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.
The English language, institutions and laws, being thus of nearly purely Teutonic origin, it is in the original home of the first Teutonic invaders of Britain, that the first beginnings of English political institutions and English constitutional history are to be found. The earliest information on this subject is derived from Roman sources. Some slight mentions of the German tribes are to be found in the pages of Caesar, but it is the "Germania" of Tacitus, which contains the first circumstantial account of the legal and political institutions of the ancestors of the founders of the English nation. In spite of the historical errors made by Tacitus, caused largely by his attempts to generalize too broadly concerning the life and customs of what were many scattered tribes, his work will ever remain invaluable to all students of English and American history and law.
In the life of these ancient tribes, recorded for the first time by this author, we find the germs of many of the later English and American institutions. The political unit was the village community, with its system of local self-government. Each community stood apart, free and distinct from the others. It was only in times of warfare against some common enemy that the different communities could be brought to sink their individualities sufficiently to fight under a common leader. The Dux, chosen at such times, acquired neither political power, nor permanent authority of any kind. As soon as his military duty was performed he sank again to his former position. A certain central power appears to have resided in a general assembly held at stated times, but the main power was in the assemblies of the pagi and vici, where magistrates, for the purpose of administering justice, were chosen from time to time. The power of these magistrates, however, was very limited. They were not so much judges as presidents of courts of justice where the decision was rendered. The pagi may also have served as military divisions, each, perhaps, furnishing 100 soldiers for war. Among the most prominent characteristics of these tribes was their intense love of liberty; but they were far from the position of holding that all men were free and equal. Slaves even existed, being either prisoners of war, or members of the tribe who had sold or gambled themselves into slavery. Again, the free were of different classes. There were the merely free men and the nobles or principes.