Conditions of Progress in Employers' Liability Legislation

Charles P. Neill
1911 The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science  
In order to disarm criticism, I want to say frankly, at the outset, that if any one, at the conclusion of my remarks, says, it has been merely the accentuation of the obvious, I shall plead guilty, and it seems to me that what is needed just at this time is to accentuate the obvious, for we seem to be overlooking it very decidedly. Our topic is &dquorecent progress in legislation,&dquo and I am going to take legislation in its very broadest sense, that is, the making of laws. Law, in a
more » ... rning political organization represents the crystallization of public opinion; it represents the formal expression of what the community thinks is the right and the wrong in a given set of social or industrial relations. Therefore, progress in legislation starts with the forming of a public sentiment. In many cases, such as the present case, it consists in reforming public sentiment, and public opinion. We have, for three-quarters of a century, in the relation of employer and employee in matters of injury, been governed by a law which peculiarly enough, does not conform to any acceptable definition of law. It does not represent the crystallization of any opinion except the individual opinion of a single English judge. It is the best example I know of, of what might be called, &dquojudge made&dquo law. One always speaks with respect of the court, but when the court has been, dead for fifty years or so, perhaps one can venture liberties without danger of being in contempt;' and it is not too much to say, that the opinion of the judge, in which he laid down what has been the law of liability since his time, was a parody on logic and a travesty on justice. He gave that ruling at a time when the industrial revolution had almost accomplished itself, when production on a large scale and the factory system had been well established, and he set out by saying that he gave this decision, because of the absurd consequences which would follow from a ruling otherwise; and then, closing his eyes to the whole trend of industry, he based every single argument at University of Manchester Library on June 5, 2015 ann.sagepub.com Downloaded from
doi:10.1177/000271621103800125 fatcat:eqrgqahb4ng6fkkqlgxfaxvsci