The great practical evil connected with Roman jurisprudence was the intricacy and perplexity and uncertainty of the laws, together with the expense involved in litigation. The class of lawyers was large, and their gains were extortionate. Justice was not always to be found on the side of right. The law was uncertain as well as costly. The most learned counsel could be employed only by the rich, and even judges were venal, so that the poor did not easily find adequate redress. But all this is the necessary attendant on a factitious state of society, and by many is regarded as being quite as characteristic of modern, civilized Christian England and America as it was of Pagan Rome. Material civilization leads to an undue estimate of money; and when money purchases all that artificial people desire, then all classes will prostitute themselves for its possession, and justice, dignity, and elevation of sentiment will be forced to retreat,—as hermits sought a solitude when society had reached its lowest degradation, out of pure despair of its renovation.
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The authorities for this chapter are very numerous. Since the Institutes of Gaius have been recovered, many eminent writers on Roman law have appeared, especially in Germany and France. Many might be cited, but for all ordinary purposes of historical study the work of Lord Mackenzie on Roman Law, together with the articles of George Long in Smith’s Dictionary, will be found most useful. Maine’s Treatise on Ancient Law is exceedingly interesting and valuable. Gibbon’s famous chapter should also be read by every student. There is a fine translation of the Institutes of Justinian, which is quite accessible, by Dr. Harris of Oxford. The Code, Pandects, Institutes, and Novels are of course the original authority, with the long-lost Institutes of Gaius.
In connection with the study of the Roman law, it would be well to read Sir George Bowyer’s Commentaries on the Modern Civil Law. Also Irving, Introduction to the Study of the Civil Law; Lindley, Introduction to the Study of Jurisprudence; Wheaton’s Elements of International Law; and Vattel, Le Droit des Gens.