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The Law

The Adaptability of Legal Sanctions to the

Needs of Society


Charles W. Bacon
Member of New York Bar; Author of “The American Plan of



Franklyn S. Morse
Instructor in History in the Collegiate School of New York City

With an Introduction by

James A. Woodburn
Professor of American History at Indiana University

G.P. Putnam's Sons
New York & London
The Knickerbocker Press


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The thesis of this book is stated in its title. The law in the United States of today, as in the England of Sir Edward Coke, is the “perfection of reason." Now, as then, the law is the application of reason to the problems of social control. The rules of the law are founded upon principles of right and justice that never change. The application of these rules varies with changes in social and economic conditions and in conceptions of right and justice.

As the problems of social control have grown more and more complex with the progress of civilization, the rules of the law have been so extended as reasonably to satisfy the needs and the hopes of the human beings who look to them for protection and welfare. In these pages, an effort is made to show how reason has directed that extension.


FRANKLYN S. MORSE New York, February, 1924.


This volume has its basis in history, which gives it a firm foundation. Human experience has given us our law. There is a wide-spread conviction that the best text book in Political Science is History. It is so with Law. The causes and forms of law are found in the experience of mankind. Law is an

Law is an experimental science, since it has grown out of the customs as well as out of the reason of men. In the history of AngloSaxon law and governments, reforms and changes have come about to meet specific and concrete needs. Laws and institutions are not created out of hand for all future possible needs; they have not originated in an a priori fashion from the contemplative inner consciousness of men; but new requirements in government and new provisions in the statutes and new decisions in the common law, have all come from new needs and situations as they have arisen. When the law has been changed there has always been a reason. The immediate practical results, not a distant ideal goal, has been the end in view.

Thus we find that our free government and our legal code have been an evolution. We must, perforce, go to history to see how our law has come to be, and as its evolution is traced from age to age we are led to see how very natural and reasonable it all is. There have been exceptions, but laws that have not been founded on

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