Nature of Conventions of Constitution

  • A. V. Dicey


In an earlier part of this work1 stress was laid upon the essential distinction between the “law of the constitution,” which, consisting (as it does) of rules enforced or recognised by the courts, makes up a body of “laws” in the proper sense of that term, and the “conventions of the constitution,” which consisting (as they do) of customs, practices, maxims, or precepts which are not enforced or recognised by the courts, make up a body not of laws, but of constitutional or political ethics; and it was further urged that the law, not the morality of the constitution, forms the proper subject of legal study.2 In accordance with this view, the reader’s attention has. been hitherto exclusively directed to the meaning and applications of two principles which pervade the law of the constitution, namely, the Sovereignty of Parliament 3 and the Rule of Law.4


Discretionary Power Reasonable Ground Sovereign Power Political Ethic Constitutional Convention 
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  1. 1.
    Freeman, Growth of the English Constitution (1st ed., 1872), pp. 109, 110.Google Scholar
  2. 1.
    They go further and provide for the whole working of the complicated government machine. Nowadays the majority of Ministers are concerned with statutory functions; the exceptions include, however, the Prime Minister, the Secretaries of State, and the First Lord of the Admiralty. But much of the work of the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Scotland is statutory. See Jennings, The Law and the Constitution (4th ed., 1952), pp. 86–88.—ED.Google Scholar
  3. 1.
    Cited by Lord Dunedin in Attorney-General v. De Keyaer’s Royal Hotel Ltd. [1920] A.C. 508, at p. 526; K. & L. 86.Google Scholar
  4. 1.
    Hearn denied, on inadequate grounds as it seemed to the author, the existence of this rule or understanding See Hearn, op. cit., p. 178. 2 Cf. Bagehot, English Constitution (1872 ed.), pp. 25–27.Google Scholar
  5. See Jennings, Cabinet Government (3rd ed., 1959), pp. 412–428;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Evatt, The King and his Dominion Governors (1936), eh. ix-xii, xx.Google Scholar
  7. 1.
    See Emden, The People and the Constitution (2nd ed., 1956), pp. 194–196, 197–201.—En.Google Scholar
  8. 1.
    Cf. Jennings, Cabinet Government (3rd ed., 1959), pp. 412–428.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1979

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  • A. V. Dicey

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