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purpose by the strictures of Dr. Johnson, on Pope's intended poem, and that, in more open defiance of the critic's opinion, he determined to write it in blank verse, although he originally proposed to adopt the heroic measure in rhyme. I should have been happy to gratify the curiosity of my readers with his reafons for this determination, but they do not appear.
Notwithstanding all that might have been expected from the genius, taste, and erudi. tion of Sir William Jones on a subject like this, I cannot, for my own part, lament the application of his time and labour to other ftudies, calculated to instruct as well as to delight the public; we have far more reason to lament, that he did not live to return to his native country through Persia, and that we have lost for ever that information which would have been supplied by his researches and observations during the journey. The strength of a constitution, never vigorous, was unequal to the incessant exertion of his
mental faculties: and whilst we admire the boundless activity of his mind, we anticipate with sorrow its fatal effects upon his health.
I have frequently remarked, that it was the prevailing wish of Sir William Jones to render his talents and attainments useful to his country. The tenour of his correspondence shews, that his principal studies were directed to this object ; and nearly two years preceding the period at which I am arrived, he describes the mode in which he proposes to give effect to his wishes, and expresses his determination to accomplish it, with an energy which marks his sense of the importance of the work he then meditated.
Having now qualified himself, by his knowledge of the Sanscrit and Hindu laws, for the execution of his plan, he determined to delay it no longer; and as he could not pru. dently defray the expense of the undertaking from his own finances, he deemed it proper to apply to the government of Bengal for their assistance. The following letter which he addressed to the Governor-General, Lord
Cornwallis, on this subject, contains all the explanations necessary. MY LORD,
It has long been my wish to address the government of the British dominions in India on the administration of justice among the natives of Bengal and Bahar, a subject of equal importance to the appellate jurisdiction of the supreme court at Calcutta, where the judges are required by the legislature to decide controversies between Hindu and Mohammedan parties, according to their respective laws of contracts, and of fucceffion to property ; they had, I believe, so decided them, in moft cases before the statute to which I allude, had passed; and the parliament only confirmed that mode of decision, which the obvious principles of justice had led them before to adopt. Nothing indeed could be more obviously just, than to determine private contests according to those laws, which the parties themselves had ever considered as the rules of their conduct and engagements in civil life; nor could any thing be wiser, than, by
a legislative act, to assure the Hindu and Mussulman subjects of Great Britain, that the private laws which they severally held facred, and a violation of which they would have thought the most grievous oppression, should not be fuperseded by a new fystem of which they could have no knowledge, and which they must have considered as imposed on them by a spirit of rigour and intolerance.
So far the principle of decision between the native parties in a cause appears perfectly clear; but the difficulty lies (as in most other cases) in the application of the principle to practice; for, the Hindu and Mussulman laws are locked up for the most
part difficult languages, Sanscrit and Arabic, which few Europeans will ever learn, because neither of them leads to any advantage in worldly pursuits: and if we give judgment only from the opinions of the native lawyers and scholars, we can never be sure, that we have not been deceived by them.
It would be absurd and unjust to pass an indiscriminate censure on so considerable a
in two very
142 body of men ; but my experience justifies me in declaring, that I could not with an easy conscience concur in a decision, merely on the written opinion of native lawyers, in any cause in which they could have the remotest interest in misleading the court; nor, how vigilant foever we might be, would it be
very difficult for them to mislead us; for a single obscure text, explained by themselves, might be quoted as express authority, though perhaps in the very book from which it was selected, it might be differently explained or introduced only for the purpose of being exploded. The obvious remedy for this evil had occurred to me before I left England, where I had communicated my sentiments to fome friends in parliament, and on the bench in Westminster-Hall, of whose discernment I had the highest opinion: and those sentiments I propose to unfold in this letter, with as much brevity as the magnitude of the subject will admit.
If we had a complete digest of Hindu and Mohammedan laws, after the model of Juf