There is something very creepy about Civilian countries. Perhaps it is the ID Cards which it is an offence to leave home without, or the registration at the local state offices, the persecution of home-schooling parents, the massive rates of tax, or the ability of the police to stop and question you without reasonable grounds of suspicion. This is not just a matter of taste. Continental Europeans are harmed spiritually by the psychological slavery to the state this induces. This tyranny-lite dignifies itself by tracing its origins to ‘Roman Law’. In truth it is an effect of the re-discovery of Justinian’s proto-Byzantine codified law not the classical law of the Republic (which eluded codification for many centuries after the Caesars had seized de facto royal power). One wonders sometimes if the codification of canon law did not introduce a similar spirit into the curia, bearing bitter fruit in the nineteen sixties.
It was not until the reign of Hadrian that Emperors presumed to legislate in their own ‘right’ and not until Justinian that the sinister lex regia was invoked to justify this usurpation. “The pleasure of the emperor has the vigor and effect of law, since the Roman people, by the royal law, have transferred to their prince the full extent of their own power and sovereignty.” Here we see revealed in full for the first time the blasphemous claims of Leviathan, claims which live on the ID Card and the school inspector. Conversely, the Common Law tradition has been parochialised by the label ‘Anglo-Saxon’ and fantasies about Germanic ‘folk-right’. From the moment of his conversion St Aethelbert of Kent promulgated laws ‘according to Roman models’. St Isidore of Seville has nothing to say about the lex regia in his section on Roman Law in the Etymologies, which until Tribonianisation in the eleventh century was the West’s standard introduction to law. Alfred the Great’s ‘works which it is most necessary for all men to know’ breathe the republican latinity of Late Antiquity in Italy and North Africa. Fittingly, Alfred was the last Roman Consul appointed in the West. Perhaps even more fittingly, Charles Martel turned the honour down. In the eleventh century Justinian’s code accomplished what his generals could not and permanently subjected the western half of continental Europe to Byzantine autocracy. And yet, as many conquerors before and since, he failed to cross the Channel. As a result the English legal tradition remains in spirit far more authentically Roman than the wretched continental codes that go by that name.