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ENCOMIA ON THE COMMON LAW.
For the English Laws, although not written, may as it should seem, and that without any absurdity, be termed Laws. For, if from the mere want of writing only, they should not be considered as Laws, then, unquestionably, writing would seem to confer more authority upon Laws themselves, than either the Equity of the persons constituting, or the reason of those framing them.
Glanvill, Preface (1187). The realm of England was first inhabited by the Britons; afterwards it was ruled and civilized under the government of the Romans; then the Britons prevailed again; next it was possessed by the Saxons, who changed the name of Britain into England. After the Saxons, the Danes lorded it over us, and then the Saxons prevailed a second time; at last the Normans came in, whose descendants retain the kingdom at this day: and during all that time, wherein those several nations and their kings prevailed, England has nevertheless been constantly governed by the same customs, as it is at present: which if they were not above all exception good, no doubt but some or other of those kings, from a principle of justice, in point of reason, or moved by inclination, would have made some alteration, or quite abolished them.
So that there is no pretence to say, or insinuate to the contrary, but that the laws and customs of England are not only good, but the very best.
Fortescue, De Laudibus Legum Angliae. Cap. 17 (about 1453).
And it is to be noted that all the deriving of reason in the law of England proceedeth of the first principles of the law, or of something that is derived of them; and therefore no man may rightwisely judge, ne groundly reason in the laws of England if he be ignorant in the first principles.
Doctor and Student, chap. 5 (1523). For reason is the life of the law, nay the common law itselfe is nothing else but reason; which is to be understood of an artificiall perfection of reason, gotten by long study, observation, and experience, and not of every man’s naturall reason; for, nemo nascitur artifex. This legall reason est summa ratio. And therefore if all