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The present Edition of the Laws of the United States embraces all the public Acts, whether they are expired, or repealed, or are now in force, with the exception of such only, as are of a very limited and temporary nature, and do not enter into the general jurisprudence of the Country. The principal Acts, which have been omitted, are either strictly private Acts, such as those, which are for the relief of particular persons, or corps; or, if public Acts, are of a temporary nature, such as the annual Appropriation Acts, Acts for occasional Loans, &c., or such as exclusively respect the District of Columbia. Even these Acts have been sparingly omitted, when from their nature or importance they might illustrate the history of our national policy. And the Acts, which regard the organization and general administration of justice in the District of Columbia, Imve been retained, as subjects of general interest.
It is often a subject of complaint among professional and other gentlemen, that the common Editions embrace those Laws only, which are actually in force at the time of the publication, and are thus attended with much embarrassment and inconvenience. Many of the existing laws are very forcibly illustrated by the provisions of prior repealed laws on the same subject; and many have tacit references to the latter, which are not easily detected in a cursory perusal. In few cases, where Legislation has, at successive periods, acted on the same matter, can any Lawyer, who is solicitous to discharge his duty in public argument or in private consultation, feel safe in omitting to examine the whole series of the Laws, even though many of them are repealed or expired.
And instances are not unfrequent of successful argument founded solely on the coincidences or differences between the revised and the original Laws. The history of our jurisprudence also, whether examined as matter of curiosity or of private interest, whether searched with reference to public policy or to legal rights, is so intimately interwoven with the whole course of our legislation, that no liberal enquirer, and least of all, a publicist, a jurist, or a statesman, can dispense with an accurate chronological knowledge of the subject. The Statutes at large, embracing a great mass of private statutes, have already become very unwieldy, voluminous, and expensive. It is believed, therefore, that a work, like the present, which detaches and embraces all those, which are not exclusively of a fugitive or private character, cannot fail to be of general convenience and utility. To these volumes a copious verbal Index has been annexed, so as to make the facility of reference as complete as possible. The whole work has passed under the inspection of Mr. Justice Story, who has given it an attentive examination.
It is not our intention to disparage the Abridgnients and Digests of the Laws of the United States already before the Public. They are very useful publications; but as they purport only to present the laws now in force under regular heads, their object is materially different from that of this edition. They are aids to, but cannot superscde the necessity of, the present compilation,
ADVERTISEMENT TO SECOND EDITION.
The only thing the Editor of this Edition has ventured to do, has been carefully to examine the former marginal notes, with a view to ascertain their typographical correctness,—to change the mode of reference from the year and chapter to the volume and page,—and to add the further references required in consequence of the laws subsequently passed and published. His aim has been by his labors to increase the accuracy of the work, and the facility with which the chain of laws on any one subject may be traced through the volumes.