The Reception of English Law


  • J. E. Cote



new country is faced with choice in deciding upon system of law for itself. It can either copy someone else's codified law or it can adopt system of law which is largely judge-made. If it opts for the latter it cannot afford to spend centuries building up system of judge-made law. Therefore it must copy the rules of society which has already developed sophisticated body of such law. Most of the Commonwealth nations have chosen the latter route and as result have received English law as their own. The rules and consequences inherent in such a reception are discussed in this article. After short discussion of the distinction between the Imperial law in force proprio vigore and the English law received in the colony as such, the modes of reception of English law are described. In this respect the differences in reception between settled and conquered colonies are outlined. The parts of English law which have been received and the general rules of applicability as well as the applicability of particular areas of the law are also analyzed. The article concludes with discussion of repeal, amendment and reform of imported English law by the country receiving such law. An appendix contains an account of the reception of English law in each of the Canadian provinces. The subject of this article is often considered as part of legal history. It should be stressed however that this is not the case, as all the rules described are rules of present-day law and many of them are being applied and expounded continually, particularly in Australia and Canada. This is the author's second article in this area; the first being The Introduction of English Law Into Alberta, (1964) Alta. L. Rev. 262.