Lamps or lights placed in lighthouses, or other conspicuous positions, as aids to navi gation at night. See NAVIGATION RULES. Civil Remedies.
In general, by the theory and early practice of the common law, a party who had any legal ground of complaint against another might call the latter to answer in court.at such tirne as suited his convenience. This privilege, however, it wae soon found, might, be productive of great incotivenience and, not unfrequently of great injustice. iarties might, and often did, wait till witnesses were dead or papers destroyed, and then pro ceeded to enforce claims to which at an earlier date a successful defence Might have been made. Titles were thus rendered un certain, the tenure of property insecure, and litigation fostered. To prevent these evils, statutes were passed limiting the time within which a party having a cause of action should appeal to the courts for redress,— hence called statutes of limitation. The doc trine of fines, of very great antiquity in the history of the common law, the purpose of which was to put an end to controversies, grew out of the efforts to obviate these evils„ and frequent attempts, prior to the accession of James I., by statutes of restricted appli cation, were made to the same end. But till the reign of that prince no general enactment applicable alike t,o personal a,nd real actions had been passed.
2. In the year 1623, however, by kat. 21 Jac. I. c. 16, entitled "An Act for Limitation of Actions, and for avoiding of Suits at Law," known and celebrated ever since as the Statute of Limitations, the law upon this subject was comprehensively declared sub sta,ntially as it exists at the present day in England, whence our ancestors brought it, with them to this country ; and it has passed,, with some modifications, into the statute hooks of every state in the Union except Louisiana, whose laws of limitation are, essentially the Prescriptions of the civil law,. drawn from the Partidas, or Spanish Code.
3. The similarity between the statutes of the several states and those of England is, such that the decisions of the British -courts and those of this country -are for the most part illustrative of all, and will he cited in discriminately in this brief summary of the law as it now stands. 5 Barnew. & Ald. 204 ;
4 Johns. N. Y. 317. One preliminary ques tion, however, has arisen in this country, growing out of the provision of the national constitution prohibiting states from passing laws impairing the obligation of contracts, for which there is no English precedent. Upon this point the settled doctrine is that unless the law bars a right of action already accrued without giving a reasonable time within which to bring an action, it pertains to the remedy merely, and is valid. 4 Wheat.
22 : 12 id. 349 ; 6 How. 550 ; 14 N. Y. 16 ; Metc. Mass. 168 ; 2 All. Mass. 436. Sub ject to this qualification, a law may extend or reduce the time already limited. But a cause of action already barred by pre-exist ing statutes will not be revived by a statute extending the time, 5 Mete. Mass. 400 ; 7 Penn. St. 292 ; 25 Vt. 41 ; 8 Blackf. Ind. 506 ; though if it be not already barred a statute extending the time will apply. 1 T. L. Smith, Ind. 8.
4. Courts of equity, though not within the terms of the statute, have nevertheless been uniformlyiegarded as within its spirit, and have, as a general rule, been governed by its provisions, unless special circumstances, Where there has been no laches, in the interests of justice, require that they should be disre garded. 2 Schoales & L. Ir. Ch. 329, 630 ; 12 Pet. 56 ., 7 Johns. Ch. N. Y. 90 ; 2 Den. N. Y. 577 ; 9 Pick. Mass. 1 ; 3 All„ Mass. 42. Aild 113 some cases when claims are not barred by the statute of limitations, a c'ourt of equity will refuse to interfere, on grounds Of public nolicy, and the difficulty of doing entire lustice betveeen the parties when the origi nal transaction may have become obscure by the lapse of time and the evidence lost, 1 Dav. Dist. Ct. 252 ; 1 Jones, No. C. Eq, 18 ; though a lapse of time short of that of the statute of limitatione Will not be held a bat without strong reasons. 1 Woodb. & M. C. C. 90.