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The first edition of this work embraced all the general statutory provisions of the State to the end of the session of 1889. Since that year at least seventy-five per cent of the statutes contained in the first edition have been amended or repealed. This has made it necessary to entirely revise and reprint the book, although the same general method of treatment has been retained.
As the new General Laws purport to be simply revisions and consolidations of the earlier statutes, notes have been added herein to each section of the revision showing the acts from which the section was derived and the page of the first edition of this work where the original laws can be found. The notes also call attention to the salient changes, if any, made by the revisers. This renders easy an historical study of each section. As the repealing sections and tables of head notes seem to be an integral part of the new General Laws, they have been retained.
Over 10,000 citations of the decisions have been added, making over 40,000 in all, and all pertinent decisions under the former laws have been cited under the corresponding sections of the revision.
By Laws of 1830, chapter 259, it was provided that any resident of New York State might print all or part of the Revised Statutes, and that, when certified by the Secretary of State, such reprint might be read in evidence. Under this law it has been customary for the Secretary of State to certify, in compilations of the statutes, only such parts of the original Revised Statutes as remained in force. Section 932 of the Code of Civil Procedure, as amended by the Laws of 1895, chapter 594, authorized the certification of any law by the Secretary of State, and under this act all of the statutory law in the present work has been carefully compared with the original acts and certified. This is, therefore, the only completely certified edition of our laws since the first edition of the Revised Statutes in 1830, or sixty-six years, and is thus the only complete compilation that can be used in evidence.
In view of the fact that more than two generations have passed since the State of New York has had such a completely certified collection of her general statutes, unusual efforts have been made to render the work equally complete in all other respects, and worthy of the State.
The author is indebted to Mr. M. A. Lesser for aid in making the Index, and to Messrs. Louis Frankel and Edward J. Welch for their assistance in preparing the work for the press.
CLARENCE F. BIRDSEYE.
Dated New YORK CITY, October 1st, 1896.
PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.
In the first fifty-one years of its legislative life, the State of New York had four official revisions of its statutes. Those of Jones & Varick in 1788, of Kent & Radcliff in 1801, and of Van Ness & Woodworth in 1813, were simply collections of separate acts, intended to comprise all the general laws then in force.
The Revised Statutes, passed at the sessions of 1827 and 1828, were the first to be scientifically arranged. They treated, in the several parts, (1) of “ the territorial limits and divisions, the civil polity, and the internal administration of the State; ” (2) of “the acquisition, the enjoyment and the transmission of real and personal property, the domestic relations and other matters connected with private rights;” (3) of "courts and ministers of justice, and proceedings in civil cases; and (4) of “crimes and punishments, proceedings in criminal cases, and prison discipline.”
This well-nigh perfect system of statutory regulations is unrivalled for the scope, yet simplicity as well as the completeness of the execution of its plan, for the directness and perspicuity of its language, and for the breadth of learning in the science of the law displayed by its authors. That this is true is shown by the fact that it has furnished the model and foundation for the present statutory provisions of most of the States of the Union, and has even introduced into general use the term “Revised Statutes,” which the commissioners adopted to distinguish their work from the “Revised Acts” of 1801, and the “ Revised Laws”. of 1813.
Sixty-one years have since passed without any further complete official revision. During this period many statutes formerly of great importance have become obsolete or have been repealed. At the same time, the enactments governing railroad, telegraph and other corporations, and relating to subjects not touched on by the Revised Statutes, have grown to enormous proportions.
Large portions of the First and Second Parts, and practically the whole of the Third and Fourth Parts of the Revised Statutes have been superseded or abrogated by the present Codes and other recent legislation, prepared by different revisers, at different times, and upon different theories, and with different systems of subdivision and arrangement. Each successive work has followed its own method without regard to any general system or the fundamental revision of which it was presumably to be a part.
These and other considerations have made the authors of many of our laws unable or unwilling to prepare suitable repealing provisions pointing out clearly what earlier legislation was intended to be done away with. Statutes have been passed since 1830 containing almost four thousand clauses which provide in substance that “all acts or parts of acts inconsistent with the provisions of” those acts should be repealed.
The first thirteen chapters of the Code of Civil Procedure abrogated a large portion of Part Third of the Revised Statutes, which related to civil procedure. The last nine chapters of the same Code embrace many of the provisions as to real and personal property, divorce, dower, insolvent debtors, corporations, State writs, etc., which occupied large portions of the Second and Third Parts of the Revised Statutes. The Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure, and recent legislation in relation to the county and State prisons, have practically abrogated the whole of the Fourth Part of the Revised Statutes, and have codified the penal provisions of most of the principal subjects of our law. The repealing act in connection with these last two Codes (Laws 1886, chapter 593), repealed about fifteen hundred sections of the Revised Statutes, or other acts or parts of acts. Evidently no compilation of our Statutes could be considered complete which did not present in their proper places the existing provisions relating to the important branches of the law above mentioned, and all others which were originally comprehended in the Revised Statutes, though since removed therefrom, or which affect the people as a whole, or fix the powers or determine the practice of our courts of civil and criminal jurisdiction.
Among the provisions which the author has thus sought to restore, and which do not at present appear in a complete form in any other single compilation of the Statutes, may be mentioned those relating to the rights and powers of all the courts of the State, and of the judges and other officers thereof, including attorneys, clerks, sheriffs, coroners, etc.; the civil and criminal procedure of those courts, including trials, evidence and other similar titles; the statutes of limitations, civil and criminal; the law in relation to attachment of property and person, injunction, and civil and criminal arrest; all provisions relating to real property and chattels, arbitrations, divorce, dower, and other special actions and rights of action, including those referring to corporations and the estates of decedents; actions by the people, and those instituted by State writs; proceedings relating to insolvent debtors and prisoners, and to punish for contempt of court, criminal or civil, and to collect fines; also proceedings for the appointment of committees of the person or property of lunatics, habitual drunkards or convicts, and the disposition of the real property of lunatics, infants or habitual drunkards; proceedings to foreclose mortgages by advertisement, to change the name of an individual, to determine the death of a life tenant, etc.; the laws defining crimes and misdemeanors, and fixing the punishment thereof, and relating to all the penal provisions of our Statutes.
The repeal of more than seventy per cent of the original sections of the Revised Statutes, either because they were supposed to relate to procedure, or because they had been superseded by later legislation, has left the remaining sections entirely without their proper context. This will be found to be the case with almost all the subjects mentioned above. Serious consequences often result from ignorance of the fact that neither the Revised Statutes, nor the Codes, nor the general laws may alone contain all the law upon any one subject, and that neither can be safely construed or acted on without an examination of the provisions of each of the others. It is a noteworthy fact that since the passage of the first part of the Code of Civil Procedure in 1876, no single publication has contained, or has purported to contain, the entire body of the general statutory law of the State, nor has there been any system whatever of cross-references between the Codes and the general laws and such remnants of the Revised Statutes as were unrepealed.
The author has felt that his work would be entirely incomplete unless it included all enactments relating to the important matters mentioned above, which