chapter  I
34 Pages

I English and Colonial Origins

The constitutional history of the United States and of English-speaking people everywhere began at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 with the Norman conquest of England. By then the laws and customs of previous invaders had settled into patchworks of local usages providing a basis for political order throughout the country. The Normans did not disturb these systems of customary law immediately. The task of pacifying and reorganizing the country politically left the conquerors little time to meddle with existing legal institutions. Nevertheless, the governmental changes that they brought from the Continent mark the real beginning of Anglo-American constitutional history. Normandy was then the best-governed state in Europe, and the Normans brought to England a superior system of administration than had existed under the Saxons. The laws of the nation did not change overnight, but the stage was set for constitutional developments that over the centuries would become the proud heritage of the descendants of victors and vanquished alike.