In 1607 Virginia was settled by a London-based corporation, and the English settlers brought with them the municipal law and legal institutions of England. It was specifically required by the instructions to the Virginia Company that litigation was to be settled "as near to the common laws of England and the equity thereof as may be". In 1632 when commissioners were appointed to hold the monthly courts (later renamed the county courts), their commissions required them to execute the office of justice of the peace and to act "as near as may be after the laws of the realm of England and the statutes thereof made". When the statutes of Virginia were recodified in 1662, the common law of England was acknowledged to be in force. When independence from Great Britain was declared in 1776, a statute was enacted which stated that the general common law of England remained in force, and this provision has been continued in substance by every Virginia code since. Thus, one should not be surprised to see the lawyers and judges in Downman v. Downman (1791) and Pickett v. Morris (1796) relying upon English cases as precedents.

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