The Doctor and Student (1518)

Christopher St. Germain

Whether the statute rehearsed by the doctor be against conscience, or not

There is a statute made the fourth year of king Henry IV, cap. 22, whereby it is enacted, That judgment given by the king’s courts shall not be examined in the chancery, parliament, nor elsewhere; by which statute it appeareth, that if any judgment be given in the king’s courts against an equity, or against any matter of conscience, that there can be had no remedy by that equity, for the judgment cannot be reformed without examination, and the examination. is by the said statute prohibited: wherefore it seemeth that the said statute is against conscience. What is thine opinion therein?

Stud. If judgment given in the king’s courts should be examined in the chancery before the king’s council, or any other place, the plaintiffs or demandants should seldom come to the effect of their suit, ne the law should never have end. And therefore to eschew that inconvenience that statute was made. And though peradventure by reason of that statute some singular person may happen to have loss; nevertheless the said statute is very necessary, to eschew many great vexations and unjust expences that would else come to many plaintiffs that have right wisely recovered in the king’s courts. And it is much more provided for in the law of England, that hurt nor damages should not come to many, than only to one. And also the said statute doth not prohibit equity, but it prohibiteth only the examination of the judgment, for the eschewing of the inconvenience before rehearsed. And it seemeth that the said statute standeth with good conscience. And in many other cases where a man doth wrong, yet he shall not be compelled by way of compulsion to reform it; for many times it must be left to the conscience of the party, whether he shall redress it or not. And in such case he is in conscience as well bound to redress it, if he will save his soul, as he were if he were compellable thereto by the law; as it may appear in divers cases, that may be put upon the same ground.

Doct. I pray thee put some of these cases for an example.

Stud. If the defendant wage his law in an action of debt brought upon a true debt, the plaintiff hath no means to come to his debt by way of compulsion, neither by subpoena, nor otherwise; and yet the defendant is bound in conscience to pay him. Also if the grand jury in attaint affirm a false verdict given by the petty jury, there is no farther remedy but the conscience of the party. Also where there can be had no sufficient proof, there can be no remedy in the chancery, no more than there may be in the spiritual court. And because thou hast given an occasion to speak of conscience, I would gladly hear thy opinion, where conscience shall be ruled after the law, and where the law shall be ruled after conscience.

Doct. And of that matter I would likewise gladly hear thy opinion, specially in cases grounded upon the laws of England, for I have not heard but little thereof in time past but before thou put any case thereof, I would that thou wouldest shew me how these two questions after thy opinion are to be understood.