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Entered according to the Act of Congress, in the year 1839,
BY T. & J. W. JOHNSON,
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
In the present Edition the Acts of Congress are arranged in chapters, beginning a new series of numbers with the commencement of every new Congress. Of course, the numbers go on progressively through all the sessions of the same Congress, and the order of the Acts is strictly chronological. This method was adopted in numbering the Acts at the commencement of the Government, and it was for the most part followed until after the year 1815. Since that period it has been usual to begin a new series of numbers with each successive session of Congress. The irregularity either way being very considerable, it has been thought most advisable in this Edition to adhere to the method originally adopted by the Government itself, which made each new Congress a new starting point or epoch. The mode of citation in the Marginal Notes is to give the year, in which the Act passed, and the number of the chapter. As the constitutional commencement of each Congress (unless a different day should be appointed by law) is on the first Monday of December, some Acts bear date in the same year, which have been enacted by different Congresses. But as these Acts are few, the number of the chapter will prevent any mistake in the reference, and lead the Reader at once to the Acts passed at the commencement, or close of the year.
The Index is full as to the Laws now in force; and as to others, which have expired or have been repealed, a reference is made under the proper heads, so that the whole series of Laws on the same subject may be examined together. It has been thought, that a full Index to the matter of the Acts not in force would rather tend to embarrass than to aid the general Reader.
THE present Edition of the Laws of the United States embraces all the public Acts, whether they are expired, or repealed, or are now in force, with the exception of such only, as are of a very limited and temporary nature, and do not enter into the general jurisprudence of the Country. The principal Acts, which have been omitted, are either strictly private Acts, such as those, which are for the relief of particular persons, or corps; or, if public Acts, are of a temporary nature, such as the annual Appropriation Acts, Acts for occasional Loans, &c., or such as exclusively respect the District of Columbia. Even these Acts have been sparingly omitted, when from their nature or importance they might illustrate the history of our national policy. And the Acts, which regard the organization and general administration of justice in the District of Columbia, have been retained, as subjects of general interest.
It is often a subject of complaint among professional and other gentlemen, that the common Editions embrace those Laws only, which are actually in force at the time of the publication, and are thus attended with much embarrassment and inconvenience. Many of the existing laws are very forcibly illustrated by the provisions of prior repealed laws on the same subject; and many have tacit references to the latter, which are not easily detected in a cursory perusal. In few cases, where Legislation has, at successive periods, acted on the same matter, can any Lawyer, who is solicitous to discharge his duty in public argument or in private consultation, feel safe in omitting to examine the whole series of the Laws, even though many of them are repealed or expired.
And instances are not unfrequent of successful argument founded solely on the coincidences or differences between the revised and the original Laws. The history of our jurisprudence also, whether examined as matter of curiosity or of private interest, whether searched with reference to public policy or to legal rights, is so intimately interwoven with the whole course of our legislation, that no liberal enquirer, and least of all, a publicist, a jurist, or a statesman, can dispense with an accurate chronological knowledge of the subject. The Statutes at large, embracing a great mass of private statutes, have already become very unwieldy, voluminous, and expensive. It is believed, therefore, that a work, like the present, which detaches and embraces all those, which are not exclusively of a fugitive or private character, cannot fail to be of general convenience and utility. To these volumes a copious verbal Index has been annexed, so as to make the facility of reference as complete as possible. The whole work has passed under the inspection of Mr. Justice STORY, who has given it an attentive examination.
It is not our intention to disparage the Abridgments and Digests of the Laws of the United States already before the Public. They are very useful publications; but as they purport only to present the laws now in force under regular heads, their object is materially different from that of this edition. They are aids to, but cannot supersede the necessity of, the present compilation.
ADVERTISEMENT TO SECOND EDITION.
THE only thing the Editor of this Edition has ventured to do, has been carefully to examine the former marginal notes, with a view to ascertain their typographical correctness,-to change the mode of reference from the year and chapter to the volume and page, and to add the further references required in consequence of the laws subsequently passed and published. His aim has been by his labors to increase the accuracy of the work, and the facility with which the chain of laws on any one subject may be traced through the volumes.