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him up to another earlier day.” It appeared that the person in question had paid all the rates of the current year, but had been excused, on account of poverty, from paying a rate that had been payable in the preceding year. The argument against his right to be registered, based on the strict grammatical sense, was adopted. “No doubt,” said Willes, J., “the general rule is that the language of an act is to be read according to its ordinary grammatical construction, unless so reading it would entail some absurdity, repugnance or injustice. But I utterly repudiate the notion that it is competent to a judge to modify the language of an act in order to bring it in accordance with his views of what is right or reasonable." I Jarvis, C. J., says that it is the golden rule of construction “to give to words used by the legislature their plain and natural meaning, unless it is manifest from the general scope and intention of the statute that injustice and absurdity would result from so construing them.” Burton, J., in Warburton v. Loveland, probably states the principle correctly and comprehensively with the accepted qualifications: “I apprehend it is a rule in the construction of statutes that, in the first instance, the grammatical sense of the words is to be adhered to. If that is contrary to or inconsistent with any expressed intention, or any declared purpose of the statute; or if it would involve any absurdity, repugnance or inconsistency in its different provisions, the grammatical sense must then be modified, extended or abridged, so far as to avoid such inconvenience, but no farther."
$ 259. It is better always to adhere to a plain, common sense interpretation of the words of a statute than to apply to them a refined and technical grammatical construction. It is not always safe to assume that the draftsman of an act understood the rules of grammar. Neither bad grammar nor bad language will vitiate a statute.? The act of 24 and 25 Vict.,
I Abel v. Lee, L. R. 6 C. P. 371; 5Gyger's Estate, 65 Pa. St. 311; Hardc. on St. 31. See People v. Hill, Williams v. Evans, L. R. 1 Ex. Div. 3 Utah, 334.
277; Miller v. Salomons, 7 Ex. 553. 2 Mattison v. Hart, 14 C. B. 385. 6 Fisher v. Connard, 100 Pa. St. 63, 31 Hudson & Brooke, 648.
Becke v. Smith, 2 M. & W. 191; Kelly v. McGuire, 15 Ark. 555. King v. Pease, 4 B. & Ad. 30, 40; Eyston v. Studd, 2 Plow. 463.
ch. 109, secs. 24 and 25, enacts that “ Any person acting in contravention of this section shall forfeit all fish taken by him, and any net used by him in taking the same.” In a case in which no
a fish had been caught the grammatical sense was insisted upon as the true sense, and that there was no forfeiture of the net; but the court construed the words, "used by them in taking the same,” to mean “used for the purpose of taking the same.” A relative word will not be read as representing the last antecedent exclusively, where the sense of the context and clear intention of the law-maker requires it to represent several or one more remote. The grammatical rule, which is also the legal rule, in construing statutes, was held to be that, where general words occur at the end of a sentence, they refer to and qualify the whole; while, if they are in the middle of a sentence, and sensibly apply to a particular branch of it, they are not to be extended to that which follows. The words “ whilst on duty” fixed the scope and operation of all the clauses of the following provision: “No person holding office under this act shall be liable to military or jury duty, nor to arrest upon civil process, or to service of subpoenas from civil courts whilst actually on duty;"4 and the same effect was given to it after amendment by substituting or for nor where italicised. An act expressed in words of the future tense may still show an intent to have a present effect. Thus, an act declaring “that twenty-five thousand acres of land shall be allowed for and given to Major-General Nathaniel Greene” was held to be an absolute donation, to be consummated by the allotment provided for therein. “Given when?” says Chief Justice Marshall, interrogatively. “The answer is unavoidable: when they shall be allotted. Given how? Not by any future act; for it is not the practice of legislation to enact that a law shall be passed by some future legislature; but given by force of this act.” 6
1 Ruther v. Harris, L. R. 1 Ex. Div. 4 Hart v. Kennedy, 14 Abb. Pr. 432; 97.
on appeal, 15 id. 290. 2 Fisher v. Connard, supra; Gyger's 5 Coxson v. Doland, 2 Daly, 66. Estate, 65 Pa. St. 311; State v. Jerni- 6 Rutherford v. Green's Heirs, 2 gan, 3 Murph. 18; Simpson v. Robert, Wheat. 196, 198. See Ludington v. 35 Ga. 180.
United States, 15 Ct. of Cl. 453; Mays3 Rex v. Inhabitants of Shipton, 8 ville, etc. R. R. Co. v. Herrick, 13 Bush, B. & C. 94; Dwar, on St. 703.
$ 260. Mistakes may be corrected by aid of the context.Legislative enactments are not any more than any other writings to be defeated on account of mistakes, errors or omissions, provided the intention of the legislature can be collected from the whole statute; and the title and preamble may be referred to for this purpose. Where a law possessing all the requisites of a valid statute is passed, containing clear requirements capable of being carried into effect, in connection with other statutes on the same subject, a mistaken reference to them will not defeat the will of the legislature and render it void. Thus, where an act purporting to be an amendment of another act describes it truly except that it incorrectly states the date, the erroneous statement will be treated as surplusage or corrected by construction.”. So references to other sections or statutes incorrectly made will be corrected where the context or other particulars identifies the statute or provision intended and enables the court to follow the reference with certainty.3 Where one word has been erroneously used for another, or a word omitted, and the context affords the means of correction, the proper word will be deemed substituted or supplied. This is but making the strict letter of the statute yield to the obvious
1 Nazro v. Merchants' Mut. Ins. Co. 4 Quin v. O'Keeffe, 10 Ir. C. L. (N. S.) 14 Wis. 295; State v. McCracken, 42 393; People v. Hoffman, 97 Ill. 234; Tex. 383.
State v. Brandt, 41 Iowa, 593; Hedley, 2 Madison, etc. P. R. Co. v. Rey- Ex parte, 31 Cal. 108; People v. Sweetnolds, 3 Wis. 287; School Directors v. ser, 1 Dak. 295; Peck v. Weddell, 17 School Directors, 73 Ill. 249; State v. Ohio St. 271; Palms v. Shawano McCracken, 42 Tex. 383; Pue v. Het- Co. 61 Wis. 211; Donohue v. Ladd, 31 zell, 16 Md. 539; Poock v. Lafayette Minn. 244; State v. Pool, 74 N. C. Bdg. Asso. 71 Ind. 357. See Blake v. 402; Haney v. State, 34 Ark. 263; Brackett, 47 Me. 28; Watervliet T. Turner v. State, 40 Ala. 21; Vance v. Co. v. McKean, 6 Hill, 616. See, also, Gray, 9 Bush, 656; Rolland v. ComHicks v. Jamison, 10 Mo. App. 35. monwealth, 82 Pa. St. 306, 326 ;
3 Commonwealth V. Marshall, 69 Blemer v. People, 76 Ill. 265; Fowler Pa. St. 332; Shrewsbury v. Boylston, v. Padget, 7 T. R. 509; Rex v. Mort1 Pick. 105; Bradbury v. Wagen- lake, 6 East, 397; Graham v. Charhorst, 54 Pa. St. 180, 183; People v. lotte, etc. R. R. Co. 64 N. C. 631; ComKing, 28 Cal. 265, 273; People v. Hill, monwealth v. Harris, 13 Allen, 534; 3 Utah, 334; Custin v. City of Vi- Foster v. Commonwealth, 8 Watts roqua, 67 Wis. 314; Murray v. Hobson, & S. 77; Waugh v. Middleton, 8 Ex. 10 Colo. 66; Winona v. Whipple, 24 352; Waterford v. Hensley, Mart. & Minn. 61 ; People v. Clute, 50 N. Y. Yerg. (Tenn.) 275. See Angele de 451.
Sentamanat v. Soule, 33 La. Ann. 609.
intent. So words which are meaningless or inconsistent with the intention otherwise plainly expressed in an act have sometimes been rejected as redundant or surplusage. If a condi
" a tion or qualifying clause has been misplaced, so that in the connection where it is inserted it is absurd or nonsensical, the court will apply it to its proper subject and give it effect if the statute affords the proper clues, and it can be done in furtherance of its obvious intent. But where the language read in the order of clauses as passed presents no ambiguity, courts will not attempt to qualify it by any transposition of clauses and from what it can be ingeniously argued was a general intent. Where the provisions of a law are inconsistent and contradictory to each other, or the literal construction of a single section would conflict with every other following or preceding it, and with the entire scope and manifest intent of the act, it is certainly the duty of the courts, if it be possible, to harmonize the various provisions with each other; and to effect this, it may be necessary, and is admissible, to depart from the literal construction of one or more sections.4
§ 261. To enable the court to insert in a statute omitted words or read it in different words from those found in it, the intent thus to have it read must be plainly deducible from other parts of the statute. When the descriptive words con
1 United States v. Rossvally, 3 Ben. gian, 4 B. & S. 249; Woodbury v. 157; State v. Acuff, 6 Mo. 54; United Berry, 18 Ohio St. 456; Wills v. RusStates v. Stern, 5 Blatch. 512; Chap- sell, 100 U. S. 621. man v. State, 16 Tex. App. 76 ; State In Richards v. McBride, L. R. 8 v. Beasley, 5 Mo. 91; State v. Heman, Q. B. 119, the question was the mean70 Mo. 441.
ing of “the day next appointed.” It 2 State v. Turnpike Co. 16 Ohio St. was contended that it meant “the 308, 320.
next appointed day.” Grove, J.: “No 3 Doe v. Considine, 6 Wall. 458. one in construing a statute or any 4 State v. Heman, supra.
other literary production could put 5 Fairchild v. Masonic Hall Asso.71 such a construction on the words unMo. 526, 532; Hicks v. Jamison, 10 Mo. less by supposing there was a misApp. 35; Douglass v. Eyre, Gilp. 147; take. But we cannot assume a misDe Sentamanat v. Soule, 33 La. Ann. take in an act of parliament. If we 609; Reg. v. Phillips, L. R. 1 Q. B. did so we should render many acts 648; Reg. v. Shiles, 1 Q. B. 919; uncertain by putting different conBlanchard v. Sprague, 3 Sumn. 279; structions on them according to our Wright v. Frant, 4 B. & S. 118; Lane individual conjectures. The draftsv. Schomp, 20 N. J. Eq. 82; Ford v. man of this act may have made a Ford, 143 Mass. 577; Reg. v. Llan- mistake. If so the remedy is for the
stitute the very essence of the act, unless the description is so clear and accurate as to refer to the particular subject intended, and be incapable of being applied to any other, the mistake is fatal.' A statute prohibited the sale of liquor “ within three miles of Mt. Zion church, in Gaston county.” There were two churches of that name in that county, several miles apart. This statute was held ambiguous and therefore inoperative. It was remarked by the court that it “may not allow conjectural interpretation to usurp the place of judicial exposition. There must be a competent and efficient expression of the legislative will.” “Whether a statute be a public or private one,” says Chief Justice Ruffin, “if the terms in which it is couched be so vague as to convey no definite meaning to those whose duty it is to execute it ministerially or judicially, it is necessarily inoperative. The law must remain as it was, unless that which professes to change it be itself intelligible." 3
$ 262. Effect of context and association of words and phrases.- Not only are words and provisions modified to harmonize with the leading and controlling purpose or intention of an act, but also by comparison of one subordinate part with another; that is to say, the sense of particular words or phrases may be greatly influenced by the context, or their association with other words and clauses. When two or more legislature to amend it. But we must if there were no words in the act construe acts of parliament as they tending strongly the other way, I are, without regard to consequences, could pass from the plain grammatexcept in those cases where the words ical construction of the phrase in are so ambiguous that they may be question. The onus of showing that construed in two senses; and even the words do not mean what they then we must not regard what hap- say lies 'heavily on the party who alpened in parliament, but look to what leges it. He must, as Parke, B., said is within the four corners of the act, in Becke v. Smith, 2 M. & W. 195, adand to the grievance intended to be vance something which clearly shows remedied, or, in penal statutes, to the that the grammatical construction offense intended to be corrected. would be repugnant to the intention Taking the words the day next ap- of the act or lead to some manifest pointed' to mean what they say, absurdity.” viz. : the day which shall be next ap
1 Blanchard v. Sprague, supra. pointed, is there anything in the act 2 State v. Partlow, 91 N. C. 550; itself to show that the legislature S. C. 49 Am. Rep. 652. meant the next day appointed?' I 3 Drake v. Drake, 4 Dev. 110. find nothing. I even doubt whether,