By figures of speech is meant that manner of speaking or writing, which has for its object to give to our sentiments and, thoughts a greater force, more vivacity and agreeableness.
This subject belongs more particularly to grammar and rhetoric, but the law has its figures also. Sometimes fictions come in aid of language when found insufficient by the law; language, in its turn, by means of tropes and figures, sometimes lends to fictions a veil behind which they are hidden; sometimes the same denominations are preserved to things which have ceased to be the same, and which have been changed; at other times they lend to things denominations which supposed them to have been modified.
The law is loaded with abstract ideas; abstract in itself, it has often recourse to metaphors which touch our senses. The inventory is faithful, a defect is covered, an account is liquidated, a right is open or closed, an obligation is extinguished, etc. But the law has metaphors which are properly its own; as civil fruits, etc. The state or condition of a man who has been deprived by the law of almost all his social prerogatives or rights has received the metaphorical name of civil death. Churches being called the houses of God, formerly were considered an asylum, because to seize a person in the house of another was considered a wrong. Mother country, is applied to the country from which people emigrate to a colony; though this pretended analogy is very different in many points, yet this external ornament of the idea soon became an integral part of the idea; and on the faith of this metaphor, this pretended filiation became the source whence flowed the duties which bound the colonies to the metropolis or mother country.
In public speaking, the use of figures, when natural and properly selected, is of great force; such ornaments impress upon the mind of the bearers the ideas which the speaker desires to convey, fix their attention and disposes them to consider favorably the subject of inquiry.