CIVIL. This word has various significations. 1. It is used in
contradistinction to barbarous or savage, to indicate a state of society
reduced to order and regular government; thus we speak of civil life, civil
society, civil government, and civil liberty
2. It is sometimes used in contradistinction to criminal, to indicate
the private rights and remedies of men, as members of the community, in
contrast to those which are public and relate to the government; thus we
speak of civil process and criminal process, civil jurisdiction and criminal
3. It is also used in contradistinction to military or ecclesiastical,
to natural or foreign; thus we speak of a civil station, as opposed to a
military or ecclesiastical station, a civil death as opposed to a natural
death; a civil war as opposed to a foreign war. Story on the Const. Sec. 789;
1 Bl. Coin. 6, 125, 251; Montesq. Sp. of Laws, B 1, c. 3; Ruth. Inst. B. 2,
c. 2; Id. ch. 3Id. ch. 8, p. 359; Hein. Elem. Jurisp. Nat. B. 2, ch. 6.
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
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, Sec. 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; Encyclopedie, 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; Hein. Elem. Juris.; Erskine's
Institutes; Pothier; Eunomus, Dial. 1; Corpus Juris Civilis; Taylor's Elem.