The Law Law History Commercial Law

Commercial Law

Commercial Law
Catalog # SKU3844
Publisher TGS Publishing
Author Name American Institute of Banking
ISBN 10: 0000000000
ISBN 13: 0000000000000


Commercial Law

American Institute of Banking

The term "law" is used in many ways. We speak of moral law, law of gravity, divine law, and the like. In each case we are making proper use of the term, but in no instance are we using it as we shall use it in this book.



To illustrate: You find a beggar on your front porch when entering your house late at night. Suppose he should ask you for food and lodging for the night. Although there is no other house within five miles of your home, you refuse to take him in, or do anything for him. As a result he contracts pneumonia from exposure, because he is not able to proceed further. You would, nevertheless, not be liable in the sense in which we are using the term "law." But, you say, in an extreme case of this kind, it is one's duty to act. We grant it, but to be accurate, you must preface your proposition with the statement, "under the moral law" or "under divine law it is one's duty to act in such a case." However much it is to be regretted that moral or divine law sometimes does not harmonize with "law" as we shall treat it, we must, nevertheless, recognize that fact. Law, as viewed by the jurist, and this is the way we, as students, are to consider it, is defined by Blackstone to be "A rule of civil conduct prescribed by the supreme power in the State, commanding what is right, and prohibiting what is wrong."

Referring again to our illustration, is it not easy to see that it would be impracticable in the present condition of society for the legislature of California, for example, to pass a law which should, in that State, constitute "a rule of civil conduct" commanding that every one "shall be his brother's keeper" and for a violation thereof "shall be imprisoned for one year, or fined one thousand dollars, or both."

However much we recognize the obligation of moral law, jurists and legislators cannot ignore the fact that society is composed of ordinary human beings, still far from perfection. Assuming, although perhaps it is doubtful, that it is within the power of the legislature of California to pass such an act as has been suggested, there are not courts enough in the whole United States to decide the cases which would arise in New York City alone in attempting to apply the provisions of such an act. On second thought, then, it is not such a startling proposition for us to learn that "law" is not synonymous with the same term when used in referring to natural law, moral law, and the like.

Much has been written on the essential nature of "law" as we shall use the term. The time-honored definition of Blackstone, which we have quoted, is confessedly imperfect. The last clause, "commanding what is RIGHT, and prohibiting what is WRONG" has been much criticized, and Mr. Chitty has modified it to "commanding what shall be done, and what shall not be done." Today, to attempt to buy a bottle of light wine at a hotel does not seem to many of us intrinsically WRONG, but legally, under existing laws, it is, and so perhaps Mr. Chitty's modification of Blackstone's definition does bring out the correct idea more clearly. For our purpose, these two definitions are sufficient.

The Systems of Law

There are two chief systems of law in use among civilized peoples today, the Roman or civil law, and, the English or common law. The Roman, or civil law (Roman law is spoken of as civil law, from the Latin "civilis," belonging to a citizen) as its name implies, originated in Rome. As the city of Rome developed into the Roman Empire, its law became that of the ancient world. It was finally codified by the Roman Emperor Justinian, in the year 530 A.D., and was eventually absorbed, from the twelfth to the eighteenth century, into the law of modern Europe. It is the basis of the systems of law used in the countries of continental Europe, Central and South America, and all French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Dutch colonies or countries settled by those peoples.

Common Law

The common law had its roots in the customary law of the Germanic peoples of western Europe, and was developed by the English courts from the thirteenth to the nineteenth centuries. Like the Roman law, it has spread all over the world wherever English-speaking peoples have settled, and founded colonies. The common law now prevails in England, Canada (except Quebec), India, except over Hindus and Mohammedans in certain instances, and the principal British colonies, except those in South Africa. The United States is largely an English settlement, hence the common law prevails with us, except in the State of Louisiana, where the influence of the French and Spanish settlements still remains and makes the basis of the Louisiana law the Roman law, and in the Philippines and Porto Rico, where the law was Roman when we took those possessions from Spain in 1898.

380 pages - 7 x 8½ softcover - Print size, 12 point font

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