Edward Coke's contribution to English Common Law

Sir Edward Coke (pronounced 'cook') was born on February 1st 1552. He is widely regarded as one of England's most prominent jurists, and one who firmly established the primacy of English Common Law, putting himself personally at risk from Stuart monarchs who tried to put themselves above it.

As Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, he declared the King to be subject to the law, and said that the laws of Parliament were void if they violated "common right and reason". James I & VI and Charles I had granted monopolies and patents in exchange for cash as a way to obtain funds outside Parliamentary control, but Coke wrote and advocated the Statute of Monopolies that substantially limited their powers to do so.

As an influential judge, he often ventured into constitutional law with his voluminous writings, declaring that no tax or loan could be implemented without the permission of Parliament.

His greatest contribution to the liberties of Englishmen was the Petition of Right, which reaffirmed the principles of Magna Carta, and is regarded as one of the three seminal constitutional documents of English law, along with Magna Carta itself and the 1689 Bill of Rights. He wrote affirming the right of habeas corpus, and declared that that no private citizen could be forced to accept soldiers into his home, or be subject to martial law imposed upon civilians.

In a 1604 decision that has reverberated through history to affirm the rights of the subject against authority, Coke declared that β€œthe house of every one is to him as his Castle and Fortress as well for defence against injury and violence, as for his repose.”

Against the overweening power of the state, personified in the monarchy, Coke set the justice of English Common Law, and through his judgements and writings ensured that its principles were enshrined in the constitution, and that no person, however powerful, was above them.