By Charles Covell (auth.)
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Additional resources for Hobbes, Realism and the Tradition of International Law
Accordingly, the authentic interpretation of laws in commonwealths was the responsibility of the judges, as the officials appointed by the sovereign to exercise the rights of judicature and to decide the controversies which related to the laws. The office of adjudication, as Hobbes explained it, required that judges were to proceed through the reasoned application of the natural law, and with this meaning, in particular, that the laws obtaining in commonwealths were to be interpreted and applied by judges with the assumption that the intention of the sovereign as the author of the laws was always to maintain equity.
The first law of nature enshrined the right of self-defence as a right of war, and with this being a right that Hobbes thought of as standing in opposition to the limitations on conduct which were to be set through law. However, there was also affirmed in the first law of nature the duty falling on men to endeavour peace, and the duty to act for peace plainly relates to the rule of law as being among its presupposed general principles. The same is true of the principle contained in the second law of nature.
The public status that Hobbes assigned to crimes is reflected in his insistence that acts that involved hostility against the authority of the commonwealth, and against that of the sovereign power, were crimes of a greater seriousness than crimes perpetrated against private persons. This was true for example of treason and attacks on the person of the sovereign, bribery and false testimony, and counterfeiting of the currency. Such crimes were essentially public in character, and while contrary to natural law since subversive of the integrity of commonwealths as the condition for peace, they were nevertheless crimes which presupposed for their determination the context of commonwealths instituted through covenanting.