The case analysis is written by Darshika Lodha, a first-year student of Unitedworld School of Law, Karnavati University. In this case, the author briefly explained the case of Ashby v. White.


The case poses among the first issues rooted in civil rights. The issue on his civil right is that one party can recover damages while one of his civil rights is hindered by the action of another. Ashby v White (1703) 92 ER 126 is a fundamental case of UK constitutional law and English tort law. This involves the right to vote and the inability of an elected official to do so.

Legal Maxim Used

Damnum Sine Injuria


Court of King’s Bench

Date of Judgment

1 January 1703

Equivalent Citation

(1703) 92 ER 126, (1703) 2 Ld Raym 938, (1703) 1 Sm LC (13th Edn) 253


Holt CJ, Powell J, Powy J, Gould J.


Mr. Ashby was prohibited from voting in an election by the mistake of the constable, Mr. White, under the obvious pretext that he was not a settled inhabitant. At the time, the case attracted great public attention and discussion in Parliament. It was later known as the election case of Aylesbury. In the House of Lords, it attracted the attention of Peter King, 1st Baron King, who spoke and upheld the right of electors to have recourse to common law for the revocation of their votes, despite the insistence of the Conservative party on the rights of the House of Commons. Sir Thomas Powys defended William White at the House of Lords. The argument put forward was that the Commons alone had the power to decide election cases, not the courts.

Synopsis: Rule of Law

Where the actions of one party impair the rights of another, that party can be held liable.

Issues Before the Court

This topic is one of the first issues based on civil rights.

  • The question, in this case, is whether one party may seek damages if one of its civil rights is violated by the action of another party.

Ratio of the Case

In the case of Mellor and Spateman, 1 Saund. 343, where the Derby Corporation claims common by regulation, and while the heritage of the common is in the political body, yet the individual members enjoy the fruit and advantages of it and feed their cattle on the common, and not on the cattle belonging to the corporation, but this is not indeed our case. But, as a result, it appears that every man, that is, to vote on the election of members to serve in Parliament, has a certain and special right in his private capacity, whether as a citizen or as a burgess. And certainly it can not be said that this is a right that is so inconsiderable as to extend the rule to it, de minimis non-curate lex. The right that a man has to give his vote in the election of a person to represent him in Parliament, there to consent to the enactment of laws that bind his liberty and property, is most transcendent and of a high order, and the law takes account of it as such in various statutes: as in the Statutes of 34 & 35 H. Eighth, c. 13, entitled An Act to render Knights and Burgesses within the County and City of Chester; where it is mentioned in the preamble that, while the said County Palatine of Chester is and has always been, to date, exempt, excluded and divided, and from the King’s Court, on account of which the said inhabitants have so far sustained a great deal of dishes, losses and damages And damages to their property, goods, and persons, as well as fair, civil, and political governance, and the preservation of the commonwealth of their said county, and so on. So that the opinion of the Parliament is that the lack of this privilege causes great loss and damage. And the same thing happens to the 25 cars. 2, c. 2. 9. An Act to allow the County Palatine of Durham to send knights and burgesses to serve in Parliament, which recites, while the people of the County Palatine of Durham have never had the liberty and privilege of appointing and sending any knights and burgesses to the High Court of Parliament, etc., of the highest importance, and such great privilege, that it is a great privilege. Let us understand where the law is, and we shall find it to be, not in specific cases and precedents, but based on the law and the ubi eadem ratio, ubi idem jus. The right of voting does not vary from any other vote at all. When this matter is resolved by the House of Commons, it is not that they have an original right, but that they have an election accident. But we do not refuse them their right to discuss elections, but we must not be frightened when a matter of property comes before us by claiming that it belongs to the Parliament; we must exercise the authority of the Queen. My view is based on the law of England.


Where the actions of one party impair the rights of another, that party can be held liable.

Final Judgment

Mr. Matthew Ashby, a cobbler, turned up to vote for the British Parliament in December 1701. Ashby was turned away by William White, the constable, because “he was not a settled inhabitant of the borough, and had never contributed either to the church or the sick. Notwithstanding this, his opponent won the race, and he was not hurt. Yet Ashby refused to take this lying down and sued for large damages. The defendants argued that because Ashby had suffered no loss when his nominee won the race, he was not responsible. His suit was successful, but the House of Commons found Ashby guilty of a breach of parliamentary privilege for having behaved in the common law. Chief Justice Holt then upheld Ashby ‘s appeal, stating that what was at issue was “the most transcendental and high-quality matter.” Finally, it was held that the defendant (White) violated Ashby’s civil rights and was entitled to damages by prohibiting the Complainant (Ashby) from voting. Chief Justice Holt said, “Any injury imports harm even if it does not cost the party one farthing. In the case of damage not only pecuniary but also injury, damage is imported if a person is hampered in his or her rights.


The defendant, the returning officer, unlawfully refused to register a properly tendered candidate for the vote of the appellant, a constitutionally eligible elector, in a general election, and the candidate for whom the vote was held was chosen, and no harm suffered by the denial of the vote. The appeal for damages may also be brought if a person is deprived of his or her right to vote by a statute that is illegal by a violation of the right to equality.

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