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CHAPTER XIII.

THE MEANINGS OF THE LANGUAGE

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$ 920. Flexibility of language.- The possible forms of thought are, like the source whence the thinking mind proceeds, or the universe it is fashioned to mirror, infinite. If hitherto the actual in thought has had its limit, the reason is simply that the end of the progress of the mind through eternity is not reached. Language is the offspring of the past, but its life is in and for the ever opening and progressive future. Its principal mission is to convey, from one mind to another, the new thoughts as they arise; for the old is continually dying, while the new is being born. If each word had a single fixed and unchanging meaning, and if there were simply certain estạblished collocations of words, each with its one signification, the powers of language would be very limited, and it could never express a new idea. It would be completely unadapted to human use.

As things are, it is one of the most marvelous of the mysteries attendant on human life. “There is,” said a learned judge, “no word in the English language which does not admit of various interpretations.”! And no bound can be set to the ever-varying combinations of words, conveying both the old thoughts and the new,- thoughts which the inventors of the words had, and those which they had not. Thus wonderfully flexible is language! Hence,

$ 93. Statute as words in combination.- In interpreting a statute we do not contemplate it as a series of words, each with its particular signification, but as words combined to convey what they could not singly. While we do not shut our eyes to the letter, we look most of all for the spirit — the effect of the combination in the circumstances and connections wherein it was made. “The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” ? Says an old maxim, qui hæret in litera hæret in cortice, if we

22 Cor. iii. &

1 Pollock, C. B., in Reg. v. Skeen, Bell C. C. 97, 134.

adhere to the letter, we go only skin-deep into the meaning.' One minor form of this doctrine is that

Intent gathered from whole.— The intention of a statute, gathered from the whole of it, will prevail over the strict sense of its terms, when such construction will not work injustice or involve an absurdity. And

Reasonable. “All laws,” said Field, J., speaking for the supreme court of the United States, “should receive a sensible construction. General terms should be so limited in their application as not to lead to injustice, oppression, or an absurd consequence. It will always, therefore, be presumed that the legislature intended exceptions to its language which would avoid results of this character. The reason of the law in such cases should prevail over its letter.”: Still,

Meanings of words.— The meanings of the words are not to be lost sight of. They will vary with the subject, context and other circumstances;- yet the legislature will be presumed to

1 Broom, Leg. Max. (2d ed.) 534; Sco- v. New York Central R. R. Co., 3 Abb. field v. Collins, 3 Cow. 89, 96; P. v. Ap. 339; Bailey v. Com., 11 Bush, 688. Utica Ins. Co., 15 Johns. 358, [8 Am. 2 Ex parte Ellis, 11 Cal. 222; San D. 243;] Minor v. Mechanics' Bank, 1 José v. San José, etc. R. R. Co., 53 Pet. 48, 64; Bac. Abr., Stat. I, 5, 6; Cal. 475; (Hooper v. Creager, 84 Md. 1 Bl. Com. 61; S. v. Savage, 32 Me. 195, 35 Atl. R. 967, 35 L. R. A. 202; 583: 1 Domat (Cush. ed.), p. 84; Eyston Chandler v. Lee, 1 Idaho (N. S.), 351; v. Studd, 2 Plow. 459, 465, where it is U. S. v. Snow, 4 Utah, 321, 9 Pac. R. said: “It is not the words of the law, 697; Smith v. P., 47 N. Y. 330; Jerome but the internal sense of it, that Park v. Board, 11 Abb. N. C. 342; P. makes the law; and our law, like all v. Commissioner, 95 N. Y. 554; P. v. others, consists of two parts, namely, Lacombe. 99 N. Y. 43, 1 N. E. R. 599. of body and soul. The letter of the This rule is especially applicable to law is the body of the law, and the the code of civil procedure. Har. sense and reason of the law is the soul beck v. Pupin, 55 Hun, 335, 8 N. Y.

· and it often hap- Sup. 695; P. v. Buffalo, 57 Hun, 577, pens that when you know the letter 11 N. Y. Sup. 314. See also Chippewa you know not the sense, for some. Supervisors v. Attorney-General, 65 times the sense is more confined and Mich. 408, 32 N. W. R. 651; Peninsu. contracted than the letter, and some- lar Co. v. Duncan, 28 Mich. 130; Choutimes it is more large and extensive.” teau v. Rowse, 90 Mo. 191, 2 S. W. R. Dwar. Stat. (2d ed.) 552; Holbrook v. 209; Wabash v. Binkert, 106 III. 298; Holbrook, 1 Pick. 248, 254; Church Reinecke v. P., 15 Ill. Ap. 241.] v. Crocker, 3 Mass. 17, 21; S. v. Lane,

3 U S. v. Kirby, 7 Wall. 482, 486, 8 Ired. 256; New Orleans, etc. R. R. 487; Matthews v. Coldwell, 2 Disney, Co. v. Hemphill, 35 Miss. 17; Direct 279; P. v. Admire, 39 I11. 251. U. S. Cable Co. v. Anglo-American

4 McIntyre v. Ingraham, 35 Miss. Tel Co., 2 Ap. Cas. 394, 412; Murray 25; Simonds v. Powers, 28 Vt. 354;

of the law;

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have intended what it said and to have understood the significance of language." And such presumed intent will be carried out in the construction unless another, in some legitimate way, affirmatively appears.?

8 94. Unity of meaning.- In a book not strictly of the legal class we read: “No sentence or form of words can have more than one 'true sense;' and this only one we have to inquire for. This is the very basis of all interpretation. Every man or body of persons, making use of words, does so in order to convey a certain meaning; and to find this precise meaning is the object of all interpretation. To have two meanings in view is equivalent to having no meaning, and amounts to absurdity.

The fictitious law case, composed by Pope and Fortescue, as having ensued in consequence of Sir John Swale having bequeathed to his friend Mr. Straggling 'all my black and white horses,' when there were found six black horses, six white ones, and six that were black and white, or pied horses, is certainly entertaining. Yet the question ought never to have arisen 'whether the pied horses were included in the legacy,' as was assumed by those gentlemen. As there can be but one meaning attached to any sentence, the testator could not have meant by his words all black and all white horses, and, at the same time, all black and white horses. The only difficulty arising from this will could be this: whether the testator meant to bequeath to Mr. Straggling all black and all white horses, or all black and white horses.". So, applying this doctrine to a statute,

$ 95. Illustrations.- If the legislature should direct the officers of a court in a particular emergency to sit or stand, the meaning could not be that a part might sit while the rest stood; because this interpretation would give a duplicate sense to the Smith v. Randall, 6 Cal. 47, [65 Am. Cable Co. v. Anglo-American Tel. Co., D. 475;) P. v. Hoffman, 37 N. Y. .9; 2 Ap. Cas. 394, 412; Thurman v. S., 18 Whitney v. Whitney, 14 Mass. 88, 92; Ala. 276; The Sam Slick, 2 Curt. C. C. Holbrook v. Holbrook, 1 Pick. 248; 480. Somerset . Dighton, 12 Mass. 383; 2 Lane v. Schomp, 5 C. E. Green, 82; S. v. Judge of Ninth Judicial District, Garrigus v. Parke, 39 Ind. 66. 12 La. An. 777; Caledonian Ry. Co. v. 3 Lieber, Legal and Political HermeNorth British Ry. Co., 6 Ap. Cas. 114, neutics, pp. 86-88. And see S. v. Lay. 122.

man, 8 Blackf. 330; Reg. v. Hamilton, 1 Ante, SS 72, 80; Woodbury v. 1 Car. & K. 212. Berry, 18 Ohio St. 456; Direct U. S.

simple expression. Or, if the provision was that no fees be taken for executing a mandamus or a capias, the meaning could not be to forbid fees for one, to be elected, not for the other; since here also, to work this result, a duplicate signification must be drawn from one compact form of language. There can be no doubt of the soundness of this doctrine when applied to such a writing as a statute. And,

Further of doctrine.— If one says that his time and money are valuable, he cannot mean that his money is valuable in a serious sense, and his time ironically so; though he may intend to be understood either as serious or as ironical in the entire expression. Still there are writings,-as, for example, compositions in poetry or prose intended to instruct or amuse by way of suggestion rather than exact delineation or precept, the efficacy of which consists in giving various and perhaps conflicting meanings to a single sentence, or even a single word, where the reader is to accept all the meanings, or as many of them as he has capacity for, or to choose between them.

$ 95a. Same word in same statute, etc.- In a sort of general way it is sometimes worth considering, that, if a particular word occurs repeatedly in a statute, or in different statutes on the same subject, the meaning may, prima facie, be deemed identical in all the places. This doctrine is occasionally expressed in even stronger terins.' The presumption is in no form held to be conclusive, and the fact is sometimes very

Courtauld v. Legh, Law Rep. 4 same construction. White v. Hunt, Ex. 126, 130; James v. Dubois, 1 Har- 1 Halst. 415; Koch v. Vanderhoof, 49 rison, 285; Com. v. Morrison, 2 A. K. N. J. L. 621, 9 Atl. R. 771; Hoag v. Mar. 75, 82; Pitte v. Shipley, 46 Cal. Howard, 55 Cal. 564; Gunning v. P., 154; [Rhodes v. Weldy, 46 Ohio St. 86 Ill. Ap. 174.] 234

, 20 N. E. R. 461; Toedtmeier v. Subsequent on same subject. County, 34 Oreg. 66. 54 Pac. R. 954; Where, in a subsequent statute on Postal Tel Co. v. Railroad Co.

, 96 Va. the same subject, the legislature 661

, 32 S. E R. 468; Brown v. Turner uses different language in the same (Mass.), 54 N. E. R. 510; Collins V.

connection, an intended change of Wiehoit

, 35 Mo. Ap. 585; Henry v. the law may be presumed. Lehman Trustees, 48 Ohio St. 071, 30 N. E. R. v. Robinson, 59 Ala. 219; Rich v. 1122. When the legislature has made Keyser, 54 Pa. St. 86; [Stump v. use of one word or a particular ex. Hornback, 94 Mo. 26, 6 S. W. R. 356; pression, the same words, in other pro- Burwell v. Tullis, 12 Minn. 572; HeinsCeedings, unless the contrary mani. sen v. S., 14 Colo. 228, 23 Pac. R. 995.1 festly appears, should receive the 2 Texas v. White, 7 Wall. 700; Feapalpably otherwise. Even the same word in a single sentence creating an offense has been adjudged to have different meanings in different parts of the sentence. Of course, the rule is not applicable to statutes on different subjects; the subjects will govern the meanings, and they may be very different. Vattel, writing of treaties, states what is believed to be equally sound in statutory interpretation. “If,” he says, “any one of those expressions which are susceptible of different significations occurs more than once in the same piece, we cannot make it a rule to take it everywhere in the same signification. For we must take such expression, in each article, according as the subject requires,-pro substrata materia, as the masters of the art say. The word day, for instance, has two significations. If therefore it be said in a convention that there shall be a truce of fifty days, on condition that commissioners from both parties shall, during eight successive days, jointly en. deavor to adjust the dispute,- the fifty days of the truce are civil days of twenty-four hours; but it would be absurd to understand them in the same sense in the second article, and to pretend that the commissioners should labor eight days and nights without intermission." +

$ 96. Legal meaning.- A statute being a law,' words in it which have acquired a particular legal meaning are, in the absence of circumstances otherwise controlling them, given this meaning in the interpretation. Frequent illustrations of this doctrine occur in cases of

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gin v. Comptroller, 42 Ala 516, 522; * Vattel, Law of Nations, b. 2, ch. 17,
Rupp v. Swineford, 40 Wis. 28; Reg. 8 281.
v. Kent, 2 Q. B. 686, 692.

5 Ante, SS 7, 11a. 1 Angell v. Angell, 9 Q. B. 328, 356. 6 Post, $ 204

Reg. v. Allen, Law Rep. 1 C. C. ? Apple v. Apple, 1 Head, 348; Ste: 367, 371, 373.

phenson v. Higginson, 3 H. L. Cas. 3 Post, $ 98a; East India Interest, 638; S. v. Mace, 5 Md. 337; Merchants' 3 Bing. 193, 196; River Wear Com- Bank v. Cook, 4 Pick. 405; Adams v. missioners v. Adamson, 2 Ap. Cas. Turrentine, 8 Ire. 147; U. S. v. Magill, 743, 763; Jolliffe v. Rice, 6 C. B. 1, 9; 1 Wash. C. C. 463; Ex parte Vincent, Rupp v. Swineford, supra; Feagin v. 26 Ala. 145, (62 Am. D. 714;] post, Comptroller, supra; Caldwell's Case, & 242; (Bedell v. Janney, 4 Gilm. 193; 19 Wall. 264; Jones v. Dexter, 8 Fla. Steere v. Brownell, 124 Ill. 27, 15 N. 276; [S. v. Knowles (Md.), 45 Atl. R. E. R. 26; Herring v. Poritz, 6 III. Ap. 877.]

208; McNichol v. Agency, 74 Mo. 457;

Robbins v. Omnibus Co., 32 Cal. 472.]

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