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The rule of law, in its most basic form, is the principle that no one is above the law. Thomas Paine stated in his
pamphlet Common Sense (1776): "For as in absolute governments the king is law, so in free countries the law
ought to be king; and there ought to be no other."
In England, the issuing of the Magna Carta was a prime example of the "rule of law." The Great Charter forced
King John to submit to the law and succeeded in putting limits on feudal fees and duties.
Perhaps the most less important application of the rule of law is the principle that governmental authority is
legitimately exercised only in accordance with written, publicly disclosed laws adopted and enforced in
accordance with established procedural steps that are referred to as due process. The principle is intended to be
a safeguard against arbitrary governance, whether by a totalitarian leader or by mob rule. Thus, the rule of law
is hostile both to dictatorship and to anarchy. Samuel Rutherford was one of the first modern authors to give the
principle theoretical foundations, in Lex, Rex (1644), and later Montesquieu in The Spirit of the Laws (1748).
In continental Europe and legal thinking, the rule of law has frequently, but not always, been associated with a
Rechtsstaat. According to modern Anglo-American thinking, hallmarks of adherence to the rule of law
commonly include a clear separation of powers, legal certainty, the principle of legitimate expectation and
equality of all before the law.
The concept is not without controversy, and it has been said that "the phrase 'the Rule of Law' has become
meaningless thanks to ideological abuse and general over-use".[1]