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The common law, so far as it is applicable to our situation and government, has been recognized and adopted, as one entire system, by the constitutions of Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Maryland. It has been assumed by the courts of justice, or declared by statute, with the like modifications, as the law of the land in every state. It was imported by our colonial ancestors, as far as it was applicable, and was sanctioned by royal charters and colonial statutes. It is also the established doctrine, that English statutes, passed before the emigration of our ancestors, and applicable to our situation, and in amendment of the law, constitute a part of the common law of this country.

The best evidence of the common law is to be found in the decisions of the courts of justice, contained in numerous volumes of reports, and in the treatises and digests of learned men, which have been multiplying from the earliest periods of the English history down to the present time. The reports of judicial decisions contain the most certain evidence, and the most authoritative and precise application of the rules of the common law. Adjudged cases become precedents for future cases resting upon analogous facts, and brought within the same reason; and the diligence of counsel, and the labor of judges, are constantly required, in the study of the reports, in order to understand accurately their import, and the principles they establish. But to attain a competent knowledge of the common law in all its branches has now become a very serious undertaking, and it requires steady and lasting perseverance, in consequence of the number of books which beset and encumber the path of the student.

WILLIAMS V. MILES, Supreme Court of Nebraska, 1903 (94 N. W. Rep. 705).

Pound, C.: What is the meaning of the term "common law of England," as used in chapter 15 a, Comp. St. 1901? Does it mean the common law as it stood at the time of the Declaration of In

dependence, or as it stood when our statute was enacted, or are we to understand the common-law system, in its entirety, including all judicial improvements and modifications in this country and in England, to the present time, so far as applicable to our conditions? We cannot think, and we do not believe this court has ever understood, that the Legislature intended to petrify the common law, as embodied in judicial decisions at any one time, and set it up in such inflexible form as a rule of decision. The theory of our system is that the law consists, not in the actual rules enforced by decisions of the courts at any one time, but the principles from which those rules flow; that old principles are applied to new cases, and the rules resulting from such application are modified from time to time as changed conditions and new states of fact require. Rensselaer Glass Factory v. Reid, 5 Cow. 587. "We may look to American as well as English books and to American as well as English jurists, to ascertain what this law is, for neither the opinions nor precedents of judges can be said, with strict propriety, to be the law. They are only evidence of law." Forbes v. Scannell, 13 Cal. 242, 286. On this ground it was held in Sayward v. Carlson, I Wash. St. 29, 23 Pac. 830, that a statutory provision in Washington making the common law of England the rule of decision in all courts did not confine the courts to the decisions of the English courts, and of those American courts which have followed them closely, for the interpretation of the law. Such has been the understanding of this court from the beginning. What Sir Frederick Pollock has called "the immemorial and yet freshly growing fabric of the common law" is to be our guide, not the decisions of any particular courts at any particular period. The term "common law of England," as used in the statute, refers to that general system of law which prevails in England, and in most of the United States by derivation from England, as distinguished from the Roman or civil law system, which was in force in this territory prior to the Louisiana purchase. Hence the statute does not require adherence to the decisions of the English common-law courts prior to the Revolution, in case this court considers subsequent decisions, either in England or America, better expositions of the general principles of that system.

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VAN NESS V. PACARD, Supreme Court of the United States, 1829,

(2 Pet. 137). Story, J...

The common law of England is not to be taken in all respects to be that of America. Our ancestors brought with them its general principles, and claimed it as their birthright: but they brought with them and adopted only that portion which was applicable to their situation. There could be little or no reason for doubting that the general doctrine as to things annexed to the freehold, so far as it respects heirs and executors, was adopted by them. The question could arise only between different claimants under the same ancestor, and no general policy could be subserved by withdrawing from the heir those things which his ancestor had chosen to leave annexed to the inheritance. But between landlord and tenant it is not so clear that the rigid rule of the common law, at least as it is expounded in 3 East, 38, was so applicable to their situation as to give rise to necessary presumption in its favor. The country was a wilderness, and the universal policy was to procure its cultivation and improvement. The owner of the soil as well as the public had every motive to encourage the tenant to devote himself to agriculture and to favor any erection which should aid this result; yet, in the comparative poverty of the country, what tenant could afford to erect fixtures of much expense or value, if he was to lose his whole interest therein by the very act of erection? His cabin or log hut, however necessary for any improvement of the soil, would cease to be his the moment it was finished. It might, therefore, deserve consideration whether, in case the doctrine were not previously adopted in a state by some authoritative practice or adjudication; it ought to be assumed by this court as a part of the jurisprudence of such state, upon the mere footing of its existence. in the common law. At present it is unnecessary to say more than that we give no opinion on this question. The case which has been. argued at the bar may well be disposed of without any discussion.

of it.

MENG V. COFFEY, Supreme Court of Nebraska, 1903 (93 N. W. Rep. 712).

Pound, C.:. Not only should the inapplicability of a common-law rule be general, extending to the whole, or the greater part of the state, or at least to an area capable of definite judicial ascertainment, to justify the courts in disregarding such rule, but

we think, in view of the ease with which legislative alteration and amendment may be had, the power to declare established doctrines of the common law inapplicable should be used somewhat sparingly. In the whole course of decisions in Nebraska, from the territorial courts to the present, this power has been exercised but three times: (1) With reference to trespass upon wild lands by cattle (Delaney v. Errickson, 10 Neb. 492, 6 N. W. 600, 35 Am. Rep. 487), restricted, however, to wild lands by later adjudications (Lorance v. Hillyer, 57 Neb. 266, 77 N. W. 755); (2) with reference to the effect of covenants to pay rent in a lease after destruction of leased buildings, dissented from, however, by three of the six judges (Wattles v. South Omaha Ice & Coal Co., 50 Neb. 251, 69 N. W. 785, 36 L. R. A. 424, 61 Am. St. Rep. 554); and (3) with reference to estates by entirety (Kerner v. McDonald, 84 N. W. 92, 83 Am. St. Rep. 550). Of these three cases it may be remarked that the first was in line with legislation which clearly ran counter to the common-law rule, and that the other two dealt with strict feudal rules of property, based on conceptions long since become obsolete. The recent holdings as to the statute of uses (Farmers' & Merchants' Ins. Co. v. Jensen, 58 Neb. 522, 78 N. W. 1054. 44 L. R. A. 861), and the statute of Elizabeth concerning charitable uses (In re Creighton's Estate (Neb.) 84 N. W. 273), are of different nature. In the statute of uses the court did not have to do with a rule of the common law, but with an English statute, which was not adjustable to our legislation as to conveyances. In the statute of Elizabeth relating to charitable uses the court was again dealing with an English statute, and as that statute gave extrajudicial powers to the courts, which they could not exercise under our constitution, the question was one of legislative superseding of the rule, not of inapplicability. Thus the distinction between the case at bar and those in which common-law rules or English statutes have been set aside is readily apparent. Here we are confronted with no legislation to the contrary, nor are we dealing with an antiquated rule of feudal origin, but with an enlightened system of rules, founded on obvious. principles of justice, and concededly applicable to the general conditions of the country and to the greater part of this state. Moreover, in each of the three cases in which common-law rules have been held inapplicable there was a complete rule at hand to take the place of the one rejected, and no complicated and extensive judicia! legislation was required. In the case of trespasses by cattle the herd

law was on the statute books. The rule as to the effect of covenants in a lease to pay rent was an isolated rule, without collateral consequences, and the obvious and well-settled principle of apportionment governing all agreements, was available in its stead; and the doctrine of tenancy by the entirety stood alone, unconnected with any general body of rules, and all cases that might have been governed by it were readily referable to the rules governing tenancy in common. In like manner, with the statute of uses removed, we had a complete statutory system of conveyancing, and in the absence of the statute of charitable uses, there were still the general equitable powers of the court of chancery existing anterior to that statute. But while in those cases a single rule, part of no general system of modern application, was rejected, here the rules assailed are results of a general doctrine and part of a complete system, and to overthrow them would leave the whole body of the law of waters unsettled and confused. The subject calls for legislative, not for judicial, action.

VIDAL V. GIRARD, Supreme Court of the U. S. 1844 (2 How. 127). Story, J... It is also said, and truly, that the Christian religion is a part of the common law of Pennsylvania. But this proposition is to be received with its appropriate qualifications, and in connection with the bill of rights of that State, as found in its constitution of government. The constitution of 1790 (and the like provision will, in substance, be found in the constitution of 1776, and in the existing constitution of 1838) expressly declares, "That all men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences; no man can of right be compelled to attend, erect, or support any place of worship, or to maintain any ministry against his consent; no human authority can, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience; and no preference shall ever be given by law to any religious establishments or modes of worship." Language more comprehensive for the complete protection of every variety of religious opinion could scarcely be used; and it must have been intended to extend equally to all sects, whether they believed in Christianity or not, and whether they were Jews or infidels. So that we are compelled to admit that although Christianity be a part of the common law of the State, yet it is so in this qualified sense, that its divine origin and truth are admitted, and therefore it is not to be maliciously and openly reviled and blasphemed against, to the

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