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APPENDIX B
COWELL'S INTERPRETER

Cowell's Interpreter was published at Cambridge in 1607. In 1610, during the struggle with the King over the matter of supply, the Commons took notice of the book and objected to the author's views of royal power as expressed in his definitions of Subsidy, King, Parliament, and Prerogative; " on all of which words the said Dr. Cowell had so unadvisedly enlarged himself." Conferences had been held by Lords and Commons on this subject when proceedings were stopped by the Lord Treasurer's announcement to the Lords that the King had condemned the book and would take action himself. James's proclamation against the book is printed in the preface to the edition of the Interpreter pub- lished at London in 1708. It is significant that the second edition (London, 1637) contains all the "offensive" definitions unchanged, and this was made one of the charges against Laud at his trial (History of the Troubles and Tryal), pp. 229, 235-236. They were altered in subsequent editions and new material was added. The number of editions proves the usefulness of the book: it was one of the best law dictionaries of its day and is still valuable. The objection- able definitions from the earlier editions are conveniently given in Prothero's Statutes and Constitutional Documents, 2d ed., pp. 409-41 with unavoidable, but unfortunate omissions.

Though the brunt of Parliament's objection to this book ostensibly fell upon the definition of subsidy and of King, Parliament, and Prerogative, there is reason to think there was more in the background. Arthur Wilson, in his History of James I, says that the common lawyers were irritated by some expressions of James "that fell from him publickly at his dinner, in derogation of the Common Law, extolling highly the Civil Law before it; and approving a Book lately written by Doctor Cowell, a Civilian, against it: Which netled our great Lawyers, that had not some of them been raised so high, that they could not with that Court-gag look downwards, it had bred a contest." pp. 45-46. Some probability is given to this by James's words in his speech to Parliament a few days after the debates in Parliament (March 21, 1609-10), in which he cites his censure of the book in disproof of the impression which he says is abroad "that I would haue wished the Ciuill Law to haue bene put in place of the Common Law for gouern- ment of this people," a complaint which he says " was a part of the occasion of this incident." His elaborate explanation and defense of the Civil Law in the same speech (Works, p. 532 et seq., post, p. 310), hardly seem called for except on some such supposition as this. Fuller's account of Cowell (Worthies, i, 420) is more than consistent with this view. At this time, he says, " the contest was heightened betwixt the civilians and common lawyers, Cowel being the champion of the former, whom king James countenanced as far as he could with conveniency." He tells us also that Coke " was pleased in derision to call him Doctor Cow-heel." If we remember how really serious the assault was upon the common law, and if we duly consider that the King was in more than secret sympathy with it, these statements seem not improbable. The Articuli Cleri, to which Cowell no doubt contributed, were a real menace to the jurisdiction of the courts of common law, and they and the Canons of 1606 must be considered together. The common law was on its defence, and it is quite possible, as has been hinted, that Cowell's article on Littleton had as much to do with this quarrel as his definition of subsidy. The debates in the Commons in 1610 leave little doubt that Parlia- ment's attack on the royalist doctrines was made as much in the interests of the common law as of the liberty of the subject. It may not be, it cannot be, with- out considerable significance for the history of law and of political thought that the theories of a civilian should stir up so much strife in England just at this time. Dr. Cowell published another book in 1605 entitled Institutiones Juris Anglicani, Ad Methodum et Seriem Institutionum Imperialium compositae & digestae, the only attempt to do this, so far as I know - and a very able one - between the Middle Ages and 1883. The edition I have used was published at Oxford in 1664. Cf. Sir George Mackenzie's Institutions of the Law of Scotland, which also follow the general order of Justinian's Institutes. This earlier book of Dr. Cowell's was no doubt in the minds of the Parliament men when they made their outcry against the Interpreter. In book i, title 2, section 5, Dr. Cowell, in discussing Parliamentary legislation, says, in hoc tamen Rex Anglorum legibus est superior, quod privilegia pro arbitrio suo, dummodo tertio non injuriosa personis singulis, vel etiam mun[i]cipiis aut collegiis concedere possit. In quibus etiam si dubita- tiones aliquae oriantur, aliquorum opinione ipse solus earum interpretandarum potestatem habet, licet alii instituariis quoque regiis hanc potestatem adscribant, ut chartas regias juxta juris regulas explicare possint. This important book and its views have not been sufficiently considered by historians. James approved of them and the Commons as strongly disapproved, but the statements of the In- terpreter offered a better point of attack. On the general topic of this note see in addition to the references above, Parliamentary History i, 1122 et seq.; Parlia- mentary Debates in 1610 (Camden Society), pp. 19, 22-25; The Journals of the Lords, and of the Commons; The Interpreter, editions of 1607 or 1637, and the preface by the editor of the edition of 1708; Roger Coke's Detection (1697), pp. 59-60; Maitland, English Law and the Renaissance; Gardiner, History of England, ii, 66-68; Lucy Aikin's, Memoirs of the Court of James I, i, 290-291; Usher, The Reconstruction of the English Church, i, book ii, chs. iii-v, ii, book iii, chs. ii, ix-xi. This valuable account though possibly slightly over hostile to the extravagance of the demands of the common lawyers, indicates better than any other I know the fundamental nature and the seriousness of this struggle for jurisdiction. The Articuli Cleri are reprinted in Coke's Institutes, 2d part, p. 600 et seq. See also in 12 and 13 Coke's Reports the many cases involving the pre- rogative, especially Part xii, pp. 58, 63, 65, 72, 76, 109, 12; Part xiii, pp. 12, 30, 37,58.

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