Coxford Lecture: Honour, Oaths, and the Rule of Law
32 Canadian Journal of Law & Jurisprudence 389 (2019), doi: 10.1017/cjlj.2019.23
Posted: 31 Aug 2019
Date Written: August 20, 2019
Impersonality is frequently invoked as a core element of the rule of law. In this article, I discuss a troika of values and institutions–office, honour, and the oath–that provide deeply personal springs for the conduct of judges and other office-holders. In so doing, these institutions make possible the sort of impersonality valued by the rule of law. A focus on office emphasizes the importance of duty rather than power. Honour is the desire to be well thought of by others, and the internalized desire to deserve to be thought well of by others, especially one’s peers. Honour is often treated as an obsolete value that has been superseded by dignity. But it remains an essential force, providing judges and other office-holders with a source of energy and agency that motivates them to fulfil the duties of their office with virtue and excellence. The oath serves as a linchpin that connects the individual to the office and the office-holder to the commitment to serve honourably. Taken together, this troika of institutions encourages the faithful and energetic performance of one’s judicial office in a modern democratic constitutional society. Thinking about the rule of law this way encourages us to shift our focus from power to duty, and from doctrine to character and virtue. It encourages us to revive and revise honour rather than abandon it. It helps show that an impersonal “government of laws and not men” is and ultimately must be deeply personal.
Note: This is an abstract-only submission. The published paper can be found online at Canadian Journal of Law & Jurisprudence website as well as on the usual legal periodical databases.
Keywords: Honor, oath, office, virtue, dignity, Sharon Krause, Julian Pitt-Rivers, rule of law, impersonality, fame, Cicero, Marbury v. Madison
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation