Modern systematic legal science inclines to explain each rule of law principally by seeking to discover the intention of the legislator; but sufficient stress has never been laid on the fact that the significance of law in the daily life of a people depends far more on the persons charged with its administration than on the principles according to which it is administered. The same rule is likely to have an essentially different meaning in different countries or at different periods, for no other reason than that the persons sitting on the bench are differently trained, have a different temperament, hold a different official or social position. This is apt to be more vividly realized by the trained historian of law than by the analytical student. To the historian, the "praetor" and the "prudentes" still speak in the Pandects, the "Schoffen" in the old German law, and the judges of the Superior Courts with the Chancellor, in English common law and equity grown out of the same Germanic root. Similarly, the law prevailing to-day on the European continent must be viewed as a system of law peculiar to a judiciary composed of learned bureaucratic judges. For while we may properly characterize the modern State as a State based on law, yet we must not forget that on our lips that term means, in essence, a bureaucratic State, although doubtless it is possible for a State to exist which is based on law and is not bureaucratic, as conversely one may conceive of a bureaucratic State that is not based on law.
We are all children of the bureaucratic State which has now dominated our political and social life for several centuries. Hardly one of us is likely, without great difficulty, to free himself from the conceptions and lines of thought generated and fostered thereby. In the eyes of a bureaucracy law is properly nothing but a body of directions given by the Government to its officials. To be sure, in its effects the law must apply also beyond the army of officials; for the very purpose of law is to regulate the conduct of the whole people that is subject to the government. At this truth, however, we are apt to arrive only in a roundabout manner; we reason that the people submit to the law because the Government officials compel them to do so, or would compel them if they dared to disobey.