Front Page Titles (by Subject) (Preface) To the learned Reader. - Selected Writings of Sir Edward Coke, vol. I
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(Preface) To the learned Reader. - Sir Edward Coke, Selected Writings of Sir Edward Coke, vol. I 
The Selected Writings and Speeches of Sir Edward Coke, ed. Steve Sheppard (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2003). Vol. 1.
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(Preface) To the learned Reader.
There are (sayth Euripides) three Virtues worthy [of] our meditation; To honour God, our Parents who begat us, and the Common Lawes of Greece: The like doe I say to thee (Gentle Reader) next to thy dutie and pietie to God, and his annointed thy gracious Soveraigne, and thy honour to thy Parents, yeeld due reverence and obedience to the Common Lawes of England: For of all Lawes (I speake of humane) these are most equall, and most certaine, of greatest antiquitie, and least delay, and most beneficiall and easie to be observed; As if the module of a Preface would permit, I could defend against any man that is not malicious without understanding, and make manifest to any of judgement and indifferency, by proofes pregnant and demonstrative, and by Records and Testimonies luculent and irrefragable: Sed sunt quidam fastidiosi, qui nescio quo malo affectu oderunt Artes antequam pernoverunt.1 There is no Jewell in the world comparable to learning; No learning so excellent both for Prince and Subject as knowledge of Lawes; and no knowledge of any Lawes, (I speake of humane) so necessary for all estates, and for all causes, concerning goods, lands, or life, as the Common Lawes of England. If the beauty of other Countries be faded and wasted with bloudy Warres, thanke God for the admirable peace wherein this Realme hath long flourished under the due administration of these Lawes: If thou readest of the tyranny of other Nations, wherein powerfull will and pleasure stands for Law and Reason, and where upon conceit of mislike, men are suddenly poysoned, or otherwise murthered, and never called to answer; Praise God for the Justice of thy gracious Soveraigne, who (to the Worlds admiration,) governeth her people by Gods goodnesse in peace and prosperity by these Lawes, and punisheth not the greatest offendor, no, though his offence be crimen laese Majestatis,2 Treason against her sacred person, but by the just and equall proceedings of Law.
If in other Kingdomes, the Lawes seeme to governe: But the Judges had rather misconstrue Law, and doe injustice, then displease the Kings humour, whereof the Poet speaketh, Ad libitum Regis, sonuit sententia Legis.3 Blesse God for Queene Elizabeth, whose continuall charge to her Justices agreeable with her ancient Lawes, is, that for no commandement under the great or privie Seale, writs or letters, common right bee disturbed or delayed. And if any such commandement (upon untrue surmises) should come, that the Justices of her Lawes should not therefore cease to doe right in any point: And this agreeth with the ancient Law of England, declared by the great Charter, and spoken in the person of the King; Nulli vendemus, nulli negabimus, aut differemus Justiciam vel Rectum.4
If the ancient Lawes of this noble Island had not excelled all others, it could not be but some of the severall Conquerors, and Governors thereof; That is to say, the Romanes, Saxons, Danes, or Normans, and specially the Romanes, who, (as they justly may) doe boast of their Civill Lawes, would (as every of them might) have altered or changed the same.
For thy comfort and encouragement, cast thine eye upon the Sages of the Law, that have beene before thee, and never shalt thou finde any that hath excelled in the knowledge of these lawes, but hath sucked from the breasts of that divine knowledge, honesty, gravity, and integrity, and by the goodnesse of God hath obtained, a greater blessing and ornament then any other profession, to their family and posteritie: As by the page following, taking some for many, you may perceive; for it is an undoubted truth, That the just shall flourish as the Palme tree, and spread abroad as the Cedars of Libanus.5
Their example and thy profession doe require thy imitation: for hitherto I never saw any man of a loose and lawlesse life, attaine to any sound and perfect knowledge of the said lawes: And on the other side, I never saw any man of excellent judgement in these Lawes, but was withall (being taught by such a Master) honest, faithfull, and vertuous.
If you observe any diversities of opinions amongst the professors of the Lawes, contend you (as it behoveth) to be learned in your profession, and you shall finde that it is Hominis vitium, non professionis:6 And to say the truth, the greatest questions arise not upon any of the Rules of the Common Law, but sometimes upon Conveyances and Instruments made by men unlearned; Many times upon Wills intricately, absurdly, and repugnantly set downe, by Parsons, Scriveners, and such other Imperites: And oftentimes upon Acts of Parliament, overladen with provisoes, and additions, and many times upon a sudden penned or corrected by men of none or very little judgement in Law.
If men would take sound advise and counsell in making of their Conveyances, Assurances, Instruments, and Willes: And Counsellors would take paines to be rightly and truly informed of the true state of their Clyents case, so as their advise and counsell might be apt and agreeable to their Clients estate: And if Acts of Parliament were after the old fashion penned, and by such onely as perfectly knew what the Common Law was before the making of any Act of Parliament concerning that matter, as also how farre forth former Statutes had provided remedie for former mischiefes and defects discovered by experience; Then would very few questions in Law arise, and the learned should not so often and so much perplex their heads, to make atonement and peace by construction of Law betweene insensible and disagreeing words, sentences, and provisoes, as they now doe.
In all my time I have not knowne two questions made of the right of Discents, of escheates by the Common Law, &c. so certaine and sure the Rules thereof bee: Happy were Arts if their professors would contend, and have a conscience to be learned in them, and if none but the learned would take upon them to give judgement of them.
Your kinde and favourable acceptation (gentle Reader) of my former Edition, hath caused me to publish these few cases in performance of my former promise, and I wish to you all no lesse profit in reading of them, then Iperswade my selfe to have reaped in observing of them: This onely of the learned I desire:
[1. ][Ed.: But there are certain scornful people who—I know not by what ill disposition—hate every profession with which they are unacquainted.]
[2. ][Ed.: Treason; lese majesty was the crime of injuring the dignity of the monarch.]
[3. ][Ed.: Legal decisions were made at the king’s whim.]
[4. ][Ed.: To no one shall we sell, to no one deny, to no one delay, Justice or Right.]
[5. ]Psal. 91.12 [AV 92.12].
[6. ][Ed.: A defect in the men, not in the profession.]
[7. ][Ed.: Read this through, and if you find anything more correct than this, dear Reader, share it; if not, use this with me.]