The Common law includes those principles, usages, and rules of action applicable to the government and security of person and property, which do not rest for their authority upon any express and positive declaration of the will of the legislature[i]. The Common law of England was based on the principle that the rulings made by the King’s courts must be made according to the common custom of the realm. In other words, this system of laws originated and developed in England was based on court decisions and on customs and usages rather than on codified written laws.
The common law of England is considered a basic component of the common law adopted by the courts in the U.S. The English common law originated in the early middle ages in the King’s Court and eventually led to the formulation of various viable principles through which it continues to operate. The common law came into existence in the U.S continent with the first English colonists claiming the common law system as their birthright.
However, the U.S courts do not solely depend upon the expositions of the courts of England. The courts may look into the decisions of other states of the Union, as well as the English courts to find out the principles and rules of the common law. Moreover, the U.S. courts are not required to adhere to the decisions of the English common law courts, regardless of whether they were rendered before or after the American Revolution. Likewise, the English statutes passed subsequent to the adoption of the common law in the U.S. are not considered part of the common law in the U.S.
The Common law was adopted by each of the states as well as the national government of the new nation after the American Revolution. When new states were formed, they also adopted the common law system either by an express provision or by a judicial decision. However, if states were formed from acquired territory where other systems of law prevailed, then the question of which system prevailed was determined by legislative enactment or judicial decision.
English common law has been in use for several centuries in England. The Common law provides a common set of rules that are used in order to solve problems. It is mainly based on a history of judges’ decisions rather than relying on lawmaking codes. In England, the decisions that contributed to a common law tradition were written down and compiled annually in legal volumes available for judges to study. The Common law developed a reputation for fairness in the courts as well as the protection of individual rights and private property.
[i] Western Union Tel. Co. v. Call Publishing Co., 181 U.S. 92 (U.S. 1901)