The Civil Law in its Natural Order

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by Jean Domat

Jean Domat (1625-1696), one of the most celebrated jurists of Louis XIV’s reign,[1] helped lay the foundations for French civil law.[2] His work, Lois Civiles dans leur Ordre Naturel (1689), proposes a fault-based model for liability that is grounded in the rational deduction of self-evident principles.[3]

In Lois Civiles dans leur Ordre Naturel, Domat set out to reorganize French customary law in a way that would be consistent with Cartesian thought while remaining grounded in both Christian morality and Roman law.[4] From this framework, Domat was able to establish his first premise—that social order and stability were essential to man—and from that premise he derived what he believed were the primary rules of society.[5] After initial publication in 1689, Lois Civiles dans leur Ordre Naturel was translated into English in 1722 as Civil Law in the Natural Order. The title influenced civil law across the world and the 1722 translation proved to be influential in shaping the thoughts and opinions of founding fathers in America.[6]

Bibliographic Information

Author: Jean Domat

Title: The Civil Law in its Natural Order: Together with the Public Law

Published: London: Printed by J. Bettenham, for E. Bell, 1722.

Edition: 2 volumes.

Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

Description of the Wolf Law Library's copy

Bound in contemporary calf with paneled boards, raised bands, and lettering pieces on the spine. Contains attractive woodcut head-pieces and tail-pieces and a full-page copperplate table of descents.

View this title in William & Mary's online catalog.


  1. David Parker, "Sovereignty, Absolutism and the Function of the Law in Seventeenth-Century France," Past & Present, 122, (Feb. 1989), 44.
  2. James Gordley, "The State's Private Law and Legal Academia," The American Journal of Comparative Law, 56, no. 3 (2008), 645.
  3. Peter Stein, "The Attraction of Civil Law in Post-Revolutionary America," Virginia Law Review, 52, no. 3 (1966), 406-7.
  4. William F. Church, "The Decline of the French Jurists as Political Theorists, 1660-1789," French Historical Studies, 5, no. 1 (1967), 16.
  5. Gerald A. Greenberger, "Lawyers Confront Centralized Government: Political Thought of Lawyers during the Reign of Louis XIV," The American Journal of Legal History, 23, no. 2 (1979), 174.
  6. Stein, “The Attraction of Civil Law in Post-Revolutionary America,” 406-7.