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In submitting this Treatise to the Public, it may not be improper to prefix a short prospectus, or analytical view of its contents, by which the reader will be enabled to judge how far the subject proposed to be considered may be worthy of his attention.
Upon the law of real property, and upon most other legal subjects, there are already before the public several very able Treatises and Digests, but it is matter of surprise that there is no work upon an extended scale relating to the laws of Commerce, Manufactures, and Contracts. The older books and abridgments are exceedingly deficient upon these subjects; and though there are many useful modern Treatises on some detached parts, there is no work affording a comprehensive view of the whole; and subject is peculiarly interesting, and of the greatest practical importance. It is interesting to trace the springs of our resources, the channels through which they flow, and the distribution by which they are made to invigorate and refresh the state in all its departments and relations. When we compare the geographical extent of Great Britain, with that of most of the European States; and when we reflect on the recent events on the Continent, when Great Britain was enabled to contend with effect against a power, by which almost all other nations were successively reduced to subjection ; it cannot but occur to our minds, that the constitution and the municipal regulations of this country must possess some inherent and paramount advantages, enabling us to avert the misfortunes which overwhelmed the rest of Europe. Of these advantages our Commercial Constitution appears to comprehend a very considerable proportion. Providence has indeed bestowed upon Great Britain a proud security against foreign encroachments in the virtues of her national character. But this character with all its firmness would scarcely have supported her under the unexampled pressure of recent events, without those resources of private wealth and national defence, which she has been enabled to derive from her Commerce, as regulated by the judicious policy of her legislature. In a practical point of view also, it is equally important to the statesman, the lawyer, and the merchant, to be well acquainted with the national and municipal, public and private regulations affecting Commerce and Manufactures ; to the statesman, as enabling him to suggest improvements, to extend the export and the import, and the domestic trade, and to increase the revenue of the country; to the lawyer, as enabling him to understand and apply to cases as they may arise the different provisions of the commercial code; and to the merchant, as enabling him to ascertain the advantages or disadvantages resulting from particular branches of commerce, and to avoid those risks and forfeitures which are so frequently incurred by the violation of many commercial regulations. Impressed with these considerations, I have resolved to offer to the public, the result of my professional labours on these interesting topics.
The subject is divided into two parts; the first relates principally to those public regulations, inter-national as well as municipal, which affect foreign and domestic commerce and manufactures in general, and in particular those of Great Britain ; and the second comprehends a view of the law as it more immediately affects the transactions in trade and commerce between private individuals. And in order to render the work more complete, a volume is added con. taining all the principal treaties, statutes, documents, instruments, and securities, that may be found useful to resort to, examine, or adopt in commercial affairs.
The present volume commences with introductory observations, comprehending a general view of those principles in political economy upon which, with views more or less comprehensive, the legislators of almost all countries have, proceeded in the prosecution or regulation of trade, whether foreign or domestic. In this place are shortly considered the effects of commerce upon population, and its consequent importance, the natural order and progress of its growth in all communities, and the specific descriptions of traffic which in general, or under peculiar circumstances, have been deemed the most advantageous to a state, as well as to the individuals pursuing it. The adoption by the British law of the doctrines laid down in the best treatises on these subjects, will be found traced and illustrated. This concise enquiry into the principles and reasons upon which the commercial regulations have proceeded, is best calculated to lead to the due understanding and construction of them; and the theoretical questions necessary to the clear apprehension of the subject having been thus disposed of, the way will be prepared for the consideration of those direct provisions which form the matter of the subsequent chapters.
After these preliminary enquiries, we are naturally led, in taking a comprehensive and practical view of the prin. ciples and rules of the whole Commercial Law, First, to enquire how the commerce of any country, and of our own
in particular, may be legally affected by acts of foreign states, in time of peace or war: SECONDLY, how the commerce of our own country is publicly affected by her own municipal regulations : Thirdly, how such commerce is affected by those regulations which relate merely to the private interests of trade: Fourthly, the instruments and securities employed to facilitate commerce; and FIFTHLY, the remedies for the infraction of commercial rights. Following this arrangement of the subject, the Second Chapter contains those laws by which nations are regulated in their commerce with each other. This law of nations, as connected with commerce, comprehends the principles of national independence—the intercourse of nations in peace -the privileges of ambassadors, consuls, and inferior officers -the commerce of the subjects of each state with those of the others the grounds of just war, and the modes of conducting it—the mutual duties of belligerent and neutral powers—the limit of lawful hostility—the rights of conquest -the faith to be observed in warfare-the force of an armistice, of safe-conduct, and passports--the nature and obligation of alliances—the means of negociation, and the authority and interpretation of treaties. These, and many other important subjects, forming a complete practical system of the law of nations, and obviously most materially affecting commerce, are first considered. The three divisions of the law of nations, into the voluntary, the customary, and the conventional law, are fully considered, as they regulate commerce, and in particular the latter, as it affects the construction of commercial treaties.
The importance of the office of consul, in commercial affairs, is so considerable, that the whole of the third chapter is occupied in considering his appointment, qualifications, duties, privileges, protection, and remuneration.