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Lapse

law, word, legal, greek, jus, jurisprudence, words, lex and laws

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LAPSE. [Auvowsos ; BENEFICE.] LAW. In treating of the word law, we will first explain its etymology, and the etymology of the equivalent words in the principal -languages of the eivilized world ; we will next determine the strict and primary meaning of law, together with its various secondary meanings; we will afterwards state the most important species of law, in the strict sense of the word; and finally, we will make a few remarks on the origin and end of law.

1. Etymology of Law, and the equivalent words in other the Greek language the most antient word for law is thermis (Bibus, which contains the same root as rifhhat), meaning that which is established or laid down.' In Homer Olais signifies a rule established by cus tom, as well as by a civil government : it also signifies a judicial decision or de cree, a legal right, and a legal duty.

(Iliad, i. 238; Od. xiv. 56; Od. xvi. 403; Il. xi. 770; Il. ix. 156, 298; and see Passow in v.) Eiccrabs and Te6abs are two very antient Greek words, having the same origin and meaning as eilas. The common Greek word for law, after the Homeric period, is vonos, which first occurs in the Works and Days' of He siod (v. 274-386, Gaisford), and contains the same root as viaw, to allot or distri bute. The only word which the Greek language possessed to signify a legal right was Sizatov, or Sieatteaa. (Hugo, Ge scliichte des IMmischen Reeks, p. 962, ed. xi.) Jurisprudence was never cultivated as a science by the Greeks before the loss of their independence. Many causes con curred to prevent the Greeks from adding jurisprudence to the numerous subjects which they first subjected to a scientific treatment. The chief of these causes was perhaps the generally arbitrary character of the Greek tribunals, both in the demo cratic and oligarchical states. The Lace dtemonians had no written laws (Aris totle's account of the jurisdiction of the Ephors, in Polit. ii. 9; compare Muller's Dorians, b. iii. ch. 6, s. 2; ch. 11, s. 2; and Justinian's Institutes, lib. i. tit. 2, s. 10), and they were besides too great contemners of learning and science to cul tivate law in a systematic manner. The Athenians possessed a considerable body of written laws, and, with their extraor dinary talent both for speculation and action, they would probably have contri buted something towards reducing law to a science, if the large numbers of the judges (botaerTu() in their courts had not led to a popular and rhetorical treatment of the questions which came before them, and, by diminishing the sense of personal responsibility, facilitated, arbitrary de cisions. (Xen., Mein. iv. 4. 4.) For the first scientific cultivation of law the world is indebted to the Romans. How far our ancestors,' says Cicero, ' excelled other nations in wisdom, will he easily perceived on comparing our laws with the works of their Lycurgus, Draco, and Solon ; for it is incredible how rude and almost ridiculous every system of law is, except that of Rome.'

(' Incredibile est enim, quam sit omne jus civile, meter hoc nostrum, incondi tum ac pwne ridiculum.' De Orat., i. 44.) Apart from the general ability of the Romans in the business of civil and military government, the systematic cul tivation of law in Rome is perhaps owing chiefly to the fact that the Roman tribu nals were composed of a single judge, or magistratus. (Hugo, Ibid., p. 345.) The persons filling the offices of prator urba nits and prator peregrinus (the magis trates who ultimately exercised the chief civil jurisdiction) were changed annually ; and it was found convenient that every new prmtor should, on his accession to his office, publish an authentic statement of the rules which he intended to observe in administering justice. In process of time these rules, known by the name of the pry tor's edict, were handed down, with little alteration, from one prtetor to another ; and they furnished a text for the commentaries of the Roman lawyers, uany of whose expository writings were drawn up in the form of treatises ad edictUrn. [Eourry, p. 844.] The scientific cultivation of law among the Romans naturally led to the formation of a technical legal vocabulary in their language. The Latin is accordingly very rich in legal terms, many or most of which have been retained in the modern languages of western Europe, especially in those countries whose legal systems are founded on the Roman law. The only terms however with which we are at present concerned are those which de note the most general notions belonging to the subject of jurisprudence. Lex, which has the same etymological relation to lego that rex has to repo, meant pro perly a measure proposed by a magistrate in the comitia, or assembly of the people. A lex was not necessarily a rule, and might relate to a special case (Hugo, Ibid. p. 327); but as most of the leges proposed by the magistrates were general, the word came to signify a written law. Jus denoted law generally, whether writ ten or unwritten : it also denoted a legal right or faculty. Lex signified " a law ;" jus "law" generally. (Austin, Province of Jurisprudence, p. 307.) The Romance languages have retained the word lex in the Latin acceptation (leyge Italian, ley Spanish, loi French). They have however lost the word jus (though they retain many of its deriva tives), and have substituted for it words formed from the passive participle of di riyo (diritto Italian, derecho Spanish, droit French), probably after the analogy of the German recht.

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