1.3.3Characteristics and Sources of English Law英国法的特点及渊源
1. Characteristics of English law
English law is divided into common law and equity, which represents the primary characteristic of it.
The origins of the English common law lay in the justice of the king, exercised through his curiae,together with the customary law exercised in the old communal courts of shire and hundred, and thefeudal law exercised by the lord in relation to his own vassals. As overlord of all subjects, the king had aresidual right to give justice to all, and as feudal lord of the tenants-in-chief he had the right and theduty to sit in his curiae to hear their disputes. Until the time of Henry IT, royal justice was available tosubjects who were not tenants-in-chief only in exceptional cases~~ However, in the reign of Henry II,access to the king's justice was extended by the enactment of a principle that "no man need answer for hisfreehold land without the king's writ being obtained". As these royal writs became popular with fitigants,they increasingly sought the justice of the king's courts rather than the local or feudal courts, whichslowly declined.
The king's justice was dispensed by the itinerant justices of the curiae. When the courts of CommonPleas, King's Bench, and Exchequer developed as separate entities, the law they applied was thecommon law. By the time of Edward I there was in existence a "common law" the law administered inthe king's courts throughout the land and therefore "common" to the whole kingdom.
As early as the 15'h century, people started petitioning the King for relief against unfair judgmentsand as the number of petitioners rapidly grew, the King delegated the task of hearing petitions to the LordChancellorv. The Chancellors were required to pass judgment guided by conscience and based on moralsand equality. It has been suggested that ecclesiastics were chosen for this position as they belonged to thesmall class of people who were able to read and write. Since these early Chancellors had no fomml legaltraining, and were not guided by precedent, their decisions were often widely diverse. In 1529, alawyer, Sir Thomas More, was appointed as the Lord Chancellor, marking the beginning of a new era.After this time, all future Chancellors were lawyers, and from around 1557 onwards, records ofproceedings in the courts of chancery were kept, leading to the development of a number of equitabledoctrines.