Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



The lingering influence of the natural law theory in England brought forth a powerful new philosophy of law. The chief features of this new theory were developed by Hobbes and Bentham and found their most compelling formulation in the works of the "analytical"jurist, John Austin. What concerned these men most was how to deal with the existence of morally bad laws. Sir William Blackstone had said in his Commentaries that the laws of God are superior in obligation to all other laws; that no human laws should be allowed to contradict them; that human laws are of no validity if they contradict God's laws and that all valid laws derive their force from the Divine original. When Austin confronted these ideas, he immediately focused upon the central issue in legal theory, for he remarked that if these ideas of Blackstone's have any meaning at all it must be this,"that no human law which conflicts with the Divine law is obligatory or binding; in other words, that no human law which conflicts with the Divine law is a law ... . The problem, as Austin saw it, was to determine how the authority of a legal order is achieved. Where, in other words, do laws derive their character as law?