Edward Coke : biography

01 February 1552 - 03 September 1634

The work had its detractors, with some writers criticising it for "repulsive pedantry" and "overbearing assertions", as well as incorrect citations to works that were later discredited. There are also factual inaccuracies; Kenyon Homfray in the Ecclesiastical Law Journal notes that despite being considered the supreme legal authority on the subject of consecration, which Coke covered in the third volume of the Institutes, he offered no legal support for his opinion and ignored those pieces of case law which rejected his interpretation.

Jurisprudence

Coke's jurisprudence centres around the hierarchy of the judges, the monarch, and Parliament in making law. Coke argued that the judges of the common law were those most suited to making law, followed by Parliament, and that the monarch was bound to follow any legal rules. This principle was justified by the idea that a judge, through his professional training, internalised what Alan Cromartie, a political historian and theorist, referred to as "an infinity of wisdom", something that mere politicians or laypersons could not understand due to the complexity of the law. Coke's Commentary on Littleton has been interpreted as deliberately obtuse, with his aim being to write what Cromartie called "a sort of anti-textbook, a work whose very form denied that legal knowledge could be organised. The original edition could not be used for reference purposes, as Coke had published it without an index ... It is a book to be 'read in' and lived with, rather than consulted, a monument to the uselessness of merely written knowledge unless it is internalised in a trained professional mind". This theory – that judges were the natural arbiters of the law – is known as the "appeal to reason", with "reason" referring not to rationality but the method and logic used by judges in upholding and striking down laws. Coke's position meant that certainty of the law and intellectual beauty was the way to see if a law was just and correct, and that the system of law could eventually become sophisticated enough to be predictable.

John Selden held similar beliefs, in that he thought that the common law was the proper law of England. He argued that this did not necessarily create judicial discretion to alter it, and that proper did not necessarily equal perfect. The law was nothing more than a contract made by the English people; this is known as the "appeal to contract". Thomas Hobbes, along with Francis Bacon, argued against Coke's theory. Instead, they were proponents of natural law, created by the king's authority, not by any individual judge. Hobbes felt that there was no skill unique to lawyers, and that the law could be understood not through Coke's "reason" (the method used by lawyers), but through understanding the king's instructions. While the judges did make law, this was only valid because it was "tacitly confirmed (because not disapproved) by the [king]".

Living octopus

Living octopus

In countries which are located near sea coasts, sea food is an important part of national cuisine