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subscribed for in advance, and this although one thousand copies of the English edition had been imported and sold in America. The subscription list to the local edition is headed by seven colonial governors and lieutenant-governors, including Richard Penn of Pennsylvania and William Franklin of New Jersey. The alphabetical list, headed by "John Adams, Esq., Barrister at Law, Boston," includes many distinguished names, while of the local subscribers, many were from the interior parts of the state; John Creigh, bookseller of Carlisle, alone subscribing for forty-five sets. It is hardly possible to overestimate Blackstone's influence upon American private law. His Commentaries became at once the vade mecum of the lay judge and the pioneer lawyer, in regions where libraries were unknown. The work in fact long stood for the common law itself in many communities, but it may be questioned whether the Commentaries were not, for a period, detrimental to legal scholarship, whether their flowing sentences did not carry the superficial student too easily over the submerged rocks of the common law, whether learned jurists have not wasted time in the discussion and criticism of Blackstone's theories and errors that might have been better spent in a re xamination of his sources.
As the Revolution approaches we find an able group leading the bar, Moland, Chew, Ross, Waln, Tilghman, Galloway and Dickinson. Time was no object to the courts in those peaceful and slumberous days. In a manuscript book of reports giving some cases of that time the reporter says, in noting Haldane v. Duffield, April Term, 1768, “The remainder of Mr. Chew's argument I did not hear nor did I wait Mr. Dickinson's and Mr. Tilghman's conclusion, this case having continued
1 Hammond's Blackstone's Commentaries, Preface, page viii.
twelve hours."'1 In 1774 Chew succeeded Allen as chief justice, and in September of that year hospitably entertained the members of the Continental Congress then assembled in Philadelphia. Washington and John Adams both mention dining with him on the twenty-second of that month. Adams writes in his diary
“Dined with Mr. Chew Chief Justice of the Province with all the gentlemen from Virginia, Dr. Shippen, Mr. Tilghman and many others. We were shown into a grand entry and staircase and into an elegant and magnificent chamber until dinner. About 4 o'clock we were called down to dinner. The furniture was all rich. Turtle and every other thing, flummery, jellies, sweetmeats, of 20 sorts, trifles, whipped sillabubs, floating islands, fools, &ct., and then a dessert of fruits, raisins, almonds, pears, peaches. Wines most excellent and admirable. I drank Madeira at a great rate, & found no inconvenience in it.”3
The stately mansion of the chief justice yet stands, the fine old colonial hospitality a treasured memory. The smoke and dust of fratricidal war darkened it, its walls were battered with shot and its floor stained with blood; bench and bar were scattered, some to attain distinction in the camps and councils of the new nation, others to live obscurely through weary years of suspicion or to fly from the country of their birth as attainted traitors, their lands forfeited and their names soon forgotten.
1 Keith's Provincial Councillors, 328.
The appearance docket of the supreme court for April Term, 1776, contains the following entry :“Philadelphia, s. s.
“At a Supream Court held at Philadelphia for the Province of Pennsylvania the tenth day of April in the sixteenth year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord George the third King of Great Britain France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith &c and in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy six: and continued by adjournment until—"
Until when? Doomsday no doubt; for this was the last court held under our "Sovereign Lord George" and the date of continuance was never filled in. Independence, however, was not welcomed in Pennsylvania with the same enthusiasm as in the New England states. At the beginning of the conflict the influential and conservative element in the province while opposed to the measures of parliament was exceedingly adverse to the idea of a separation from Great Britain. The grievances of the Pennsylvanians were not as great as those of the other colonists; they had a liberal charter and a satisfactory system of local government, while the proprietary family stood between them and the Crown to soften controversies and prevent conflicts of authority; many earnestly hoped for reconciliation and were carried on the tide of revolution sorely against their wills. To accelerate the movement and to get rid of the conservatives, a bold, radical minority, with the moral support of congress, organized and carried through a revolution in the government of Pennsylvania. A convention called in July, 1776, and presided over by Franklin, drew up a new constitution, which, after considerable opposition, was declared to have been
adopted. Penn's charter was discarded, the proprietary government ceased to exist, the old officials and assembly retired and new men took their places.
The Constitution of 1776 was not a satisfactory instrument and was discarded after a fourteen years' trial, but some of its features are worth noticing. The executive power was vested in a supreme executive council composed of twelve members, one from the city of Philadelphia and eleven from the respective counties. The term of office was three years, and the president and vice-president were chosen from the council by joint ballot of the assembly and council. The president and council were empowered to choose and commission all judges and other officers and fill vacancies in office. Every officer of the state was subject to impeachment by the assembly, the impeachments to be heard before the president and council. The principal judiciary clauses were as follows:
“Sec. 23. The judges of the supreme court of judicature shall have fixed salaries, be commissioned for seven years only, though capable of reappointment at the end of that term, but removable for misbehaviour at any time by the general assembly; they shall not be allowed to sit as members in the continental congress, executive council or general assembly, nor to hold any other office, civil or military, nor take or receive fees or perquisites of any kind.
“Sec. 25. Trials shall be by jury as heretofore, and it is recommended to the legislature of this state to provide by law against every corruption or partiality in the choice, return or appointment of juries.
“Sec. 26. Courts of sessions, common pleas and orphans' courts shall be held quarterly in each city and county, and the legislature shall have power to establish all such other courts as they may judge for the good of the inhabitants of the state; all courts shall be open, and justice shall be impartially administered without corruption or unnecessary delay: All their officers shall be paid an adequate but moderate compensation for their services, and if any officer shall take greater or other fees than the laws allow him, either directly or indirectly, it shall ever after disqualify him from holding any office in this state.
“Sec. 27. All prosecutions shall commence in the name and by the authority of the freemen of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and all indictments shall conclude with these wordsagainst the peace and dignity of the same. The stile of all process hereafter in this state shall be The commonwealth of Pennsyl
The office of justice of the peace was made elective, the voters of the respective districts to choose two, one of whom was to be commissioned by the president for the term of seven years.
A peculiar feature of the constitution was the provision for the election every seven years of a council of censors who were to meet and inquire whether the constitution had been preserved inviolate, whether the laws were duly executed, and, if there appeared any necessity to amend the constitution, to call a convention for that purpose. While these changes were in progress and while most of the active citizens were engaged in war or political strife, the administration of justice was sadly neglected.
By an act of January 28, 1777, passed for the purpose of putting into effect such and so much of the laws of the province as were necessary in the commonwealth, it was provided, that the courts of quarter sessions and gaol delivery, petty sessions, common pleas, orphans' courts, supreme court, courts of oyer and terminer and general gaol delivery should be held and kept in each respective county at the times and places appointed by law, with all the powers, authority and jurisdiction which by law such justices and judges theretofore had had and exercised and such as were given by the constitution. It was further provided that the president and council should appoint one justice in each county
1 Proceedings of the Constitutional Conventions of Pennsylvania of 1776 and 1790, 61. The equity clause will be referred to later.
2 IX Statutes at Large, 29.