This chapter focuses on Michael Dalton's The Countrey Justice, extrinsic merits of which make the case for its status as a classic work of legal literature. First, The Countrey Justice provides the most comprehensive and readily obtainable introduction to seventeenth-century English criminal law, both at common law and by statute, available. Second, it opens for the discerning reader a singular institution without parallel elsewhere—lay magistracy—at a critical juncture in its history with long-lasting results for the common law's understanding of justice and the rule of law, and for Anglo-American constitutionalism. Third, and finally, in substance and in form The Countrey Justice proved to have at least modest influence on the early development of the law in the New World, making it one of a handful of English legal works with direct applicability to early American colonial law.
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