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The Courts, the Church and the Constitution

Aspects of the Disruption of 1843

Alan Rodger

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Commissioned by the Clark Foundation for Legal Education, this book is derived from the inaugural Jean Clark Lectures, hosted by the University of Aberdeen in 2007. Across three lectures, the Rt Hon. The Lord Rodger of Earlsferry discusses and analyses the legal and constitutional issues arising from the Disruption of the Church of Scotland in 1843 when the majority of leading ministers left the Church of Scotland to set up the Free Church. Lord Rodger takes a fresh look at the series of cases in the Court of Session and the House of Lords between 1837 and 1843 which led to the Disruption, showing how they gave rise to the most important constitutional crisis and challenge to the Courts' authority that had occurred since the 1707 Union.

About the Author

The Right Honourable The Lord Rodger of Earlsferry is a former Lord President of the Court of Session and a Law Lord in the House of Lords.


This will doubtless become a principal text for churchmen with an interest in constitutional questions, and for civil lawyers with an interest in ecclesiastical questions. The second strength lies in the human interest woven through the narrative. Throughout the book, but especially in the second lecture and in many of the endnotes, the character of the ministers, counsel and judges – and many of them were certainly Scottish “characters” – is brought to life in this elegant and cultured account of the events and their context... Divinity schools should be as glad at the appearance of this scholarly and gently witty volume as law schools certainly must be.
- Marjory A MacLean, Depute Clerk to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Edinburgh Law Review
For anyone specialising in Scottish church or legal history over the long nineteenth century this is essential reading; but it should also be of value to those with a more general interest in issues of church-state relations.'The bookcase of many a Scottish household', notes Lord Rodger, 'used to contain a copy of Brown's Annals of the Disruption - that most sentimental of books'. Mine still does: and I am delighted to have the Courts, the Church and the Constitution as an unsentimental companion to set alongside it.
- Frank Cramer, Durham, Ecclesiastical Law Journal

A riveting insight into the way one of the greatest Scottish judges of the late 20th century thought and wrote about one of the greatest crises of the mid-19th century Scotland.

- Ian Mitchell’s Book Recommendations.