He began to practise law in Montreal, but owing to ill-health soon removed to Athabaska, where he opened a law office and undertook also to edit Le Defricheur, a newspaper then on the eve of collapse.
With regard to the texts now in force, the name of jus antiquum, ancient law, has been given to the laws previous to the Corpus' juris canonici; the legislation of this Corpus has been called jus novum, new law; and finally, the name of recent law, jus novissimum, has been given to the law established by the council of Trent aid subsequent papal constitutions.
When the law of the 20th of April 1888 established trial by jury for most crimes and deticts, 49 audiencias criminales, one in each province, were created; these are a sort of assize held four times a year.
This affords an example of a principle which had been stated by Hess in a very general form under the name of the Law of Constant Heat Sums - namely, that the thermal effect of a given chemical action is the same, independently of the character and number of the stages in which it takes place.
He devoted himself mainly to literature, contributing largely to the Scotsman and Blackwood, writing Narratives from Criminal Trials in Scotland (1852), Treatise on the Law of Bankruptcy in Scotland (1853), and publishing in the latter year the first volume of his History of Scotland, which was completed in 1870.
The government, however, did not venture to carry out the grim sentence which the law still applied to traitors, and introduced an act enabling it to commute the death penalty to transportation.
The eleventh census was taken under a law almost identical with that of the tenth, and extended through twenty-five large volumes, presenting a work almost as encyclopaedic, but much more distinctively statistical.
This law the congregations, hotbeds of reactionary tendencies, had ignored; and on the i9th of July 1901, the queen-regent issued a decree, countersigned by Sagasta, for enforcing its provisions.
By the operation of the Judicature Act one supreme court with several divisions was constituted; each division could administer the whole law; the conflict of divergent systems of law was largely overcome by declaring that when they were at variance, the principles of equity should prevail over the doctrines of the common law.
At the bar Wedderburn was the most elegant speaker of his time, and, although his knowledge of the principles and precedents of law was deficient, his skill in marshalling facts and his clearness of diction were marvellous; on the bench his judgments were remarkable for their perspicuity, particularly in the appeal cases to the House of Lords.