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The history of the fate and fortune of the law would be but a record of weakness and decay. Among the lawyers of the West and East not one name of note is to be found ; among the rulers of the different divisions of the Empire none save Valentinian III., for his Law of Citations, and Theodosius II., for his celebrated Code, are worthy of notice. Nay to such a contemptible condition had the science of law fallen that Theodosius himself lamented: “Quod tam pauci extiterint qui juris civilis scientiâ ditarentur et soliditatem verae doctrinae susceperint.”

Yet, strange to say, while the Roman lawyer was mute and the Roman ruler, with the two exceptions above named, careless and ignorant, the barbarian invaders of the empire, by whom Roman civilization had been ruined and Roman society destroyed, became active agents in the preservation of the Roman Laws. In the edict of Theodoric, in the Breviary of Alaric, in the Papiani Responsa or Lex Romana, the Ostrogothic, Wisigothic and Burgundian conquerors preserved a large portion of the text as well as the principles of Roman Jurisprudence.

The golden age of Jurisprudence, it is true, had given way to an iron age of lawlessness and ignorance. To the debasement of manners and morals throughout the whole Roman empire, and to the utter contempt of virtue, honour and social decorum pervading all ranks, from the Emperor to the lowest subject, was added a wave of invasion such as no time or country has ever seen. Under the overpowering influence of these destructive forces the whole fabric of Roman civilization was shaken, and Roman life as well as the old Roman Law, once so famous, seemed about to pass away for ever.

Fortunately there were counteracting agencies at work, and under their influence the impending destruction was averted. Among those agencies the learned author of The History of Civilization in Europe has pointed out four.

The first sprang from that instinct by which man in the depth of his rudeness and ignorance is so powerfully influenced by a longing for better things, and a consciousness of

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other powers than his own interests and passions. This agency was that love of order and of progress inherent in man's nature, and under which the barbarian conquerors of Italy and Gaul were led on to aspirations after civilization and social life.

The second agency was derived from what these barbarians saw around them, the wrecks of Roman civilization, the majestic ruins of Roman life and Roman law.

The third agency was Christianity. Here the influence was exerted first upon morality and order, and next upon social habits and political life. “Christianity attacked barbarism, as it were, at every point, in order to civilize by ruling over it !.”

Lastly, and here we quote the very words of the eloquent historian of Civilization, “there was a fourth agency, one which it is impossible fitly to appreciate, but which is not therefore the less real, and this is the appearance of great men. can say why a great man appears at a certain epoch, and what he adds to the development of the world; that is a secret of providence, but the fact is not therefore less certain. There are men, men whom the spectacle of anarchy and stagnation strikes and revolts, who are intellectually shocked therewith, as with a fact which ought not to exist, and are possessed with an unconquerable desire of changing it, a desire of giving some rule, somewhat of the general, systematic and permanent to the world before them. A terrible and often tyrannical power, which commits a thousand crimes, a thousand errors, for human weakness attends it; a power nevertheless glorious and salutary, for it gives to humanity and with the hand of man a vigorous impulse forward, a mighty movement.”

Let us say a few, a very few words on each of these solvents of barbarism.

In proof of the first it is enough to point to the very codes, or attempts at codes, we have named, to show that, in the midst of the havoc they created, the barbarian conquerors of the West sought for something like rule and order,


1 Guizot, History of Civilization,

with the view of founding a society durable and regular. Their efforts to reform the material world and themselves might be, and for a long period of time doubtless were, unproductive of permanent success. Their national characteristics were too overpowering to reconcile them easily and quickly to a condition approximating to regular, orderly social life. Perhaps “ that need of justice, foresight and development, which agitates man even under the yoke of the most brutal selfishness," would have failed altogether in producing its effect, but for the fortunate influence of the second agency by which they were directly and vividly affected, that of a system of existing law forcing itself upon their attention, hallowed by long use, and recommended by the shrewd common sense which lay at the bottom of all its rules and precepts.

Sir Henry Maine has pointed out the remarkable influence of English Law as a system, upon native usage and native life in India'. He has shown how primitive customary law has been affected in that quarter of the world by the importation of a body of express rules or principles, in number nearly sufficient to settle the disputes occasioned by increasing activity of life and multiplying wants.

Of a similar nature was the influence which the old Roman Law exercised upon the imagination of the northern invaders of Europe. They found express rules ready to hand and capable of settling all their disputes ; they found judges engaged in the work of applying these rules to the suitors in their courts; they saw law-books in abundance, and lawyers ready to explain them; and they found that it was by no means difficult to appropriate these rules and make use of these books even to the extent of amalgamating them with their own usages and customs. One beneficial result at all events ensued, viz. that a large portion of the Roman Law was preserved from the destruction that awaited every other Roman institution.

1 Village Communities, Lect. III. p. 74.


Of the third agency, that of Christianity, much might be written respecting its direct and indirect influence upon Roman Law; — for of its influence upon social life and humanity, great as that was, it is not within our province to speak. The law of marriage, the law of slavery, the law of succession ab intestato, the law relating to the patria potestas, the law regarding corporations, were strongly and directly affected by the doctrines insisted upon by the successors of the Apostles. In what particular directions, and to what precise extent the precepts of Christianity modified the Roman Law, is a subject deserving a careful examination. Unfortunately the space at our command forbids us from entering upon it, but no one who casts even a cursory glance upon the history of the civilized world during the 5th, 6th, and 7th centuries after the birth of Christ can fail to notice the immense influence of the Church and Christianity upon Legislation, Law and Social life.

Then, lastly, we have a few words to say respecting the agency great men. Here, too, our remarks must be brief, nor is it necessary that they should be otherwise than brief. —“Great men have been among us” from the earliest time, and to some of them an abiding influence has attached, so that from their works a permanent beneficial result has flowed. To men like Charlemagne, Alfred, Frederick Barbarossa, the world, as well as their own particular country, owes much. Like them, and others whom it is superfluous to name, Justinian has earned his right to a niche in the Temple of Fame. That he was a great man few can deny who look at the history of the Empire for the 300 years that preceded, and for the 300 that succeeded his reign. Of his conquests, his wealth and power, his love of literature, it is no part of our present work to speak. But of his fame as a codifier of Law we may say something. Doubtless his method of codifying was not in all respects sound. Doubtless a Corpus Juris, if published under the auspices of an Alexander Severus, and with the help of a Papinian or an Ulpian, would have been a work modelled upon a more J.


systematic plan: but the idea of reducing the huge mass of Roman Laws into a comprehensive shape was a grand one. With all its faults the book of the Pandects was a conception worthy of a master mind. And when we remember at what period Justinian's labours were achieved, when we note the determined and continuous tendency of the Roman empire to decay, we must agree with the historian above quoted, that it is impossible to say why great men appear from time to tiine. What would have been the fate of Roman Law but for the codification, if we may use the term, which the emperor insisted upon? The old legend of the discovery of a copy of the Pandects at the siege of Amalfi, exploded as it is, at all events attests the value and stamps the influence of this volume of law.

But for Justinian's labours, where would have been the model for the great mercantile codes that have done so much to benefit the commercial world of Europe? But for Justinian's labours where would have been the modern systems of law under which some of the greatest powers of Europe are now living? But for Justinian's labours where would have been that strong and auspicious ray of intellectual life which Dugald Stewart so eloquently describes as shot through the civilized world across the surrounding darkness'?

With all his faults the Emperor was a great man; great in his own times and among the people with whom he came into contact, and great as a Law-giver even in this our 19th century. Eager for fame in his life, he loved to be surrounded with all the pomp and ceremony that a powerful monarch can command, and to be saluted with titles surpassing in number and magnificence those which had rewarded the achievements of his predecessors. For years after his death, fronting the Church of St Sophia, stood his statue, moulded in bronze and mounted on a huge column of brass. There, in the habit and arms of Achilles, he seemed to be leading on his troops against their old Persian foe, and there on the very spot where the vast silver

1 Introduction to the Encyclopædia Britannica.

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