By Henry Sumner, Sir Maine
Advent by way of J. H. MORGAN
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Extra resources for Ancient Law: Its Connection to the History of Early Society
But there was a way to reconcile these contradictions. They became passionate enthusiasts for Natural Law. The Law of Nature overleapt all provincial and municipal boundaries; it disregarded all distinctions between noble and burgess, between burgess and peasant; it gave the most exalted place to lucidity, simplicity and system; but it committed its devotees to no specific improvement, and did not directly threaten any venerable or lucrative technicality. Natural law may be said to have become the common law of France, or, at all events, the admission of its dignity and claims was the one tenet which all French practitioners alike subscribed to.
The secret of Bentham's immense influence in England during the past thirty years is his success in placing such an object before the country. He gave us a clear rule of reform. English lawyers of the last century were probably too acute to be blinded by the paradoxical commonplace that English law was the perfection of human reason, but they acted as if they believed it for want of any other principle to proceed upon. Bentham made the good of the community take precedence of every other object, and thus gave escape to a current which had long been trying to find its way outwards.
During the period through which the popular ideas on the subject of sovereignty were undergoing this remarkable change, the system which stood in the place of what we now call International Law was heterogeneous in form and inconsistent in the principles to which it appealed. Over so much of Europe as was comprised in the Romano-German empire, the connection of the confederate states was regulated by the complex and as yet incomplete mechanism of the Imperial constitution; and, surprising as it may seem to us, it was a favourite notion of German lawyers that the relations of commonwealths, whether inside or outside the empire, ought to be regulated not by the Jus Gentium, but by the pure Roman jurisprudence, of which Caesar was still the centre.
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