The Gentleman Justice

Image:Long Boone Cumberland--thin.jpg
Southwest Virginia Project
Return to Southwest Virginia Project Main Page

From:Source:McQueen, 1932

The Justice Court is one of the oldest institutions known to the common law, and under the old English law they were composed of the noblest and best citizens of the various sections, and this rule has, to a great extent, been followed to this day.

In the commentaries of Blackstone, the great English law-giver, on the Justices of the Peace of that time, we find the following: "The common law hath ever had a special care and regard for the conservation of the peace; for peace is the very end and foundation of society. Queen Isabel, the wife of Edward II, contrived to depose her husband by a forced resignation of the crown, and set up his son, Edward III in his place; this being a thing then without example in England, it was feared would alarm the people; especially as the old king was living. To prevent therefore and risings, or other disturbance of the peace, the new king sent writs to all the sheriffs in England giving a plausible account of the manner of his obtaining the crown. And in a few weeks after this writ it was ordained in parliament, that, for the better maintaining and keeping the peace in every county, good men, and lawful, which were no maintainers of evil, or barretors in the country, should be assigned to keep the peace. That was the foundation of the present institution of justices of the peace and Justice Courts." In commenting further, Blackstone says: "The several statutes which from time to time have heaped upon them such an infinite variety of business that few care to undertake, and fewer understand the office; that are such and of so great importance to the public that the country is greatly obliged to any worthy magistrate that, without sinister views of his own, will engage in this troublesome service. And therefore, if a well-meaning justice makes an undesigned slip in his practice, great leniency and indulgence is shown him in the courts of law."