A major sistem of law-The english law
Another, and an older, school of thought envisages two sorts of laws. One sort is unconnected with morality: such as the legal rule of the road “left” or “right”. Such a rule is neutral and unchallengeable, whether decreed by a tyrant or enacted by a democracy.
The other sort is concerned with matters which have a moral bearing; so that in relation to them the context of legal rules (enforced by the state) becomes coincident with that of moral rules: the must of the law and the ought of morality meet on common ground. “Thou shalt not steal” is, in our society, at least, both a legal and a moral rule.
Where rules do thus have a double context the school in question (the “natural law” school) contrasts “natural” law with civil (state) law and asserts that the latter must accord with the demands of the former; or, at least, must always strive to do so.
This school derives from Plato and Aristotle and beyond, and it has had its triumphs. Embedded in stoic philosophy and propagated by Cicero, it provided much of the inspiration for the work of the superlative jurists of the classical period of Roman law whose works became enshrined in the Corpus Juris Civilis, and thence became the basic of the “civil” law of Europe.
And, indeed, “natural” law, as thaught by Saint Thomas Aquinas (1224 – 1273), in the guise of divine law revealed to man by human reason, underlay much of the stability of the middle ages; for, as Bracton had it, even the King himself was subject to it.
(A doctrine, of course, to be violently repudiated by Machiavelli at the reformation). And “natural” law did more: it underlay the thesis of the Dutch jurist, Hugo Grotius (1583 – 1645) in his De Jure Belli ac Pacis (“Tha Law of War and Peace”) which founded modern international law.
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