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BARRISTER-AT-LAW; FELLOW OF KING'S COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE;
IN THE UNIVERSITY OF MELBOURNE
I SHALL best explain the purpose of this work by a few lines of autobiography.
In May 1889 I was appointed to the Chair of Law in Melbourne University as successor to the late Dr. W. E. Hearn, so favourably known, not only in Australia, but also in England and America, as the author of The Aryan Household, The Government of England, and other works. Immediately upon my arrival in Melbourne, I found it incumbent upon me, in order to fulfil the engagements made by the Faculty of Law, to lecture upon a subject called "The Public Law of Victoria," of which I had not, at that time, any special knowledge.
In ordinary circumstances it would have been a sufficiently severe task to lecture to a large and critical audience upon a topic which I had not thoroughly studied. But in this case the hardship was intensified by the fact that I could find no text-book which would give me even an outline idea of the subject. The only authorities prescribed by the Faculty were the Acts of Parliament for the time being in force in Victoria on various branches of it.
The inadequacy of such a provision for the teaching of Public Law, in a country like Victoria, must be manifest. In Victoria, as in England, much of that which is most important in sound constitutional knowledge is never embodied in statutes at all. Judicial decisions, diplomatic correspondence, resolutions of the Houses of Parliament, political tradition and practice generally, form essential items in the list of the sources of public law. To expect a beginner to assimilate public law from a study of the statutes alone, is like expecting a foreigner to master the railway system from an examination of the time