A Blupete Biography Page


Sir Henry Sumner Maine
(1822-88).

After various teaching posts in England and administrative appointments in India, Henry Sumner Maine was elected master of Trinity Hall at Cambridge in 1877; and, in 1887, Whewell professor of International Law. (Chambers.) More than any other man, Maine brought legal historians around to the belief that law and legal institutions must be studied historically if they are to be understood.

His works: included Ancient Law (1861), Lectures on the Early History of Institutions (1875), Village-Communities in the East and West (1871), and International Law (1887). In Ancient Law, Maine carried out a "historical Method of inquiry to the private laws and institutions of Mankind." His Lectures on the Early History of Institutions was a sequel to Ancient Law and includes "Kinship as the Basis of Society" and "Ancient Divisions of the Family." Village-Communities in the East and West came about as a result of a series of lectures delivered at Oxford and deals with Indian Law, Mahametan Law, Feudalism, Inclosure, Family, Tradition, Usury Laws, etc.

Henry Sumner Maine was a vigorous critic of democracy. In his work Popular Government (1886) he set forth certain of his views in his preface:

"... the inquiry into the history of these [political] institutions, and the attempt to estimate their true value by the results of such an inquiry, are seriously embarrassed by a mass of ideas and beliefs which have grown up in our day on the subject of one particular form of government, that extreme form of popular government which is called Democracy. ... [These ideas and beliefs] are well known to have sprung from the teaching of Jean Jacques Rousseau, who believed that men emerged from the primitive natural condition by a process which made every form of government, except Democracy, illegitimate. ... Democracy is commonly described as having an inherent superiority over every other form of government. ... It is thought to be full of the promise of blessings to mankind; yet if it fails to bring with it these blessings, or even proves to be prolific of the heaviest calamities, it is not held to deserve condemnation. These are the familiar marks of a theory which claims to be independent of experience and observations ..."
This highly respected legal historian then proceeded in this work, Popular Government, to set forth his four essays on the subject: "The prospects of Popular Government," "The Nature of Democracy," "The Age of Progress," and "The Constitution of the United States."
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Peter Landry