Extracted from the very long report prepared by Coke.
‘This case was as elaborately, substantially, and judicially argued by the Lord Chancellor, and by my brethren the Judges, as I ever read or heard of any; and so in mine opinion the weight and consequence of the cause, both in praesenti et perpetuis futuris temporibus justly deserved: for though it was one of the shortest and least that ever we argued in this Court, yet was it the longest and weightiest that ever was argued in any court; the shortest in syllables, and the longest in substance; the least for the value (and yet not tending to the right of that least) but the weightiest for the consequent, both for the present, and for all posterity.
And therefore it was said, that those that had written de fossilibus did observe, that gold hidden in the bowels of the earth, was in respect of the masse of the whole earth, parvum in magno: but of this short plea it might be truly said (which is more strange) that here was magnum in parvo.
And in the arguments of those that argued for the Plaintiff, I specially noted, That albeit they spake according to their own heart, yet they spake not out of their own head and invention: wherein they followed the counsel given in God’s book, Interroga pristinam generationem (for out of the old fields must come the new corn) et diligenter investiga patrum memoriam, and diligently search out the judgments of our forefathers: and that for divers reasons.
[The first reason]
First on our own part, Hesterni enim sumus et ignoramus, et vita nostra sicut umbra super terram: for we are but of yesterday, (and therefore had need of the wisdom of those that were before us) and had been ignorant (if we had not received light and knowledge from our forefathers) and our daies upon the earth are but as a shadow, in respect of the old ancient dayes and times past, wherein the Laws have been by the wisdom of the most excellent men, in many successions of ages, by long and continual experience (the trial of right and truth) fined and refined, which no one man (being of so short a time) albeit he had in his head the wisdom of all the men in the world, in any one age could ever have effected or attained unto. And therefore it is optima regula, qua nulla est verior aut firmior in jure, Neminem oportet esse sapientiorem legibus:no man ought to take upon him to be wiser than the laws.
[The Second Reason]
Secondly, in respect of our forefathers: Ipsi (saith the text) docebunt te, et loquentur tibi, et ex corde suo proferent eloquia, they shall teach thee, and tell thee, and shall utter the words of their heart, without all equivocation or mental reservation; they (I say) that cannot be daunted with fear of any power above them, nor be dazzled with the applause of the popular about them, nor fretted with any discontentment (the matter of opposition and contradiction) within them, but shall speak the words of their heart, without all affection or infection whatsoever.
Also in their arguments of this case concerning an alien, they told no strange histories, cited no foreign laws, produced no alien precedents, and that for two causes:
[a] the one, for that the Laws of England are so copious in this point, as God willing by the report of this case shall appear:
[b] the other, lest their arguments concerning an alien born, should become forein, strange, and an alien to the state of the question, which being quaestio juris,27 concerning freehold, and inheritance in England, is only to be decided by the laws of this Realm.
And albeit I concurred with those that adjudged the Plaintiff to be no alien, yet do I find a mere stranger in this case, such a one as the eye of the Law (our books, and book cases) never saw, as the ears of the Law (our Reporters) never heard of, nor the mouth of the Law (for Judex est lex loquens) the Judges our forefathers of the Law never tasted: I say, such a one, as the stomack of the Law, our exquisit and perfect Records of pleadings, entries, and judgments, (that make equal and true distribution of all cases in question) never digested. In a word, this little plea is a great stranger to the Laws of England, as shall manifestly appear by the resolution of this case.
And now that I have taken upon me to make a report of their arguments, [t]he method that the reporter doth use. I ought to do the same as truly, fully, and sincerely as possibly I can: howbeit, seeing that almost every Judge had in the course of his argument a peculiar method, and I must only hold myself to one, I shall give no just offence to any, if I challenge that which of right is due to every Reporter, that is, to reduce the summe and effect of all to such a method, as upon consideration had of all the arguments, the Reporter himself thinketh to be fittest and clearest for the right understanding of the true reasons and causes of the judgment and resolution of the case in question.’
After setting out the argument at great length Coke went on to deal with four legal incoveniences, as to the third of which he said
‘To the third it was answered and resolved, That this judgment was rather a renovation of the judgments and censures of the reverend Judges and Sages of the law in so many ages past, than any innovation, as it appeareth by the books and book cases before recited: neither have Judges power to judge according to that which they think to be fit, but that which out of the laws they know to be right and consonant to law…’
[Formatted for ease of reading. Matter in square brackets added.]