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TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
LORD CHIEF BARON
Of his Majesty's Court of Exchequer
MY LORD CHIEF BARON,
In considering to whom I should dedicate this work, the high judicial rank and character of your Lordship, present you to me as one whose patronage I should be desirous of soliciting. But it is the recollection of favours you have kindly conferred upon me, and which I value the more because they were unsolicited, that induces me to seek the patron in the friend; and, with your permission, to inscribe this work to you, who, I am sure, will have every wish to promote its favourable reception, and
every disposition to excuse its errors, or do justice to its merits. I request therefore of your Lordship to receive these volumes, and this address, as a testimony of the respect and esteem
Of your obliged,
And obedient Servant,
Kildare Street, May 28th, 1812.
THE introduction of the common law of Eng- Common law land into Ireland, is to be deduced rather from the of England,
how and annals of history, than from the records of parlia- when introment. Sir W. Blackstone asserts, upon the autho- duced into
Ireland. rity of Matthew Paris, that after the conquest of Ireland by king Henry II. the laws of England were then received and' sworn to by the Irish nation, assembled at the council of Lismore. But Dr. Leland in his history observes, that there is no foundation for the assertion, that the Irish, wholly abolishing their own form of government, consented to receive the English laws, for that, on the contrary, during this and subsequent reigns, it was deemed to be an act of especial grace or favour, to admit even the more distinguished of the Irish lords to a participation of the rights of English subjects. And Sir J. Davies asserts, that it is evident by all the records of this kingdom, that only the English colonies, and some few septs of the Irish who were enfranchised by special charters, were admitted to the benefit and protection of the laws of England; charters of denization having been common in every reign since Henry II. and being never
out of use until the time of king James I.* And both these respectable authorities concur in stating, that the petty chieftains of Ireland governed their people by the Brehon law; made their own magistrates and officers; pardoned and punished all malefactors within their several countries; made war and peace one with another, without controlment; and that they did this, not only during the reign of king Henry II. but afterwards in all times, even until the reign of queen Elizabeth. . The truth, therefore, appears to be, that though the English laws and liberties were transplanted into Ireland by the first English settlers, and confirmed to them by the charters of king John and Henry III. yet they did not overspread this country until the lapse of many centuries, their extension being commensurate with that of the English pale, or of English conquest or colonization. It was not until
the reign of queen Elizabeth, that the system of (a) Vide English tenure was adopted in Ireland; (a) and the 11 Eliz. st. 3. grievous and intolerable burdens of coyne and liand 12 Eliz. veryt, and other oppressive incidents of Irish vasc. 4. Ir.
salage, suppressed or extinguished. But the reign of James J. is the distinguished æra, at which the
natives and inhabitants of this kingdom, no longer (b) Vide
deemed to be “ Irish enemies,” or “ degenerate 11.12 & 13 English,” were taken into his majesty's protec
tion, and began to live under one law. (b)
Amongst the other English laws or usages introduced into Ireland, one of the first and most im
c. 1. & 7. Ir.
Jac. 1. c. 5;
* It was a bye-word amongst the Irish, " that they dwelt by west the law, which dwelt beyond the river Barrow.”
+ Sir J, Davies refers to an ancient discourse of the decay of Ireland, in which it was said, “ that though the damnable custom of coyne and livery was first invented in hell, yet if it had been used and practised there as it had been in Ireland, it had long since destroyed the very kingdom of Beelzebub."