Popular Law-making by Frederic Jesup Stimson

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  • 1911
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Proper Field of Legislation; Meaning of the Word “Law,”; Modern Importance of Statute Law; Representative Government and the Right to Law; Enforcement of the Common Law; Origin of Representative Legislatures; Customary or Natural Law; No Sanction Necessary; The Unwritten Law and Outlawry; Early Parliament Merely Judicial; Contrast of Common Law with Roman Law; Theory that the King Makes Law; Parliament Retains the Right to Tax; Parliament Recovers Legislative Powers.


Constructive Legislation a New Idea; Statutes Increase of Late Years; Sociological Legislation only Considered; Early Legislation Political; English Law not Codified; Early Anglo-Saxon Laws; Freedom Gained in Guilds; Threefold Division of Government; No Constitution Controls Parliament; Restoration of English Law After the Conquest; Taxation by Common Consent; Earliest Social Statute; Recognition of Personal Property; Law of Land Tenure; The Charter of Liberties; Early Methods of Trial; Distinction Between Sin and Crime; Church Law Governs Sin; Important Clauses of Magna Charta; Freedom of Trade; Taxation for the Common Benefit; The Great “Liberty” Clause; “Administrative” Law not English; No Government Above Law.


Common Law Against Civil Law; “We Are Unwilling to Change the Laws of England;” Usury and the Jews; Towns Represented in Parliament; The Fixing of Prices; Sumptuary Laws; The Benefit of Clergy; Partial Codification; The Statute of Westminster I; Law Extended to All People; Labor Makes Men Free; The Freedom of Elections; “Cruel and Unusual Punishment”; Sexual Offences Made Secular Crimes; Earliest Duties on Imports; Early Duties on Wool; The Law of Wrecks.


Extortion and Discrimination; Forestalling, Regrating, Engrossing; The Statute of Bakers; Origin of Law of Conspiracy; The Law of Combination; The Modern Definition; Combinations Against Individuals; Intent Makes the Guilt; Conspiracy More Heinous than the Act Committed; Combinations to Injure Trade; Individual Injuries to Business; Definition of Forestalling; “The Iowa Idea”; The Statutes of Labor; First Statute of Laborers; A Fixed Wage; Early Law of Strikes; Early Law of Trades-Unions; Labor Conditions in Early Times; Combinations to Fix Prices; Unlawful By-Laws of Unions; Restraint of Trade; The Eight to Labor; The Earliest Boycott; Origin of the Injunction in Labor Cases; The Common Law Vindicated; Compulsory Labor in England; Free Trade to Merchants; Jealousy of Chancery Power; Guilds and Corporations; Chancery and the Star Chamber; By-Laws Tending to Monopoly; Hours of Labor Laws; Idlers and Vagabonds; Trusts and Labor Combinations; Riots and Assemblies; The Statute of Elizabeth; Early Labor Regulations; The First Poor Law; The First Complaint of Monopolies; Growth of Monopolies; The Statute of Monopolies; The Impeachment of Monopolists.


The Statute of Mortmain; The Law Merchant; Origin of Habeas Corpus; Early Police Regulation; Opposition to Customs Duties; Interpretation of the Great Charter; Statute Against Chancery Jurisdiction; Early Tariffs on Wool; The English Language Replaces French; Freedom of Trade at Sea; Laws of the Staple; Early Food Laws Forbidding Trusts, etc.; The Statutes of Dogger; Department Stores and Double Trading; Freedom of Trade Restored; Jealousy of the Roman Law; Laws Against Scotch, Welsh, and Irish; Injunctions Issued Against Seduction; The First Statute of Limitations; Personal Government Under Henry VIII; Laws Against Middlemen; Final Definitions of Forestalling, Regrating, Engrossing; The First Poor Law and Forestry Law; The First Trading Corporations; The Heresy Statutes; James I, Legislation Against Sins; Cromwell’s Legislation; The First Business Corporation; Corporations Invented to Gain Monopoly; Growth of the Trade Guilds; Veterans’ Preference Legislation.


Early Increase of State Legislation; The State Constitutions; When Statutes Should Be Unconstitutional; Effect of the Initiative and Referendum; The True Value of Precedent.


Proper Classification of Statutes; Anarchism, Individualism, Socialism; Definition of Communism; Definition of Nationalism; Property a Constitutional Right; Not a Natural Right; Socialism Unconstitutional; Eminent Domain; What Are Public Uses; Irrigation, Drainage, etc.; Internal Improvements; Bounties; Exemptions from Taxation; Limits Upon Tax Rate; Income Taxes; Inheritance Taxes; License Taxes; Betterment Taxes; Double Taxation; The Police Power; Government by Commission; Noxious Trades, Signs, etc.; Modern Extensions of Police Power; Pure Food and Drug Laws; Prohibition Laws; Oleomargarine Laws; Examinations for Professions; Christian Science and Osteopathy; Trading Stamps and Department Stores; Usury Laws; Negotiable Instrument Laws; Bills of Lading and Warehouse Receipts; Sales in Bulk; Intestate Succession; Laws for Protection of Debtors; Mechanics’ Lien Laws; Mortgage Foreclosures; Nuisances; The Buying of Futures; Tips and Commissions; Weights and Measures; Laws Against Middlemen.


Laws Fixing the Rate of Wages; Wages in Public Work; Logic of Rate Regulation; The Granger Cases; Theory of Rate Regulation; Regulation by the States; Constitutional Difficulties of Rate Regulation; The Railway Rate Act of 1910; The Long and Short Haul Clause.


The Trusts at Common Law; The Sherman Act; State Laws Against Trusts; Federal Incorporation; Other Remedies of the States; Class Legislation and Organized Labor; Recent Decisions and Laws Against Trusts; Constitutional Provisions Against Trusts; Growth and Decline of Anti-Trust Legislation; Best Remedy for Trusts; Only Three Courses Possible; Centralization and Federal Control.


History of Trading Corporations; Two Theories of Corporation Law; The Massachusetts Commissioners’ Report; The Payment Up of Stock; The Massachusetts Law; The “Business Corporation” Act; Corporation Laws of All the States; Publicity and Other Remedies; Laws Regulating “Holding” Companies and Stock Ownership by Corporations; Corporations of Other States; States May Exclude; Summary of the Trust Question; Public Service Companies.


English Law Does not Enforce the Labor Contract; Freedom to Trade and Labor; Sources of Reform Legislation; Constitutional Difficulties; Minimum Wage Laws; The Rate of Wages in Public Work; Equal Wages for Women; The New York Constitutional Amendment; Hours of Labor Laws for Men; Hours of Labor Laws for Women; Prohibited Employments to Women; Hours of Labor of Children; Laws of All the States To-day; Hours of Labor in Factories, etc.; Child Labor Prohibited; Hours of Labor in Mines; Age Limit for Child Labor, Dangerous and Immoral Trades, Protection of Young Girls, Labor in Mines, Hours of Labor in Peculiar Trades, The Constitutional Difficulty, Farms and Domestic Labor, Continental Legislation, Sanitary Restrictions on Female Labor, Sweatshop Laws, The Factory Acts, Employers’ Liability, Anti-Truck Legislation, Factory Stores and Dwellings, Benefit Funds and Compulsory Insurance, The Regime of Contract, Compulsory Labor and Peonage, Statutes Against Intimidation, Blacklists, Picketing, Armed Guards, Political and Militia Duties, Miscellaneous Matters, Profit-Sharing, etc., Discrimination Against Union Labor, Twenty Years of Labor Legislation, Foreign Labor Legislation, Employers’ Liability, Old Age Pensions, Minimum Wage Laws, Co-operation and Profit-Sharing, Arbitration Laws, Labor Legislation in Europe.


The Law of Combination and Conspiracy, Intent the Test, The English Conspiracy Act, Modern Reforms Desired by Organized Labor, Boycotts and Blacklists, Intimidation, Interference with Political Rights, The Oklahoma Labor Code, European Law of Combination.


The Right to Civil Law, Martial Law, Military Law, The Right to Arms, Military Service, The Struggle Against Martial Rule in England, Standing Armies, Mobs, Riots, Lynching, The Use of the Army in Labor Troubles,


The Right to Assembly and Free Elections; The Suffrage, 28; The Force Bills; Interference with Voting; Bribery and Corrupt Practices; Lobbying Acts; The Form of the Ballot; Direct Primaries and Nominations; The Distrust of Representative Government; Corrupt Elections Laws; Direct Election of U.S. Senators; Women’s Suffrage; Municipal Elections, The Initiative, Referendum, and Recall; The Judicial System.


Freedom of Speech and of the Press; The “Unfair” List; Prohibition of Anarchistic Propaganda; The Right to Privacy; Search Warrants and Self-Incrimination; Religious Rights.


The Race Question; Races Capable of Citizenship; The War Amendments and Their Effect; The Negro’s Social and Property Rights; The Privileged Classes.


A Woman Is a Citizen; Her Right to Labor and Property; Marriage, Divorce, and Children; Women in Politics and Education; Reform of Divorce Procedure; Uniformity of Law in Divorce; The Secular Law in Sexual Matters; Marriage a Contract; The “Single Standard” and Free Divorce; Control of Marriage by the State; Recent Legislation; Radical Statutes in Sexual Matters; Legal Separation; The Married Woman’s Privileges; The “Age of Consent”; Female Suffrage by Property-Owners; Kidnapping, Curfew, Rape; Statistics of Divorce; Industrial Liberty of Women; Female Labor in England and U.S.A.


Common Law Prevails; New Crimes and Penalties; Self-Regardant Actions; Reform in Punishment; Procedure in the Courts; Lynching and Mob Law; Interstate Commerce in Liquor, etc.; Physicians’ Privilege; Prohibition Laws; City Ordinances; Juvenile Courts and Laws; Present Needs.


Government by Commission; Taxes, Debt, and Franchises; Municipal Socialism; Internal Improvements; State Farms and Forests; Education; Taxation and State Aid; Present Questions.


The Form of Our Statutes; Need of Authorized Revisions; Reforms Recommended; Indexing and Arrangement; Need of a Parliamentary Draughtsman; Recommendations of the State Librarians; Purpose of this Book.





My object in the lectures upon which this work is based was to give some notion of the problems of the time (in this country, of course, particularly) which are confronting legislators primarily, political parties in the second place, but finally all good citizens. The treatment was as untechnical as possible. The lectures themselves were for men who meant to go into business, for journalists, or political students; a general view–an elemental, broad general view–of the problems that confront legislation to-day. So is the book not one for lawyers alone; it seeks to cover both what has been accomplished by law-making in the past, and what is now being adopted or even proposed; the history of statutes of legislation by the people as distinct from “judge-made” law; how far legislatures can cure the evils that confront the state or the individual, and what the future of American legislation is likely to be. Constitutional difficulties I had merely mentioned, as there was another course of lectures on American constitutional principles, which supplemented it.[1] In those I tried to show what we _cannot_ do by legislation; in these I merely discussed what had been done, and tried to show what we are now doing. What we may _not_ do may sound, perhaps, like a narrow field; but the growth of constitutional law in this country is so wide–in the first place including all the English Constitution, and more than that, so many principles of human liberty that have been adopted into our Constitution, either at the time it was adopted, or which have crept into it through the Fourteenth Amendment, with all the innovations of State constitutions as well–that really the discussion of what _cannot_ be done by statute takes one almost over the entire range of constitutional law and even into the discussion of what cannot be done in a free country or under ordinary principles of human liberty.

[Footnote 1: “The Law of the Federal and State Constitutions of the United States,” Boston Book Company, 1908. “The American Constitution,” Scribners, New York, 1907.]

How many of us have ever formulated in our minds what _law_ means? I am inclined to think that the most would give a meaning that was never the meaning of the word _law_, at least until a very few years ago; that is, the meaning which alone is the subject of this book, _statute_ law. The notion of law as a _statute_, a thing passed by a legislature, a thing enacted, made new by representative assembly, is perfectly modern, and yet it has so thoroughly taken possession of our minds, and particularly of the American mind (owing to the forty-eight legislatures that we have at work, besides the National Congress, every year, and to the fact that they try to do a great deal to deserve their pay in the way of enacting laws), that statutes have assumed in our minds the main bulk of the concept of law as we formulate it to ourselves. I guess that the ordinary newspaper reader, when he talks about “laws” or reads about “law,” thinks of statutes; but that is a perfectly modern concept; and the thing itself, even as we now understand it, is perfectly modern. There were no statutes within the present meaning of the word more than a very few centuries ago. But statutes are precisely the subject of this book; legislation, the tendency of statute-making, the spirit of statutes that we have made, that we are making, and that we are likely to make, or that are now being proposed; so it is concerned, in a sense, with the last and most recent and most ready-made of all legal or political matters. The subject of statute-making is not thought difficult; it is supposed to be perfectly capable of discussion by any one of our State legislators, with or without legal training; and sometimes with lamentable consequences. For the subject is of the most immense importance, now that the bulk of all our law is, or is supposed to be, statutes.

In order to understand, therefore, what a statute is, and why it has grown important to consider statute-making, it is necessary to have some knowledge of the meaning of the word _law_, and of the origin both of representative government and of legislatures, before we come to statutes, as we understand them; for parliaments existed centuries before they made statutes as we now use this word. _Statutes_ with us are recent; _legislatures_ making statutes are recent everywhere; legislatures themselves are fairly recent; that is, they date only from the end of the Dark Ages, at least in Anglo-Saxon countries. Representative government itself is supposed, by most scholars, to be the one invention that is peculiar to the Anglo-Saxon people.

And there is another invention–if we can call it one–to my mind of far greater importance, which I should urge was also peculiar to the Anglo-Saxon people; that is, the invention or the idea of personal liberty; which is understood, and always has been understood, by Anglo-Saxons in a sense in which it never existed before, so far as I know, in any people in the history of the world. It is that notion of personal liberty which was the cause of representative government, not representative government that was the cause of personal liberty. In other words, the people did not get up a parliament for the sake of having that parliament enact laws securing personal liberty. It was the result of a condition of personal liberty which prevailed among them and in their laws that resulted in representative government, and in the institution of a legislature, making, as we now would say, the laws; though a thousand years ago they never said that a legislature _made_ laws, they only said that it _told what the laws were_. This is another very important distinction. The “law” of the free Anglo-Saxon people was regarded as a thing existing by itself, like the sunlight, or at least as existing like a universally accepted custom observed by every one. It was five hundred years before the notion crept into the minds, even of the members of the British Parliaments, that they could make a _new_ law. What they supposed they did, and what they were understood by the people to do, was merely to _declare_ the law, as it was then and as it had been from time immemorial; the notion always being–and the farther back you go and the more simple the people are, the more they have that notion–that their free laws and customs were something which came from the beginning of the world, which they always held, which were immutable, no more to be changed than the forces of nature; and that no parliament, under the free Anglo-Saxon government, or later under the Norman kings, who tried to make them unfree, no king, could ever _make_ a law, but could only declare what the law was. The Latin phrase for that distinction is _jus dare_, and _jus dicere_. In early England, in Anglo-Saxon times, the Parliament never did anything but tell what the law was; and, as I said, not only what it was then, but what it had been, as they supposed, for thousands of years before. The notion of a legislature to make _new_ laws is an entirely modern conception of Parliament. How did it arise? The English Parliament,[1] as you doubtless know, was the successor, or grew out of the old Witenagemot, the old Saxon Great Council, and that Great Council originally–and I am now talking of centuries before the Conquest–the Witenagemot, included in theory all the free inhabitants of the realm, just as a modern town meeting does. Mind you, they were then tribes, living in “Hundreds.” They were not nations, not even states and counties, and in early times it probably was possible to have a popular assembly which should include at least all the warriors, all the fighting men, and consequently all the men whose votes counted. No man who could not fight could share in the government–an historical fact which our suffragists tend to ignore when they talk of “rights.” The Witenagemot, undoubtedly, was originally a universal assembly of the tribe in question. But as the tribes got amalgamated, were associated together, or at least localized instead of wandering about, and particularly when they got localized in England–where before they had been but a roaming people on account of their struggles with the Britons–the necessity of greater organization probably became obvious to them at once, and the Witenagemot readily assumed a somewhat more formal form; and that resulted in representation. For we are talking of early England; that is, of the eastern half of what is now England, the Saxon part; obviously you couldn’t put all the members even of East Anglia in one hall or in one field to discuss laws, so they invented representation. All the authorities appear to be agreed that there is no prototype for what seems to us such a very simple thing as representation, representative government, among the Greeks or the Romans, or any of the older civilizations of which we have knowledge. It is very surprising that it is so, and I am always expecting that some one will discover, either in the Achaian League or somewhere, that it is not so, that there is a prototype; but there doesn’t seem to be any regular system of representative government until you get to Anglo-Saxon peoples. So that was the second stage of the Witenagemot, and then it properly begins to be called the Great Assembly or Council of the people. This representative assembly was then not only legislative, it was also executive, to some extent, and entirely judicial; for we are a thousand years before the notion of the threefold division of government has occurred to any one. The early Saxon Witenagemot, as later the Norman kings tried to, did unite all three functions in themselves. Their main function was judicial; for the reason that there was very little notion as yet of _legislation_, in a people or tribe whose simple customs and simple property demanded very few laws, where the first remedy for any man for any attack on his family or property was the remedy of his own good, right hand. When you really only got into a lawsuit, at least as concerning property, as a result of a killing of somebody or other, albeit in defence of one’s own chattels, it is obvious that there need not be much legislation; the laws were too well known, the unwritten law too well enforced. It probably would have surprised the early Englishman if he had been told that either he or anybody else didn’t _know_ the law–still more that there was ever any need for any parliament or assembly to tell him what it was. They all knew the law, and they all knew that they knew the law, and the law was a thing that they knew as naturally as they knew fishing and hunting. They had grown up into it. It never occurred to them as an outside thing.

[Footnote 1: Gneist, “The English Parliament,” and Skottowe, “History of Parliament,” perhaps best summarize this view.]

So it has been found that where you take children, modern children, at least boys who are sons of educated parents, and put them in large masses by themselves, they will, without apparently any reading, rapidly invent a notion of law; that is, they will invent a certain set of customs which are the same thing to them as law, and which indeed are the same as law. They have tried in Johns Hopkins University experiments among children, to leave them entirely alone, without any instruction, and it is quite singular how soon customs will grow up, and it is also quite singular and a thing that always surprises the socialist and communist, that about the earliest concept at which they _will_ arrive is that of private property! They will soon get a notion that one child owns a stick, or toy, or seat, and the others must respect that property. This I merely use as an illustration to show how simple the notion of law was among our ancestors in England fifteen hundred years ago, and how it had grown up with them, of course, from many centuries, but in much the same way that the notion of custom or law grows up among children. The English had acquired naturally, but with the tradition of centuries, the notion of law a _sexisting_; and that brings us to the next point.

Here again we are so confused with our modern notions of law that it is very important not to be misled by them at the beginning. I am quite sure that all the American people when they think of law in the sense I am now speaking of, even when they are not thinking necessarily of statute law, do mean, nevertheless, a law which is enforced by somebody with power, somebody with a big stick. They mean a law, an ordinance, an order or dictate addressed to them by a sovereign, or by at least a power of some sort; and they mean an ordinance which if they break they are going to suffer for, either in person or in property. In other words, they have a notion of law as a written command addressed by the sovereign to the subject, or at least by one of the departments of government to the citizen. Now, that, I must caution you, is in the first place rather a modern notion of law, quite modern in England; it is really Roman, and wasn’t law as it was understood by our Anglo-Saxon ancestors. He didn’t think of law as a thing written, addressed to him by the king. Neither did he necessarily think of it as a thing which had any definite punishment attached or any code attached, any _sanction_, as we call it, or thing which enforces the law; a penalty, or fine, or imprisonment. There are just as good “sanctions” for law outside of the sanctions that our people usually think of as there are inside of them; and often very much better. For instance, the sanction of a strong custom. Take any example you like; there are many States where marriage between blacks and whites is not made unlawful, but where practically it is made tremendously unlawful by the force of public opinion. Take the case of debts of honor, so-called, debts of gambling; they are paid far more universally than ordinary commercial debts, even by the same people; but there is no _law_ enforcing them–there is no _sanction_ for the collection of gambling debts. And take any custom that grows up. We know how strong our customs in college are. Take the mere custom of a club table; no one dares or ventures to supplant the members at that table. That kind of sanction is just as good a law as a law made by statute and imposing five or ten dollars penalty or a week’s imprisonment. And judges or juries recognize those things as laws, just as much as they do statute laws; when all other laws are lacking, our courts will ask what is the “custom of the trade.” These be laws; and are often better enforced than the statute law; the rules of the New York Stock Exchange are better enforced than the laws of the State legislature. Now all our early Anglo-Saxon law was law of that kind. And it was not written down for a great many centuries, and even after being first written it wasn’t usual to affix any _penalty_; they were mere customs, but of an iron-bound nature–customs that were followed far more devoutly than the masses of our people follow any of our written laws to-day. And their “sanction” was twofold: In the first place, the sanction I have mentioned, universal custom, social ostracism for breach. A second and very obvious sanction, that if you do a thing that I don’t like and think is against the law, I am going to knock you down or kill you if I can! That was a sanction, and a perfectly good one; and the question that arose, therefore, was not at all as to penalty for the law-breaker; it was whether there should be a penalty for the law-breaker’s being killed. That is the reason they didn’t have to have any penalty! In those days if there was a custom that a certain tribe had a certain pasture, and a man of another tribe pastured his cattle in that pasture, the first man would go to him and they would have a fight, and if he killed him he would be, as we say, arrested; then the matter would be inquired into by the kin of the murdered man or neighbors, and if the killer could prove that the murdered man had committed a breach of the law, he went off scot free–so, as a matter of fact he would to-day, if it were justifiable homicide. In other words, it was a question of whether it was justifiable homicide; and that brought in the question what the law was, and it was usually only in that way. For the law was but universal custom, and that custom had no _sanction_; but for breach of the custom anybody could make personal attack, or combine with his friends to make attack, on the person that committed the breach, and then, when the matter was taken up by the members of both tribes, and finally by the Witenagemot as a judicial court, the question was, what the law was; and if it was proved, for instance, that the law was that there _was_ private property in that pasture belonging to the man who committed the murder he went off scot free. That was the working of the old Anglo-Saxon law, and it was a great many centuries before the notion of law changed in their minds from that. And this “unwritten law” perdures in the minds of many of the people to-day.

So it was that the Witenagemot–this Great Council of the realm–was primarily judicial, in the first instance always judicial; that is, it never made new laws. It got together to try people for the breach of law; and that incidentally brought up the validity of the old law, and then decided whether old law was valid or not. In a sense, therefore, you see they told what the law was, they announced it; but they never supposed they were making new laws. That was the last thing they intended to do, and the last thing the people would have stood, had they tried it.

So much for the growth of law, the origin of Anglo-Saxon law, as we understand it, and for representative government, and for the origin of Parliament. I doubt if there was any giving of new law, anything that we should call _legislation_, made by the English Parliament, then called the Witenagemot, before the Norman Conquest. I have never been able to find any. You find occasional announcements that the men of Kent “shall have their liberties as they used to,” and perhaps there will be a statement of what those liberties were, in brief; but it is always clearly meant that they are stating the law as already existing. How, then, did they invent a legislature?

The Roman law, the whole Roman system, as you know, was absolutely distinct, and distinct in two great principles which have lasted down really into modern times, and still divide Continental countries from Anglo-Saxon countries. What I call the first great principle is universal law–the principle that no officer of government, no high official, no general, no magistrate, no anybody, can do anything against the law without being just as liable, if he infringed upon a subject’s liberty, as the most humble citizen. That is a notion which does not yet exist on the Continent or any part of the world except England and the United States, and the countries or colonies copying after them. In Germany, for instance, Dr. Gierke tells me it exists only partially and by a modern constitution. This is the first great difference; and the second one is the notion that laws are made by the people only, with or without representative government. The notion of law as a custom is Teutonic; but on the Continent the Germans abandoned it. The Roman law was always law more as we moderns think of it; it was an _order_, addressed by the sovereign, or at least by a political superior, to a subject or to a political inferior; addressed in the form of definite writing, that is to say, a statute, and with a sanction, that is to say, a penalty, a threat as to what the sovereign will do if the subject does not obey. That is the universal notion of Roman law, and it has so far affected certain English writers on jurisprudence that I feel almost one should be warned against them. Not that their side isn’t arguable, but the weight of English history seems the other way. Austin, for instance, was so much impressed with the notion of law as an order from the sovereign to an inferior that he practically, even when considering the English Constitution, adopts that notion of law, and therefore arrives to some conclusions, as it seems to me, unwarranted, and certainly omits to note a great many things that would be noted had he kept clearly the Anglo-Saxon theory of law in mind.

Now the Normans, mind you, had purely Roman law. While they were in Normandy, being in France, they had imbibed or adopted Roman notions of law, perhaps because they were then first civilized. They had lost their old Saxon notions, if they had any, for they were, after all, of the same _race_ as the Saxons. Nevertheless, when they conquered England they brought just as much the notion of the Roman law into England as if they had been Caesar’s legions. And that fact must always be borne in mind, and that led to centuries of conflict in the making of English constitutional law. The first thing, of course, that they tried to do, that the Norman kings tried to do, was to use law in the Roman way; that is, to make the law themselves, from the king. For that was another consequence of the Roman law, that not only was it an order by the sovereign power, but that this sovereign power was not in theory a legislature, as it is with us to-day, but the sovereign; in France and the Continental countries laws were made in theory and in practice by the king. So the Normans came over with the Roman notion, in the first place, as to what law was, that it was a written, newly made order of a sovereign, not a thing that had grown up and was part of the lives and customs of the people, but a thing made out of hand by the king; and, secondly, that it was made by the king and not by any legislature. And the first two or three centuries of English parliamentary history were mainly taken up, in the English Parliament, so far as it concerns the subject of our course here, in the contest between Parliament and the king as to who should make law and what law was. It took more than one century for the Parliament, after the Norman Conquest, to revive as a Parliament at all; then when it did finally get together it took two or three centuries before it established the principle that it had anything to do with the making of law. The Norman kings regarded the Parliament as a mere method of getting money from the people, hardly even as a Council when they sought for popular support; and yet it was through the fact that they so regarded Parliament that Parliament was enabled ultimately to acquire the law-making or the legislative power which exists in all our legislatures to-day. The king, in those days, derived his revenue mainly from his own land. It was not necessary for the government to have any revenue except for what we should call the king’s private purse. What was wanted for public expense was for two or three well-recognized purposes, all purposes of defence. The old English taxation system was in a sense no system. There wasn’t any such thing as taxation. There was the “threefold necessity” as it was called. It was necessary for the king to have money, horses, grain, supplies, etc., to defend the kingdom, and to build forts, and to maintain bridges or defensive works; and that was the only object of taxation in those times. Those were the only “aids”–they were called “aids”–those were the only aids recognized. The first word for tax is an “_aid_”, granted voluntarily, in theory at least, by the barons to the king, and for these three purposes only. The king’s private purse was easily made up by the enormous land he held himself. Even to-day the crown is probably the largest land-owner in the kingdom, but at the time of the Conquest, and for many years afterward, he certainly owned an hundredfold as much, and that gave him enough revenue for his purse; of course, in those days, money for such things as education, highways, police, etc., was entirely out of their mind. They were not as yet in that state of civilization. So the king got along well enough for his own income with the land he owned himself as proprietor. But very soon after the Norman Conquest the Norman kings began to want more money. Nominally, of course, they always said they wanted it for the defence of the realm. Then they wanted it, very soon, for crusades; lastly, for their own favorites. They spent an enormous amount of money on crusades and in the French wars; later they began to maintain–always abroad–what we should call standing armies, and they needed money for all those purposes. And money could yet be only got from the barons, the nobility, or at least the landed gentry, because the people, the agricultural laborers or serfs, villeins, owned no land. Knights and barons paid part of the tax by furnishing armed men, but still, as civilization increased, there was a growing demand on the part of the Norman kings for money. Now this money could be got only from the barons, and under the Constitution–and here we first have to use that phrase–it could only be got from the barons by their consent. That is, the great barons of the realm had always given these aids in theory voluntarily. The king got them together, told them what he wanted, and they granted it; but still it had to come from them, and in the desire to get money the Norman kings first called together the Great Council, first consulted the parliament which afterward became their master. They made a legislature by calling them together, although only for this purpose, to give them the power of getting more money; but when the Great Council was once together and the kings began to be more and more grasping in their demands for money, the barons naturally wanted something on their side, and they would say to them: “Well, yes–you shall have this aid–we will vote you this tax–but the men of England must have such and such a law as they used to under Anglo-Saxon times.” And they pretty soon got to using the word “people”; the “people” must have “the liberties they had under Edward the Confessor”; and time after time they would wring from a Norman king a charter, or a concession, to either the whole realm or a certain part of the realm, of all the liberties and laws and customs that they had under the old Saxon domination–and that ultimately resulted in bringing the whole free English law back. Thus, early law was custom; Anglo-Saxon law was _free_ custom; the English lost it under the Conquest; and they got it back because the first Norman kings had to call the council together, which grew into Parliament, which then, in voting their aids or taxes, demanded their “old liberties”; and finally, after getting Magna Charta, after getting all their old Saxon liberties back, by easy transition, they began to say: “We would make certain regulations, ordinances, laws of our own”; though we have not yet got to the time where the notion of making _new_ law, as a statute is now understood, existed.



Parliament began avowedly to make new laws in the thirteenth century; but the number of such laws concerning private relations–private civil law–remained, for centuries, small. You could digest them all into a book of thirty or forty pages. And even to Charles the First all the statutes of the realm fill but five volumes. The legislation under Cromwell was all repealed; but the bulk, both under him and after, was far greater. For legislation seems to be considered a democratic idea; “judge-made law” to be thought aristocratic. And so in our republic; especially as, during the Revolution, the sole power was vested in our legislative bodies, and we tried to cover a still wider field, with democratic legislatures dominated by radicals. Thus at first the American people got the notion of law-making; of the making of new law, by legislatures, frequently elected; and in that most radical period of all, from about 1830 to 1860, the time of “isms” and reforms–full of people who wanted to legislate and make the world good by law, with a chance to work in thirty different States–the result has been that the bulk of legislation in this country, in the first half of the last century, is probably one thousandfold the entire law-making of England for the five centuries preceding. And we have by no means got over it yet; probably the output of legislation in this country to-day is as great as it ever was. If any citizen thinks that anything is wrong, he, or she (as it is almost more likely to be), rushes to some legislature to get a new law passed. Absolutely different is this idea from the old English notion of law as something already existing. They have forgotten that completely, and have the modern American notion of law, as a ready-made thing, a thing made to-day to meet the emergency of to-morrow. They have gotten over the notion that any parliament, or legislature, or sovereign, should only _sign_ the law–and I say sign advisedly because he doesn’t enact it, doesn’t create it, but signs a written statement of law already existing; all idea that it should be justified by custom, experiment, has been forgotten. And here is the need and the value of this our study; for the changes that are being made by new legislation in this country are probably more important to-day than anything that is being done by the executive or the judiciary–the other two departments of the government.

But before coming down to our great mass of legislation here it will be wise to consider the early English legislation, especially that part which is alive to-day, or which might be alive to-day. I mentioned one moment ago thirty pages as possibly containing the bulk of it. I once attempted to make an abstract of such legislation in early England as is significant to us to-day in this country;[1] not the merely political legislation, for ours is a sociological study. We are concerned with those statutes which affect private citizens, individual rights, men and women in their lives and businesses; not matters of state, of the king and the commons, or the constitution of government. Except incidentally, we shall not go into executive or political questions, but the sociological–I wish there were some simpler word for it–let us say, the _human_ legislation; legislation that concerns not the government, the king, or the state, but each man in his relations to every other; that deals with property, marriage, divorce, private rights, labor, the corporations, combinations, trusts, taxation, rates, police power, and the other great questions of the day, and indeed of all time.

[Footnote 1: See “Federal and State Constitutions,” book II, chap. 2.]

Had it not been for the Conquest, it would hardly have been necessary to have enacted the legislation of the first two or three centuries at all. Its object mainly was political, that is, to enforce Saxon law from Norman kings. No change was made, nothing new was added. There was, however, a little early Saxon legislation before the Conquest. The best compilation is contained in Stubbs’s “Selected Charters.” He says that the earliest English written laws contained amendments of older unwritten customs, or qualifications of those customs, when they were gradually wearing out of popular recollection. Such documents are generally obscure. They require for their elucidation a knowledge of the customs they were intended to amend. That is as I told you: everybody was supposed to know the law, and early written statutes were either mere compilations of already existing law, slight modifications of them, or else in the nature of imposing various penalties–all of which assume that you know the law already. When they attempted codification, which they did about twice before the Conquest (especially under Edward the Confessor, for that reason he is called the Father of English law, the English Justinian, because he was enough of a civilian to understand what a code was), King Edward made the attempt to get a certain amount of law written out; but even that would be very unintelligible if you tried to read it, for he assumed that one knew it all already, and it also is mainly in the nature of imposing penalties, not stating the law as it was. However, that is called the first English code. All the Saxon laws Dr. Stubbs could find fill only twenty-two pages of his small book; and he says that English law, from its first to its latest phase, has never possessed an authoritative, constructive, systematic, or approximately exhaustive statement, such as was attempted by the great founders of the civil or Continental law, by Justinian or by Napoleon Bonaparte. Now this is true, even to-day, of our English and our American law. That is, the great bulk of the law that is administered in our courts is not “written,” it is not in any code. There are, of course, text-books on the subject, but they are of no binding authority. It resides in the learning of the judges. It is what is called court-made law–“_jus dicere_,” not “_jus dare_.” Our judges are still supposed to tell what the law is, and they sometimes, as the common law is a very elastic thing, have to make new law. That is, if the precise case isn’t covered by any previous decision or by any statute, the judge or the court will say what the common law ought to be when applied to that state of facts. So our law is a continually growing law, and largely made still in the old Saxon way, by custom and the judges, and still under the theory that the common law is an existing thing; that the law exists and the judge only expounds. We have never lost sight of that theory.

These early Anglo-Saxon laws mostly concern only matters of procedure for the courts, or the scale of punishment. As they assume a knowledge of existing law, they are often hard to understand. Here are some of the laws of Wessex:


CAP. 11. “If any one sell his own countryman, bond or free, though he be guilty, over sea, let him pay for him according to his ‘wer.'”

As to “wer.” Now there were slaves in England in those days; at the time of the Conquest the Domesday Book reports twenty-five thousand. _Slaves_, I mean; not the unfree agricultural laborers, they were in a higher class, but the regularly bound _slaves_, who were descendants, either of the early British inhabitants or of the Saxons themselves, who had been punished in the courts and had been sentenced into slavery, or men who had voluntarily sold themselves into slavery. For under early Saxon law a man could sell his child into slavery if the child were under seven years old, and above fourteen the child could sell himself. This refers, of course, to that; it is really a kind of predecessor of our Thirteenth Amendment; that is, it forbids slavery; it forbids making new slaves. The word “wer” is the word we have in “wer-wolf,” meaning blood; for instance, “weregild” is a man’s blood money. Every man had a price from the king down; if a man killed the king he had to pay, we will say, fifty thousand pounds; if a thane, it might be one or two thousand; if an ordinary freeman, one hundred pounds, and so on.

CAP. 36. “Let him who takes a thief, or to whom one taken is given, and he then lets him go, or conceals the theft, pay for the thief according to his ‘wer.’ If he be an ealdorman, let him forfeit his shire, unless the king is willing to be merciful to him.”

Now the earliest direct legislation about personal property in a statute is as late as 1100; but this early Saxon law was a recognition of personal property, because a man cannot steal a thing unless there is property. This section, therefore, implies property in personalty; because a man cannot steal land; but it never occurred to them to pass a law saying that there _shall be_ private property, because that was the unwritten law that they were all supposed to know.


CAP. 27. “If a man, kinless of paternal relatives, fight and slay a man, and then if he have maternal relatives, let them pay a third of the ‘wer’; his guild-brethren a third part; for a third let him flee. If he have no maternal relatives, let his guild-brethren pay half, for half let him flee.”

CAP. 28. “If a man kill a man thus circumstanced, if he have no relatives, let half be paid to the king, half to his guild-brethren.”

It is very hard for us to understand what that means. One would infer that the weregild was only paid by a man with relatives on his father’s side. It doesn’t say that, but that is the inference. We shall have plenty to say about the guilds later–the historical predecessors of the modern trades-unions. We here find the word _guild_ recognized and spoken of in the law as early as 890.


“2. And if a ceorl throve, so that had fully five hides of his own land, church and kitchen, bell-house and burh-gate-seat, and special duty in the king’s hall, then was he thenceforth of thegn-right worthy.

“6. And if a merchant throve, so that he fared thrice over the wide sea by his own means, then was he thenceforth of thegn-right worthy.”

Worldly success has thus always been the foundation of English nobility.

Then there is a good deal about how much you have to pay for a churl, and how much for an earl, and so on, leaving out only the slaves; for all the free people of England in Saxon times were divided into earls and churls; that is, noblemen and agricultural laborers or yeomanry; these were the two estates besides the church, always a class by itself. Later there grew up the thanes, who were merely large landlords; the law became that a man that had five hides of land, five or six hundred acres, with a farm, should by the mere fact of having that land become a thane, an earl. That method of ennobling a man by land got to be a way, at that time the only way, by which a churl or a villein could become a nobleman or even be emancipated. Exactly as now with our American Indians; when an Indian gets one hundred and sixty acres given to him in severalty he becomes, under the Dawes Act, a citizen of the United States. Later there grew up emancipation by the guilds. The word _guild_ meant the members of a certain handicraft, but that was rather the secondary meaning; it originally meant the freemen of the town. But the freemen of the towns were made up of the freemen of the guilds. No one could become a member of the guild without going through certain ceremonies, much as he would now to join a trades-union; and no one could become a freeman of the town unless he was a freeman of the guild. The law grew to be, however, that if a man succeeded in staying in a town for a year and a day, without being turned out, plying his handicraft, he became by that mere fact a freeman of the town; for the citizens of towns established their liberty, both personal and political, far earlier than the dwellers on agricultural land.


CAP. 1. “_Secular Ordinance_. Now this is the secular ordinance which I will that it be held. This, then, is first what I will: that every man be worthy of folk-right, as well poor as rich; and that righteous dooms be judged to him; and let there be such remission in the ‘bot’ as may be becoming before God and tolerable before the world.”

1016. CANUTE.

CAP. 71. “And if any one depart this life intestate, be it through his neglect, be it through sudden death; then let not the lord draw more from his property than his lawful heriot. And according to his direction, let the property be distributed very justly to the wife and children and relations, to every one according to the degree that belongs to him.”

CAP. 81. “And I will that every man be entitled to his hunting in wood and in field, on his own possession. And let every one forego my hunting: take notice where I will have it untrespaesed on under penalty of the full ‘wite.'”

But even the great code of Edward the Confessor has, for the most part, to do only with political divisions, what shall be a shire, what a parish, etc., and certain technical matters that have now grown obsolete. So we may conclude with the statement, substantially accurate, that there was practically no _new_ legislation, no constructive legislation under the Saxons; their social law was all unwritten.

And Parliament did not begin by being a law-making body. Its legislative functions were not very active, as they were confined to declaring what the law was; more important were its executive and judicial functions. In modern English government, particularly in our own, one of the basic principles is that of the three departments, executive, legislative, and judicial; the Norman or Roman theory rather reposed all power in one; that is, in the sovereign, commonly, of course, the king, the others being theoretically his advisers or servants. In England, to-day, the real sovereign is the Parliament; the merest shadow of sovereignty is left to the executive, the king, and none whatever given the judicial branch. In this country we preserve the three branches distinct, though none, not all three together, are sovereign; it is the people who are that. And each department is of equal dignity; although at one period there was a certain amount of public complaint that Congress was usurping more power than belongs to it, and recently that power was being usurped by the president, there has hardly been (except from Mr. Gompers and Mr. Hearst) any complaint that power is usurped by the _judicial_ branch, however unpopular its decisions. But in England there is no pretence of maintaining the three branches uniform either in importance or in power. Starting with the Great Council, which had originally only a certain amount of executive power and a great deal of judicial power, they have retained and added to the former, while practically giving up the latter; and, moreover, they have divided into the two houses, the House of Lords and the House of Commons, with a division of sovereignty between them, the Commons, of course, getting the lion’s share. The only judicial power substantially now remaining in the English Parliament is the power of impeachment, which is rarely exercised in England, and the appellate jurisdiction of the House of Lords, of the “law” lords, that is, those peers who held legal offices. On the other hand the legislative function of Parliament, which began merely in the way of saying what the law was, has enormously developed, and still more so the executive. Thus the legislative branch of the three divisions in the English government has increased out of all proportion to both the others, having now all the legislative power and most of the executive. And legislatively it is omnipotent; it is confined by no constitution; even the king cannot withhold his consent. Parliament can make any law, although against what _was_ the Constitution; the Constitution may be modified by a simple statute. So their legislative function is infinite; and their executive function has, in substance, grown very large, because the British government is carried on by the cabinet, which is practically a committee of the House of Commons. But of the judicial function, which was the principal function of the Great Council at the time of the Conquest, hardly a shred remains. It is the history of all countries that people are not jealous of the judicial power, while they are extremely anxious to seize the legislative and executive. With us, however, we are supposed to have all three functions co-ordinate and in good working activity. But in both countries, money bills, bills imposing taxes, are the function of the lower house. That principle grew historically from the principle that all taxation must be voted by the people, directly or indirectly; must be with the common consent and for the common benefit. That principle was established by the House of Commons, and consequently they arrogated to themselves that part of the legislative power. That principle we have retained in our Federal Constitution, and in most of our State constitutions; all of which have the double house.

The first functions of Parliament were restricted to voting taxes. The king called the barons together merely to get “aids,” and they wouldn’t give them until he recognized what they chose to call the old law of England, always a pre-existing law. It was still a long time before there was constructive legislation. Just as, before the Conquest, in the seventh century, we find it said of the law of Wihtred: “Then the great lords with the consent of all came to a resolution upon these ordinances and added them to the customary laws of the men of Kent”; and, in the time of King Alfred: “I, then, Alfred, king, gathered these [laws] together, and commanded many of those to be written which our forefathers held, those which to me seemed good; and many of those which seemed to me not good I rejected them, by the counsel of my ‘witan,’ and they then said that it seemed good to them all to be holden”;[1] so, after the Conquest, every Norman king was made on his coronation oath to promise this, the law of Edward the Confessor, until Magna Charta; after that they promised to respect Magna Charta instead, which was thus reissued or confirmed thirty-two times in the eighty-two years which intervened between Runnymede and the final Confirmation of Charters under Edward I. Thus, William the Conqueror himself, in his charter to the city of London, says, in Anglo-Saxon: “_And I do you to wit that I will that ye two be worthy of all the laws that ye were worthy of in King Edward’s day_.” So the Domesday Book records “_the customs_,” that is to say, the laws, of various towns and counties; these bodies of customs invariably containing a mere list of penalties for the breach of the established law; while later charters usually give the inhabitants of a town all the customs and free privileges enjoyed by the citizens of London.

[Footnote 1: Stubbs’s “Charters,” p. 62.]

But after the Conquest laws could only be enacted with the concurrence of the king; and the phrase was, and is still, in form, that “the king wills it”–_Le Roy le veult_. Nevertheless, Parliament usually originated laws. The early Norman kings cared nothing about legislation; their sole desire was to get money from the people. For two centuries, therefore, Parliament was occupied only with laws recognizing the old Anglo-Saxon laws previously existing, or laws removing abuses of the royal power; and the desire of the king to tax the people was used as the lever to get him to assent to these laws.

With the usual sensible indifference of the English race to mere matters of form, they allowed the Norman kings to go on declaring the laws and signing them as if they were made only by the crown, which was the Norman theory–not caring for the shadow, if they could get the substance. Thus they established, in the first two or three centuries, the right to force legislation on the king, and they did it by the instrument of the taxation power. For taxation must be “by the common consent of the realm”; no taxation without representation, as the Declaration of Independence puts it, is probably the earliest principle of the English Constitution; and it is most significant to the student of the constitutional law, a most necessary reminder to those who do not value our Constitution, that it was the departure by George III from this very earliest of English constitutional principles that caused the loss of his American empire.

This was six hundred years old, therefore, at the time of our Revolution. Except those two principles, taxation by common consent and taxation for the common benefit–which latter was not finally established until two hundred years later (that is, it was put in the first Magna Charta, John’s, and then quietly dropped out by Henry II, and kept out of the charter for nearly one hundred years),–we have to come down to the year 1100 before we find the first _sociological_ statute. “Henry I called another convention of all the estates of the realm to sit in his royal palace at London … the prohibiting the priests the use of their wives and concubines was considered, and the bishops and clergy granted to the king the correction of them for that offence; by which means he raised vast sums of money compounding with the priests….”[1]

[Footnote 1: Cobbett’s “Parliamentary History of England,” I, 4.]

In 1 Henry, cap. VII, is another recognition of personal property–it says that at a man’s death it is to be divided between his widow and his heirs. Now that may seem commonplace enough; but it is interesting to note, as in the law, personal property did not come first; property in land was many centuries earlier. And this suggests the legal basis and present tendency of the law of property. “Property exists only by the law”; and extreme socialists say that all private property is robbery. No law, no property; this is true. Property is an artificial thing. It is a creation of law. In other words, where there is now no law except statute, it is the creation of statute. That may sound a commonplace, but is not, when you remember that socialists, who are attacking property, do so on precisely that ground. They say it is a fictitious thing, it is a matter of expediency, it is a matter which we can recognize or not, as we like; “no law, no property,” and they ask us to consider whether, on the whole, it is a good thing to have any property at all, or whether the state had not better own all the property. But our Federal and State constitutions guard it expressly.

Thus, property is the very earliest legal concept expressed in statutes, just as it is perhaps the earliest notion that gets into a child’s mind. And ownership of land preceded _personal_ property–for the perfectly simple reason that there was very little personal property until comparatively late in civilization, and for the other more significant reason that an Anglo-Saxon freeman didn’t bother with law when he had his good right hand. In the fifth, sixth, and seventh centuries, when we were barbarous tribes, a man’s personal property consisted chiefly in his spear, his weapons, or his clothes; enemies were not very apt to take them, and if they did, he was prepared to defend them. Then, cattle, in those days, belonged to the tribe and not to the individual. So, I should fancy, of ships–that is, galleys, not private “coracles,” the earliest British boats. Consequently there wasn’t any need for a law as to personal property. What little there was could be easily defended. But with land it was different. Property in land was recognized both among the English and, of course, with the Normans; and in ways so similar that it was very easy for the Normans to impose the feudal system upon England. There had been no feudal system before the Norman Conquest; there were then three kinds of land: the rare and exceptional _individual_ land, owned by one man–always a freeman, not a villein or slave–and this was very small in extent, limited to a very few acres around a man’s home. Most of the land was held in common; the folgland, so-called, which belonged to the tribe; the land on which the cows of the village were pastured. And finally there was the public, or unappropriated, or waste land. Most of this last was seized, after the Conquest, by the big feudal lords. For they came in with their feudal system; and the feudal system recognized no absolute ownership in individuals. Under it there were also three kinds of land, and much the same as the Saxon, only the names were different: there was the crown land–now I am speaking English and not Norman-French–which belonged to the king and which he probably let out most profitably; there was the manor, or the feudal land, which was owned by the great lords, and was not let by the king directly; and then there was the vacant land, the waste land, which was in a sense unappropriated. Now all the Norman kings had to do was to bring the feudal system over the Saxon law of land, so that the tribal land remained the only private land–that which is called “boke land.” This is land such as all our land is to-day, except land like our Cambridge Common. With a very few exceptions, all our land is “boke” land–freehold land. Then there was the public land; but that very soon was taken by the lords and let out to their inferiors; this was the great bulk of land in England after the Norman Conquest. Lastly again there was the crown land, out of which the king got his revenue. As something like this threefold system of land existed before the Conquest, a subtle change to the feudal system was comparatively easy by a mere change of name.

In the same year–1100–is the Charter of “Liberties” of Henry I. It restores the laws of Edward the Confessor “with the amendments made by my father with the counsel of his barons.” It promises in the first section relief to the kingdom of England from all the evil customs whereby it had lately been oppressed, and finally returns to the people the laws of Edward the Confessor, “with such emendations as my father made with the consent of his barons.”[1] In his charter to the citizens of London[2] he promises general freedom from feudal taxes and impositions, from dane-geld and from the fine for the murder of a Norman; and the Charter of Liberties issued by Henry II in 1154 confirms their “liberties and free customs to all men in the kingdom.”[3] From this dates the equality of Englishmen before the law, commons as well as barons. Henry II was the first Norman king who had the old Saxon blood, and therefore he was looked forward to with a great deal of enthusiasm by the people of England. For although it is only one hundred years after the Conquest, the Normans and the Saxons had pretty well fused, and the Normans, who were inferior in number, had got thoroughly imbued with the free notion of Anglo-Saxon law. So they got this charter from him; but there is no legislation to concern us in it, it is only political. It has a great deal to do with the church, and with what the king will not do; it binds him, but it does not state any law directly.

[Footnote 1: Stubbs’s “Charters,” p. 101 (clause 13).]

[Footnote 2: _Ibid_., p. 108.]

[Footnote 3: _Ibid_., p. 135.]

There is further a continued evidence of the efforts of the people to restore the common law of England as against the king’s law or Roman law, or later against the law of the church, also a kind of Roman law known as canon law; and later still against the law of the king’s chancellor, what we should now call chancery jurisdiction; for the jealousy of chancery procedure was quite as great in the twelfth century as it is with the most radical labor leaders to-day; but of this later on.

In 1159 they succeeded in doing away with the Norman method of trying cases by battle and the Saxon method of trying by oath, and by the machinery of the Norman Great Assize introduced again trial by jury. For this in itself is probably an old Saxon institution. And in 1164 came the great Constitutions of Clarendon, the principal object of which was to free the people from the church law and subject the priests to the ordinary common law as in times before the Conquest–for now, “as the influence of the Italian lawyers increased,”[1] all the priests and clergy were above it. It was the first great statute which clearly subjected the church–which, of course, was the Church of Rome–to the common secular law. There was a vast jurisdiction of church law (“Doctors commons” courts lasted until a generation ago in England); some of it still remains. But in these early days all matters concerning marriage, divorce, guardianship of children, ownership of property after death, belonged to church law. It is hard to see why, except that the mediaeval church arrogated to itself anything that concerned _sin_ in any way–anything that concerned the relation of the sexes, that concerned the Holy Sacraments, and marriage is a sacrament. Consequently the mediaeval church claimed that it had jurisdiction over all marriage, and over all divorce; and also took jurisdiction over a man’s children at his death, and over his property, now exercised by our courts of probate. This they got out of the notion that when a man was dead, there was something, in a sense, that went beyond this life in looking after his property and children. And down until twenty or thirty years ago all jurisdiction in England in matters which concerned a man’s property, after death, belonged to the church courts and their successors. The church law was based on the Roman law, but was called _canon_ law, the technical word, because it is the “canons” of the church. It is a convenient term to distinguish it from the ordinary civil law of the Continent. So that the Constitutions of Clarendon began what was completed only under Henry VIII; they very clearly asserted the claim of the king to be supreme over the Church of England. The Bishop of Rome, as Henry VIII called the pope, had no more power than any other foreign bishop.[2] There still remained the institution known as benefit of clergy, by which any priest, or later any clerk or cleric (which word came to mean any one who could read and write) could get off of any criminal accusation, at first even murder, by simply pleading his clergy; in which case the worst that could happen to him was that he was branded in the right hand. But the Constitutions of Clarendon were a great step toward civil liberty. Taken by us in 1164, it was followed in so neighboring a country as France only so late as a few years ago. The priests, however, still managed to retain their jurisdiction over offences among themselves, as well as over marriage, the relation between the sexes, slander, usury, and wills–of matters relating to the sacraments, and of sins.

[Footnote 1: Stubbs, p. 136.]

[Footnote 2: Yet “Peter’s Pence” were initiated by Ini, King of the West Saxons, about 690!]

Now this is a very interesting matter, and were it borne in mind by our modern legislators they would escape a good deal of unintelligent legislation; that is, the distinction between a sin and a crime. A sin is against the church, or against one’s conscience; matter, therefore, for the priest, or one’s spiritual adviser. A crime is an offence against other men; that is, against the state, in which all are concerned. Under the intelligent legislation of the twelfth century all matters which were _sins_, which concerned the conscience, were left to the church to prevent or punish. For the same reason usury was matter for the priest–because it was regarded under the doctrines of the Bible as a sin. This notion prevailed down to the early legislation of the colony of Massachusetts, though doubtless many things which were then considered sins would now be regarded as crimes, such as bigamy, for instance. The distinction is, nevertheless, a valid one, and we shall have occasion frequently to refer to it. We shall find that the defect of much of our modern legislation–prohibition laws, for instance–is that they attempt to treat as crimes, as offences against the state, matters which are merely sins, offences against the conscience or the individual who commits them.

To-day, the American constitutions all say that a militia is the natural defence of a state of free men. It is interesting; therefore, to find, hardly a century after the Norman Conquest. In 1181, the Assize of Arms, which revived the ancient Saxon “Fyrd,” the word for what we now call militia; and, twenty years before that, “scutage” replaced military service. To the burdens of the feudal system, compulsory military service and standing armies, our ancestors objected from the very beginning. In a sense, scutage was the beginning of taxation; but it was only a commutation for military service, much as a man to-day might pay a substitute to go to war in times of draft. General taxation first appears in 1188 in the famous Saladin tithe, the first historical instance of the taxation of personal property as distinct from a feudal burden laid upon land. The object of this tax was to raise money for the crusade against the Sultan Saladin. It was followed, five years later, by a tax of one-fourth of every person’s revenue or goods to ransom the king, Richard I having gone to this crusade against Saladin, and been captured on his return by his good friend and Christian ally, the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. It is interesting to note that the worth of the king in those days was considered exactly one-fourth of the common wealth of England. John was less expensive; but he was not captured. He levied a tax ten years later of one-seventh part on the barons, and one-thirteenth on every man.

In 1213 two important things happened. The high-water mark of domination by the Roman Church is reached when King John surrendered England to the pope, and took it back as a fief of the pope for a tribute of one thousand marks. The same year the other early method of trial of lawsuits was abolished by the Lateran Council–trial by ordeal. This was the only remaining Saxon method. The Norman trial by battle had already been superseded by trial by jury; and from this time on, in practice, no other method than a jury remains, though trial by battle was not abolished by statute until the nineteenth century.

And then we come to Magna Charta. The first time it was granted was in 1215 by John, but the charter always quoted is that promulgated ten years later under Henry III. They were very nearly identical, but the important omission in the charter of Henry was in regard to “scutage” (“no aid other than the three customary feudal aids shall be imposed without the common counsel of the kingdom”); that, of course, is the principle we have discussed above, first put in writing in the charter of John. The barons claimed it as part of the unwritten law. But Henry III in his charter cannily dropped it out–which is a trick still played by legislatures to-day. This Magna Charta was confirmed and ratified something like thirty times between the time of its adoption under John and the time it got established so completely that it wasn’t necessary to ratify it any more. There are four sections of Magna Charta that are most important. Chapter 7, the establishment of the widow’s dower; of no great importance to us except as showing how early the English law protected married women in their property rights. Chapter 13 confirmed the liberties and customs of London and other cities and seaports–which is interesting as showing how early the notion of free trade prevailed among our ancestors. It gave rise to an immense deal of commercial law, which has always existed independent of any act of Parliament. Chapter 17 provided that the common pleas court–that is, the ordinary trial court–should not follow the king about, but be held at a place and time certain. That was the beginning of our legal liberty; because before that the king used to travel about his realm with his justiciar, as they called his chief legal officer, and anybody who wanted to have a lawsuit had to travel around England and get the king to hear his case. But the uncertainty of such a thing made justice very difficult, so it was a great step when the leading court of the kingdom was to be held in a place certain, which was at once established in Westminster. Minor courts were, of course, later established in various counties, though usually the old Saxon county or hundred-motes continued to exist. Chapter 12 is the one relating to scutage, from the word _scutum_, shield–meaning the service of armed men. Just as, to-day, a man who does not pay his taxes can in some States work them out on the road, so conversely in England they very early commuted the necessity of a knight or land-owner furnishing so many armed men into a money payment. “The three customary feudal aids” were for the defence of the kingdom, the building of forts, and the building of bridges–all the taxes usually imposed upon English citizens in these earliest times–all other taxation to be only by the Common Council of the kingdom. This is the first word, council; later, it became “consent”; the word _conseil_ meaning both consent and council. “Council of England” means, of course, the Great Council. We are still before the time when the word Parliament was used. Thus Magna Charta expresses it that there should be no taxation without “the advice” of Parliament, without legislation; and as Parliament was a representative body, it is the equivalent of “taxation without representation.” This also was omitted in Henry III’s charter, 1217, and only restored under Edward I in 1297, a most significant omission. And it is also expressed in early republications of the Great Charter that taxation must be for the benefit of _all_, “for public purposes only,” for the people and not for a class. On this latter principle of Anglo-American constitutional law one of our great political parties bases its objection to the protective tariff, or to bounties; as, for instance, to the sugar manufacturers; or other modern devices for extorting wealth from all the people and giving it to the few. All taxation shall be for the _common_ benefit. Any taxation imposed for the sole benefit of the land-owning class, for instance, or even for the manufacturing class, is against the original principles of constitutional liberty.

Then we come to chapter 39, the great “Liberty” statute. “No freeman shall be taken or imprisoned or be disseised of his freehold or _his liberties or his free customs_ [these important words added in 1217] or be outlawed or exiled or otherwise destroyed but by lawful judgment of his peers, or by the law of the land.” This, the right to law, is the cornerstone of personal liberty. Any government in any country on the Continent can seize a man and keep him as long as it likes; it is only Anglo-Saxons that have an absolute right not to have that happen to them, and not only are they entitled not to be imprisoned, but their liberty of free locomotion may not be impeded. An American citizen has a constitutional right to travel freely through the whole republic and also not to be excluded therefrom. Punishment by banishment beyond the four seas was forbidden in very early times in England. “Disseised of his freehold, of his liberties or his free customs”–that is the basis of all our modern law of freedom of trade, against restraint of trade, and the basis on which our actions against the modern trusts rest; the right to freely engage in any business, to be protected against monopoly either of the state or brought about by competitors, to freely make one’s own contracts, for labor or property, to work as long as one chooses, for what wages one wills, and all the other liberties of labor and trade. “Or be outlawed or exiled or otherwise destroyed”–that is a broad general phrase for any interference with a man’s property, life, or liberty. “Nor will we go upon him”–that has been translated in various ways, but it means what it says; it means that the king won’t descend upon a man personally or with his army; nor will we “send upon him”–a law officer after him; “but by the lawful judgment of his peers, or by the law of the land”–that means jury trial, or at least the law of the land, as it then was; and that phrase, or its later equivalent–due process of law–is discussed to-day probably in one case out of every ten that arise in our highest courts. Many books have been written upon it. To start with, it means that none of these things can be done except _under law_; that is, except under a lawsuit; except under a process in a court, having jury trial if it be a civil case, and also an indictment if it be a criminal case, with all the rights and consequences that attend a regularly conducted lawsuit. It must be done by the courts, and not by the executive, not by the mere will of the king; and, still more important to us to-day, not by legislatures, not even by Parliament. “We will sell to no man, we will deny or delay to no man, either right or justice,” needs no explanation; it is equality before the law, repeated in our own Fourteenth Amendment.

Lastly, we have in cap. 41: “Merchants shall have safe conduct in England, subject only to the ancient and allowed customs, not to evil tolls”–a forecast of the allowable tariff as well as of the spirit of modern international law. Finally, there is a chapter on mortmain, recognizing that land might not be given to monasteries or religious houses, and particularly under a secret trust; the object being to keep the land, which made the power of the realm, out of the hands of the church. As far as that part of it goes, it is merely historical to us, but it developed into the principle that corporations “which have no souls,” and do not die, should not own too much land, or have too much power–and that is a very live question in the United States to-day.

One must not be misled by the generality of the phrase used in chapter 39, and think it unimportant because it looks simple. It is hard for an American or Englishman to get a fresh mind on these matters. We all grow up with the notion that nobody has the right to arrest us, nobody has the right to deprive us of our liberty, even for an hour. If anybody, be he President of the United States or be he a police officer, chooses to lay his hand on our shoulder or attempts to confine us, we have the same right to try him, if he makes a mistake, as if he were a mere trespasser; and that applies just as much to the highest authority, to the president, to the general of the army, to the governor, as it does to a tramp. But one cannot be too often reminded that this principle is peculiar to English and American civilization. Throughout the Continent any official, any judge, anybody “who has a red band around his cap,” who, in any indirect way, represents the state–a railway conductor, a spy, a station agent–not only has the right to deprive you of your freedom, but you have no right to question him; the “red band around the cap” is a final answer. Hence that extraordinary incident, at which all England laughed, the Kupenick robbery. A certain crook who had been a soldier and was familiar with the drill and the passwords, obtained possession of an old captain’s uniform, walked into a provincial town of some importance, ordered the first company of soldiers he met to follow him, and then with that retinue, appeared before the town hall and demanded of the mayor the keys of the treasury. These were surrendered without question and he escaped with the money, representing, of course, that he had orders from the Imperial government. It never occurred to any one to question a soldier in full uniform, and it was only some days later, when the town accounts were sent to Berlin to be approved, that the robbery was discovered.

Such a thing could by no possibility have happened in England or with us; the town treasurer would at once have demanded his authority, his order from the civil authorities; the uniform would have failed to impress him. Moreover, under our local self-government, under our decentralized system, nobody is _above_ even a town officer, or a State or city official at the head of his department, however small it be, except the courts. State officers may not command town officers, nor Federal officers State officers; nor soldiers give orders to policemen. The president, the governor, may perhaps remove them; but that is all. And even the policeman acts at his peril, and may be sued in the ordinary courts, if he oversteps his authority. The notion that a free citizen has a right absolutely to question his constraint by any State officer is peculiar to the English and American people, and this cannot be too often repeated; for it is what foreigners simply fail to understand. And it rests on this chapter in the Great Charter, originally, as amplified and explained by the courts and later acts of Parliament, such, as the Habeas Corpus Act. If a man is arrested by any official, that person, however great, has to justify the arrest. In theory, a man arrested has a right to sue him for damages, and to sue him criminally for trespass; and if that man, be he private individual or be he an official or president, cannot show by a “due course of law”–that is, by a due lawsuit, tried with a jury–that he did it under a duly enacted law, and that the facts of the case were such as to place the man under that law–then that official, however high, is just as much liable in the ordinary courts, as if he were the merest footpad trying to stop a man on the highway–a doctrine almost unknown to any country in the world outside of England, the United States, and English colonies.



Going on with the statutes, the next thing we will note is a matter that concerns the personal relations. It shows again how eagerly our English common law overruled the church law, the canon law. Although the church under the pope always pretended that it alone had authority to regulate relations between the sexes, marriage and divorce, we found Henry I interfering with the priests themselves, and we now find as early as 1235, a secular statute which extends the interference of the secular law over the relations between parent and child; that is, as to when a child should be legitimate and when not. We shall have a great deal to say later about marriage and divorce laws, particularly divorce laws as they exist in this country and as they apparently are going to be. As early as 1235 the secular courts interfered with the marriage relation; and the importance of that is here: there is one great school to-day, including largely clergymen and the divorce reformers, so-called, who hold substantially that marriage is a sacrament, or at least a status; that the secular law has nothing to do with it and should not be allowed to grant a divorce except for canonical causes, _i.e._, causes recognized by the church; that it is not like any other contract, which can be set aside with mutual consent; when a marriage takes place, they say, it is a sacrament, or, at least, a status ensues which cannot in future be altered. Consequently, it is not like a contract; for all contracts can be abrogated by mutual consent. On the other hand, the most radical people go to the other extreme, and say that marriage _is_ like any other contract; it is purely a civil contract, not a sacrament, not a status; just like any other, and some of them go to what is the logical conclusion of that position and say that therefore marriage, like any other contract, ought to be ended at any time by the consent of both parties. The extreme radical view leads to the conclusion that a man and woman ought to be divorced any time by merely saying that they want to be; and some States have almost got to this position in their statutes. This may seem a very far cry from this early statute, which does not directly concern marriage but the status of children; nevertheless it has this bearing–it is an interference by Parliament, by the secular, legislative branch of government, with a relation which the church believed to belong only to the church. It so happens that in this instance the secular law instead of being liberal and kindly was extremely cruel and the reverse of liberal. Under the church law, when a man married a woman by whom he already had children, all those children were thereby made legitimate, and that certainly seems the kindly and the Christian law. But the secular barons who constituted the Parliament, in their jealousy for the common law, took the harsher view, that any children born of parents who are not married at the time they are born shall be illegitimate, although their parents may marry afterward. Beaumont and Fletcher, in one of their plays, make a punning reference to that. It seems to have struck Beaumont and Fletcher as it does us, that it was a cruel law for the Parliament to make; when the church for once was liberal, it was queer that the Parliament should be illiberal; so Beaumont and Fletcher, in one of their plays, say: “The children thou shalt get _by this civilian_ cannot inherit by the _law_.” This is interesting, because they use all the words I have been trying to define; when they say “the children thou shalt get by this _civilian_,” they mean by this civilian a person who is under the civil, or Roman, or church law; that is, they mean to say, although you marry a woman who is a church member and under the jurisdiction of the bishop, etc., nevertheless the church law won’t help you; your children by her cannot inherit by the _law_, and the law as used by Beaumont and Fletcher and as used by me and as used in English books means the _common_ law, the common _secular_ law, the law of _England_, not the civil or canon law.[1] Beaumont and Fletcher evidently thought it was a very illiberal statute; and our modern American States have all come to Beaumont and Fletcher’s conclusion; they have universally reversed the old English statute and gone back to the church law, so that throughout the United States to-day a child born before the marriage of its parents is legitimate if its parents afterward marry. That is true, no matter how late it is; if the man marries her even on his death-bed, all his children are legitimized.

[Footnote 1: “And so all the earls and barons answered with one voice, that they would not change the laws of England.”]

In the same Statute of Merton there is a sentence against usury, “no usury permitted against minors”; and there are two things to note here. One is, that the secular legislature is also taking jurisdiction of minors, who were claimed at that time to be solely under the jurisdiction of the church; and the other is the reference to usury. Mind you, usury is interest. It didn’t mean excessive interest, as it does now. As you probably know, the notion prevailed in the early Middle Ages that all usury–interest–was a sin and wrong; and even Ruskin has chapter after chapter arguing that principle, that it is wrong to take interest for money. I should perhaps add another reason why interest was so disliked in early England: There was very little money in early England; and it mostly belonged to the Jews. It was a good deal as it is in Russia to-day; the Jews were persecuted in Russia as in early England, because, in the country districts of Russia, the Jews have all the money, and money-lenders are always unpopular. So in early England. The great barons had their land and their cattle and crops, but they had little money. When they wanted money they got the value of it out of their tenants. Nobody carried large sums of money around with him then, any more than a woman does to-day–she relies on her husband or father; they went to the nearest Jew. When the king wanted cash, he also extorted it from the Jews. One of the early Henrys said seriously, that he regarded the Jews as a very convenient sponge! That is, they sucked all the money in the kingdom and got it into a place whence he could easily get it out. But it made the Jews very unpopular with the masses of the people and with the Parliament; hence, their great dislike of usury. I doubt very much if they would have cared much about usury if one gentleman had been in the habit of loaning money to another; but all the money came from the Jews, who were very unpopular; and the statutes against usury were really made against them, and that is why it was so easy to pass them–they based it, doubtless, on the references to usury in the Bible. Thus they got the notion that it was wrong to charge interest, or at least extortionate interest; more than a certain definite per cent.; and this is the origin of all our interest and usury statutes to-day. Although most economists will tell you that it is ridiculous to have any limit on the rate of interest, that the loan of money may well be worth only four per cent. to one man and twenty-five to another, and that the best way for everybody would be to leave it alone; nevertheless, nearly all our States have usury laws. We shall discuss that later; but here is the first statute on the subject, and it really arose because of the feeling against the Jews. To show how strong that prejudice was, there was another statute passed in the interest of liberality to protect the Jews–a statute which provided liberally that you must not take from a Jew “more than one-half his substance.” And a very early commentator tells us of a Jew who fell into a privy on a Friday, but refused to be helped out on Saturday because it was his Sunday; and on Sunday he besought the Earl of Gloucester to pull him out, but the Earl of Gloucester refused because it was his Sunday; so the Jew remained there until Monday morning, when he was found dead. There is no prejudice against Hebrews to-day anywhere in Europe stronger than existed even in England for the first three or four centuries after the Norman Conquest; and had it not been for the protection given them by the crown, probably they would have been exterminated or starved out, and in 1289 they were all banished to the number of 16,160, and their movables seized.

In 1264 citizens of towns were first represented in the Parliament (in the Great Council, that is, for the word parliament is not yet used), originally only composed of the great barons, who were the only land-owners. The notion of there being freemen in towns was slowly established, but it was fully recognized by 1264, and in that year citizens of towns first appeared in the Council. To-day, under the various Reform Acts, tenants or even lodgers in towns are just as much represented as the land-owners; but the reform which began in 1264 took six hundred years to be thoroughly established.

And now we find the first statutory origin of that utterly fallacious principle–although alive to-day–that the state, in a free country, a legislature-governed country, has the right, when expedient, to fix the _price_ of anything, wages or other commodities; fallacious, I say, except possibly as to the charges of corporations, which are given special privileges by the government; the principle, which prevailed throughout the Middle Ages, of fixing the prices of all things. In this case the price was on bread; but you find now for many centuries an attempt to fix the price of almost everything; and of labor, too, what wages a man should be paid. It lasted persistently for centuries and centuries, and it was only under the influence of modern political economy, Adam Smith and other quite modern writers, that the principle that it was possible to fix prices of commodities was utterly eradicated from the English mind. And you hardly got it out of England before it reappeared in the United States. It is not a new-fangled principle. You find the newspapers commonly talk about fixing prices by law as if it were something utterly unheard of and utterly new. It is not so. It Is on the contrary as old as almost any legislation we have, and you can make no argument against it on that ground. It has always been the custom of our ancestors to regulate the prices of wages by law, and the notion that it was either unconstitutional or inexpedient dates from a very few years back; yet all such attempts at legislation have utterly disappeared from any modern statute-book. In no State of our forty-six States is any one so unintelligent, even in introducing bills in the legislature, as to-day to propose that the price of a ton of coal or a loaf of bread shall be so much. Nor is any modern legislature so unintelligent or so oppressive as to propose sumptuary laws; that is, to prescribe how expensively a man or woman must dress; but in the mediaeval times those were thought very important. Every class in England was then required by law to have exactly so many coats, to spend so much money on their dress, so much on their wives’ dress, and certain men could have fine cloth and others coarse cloth; everything was graded, even to the number of buttons on clothes, and they went so far even as to try in some early legislation to say what men should have to eat; the number of courses a man should have for his dinner were prescribed by law at one time in England, varying according to the man’s rank. All such legislation has absolutely vanished and probably no one need know that it existed–but that when efforts are made, as they sometimes are, by our more or less uneducated members of legislatures to introduce bills of such a kind, it is very important for us to know that those experiments have been tried and have failed, having proved to be either impracticable or oppressive or not for the general benefit. This is the importance of these early laws, even when obsolete; because we never know when some agitator may not pop up with some new proposal–something he thinks new–which he thinks, if adopted, will revolutionize society. If you can show him that his new discovery is not only not new, but was tried, and tried in vain, during two or three centuries in the life of our own ancestors, until an enraged public abolished it, it will destroy any effect that he is likely to make upon the average legislature.

The first general example of an English law fixing the price of a commodity is in 1266, the Assize of Bread and Beer. That fixed the price of bread according to the cost of wheat, a sliding scale, in other words; when a bushel of wheat cost so much, a loaf weighing a certain amount must cost so much, etc. But you must not confound that with the modern law that still exists in England, and in some States and cities here, merely regulating the _size_ of a loaf. That is perfectly proper, reasonable legislation, done merely for the purpose of protecting the public and preventing fraud. In England, for instance, there is a certain standard loaf known as a quartern loaf, and in order to prevent poor people being cheated it is prescribed by city ordinance that the quartern loaf shall weigh so much, shall contain so many ounces of flour. We do have similar laws saying how much a bushel of potatoes shall weigh, how much a barrel of flour shall weigh. That isn’t fixing the price; it is only fixing a uniform size so that the public may not be cheated in its dealings, and one must not take such a law as justifying the fixing of prices.

In the year 1266 I find the first statute in the French language, Norman French; before that they were all in Latin; and they lasted in French for some four or five hundred years, and then they were put in English. The Statute of Marlborough, 1267, is a very important one historically, but it does not concern us, because it mainly had to do with the ownership of land, the tenure of land in England, an extremely important subject, but one that is obsolete here. Then we have something about the trial of clerks for murder. Of course the word clerk there means not what we mean by a clerk, but a person who could read and write; and nothing more than that. It originally meant persons in holy orders, who were called clerks (clerics), but there got to be clerks who were not in holy orders. Originally only priests could read and write. No one else knew how, except possibly great personages like kings, and consequently it was the same thing whether, when you said a clerk, you meant a person who could read and write or a priest. But when there got to be people who could read and write and who were not priests, it became an important distinction. There was a privilege in England known as the “benefit of the clergy”; if any clerk was tried for a criminal offence, no matter what, all he had to do was to state that he was a priest and he was at once set free. In other words, he could not be punished. That doesn’t concern us; but, I suppose, it resulted from the old notion that all priests were subject only to Rome, and to the church courts, and not to the civil law courts; and consequently when a priest was attempted to be tried in a civil law court, it was a way of doing what we should call “pleading to the jurisdiction” of the court. Later, as time went on, in England it was greatly abused, especially when there got to be clerks who were not priests. When it meant anybody who could read and write, and anybody who had committed a murder had only to say, “I can read and write,” and be set free, it led to an extraordinary state of things. So, from time to time, they modified the benefit of the clergy, until ultimately it was abolished entirely; first by not allowing it in high offences like murder; then by imposing certain slight punishment–they were “burned in the hand”; then by applying it only to the first offence, and so on, until they got rid of it entirely; and this Statute of Marlborough is simply one of the first of that long chain of statutes which finally did away with it and prevented people from getting rid of a criminal prosecution merely because they knew how to read and write or were priests.

In 1275 I note the first use of the word parliament. I have used it from the beginning, but it is important to remember that the thing was not _called_ parliament until 1275. Before that it was called the Great Council or the King’s Council, and in Saxon times the Witenagemot.

Then we come down to the Statute of Westminster I. That is considered a great landmark in statutory legislation mainly because it is the first attempt to establish a code, or, at least, a large collection of the laws of England. It is an attempt to put what they supposed to be a good part of them into writing. We have no codes in this country, as a rule; nor to-day in England; the ordinary Anglo-Saxon does not believe in codes. It is the French and Germans who have codes. Nevertheless, you often find collections of statutes. It is important not to confound these things with codes, because they never pretend to be complete. Many States in this country never make revision of the statutes. Nevertheless, every ten or twenty years they will print a collection of the statutes arranged alphabetically. In some States, as in Massachusetts, those collections are official; but in other States they are simply matters of private enterprise. They are of no authority, and if they are wrong it is no protection to you. You are bound to know the laws. These early so-called codes, especially this code of Edward I, although it caused him to be called the English Justinian, because it was the first attempt of putting any large body of the Anglo-Saxon laws in writing at all, are still not at all _codes_ in the technical sense. This one was merely a collection of a certain number of laws reduced to writing and re-enacted by Edward I. We note here the phrase “common right shall be done to rich and poor,” rather an interesting landmark; it shows what progress was being made by the people in establishing their rights as freemen and to equal laws. For the laws of Norman England mainly applied to land-owners, and were made by the barons, the only people that had property; there was but a small class in those early days between the land-owners and actual serfs, villeins, who were practically attached to the soil, in a condition almost of servitude; they did service, were not paid wages, and couldn’t leave the place where they were born–and both these are tests of slavery. But in the first two centuries after the Conquest the number of freemen very rapidly increased; men who were not property owners, not land-owners, but still freemen. Especially it increased in the towns, for the towns very early established their right to be free, far earlier than the country. It was very early established that the citizens of any town, that is, the members of the guild of the town, duly admitted to the guild, were freemen, and probably before this statute. But this is interesting as a recognition of the fact that there were free poor people–people without property, who nevertheless were neither villeins nor serfs–and that they were entitled to equality before the law, just as we are to-day, as early as 1275. Otherwise, the Statute of Westminster concerns mainly the criminal law. There is one very important provision–because it has been historically followed from then down to now–that there shall be no disturbance of the elections. Elections shall be free and unimpeded, uncontrolled by any power, either by the crown, or Parliament, or any trespasser. That has been a great principle of English freedom ever since, and passed into our unwritten constitution over here, and of course has been re-enacted in many of our laws. That is the feeling which lay behind those statutes which we enacted after our slaves were freed, for the making of elections free in the South; for protecting negroes in the act of voting and preventing interference with them by the Ku Klux Klan. The Democratic party strongly objected and objects still to such legislation on the part of the government, on the ground that the right of regulating elections belongs to the States and not to the Federal government; which, constitutionally speaking, before the Fifteenth Amendment at least, was true. They do not, of course, deny this great old English principle that elections must be free and must not be intimidated or controlled by anybody; but, they say, we left the machinery of the elections in the hands of the States when we adopted the Federal Constitution; and although at our State elections some of the officers elected are Federal officers–as, for instance, the President of the United States, or rather the presidential electors, and members of Congress–nevertheless, when we adopted the Federal Constitution, the founders chose to rely for the machinery of a fair and free election upon the officers of States; so that the Federal government has nothing to do with it, and has no business to send Federal troops to the South; and they called such bills the “force” bill. In theory, of course, those elections were controlled in these bills just as much in the North as in the South; but there being practically no complaint in the North that the negroes were not allowed to vote, as a matter of fact the strength of the Federal government was only invoked in the Southern States.

“Fines are to be reasonable.” You find that principle in all our constitutions to-day in the clause that there shall be no cruel or unusual punishments, and that fines shall be proportionate to the offence; this principle is expressed also in Magna Charta.

Then slander and rape were made criminal at common law; before this only the church took jurisdiction. Slander Is the imputing of crime to a person by speech, by word of mouth. If it be a written imputation, it is libel and not slander. Then in this statute also we find the first import tax upon wool. The constitutionality of revenue taxes, duties, or taxes on imports, was once disputed by our parties; one party denying the constitutional right to impose any tax upon imports except for the strict purpose of raising necessary revenue; the argument being perfectly logical and based upon the constitutional principle we already have had that all taxation must be for the common benefit. Democrats argued that if a tax upon imports was imposed to raise the necessary revenue, that is for the common benefit; but if it was imposed, as it avowedly is imposed in Republican legislation, for the purpose of benefiting certain industries or classes, why that, of course, is not for the common or general benefit and therefore unconstitutional. The trouble with this position is that early English laws were prohibitive of imports–that is, they were imposed for prohibition _before_ they allowed importation on payment of duties. This Statute of Westminster is a landmark, as showing how slow the Commons were in even allowing taxation upon imports at all. They earlier allowed the ordinary direct taxes. All that the Norman kings got they got with the consent of Parliament, direct taxes, for the common benefit; but they struggled for two centuries before they got the permission of Parliament to impose duties, taxes upon imports; here first they finally got it on wool, the thing produced of most value of anything in England; and consequently an important protective duty. It is a curious historical fact that this article, wool, seems to be the chief bone of contention ever since; in our tariffs nothing has been more bitter than the dispute on wool; the duty on wool is the shibboleth of the extreme protectionist.[1] Ohio, which is the home of the strong protection feeling, regards the duty on wool as the corner-stone to the whole fabric. It is argued that “a cheap coat makes a cheap man.” In the East the feeling is that the duty on wool makes clothing poor and shoddy, and the prices excessively high for the poor. It is odd to find that the very first thing that did make trouble was the duty on wool, and it is still making the same trouble to-day.

[Footnote 1: The “ancient” customs were on wool, woolfels and leather; all other were “evil” customs. Holt, afterward C.J., in “The Great Case of Monopolies.”]

There is another interesting clause in this statute; I don’t know whether in this country so much as there, but it is in England the almost universal custom of ships to have a dog or cat on board. You never will find a coasting vessel without a dog or cat, usually both; and I believe it is for this strange historical reason, as shown in this Statute of Westminster I: In those days all wrecks belonged to the king. (Pretty much everything, in fact, did belong to the king, except the land that was held by book or charter, or such personal property as a man had in his own house–all mines, all franchises, all monopolies, even all whales and sturgeons that were thrown up on the beach–the head to the king and the tail to the queen.) So all wrecks belonged to the king. The result was, that whenever any vessel went ashore the king’s officers seized it; and naturally the owner of the vessel didn’t like that, because it very often happened that the vessel was perfectly good and could be easily repaired and the cargo saved. It is still a great principle in marine law that if one-half of the cargo is good, the man who owns the vessel cannot surrender and claim from the insurance company as a total loss; it is important still how much of a wreck a wreck is. But in those days the king, even if the vessel was stranded and could be raised, would seize it on the plea it was a wreck. The man who owned the ship would say she is perfectly seaworthy; and then would come the dispute as to what a wreck was. Or even when the vessel was destroyed, a great part of the cargo might be saved, and the owner of the vessel thought it very unjust that the king should claim it all. So the Parliament of England established as part of the liberties of the English merchant or trader that he should still have a property in his wreck; and then the question came up as to what was a wreck. It was generally admitted that when all hands were lost, that was a wreck; but they wanted to get as narrow a definition as they could, so they got Parliament to establish this law, that in future nothing shall be considered a wreck out of which a cat or a dog escapes alive; and from that time until the present day no vessel coasts about England without carrying a cat or dog.

But the great achievements of legislation up to 1300 remain the re-establishment of English law, as shown in the great charters of John, Henry III, and the confirmation of Edward I. And Magna Charta had to be read once a year (like our Declaration of Independence), and for breach of it a king might be excommunicated; and Henry III himself, according to Cobbet, feared that the Archbishop of Canterbury was about to do so.



(1275) Far the most important phrase to us found in the Statute of Westminster I, save perhaps that common right should be done to rich and poor, is to be found in this sentence: “Excessive toll, contrary to the common custom of the realm,” is forbidden. The statute applies only to market towns, but the principle established there would naturally go elsewhere, and indeed most towns where there was any trade were, in those days, market towns. Every word is noticeable: “Excessive toll”–extortion in rates. As this statute passed into the common law of England and hence our own, it has probably always been law in America except, possibly, in those few States which expressly repealed the whole common law[1] and those where civil law prevailed.[2] It was therefore equally unnecessary to adopt new statutes providing against extortion or discrimination, for the last part of the phrase “contrary to the common custom of the realm” means discrimination. But this is one of the numerous cases where our legislatures, if not our bar and bench, erred through simple historical ignorance. They had forgotten this law, or, more charitably, they may have thought it necessary to remind the people of it. There has been a recent agitation in this country with the object of compelling great public-service companies, such as electric lighting or gas companies, to make the same rates to consumers, large or small. This also was very possibly the common law, and required no new statutes; there are cases reported as far back as the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries where, for instance, a ferryman was punished for charging less for the ferriage of a large drove of sheep or cattle than for a smaller number, “contrary to the common custom of the realm.” Nine years before this statute is the Assize of Bread and Beer, attempting to fix the price of bread according to the cost of wheat, but notable to us as containing both the first pure-food statute and the first statute against “forestalling.”

[Footnote 1: Florida, Texas, and the old Territory of Dakota.]

[Footnote 2: Louisiana, New Mexico, and Arizona.]

Now forestalling, regrating, and engrossing are the early English phrases for most of the unlawful or unmoral actions which we ascribe to the modern trust. In fact, there is hardly one legal injury which a trust is said to commit in these days which cannot be ranked under those three heads, or that of monopoly or that of restraint of trade.

“Forestalling” is the buying up provisions on the way to a market with intent to sell at a higher price; and the doctrine applied primarily to provisions, that is to say, necessaries of life. Precisely the same thing exists to-day, only we term it the buying of futures, or the attempt to create a corner. We shall find that the buying of futures, that is to say, of crops not yet grown or outputs not yet created, is still obnoxious to many of our legislatures to-day, and has been forbidden, or made criminal, in many States. “Regrating” is defined in some of the early dictionaries as speculating in provisions; the offence of buying provisions at a market for the purpose of reselling them within four miles of the place. The careful regulation of markets and market towns that existed in early times in England would not suffer some rich capitalist to go in and buy all that was offered for sale with intent of selling it to the same neighborhood at a higher price. Bishop Hatto of the Rhine, you may remember, paid with his life for this offence. The prejudice against this sort of thing has by no means ended to-day. We have legislation against speculation in theatre tickets, as well as in cotton or grain. “Engrossing” is really the result of a successful forestalling, with or without regrating; that is to say, it is a complete “corner of the market”; from it our word “grocer” is derived. Such corners, if completely successful, would have the public at their mercy; luckily they rarely are; the difficulty, in fact, begins when you begin to regrate. But in artificial commodities it is easier; so in the Northern Pacific corner, a nearly perfect engrossing; the shares of stock went to a thousand dollars, and might have gone higher but for the voluntary interference of great financiers. Leiter’s Chicago corner in wheat, Sully’s corner in cotton, were almost perfect examples of engrossing, but failed when the regrating began. All these tend to monopoly, and act, of course, in restraint of trade; the broader meanings of these two latter more important principles we leave for later discussion.

(1285) The Statute of Bakers, or Assize of Bread and Ale, is by some assigned to the 13th of Edward I. If so, we find all these great modern questions treated by statute in the reign of the same great law-making king, Edward I, who well was called the “English Justinian”; for, in 1305, twenty years later, we have the first Statute of Conspiracy. This statute only applies to the maintaining of lawsuits; but the Statute of Laborers of 1360 declares void _all_ alliances and covins between masons, carpenters, and guilds, chapters and ordinances; and from this time on the statutes recognize the English common law of conspiracy in general words.

As this is one of the most important doctrines of the English law, and moreover one which is most criticised to-day by large interests, both of capital and labor, it will be wise to dwell upon its historical and logical origin in this place, though we shall consider it at length later as it touches various fields of legislation. It is notable for two most important principles: first, that it recognizes the great menace of combined action, and both forbids and punishes combinations to do an act which might be lawful for the individual; second, of all branches of civil, as distinct from criminal, law, it is the one which most largely recognizes intent; that is to say, the ethical purposes of the combination. It has been urged in some judicial opinions that in matters of boycotts, strikes, etc., the law cannot go into the motive; this argument obviously proves too much, for it is no more easy to examine motives in the criminal law, and this is done all the time. A homicide, for instance, will vary in all degrees between justifiable guilt or manslaughter up to murder in the first degree, according to the motive which prompted the act. It is really no more difficult, and the reported cases do not show it to be any more difficult, to consider the motive behind a combination of men or the motive inspiring a series of related acts. The real trouble comes only in the Federal anti-trust act, because the machinery of this clumsy statute, a bill in equity, imposes upon judges the duty of finding the facts.

This doctrine of conspiracy is so old in England that I am unable to