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The following Work is founded on “ Dr. Greenleaf's
American Treatise on the Law of Evidence.” Indeed,
when, in July 1843, my attention was first especially drawn to the subject of Evidence, with a view to publication, I undertook to discharge the duties of an editor only, and it was not until I had been engaged for many months in that undertaking that I finally determined to abandon it, and to submit to the public a treatise of my
In taking this step, I had no idle hope of being able to produce a book, which, regarded as an exposition of general principles, should surpass, or even equal that written by the learned American Professor ; but I thought that, by citing more fully the leading decisions of our own Courts, and by introducing such portions of our Statute Law as related to the subject of Evidence,
I might possibly compile a work of more practical utility to the English and Irish lawyer. To have introduced this new matter in the shape of notes to Dr. Greenleaf's Treatise, would have been highly inconvenient; to have interwoven it with his text, and still to have called the work by his name, would have been alike unjust to him and to myself; and, consequently, it appeared to me, that the only alternative left, was to publish a work in my own name, for the errors of which I should be alone responsible.
I have still, however, availed myself very largely of Dr. Greenleaf's labours, having adopted, with but few alterations, his excellent general arrangement, having followed to a considerable extent the course even of his sections, and having borrowed many pages of his terse and luminous writing. My object has been to afford to the profession really useful and accurate information ; and whether that information were conveyed in my own or in another's language, has been to me, as it will doubtless be to my readers, a matter of
From the American decisions cited by Dr. Greenleaf, I have made a copious selection, having referred to such,
as, in my judgment, either afforded favourable illustrations of doubtful points of law, or laid down rules superior to those adopted in our own Courts. Many of these cases I have myself collated, but, with respect to the major portion of them, I have been obliged to rely on Dr. Greenleaf's known accuracy, as I have had no opportunity of obtaining access to several of the reports cited by him. The libraries of our Inns of Court contain neither a large nor a well-chosen collection of American decisions, but I am happy to say that the librarian of the Middle Temple, with a liberality which I trust will be followed by the other Inns, has determined to remedy this evil, and has made arrangements for the purchase of all such reports as are held in estimation by the Courts of the United States.
With the view of rendering my work useful to the practitioner in Ireland, I have noticed most of the leading decisions of the Four-Courts on the Law of
Evidence, and have referred to many Irish Statutes on
the same subject.
In stating what the law is, I have not been unmindful of what, in my humble opinion, it ought to be; and I have therefore ventured, from time to time, to point out
briefly such alterations in the law as I conceive would effect material amendments. The Law-Reformer, by referring to the Index, Title, “Suggestions for Amending the Law of Evidence,” will find what I have done on
The alterations recently effected in the law, by Lord Denman's admirable Act, and by the Documentary Evidence Act, have been pointed out at length, and have been illustrated by the latest decisions.
The book contains no chapter on the Law of Stamps. This omission might perhaps be justified by simply referring to the able works of Messrs. Phillipps and Starkie, in the former of which the subject is not treated, while, in the latter, it occupies a very subordinate place in the third volume. But the reasons which chiefly influenced me in deciding to reject the Law of Stamps, were, 1st. that it has been already discussed at large in several distinct treatises ; 2nd. that any exposition of it, to be of practical value, must have added much to the bulk of the work, and consequently to its price; 3rd. that it would have delayed the publication for many months ; 4th. that this branch of the law will probably ere long undergo very extensive changes ; and last, though I