This section is from the book "The Law Of Contracts", by William Herbert Page. Also available from Amazon: Commercial Contracts: A Practical Guide to Deals, Contracts, Agreements and Promises.
In the history of law, including the history of the law of contracts, the law of the king's courts is of great importance to us, since it was the law which prevailed ultimately and out of which together with the law of the chancellor's court our modern Anglo-American law has developed. Its law is not of importance to us as proving that rights such as contract did not exist at any given period in the early development of the law of the king's courts; although it may prove affirmatively that such rights did exist. Many of the contracts and promises which were not enforced by the king's courts were probably enforced by the courts of the hundred and of the shire. They certainly were enforced by the courts of the trading towns1 and by the manorial courts.2
1 For a discussion of the nature of contract at early law merchant, see 2 Selden Society, pp. 132 et seq.
For a case in which the existence of a seal is alleged specifically, see 59 (same volume).
For the relation of the merchant to England and the law merchant to common law, see I Pollock & Maitland (2d Ed.), 464 to 467. See also, The Origins and Early History of Negotiable Instruments, by W. S. Holdsworth, 31 Law Quarterly Review, 12, 173, 376, and 32 Law Quarterly Review, 20; The Early History of Negotiable Instruments, by Edward Jenks, 9 Law Quarterly Review, 70; Notes on the History of Commerce and Commercial Law, 1. Antiquity, 2. The Middle Ages, by Layton B. Register, 61 University of Pennsylvania Law Review, 431, 652; The Early History of the Contract of Insurance, by W. S. Holdsworth, 17 Columbia Law Review, 85; The Early History of Banking, by W. S. Holdsworth, 34 Law Quarterly Review, 11; What is the Law Merchant? by Francis M. Bnr-dick, 2 Columbia Law Review, 470; What is the Law Merchant by John S. Ewart, 3 Columbia Law Review, 135; The Surety, by Wm. H. Loyd, 66 University of Pennsylvania Law Review, 40; Suretyship at "Law Merchant," by Anan Raymond, 30 Harvard Law Review, 141; Jus Gentium and Law Merchant, by William Wirt Howe, 41 American Law Register (N.S.), 375.
Malynes Consuetudo vel Lex Mer-catoria, the early authority on the law merchant is an interesting mixture of law merchant, arithmetic, geography, commerce, the law of the sea and discussion of a league to enforce peace by means of a great international trading company.
2 For a discussion of contract at the law of the manorial and local courts, see II Holdsworth, History of English Law, 319.
A great mass of contracts in modern law grows out of mercantile transactions. In England as we have seen, the merchant class had its own law which was international and not territorial, and which was enforced by its own courts. In this way a great class of cases were provided for automatically, by such courts as the piepowder court, in which the merchants themselves administered a justice which was summary, but advanced for that time.