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“It is fitting to give thanks unto God, for giving to the Empire such law once again. For written law is a firm fortress against tyranny, and the more learned it is, the more justice it gives. Indeed, there would be far more uncertainty, if there were no written law. Therefore, we must ask the Lord to preserve this learning for the peace of the country.”

Philipp Melanchthon (1497-1560), Oratio de dignitate legum, 1538

Philippe Melanchthon

Melanchthon’s thanks to God for written law was quoted by fellow-German Carl Savigny when, in 1814, he argued against a movement afoot in Germany to develop a civil code.

Although it was 350 years old, Savigny took Melanchthon’s plea as an argument to postpone codification of German law until that law was mature and well-understood: sufficiently learned.


  • Duhaime, Lloyd, Law and Justice Quotations
  • Duhaime, Lloyd, 1814: The Thibaut-Savigny Controversy: German Codification v Common Law
  • Translated in White, J., The Legacy of Roman Law in the German Romantic Era (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1990), page 5