See study by R. Crawford (1968).
See biography by R. Blake (2 vol., 1955-56).
The Banque générale was made the royal bank in 1718, and its issues of notes were guaranteed by the state. Finally (1720), Law, made controller general of finances, merged the huge stock company with the royal bank and took over most of the public debt and the administration of revenue. A rash of speculation swept France. Numerous small investors bought stock, which soared to heights far beyond what could be expected in returns from the exploitation of the colonies (see Mississippi Scheme) and from trade with Asia. The bubble burst suddenly. Well-informed speculators sold their stock at huge profits, setting off a frenzy of selling that ruined thousands of investors. The system collapsed (1720), and Law fled France in disgrace. He died in Venice, where he had supported himself by gambling.
The dizzy speculation caused by Law's system greatly helped to discredit the regency and the idea of a national bank. Although the immediate results of Law's schemes were disastrous, colonial enterprise received a lasting stimulus. His monetary theories have found defenders among later economists.
See biographies by H. M. Hyde (rev. ed. 1969) and J. Gleeson (2000).
See biography by J. H. Overton (1881); W. R. Inge, Studies of English Mystics (1906); S. Hobhouse, William Law and Eighteenth Century Quakerism (1927); J. B. Green, John Wesley and William Law (1945).
Law does not develop systematically until a state with a centralized police authority has appeared. For this development a written language is not required, but necessarily the earliest known legal codes are those of literate societies. Examples of early law systems are to be found in the code of Hammurabi (Babylonia), the Laws of Manu (India), and the Mosaic code (Palestine). These codes show what would seem to be the universal tendency of the religious and ethical system of a society to produce a legal order to enforce its ethical and social mandates. In classical antiquity the first codes of law are those attributed to Solon and to Lycurgus.
The first law code in Roman history was the Law of the Twelve Tables, the prelude to the development of Roman law, a highly elaborate system that has had immeasurable influence on the growth of Western law. It was summarized in the Corpus Juris Civilis in the time of Justinian. Roman law developed the distinction between public law (in which the state is concerned directly, e.g., treason and taxation) and private law (concerned with disputes between persons, e.g., over contracts).
The breakup of the Roman Empire under the pressure of the Germanic invasions brought the disruption of the Roman legal administration. Temporarily the codes of Germanic laws eclipsed Roman law in Western Europe. In the simpler Germanic codes the main distinctive element was the use of composition for crimes, but most of the Germanic codes showed at least some Roman influence.
Roman law, together with the Bible, was the basis of canon law, the legal system of the Roman Catholic Church, while Muslim law was derived from the Qur'an and the traditional sayings of Muhammad, and later Hebrew law was based on the Talmud. Feudal law also showed the effects of Roman law, although in theory it was based not upon any concept of the state but on personal relations (see feudalism).
The revival of trade in the commercial revolution, and in the Renaissance brought new developments in the law of the sea (see maritime law). The study of Roman law itself was also revived, notably at the Univ. of Bologna. It became the basis of most Continental law, as exemplified in the French Code Napoléon, the archetype of codes that govern the jurisdiction of civil law.
In England after the Norman Conquest the feudal law was ultimately replaced by the law of the royal courts, such as the king's bench. The royal courts developed common law, i.e., judicial legislation as opposed to the law of the formally enacted statute. Common law adhered excessively to precedent, and equity, exercised by the king's chancery, appeared, with its reliance upon the dictates of conscience rather than upon precedent.
The two systems became bitter rivals. In the early 17th cent. Francis Bacon championed equity, while such eminent jurists as Edward Coke upheld the common law. In the 18th cent. English jurisprudence stressed natural law (the theory that law must incorporate the natural rights of humans), and the highly influential work of Sir William Blackstone exemplifies the theory.
The work of Blackstone was the most important influence in U.S. law (except for Louisiana, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, where Continental civil law prevailed). Among those who helped to develop the American concept of law were James Kent and Joseph Story; in constitutional law the most important figure was John Marshall. In the United States the distinctive feature is the coexistence of federal and state law, for the U.S. Constitution limits the sphere in which federal law is supreme.
See H. L. A. Hart, The Concept of Law (1961); R. A. Wormser, The Story of the Law and the Men Who Made It (rev. ed. 1962); R. David, Major Legal Systems in the World Today (tr. 1968).
The Abstract of Title, used in real estate transactions, is the more common form of abstract. An abstract of title lists all the owners of a piece of land, a house, or a building before it came into possession of the present owner. The abstract also records all deeds, wills, mortgages, and other documents that affect ownership of the property. An abstract describes a chain of transfers from owner to owner and any agreements by former owners that are binding on later owners.
In the context of patent law and specifically in prior art searches, searching through abstracts is a common way to find relevant prior art document to question to novelty or inventive step (or non-obviousness in United States patent law) of an invention. Under United States patent law, the abstract may be called "Abstract of the Disclosure".