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ancient law by henry maine chapter 2 legal fictions when primitive law has once been embodied in a code, there is an end to what may be called its spontaneous development. henceforward the changes effected in it, if effected at all, are effected deliberately and from without. it is impossible to suppose that the customs of any race or tribe remained unaltered during the whole of the long -- in some instances the immense -- interval between their declaration by a patriarchal monarch and their publication in writing. it would be unsafe too to affirm that no part of the alteration was effected deliberately. but from the little we know of the progress of law during this period, we are justified in assuming that set purpose had the very smallest share in producing change. such innovations on the earliest usages as disclose themselves appear to have been dictated by feelings and modes of thought which, under our present mental conditions, we are unable to comprehend. a new era begins, however, with the codes. wherever, after this epoch, we trace the course of legal modification we are able to attribute it to the conscious desire of improvement, or at all events of compassing objects other than those which were aimed at in the primitive times. it may seem at first sight that no general propositions worth trusting can be elicited from the history of legal systems subsequent to the codes. the field is too vast. we cannot be sure that we have included a sufficient number of phenomena in our observations, or that we accurately understand those which we have observed. but the undertaking will be seen to be more feasible, if we consider that after the epoch of codes the distinction between stationary and progressive societies begins to make itself felt. it is only with the progressive that we are concerned, and nothing is more remarkable than their extreme fewness. in spite of overwhelming evidence, it is most difficult for a citizen of western europe to bring thoroughly ho ...
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