If one man can be allowed to determine for himself what is law, every man can. That means first chaos, then tyranny. – Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter, United States v. United Mine Workers (1947)
“rule of law” – that individuals, persons and government shall submit to, obey and be regulated by law, and not arbitrary action by an individual, or a group of individuals.
“rule of man” – for example, a monarchy, tyrannical or theocratic form of government, where governance and rules of conduct are set and altered at the discretion of a single person, or a select group of persons.
It is no exaggeration to say that the entire history of Western civilization is tied to the concept of the “rule of law.” As Matthew Spalding wrote in Rule of Law: The Great Foundation of Our Constitution, “Throughout most of human history, the rules by which life was governed were usually determined by force and fraud: he who had the power, whether military strength or political dominance, made the rules. The command of the absolute monarch or tyrannical despot was the rule and had the coercive force of the law. Rulers made up false stories of inheritance and rationalizations such as “divine right of kings” to convince their subjects to accept their rule without question.”
Thomas Paine wrote, “For as in absolute governments the King is law, so in free countries the law ought to be King; and there ought to be no other.” Founder John Adams wrote in the Massachusetts Constitution in 1780, in which the powers of the government are divided (similar to the “checks and balances” of the U.S. government established later) “to the end it may be a government of laws, not of men.”
Article 39 of the Magna Carta (signed by King John in 1215) was written to ensure that the life, liberty or property of free subjects of the king could not be arbitrarily taken away. Instead, the lawful judgment of the subject’s peers (i.e., the “law of the land”) had to be followed. The significance of that ancient document cannot be overstated, for it recognizes that a person’s fate should not be in the hands of a single individual (e.g., a king, a president, etc.). It planted the seed for the concept of “due process” as it developed first in England and then in the United States, which means that every single person is entitled to a fair and impartial hearing to determine their legal rights.
Continue Reading: November 8, 2016: U.S. Votes to End the Rule of Law! – American Clarion