Vanderbilt Law Review


Ford W. Hall

First Page



The story of the extent to which the common law of England has been received and applied in the United States, is one of the most interesting and important chapters in American legal history. However, many courts and writers have shown a tendency simply to say that our colonial forefathers brought the common law of England with them, and there has often been little or no inclination to look further into the question. Nevertheless, the problem of the reception of the common law in America has at various times occupied the attention of many of our most eminent jurists and statesmen, and from the standpoint of the modern law student the matter certainly deserves more consideration than to be passed off with the mere remark that the common law was brought over to America by the colonists. Furthermore, the generality of such a statement is not wholly accurate and is apt to be misleading.

It will not be the purpose to pitch on a philosophical level the discussion of the problems dealt with in this article. Rather, the aim is to describe comprehensively, but as briefly as possible, the process used by law-making authorities in determining the applicable common law which guides the various American state courts. This objective can best be achieved by using the historical approach and relating the significant developments which have taken place from the earliest colonial times up until the present date.