This section is from the book "Popular Law Library Vol1 Introduction To The Study Of Law Legal History", by Albert H. Putney. Also see: Popular Law-Dictionary.
As the beginnings of American political institutions must be sought in the earlier home of the race in England, so in turn the first germs of England's constitution and laws can be traced to the still older home of the Anglo-Saxon race in the German forests. In this respect a striking contrast is to be seen during the early-medieval period, between the history of England on the one hand, and that of France, Spain, or Italy on the other. The inhabitants of all of these countries lost their old characteristics, institutions, and laws under the Roman influence. Throughout all the western provinces of the Roman Empire only Roman civilization and Roman law existed during the latter period of the Empire. Upon the European continent these influences were not eliminated when the Roman Empire fell before its northern invaders, the victorious Teutonic tribes becoming absorbed and civilized, by the inhabitants of the vanquished provinces. The conqueror furnished the ruler, but the conquered supplied the laws. The mass of property passed to the Teuton, but the law governing such property remained mainly that of the Roman. Roman law and civilization held their ground, and by their superior merits forced themselves upon the conqueror. There is no hiatus in the history of these countries; their political, constitutional, and legal history extends back beyond the Teutonic to the Roman Conquest. The Teuton merely infused a new element into the conquered race, which had little influence upon its political institutions or development. Such is universally admitted to have been the course of history in Gaul, Italia, and Hispania, but such, in spite of the opinions of a certain school of historians, was not the course of history in Britain.
There is and can be no analogy between the conquest of Britain by the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes, and the conquest of Gaul by the Franks, or of Hispania by the Goths. While the latter were wars of conquest, the former, at least in its earlier stages, was a war of extermination and settlement. The amount of time required in each case will alone prove the distinction. A single long reign was sufficient for the conquest and unification of Gaul. Italia and Hispania fell almost without a blow before barbaric hordes who desired to reign over the inhabitants of the conquered provinces, rather than to exterminate them. In Britain, on the contrary, the conquest was the work of centuries. The Jutes, under Hengist and Horsa, are reputed to have reached England in 449, and although the leaders are mythical, the date may be taken as approximately correct. The force of a united British resistance was not broken until the victory of Deorham in 577, and of Chester in 607 cut off Wales from Cornwall in the south and from Strathclyde on the north; and even then warfare with the detached fragments of British territory still dragged on. Angle and Saxon were indeed conquered by Dane and Norman before the last sparks of Celtic resistance were crushed out in the thirteenth century. No single battle settled the fate of Britain. It was a story of centuries of desperate resistance, overcome at length by dogged perserverance. The Saxon won the land inch by inch; but what he won he held and settled. The invading hosts were not merely a horde of warriors, such as followed Alaric or Atalia; with the Saxon warrior came his family, his customs, and his laws. Whenever the Briton was driven back or exterminated, Christianity, Roman civilization and Roman law passed away. The Anglo-Saxon, in his new home, worked out for himself his system of jurisprudence as an evolution of those germs of political life brought over with him from his old fatherland.
The English constitution and the English common law, therefore, are not mere outgrowths or developments from Roman jurisprudence. They are of independent and indigenous development. Even what few vestiges of Roman law we find in the common law are of later origin; they were introduced by the lawyers who followed in the train of William the Conqueror and his successors, and were not borrowed from the ancient Britons. The foreign law terms in the English language came in at a later period, and are of Norman-French and not Welsh origin.