open to the young brother or sister in the case of need.
In the view which we take of this question, the peculiarity of the law as regards leaseholds cannot be considered; it is an anomaly we admit, but there is very little long leasehold property held by the poor ; that species of property is chiefly found in towns, and the poor are seldom owners of house property in such localities. There are, we are aware, a few districts in England, principally in the north and on the seashore, in which land is occasionally sold in small plots, by way of lease for 1000 years, at peppercorn rents, the object being to reserve certain rights which could not be reserved in any other manner; but these cases are not numerous, and the plots are usually purchased for building purposes, and are, therefore, not in the hands of the poor.
Mr. Locke King has said, that among the middle classes there is scarcely one in a hundred who knows the law; they imagine that land descends as money does. This we take leave to doubt, If one thing in law is popularly, nay universally, known, it is that the eldest son is heir to land. But were it to be as Mr. Locke King thinks, we again say the middle classes can and do take care of themselves and their families far better than the poor can. The small landowners, “who never do and never will make wills,” inherit by descent, and they know the law well. Lord Palmerston mentioned the case of a yeoman living on the borders of the New Forest, who possessed a cottage and a few acres of land, which he bad inherited from an ancestor who carried the body of Rufus to Winchester; and that that yeoman was as proud of his position as the greatest peer or landowner in the kingdom. This yeoman, and all who, like him, have inherited as eldest sons, must be perfectly well acquainted with the rule of descent.
Mr. Locke King, in support of his bill, quotes the following passage from the renowned speech delivered by Mr. Brougham in the House of Commons, on the 7th February, 1828, in which the
whole state of the common law of the country was brought before the House. “Is it fitting or consistent with reason, or indeed with justice,” said Mr. Brougham, “that merely crossing the river, or travelling a distance of some miles in this neighbourhood, should make so great an alteration in the law of real property, as that, to the eastward of us, all the sons inherit equally; to the westward, the youngest alone; and here, the eldest? But these rules of the Common Law, of Gavelkind, and Borough-English, are better known, and operate within more defined limits. What shall be said of the customary tenures in a thousand manors, all different from the common law that regulates freehold estates, most of them differing from each other? Is it, I ask, fit that this multitude of laws, this variety of codes--the relics of a barbarous age—should be allowed to exist in a country subject to the same general bonds of government?”—Lord Brougham's Speeches, v. 2.
Never was a passage more singularly misapplied than this one has been by Mr. Locke King. Mr. Brougham adverted to "the inconvenient differences in the tenures by which property is held, and the rules by which it is conveyed and transmitted in various districts” (p. 378); and went on to say, that the obvious remedy to be adopted in this case was to give to all parts of the country the same rules touching property, and therefore he would propose an assimilation of the laws affecting real estates all over England (p. 382).
Mr. Brougham's opinion is strongly in favour of the abolition of peculiar tenures and customs, the inconvenience of some of which were pointed out in a late number of this Magazine; 1 but surely Lord Brougham must have been somewhat astonished at finding a passage, in a speech of Mr. Brougham, quoted in support of the abolition of the “right of primogeniture !” Lord St. Leonards' “ Handy Book”—(which, by the way, is curiously stated by Mr. Locke King to have been published some years ago by the learned lord when Sir Edward Sugden !)—is next quoted in support of the bill. The passage is as follows :
“A moment's reflection will show what serious consequences may follow from a neglect on your part; for suppose you purchase
See an article on Gavelkind, L. M. & R., vol. vi., p. 333. (Feb, 1859.)
an estate with the £10,000 in the funds, which you have given by your will to your younger children, and which constituted the bulk of your personal property, and should neglect to devise the estate, the money must go to pay for it, at the expense of your younger children, who would be left nearly destitute; whilst your eldest son, to whom the estate would descend, would have an overgrown fortune."
Now this case ought to have been provided for by the act (17 & 18 Vict., c. 113) already alluded to. It was supposed by some that the act would apply to it, and that a lien for unpaid purchase-money was a charge within the meaning of the act; but V. C. Stuart has held to the contrary (Hood v. Hood, 26 L. J., ch. 616). Mr. Locke King would do well to amend his act in this particular; but the case has nothing whatever to do with the present canons of descent.
We have shown that these canons do not work injustice on the higher and middle classes, and that the proposed change would be injurious to the lower classes. None of the arguments in favour of that change can bear strict investigation ; for though at first sight they seem to be plausible, yet, upon mature consideration, they prove to be unsatisfactory and inconclusive.
The reforms usually advocated by Mr. Locke King are such as most sensible men would be glad to see well considered if not carried out. It is he who, by his repeated attacks, has forced successive governments to entertain and bring forward measures which, otherwise, would long have lain dormant. It is he who has continually urged the necessity of a reform of our statute law, and it is not his fault that none of his efforts in that direction have succeeded ; and it is he, moreover, to whom reformers are indebted for the introduction, by government, of political reforms, to which a passing allusion only is permissible in our pages. In fact, Mr. Locke King has “done the state some service ; ” but his last proposed reform is one of that large spreading class of “overbusy meddlings” alluded to at the outset of this article, and which my Lord Chief Justice Hale doth quaintly but with good reason condemn, and against which it is our duty, in this publication, strenuously to protest.
ART. VI.—THE LIBRARY OF THE MIDDLE TEMPLE.
by the appearance of a new stone building now erecting on its northern bank, not far from the Essex-street pier. The building is destined to be the new library of the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple; and, when completed, will doubtless, notwithstanding some unavoidable inconveniences in site, be one of the lions of the Temple, if not of the metropolis.
But it is not of this edifice, but of the valuable collection of books, which, having outgrown its present receptacle, it is intended to place there, that we are about to give a brief account.
The portrait of the founder of the Middle Temple Library hangs in the reading-room, but in so unfortunate a light, that the apartment might be entered a hundred times by the same person without the picture, which apparently needs cleaning, attracting attention. It represents a dark-haired, thin-visaged man, and (if the portrait be life-sized) of somewhat small stature. The artist's name is invisible, and, we believe, unknown.
This gentleman-Robert Ashley, Esq., an ancient member of the Honourable Society-dying in 1641, left his whole library, together with a large sum of money, to the Inn in which he had imbibed his legal education. This liberal example was promptly followed by several masters of the bench, and other distinguished Templars of the day; and the library of the Middle Temple was thus established.
It is difficult, in these tranquil times, for the imagination to figure the sensations of residents in the Temple in 1642-that most eventful epoch in England's history—and during the subsequent years of war and tumult. Within the recollection of the present generation, however, there did occur an extraordinary scene of excitement in the quiet regions of the Temple. We refer to the memorable 10th of April, 1848, when special pleaders became special constables-sergeants-at-law undertook the duty of