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History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empir

Note The author here follows the opinion of Heineccius


discretion more congenial to

monarchy was introduced into the republic: the art of respecting the name, and eluding the efficacy, of the laws, was improved by successive praetors; subtleties and fictions were invented to defeat the plainest meaning of the Decemvirs, and where the end was salutary, the means were frequently absurd. The secret or probable wish of the dead was suffered to prevail over the order of succession and the forms of testaments; and the claimant, who was excluded from the character of heir, accepted with equal pleasure from an indulgent praetor the possession of the goods of his late kinsman or benefactor. In the redress of private wrongs, compensations and fines were substituted to the obsolete rigor of the Twelve Tables; time and space were annihilated by fanciful suppositions; and the plea of youth, or fraud, or violence, annulled the obligation, or excused the performance, of an inconvenient contract. A jurisdiction thus vague and arbitrary was exposed to the most dangerous abuse: the substance, as well as the form, of justice were often sacrificed to the prejudices of virtue, the bias of laudable affection, and the grosser seductions of interest or resentment. But the errors or vices of each praetor expired with his annual office; such maxims alone as had been approved by reason and practice were copied by succeeding judges; the rule of proceeding was defined by the solution of new cases; and the temptations of injustice were removed by the Cornelian law, which compelled the praetor
of the year to adhere to the spirit and letter of his first proclamation. [34] It was reserved for the curiosity and learning of Adrian, to accomplish the design which had been conceived by the genius of Caesar; and the praetorship of Salvius Julian, an eminent lawyer, was immortalized by the composition of the Perpetual Edict. This well-digested code was ratified by the emperor and the senate; the long divorce of law and equity was at length reconciled; and, instead of the Twelve Tables, the perpetual edict was fixed as the invariable standard of civil jurisprudence. [35]

[Footnote 3211: There is a curious passage from Aurelius, a writer on Law, on the Praetorian Praefect, quoted in Lydus de Magistratibus, p. 32, edit. Hase. The Praetorian praefect was to the emperor what the master of the horse was to the dictator under the Republic. He was the delegate, therefore, of the full Imperial authority; and no appeal could be made or exception taken against his edicts. I had not observed this passage, when the third volume, where it would have been more appropriately placed, passed through the press.--M]

[Footnote 33: The jus honorarium of the praetors and other magistrates is strictly defined in the Latin text to the Institutes, (l. i. tit. ii. No. 7,) and more loosely explained in the Greek paraphrase of Theophilus, (p. 33--38, edit. Reitz,) who drops the important word honorarium. * Note: The author here follows the opinion of Heineccius, who, according to the idea of his master Thomasius, was unwilling to suppose that magistrates exercising a judicial could share in the legislative power. For this reason he represents the edicts of the praetors as absurd. (See his work, Historia Juris Romani, 69, 74.) But Heineccius had altogether a false notion of this important institution of the Romans, to which we owe in a great degree the perfection of their jurisprudence.


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