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CONSTITUTION OF MAINE.
It is common at the present day for careless and inaccurate writers to set up the cry "hypercriticism," whenever any thing is said about correctness of style, or precision in the use of language. It is enough, say they, that a general idea of an author's meaning can be gathered from his writings. With as much propriety might they discourage all attempts to arrive at perfection in any other art, or science, as in that of writing, the most useful and sublime of all arts. It is the dernier resort of haughty ignorance, to affect to despise what it does not understand. But better things are expected of those who take upon themselves the responsibility of making laws and regulations for the government of the people. This important work should not be committed to unskilful hands. It is
not enough that the meaning which a lawgiver intends to convey, can be inferred from his language. He should possess such a knowledge of the office and power of words, and such skill in the use of them, as to enable him clearly and forcibly to give his meaning. It should be so obvious as to be discovered at "first blush;" and his language so constructed, that no other meaning than that which he intends, can be taken from it.
That we have not attached too much importance to the subject, every one who will take the trouble to examine the Laws and Resolves of this, or any other State,will, we think, be satisfied.
It is well known, that a great proportion of new members are, every year, returned to the Senate as well as to the House of Representatives-men, generally speaking, of worth and intelligence, but without experience in legislation. Granting that these new members possess talent, education, and industrious habits, they can make but little progess in acquiring a knowledge of the great business of legislation in a session of six or eight weeks. Hence, a majority of the members do not possess the legal information and skill which is requisite to draw statutes of general application, or to judge with confidence of their correctness, when drawn by others. This duty falls on, comparatively speaking, but a small portion of the members; which renders it impossible for them to give the attention to it that its importance demands. Hence errors are in
evitable. Besides they are often the result of the gross remissness of persons employed to draft the laws, or of those who are appointed to revise them. And this must continue to be the case, so long as the practice which is now pursued in most of the towns in this State that of changing their Representatives every year, prevails.
In the language of another, "we would call the attention of law-makers to a consideration of the necessity of scrupulous exactness of language, in the enactment of laws which are to be the rules of conduct and judgment among the citizens and in Courts of Law; and of the propriety of preventing judges and lawyers from making laws by construction (at variance with the manifest intention of the Legislature,) by using expressions, words and phrases, incapable of being mis. understood."
To compositions of this character, more nice and severe criticism is justly applied, than to any other. A phrase, a single word, or even a comma, wrongly placed, sometimes alters the construction, and gives to a sentence a meaning which the writer never intended.
The following is an exact copy (says the New York Courier) of part of a bill that passed both houses of the N. Y. Legislature. The object of the bill was, to vest certain powers in the freeholders of Waterford.
"And it shall be lawful for such grocer or grocers on receiving such license and giving such bond to sell strong and spiritous liquor, to be drunk in the building in which he, she, or they, shall keep such grocery, for the term of one year from the date of such license.'