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STATE OF NEW YORK.
COMMISSIONERS OF THE CODE.
TO THE LEGISLATURE
STATE OF NEW YORK:
The Commissioners of the Code, appointed by the Act of April 6, 1857, having completed their labors, beg leave to make this their NINTH and final
They have already reported, from time to time, the various steps taken by them in the progress of their work. Their duty, it will be remembered, as expressed in the act by which they were appointed, was “to reduce into a written and systematic Code the whole body of the law of this State, or so much and such parts thereof as shall seem to them practicable and expedient, excepting always such portions of the law as have been already reported upon by the Commissioners of Practice and Pleadings, or are embraced within the scope of their reports." This work was to be divided into three portions; one coutaining the Political Code, another the Civil Code, and a third the Penal Code.
The Codes of Civil and Criminal Procedure, as reported complete by the Commissioners on Practice and Pleadings, were designed to embrace all the law of this State, respecting remedies in the judicial tribunals, civil and criminal, including the law of evidence. There then remained the vast body of substantive law; that is to say, the law of civil rights and obligations affecting all the transactions of men with each other in their private relations, the law of crimes and punishments, aud the law of goverument, including every branch of administrative and political action. This body of substantive law, the Legislature, by the act of 1857, declared should be contained in the three Codes-Political, Civil and Penal, aud to them the Commissioners of the Code have ever since devoted themselves.
Their first act was to prepare and report to the Legislature a general analysis of the Codes projected by them. After this their efforts were next directed to the preparation of the Political Code. This was divided into four parts. The first declared what persons composed the people of the State, and the political rights and duties of all persons subject to its jurisdiction; the second defined the territory of the State and its civil divisions; the third related to the general government of the State, the functions of its public officers, its general police and civil polity; and the fourth related to the local government of counties, cities, towns and villages. The draft having been made, was distributed among the judges and other competent persons for examination ; and after that the Commissioners re-examined their work and considered such suggestions as had been made to them, and the whole, as finally agreed upon by them, was reprinted and distributed to the judges and other officers before being presented to the Legislature. The Political Code, thus drawn and revised, was presented to the Legislature on the 10th of April, 1860.
A few days afterwards, by an act passed on the 16th of April, 1860, they were requested to prepare a Book of Forms adapted to the Code of Civil Procedure. This duty was performed by them, and the required Forms were submitted to the Legislature on the 30th of March, 1861.
On the 5th of April, 1862, the Commissioners having prepared the draft of the Civil Code, distributed it to the judges and others for examination, and on the 2d of April, 1864, they in like manner distributed the draft of the Penal Code.
Having re-examined these two Codes and considered such suggestions as had been made, they have finally revised and agreed upon then.
The Penal Code is herewith laid upon the tables of the Members of the Senate and Assembly. The Civil Code is in the hands of the printer and will shortly be completed and in like manner furnished to the members of the two houses. But as the term of office of the Commissioners will expire before the close of the present session of the Legislature, it is not possible to make the required distribution among the judges, surrogates and county clerks in time for the more formal presentation of the Civil and Penal Codes to the Legislature for adoption.
The Penal Code, thus prepared, defines all the crimes for which, according to the law of this State, persons can be punished, and the punishment for the same. In preparing it the Commissioners kept the following objects in view : first, to bring within the compass of a single volume the whole body of the law of crimes and punishments ; second, to supply deticiencies and correct errors in the present definitions of crimes; third, to make the relative degrees of punishment more nearly equal to the relative degrees of crime; and fourth, to define and punish acts deserving of punishment, but not punishable by the existing law.
The Civil Code was required to embrace the laws of personal rights and relations, of property and of obligations.
It has four general divisions : the first relating to persons, the second to property, the third to obligations, and the fourth containing general provisions relating to these different subjects. In the execution of this vast undertaking, the commissioners bave endeavored to bring together and arrange in order, all the general rules known to our law upon the subjects contained within the scope of such a Code, rejecting those which are obsolete or unsuitable to our present condition, and adding such others as appeared necessary or desirable.
The first division, it will be seen, defines the civil condition of different persons in the State, adults, minors, persons of unsound mind and Indians; enumerates their personal rights; declares their personal relations, under the various topics of marriage, divorce, husband, wife, parent, child, guardian, ward, master and servant.
The second division contains the laws respecting property, real and personal, the various interests or estates therein, the modes of acquisition by occupancy, accession, transfer, will or