Page:Blackstone Commentaries Book 1.djvu/61
§. 2. 45
Laws in general.
It is alſo called a rule, to diſtinguiſh it from a compact or agreement; for a compact is a promiſe proceeding from us, law is a command directed to us. The language of a compact is, “I will, or will not, do this;” that of a law is, “thou ſhalt, or ſhalt not, do it.” It is true there is an obligation which a compact carries with it, equal in point of conſcience to that of a law; but then the original of the obligation is different. In compacts, we ourſelves determine and promiſe what ſhall be done, before we are obliged to do it; in laws, we are obliged to act, without ourſelves determining or promiſing any thing at all. Upon theſe accounts law is defined to be “a rule.”
Municipal law is alſo “a rule of civil conduct.” This diſtinguiſhes municipal law from the natural, or revealed; the former of which is the rule of moral conduct, and the latter not only the rule of moral conduct, but alſo the rule of faith. Theſe regard man as a creature, and point out his duty to God, to himſelf, and to his neighbour, conſidered in the light of an individual. But municipal or civil law regards him alſo as a citizen, and bound to other duties towards his neighbour, than thoſe of mere nature and religion: duties, which he has engaged in by enjoying the benefits of the common union; and which amount to no more, than that he do contribute, on his part, to the ſubſiſtence and peace of the ſociety.It is likewiſe “a rule preſcribed.” Becauſe a bare reſolution, confined in the breaſt of the legiſlator, without manifeſting itſelf by ſome external ſign, can never be properly a law. It is requiſite that this reſolution be notified to the people who are to obey it. But the manner in which this notification is to be made, is matter of very great indifference. It may be notified by univerſal tradition and long practice, which ſuppoſes a previous publication, and is the caſe of the common law of England. It may be notified, viva voce, by officers appointed for that purpoſe, as is done with regard to proclamations, and ſuch acts of parliament