Legal Traditions in American Law. Common Essay

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¶ … legal traditions in American law. Common law. Roman law, etc.... compare and contrast the 4 legal traditions

Early influences on American law: English, common, civil, and Roman law traditions

America was originally a British colony, so it should come as little surprise that the predominant influence upon American law is that of English law, with its system of Parliament and divided governance. England's balance of power between the king and a democratically elected legislature obviously influenced the Founding Fathers, as did Great Britain's early establishment of an independent judiciary. State and federal taxation has its roots in British law's taxation of various independent provinces. William the Conqueror as early as 1066 created a Domesday Survey, that recorded the amount and value of property held by all persons in England "for the purpose of assessing taxes against the owners" (English law, 2008, Law Library).

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Trial by jury originates in Anglo-Saxon times through a practice known as compurgation "in which accused persons might clear themselves of an alleged wrongdoing by taking a sworn oath denying the claim made against them, and corroborating the denial by the sworn oaths of twelve other persons, usually neighbors or relatives" (English law, 2008, Law library). Trial by a jury of one's peers supplanted the earlier, more barbaric and arbitrary faith-based practices of trial-by-ordeal and trial-by-combat, in which the accused person would be subjected to a trial such as dunking in water and God would decide the accused person's innocence or guilt. Fairness, democracy, and impartiality -- even secularity -- were early characteristics of English law.

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The establishment of the Magna Carta which defined the rights and legal obligations of the church, nobles, and king was also influential on American law. No one party could infringe upon the rights of the others, and English kings who tried to grow too powerful met with opposition, rebellion and death. For example, in 1649, King Charles I was tried, convicted, and executed for subverting Parliament (English law, 2008, Law library). Another type of law derived from Britain that influenced the Founding Fathers was that of Common law. Common law, as opposed to formal, written English documents like the Magna Carta is "the ancient law of England based upon societal customs and recognized and enforced by the judgments and decrees of the courts" (Common law, 2008, Law Library). In practical terms, this means that custom and past interpretations guide current judicial interpretation, not merely the 'letter of the law.' "Common-law courts base their decisions on prior judicial pronouncements rather than on legislative enactments. Where a… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Legal Traditions in American Law. Common" Essay in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Legal Traditions in American Law. Common.  (2008, November 8).  Retrieved July 27, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Legal Traditions in American Law. Common."  8 November 2008.  Web.  27 July 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Legal Traditions in American Law. Common."  November 8, 2008.  Accessed July 27, 2021.