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the present-day tendency to use standard printed forms of charter party agreed at conferences between shipowners and merchants in each particular trade has resulted in the drafting of these documents being confided when necessary to barristers and solicitors practising in the Commercial Court and not to notaries. Bottomry bonds were also drawn up as a rule by notaries, but the introduction of steam vessels and the placing of the centres of commerce throughout the world in immediate communication with one another by cable or wireless have resulted in the almost complete desuetude of this form of maritime hypothecation in England.
The status and functions of a notary public at the present day can perhaps best be summed up in this way. In theory notaries share with solicitors the right to practice as "conveyancers," and to prepare commercial and other contracts. But notaries are very rarely called on to act in this capacity though they insist very properly on their right to do so should occasion arise, and there is not the slightest doubt that their claim is well founded. It is, however, only very exceptionally that conveyancing business is confided to a notary in England. The reason for this is two-fold. In the first place the majority of those who practice as notaries are also qualified as solicitors, and if they transact conveyancing business they do so as solicitors and not as notaries. Secondly, the law of England does not require documents of this description to be entered into before any public officer or to be authenticated by a notarial seal, and consequently there is no reason for the public to resort to anyone except a solicitor when it is desired to deal with property, to make a will, or to enter into a contract. So, although a notary is entitled to practice as a conveyancer, this aspect
1 Their rights are explicitly safeguarded by Act of Parliament, 54 & 55 Vict. c. 39, s. 44.
of his professional duties is very much in the background, and, speaking generally, an Englishman envisages a notary as a legal practitioner whose chief duty it is to authenticate documents for use abroad, to protest foreign bills of exchange when dishonoured, to draw up "shipping protests," to translate legal and commercial documents from foreign languages into English, and to prepare certain legal instruments such as powers of attorney which are intended to be operative abroad and must, therefore, be drawn up in a foreign language and conform to the foreign law.
It will thus be seen that the status of the English notary public is quite exceptional and that no real analogy to his office exists elsewhere, except in those countries which are under the régime of AngloAmerican law. He is none the less well recognised by the law of England. He is exempt, for instance, by virtue of his office, from jury service. The common law entitles him to sue for his charges and gives him a general lien on documents in his hands until his just demands have been satisfied. He is also subject on the one hand to State control, and on the other adequately protected against the competition of unqualified persons. In short, his position as a member of one of the branches of the legal profession is sanctioned and safeguarded by the law.
The notarial profession is comprised within relatively narrow limits. The "Law List" for 1924 shows about 500 notaries in all, of whom 27 are entitled to practise in London as well as elsewhere.1 Of the remainder the great bulk are district notaries, i.e. only entitled to practise in certain towns in the provinces. The majority of notaries are also solicitors, and the general result is that although the notary public is an indispensable servant of the community, he does not loom so large in the ranks of the legal
1 Faculties enabling a notary to practice within three miles of the City of London are only granted to members of the Scriveners' Company-Brooke, op. cit., p. 44.
profession as do his colleagues on the Continent of Europe. But although the notaries are now overshadowed numerically by the other branches of the legal profession in England, and are confined to a somewhat narrow sphere of activity, it must not be forgotten that they have played a very important part in the development of our mercantile law. The hand which wields the pen of the draftsman has often had a potent influence in the moulding of the law, and this is no less true of the notary than of the conveyancer.1 With the disappearance of the Courts Merchant the safeguarding of the principles of mercantile law must have passed to a large extent into the hands of the notaries. They were in close touch with men of business and were constantly employed in drawing up commercial documents, so that it does not seem unreasonable to conjecture that they would become the repositories of the traditions of the past. The general body of the legal profession probably cared little and knew less about the law merchant, and the only trained adviser to whom the man of business could turn for aid would assuredly be the notary, whose duty it was to prepare the contract for him. The preservation of continuity and uniformity in the usages of merchants which rendered it possible for Lord Mansfield and his successors to lay down the principles of our mercantile law in an authoritative form, must have been in no small degree the work of the notaries public. This is the debt which the mercantile lawyer and the business community in England owe to the efforts in the past of the members of this branch of the legal profession.
The analogy between the two cases has been pointed out by Professor Holdsworth, op. cit., Vol. V. p. 79.
The Renaissance and the Laws of
By H. D. HAZELTINE,
LITT.D.; F.B.A.; HON. LL.D., BROWN AND HARVARD;
THE Renaissance profoundly and permanently altered the general course of European legal history. In the later middle ages the Roman and Canon laws had exercised a commanding rôle in the legal growth of nearly all the communities of the West; but in the epoch of the Renaissance, and more especially during the sixteenth century, when Europe was in a state of transition from the medieval to the modern order, the main factors of history set in motion vast processes of development which led, gradually but steadily, to a marked decline in the influence of these two universal and cosmopolitan systems of law. The Revival of Learning meant, it is true, the recovery and study of the Roman Law of the classical jurists; but it also resulted in the salvage and study of many of the indigenous legal growths of the middle age. The emancipation of the human intellect from scholasticism and other forms of thraldom, chiefly through the influence of the free and critical spirit of humanism, introduced new methods of juristic study; and these methods were employed not only by the civilians and canonists, but also by jurists whose main interest lay in the native laws and customs of Europe. The general revolt against authority, one of the leading aspects of the Renaissance epoch, included a revolt against