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The Decline of Natural LawHow American Lawyers Once Used Natural Law and Why They Stopped$
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Stuart Banner

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9780197556498

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2021

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780197556498.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 04 December 2021

The Common Law

The Common Law

(p.46) 2 The Common Law
The Decline of Natural Law

Stuart Banner

Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses 18th- and 19th-century lawyers’ understanding of common law, the law found in court opinions. Today lawyers think of the common law as consisting of the opinions themselves, and they think of judges as making the law when they write the opinions. Before the late 19th century, by contrast, lawyers believed that the common law had an existence independent of court opinions, and that the opinions were merely evidence of the law rather than the law itself. Common law was understood in large part as natural law applied to specific situations. It was considered to be something found, not made, by judges.

Keywords:   natural law, common law, customary law, jurisprudence, judge

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