I, indeed am Lord of the world, but the law is lord of the sea. Let it be judged by Rhodian Law, concerning nautical matters, so far as no one of our laws is opposed.

But our law requireth a more preciseness in the execution thereof, then in Germany and the Low Countries, it not being Choses in Action, as the Lawyers speake. But the necessarines hereof, is so urgent, that no man is like to contradict the same; for wee doe finde by experience, that things which are indeede, and things which are not indeede, but taken to be indeed (as this is for payment of moneys) may produce all one effect.

Gerard de Malynes
Gerard de Malynes
The Maintenance of Free Trade. London,1622.

Law, in it’s most general and comprehensive sense, signifies a rule of action; and is applied indiscriminately to all kinds of action, whether animate, or inanimate, rational or irrational. Thus we say, the laws of motion, of gravitation, of optics, or mechanics, as well as the laws of nature and of nations. And it is that rule of action, which is prescribed by some superior, and which the inferior is bound to obey.

Sir William Blackstone
Sir William Blackstone KC SL
10 July 1723 – 14 February 1780
Commentaries on the Laws of England, Book the First, William Blackstone, 1758.

Laws are like sausages — it is best not to see them being made.

The life of the law has not been logic: it has been experience.

The truth is, that the law always approaching, and never reaching, consistency. It is forever adopting new principles from life at one end, and it always retains old ones from history at the other, which have not yet been absorbed or sloughed off. It will be come entirely consistent only when it ceases to grow.

What is the argument on the other side? Only this, that no case has been found in which it has been done before. That argument does not appeal to me in the least. If we never do anything which has not been done before, we shall never get anywhere. The law will stand whilst the rest of the world goes on; and that will be bad for both.

The law is developed by the application of old principles to new circumstances. Therein lies its genius. Its reform by the abrogation of those principles is the task not of the courts of law but of Parliament.

Viscount Simonds
Gavin Turnbull Simonds, 1st Viscount Simonds PC, KC
28 November 1881 – 28 June 1971
Scruttons Ltd. Appellants; v Midland Silicones Ltd. Respondents [1962] A.C. 446.

A main objective of the law should be that it should appear sensible and easy of application by those whose affairs it governs.

Lord Reid
James Scott Cumberland Reid, Baron Reid, CH, KC FRSE
30 July 1890 – 29 March 1975
Jones v Secretary of State for Social Services, Hudson v Secretary of State for Social Services [1972] 1 All ER 145, [1972] AC 944, [1972] 2 WLR 210, HL.

The law does not at once react to or reflect such vital changes. The time lag is no doubt inevitable. It may even be salutary if not too long extended, for changes in legal principles in their application to practical affairs are likely to result in confusion and doubt as to the rights and liabilities of those concerned in those affairs. A cautious advance is calculated to preserve commercial equilibrium, but advance there must be if the law is to operate in conformity with contemporary conditions.

Inevitably there does come a time when the gap must be closed if incongruities and artificialities are not to develop and persist so as to give rise to absurdities and injustices. The courts must then re-examine the concept and formulae which have become entrenched in a mercantile law. This may reveal that while established principles are properly maintained, their application and operation must be given a different impact from that which has hitherto prevailed.

Shaw Lord Judge
Sir Sebag Shaw, Lord Justice of Appeal
The Maratha Envoy [1977] 2 Lloyd’s Rep. 301.

If we felt that the law itself was our safest refuge, would it not be because even in the most perverted regimes there is a certain hesitancy about writing cruelties, intolerance, and inhumanities into law? And is it not clear that this hesitancy itself derives, not from a separation of law and morals, but precisely from an identification of law with those demands of morality that are the most urgent and the most obviously justifiable, which no man need be ashamed to profess?

Lon Fuller
Lon Luvois Fuller
June 15, 1902 – April 8, 1978
Positivism and Fidelity to Law. Lon Fuller. A Reply to Professor Hart, 71 Harv. L. Rev. 630.

Unfortunately, it is often very difficult to understand why the law adopts one course rather than another. This is largely because the courts have rarely articulated clearly the reasons which motivate them in making decisions of this nature. Instead, they explain their decisions in ‘conceptual’ language, that is, they place the case in a certain legal category and they then apply the rules appropriate to that category. The decision then appears to be dictated by pure logic, but in fact the crucial part of the decision is the initial categorization of the case.

Patrick Atiyah
Patrick S. Atiyah, QC, FBA
born 5 March 1931
An Introduction to the Law of Contract, P.S. Atiyah, 5th ed., 1999.