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Title: The judiciary and the political use and abuse of the law by the Caroline regime, 1625-1640
Author: St. John-Smith, Christopher
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2016
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In December 1640 the Long Parliament brought accusations against Lord Keeper Finch and six judges of the three main Westminster courts. These asserted the illegality of decisions and opinions given by these judges. This thesis examines those accusations and argues that the government of Charles I engaged in a defensible process of political management of the law and the judges to legitimate its policies particularly after the suspension of parliament in 1629. This policy emerged as a response to the government's difficulties in enforcing the payment of the Forced Loan caused by its dubious legality. The policy took advantage of important features of the contemporary relationship between the law and the government and it had five features. The most senior and able lawyers were recruited as government law officers and counsel. They amassed and used a substantial and well researched body of legal authority to support royal rights. The chief justices were appointed from amongst the government lawyers and were used as political managers of their courts. New incentives were offered as rewards for the most senior judges. Judicial views on aspects of government policy were sought in advance and the Privy Council was used to by-pass the judges if necessary. These features are examined in relation to government revenue policies including distraint of knighthood fines and the forest laws, and religious policies in relation to the application of the writ of prohibition to the economic condition of the Church and High Commission. The application of this analysis to the Ship Money Case is considered. It is concluded that the judges were manipulated rather than coerced and often successfully avoided the pressure by technical stratagems. Most importantly the government showed that it generally had the law on its side. That had serious political implications but went a long way towards exonerating the judges.
Supervisor: Holmes, Clive ; Tapsell, Grant Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Law--Political aspects--Great Britain ; Judges--Selection and appointment--Great Britain ; Justice ; Administration of--Great Britain--History--17th century ; Great Britain--Politics and government--1603-1649