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SIR HENRY SUMNER MAINE, K.C.S.I., LL.D., F.R.S.
FOREIGN ASSOCIATE OF THE INSTITUTE OF FRANCE
JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET
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THE four Essays which follow are connected with studies to which, during much of my life, I have devoted such leisure as I have been able to command.
Many years ago I made the attempt, in a work on "Ancient Law," to apply the so-called Historical Method of inquiry to the private laws and institutions of Mankind. But, at the outset of this undertaking, I found the path obstructed by a number of à priori theories which, in all minds but a few, satisfied curiosity as to the Past and paralysed speculation as to the Future. They had for their basis the hypothesis of a Law and State of Nature antecedent to all positive institutions, and a hypothetical system of Rights and Duties appropriate to the natural condition. The gradual recovery of the natural condition was assumed to be the same thing as the progressive improvement of human institutions. Upon the examination, which was indispensable, of the true