Dicey: England's Case Against Home Rule

Pdf Dicey, A.V. England's Case Against Home Rule. London: John Murray, 1887
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Albert Venn Dicey was born near Lutterworth, Leicestershire, England, the son of T. E. Dicey. He was the younger brother of Edward Dicey, a distinguished English writer and journalist. Dicey graduated from Balliol College, University of Oxford, and became a fellow of Trinity College in 1860. He was called to the bar in 1863, becoming one of the most distinguishing lawyers of his day. He combined law and political journalism, and wrote several smaller works in this early part of his life. Initially, Dicey was in favor of the liberalism of John Stuart Mill, and was influenced by his work. By the 1880s, however, he started to remove himself from liberal thinking, and to warn of its dangers.

Dicey was appointed to the Vinerian Chair of English Law at Oxford in 1882, and became a fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. There he published his famed An Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution (1885). With this work, Dicey’s name became known beyond British Isles, and he was cited in parliament in the Irish Home Rule question during the 1880s.

For Dicey, law was the highest priority in society. He insisted that “no person is above the law and it is law that rules all.” While his beliefs were adopted by British society and supported in Parliament for some time, they were rejected as the "Rule of Law" cannot be absolute when the laws themselves are imperfect, particularly when they show partiality to some people over others. This problem colored the end of Dicey's career.

Between 1886 and 1913 he wrote four books opposing Home Rule in Ireland. In England’s Case Against Home Rule, Dicey advocated that no concessions be made to Irish nationalism in relation to the Government of any part of Ireland, as an integral part of the United Kingdom. He believed that British rule “worked well” for Ireland, as well as other British colonies. Dicey questions whether Home Rile would offer true independence sought by nationalists and if a true nationalists would be satisfied with this. He was simply unable to appreciate Irish grievances against British colonial rule, even though it was codified in law.  

Dicey was thus bitterly disillusioned by the agreement in which Southern Ireland became a self-governing dominion, then called the Irish Free State, separate from the United Kingdom. He remained connected with Oxford, continuing to lecture there and speak against Home Rule until his retirement in 1909. He died on April 7, 1922, in Oxford.

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