Thomas v Sorrell: KBD 1674

The plaintiff said that the defendant had sold wine without paying a license fee as required under a statute creating the Company of Vintners.
Held: Vaughan CJ said: ‘every act a man is naturally enabled to do, is in it self equally good, as any other act he is so enabled to do. And so all the schoolmen agree, that actus qua actus non est malus. And that men’s acts are good or bad only as they are precepted or prohibited by a law, according to that truth, where there is no law there is no transgression. Whence it follows, that every malum is in truth a malum prohibitum by some law.’ and
‘A dispensation or license properly passeth no interest, nor alters or transfers property in anything, but only makes an action lawful, which without it had been unlawful. As a license to go beyond the seas, to hunt in a man’s park, to come into his house, are only actions which, without license, had been unlawful. But a license to hunt in a man’s park, and carry away the deer killed to his own use; to cut down a tree in a man’s ground, and to carry it away the next day after to his own use, are licenses as to the acts of hunting and cutting down the tree, but as to the carrying away of the deer killed and tree cut down, they are grants. So, to license a man to eat my meat, or to fire the wood in my chimney to warm him by, as to the actions of eating, firing my wood, and warming him, they are licenses; but it is consequent necessarily to those actions that my property may be destroyed in the meat eaten, and in the wood burnt. So as in some cases, by consequent and not directly, and as its effect, a dispensation or license may destroy and alter property.’
Vaughan CJ said: ‘And note, if a man have particular damage by a foundrous way, he is generally without remedy, though the nusance is to be punisht by the King. The reason is, because a foundrous way, a decay’d bridge, or the like, are commonly to be repaired by some township, vill, hamlet, or a county who are not corporate, and therefore no action lyes against them for a particular damage, but their neglects are to be presented, and they punish’d by fine to the King.
But if a particular person, or body corporate, be to repair a certain highway, or portion of it, or a bridge, and a man is endamaged particularly by the foundrousness of the way, or decay of the bridge, he may have his action against the person or body corporate, who ought to repair for his damage, because he can bring his action against them; but where there is no person against whom to bring his action, it is as if a man be damaged by one that cannot be known.’


Vaughan CJ


(1674) Vaughan 330, [1673] EWHC KB J85, 124 ER 1098-1113




England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedKaisha v Green Cartridge Company (Hong Kong) Limited PC 30-Apr-1997
(Hong Kong) The claimants complained of the sale by the defendants of refilled cartridges for use with their printers.
Held: The spare cartridge manufacturer’s appeal failed: ‘repair is by definition something which does not amount to the . .
ApprovedWood v Leadbitter ExcC 22-Feb-1845
The plaintiff complained of being assaulted. He had been on Doncaster Race Course with a ticket. The owner’s servant requested him to leave, and when he refused gently laid his hands on the plaintiff to remove him. The plaintiff said that his . .
CitedIDC Group Ltd v Clark CA 2-Jul-1992
The court was asked: ‘whether a deed made between adjoining owners and expressed to ‘grant licence’ to the owners and occupiers for the time being of one property to pass over parts of the other in case of fire operated as the grant of an easement . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Contract, Licensing, Constitutional, Land

Updated: 06 July 2022; Ref: scu.242421