Pre-trial civil procedure under the English common-law system consisted only of pleading. Whatever the rules of pleading could accomplish in the way of defining and restricting issues contributed to the efficiency of the trial. What could not be done by the rules of pleading could not be done at all.

The great weakness of pleading as a means for developing and presenting issues of fact for trial lay in its total lack of any means for testing the factual basis for the pleader's allegations and denials. They might rest upon the soundest evidence, or they might rest upon nothing at all. The parties could assert or deny whatever they chose. But whether the pleadings represented fact or fancy was something with which the rules of pleading had nothing to do. That was a matter to be dealt with at the trial, not at a preliminary stage.