Albert Venn Dicey
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Albert Venn Dicey, (4 February 1835 – 7 April 1922), usually cited as A. V. Dicey, was a British Whig
jurist A jurist is a person with expert knowledge of law; someone who analyses and comments on law. This person is usually a specialist legal scholar, mostly (but not always) with a formal qualification in law and often a legal practitioner. In the U ...
and
constitutional A constitution is the aggregate of fundamental principles or established precedents that constitute the legal basis of a polity, organisation or other type of Legal entity, entity and commonly determine how that entity is to be governed. When ...
theorist. He is most widely known as the author of '' Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution'' (1885). The principles it expounds are considered part of the uncodified
British constitution The constitution of the United Kingdom or British constitution comprises the written and unwritten arrangements that establish the United Kingdom, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland as a political body. Unlike in most count ...
. He became
Vinerian Professor of English Law The Vinerian Professorship of English Law, formerly Vinerian Professorship of Common Law, was established by Charles Viner (jurist), Charles Viner who by his will, dated 29 December 1755, left about £12,000 to the Chancellor, Masters and Scholar ...
at
Oxford Oxford () is a city in England. It is the county town and only city of Oxfordshire. In 2020, its population was estimated at 151,584. It is north-west of London, south-east of Birmingham and north-east of Bristol. The city is home to the Un ...
, one of the first Professors of Law at the
London School of Economics The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) is a public university, public research university located in London, England and a constituent college of the federal University of London. Founded in 1895 by Fabian Society members Sidn ...
, and a leading constitutional scholar of his day. Dicey popularised the phrase "
rule of law The rule of law is the political philosophy that all citizens and institutions within a country, state, or community are accountable to the same laws, including lawmakers and leaders. The rule of law is defined in the ''Encyclopedia Britannica ...
", although its use goes back to the 17th century.


Biography

Dicey was born on 4 February 1835. His father was Thomas Edward Dicey,
senior wrangler The Senior Frog Wrangler is the top mathematics undergraduate at the University of Cambridge in England, a position which has been described as "the greatest intellectual achievement attainable in Britain." Specifically, it is the person who a ...
in 1811 and proprietor of the '' Northampton Mercury'' and Chairman of the
Midland Railway The Midland Railway (MR) was a railway company in the United Kingdom from 1844 in rail transport, 1844. The Midland was one of the largest railway companies in Britain in the early 20th century, and the largest employer in Derby, where it had ...
. His elder brother was Edward James Stephen Dicey. He was also a cousin of
Leslie Stephen Sir Leslie Stephen (28 November 1832 – 22 February 1904) was an English author, critic, historian, biographer, and mountaineer, and the father of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell. Life Sir Leslie Stephen came from a distinguished intellectua ...
and Sir James Fitzjames Stephen. Dicey was educated at
King's College School King's College School, also known as Wimbledon, KCS, King's and KCS Wimbledon, is a public school in Wimbledon, southwest London London is the capital and List of urban areas in the United Kingdom, largest city of England and the Uni ...
in London and
Balliol College, Oxford Balliol College () is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England. One of University of Oxford, Oxford's oldest colleges, it was founded around 1263 by John I de Balliol, a landowner from Barnard Castle in County Durh ...
, graduating with Firsts in
classical moderations Honour Moderations (or ''Mods'') are a set of Test (assessment), examinations at the University of Oxford at the end of the first part of some degree courses (e.g., Greats or ''Literae Humaniores''). Honour Moderations candidates have a class awar ...
in 1856 and in '' literae humaniores'' in 1858. In 1860 he won a fellowship at
Trinity College, Oxford (That which you wish to be secret, tell to nobody) , named_for = Trinity, The Holy Trinity , established = , sister_college = Churchill College, Cambridge , president = Dame Hilary Boulding , location = Broad Street, Oxford, Broad Street, O ...
, which he forfeited upon his marriage in 1872. He was
called to the bar The call to the bar is a legal term of art in most common law jurisdictions where persons must be qualified to be allowed to argue in court on behalf of another party and are then said to have been "called to the bar" or to have received "call to ...
by the
Inner Temple The Honourable Society of the Inner Temple, commonly known as the Inner Temple, is one of the four Inns of Court and is a professional associations for barristers and judges. To be called to the Bar and practise as a barrister in England and Wal ...
in 1863, subscribed to the Jamaica Committee around 1865, and was appointed to the Vinerian Chair of
English Law English law is the common law list of national legal systems, legal system of England and Wales, comprising mainly English criminal law, criminal law and Civil law (common law), civil law, each branch having its own Courts of England and Wales, ...
at Oxford in 1882, a post he held until 1909. In his first major work, the seminal ''Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution'', he outlined the principles of
parliamentary sovereignty Parliamentary sovereignty, also called parliamentary supremacy or legislative supremacy, is a concept in the constitutional law of some parliamentary democracies. It holds that the legislative body has absolute sovereignty and is supreme over all ...
for which he is most known. He argued that the British Parliament was "an absolutely sovereign legislature" with the "right to make or unmake any law". In the book, he defined the term ''
constitutional law Constitutional law is a body of law which defines the role, powers, and structure of different entities within a State (polity), state, namely, the executive (government), executive, the parliament or legislature, and the judiciary; as well as th ...
'' as including "all rules which directly or indirectly affect the distribution or the exercise of the sovereign power in the state". He understood that the freedom
British subjects The term "British subject" has several different meanings depending on the time period. Before 1949, it referred to almost all subjects of the British Empire (including the United Kingdom, Dominions, and Crown colony, colonies, but excluding B ...
enjoyed was dependent on the
sovereignty Sovereignty is the defining authority within individual consciousness, Social constructionism, social construct, or territory. Sovereignty entails hierarchy within the state, as well as external autonomy for states. In any state, sovereignty i ...
of
Parliament In modern politics, and history, a parliament is a legislative body of government. Generally, a modern parliament has three functions: Representation (politics), representing the Election#Suffrage, electorate, making laws, and overseeing ...
, the impartiality of the courts free from governmental interference and the supremacy of the
common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent, judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial tribunals by virtue of being stated in written opinions."The common law is not a brooding omnipres ...
. In 1890, he was appointed
Queen's Counsel In the United Kingdom and in some Commonwealth of Nations, Commonwealth countries, a King's Counsel (Post-nominal letters, post-nominal initials KC) during the reign of a king, or Queen's Counsel (post-nominal initials QC) during the reign of ...
. He later left Oxford and went on to become one of the first Professors of Law at the then-new
London School of Economics The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) is a public university, public research university located in London, England and a constituent college of the federal University of London. Founded in 1895 by Fabian Society members Sidn ...
. There he published in 1896 his ''Conflict of Laws''. Upon his death on 7 April 1922,
Harold Laski Harold Joseph Laski (30 June 1893 – 24 March 1950) was an English political theorist and economist An economist is a professional and practitioner in the social sciences, social science discipline of economics. The individual may also s ...
memorialised him as "the most considerable figure in English jurisprudence since Maitland."


Political views

Dicey was receptive to
Jeremy Bentham Jeremy Bentham (; 15 February 1748 ld Style and New Style dates, O.S. 4 February 1747– 6 June 1832) was an English philosopher, jurist, and social reformer regarded as the founder of modern utilitarianism. Bentham defined as the "fundam ...
's brand of individualist liberalism and welcomed the extension of the franchise in 1867. He was affiliated with the group known as the "University Liberals," who composed the ''Essays on Reform'' and was not ashamed to be labeled a Radical. Dicey held that "personal liberty is the basis of national welfare." He treated Parliamentary sovereignty as the central premise of the British constitution. Dicey became a
Liberal Unionist The Liberal Unionist Party was a British political party that was formed in 1886 by a faction that broke away from the Liberal Party The Liberal Party is any of many political parties A political party is an organization that coordinates ...
and a vigorous opponent of
Home Rule Home rule is government of a colony, dependent country, or region by its own citizens. It is thus the power of a part (administrative division) of a State (polity), state or an external dependent country to exercise such of the state's powers o ...
for
Ireland Ireland ( ; ga, Éire ; Ulster Scots dialect, Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the Atlantic Ocean, North Atlantic Ocean, in Northwestern Europe, north-western Europe. It is separated from Great Britain to its east by the North Channel (Grea ...
and published and spoke against it extensively from 1886 until shortly before his death, advocating that no concessions be made to
Irish nationalism Irish nationalism is a nationalist political movement which, in its broadest sense, asserts that the people of Ireland should govern Ireland as a sovereign state. Since the mid-19th century, Irish nationalism has largely taken the form of cu ...
in relation to the government of any part of Ireland as an integral part of the United Kingdom. He was thus bitterly disillusioned by the
Anglo-Irish Treaty The 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty ( ga , An Conradh Angla-Éireannach), commonly known in Ireland as The Treaty and officially the Articles of Agreement for a Treaty Between Great Britain and Ireland, was an agreement between the government of the ...
agreement in 1921 that Southern Ireland should become a self-governing
dominion The term ''Dominion'' is used to refer to one of several self-governing nations of the British Empire. "Dominion status" was first accorded to Canada, Australia, Dominion of New Zealand, New Zealand, Dominion of Newfoundland, Newfoundland, Un ...
(the
Irish Free State The Irish Free State ( ga, Saorstát Éireann, , ; 6 December 192229 December 1937) was a State (polity), state established in December 1922 under the Anglo-Irish Treaty of December 1921. The treaty ended the three-year Irish War of Independ ...
), separate from the United Kingdom. Dicey was also vehemently opposed to
women's suffrage Women's suffrage is the women's rights, right of women to Suffrage, vote in elections. Beginning in the start of the 18th century, some people sought to change voting laws to allow women to vote. Liberal political parties would go on to gran ...
,
proportional representation Proportional representation (PR) refers to a type of electoral system under which subgroups of an electorate are reflected proportionately in the elected body. The concept applies mainly to geographical (e.g. states, regions) and political divi ...
(while acknowledging that the existing
first-past-the-post In a first-past-the-post electoral system (FPTP or FPP), formally called single-member plurality voting (SMP) when used in single-member districts or informally choose-one voting in contrast to ranked voting, or score voting, voters cast their ...
system wasn't perfect), and to the notion that citizens have the right to ignore unjust laws. Dicey viewed the necessity of establishing a stable
legal system The contemporary national legal systems are generally based on one of four basic systems: civil law (legal system), civil law, common law, statutory law, religious law or combinations of these. However, the legal system of each country is shaped ...
as more important than the potential injustice that would occur from following unjust laws. In spite of this, he did concede that there were circumstances in which it would be appropriate to resort to an armed rebellion but stated that such occasions are extremely rare.


Bibliography

* ''Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution'' (8th Edition with new Introduction) (1915) * ''A Leap in the Dark, or Our New Constitution'' (an examination of the leading principles of the Home Rule Bill of 1893) (1893) * ''A Treatise on the Rules for the Selection of the Parties to an Action'' (1870) * ''England's Case against Home Rule'' (1887) * ''The Privy Council: The Arnold Prize Essay'' (1887) * ''Letters on unionist delusions'' (1887)
''A digest of the law of England with reference to the conflict of laws''
(1st ed. 1896, 2nd ed. 1908); ** later expanded in various editions of
Dicey Morris & Collins ''Dicey, Morris & Collins on the Conflict of Laws'' (often simply ''Dicey, Morris & Collins'', or even just ''Dicey & Morris'') is the leading English law textbook on the conflict of laws (). It has been described as the "gold standard" in ter ...
* * ''A Fool's Paradise: Being a Constitutionalist's Criticism of the Home Rule Bill of 1912'' (1913) * ''Lectures on the relation between law and public opinion in England during the nineteenth century'' (2nd Edition) (1914) * * ''Thoughts on the Union between England and Scotland'' (1920) * * Vol. 1 includes the first edition of ''Introduction'', with the main addenda in later editions; vol. 2, ''The Comparative Study of Constitutions'', provides largely unpublished lectures on comparative constitutional law, intended for a further book; both volumes have extensive editorial commentary.


Biographies

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References


External links

* * * * *
Grave of Albert Venn Dicey and his wife Eleanor in St Sepulchre's Cemetery, Oxford, with biography

Great Thinkers: Vernon Bogdanor FBA on A.V. Dicey FBA
podcast, The British Academy * {{DEFAULTSORT:Dicey, A. V. 1835 births 1922 deaths Academics of the London School of Economics Alumni of Balliol College, Oxford Scholars of constitutional law English constitutionalists English legal scholars English legal writers Conflict of laws scholars People educated at King's College School, London Vinerian Professors of English Law English King's Counsel Members of the Inner Temple Fellows of Trinity College, Oxford Fellows of the British Academy Presidents of the Oxford Union People from Lutterworth Burials at St Sepulchre's Cemetery