The extension of the fee system by the courts to cover a very large part of the cost of the judicial system, even to such a degree asto make litigation impossible to all butthe rich, was a transition stage in the development from the middle ages to the present. Nowhere was the fee system for court costs more abused than in England. Later practice, while placing more of the burden on the general treasury, has retained an extensive tariff of such "costs." Moreover in not a few instances, the assessment of the " costs " upon the party responsible for the litigation, as shown by the fact that he loses his suit, makes these fees approach in character punitive fines. This is the characteristic of American practice. In many cases the special benefit conferred is not very clear, but is arbitrarily assumed to exist and the fee levied as though it were for such benefit.

Since the middle of the seventeenth century, a large part of many of the legal fees have been collected by means of stamps or stamped paper, the latter being necessary to legalize the transaction ; the officer who furnished or cancelled the stamp being supposed to investigate and vouch for the propriety of the transaction. A notary's fee in most of the American commonwealths is of this character, the fee being receipted for by a stamp embossed upon the paper. Similar fees or taxes on acts and transfers are very common in France. Other such fees are collected in the form of the sale of a license to perform certain acts which would not be legal without such a permit ; and then there is a charge for recording the act after it has been performed in accord with the permit. Of this character are the fees for marriage licenses and recording of marriages. The act itself is, also, often subject to the payment of a tax. The general character of the legal fee is seen from the following list : fees for passports and similar papers of identification, fees for recording and legally recognising births, deaths, marriages, and divorces, changes of residence or legal standing, for papers in evidence of honours, degrees, orders, titles, offices, etc., for patent rights and copyrights, for consular services in vouching for invoices, etc.