The popularity of the famous device of the use of lands into England is said to be largely due to the mendicant friars of the then new Orders of St. Dominic and St. Francis, who, arriving in this country, in the first half of the thirteenth century, found themselves hampered by their own vows of poverty, no less than by the growing feeling against Mortmain in acquiring the provision of land absolutely necessary for their rapidly developing work.
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Thus, at long last, as a visible emblem of unity was daily growing in the new Palace of Justice then being erected in the Strand, half way between the historic site of Westminster the historic centre of the commercial capital of the world, there began to grow up, in the minds of reformers, the vision of a great and united Supreme Court of Justice, with uniform principles, uniform law, and uniform procedure.
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Perhaps the best testimony to the effectiveness of the reforms of 1852 is the fact, that men of a slightly later generation, familiar with the working of the courts half a century after, find it difficult to believe that such abuses as are plainly described by the legislation of that year, should really have existed in the middle of the nineteenth century.
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But then a daring evasion by a leading conveyancer, known as the Lease and Release, received judicial sanction; and commenced a successful career of more than 200 years. The Lease and Release, attributed to Serjeant Moore, was based on the fact that the Statute of Inrolments did not apply to terms of years.
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It was natural that the direct wielders of the royal prerogative, men who sat in the Star Chamber and the Privy Council, who knew the secrets of the State and the necessity for prompt action, should despise the merely declaratory character of a good deal of Common Law process. To them we doubtless owe those four great pillars of Chancery jurisdiction, the injunction, the decree, the sequestration, and the commission of rebellion.
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Legal business has, from the beginning of time, been profitable - to those who have conducted it; because it is concerned with things that touch men's passions very deeply, and because men are willing to pay, and pay highly, for wisdom and skill in the conduct of it. The real merits of the Norman lawyers were, not altruism, but ability, energy, and enthusiasm for their work.
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The invention of writs was really the making of the English Common Law; and the credit of this momentous achievement, which took place chiefly between 1150 and 1250, must be shared between the officials of the royal Chancery, who framed new forms, and the royal judges, who either allowed them or quashed them.
The common law of chattels, that is to say, the law ultimately adopted by the King's courts for the regulation of disputes about the ownership and possession of goods, was, to be a substantial extent, a by-product of that new procedure which had been mainly introduced to perfect the feudal scheme of land law.
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The 'Little' or 'Barebones' Parliament, summoned by Oliver Cromwell to meet at Westminster on 4th July, 1653, after the dissolution of the remains of the Long Parliament, may have been an unpractical body, so far as the task of administration in troublous times was concerned. But it seems quite possible that the wealth of contumely and scorn which has been poured upon it was, originally, due quite as much to the fierce anger of vested interests against outspoken criticism, as to any real vagueness or want of practical wisdom in the plans of the House itself.
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It may be that the requirement of a preliminary approval by the Grand Jury, of all accusations of a serious nature, justified the boast that a man was presumed to be innocent until he was 'found' guilty; but that presumption certainly ceased to have practical application, so soon as the Grand Jury had returned a 'true bill'.
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First in point of time and interest comes the mortgage debt, i.e. the claim for the return of money lent on the security of some tangible object. Such claims are among the earliest fruits of a commercial civilization, and are nearly always affected the same way, viz. by the deposit or pledge of the security with the creditor, to be redeemed or returned on the payment of the debt.
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