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Solicitors, and other practitioners, appear to have a sufficient participation in this gainful trade, to prevent them from making any complaint. It will, therefore, depend upon the public spirit of the country gentlemen, and the mercantile and maritime classes, whether Parliament shall be moved to abolish or reform this system.
It is matter of regret, that the former and last Commissioners, from a delicacy, perhaps, to the Writers to the Signet, have neither made any inquiry, nor reported to Parliament any opinion on this very important subject. Hence there is no provision on the subject in the new bill, although falling within the compass of the inquiry of the last Commissioners, and the professed object of the new bill.
The Commissioners in 1818, indeed, admit that they had not made the necessary inquiry, and were not prepared "to state any opinion as to the expediency of introducing a more direct and simple form of personal execution." But with respect to the decrees of Sheriff for sums to the amount of £.40, those Commissioners reported that signet hornings and captions were unnecessary, and that the decrees of Sheriffs, like those of Magistrates of Royal Burghs, should be an effectual warrant to poind or imprison," without any previous interposition of the Supreme Court." Their recommendation to this extent has, however, been hitherto disregarded by the Legislature. But the reasons in support of the recommendation, stated by the Commissioners, sufficiently shew the expediency of abolishing, in all cases, signet writs, and substituting a more simple and less expensive mode of bringing actions into court, and putting decrees into execution.
Although there is a quarto volume of the forms of the different writs passing the Signet, we conceive they may be resolved chiefly into two classes: 1, Summonses and arrestments, and inhibitions thereon; and, 2, Arrestments, inhibitions, hornings and poindings, and captions, following upon decrees.
In England, a person is generally cited to appear in Court by a short
writ directed to the Sheriff, and after citation and appearance of the defendant in Court, the cause of action is explained by the plaintiff, in a declaration. Anciently, a similar practice existed in Scotland. In virtue of the Act 1457, c. 62, a brieve was obtained from Chancery,("the Kinges Chappel," directed to the Sheriff, to call the parties before the Lordes of Session," to answer to a matter to be then laid against them. So late as 1672, the practice of engrossing in the summons a full statement of the facts and the conclusions, was unknown. This practice continued till 1723, when the Writers to the Signet obtained an Act of Sederunt directing the declaration and conclusions to be embodied in the summons, and a copy served on the defender. From the establishment of the College of Justice in 1537 till 1723, therefore, it appears that blank summonses were used. The same practice is still continued in the Admiralty and Teind Courts.
The modern practice of embodying a full statement in the summons seems to have been introduced chiefly to secure a monopoly to the Writers to the Signet. It appears to have no other recommendation. But by a decision of the House of Lords in 1800, the Solicitors were found entitled to a share in the monopoly.
The Scotch practice, however,ought, on general grounds, to be assimilated as near as possible to that of England. The remedy seems easy, and would be attended with very beneficial consequences. All that is necessary is to have either brieves or short summonses. If the last are preferred, let any statements, or averments of facts, be excluded, and the summons confined shortly to the name of the plaintiff and defendant,-the amount of the debt,-the conclusions,-and the warrant of citation. Of this no amendment should ever be permitted. The facts on which the summons is founded should be stated without argument separately, in a declaration, and served on the defender along with citation. The warrant of citation should be in a printed form, as in the Admiralty and Teind Courts, and contain warrant also to arrest and inhibit, and in that state should pass the Signet blank,
but be always libelled before service, or using arrestment or inhibition. The arrestment or inhibition should fall to the ground, unless the summons were lodged with the Clerk of Court, on expiry of the induciæ. A copy of the summons and executions, as an inhibition recorded in the record of inhibitions, like a copy of a petition for sequestration, should be a sufficient inhibition. Mr Forsyth, Advocate, who has perhaps had more practice, and is better skilled in Scots forms than any other counsel now at the Bar, concurs substantially in approving of this plan. "Return (says he, App. p. 148.,) to blank writs, or writs of style, shewing merely the nature of the demand. Let the pleadings in Court begin with a declaration, or claim by the pursuer, stating his case."
2. Hornings, Captions, &c.
When a decree is obtained, the extract should have appended, in a printed form, warrant to charge, arrest, inhibit, poind, and imprison ;and no separate letters of horning and poinding, arrestment, and inhibition and caption, which are quite superfluous and unnecessary, should be permitted. The unnecessary and expensive forms of letters of suspension and advocation, which are abolished in maritime causes, but are carelessly intended by the new bill to be continued, should in all cases be abolished.
The average expense of raising and executing signet-letters, viz. suminons, arrestment, inhibitions, suspensions, horning and poinding, and caption, may be stated from £.10 to £.25 upon each debt, although, perhaps, not exceeding £.5 or £.10 in
How calm the little lake doth lie,
One sheet of azure hue!
By the new plan proposed, the blank warrant of citation, arrestment, and inhibition, should cost about seven shillings, and all the other expenses of letters of horning, arrestment, &c. would be saved, except a trifle for recording an inhibition or charge, because the warrants to arrest, poind, &c. would be contained in, and appended to the original decree.
If, again, these extracts and the copy for the record were allowed, as in the Jury Court, to be prepared by the agents themselves, one extractor might sign all the extracts of the Court of Session, and thus the whole expense of the absurd establishment of so many extractors might be saved.
Dark woods hemm'd round on every side,
Shut out the world unknown;
The only objection to the economical plan proposed, is the vested interest of the Writers to the Signet. It would not be difficult to show that all the compensation which they could fairly claim would be very trifling. But their claims of compensation should be no obstacle to such a national benefit. Let the Barons of Exchequer be empowered to examine these claims, and to sustain them in so far as may be just.
O, from loath'd scenes of selfish strife,
How sweet a little spot is here!
To meet with such a scene?
How gladly I'd retreat
To this embow'ring solitude,
ON THE FIGURE OF THE EARTH.
A SPECTATOR, placed on any part of the earth's surface, sees around him a certain limited portion of its surface, and this portion is called the visible horizon of that place. If the spectator advances twenty or thirty miles from his first position, in any direction, either east, west, north, or south, he will have an entirely new visible horizon, which will not contain any one of the objects which were seen in his first position. By advancing still farther, he will have another visible horizon, filled again with fresh objects, and bounded by a different portion of the earth. If the earth were perfectly globular, the boundaries of all these visible horizons would, in every position, be circles; but as the figure of the earth is that of an oblate spheroid, the boundaries of all the visible horizons, except when the spectator is at either of the poles, will be ellipses. Now the perpetual change of objects in the visible horizon cannot pos sibly arise from the inequalities of the earth's surface, considered as a plane of indefinite extent; for even from the highest mountains in one of the horizons, we cannot see the ob jects contained in the other. It follows, then, that the surface of the earth is not plane, but convex; and since this change in the visible hori zon takes place equally, as to obser vation, in every part of the earth which has been visited, we are en titled to conclude that the earth is round. When the visible horizon is composed wholly of sea, we have occular proof of the earth's convexity. As a ship comes in sight, the top of the mast first appears, while the hull and the sails, at least the lower parts of them, are invisible. We next perceive more of the rigging, and, as she approaches, the whole of the vessel rises, as it were, above the horizon, or above the convexity of the sea; and the surface of the earth is nothing more than the continuation of the surface of the sea, in all directions, and raised a little farther from the earth's centre. The globular form of the earth is still more satisfactorily proved by the variation in the mid-day altitudes of
the sun, and the meridian altitudes of all the other heavenly bodies, when seen from different parts of its surface, or in different latitudes; and this variation, when accurately observed at two places, whose distance is known, or which we can measure, enables us to determine, with great accuracy, the diameter of the earth. It is difficult, however, when measuring the meridional distance between two places, to keep always exactly in that meridian; we may deviate a little to the one side or to the other, in consequence of which, our measured distance between the two places will be greater than the true distance. We can place upright poles, or other objects, in the meridian which lies between the two places, in the following manner: Let a transit instrument, at one of the places, be placed in the meridian, by the help of circumpolar stars, or otherwise; direct the telescope towards a distant object, some part of which is in the meridian. Upon this object make a mark, exactly in the direction of the vertical wire in the middle of the telescope; this point will be in the meridian: the same kind of operation may be made at the second station which was made at the first; and, in this manner, the meridian line may be continued as far as we please. When the distance between the two places is measured, and the difference between the zenith distances of a star situated on the same meridian, corresponding with the measured distance, is ascertained; this is what astronomers call the measure of a degree of the meridian. The measurement of two degrees, in the direction of the meridian, in two different latitudes, is sufficient to determine the two axes of the generating ellipse, and, consequently, the figure of the earth, supposing it to be elliptical. Several degrees have been measured, in different latitudes, and the result of these measurements is, that the mean diameter of the earth is about 7912 miles ;-that a degree of the meridian is longer at the poles than at the equator; and, therefore, that the earth is an oblate spheroid,
a solid generated by the revolution of an ellipse about its shorter axis, and that the proportion of the less axis is to the greater as 300 to 301. The difference, however, in the results which have been obtained by making use of various degrees measured in different parts of the earth, by collating them in pairs, was sufficient to induce Laplace to suspect that the earth is really not a solid of revolution, but that the terrestrial meridian is a curve of double curvature. That illustrious philosopher was led to this erroneous conclusion, partly by making use of the incorrect degree of the meridian measured by Maupertius and his associates in Lapland, and some similar wrong results given by La Caille, deduced from measurements and experiments made at the Cape of Good Hope, and partly by an error in his own calculations, which affected his results. From subsequent experiments, however, inore accurately conducted, it is now extremely probable that the earth is a solid of revolution, and that both hemispheres are exactly similar. The degree in Lapland has been re-measured, and an error detected in the old measurement of about 200 fathoms. Professor Playfair ascribed the small discrepancies, which arise from making use of measured degrees in different places, to the unequal density of the materials of which the earth may be composed at those places near its surface, by means of which the direction of gravity may
the gratuitous suppositions which Newton had adopted, that if a planet, supposed to be fluid and homogeneous, be composed of particles which attract in the ratio of their masses, and inversely as the square of their distances, at the same time that it revolves round an axis in a given time, it will remain in equilibrium if it have the form of an elliptic spheroid, whatever may be the ratio of the axis. Maclaurin has only employed in his demonstrations the synthetic geometry of the ancients; but we regard his method as a master-piece, superior to any thing which Archimedes or Apollonius has left us." Maclaurin divided the prize given by the Academy of Sciences at Paris with Euler and Daniel Bernouilli. Now, although it was thus demonstrated that the parts of a homogeneous fluid, (on which the figure of the earth, just described, was any how induced,) would be in equilibrio, yet it was not shown inversely, that whenever an equilibrium takes place in such a fluid mass, the figure of the mass must be the oblate spheroid in question. D'Alembert, indeed, showed that there are more spheroids than one, in which the state of equilibrium may be maintained, and this result, though it was not observed by Maclaurin, might easily, however, have been inferred from his solution. Legendre afterwards proved that the solids of equilibrium must always be elliptic spheroids; and that, in general, there are two spheroids that will satisfy the specified conditions. In the case of a homogeneous mass of the mean density of the earth, revolving in the space of 23 hours, 56 minutes, 4 seconds, one of the spheroids is that above mentioned, the other is one in which the equatorial diameter is to the polar as 681 to 1. Laplace has added the following limitations. A fluid and homogeneous mass cannot be in equilibrium with an elliptic figure, if the time of its rotation be less than 2 hours, 25 minutes, 17 seconds. If the time of revolution be greater than this, there will always be two elliptic figures, or spheroids, and not more, in which an equilibrium may be maintained.
A homogeneous fluid, of the mean density of the earth, and revolving on its axis in 23 hours, 56 minutes, 4 seconds, of solar time, would be in equilibrio if it had the figure of an oblate spheroid, of which the axis is to the equatorial diameter as 229 to 230. This is the figure which Newton ascribed to the earth; his investigation of its figure, however, though extremely ingenious, involved assumptions which prevented it from being quite satisfactory. A very accurate and elegant demonstration was not long after given by Maclaurin, which was afterwards improved, and rendered more analytical, by Clairaut. Respecting Maclaurin's solution, Bossut makes the following remark: "He demonstrated, without any of
If the earth be not homogeneous, but composed of strata that increase in density as they approach the cen
tre, it will still be an elliptic spheroid, but of less oblateness than if it were homogeneous. This was demonstrated by Clairaut. Newton fell into a mistake, by supposing the contrary to be the case. The greater density of the earth, towards the centre, is in itself probable; but it has been placed beyond the possibility of doubt, by very accurate experiments made on different sides of the mountain Schehallien, in Perthshire, by the late Dr Maskelyne.
By observations of the zenith distances of stars, the difference of the latitude of two stations on the north and south sides of the mountain was determined. A trigonometrical survey of the mountain (executed, we have been informed, by the late Reuben Burrow) ascertained the distance between the two stations; and thence, from the known length of a degree of the meridian under that parallel, the difference of the latitudes of the two stations was inferred, and was found less by 11.6" than by astronomical observations. The zeniths, then, of the stations, had been separated from each other by more than the usual proportion of the meridian distance; and this could only arise from the plummet on each side being attracted towards the body of the mountain. From the quantity of this change, in direction of the plummet, the ratio of the attraction of the mountain to the attraction of the whole earth, or to the force of gravity, was calculated by Dr C. Hutton, and found to be as 1 to 17,804. The bulk and figure of the mountain also being given, from an actual survey, its mean density was found to be, to the mean density of the earth, nearly as 5 to 9. The mean density of the earth, then, is nearly double the density of the rocks which compose Schehallien; which appears, again, to be considerably more dense than the mean of those which form the general exterior crust of the earth. From a survey of the mountain, made afterwards by Mr Playfair, its density was ascertained to be greater than Dr Hutton had supposed it to be.
By what Mr Playfair could conjecture, the mean specific gravity of the whole would be about 2.7 or 2.8, one stratum being about 2.4,
another about 2.75, and some of the rocks as high as 3, and even 3.2. On the whole, then, it appears not unreasonable to suppose the mean specific gravity of the mountain to be from 2.7, to 2.75, or 21. Now, × 2, gives, or almost 5; that is, under these circumstances, the medium density, or specific gravity of the whole mass of the earth, in proportion to that of water, is nearly as 5 to 1, or that it is about five times the weight of water."-Hutton's Tracts, p. 64. Vol. II. Newton thought it probable that the mean density of the earth might be five or six times as great as the density of water, and it has now been determined to be five times as great. "Since, therefore, the common matter of our earth on the surface thereof is about twice as heavy as water, and a little lower, in mines, is found about three or four, or even five times more heavy, it is probable that the quantity of the whole matter of the earth may be five or six times greater than if it consisted all of water, especially as I have showed before that the earth is about four times more dense than Jupiter."— Principia, Book III. p. 230.
Notwithstanding the irregularities above-mentioned, the figure of the earth is so near to the spheroid of equilibrium, as to indicate either the original fluidity of the whole mass, or the gradual acquisition of a spheroidal figure, in consequence of the repeated waste and reconsolidation of the parts near the surface. If the whole mass of the earth was ever in a fluid state, it must have been so from the action of heat. The insolubility of the greatest part of rocks and minerals in water, and the immense quantity of that fluid which would be required for dissolving even those that are soluble, are insuperable objections to the hypothesis of aqueous formation. The igneous formation is not subject to either of these difficulties.
The spheroidal figure may have been gradually acquired, without supposing the original fluidity of the whole mass. In a terraqueous body, however irregular its primitive form, the prominent parts are subject to be worn down ; and having been thus detached, will be carried to the lower