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“Yes, you have shown us a representation of freedom.

True. But you are content with it in a world that moves by computation some considerable sum upward of sixty thousand miles an hour."



This account of the early courts of Pennsylvania is the outcome of some lectures delivered as an auxiliary course in the Law School of the University of Pennsylvania. Their purpose was to describe briefly the establishment and development of the courts in the colonial period. That our ancestors should have expressed such profound admiration for the common law while deviating so widely from it in practice, must have puzzled many who have not learned to put a true value upon the flights of forensic oratory. History alone supplies the key, and colonial legal history has not received the attention it deserves. The absence of reports, the destruction of many records and the inaccessibility of those that have been preserved, have all contributed to discourage work in a field usually abandoned to the antiquarian. But as American law increases in importance, the story of its obscure beginnings will require careful consideraThe earliest emigrants, caring little for the common law except those principles associated with Magna Charta, stamped their peculiar notions upon our jurisprudence in a way that the second and more conservative generation of colonists was unable to eradicate. The . Revolution, and the constitutional development that followed, concentrated attention on public rather than on private law, which in many of the States has been allowed to develop haphazard, along the lines of least resistance. Before it will be possible to classify and discuss American colonial law in a thorough and scientific manner, much preliminary work must be done in local fields, and, from material so collected, there may be derived finally a rational account of our legal institutions.

It is in this spirit that the following study has been prepared. The original lectures were undertaken, at the suggestion of Dr. William Draper Lewis, Dean of the Law School, and material sought in the records without, at first, a sufficient realization of their lack of coherence. It was found that while some special topics had been carefully discussed, and while others were treated incidentally, in works having a different object in view, there was no concise

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