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volume was published in November, 1827, the third in 1828, and the fourth in 1830. The last three comprise the law concerning the rights of persons, and personal and real property.
He treated the several subjects comprised under these extensive and most important titles—the rights of person and the rights of property-in a manner more full and satisfactory than Blackstone; and introduced many others not found in the work of that author, with numerous references, quotations and illustrations, the result of his various and extensive reading, highly pleasing and instructive to the student. The subjects of private and public wrongs, which occupy the third and fourth volumes of the English commentator, Chancellor Kent left untouched.
The work of Sir William Blackstone, by the elegance of its style, its lucid arrangement and finished execution, is so well adapted to render the study of the law attractive, that it has been for many years very properly placed in the hands of every student. But an American work, exhibiting our own Constitution, laws, institutions, usages, and civil relatior had long beeu wanted. In the full maturity of his understanding, with a mind long habituated to legal investigations and researches, and with sound and enlightened views of jurisprudence, he was fitted, better, perhaps, than any other man of his age, to execute such a work.
The first edition of the Commentaries having been exhausted, he published a second in April, 1832, carefully revised and much enlarged.
Having been elected President of the New York Historical Society, he delivered, by request, a public discourse, at their anniversary meeting, on the 6th of December, 1828. In this elegant and instructive address, he noticed the principal events in the history of the colony and State of New York, to the end of the Revolution.
At the request of the Phi Beta Kappa Society of Yale College, a literary association formed in 1780, of which he was an original member, and comprising the most distinguished graduates of that institution, he delivered a public address, at the anniversary meeting, September 13, 1831. This discourse, in
which he takes a historical review of the college from its origin in the beginning of the last century, and sketches the characters of its pious and learned founders, supporters and instructors, is replete with generous feelings and just sentiments on literature and education. Alluding, toward the close, to his own class, of whom twelve (out of twenty-five) were then living, and most of those present, he said:
“Star after star has fallen from its sphere. A few bright lights are still visible; but the constellation itself has become dim, and almost ceases to shed its radiance around me. What a severe lesson of mortality does such a retrospect teach! What a startling rebuke to human pride! How brief the drama! How insignificant the honors and fiery chase of ambition, except as mental discipline for beings destined for immortality.”
Chancellor Kent had four children, one of whom, a son, was also a lawyer. One died in early life. He was happy in his family, amiable, modest, and candid in his social intercourse. With a sound constitution, strengthened and prescrved by temperance and moderate exercise, he enjoyed almost entirely uninterrupted health to the close of his career.
He died Ducember 12, 1847, at the advanced age of eightyfour. Few men have left a more valuable legacy to the world.
THE OREGONIAN CASE AND THE
The Albany Law Journal is very indignant at our strictures upon the aetion of the Supreme Court of the United States in this case.
Our contemporary does not profess to be in possession of any account of the case other than our own, which it quite justifiably rejects as ex parte; and accordingly its indignation rests not upon knowledge of the merits of the controversy, but upon inherent conviction that the Supreme Court could not possibly do anything to deserve our censure. Now we frankly admit that our language was warm-warmer than is usual or generally desirable in legal criticism, but the moral aspects of the question, of which our contemporary is not in possession, were, we think, such as to justify no inconsiderable heat.
The Albany Law Journal speaks of Scottish capitalists being over-reached. We still prefer our own description that it was a case of Scottish investors being swindled. The story is short and simple. A company is formed in Dundee for the construction and letting of a railway in Oregon. To this company a capital of some £500,000 is subscribed, not for the most part by wealthy capitalists, but by hard working people, who have made their money by patient industry, and are anxious to better themselves and increase the hard-earned provision for their families. The company go to Oregon under a law which purports to give to foreign corporations the same rights and powers as domestic corporations of the same kind enjoy. By and by negotiations are entered into with a native
company for a lease of the line. The native company is incorporated under a statute which allows of incorporation for any lawful purpose, and one of the purposes expressly set forth in its articles of incorporation, is the taking a lease of a railroad. The bargain is completed. The American company enter into possession. A year or two pass, and then this company, having devastated the property, calmly announce that they repudiate the bargain. An action is begun, and the Circuit Court of the United States rejects the contentions of the repudiators as "frivolous," and sustains the lease.
An appeal is taken to the Supreme Court of the United States, and, after years of delay, that august tribunal sustains the repudiation, sets aside the lease, and in effect gives legal sanction to a barefaced breach of an honorable bargain. The result brings ruin and misery to hundreds who honestly invested their savings in a lawful enterprise, conducted by upright and honorable men, and who went to the United States, and entered into transactions there, confident that the privileges which statute expressly promised them would be upheld, and that bargains honestly made were safe to receive enforcement at the hands of the Federal Courts. We venture to affirm that such a result is unworthy of a rational or civilized system of jurisprudence.
Now it may be objected that this may all infer a stricture upon American law, but that it warrants no reflection upon the Supreme Court, which we are bound to assume correctly interpreted the law. This would be a just observation, if the American Court had been obliged unwillingly to give effect to a clear statutory provision. But the very contrary was the case. The difficulty of the Court was not to have to give effect to the statutory provisions, but to get over them. The natural reading of these provisions was admittedly all in favor of the Scottish company, and a strained construction had to be put upon them in order to permit of the result finally reached. The inference is obvious that this result was in accordance with the Court's conception of natural law or abstract justice. We do not accuse the Court, as our contemporary suggests, of being venal or partial; but we do accuse it of being warped
The Oregonian Case and American Courts. 347 by prejudices and possessed by prepossessions quite unworthy of an enlightened jurisprudence.
The way in which the judgment was reached may be recapitulated in a single word. It was not disputed that the American company was incorporated under a law which expressly provides that any lawful enterprise mentioned in the articles of incorporation shall be within the powers of the corporation. It was admitted that amongst the purposes expressly mentioned in the articles of incorporation were both the construction and the hiring on lease of a railroad. In this state of the law and of the facts, the United States Court held that, notwithstanding the apparently clear provisions of the general statute, it was unconscionable to suppose that a company should have power by such a statute both to construct and to hire railroads; and accordingly they held that the company in question had no power to hire a railroad. Again, the Scottish company came to Oregon under a statute the plain intent of which was to give to foreign corporations the same rights and powers as domestic corporations enjoy. It was not disputed that this was the natural interpretation of the language used. But, again, in face of the language of the statute, the United States Court held that it was unconscionable to suppose that such powers were really conferred upon a foreign corporation.
The whole story suggests a reflection which must often be present to the minds of those on this side of the Atlantic who have business relations with America. Why is it that such a sense of insecurity prevails in regard to all American investments? Why is it, for example, that it is easier to get 6 per cent. over real property in America, than 4 per cent. in this country? It is not that America is distant, for the electric wires and the ocean racers have brought America very near to our doors. It is not that America is a back-going country, for her expansiveness is tenfold greater than our own. It is not that American government is unstable, for her Constitution has stood the test of a century. But it is because of the insurmountable dread that the negotiations will be vitiated by a swindle, and that the swindle will be one for which the