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5 - Scottish Law, Scottish Lawyers, and the Status of the Union

from FOUNDATION AND CONTINUITY

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 October 2017

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Summary

William Forbes, advocate, presented to the Faculty of Advocates in 1708 a proposal that he would “write a complete body of the law of Scotland, containing the harmony thereof with, and differences from the civil and feudal laws; and shewing how far the Scots and English law do agree and differ; with incident comparative views of the modern constitutiones of other nations in Europe”. He was very concerned with English law and the effects of the Union on Scots law after 1707. Forbes explained:

Since the happy union of the two Kingdoms into one Monarchy, such a complete body of the law of Scotland, as is proposed, may now be justly reckoned among the Desiderata, or things that are wanting, towards settling and maintaining a fair understanding and correspondence betwixt the judicatures in north and south Britain, and for facilitating the dispatch of justice; In which Judges and persons of all ranks will find their account.

Forbes obtained the Faculty's approval, and wrote his Great Body, but it was never published. In fact, the work was not the sustained comparative treatise that the proposal might have led one to expect; Forbes did, however, give a brief account of the relevant English law after his discussion of each subject area of the Scots. His work is nonetheless indicative of a new level of Scottish interest in English law after 1707.

In 1714 Forbes was elected the first Professor of Civil Law in the University of Glasgow, and he advertised in the Scots Courant of 8/10 September 1714 that his lectures would be on Civil and Scots law, undertaking “to explain in his Colleges the Harmony, Analogy, and Differences betwixt the Roman Law, and the Law of Scotland; and also how far either of these Laws do agree with, and differ from the Law of England”. Forbes's first publication, after his theses for admission as an advocate, had been a work on bills of exchange in 1703; the second edition of 1718 added in references to English Acts of Parliament, and now promised “incident and comparative Views of the Laws and Customs of England, and other Countries”. It now also promised on its title page that “For the Benefit of the English, our Law Terms are explain'd by these equippolent in their Law”.

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Law, Lawyers, and Humanism
Selected Essays on the History of Scots Law, Volume 1
, pp. 88 - 114
Publisher: Edinburgh University Press
Print publication year: 2015

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