Tuesday, December 30, 2008

English common law - American law

English common law is the most significant source of American law.

The Scriptural principles of Biblical law were the basic foundation of English common law. The Christian English jurist, Sir William Blackstone published his Commentaries which were a compilation of English common law. In the ten years prior to the American War for Independence; nearly 2500 copies of his commentaries were purchased and widely read in the American colonies. The English common law scholar Coke was respected and more widely read in the American colonies than in England.

Furthermore, the American colonists wanted to “biblicize” their legal and judicial systems further. The early colonists saw themselves as the “new Israel” whom God planted in a "Promised land".

Attempts to conform civil law to biblical code can be found in the “Massachusetts Body of Liberties” and in the “New Haven Colony Laws.”

“New Haven Colony Laws”

“This Court thus frames, shall first with due care and diligence from time to time provide for the maintenance of the purity of Religion, and suppresse the contrary, according to their best Light, and directions from the word of God. [Similarities to Psalm 2:10, 11:12; I Timothy 2:2]”

“Secondly, though they humbly acknowledge, that the Supreme power of making Lawes, and of repealing them, belongs to God onely, and that by Him this power is given to Jesus Christ as mediator, Matthew 28:19. John 5:22., And that the Lawes for holiness, and Righteousnesse, are already made, and given us in the scriptures, which in matters of morall, or morall equity, may not be altered by a humane power, or authority, Moses onely shewed Israel the Lawes, and Statutes of God, and the Sanhedrin the highest Court, among the Jewes, must attend those lawes, Yet Civill Rulers, and Courts, and this Generall Court in particular (being intrusted by the freemen as before) are the Ministers of God for the good of the people; and have power to declare, publish, and establish, for the plantations within their Jurisdictions, the Lawes he hath made, and to make, and repeale Orders for smaller matters, not particularly determined in Scipture, according to the more Generall Rules of Righteousnesse, and while they stand in force, to require due execution of them. [Similarities to Isaiah 33:22; Deuteronomy 5:8; 17:11; Romans13:4]”

Alexandre Vinet (1797-1847) was the professor of theology at the Academy of Lausanne. Professor Vinet was a thinker in the canton of Vaud and followed in the course of the men of the Reformation in Switzerland. Vinet was the foremost representative of French Protestantism of his day. He declared:

“Christianity is the immortal seed of freedom of the world.”
He was the outspoken leader for the freedom to worship and freedom of conscience in relation to the state.

Law is related to the entire structure of society and a culture which includes government not merely the context of civil and criminal conduct. The constitutionalist ideas of the Reformer Martin Bucer (1491-1551) of Strasbourg and John Calvin of Geneva did not lose contact with daily life. They were unlike the moribund contractual ideas of the late Middle Ages.

Charitable levelheaded Bucer had the strongest influence upon the conciliatory views of John Calvin in church affairs at Geneva and church state affairs. The constitutionalist model of Presbyterian government was an example and an education in the principles of political limitation.

In England, Presbyterianism did not succeed; but its political ideas were communicated through groups within the Puritan element in Great Britain. Consequently, it played an important role in trimming the power of English kings. The ordinary citizen discovered freedom from arbitrary governmental power while other nations moved toward absolutism. Centralizing monarchs welcomed the aid of the monarchial Roman church in controlling political heterodoxy.

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