Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. Quote
The law, so far as it depends on learning, is indeed, as it has been called, the government of the living by the dead. To a very considerable extent no doubt it is inevitable that the living should be so governed. The past gives us our vocabulary and fixes the limits of our imagination; we cannot get away from it. There is, too, a peculiar logical pleasure in making manifest the continuity between what we are doing and what has been done before. But the present has a right to govern itself so far as it can; and it ought always to be remembered that historic continuity with the past is not a duty, it is only a necessity.
"Learning and Science", speech at a dinner of the Harvard Law School Association in honor of Professor C. C. Langdell (June 25, 1895); reported in Speeches by Oliver Wendell Holmes (1896). p. 67-68