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There is no system of recorded law, literally from China to Peru, which, when it first emerges into notice, is not seen to be entangled with religious ritual and observance.
The law of the Romans has been thought to be that in which the civil and Pontifical jurisprudence were earliest and most completely disentangled.
The Author continues in these pages the line of investigation which he has followed in former works.
He endeavours to connect a portion of existing institutions with a part of the primitive or very ancient usages of mankind, and of the ideas associated with these usages.
He seems rather to have sought the key to Eastern knowledge in two spoken and highly-cultivated languages—Arabic and Persian.
Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. of lectures, delivered by the Author while he had the honour of holding the Corpus Professorship of Jurisprudence in the University of Oxford, have been already published with the titles ‘Village-Communities in the East and West,’ and ‘The Early History of Institutions.’ The substance of the present volume was originally contained in lectures which formed part of various other courses given by him at Oxford; but in some cases the form has been materially altered.The opinions of Sir William Jones produced great effects both in the East and in the West.One result which followed from them I must pass by with notice very unequal to its practical importance.But Sir William Jones was even more of a jurist than a scholar, and nothing seems to have surprised and interested him more than the assurance of his teachers that, in the ancient language he was learning, there survived legal writings asserted to be of sacred origin, of vast antiquity, and of universal obligation among Hindus.The oldest of them was said to have been dictated by Manu, a divine being who had been mysteriously associated with the creation of all things; and it was described as the acknowledged basis of all Hindu law and Hindu institutions, the fountain of all civil obligation to more than a hundred millions of men.
In his first four chapters he attempts, with the help of the invaluable series of ‘Sacred Books of the East,’ translated under the superintendence of Professor Max Müller, to throw some light on that close implication of early law with ancient religion which meets the inquirer on the threshold of the legal systems of several societies which have contributed greatly to modern civilisation.