The first and governing maxim in the interpretation of a statute is, to discover the meaning of those, who made it. The first rule, subservient to the principle of the governing maxim, is, to discover what the law was, before the statute was made.
The inference, necessarily resulting from the joint operation of the maxim and the rul…e, is this, that in explaining a statute, the judges ought to take it for granted, that those, who made it, knew the antecedent law.
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This certainly implies, that a competent knowledge of, at least, the general principles of law, is of indispensable necessity to those, who undertake the transcendent office of legislation.
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