FOREST LAWS, in England, laws for the regulation of the royal forests. Forest is ddfined by lord Coke to be a safe preserve for wild animals (fera) of the chase, whence comes the term foresta, by the change of e into o (Co. Litt. 233 a). Both words probably spring from the same root as.the Latin foris and the French hors, and signify that which is toithout the range of the peopled or cultivated country. Hence the Italian forestiere and forest°, and the Spanish forestero, signify strange, foreign, wild, and the like. A forest, in the sense of the law of England, is a large tract of open ground, not necessarily covered with wood, but usually containing woodland interspersed with pasture, and forming part of the property of the monarch, and goVerned by a special code, called the forest law. This particular law had reference not only to matters con nected with hunting and the like, but generally goyerned the persons living within the forest in all their relations. A chase is a smaller forest, in the hand of a subject, but not governed by forest law. Though the privilege of forest belongs of right to the sovereign alone, it may be granted by him in favor of a subject, who becomes entitled to exercise the privileges of forest in the district assigned. This right was exercised by the Saxon kings, who reserved large tracts of country for the royal pastime of hunting, and a charter of the forest was said to have been passed by Canute at Winchester in the year 1016. But the authenticity of this document is doubted by lord Coke (Inst. iv. 320). William the conqueror greatly extended the royal forests, by laying desert vast districts in Hampshire and Yorkshire; he also introduced penalties of the severest kind for offenses against the game. The penalty for killing a stag or boar was loss of eyes; for William loved the great game as if lie had been their father (Sax. Chronicle). It was not till the reign of Henry III. that the laws of the forest were reduced into a regular code. In the reign of that monarch was passed the charter of the forest, 9 Henry III. (A.D. 1224). The right of the sovereign to create a forest is by the common law confined to lands of his own demesne. Henry II. had arbitrarily exercised his power by afforesting the lends of his subjects; but by the 1st and 3d chapters of the charter of the forest, it is provided that all forests so made should be disafforested. At a subsequent time, when Henry VIII. created Hampton court forest, he was obliged to obtain the consent of the freeholders before he could erect a chase or forest over their grounds (Coke, Inst. iv. 301). Mr. Hallam remarks: " It is well known that Charles I. made
Richmond park by means of depriving many proprietors not only of their common rights, but of their freehold lands. It is not clear that they were ever compensated; but I think this probable, as the matter excited no great clamor in the long parliament." —Hallam, Const. Mist. i. 463, note, 1st edition. By the charter of the forest, the penal ties for destroying game are greatly modified. By cap. 10, it is provided that no man shall lose life or limb for slaying deer, but that the punishment shall be restricted to fine or imprisonment for year and day. Cap. 11 contains the following curious privi lege: "Whatsoever archbishop, bishop, earl, or baron, coming to us at our command ment, passing by our forest, it shall be lawful for him to take and kill one or two of our deer by view of our forester if he be present; or else he shall cause one to blow an horn for him, that he seem not to steal our deer; and likewise they shall do returning from us." This law is still unrepealed ; so that a bishop may kill the queen's deer when summoned to, or returning from parliament. Charles I. attempted to fill his empty exchequer by imposing penalties and exacting fines for alleged encroachments on the ancient boundaries of the forests, though the right to the lands thus.taken was fortified by possession for several centuries. This was one of the first grievances with which the long parliament dealt, and since the passing of the act for the •` certainty of forests" (16 Car. I. c. 16), the laws of the forest have practically ceased. In Coke's time, there were 69 royal forests, all of which, with the exception of the New forest and Hampton court forest, had been created before the period of record. Of these, the principal were the New forest, Sherwood, Dean, Windsor, Epping, Dartmoor, Wichwood, in Oxfordshire; Salcey, Whittlebury, and Rockingham, in Northamptonshire; Waltham, in Lincolnshire; and Richmond, in Yorkshire. During the present reign, several of the royal forests have been disafforested by act of parliament—Hainault, 14 and 15 Viet. 2. 43; Whittlewood, 16 and 17 Viet. c. 42; Wichwood, 19 and 20 Vict. c. 32. Public necessity is the plea on which these spots, long so famous for their sylvan scenery, have been condemned. The plea is one which cannot be altogether disregarded; but it is to be hoped that it will not be suffered to prevail to the entire destruction of our royal forests, some of which, from their vicinity to large towns, afford resorts for public recreation hitdily prized by the citizens, and which never can be equaled to beauty and in healthfulness by any new-made pleasure-ground.