CONSTITUTIONALISM AND THE SOVEREIGN STATE IN THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY
The concept of indivisible sovereignty, as it was to be expounded by Jeremy Bentham and John Austin in the Victorian Age, was not known to early Europe. In theory, this was because secular rulers were regarded as subject to many limitations imposed by a Christian view of human society; men were required to render unto Caesar the things that were Caesar's, but to God the things that were God's. Kings were expected to obey God's laws, the moral law, or the "natural" law. In practice, rulers were not only at times actually in vassalage to the pope as God's representative on earth, as was King John of England to Pope Innocent III, but they might hold at least some of their possessions of an earthly overlord, as the kings of Scotland did for centuries from the kings of England or as the kings of England held Gascony from the king of France. Early kings promised by their coronation oaths or by charters to accept the immemorial customs of the land; and decisions made both locally and nationally could, and sometimes were, overruled as being contrary to baronial, manorial, or other ancient customs. A whole complicated network of legal relationships permeated English society, and only the strongest of kings could assert authority over all his subjects. Even then he was compelled to recognize practical and traditional limitations upon his rights. Bracton, writing in the thirteenth century, said that the king was subject to the law. Even statute laws, made by the king in parliaments, were known to have been held by judges to conflict with the immemorial customs of the realm and therefore to be invalid.
Above all, however, the difficulty in evolving a theory of absolute sovereignty in the so-called Middle Ages was the doctrine of dual obedience to