The Law of the Land - The Temple Church Sermon. 3 Oct 18
The Law of the Land.
I joined the Inner Temple as a student forty-four years ago. Although called to the Bar I never pursued a legal career. But I look back on my legal studies with profound gratitude. For they implanted in me a vision of the English law that I have never ceased to cherish, and which has profoundly influenced my philosophical outlook. I would like to take this opportunity to share that vision with you, since it touches on matters that are vital to the condition of our country today.
The first discovery that I made when reading for the bar is that Parliament is only one source of our law, and not the most important source. Acts of Parliament become law only because they are inserted into a living legal system, and are interpreted according to the pre-existing principles of our courts. Those principles were not laid down by Parliament, but inherited from the many attempts made by the people of this country to bring their disputes to judgement. The vast body of English law remains unwritten, except in the form of reports and commentaries. And, taken as a whole, it exhibits a process of problem solving that entirely refutes, to my way of thinking, the idea that law is a set of edicts, laid down by the sovereign power. In the English understanding the sovereign enforces the law, but does not dictate it.