Page:Yale Law Journal - Volume 27.pdf/26

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YALE LAW JOURNAL

he should do or omit to promote his own welfare and that of the human race is intended; and by community ideals, the opinions a community forms as to what it should do to promote its welfare and that of the individuals of whom it is composed. In other words, by community ideals, as I use that term, are intended the concepts that go to make up public opinion.

Notwithstanding it will be necessary to consider the evolution of the human race in order to understand how ideals are evolved, and why laws are made to effectuate them, I shall not consider the force which dominates its evolution, except in so far as may be necessary to show that that force, whatever it may be, is not the one which immediately dominates the making of laws.

There is a difference of opinion as to whether laws affect persons and property, or persons only; but I shall assume that they are made, and that while they affect property, they affect it through individuals; or that all laws are commands delimiting what those subject to them must do to avoid civil or criminal liability.

The term law has no technical meaning; consequently it will be necessary to define that term before I attempt to show what law is, or its office in the social scheme.

A definition, to be of any practical value, must be broad enough to include every feature common to all the rules of all the laws and systems of law that have been, are, or ever will be in force, and narrow enough to exclude all features peculiar to particular laws and systems of law. It is common knowledge that there are innumerable laws and systems of law, and that the rules of no two are identical. In fact, every system commands acts to be done that the other systems forbid. It is also common knowledge that we have the laws of grammar, of baseball, of billiards, etc., in addition to juridical law; also, that some of the rules of all the various systems are continually breaking down, and new rules being substituted for them.

The question, therefore, that naturally arises when these things are considered, is whether there are any features common to all the rules of all these various systems—in other words, whether there are any earmarks by which a law may always be known; or whether there is anything common to a rule which makes it a felony punishable with death to teach a servant to read, and one which makes it a misdemeanor to employ a servant who cannot read.

Many definitions of law can be found in the books—nearly as many, in fact, as persons who have considered the question.