Front Page Titles (by Subject) Epilogue - Selected Writings of Sir Edward Coke, vol. II
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Epilogue - Sir Edward Coke, Selected Writings of Sir Edward Coke, vol. II 
The Selected Writings and Speeches of Sir Edward Coke, ed. Steve Sheppard (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2003). Vol. 2.
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And know my son, that I would not have thee beleeve, that all which I have said in these Bookes is Law, for I will not presume to take this upon me: But of those things that are not Law, inquire & learne of my wise Masters learned in the Law; notwithstanding albeit that certaine things which are moved and specified in the said Bookes, are not altogether Law, yet such things shall make thee more apt, and able to understand & apprehend the Arguments and the reasons of the Law, &c. For by the Arguments and Reasons in the Law, a man more sooner shall come to the certaintie and knowledge of the Law.
Lex plus laudatur quando ratione probatur.1
“I will not presume,”
Here observe the great modestie and mildness of our Author, which is worthy of imitation; for Nulla virtus, nulla scientia locum suum & dignitatem conservare potest sine modestia.2 And herein our Author followed the example of Moses, who was a Judge, and the first Writer of Law, for he was Mitissimus omnium hominum qui fuit in terris,3 as the holy History testifieth of him.
“the Arguments and the reasons of the Law,”
Ratio est anima Legis;4 for then are we said to know the Law, when we apprehend the reason of the Law, that is, when we bring the reason of the Law so to our owne reason, that wee perfectly understand it as our owne, and then and never before, we have such an excellent and inseperable propertie and ownership therin, as wee can neither lose it, nor any man take it from us, and will direct us (the learning of the Law is so chained together) in many other Cases. But if by your studie and industrie you make not the reason of the Law your owne, it is not possible for you | long to retaine it in your memorie. And well doth our author couple arguments and reasons together, Quia argumenta ignota & obscura ad lucem rationis proferunt & reddunt splendida:5 and therefore argumentari & ratiocinari are many times taken for one. And that our author may not speake any thing without authority (which in these Institutes we have as we take it manifested) his opinion herein also agreeth with that of the learned and reverend Chiefe Justice of the Court of Common pleas. Sir Richard Hankford, (y)6Home ne scavera de quel mettal un campane est, si ne soit bien bate, ne le ley bien conus sans disputation.7 And another saith, (*)8Jeo aye dispute cest matter pur la apprender la ley.9 So as our author hath made a most excellent Epilogue or Conclusion with a grave advice and counsell, together with the reason thereof, which all students are toknowandfollow, and with Scire and sequi,10 I will conclude our authors Epilogue.
“Lex plus laudatur quando ratione probatur.”11
This is the fourth time that our author hath cited verses.12
When I had finished this worke of the first part of the Institutes, and looked backe and considered the multitude of the conclusions in Law, the manifold diversities between cases & points of learning, the varietie almost infinite of authorities ancient, Constant & Moderne, & withall their amiable & admirable consent in so many successions of ages, the manychanges&alterations of the Common Law, & additions to the same, even since our author wrote, by many acts of Parliament, & that the like worke of Institutes had not been attempted by any of our profession whom I might imitate, I thought it safe for me to follow the grave & prudent example of our worthy Author, not to take upon me, or presume that the reader should thinke, that all that I have said herein to be Law: yet this I may safely affirme, that there is nothing herein, but may either open some windowes of the Law, to let in more light to the Student by diligent search to see the secrets of the Law, or to move him to doubt, and withall to enable him to inquire and learne of the Sages, what the Law together with the true reason thereof in these cases is: Or lastly upon consideration had of our old Bookes, Lawes, and Records, (which are full of venerable Dignitie and antiquity) to find out where any alteration hath beane upon what ground the Law hath beene since changed, knowing for certaine, that the Law is unknowne to him that knoweth not the reason thereof, and that the knowne certainty of the Law is the safety of all. I had once intended for the ease of our student to have made a Table to these institutes, but when I considered that Tables and abridegments are most profitable to them that make them, I have left that worke to every Studious Reader. And for a farewell to our Jurisprudent I wish unto him the gladsome light of Jurispidence, the lovelinesse of Temperance, the stabilitie of Fortitude, and the soliditie of Justice.
B. The Second Part of the Institutes
First published in 1642, The Second Part of the Institutes of the Lawes of England was, like Coke’s commentary on Littleton, a glossator’sproject. Coke selected the statutes that then most affected the rights and interests of England and annotated each section of them, not only presenting cases that applied or modified each statute but also describing and amplifying its meaning and application. The most significant of these is undoubtedly his commentary on Magna Carta, which became the essential understanding of its meaning for the next three hundred years.
Magna Carta, as it was signed in 1215, signed again, confirmed, and confirmed again by various kings over the years, was originally a series of concessions to the baronial families and the Church, with some benefits for merchants, townsmen, and the lesser aristocracy. The art of Coke’s gloss was, however, to read the terms as they were written, which were in more general words, and to find in them a much more universal set of protections. The form of Magna Carta that Coke set for his text was the form in which Henry III confirmed it, in 1225, primarily because its status as law prior to that time is not so clear as it was after Henry’s confirmation of it.
The remaining statutes cover a host of subject matter, particularly interests in land. In that context, though, it is important to see estates in land as much as a constitutional matter as a matter of private law. The relationship among monarch, mesne lord (or an intermediate holder of an estate), tenant, and tenant’s servants was the relationship that structured almost all other relationships in the state, including access to Parliament and the courts. The one significant institution outside of that structure ran in a rough parallel, the Church. Statutes dealing with religious matters had an influence that is, perhaps, difficult for the modern mind to grasp. It is at least suggested by the tremendous influence the Church wielded as the largest landlord after the King, a situation that changed only with Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, and by the Church’s control of ecclesiastical offenses, such as heresy, recusancy, or improper use of the sacraments.—Ed.
Epigrams from the Title Page:
Luc. 10. 26.1
Jurisperito dixit, In lege quid scriptum est? quomodo legis?
Quod non lego, non credo.
Jurisprudentia est juvenibus regimen, senibus solamen, pauperibus divitiae, & divitibus securitas.3
[1. ][Ed.: The law is the more praised when it is approved by reason.]
[2. ][Ed.: Without modesty, no virtue, no knowledge, can preserve its place and dignity.]
[3. ][Ed.: The mildest of all men who was in the lands,]
[4. ][Ed.: Reason is the soul of law;]
[5. ][Ed.: because he brings unknown and obscure arguments to the light of reason and makes them bright:]
[6. ](y) 11. H. 4. 4. 37.
[7. ][Ed.: One shall not know of what metal a bell is (made) until it well beaten; nor can the law be well known without disputation.]
[8. ](*) 41. E. 3. 22. Kirton. Vide Sect. 377.
[9. ][Ed.: I have disputed this matter in order to learn the law.]
[10. ][Ed.: to know [and] to follow.]
[11. ][Ed.: The law is the more praised when it is approved by reason.]
[12. ]Vid. Sect. 384. 443. 550.
[1. ][Ed.: He said unto one learned in the law, what is written in the law? How readest thou? Luke, ch. 10, v. 26.]
[2. ][Ed.: What I do not read, I do not believe. Augustine.]
[3. ][Ed.: Jurisprudence is a discipline for young men, and a solace for old; riches for the poor, and security for the rich.]