Frederic William Maitland

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Those who took the road to democracy to be the road to freedom mistook temporary means for an ultimate end.

Frederic William Maitland (28 May 1850 – 19 December 1906) was an English historian and lawyer who is regarded as the modern father of English legal history.


  • Those who took the road to democracy to be the road to freedom mistook temporary means for an ultimate end.
    • ‘A Historical Sketch of Liberty and Equality as Ideals of English Political Philosophy from the Time of Hobbes to the Time of Coleridge’ (1875), in H. A. L. Fisher (ed.), The Collected Papers of Frederic William Maitland, Downing Professor of the Laws of England: Volume I (1911), p. 84
  • All Europe over, lawyers were being at once attracted and puzzled by the Roman doctrine of possession. ... Roman law compels us to hold that there are some occupiers who are not possessors. In an evil hour the English judges, who were controlling a new possessory action, which had been suggested by foreign models, adopted this theory at the expense of the termor. ... English law for six centuries and more will rue this youthful flirtation with Romanism.
    • The History of English Law Before the Time of Edward I: Volume II (1898), pp. 114–15
  • It was a court of politicians enforcing a policy, not a court of judges administering the law.
    • On the Star Chamber, The Constitutional History of England: A Course of Lectures (1909), p. 263

Quotes about Maitland[edit]

  • While others lingered among the tombs, he drew his knowledge of our law, not from the sepulchres of its sages, but straight from the source itself. For him no fetish blocked the way; for him no vain repetition of statements from the legal Talmud would make those statements true. If “Co. Litt.” was wrong, it was not blasphemy to say so; to treat its “sentence” as a judgment from which there was no appeal was worthy of the Middle Ages. I do not know, nor do I suppose that the famous Downing Professor ever said so much, but one can imagine, had he spoken out, how his witty raillery might have shocked the veterans of Bench and Bar. For in his ever vivid originality, in the daring brilliance of his style, Maitland was the Whistler of the Law.
    • J. Horace Round, Peerage and Pedigree: Studies in Peerage Law and Family History: Volume I (1910), pp. 146–47

External links[edit]

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