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sense of justice establish to regulate the dealings of business men in all commercial countries of the civilized world;" that confidence and business honor and integrity, rather than legislative act, are the basis upon which largely rest all transactions in, or based upon, negotiable instruments.

The constitution of your association also requires the president in his annual address to make recommendations in respect to the present state of the administration of the laws "as shall seem best calculated to conserve the general weal.”

I should approach this part of my duty with much diff. dence, but for the fact that the annual address is generally understood to contain the personal ideas of the presiding officer, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the association.

A great many reforms are being suggested in the administration of our laws, and “law reformers” were never more numerous than at the present time. In great part the meas. ures of relief suggested are to be accomplished by legislative enactment. There seems to be a large degree of confidence, in the public mind, as to the practicability of accomplishing any desired end by the placing of new laws in the volumes of our statutes.

This is not surprising when we reflect that the present generation has seen the powers of government in the United States enlarged almost infinitely beyond the conception of a half century ago. The older people of this day, with their own eyes, saw for the first time the Federal government come to the individual citizen and without the intervention of the State; they heard it speak directly to him and in language of authority. They have seen the government in their day come to the market and buy everything that could be produced on farm or manufactured in shop. They were not idle spectators when it originated a banking system for the people of the States, nor when it created and put into circulation a new kind of currency, which we now call money.

The spec


tacle of the change of more than two millions of peaceable citizens into armed veterans, was not lost on them, nor was that greater and more wonderful exhibition of the power of government—the peaceable and orderly muster out of a mighty army, and the conversion of its soldiers into the quiet citizens whence they came.

It is, perhaps, not strange that, under such influences, for almost forty years, we should naturally absorb the idea that with the aid, or by the act of government, everything is possible and without the written law of government, nothing very effectual or useful can be done.

Hence, when real or fancied evils are felt, or are brought to our attention, we are quite apt to go to government, in every case, for relief. We feel, and generally declare, that “there ought to be a law passed,” or the “city council ought to adopt an ordinance" on that subject. It matters not that perhaps the act complained of was only done at time inopportune or in manner indiscreet, and neither was nor could be made illegal; or, that there might be more than one law or ordinance in existence providing a full remedy. Such con siderations are lost sight of when legislation is wanted.

The common law is substantially in force in the United States. It is said to be the “accumulated wisdom of centuries." It grew with the growth of the English speaking people. They tested it by time and experience. They remedied its defects as they became apparent, or adapted it to changing times and conditions by remedial statutes, enlarging or restraining in their nature. They brought it with them to the wilderness of the new world, and it has served well its purpose here, while a nation has been born and grown to strength and manhood. Human nature was not essentially different in the days of its early history, from what it is at present. People forestalled markets to enhance the price of merchandise, cornered the food product for the same purpose, and created monopolies then as now, and for so doing they were punished

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under the common law, or under statutes made in its aid, most of which are in force in Illinois.

It was a misdemeanor at the common law to sell unwholesome provisions, whether to the army, the navy or to private individuals. Cheating, forestalling, regrating and engrossing were public offenses, and subjected the offender to quite severe penalties. There was also a method, under its provisions, of preventing and punishing injustice by corporations. But it was in the courts, and not in the parliament, where all the misbehaviors of these artificial persons could be inquired into and redressed. It is true “trusts” were unknown in that day —at least by that name—perhaps because there was so little of statute, and so much of the unwritten law.

If corporations, at the present day, combine their capital and franchise to oppress, or unfavorably affect the people, or the markets; if they build up monopolies and break down competition, they have simply misused the powers and privileges granted them by the State. And the courts of any State, where the common law prevails, can apply the corrective without resort to the Legislature. Do not understand me to criticize any well considered statute, or condemn any proper legislation on this subject. I am only leaving on record the conviction of one officer of this Association that the people are not dependent upon the Legislative department of the State government for relief from the evils, of which so much complaint is now being made.

It is refreshing to know that in at least one State of the Union (Indiana), the highest court is not calling for legislation to suppress and control trusts and combines formed by corporations, but is applying the remedy provided in existing laws. And these are not essentially different from the com. mon law of two centuries ago.

What so far has been said foreshadows my recommendation as to what shall seem best calculated to "conserve the general weal." It is the just and impartial execution of the


laws we have, rather than adding to them new and unnecessary statutes, or making sweeping changes in their character. New laws and amendments to existing laws should be made only when experience has determined their necessity. All laws must pass the ordeal of construction by the courts. It requires no small ability and much wisdom to frame a general law or system of laws that will meet diversified interests in so great a State. I fear, that in the odd times between the election of the United States Senators, the passage of street railway and gas bills, and the creation of new boards, commissions and State institutions, the average legislator, though most honestly inclined, is scarcely equal to the task. There is some danger that he may make as many harmful errors, as valuable improvements in general legislation. It is quite probable if there should not be a single act of the Legislature passed in the next five or ten years, outside of those appropriating the necessary money for carrying on the State government, neither the people, nor any of their interests or industries, would materially suffer.

Some years ago, in one of the counties of Illinois, a number of heirs and devisees made for a deceased ancestor a new will. In the instrument attempting to effect that purpose, they changed the law of descent and distribution as applied to that particular estate. The parties were under no disability. They were intelligent people, and acted without haste and with due deliberation. They had the aid of able counsel, one of whom has been honored by a seat on the highest judicial tribunal of the State. It hardly need be added that that estate soon got into the courts, and the parties into a litigation which did not end for many years. In their legal journey they found themselves more than once in our Supreme Court. One of the opinions in the case—the first-was delivered by a citizen of Cook county. He long since passed away, leaving a record of comprehensive ability and spotless integrity. To members of the General Assembly, and to those who desire that honor-in


deed all of our own profession—I commend the language of the great Judge, McAllister, on that occasion. It is as applicable to the mass of legislation that comes biennially from Legislatures, as it was to the instrument then under consideration:

"It is," he said, "such an agreement as must, inevitably, if we are not mistaken, prove a mine of quite inexhaustible richness to lawyers, a source of vexation, disappointment and loss to the parties, and, long before its final execution, teach them, perhaps, how sadly inferior is the highest wisdom of eight persons, though aided by the labor and advice of their attorney, to that accumulated wisdom of the State, aided by lights drawn from the experience of ages, and expressed in our statute of wills.”

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