Dicey, Albert Venn

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Albert Venn Dicey (1835-1922) was a British jurist and constitutional theorist who argued for the impartiality of the courts and insisted that not even those in the highest positions of power were exempt from law. Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution, excerpted below, was considered an authoritative explanation of the British Constitution.

"The actual exercise of authority by any sovereign whatever, and notably by Parliament, is bounded or controlled by two limitations. Of these the one is an external, and the other is an internal limitation. The external limit to the real power of a sovereign consists in the possibility or certainty that his subjects or a large number of them will disobey or resist his laws. This limitation exists even under the most despotic monarchies....The authority, that is to say, even of a despot, depends upon the readiness of his subjects to obey his behests; and this readiness to obey must always be in reality limited. This is shown by the most notorious facts of history. None of the early Caesars could at their pleasure have subverted the worship or fundamental institutions of the Roman world, and when Constantine carried through a religious revolution his success was due to the sympathy of a large part of his subjects....[T]he might of each was limited by the certainty of popular disobedience or opposition....
The internal limit to the exercise of sovereignty arises from the nature of the sovereign power itself. Even a despot exercises his powers in accordance with his character, which is itself moulded by the circumstance under which he lives, including under that head the moral feelings of the time and the society to which he belongs. The Sultan could not, if he would, change the religion of the Mohammedan world, but even if he could do so, it is in the very highest degree improbable that the head of Mohammedanism should wish to overthrow the religion of Mohammed; the internal check on the exercise of the Sultan's power is at least as strong as the external limitation. People sometimes ask the idle question, why the Pope does not introduce this or that reform? The true answer is that a revolutionist is not the kind of man who becomes a Pope and that a man who becomes a Pope has no wish to be a revolutionist."

Dicey, Albert Venn. Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution. London: Macmillan, 1915, 74-77.