“No More to Medle of the Matter”: Thomas More, Equity, and the Claims of Jurisdiction

Bradin Cormack

in A Power to Do Justice

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print February 2008 | ISBN: 9780226116242
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226116259 | DOI:
“No More to Medle of the Matter”: Thomas More, Equity, and the Claims of Jurisdiction

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  • Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)


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Focusing on Sir Thomas More, this chapter reflects on the theoretical implications of centralization for the very idea of a legal norm, and looks at two of More's fictions in which he analyzes the claims of conscience in public life. First, in the context of his defense of the ecclesiastical courts in the early 1530s, it examines a parable used by More in 1534 to defend his refusal to swear the oath in affirmation of the Act of Succession. From this more explicit meditation on jurisdiction, the chapter then turns to Utopia (1516), a book in which More famously embeds his portrait of the ideal republic within a dialogue concerning the relation between public justice and conscientious action. It sees Utopia not only as a philosophical argument about the possibility of worldly justice, but also as a practical and local legal analysis of the procedural relation between English common law and English equity.

Keywords: Thomas More; equity; common law; jurisdiction; conscience; centralization; public life; Utopia; ecclesiastical courts; justice

Chapter.  21058 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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