CODE. A body of law established by the legislative authority of the state, and de signed to regulate completely, so far as a statute may, the subjects to which it relates.
The idea of a code involves that of the exercise of the legislative power in its promulgation ; but the name has been loosely applied else to private compilations of statutes. The subject of nodes and the kindred topics of legal reform have received great attention from the jurists and statesmen of the present century. When it is considered how rapidly statutes accumulate as time passes, it is ob vious that great convenience will be found in having the statute law in a systematic body, ar ranged according to subjeet-matter, instead of leaving it unorganized, scattered through the volumes in which it was from year to year promul gated. But when the transposition of the statutes from a chronological to a scientific order is un dertaken, more radical changes immediately pro pose themselves. These sae of two classes :—first, amendmedts for the purpose of harmonizing the inconsistencies which ouch an arrangement brings to notice, end supplying defects; second, the in troduetion into the system of all Aber rules which are recognized as the unwritten or common law of the state. The object of the latter class of ohnngei is to embody in one systematic enaetmcot all that is thenceforth to be regarded as the law of ihe land. It is this attempt which is usually intended by the distinctive term codification, 2. The first two of the questions thus indicated may be deemed es settled, by general concurrence, in favor of the expediency of such changes ; and the process of the collection of the statute law in one general code, or in a number of partial codes or systematic statutes, accompanied by the amend ments which such a revision invites, is a process which for some years has been renovating the laws of England nod the United States. Although at same Line something has been done, especially in this country, towards embodying in these sta tutes principles which before rested in the common or report law, yet the feasibility of doing this com pletely, or even to any great extent; must be deemed an open question. It hes been discussed with great
ability by Bentham, Savigny, Thibaut, and others. It is undeniable that however successfully a code might be supposed to embody all existing and de clared law, so as to supersede previous sources, it cannot be expected to provide prospectively for all the innumerable cases which the diversity of affairs rapidly engenders, and there must soon come a time when it must be studied in the light of nume rous explanatory decisions.
3. These discussions have called attention to a subject formerly little considered, but which is of fundamental importance to the successful prepara tion of a code,—the matter of statutory expression. There is no species of composition which demands more care end precision than that of drafting a statute. The writer needs not only to make his language intelligible, he moat make it incapable of misconstruction. When it has passed to a law, it is no longer his intent that is to be considered, but the intent of the words which be has used ; and that intent is to be ascertained under the strong pressure of an attempt of the advocate to win whatever possible construction may be most favorable to his cause. The true safeguard is found not in the old method of accumulating syno nyms and by an enumeration of particulars, but rather—as is shown by those American codes of which the Revised Statutes of New York and the re vision of Massachusetts are admirable specimens— by concise hut complete statement of the full prin ciple in the fewest possible words, and the elimina tion of description and paraphrase by the se/a rate statement of necessary definitions. One of the rules to which the New York revisors generally adhered, and which they found of very great im portance, was to confine each section to a single proposition. In this way the intricacy and obseu rity of the old statutes were largely avoided. The reader who wishes to pursue this interesting sub ject will find much that is admirable in Coode's treatise on Legislative Expression (Lond. 1845). The larger work of Gael (Legal Composition, Lond. 1840) is more especially adapted to the • wants of the English profession.