Page:An introduction to Roman-Dutch law.djvu/41

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General Introduction

The Roman-Dutch Law: The phrase ‘Roman-Dutch Law’ was invented by Simon van Leeuwen,[1] who employed it as the subtitle of his work entitled Paratitula Juris Novissimi, published at Leyden in 1652 and republished in 1656. Subsequently his larger and better known treatise on the ‘Roman-Dutch Law’ was issued under that name in the year 1664.

The system of law thus described is that which obtained in the province of Holland during the existence of the Republic of the United Netherlands. Its main principles were carried by the Dutch into their settlements in the East and West Indies; and when some of these, namely the Cape of Good Hope, Ceylon, and part of Guiana, at the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth century, passed under the dominion of the Crown of Great Britain, the old law was retained as the common law of the territories which now became British colonies. With the expansion of the British Empire in South Africa, the sphere of the Roman-Dutch Law has extended its boundaries, until the whole of the area comprised within the Union of South Africa, representing the four former colonies of the Cape of Good Hope, Natal, the Transvaal, and the Orange River, as well as the country administered by the British South Africa Company under the name of Southern Rhodesia, has adopted this system as its common law. This is the more remarkable since in Holland itself and in the Dutch colonies of the present day, the old law has been replaced by modem codes; so that the statutes and text-books, which are still consulted and followed in the above-mentioned British dominions, in the land of their origin are no longer of practical interest.[2]

  1. See Journ. Comp. Leg., N.S., vol. xii (1911), p. 548.
  2. On codification in Holland, see a note by Dr. W. R. Bisschop in Journ. Comp. Leg., N.S., vol. iii (1901), p. 109.