It is the glory of English Law, that its roots are sunk deep into the soil of national history; that it is the slow product of the age long growth of the national life.
What is technically called the 'fungibility' of money, is its chief value as an article of commerce; and this fact could not long remain recognized, even by such a conservative class as legal officials.
But we remember that it was just precisely in the reign of Richard II that the Peasants' War, following upon the changes wrought by the visitations of the Great Plague, virtually destroyed serfdom as a personal status.
In the year 1871, Mr. Gladstone's Government introduced and passed the first Trade Union Act, by far the most important victory, up to that time achieved by the champions of labour organizations.
Only when a disputed point has long caused bloodshed and disturbance, or when a successful invader (military or theological) insists on a change, is it necessary to draw up a code.
But the fact that the word chattel has survived as the inclusive legal term for all movable goods, points, not merely to the great importance of cattle in primitive times, but to the importance of the notion of sale or barter in generating the institution of property.
The man who has been wounded by a chance arrow must not shoot at sight the first man he happens to meet.
The feudal warranty is, doubtless derived from the ancient duty of the feudal lord to protect his liege man 'with fire and sword against all deadly'. It was of the essence of the feudal bond, that the vassal should be under his lord's protection.
The process of specialization tends, almost inevitably, to narrow the sources from which the rules of any science are drawn; and English law is no exception from this rule.
Is it surprising that modern English land law should resemble a chaos rather than a system?
We regard an action of Contract as an action to prevent or compensate for a breach of a promise; an action of Tort as an action to to punish or compensate for a wrong, such as assault or defamation, which has not any necessary connection with a promise.
The progress of the nation in wealth and refinement, however, naturally brought with it an increase in the number of crimes, as the old definition of offences became inadequate.
It is true, that a Law of Contract based on causae will always be an arbitrary and inelastic law; but it is a kind of law with which some great nations are satisfied at the present day.
The thegn who deems an unjust doom is to lose his thegnship. It is a principle which can be widely applied
Whatever else the Norman Conquest may or may not have done, it made the old haphazard state of legal affairs forever impossible.