A. V. Dicey

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Our constitution, in short, is a judge-made constitution, and it bears on its face all the features, good and bad, of judge-made law.

Albert Venn Dicey (February 4, 1835 – April 7, 1922) was a British jurist and constitutional theorist who wrote An Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution (1885). The principles it expounds are considered part of the uncodified British constitution.

Quotes

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  • Macaulay Mill and Burke are I believe the three authors to whom as far as I can judge I owe more than to any other teachers I could mention.
    • Letter to Miss Wedgwood (27 January 1893), quoted in Joseph Hamburger, Macaulay and the Whig Tradition (1976), p. 254, n. 94
  • The principle of Parliamentary sovereignty means neither more nor less than this, namely, that Parliament thus defined has, under the English constitution, the right to make or unmake any law whatever; and, further, that no person or body is recognised by the law of England as having a right to override or set aside the legislation of Parliament.
    • Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution [Eighth Edition, 1915] (LibertyClassics, 1982), pp. 3-4.
  • Our constitution, in short, is a judge-made constitution, and it bears on its face all the features, good and bad, of judge-made law.
    • Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution [Eighth Edition, 1915] (LibertyClassics, 1982), p. 116.
  • The fact that the most arbitrary powers of the English executive must always be exercised under Act of Parliament places the government, even when armed with the widest authority, under the supervision, so to speak, of the Courts. Powers, however extraordinary, which are conferred or sanctioned by statute, are never really unlimited, for they are confined by the words of the Act itself, and, what is more, by the interpretation put upon the statute by the judges. Parliament is supreme legislator, but from the moment Parliament has uttered its will as lawgiver, that will becomes subject to the interpretation put upon it by the judges of the land.
    • Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution [Eighth Edition, 1915] (LibertyClassics, 1982), p. 273.

Quotes about A. V. Dicey

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  • [I]t was A.V. Dicey whose writing – above all his classic textbook The Law of the Constitution – had most impact on me. It had long been fashionable to attack Dicey for his doctrinaire opposition to the new administrative state, and there are plenty of learned commentators still inclined to do so. But I found myself immediately at home with what he said – it is not perhaps without significance that though Dicey's was a great legal mind, he was at heart a classical liberal. The "law of the constitution" was, in Dicey's words, the result of two "guiding principles, which had been gradually worked out by the more or less conscious efforts of generations of English statesmen and lawyers". The first of these principles was the sovereignty of Parliament. The second was the rule of law, which I will summarize briefly and inadequately as the principle that no authority is above the law of the land. For Dicey, writing in 1885, and for me reading him some seventy years later, the rule of law still had a very English, or at least Anglo-Saxon, feel to it. It was later, through reading Hayek's masterpieces The Constitution of Liberty and Law, Legislation and Liberty that I really came to think of this principle as having wider application.
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