The Common Law, Oliver Wendell Holmes

by practicalspactical

The object of this book is to present a general view of the
Common Law. To accomplish the task, other tools are needed
besides logic. It is something to show that the consistency of a
system requires a particular result, but it is not all. The life
of the law has not been logic: it has been experience. The felt
necessities of the time, the prevalent moral and political
theories, intuitions of public policy, avowed or unconscious,
even the prejudices which judges share with their fellow-men,
have had a good deal more to do than the syllogism in determining
the rules by which men should be governed. The law embodies the
story of a nation’s development through many centuries, and it
cannot be dealt with as if it contained only the axioms and
corollaries of a book of mathematics. In order to know what it
is, we must know what it has been, and what it tends to become.
We must alternately consult history and existing theories of
legislation. But the most difficult labor will be to understand
the combination of the two into new products at every stage. The
substance of the law at any given time pretty nearly [2]
corresponds, so far as it goes, with what is then understood to
be convenient; but its form and machinery, and the degree to
which it is able to work out desired results, depend very much
upon its past.