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court in causes between native parties; the labour of the work would also be greatly diminished by .two compilations already made in Sanscrit and Arabic, which approach nearly in merit and in method, to the digest of Justinian: the first Avas composed a few centuries ago by a Brahman of this province, named Raghunandefy and is comprised in twenty-seven books at least, on every branch of Hindu law: the second, which the Arabs called the Indian decisions, B known here by the title of Fetaweh Aalemgiri, and was compiled by the order of Anrangzeb, in five large volumes, of which I possess a perfect and well-collated copy. To translate these immense works, would be surperfluous labour; but they will greatly facilitate the compilation of a digest on the laws of inheritance and contracts; and the code, as it is called, of Hindu law, which was compiled at the request of Mr. Hastings, will be useful for the same purpose, though it by no means obviates the difficulties before stated, nor supersedes the necessity or the expedience at least of a more ample repertory of Hindu laws, especially on the twelve different contracts, to which Ulpian has given specific names, and on all the others, which, though not specifically named, are reducible to four general heads. The last-mentioned work is entitled Vivadamavasetu, and consists, like the Roman digests, of authentic texts, with the names of their several authors regularly prefixed to them, and explained, where an explanation is requisite, in short notes taken from commentaries of high authority: it is, as far as it goes, a very excellent work; but though it appear extremely diffuse on subjects rather curious than useful, and though the chapter on inheritances be copious and exact, yet the other important branch of jurisprudence, the law of contracts, is very succinctly and superficially discussed, and bears an inconsiderable proportion to the rest of the workBut whatever be the merit of the original, the translation of it has no authority, and is of no other use than to suggest enquiries on the many dark passages which we find in it; properly speaking,
indeed,. indeed, we cannot call it a translation; for though Mr. Halhed performed his part with fidelity, yet the Persian interpreter had sup-. plied him only with a loose injudicious epitome of the original Sanscrit, in which abstract many essential passages are omitted; though several notes of little consequence are interpolated, from a vain idea of elucidating or improving the text. All this I say with confidence, having already perused no small part of the original with a learned pundit, comparing it as I proceeded, with the English version. Having shewn therefore the expedience of a new compilation for each system of Indian law, I beg leave to state the difficulties which must attend the work, and to suggest the means of removing them.
The difficulty which first presents itself, is the expense of paying the pundits and maulavis who must compile the digest, and the native writers who must be employed to transcribe it. Since two provinces are immediately under this government, in each of which there are many customary laws, it would be proper to employ one pundit of Bengal and another from Behar; and since there are two Mohammedan sects, who differ in regard to many traditions from their Prophet, and to some decisions of their respective doctors, it might be thought equally proper to engage one maulavi of each sect; and this mode would have another advantage, since two lawyers conferring freely together on fundamental principles common to both, would assist, direct, and check each other*.
Although I can have no personal interest, immediate or consequential, in the work proposed, yet I would cheerfully have borne the whole expense of it, if common prudence had not restrained me, and if my private establishment of native readers and writers, which I cannot with convenience discontinue at present, did not require * A passage relating to the remuneration of the natives to be employed, is here omitted. more than half of the monthly expense, which the completion of a digest would, in my opinion, demand. 1 am under a necessity therefore of intimating, that if the work be thought expedient, the charges of it should be defrayed by the government, and the salaries paid by their officers. The second difficulty is, to find a director of the work and a translator of it, who with a competent knowledge of the Sanscrit and Arabic, has a general acquaintance with the principles of jurisprudence, and a sufficient share even of legislative spirit, to arrange the plan of a digest, superintend the compilation of it, and render the whole, as it proceeds, into perspicuous English ;. so that even the translation may acquire a degree of authority proportioned to the public opinion of his accuracy. Now, though I am truly conscious of possessing a very moderate portion of those talents, which I should require in the superintendant of such a work, yet I may without vanity profess myself equal to the labour of it ; and though I would much rather see the work well conducted by any man than myself, yet I would rather give myself the trouble of it, than not live to see it conducted at all; and I cannot but know, that the qualifications required even in the low degree in which I possess them, are not often found united in the same person, for a reason before suggested. If your Lordship, therefore, after full consideration of the subject, shall be of opinion, that a digest of Hindu and Mohammedan laws would be a work of national honour and utility ;—I sO cherish both, that I offer the nation my humble labour as far as I can dispose of my time consistently with the faithful discharge of my duty as a magistrate: should this offer be accepted, I should then request youf Lordship to nominate the pundits and maulavis, to whom I would severally give a plan conformable to the best analysis that I could make; and I should be able, if my health continued firm, to translate every morning, before any other business is begun, as much as they could compile, and the writers copy in the preceding day.
The The Dhermasastra, or sacred code of the Hindus, consists of eighteen books, the first of which would in any age or nation be thought a wonderful performance; both the first and second have excellent commentaries of great authority, but the other sixteen are too easy to need elucidation: the works of Menu, of Yagyawalcia, and most of the others are in blank verse, but that of Gatttam is in modulated prose; besides these, the Hindus have many standard lawtracts with their several commentaries, and among them a fine treatise on inheritances by Jcmulavahan, to which our pundits often refer; though on that subject, the work of Raghunanden seems to be more generally approved in this province. The Mussulmans, besides a few general rules in the Koran, and a number of traditional maxims delivered from their Prophet, and his companions through the sages of their law, together with the opinions of the celebrated lawyers preserved by their disciples, have two incomparable little tracts, one by Surajuddin, and the other by Alkuduri; the former on succession only, and the other on contracts; also with comments on each, and other comments on them; not to mention some other tracts of acknowledged authority, and large collections of decision in particular cases. All these books may, I suppose, be procured with ease; and some of the most rare among them are in my possession; mine 1 would lend with pleasure to the pundits and maulavis, if they happened to be unprovided with good copies of them, and my example would, I persuade myself, be followed on such an occasion by other collectors of Eastern manuscripts, both natives and Europeans. This is all that appears necessary to be written on the subject, with which I began this address to your Lordship ; I could not have expressed myself more concisely without some obscurity; and to have enlarged on the technical plan of the work which I have proposed, would have been superfluous.
A proposal such as the letter of Sir William Jones contains, could not fail of receiving that attention which it merited, from the nobleman, who presided in the government of India. Fully sensible of the utility of a digest of Hindu and Mohammedan law, in facilitating what he was ever anxious to promote, the due administration of justice to the native subjects of the British empire in Hindustan, the Marquis Cornwallis considered the accomplishment of the plan, as calculated to reflect the highest honour upon his administration. The answer to Sir William Jones, written by his direction, expressed this sentiment with a declaration, that his Lordship deemed it singularly fortunate, that a person so eminently qualified for the task, should, from principles of general benevolence and public spirit, be induced to engage in an undertaking, as arduous as it was beneficial.
With this sanction, Sir William Jones immediately entered upon the execution of the work, and having selected with the greatest care, from the most learned Hindus and Mohammedans, a sufficient number of persons duly qualified for the task of compilation, he traced the plan of the digest, prescribed its arrangement, and pointed out the manuscripts from which it was to be formed.
From a series of letters addressed to the compiler of these memoirs on the subject of the digest, a large selection might be made relating to it; but as they cannot be interesting to my readers in general, I shall not interrupt the narrative by their introduction.
At the period when this work was undertaken by Sir William Jones, he had not resided in India more than four years and a half; during which time, he had not only acquired a thorough knowledge of the Sanscrit language, but had extended his reading in it. so far, as to be qualified to form a judgment upon the merit and autho
s s rity