LAW, CIVIL. The term civil law is generally applied by way of eminence to the civil or municipal law of the Roman empire, without distinction as to the time when the principles of such law were established or modified. In another sense, the civil law is that collection of laws comprised in the institutes, the code, and the digest of the emperor Justinian, and the novel constitutions of himself and some of his successors. Ersk. Pr. L. Scotl. B. 1, t. l, s. 9; 6 L. R. 494.
2. The Institutes contain the elements or first principles of the Roman law, in four books. The Digests or Pandects are in fifty books, and contain the opinions and writings of eminent lawyers digested in a systematical method, whose works comprised more than two thousand volumes, The new code, or collection of imperial constitutions, in twelve books; which was a substitute for the code of Theodosius. The novels or new constitutions, posterior in time to the other books, and amounting to a supplement to the code, containing new decrees of successive emperors as new questions happened to arise. These form the body of the Roman law, or corpus juris civilis, as published about the time of Justinian.
3. Although successful in the west, these laws were not, even in the lifetime of the emperor universally received; and after the Lombard invasion they became so totally neglected, that both the Code and Pandects were lost till the twelfth century, A. D. 1130; when it is said the Pandects were accidentally discovered at Amalphi, and the Code at Ravenna. But, as if fortune would make an atonement for her former severity, they have since been the study of the wisest men, and revered as law, by the politest nations.
4. By the term civil law is also understood the particular law of each people, opposed to natural law, or the law of nations, which are common to all. Just. Inst. l. 1, t. 1, §1, 2; Ersk. Pr. L. Scot. B. 1, t. 1, s. 4. In this sense it, is used by Judge Swift. See below.
5. Civil law is also sometimes understood as that which has emanated from the secular power opposed to the ecclesiastical or military.
6. Sometimes by the term civil law is meant those laws which relate to civil matters only; and in this sense it is opposed to criminal law, or to those laws which concern criminal matters. Vide Civil.
7. Judge Swift, in his System of the Laws of Connecticut, prefers the term civil law, to that of municipal law. He considers the term municipal to be too limited in its signification. He defines civil law to be a rule of human action, adopted by mankind in a state of society, or prescribed by the supreme power of the government, requiring a course of conduct not repugnant to morality or religion, productive of the greatest political happiness, and prohibiting actions contrary thereto, and which is enforced by the sanctions of pains and penalties. 1 Sw. Syst. 37. See Ayl. Pand. B. 1, t. 2, p. 6.
See, in general, as to civil law, Cooper's Justinian the Pandects; 1 Bl. Com. 80, 81; EncyclopÇdie, art. Droit Civil, Droit Romain; Domat, Les Loix Civiles; Ferriere's Dict.; Brown's Civ. Law; Halifax's Analys. Civ. Law; Wood's Civ. Law; Ayliffe's Pandects; Heinec. Elem. Jur.; Erskine's Institutes; Pothier; Eunomus, Dial. 1; Corpus Juris Civilis; Taylor's Elem. Civ. Law.