Seeing then all Lawes, written, and unwritten, have their Authority, and force, from the Will of the Common-wealth; that is to say, from the Will of the Representative; which in a Monarchy is the Monarch, and in other Common-wealths the Soveraign Assembly; a man may wonder from whence proceed such opinions, as are found in the Books of Lawyers of eminence in severall Common-wealths, directly, or by consequence making the Legislative Power depend on private men, or subordinate Judges. As for example, “That the Common Law, hath no Controuler but the Parlament;” which is true onely where a Parlament has the Soveraign Power, and cannot be assembled, nor dissolved, but by their own discretion. For if there be a right in any else to dissolve them, there is a right also to controule them, and consequently to controule their controulings.
And if there be no such right, then the Controuler of Lawes is not Parlamentum, but Rex In Parlamento. And where a Parlament is Soveraign, if it should assemble never so many, or so wise men, from the Countries subject to them, for whatsoever cause; yet there is no man will believe, that such an Assembly hath thereby acquired to themselves a Legislative Power.
Item, that the two arms of a Common-wealth, are Force, and Justice; The First Whereof Is In The King; The Other Deposited In The Hands Of The Parlament. As if a Common-wealth could consist, where the Force were in any hand, which Justice had not the Authority to command and govern.
That Law can never be against Reason, our Lawyers are agreed; and that not the Letter,(that is, every construction of it,) but that which is according to the Intention of the Legislator, is the Law. And it is true: but the doubt is, of whose Reason it is, that shall be received for Law. It is not meant of any private Reason; for then there would be as much contradiction in the Lawes, as there is in the Schooles; nor yet (as Sr. Ed, Coke makes it (Sir Edward Coke, upon Littleton Lib.2. Ch.6 fol 97.b),) an Artificiall Perfection of Reason, Gotten By Long Study, Observation, And Experience, (as his was.) For it is possible long study may encrease, and confirm erroneous Sentences: and where men build on false grounds, the more they build, the greater is the ruine; and of those that study, and observe with equall time, and diligence, the reasons and resolutions are, and must remain discordant: and therefore it is not that Juris Prudentia, or wisedome of subordinate Judges; but the Reason of this our Artificiall Man the Common-wealth, and his Command, that maketh Law: And the Common-wealth being in their Representative but one Person, there cannot easily arise any contradiction in the Lawes; and when there doth, the same Reason is able, by interpretation, or alteration, to take it away. In all Courts of Justice, the Soveraign (which is the Person of the Common-wealth,) is he that Judgeth: The subordinate Judge, ought to have regard to the reason, which moved his Soveraign to make such Law, that his Sentence may be according thereunto; which then is his Soveraigns Sentence; otherwise it is his own, and an unjust one.
(Leviathan, Chapter XXVI. of civill lawes)
- Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes
- The Elements of Law Natural and Politic, Parts I & II by Thomas Hobbes
- Behemoth: The History of the Causes of the Civil Wars of England, and the Councils and Artifices by Which They Were Carried on from the Year 1640 to the Year 1660 by Thomas Hobbes
- Thomas Hobbes – Behemoth (Clarendon edition)
- By others:
- Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Thomas Hobbes by Timothy Raylor
- Thomas Hobbes: Political Ideas in Historical Context by J P Sommerville