Melbourne Law School - Theses

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    The history of legal institutions in Victoria
    Woinarski, Severin Howard Zichy ( 1942)
    It has become inveterate in English legal writings to fit all English colonies into a dichotomy – colonies acquired by conquest or cession, and colonies acquired by settlement or occupation. Important constitutional differences attach according to whether a particular colony falls within the one class or the other. To quote the words of Lord Watson in giving the advice of the Privy Council in Copper v Stuart:- “The extent to which English law is introduced into a British Colony and the manner of its introduction must necessarily vary according to circumstances. There is a great difference between the case of a Colony acquired by conquest or cessation. In which case there is an established system of law, and that of a Colony which consisted of a tract of territory practically unoccupied, without settled inhabitants or settled law at the time when it was peacefully annexed to the British dominions. The Colony of New South Wales belongs to the latter class.” The locus classicus dealing with the position of a colony of the former class, that acquired by conquest or cessation, is to be found in the judgment of Lord Mansfield in Campbell v Hall. Its essential feature lies in the fact that the laws there in force continue until they are altered or abrogated, and until that time British subjects are under their control. This feature is necessarily excluded by the circumstances in which a colony is acquired by settlement. In such a colony from the nature of things there can be no lex loci to which the settlers are amenable, no existing laws to contest the superiority, and no power in the settlers to establish laws independently of the mother country to which they still owe allegiance. In such a colony English law prevails as the birthright of the settlers, and the bond of allegiance between the colonial subjects and their sovereign. (From Introduction)