Great men have admonished us never to forget the continuing relevance of history in the Anglo-American legal system. We are cautioned to remember that the highly individualistic character of much of our law is explained by its Germanic rather than its Roman roots and, further, that the Anglo-American system has built upon countervailing concepts of relationships which are feudal in origin, and to which rights and duties attach without regard to the will of individuals, which is the underlying principle of classical Roman law. Thus, in our law, powers, rights, and duties stem from relationships such as principal-agent, vendor-purchaser, landlord-tenant and the like. This article is concerned with history, but less from the standpoint of narrative than to illustrate the sources and functions of one of the most powerful of Anglo-American legal institutions, the common law. It is one of the major legal systems of the world, and it is the oldest body of law common to a whole kingdom and administered by central courts with a nation-wide competence. Its traditions and its principles have afforded refuge from greed, incompetence, hatred, violence, and the tyranny of special interests. Its great political importance is apparent in the survival of its principles in the face of formidable efforts to supersede or overthrow them, and those principles often seem to have become more firmly settled after each crisis. Its qualities of vitality and tenacity are part of its tradition, and its conveniences have been almost countless.
George L. Haskins,
The Matrix of the Common Law,
39 Clev. St. L. Rev.
available at http://engagedscholarship.csuohio.edu/clevstlrev/vol39/iss2/3