Page:English Law and the Renaissance.djvu/34

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22
English Law

then runs dry. The exact significance of this ominous event has never yet been duly explored; but ominous it surely is49. Some words that once fell from Edmund Burke occur to us: 'To put an end to reports is to put an end to the law of England50.' Then in 1547 just after King Henry's death a wail went up from 'divers students of the common laws.' The common laws, they said, were being set aside in favour of 'the law civil' insomuch that the old courts had hardly any business51. Ten years later, at the end of Mary's reign, we read that the judges had nothing to do but 'to look about them,' and that for the few practitioners in Westminster Hall there was 'elbow room enough52.' In criminal causes that were of any political importance an examination by two or three doctors of the civil law threatened to become a normal part of our procedure53. In short, I am persuaded that in the middle years of the sixteenth century and of the Tudor age the life of our ancient law was by no means lusty.