Law

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Learn that sacred law which is followed by men learned (in the Veda) and assented to in their hearts by the virtuous, who are ever exempt from hatred and inordinate affection. ~ Laws of Manu

Law is a term referring to sociological or scientific norms, or systems and expressions based upon them. In social or political terms, the rule of law refers to a system of rules or guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern the actions and behavior of individuals and groups of people within societies and between them, shaping politics, economics and general circumstances in numerous ways and providing further means of social mediation. The expressed civil laws of human societies often arise as postulates or proposals patterned upon or related to what are regarded as manifest laws of nature or divinity, and often make appeal to various notions of the proper social roles of justice, unity and liberty.

See also:
Dharma
Justice
Lawyers
Rules

Quotes[edit]

Necessity knows no law but makes law. ~ Gratian
Alphabetized by author
An unjust law is no law at all. ~ Augustine of Hippo
Just laws which uphold human rights are the necessary foundation of peace. ~ Aung San Suu Kyi
Ananke must above all be regarded as cosmic force, that is as the ruling law in the universe. ~ Otto Brendel
A nation that will not enforce its laws has no claim to the respect and allegiance of its people. ~ Ambrose Bierce
True law is right reason in agreement with nature; it is of universal application, unchanging and everlasting; it summons to duty by its commands, and averts from wrong-doing by its prohibitions. ~ Marcus Tullius Cicero
It is not the enactment, but the observance of laws, that creates the character of a nation. ~ Calvin Coolidge
It is the law of life that if you are kind to someone you feel happy. If you are cruel you are unhappy. And if you hurt someone, you will be hurt back. ~ Cary Grant
Here forms, here colours, here the character of every part of the universe are concentrated to a point; and that point is so marvellous a thing … Oh! marvellous, O stupendous Necessity— by thy laws thou dost compel every effect to be the direct result of its cause, by the shortest path. These are miracles... ~ Leonardo da Vinci
If one man can be allowed to determine for himself what is law, every man can. That means first chaos, then tyranny. ~ Felix Frankfurter
The law cannot save those who deny it but neither can the law serve any who do not use it. The history of injustice and inequality is a history of disuse of the law. Law has not failed--and is not failing. We as a nation have failed ourselves by not trusting the law and by not using the law to gain sooner the ends of justice which law alone serves. ~ Lyndon B. Johnson
The most effective means of upholding the law is not the State policeman or the marshals or the National Guard. It is you. It lies in your courage to accept those laws with which you disagree as well as those with which you agree. ~ John F. Kennedy
Observance of the law is the eternal safeguard of liberty and defiance of the law is the surest road to tyranny. ~ John F. Kennedy
Only a respect for the law makes it possible for free men to dwell together in peace and progress. ~ John F. Kennedy
Law is the adhesive force in the cement of society, creating order out of chaos and coherence in place of anarchy. ~ John F. Kennedy
The end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom. For in all the states of created beings, capable of laws, where there is no law there is no freedom. ~ John Locke
Laws must have some bearing upon one of the following three things, viz., the regulation of our opinions, or the improvement of our social relations, which implies two things, the removal of injustice, and the teaching of good morals. ~ Maimonides
In addition to the teaching of truths the Law aims at the removal of injustice from mankind. ~ Maimonides
There are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. ~ Martin Luther King
All of our punishment institutions, including jails, laws, church confessionals, and so forth, are systems of illusion. The order of the universe, the infinite justice of yin and yang, naturally takes care of all motion and compensation. We don't need to invent arbitrary ways to make balance with punishments. ~ Michio Kushi
The law of levity is allowed to supersede the law of gravity. ~ R. A. Lafferty
Laws, in their most general signification, are the necessary relations derived from the nature of things. ~ Montesquieu
Liberty cannot depend on the good intentions of those in power; it depends on the law to constrain those in power. ~ Barack Obama
Mark what unvary'd laws preserve each state,
Laws wise as Nature, and as fixed as Fate. ~ Alexander Pope
Curse on all laws but those which love has made. ~ Alexander Pope
I protest against every order with which some authority may feel pleased on the basis of some alleged necessity to over-rule my free will. Laws: We know what they are, and what they are worth! They are spider webs for the rich and mighty, steel chains for the poor and weak, fishing nets in the hands of government. ~ Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
As Bob Dylan forgot to say, "To live outside the law, you must be lucky." ~ Spider Robinson
Laws are only observed with the consent of the individuals concerned and a moral change still depends on the individual and not on the passage of any law. ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
Some laws are not written, but are more decisive than any written law. ~ Seneca the Elder
'Twill be recorded for a precedent;
And many an error by the same example
Will rush into the state. ~ William Shakespeare
That which is not just, is not Law; and that which is not Law, ought not to be obeyed. ~ Algernon Sydney
The law changes and I don't. How I stand vis-à-vis the law at any given moment depends on the law. The law can change from state to state, from nation to nation, from city to city. ~ Hunter S. Thompson
  • Necessitas non habet legem
    • Necessity has no law.
      • Anonymous Latin proverb which arose in the middle ages, leading to many variant expressions and extensions in many cultures.
    • Variants:
    • Quia enim necessitas non habet legem, set ipsa sibi facit legume
    • Necessity knows no laws.
      • Spanish proverb, as quoted in The International Thesaurus of Quotations (1970) edited by Rhoda Thomas Tripp, p. 429
    • الضرورات تبيح المحظورات
      • Necessity knows no restrictions.
        • Arabic Proverb
    • Necessity knows no laws, and a man must part with his last farthing to buy bread.
      • "C." in The Farmer's Magazine Vol. 1, No. 4 (October 1838), p. 271.
    • Necessity knows no laws or customs.
      • Joseph Kinmont Hart, Mind in Transition : Patterns, Conflicts and Changes in the Evolution of the Mind (1938), p. 88.
  • The more corrupt a society, the more numerous its laws.
    • Edward Abbey, A Voice Crying in the Wilderness (Vox Clamantis in Deserto) (1990).
  • A government of laws and not of men.
    • John Adams, "Novanglus Papers", no. 7. Reported in Charles Francis Adams, ed., The Works of John Adams (1851), vol. 4, p. 106. Adams published articles in 1774 in the Boston, Massachusetts, Gazette using the pseudonym "Novanglus". In this paper he credited James Harrington with expressing the idea this way. Harrington described government as "the empire of laws and not of men" in his 1656 work, The Commonwealth of Oceana (1771), p. 35. The phrase gained wider currency when Adams used it in the Massachusetts Constitution, Bill of Rights, article 30 (1780). The Works of John Adams (1851), vol. 4, p. 230.
  • Law is a Bottomless-Pit, it is a Cormorant, a Harpy, that devours every thing.
    • John Arbuthnot, in Alan W. Bower and Robert A. Erickson, eds., The History of John Bull (1976 [first published in 1712]), chapter 6, p. 10.
  • Surely we will not dare say that these laws are unjust, or rather, that they are not laws at all. For it seems to me that an unjust law is no law at all.
  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes that 'if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression', human rights should be protected by the rule of law. That just laws which uphold human rights are the necessary foundation of peace and security would be denied only by closed minds which interpret peace as the silence of all opposition and security as the assurance of their own power.
  • You would oppose law to socialism. But it is the law which socialism invokes. It aspires to legal, not extra-legal plunder…. You wish to prevent it from taking any part in the making of laws. You would keep it outside the Legislative Palace. In this you will not succeed, I venture to prophesy, so long as legal plunder is the basis of the legislation within.

    It is absolutely necessary that this question of legal plunder should be determined, and there are only three solutions of it:—

    1. When the few plunder the many.
    2. When everybody plunders everybody else.
    3. When nobody plunders anybody.
    Partial plunder, universal plunder, absence of plunder, amongst these we have to make our choice. The law can only produce one of these results.
    Partial plunder.—This is the system which prevailed so long as the elective privilege was partial; a system which is resorted to, to avoid the invasion of socialism.

    Universal plunder.—We have been threatened by this system when the elective privilege has become universal; the masses having conceived the idea of making law, on the principle of legislators who had preceded them.

    Absence of plunder.—This is the principle of justice, peace, order, stability, conciliation, and of good sense.
  • Any law that takes hold of a man's daily life cannot prevail in a community, unless the vast majority of the community are actively in favor of it. The laws that are the most operative are the laws which protect life.
    • Henry Ward Beecher, "Civil Law and the Sabbath" (sermon delivered December 3, 1882); reported in Plymouth Pulpit (1883), vol. 5 (new series), p. 416.
  • A nation that will not enforce its laws has no claim to the respect and allegiance of its people.
    • Ambrose Bierce. 'Industrial Discontent', The Shadow on the Dial and other Essays (1909).
  • Wo wir unfähig sind, die Gesetze der Notwendigkeit zu erkennen, da glauben wir, frei zu sein.
    • When we are incapable of recognizing the laws of necessity, we believe ourselves to be free.
      • Ludwig Börne, as quoted in Geary's Guide to the World's Great Aphorists (2007) by James Geary, p. 16
    • Variant translation: Wherever it is impossible for us to recognize the law of necessity, we believe we are free.
  • Ananke must above all be regarded as cosmic force, that is as the ruling law in the universe; thus … the super-personal, cosmic significance of "the All" ruled by Ananke as well, can be accepted as certain. … In the image of the sphere, where the true existence of thought can alone recognize itself, the non-corporeal Ananke becomes conceivable, being the law that forms the world and holds it together.
    • Otto Brendel, on ancient notions of the role of Ananke (Necessity), in Symbolism of the Sphere : A Contribution to the History of Earlier Greek Philosophy (1977), p. 37.
  • Our wrangling lawyers * * * are so litigious and busy here on earth, that I think they will plead their clients' causes hereafter, some of them in hell.
    • Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621), Democritus to the Reader.
  • Is not the winding up witnesses,
    And nicking, more than half the bus'ness?
    For witnesses, like watches, go
    Just as they're set, too fast or slow;
    And where in Conscience they're strait-lac'd,
    'Tis ten to one that side is cast.
  • An unconstitutional act is not law; it confers no rights; it imposes no duties; affords no protection; it creates no office; it is in legal contemplation, as inoperative as though it had never been passed.
    • J. Chase, writing the opinion in Norton vs. Shelby County, 118 U.S. 425, p. 442.
  • A world contrary to God must be kept within bounds by the world’s sword. But true Christians love God and their neighbors as themselves; they commit no evil by the grace of God. It is not necessary to compel them to goodness since they know better what is good than the law imposing authority.
  • True law is right reason in agreement with nature; it is of universal application, unchanging and everlasting; it summons to duty by its commands, and averts from wrong-doing by its prohibitions. And it does not lay its commands or prohibitions upon good men in vain, though neither have any effect on the wicked. It is a sin to try to to [sic] alter this law, nor is it allowable to attempt to repeal any part of it, and it is impossible to abolish it entirely. We cannot be freed from its obligations by senate or people, and we need not look outside ourselves for an expounder or interpreter of it. And there will not be different laws at Rome and at Athens, or different laws now and in the future, but one eternal and unchangeable law will be valid for all nations and all times, and there will be one master and ruler, that is, God, over us all, for he is the author of this law, its promulgator, and its enforcing judge. Whoever is disobedient is fleeing from himself and denying his human nature, and by reason of this very fact he will suffer the worst penalties, even if he escapes what is commonly considered punishment.
    • Marcus Tullius Cicero, De Re Publica (The Republic), book 3, paragraph 22; in De Re Publica, De Legibus, trans. Clinton W. Keyes (1943), p. 211.
  • Necessity hath no law. Feigned necessities, imagined necessities... are the greatest cozenage that men can put upon the Providence of God, and make pretenses to break known rules by.
    • Oliver Cromwell, in a speech to the First Protectorate Parliament (12 September 1654).
  • "If the law supposes that," said Mr. Bumble, "the law is a ass, a idiot." If that's the eye of the law, the law is a bachelor; and the worst I wish the law is that his eye may be opened by experience—by experience".
    • Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist (first published serially 1837–1839; 1970 edition), chapter 51, p. 489.
  • The one great principle of the English law is, to make business for itself.
  • If it's near dinner time, the foreman takes out his watch when the jury have retired and says: "Dear me, gentlemen, ten minutes to five, I declare! I dine at five, gentlemen." "So do I," says everybody else except two men who ought to have dined at three, and seem more than half disposed to stand out in consequence. The foreman smiles, and puts up his watch: "Well, gentlemen, what do we say? Plaintiff, defendant, gentlemen? I rather think so far as I am concerned, gentlemen — I say I rather think — but don't let that influence you — I rather think the plaintiff's the man." Upon this two or three other men are sure to say they think so too — as of course they do; and then they get on very unanimously and comfortably.
  • I know'd what 'ud come o' this here mode o' doin' business. Oh, Sammy, Sammy, vy worn't there a alleybi!
  • We live in and by the law. It makes us what we are: citizens and employees and doctors and spouses and people who own things. It is sword, shield, and menace: we insist on our wage, or refuse to pay our rent, or are forced to forfeit penalties, or are closed up in jail, all in the name of what our abstract and ethereal sovereign, the law, has decreed. And we argue about what it has decreed, even when the books that are supposed to record its commands and directions are silent; we act then as if law had muttered its doom, too low to be heard distinctly. We are subjects of law's empire, liegemen to its methods and ideals, bound in spirit while we debate what we must therefore do.
  • If one man can be allowed to determine for himself what is law, every man can. That means first chaos, then tyranny. Legal process is an essential part of the democratic process.
  • I am a lover of truth, a worshipper of freedom, a celebrant at the altar of language and purity and tolerance. That is my religion, and every day I am sorely, grossly, heinously and deeply offended, wounded, mortified and injured by a thousand different blasphemies against it. When the fundamental canons of truth, honesty, compassion and decency are hourly assaulted by fatuous bishops, pompous, illiberal and ignorant priests, politicians and prelates, sanctimonious censors, self-appointed moralists and busy-bodies, what recourse of ancient laws have I? None whatever. Nor would I ask for any. For unlike these blistering imbeciles my belief in my religion is strong and I know that lies will always fail and indecency and intolerance will always perish.
    • Stephen Fry, in his "Trefusis Blasphemes" radio broadcast, as published in Paperweight (1993).
  • The Law is the true embodiment,
    Of everything that's excellent,
    It has no kind of fault or flaw,
    And I, my Lords, embody the Law.
  • The function of the lawyer is to preserve a sceptical relativism in a society hell-bent for absolutes. The worse the society, the more law there will be. In Hell there will be nothing but law and due process will be meticulously observed.
  • Laws grind the poor, and rich men rule the law.
  • The rule of law can be wiped out in one misguided, however well-intentioned generation. And if that should happen, it could take a century of striving and ordeal to restore it, and then only at the cost of the lives of many good men and women.
  • I know no method to secure the repeal of bad or obnoxious laws so effective as their stringent execution.
  • All students, members of the faculty, and public officials in both Mississippi and the Nation will be able, it is hoped, to return to their normal activities with full confidence in the integrity of American law. This is as it should be, for our Nation is founded on the principle that observance of the law is the eternal safeguard of liberty and defiance of the law is the surest road to tyranny. The law which we obey includes the final rulings of the courts, as well as the enactments of our legislative bodies. Even among law-abiding men few laws are universally loved, but they are uniformly respected and not resisted. Americans are free, in short, to disagree with the law but not to disobey it. For in a government of laws and not of men, no man, however prominent or powerful, and no mob however unruly or boisterous, is entitled to defy a court of law. If this country should ever reach the point where any man or group of men by force or threat of force could long defy the commands of our court and our Constitution, then no law would stand free from doubt, no judge would be sure of his writ, and no citizen would be safe from his neighbors.
  • In 1945 a Mississippi sergeant, Jake Lindsey, was honored by an unusual joint session of the Congress. I close therefore, with this appeal to the students of the University, the people who are most concerned. You have a great tradition to uphold, a tradition of honor and courage won on the field of battle and on the gridiron as well as the University campus. You have a new opportunity to show that you are men of patriotism and integrity. For the most effective means of upholding the law is not the State policeman or the marshals or the National Guard. It is you. It lies in your courage to accept those laws with which you disagree as well as those with which you agree.
  • Third, and finally, the educated citizen has an obligation to uphold the law. This is the obligation of every citizen in a free and peaceful society--but the educated citizen has a special responsibility by the virtue of his greater understanding. For whether he has ever studied history or current events, ethics or civics, the rules of a profession or the tools of a trade, he knows that only a respect for the law makes it possible for free men to dwell together in peace and progress.
  • He knows that law is the adhesive force in the cement of society, creating order out of chaos and coherence in place of anarchy. He knows that for one man to defy a law or court order he does not like is to invite others to defy those which they do not like, leading to a breakdown of all justice and all order. He knows, too, that every fellowman is entitled to be regarded with decency and treated with dignity. Any educated citizen who seeks to subvert the law, to suppress freedom, or to subject other human beings to acts that are less than human, degrades his heritage, ignores his learning, and betrays his obligation.
  • The end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom. For in all the states of created beings, capable of laws, where there is no law there is no freedom.
    • John Locke, Second Treatise of Government, Ch. VI, sec. 57.
  • One may well ask: "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all."
  • All of our punishment institutions, including jails, laws, church confessionals, and so forth, are systems of illusion. The order of the universe, the infinite justice of yin and yang, naturally takes care of all motion and compensation. We don't need to invent arbitrary ways to make balance with punishments.
    • Michio Kushi, with Edward Esko, in Spiritual Journey, p. 57.
  • The law of levity is allowed to supersede the law of gravity.
  • Here forms, here colours, here the character of every part of the universe are concentrated to a point; and that point is so marvellous a thing … Oh! marvellous, O stupendous Necessity — by thy laws thou dost compel every effect to be the direct result of its cause, by the shortest path. These are miracles...
    • Leonardo da Vinci, in speaking of the pupil of the eye in The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, Vol. I, as translated by Jean Paul Richter (1888).
  • The reason of a commandment, whether positive or negative, is clear, and its usefulness evident, if it directly tends to remove injustice, or to teach good conduct that furthers the well-being of society, or to impart a truth which ought to be believed either on its own merit or as being indispensable for facilitating the removal of injustice or the teaching of good morals. There is no occasion to ask for the object of such commandments; for no one can, e.g., be in doubt as to the reason why we have been commanded to believe that God is one; why we are forbidden to murder, steal, and to take vengeance, or to retaliate, or why we are commanded to love one another. But there are precepts concerning which people are in doubt, and of divided opinions, some believing they are mere commands, and serve no purpose whatever, whilst others believe that they serve a certain purpose, which, however is unknown to man. Such are those precepts which in their literal meaning do not seem to further any of the three above-named results: to impart some truth, to teach some moral, or to remove injustice. They do not seem to have any influence upon the well-being of the soul by imparting any truth, or upon the well-being of the body by suggesting such ways and rules as are useful in the government of a state, or in the management of a household. ...I will show that all these and similar laws must have some bearing upon one of the following three things, viz., the regulation of our opinions, or the improvement of our social relations, which implies two things, the removal of injustice, and the teaching of good morals.
  • The chief object of the Law, as has been shown by us, is the teaching of truths; to which the truth of the creatio ex nihilo belongs. It is known that the object of the law of Sabbath is to confirm and to establish this principle, as we have shown in this treatise (Part II. chap. xxxi.) In addition to the teaching of truths the Law aims at the removal of injustice from mankind. We have thus proved that the first laws do not refer to burnt-offering and sacrifice, which are of secondary importance.
  • Leges bello siluere coactae.
  • Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.
  • A law of nature is not a formula drawn up by a legislator, but a mere summary of the observed facts — a "bundle of facts." Things do not act in a particular way because there is a law, but we state the "law" because they act in that way.
  • The law is a sort of hocus-pocus science, that smiles in yer face while it picks yer pocket; and the glorious uncertainty of it is of mair use to the professors than the justice of it.
  • A lawsuit is to ordinary life what war is to peacetime. In a lawsuit, everybody on the other side is bad. A trial transcript is a discourse in malevolence.
  • In life, it is hard enough to see another person's view of things; in a lawsuit, it is impossible. The fatal attraction of a lawsuit—as Dickens showed us in Bleak House, with the case of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce—is the infinite scope it offers for escape from the real world of ambiguity, obscurity, doubt, disappointment, compromise, and accomodation. The world of the lawsuit is the world of the Platonic ideal, where all is clear, etched, one thing or the other. It is a world—as Dickens showed with his allegory of obsession—that we enter at our peril, since it is also the world of madness.
    • Janet Malcolm, The Journalist and the Murderer. New York: Knopf, 1990, pp. 148–9.
  • The whole drift of our law is toward the absolute prohibition of all ideas that diverge in the slightest from the accepted platitudes, and behind that drift of law there is a far more potent force of growing custom, and under that custom there is a national philosophy which erects conformity into the noblest of virtues and the free functioning of personality into a capital crime against society.
    • H. L. Mencken, A Little Book of Aphorisms (New York: 1947), p. 75.
  • Laws, in their most general signification, are the necessary relations derived from the nature of things.
    • Montesquieu, reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 375.
  • Jesus wanted to liberate everyone from the law — from all laws. But this could not be achieved by abolishing or changing the law. He had to dethrone the law. He had to ensure that the law be man’s servant and not his master (Mark 2:27-28). Man must therefore take responsibility for his servant, the law, and use it to serve the needs of mankind.
    • Albert Nolan, Jesus Before Christianity: The Gospel of Liberation (1976), p. 72.
  • There was a recognition by all who participated in these reviews that the challenges to our privacy do not come from government alone. Corporations of all shapes and sizes track what you buy, store and analyze our data, and use it for commercial purposes; that’s how those targeted ads pop up on your computer and your smartphone periodically. But all of us understand that the standards for government surveillance must be higher. Given the unique power of the state, it is not enough for leaders to say: Trust us, we won’t abuse the data we collect. For history has too many examples when that trust has been breached. Our system of government is built on the premise that our liberty cannot depend on the good intentions of those in power; it depends on the law to constrain those in power.
  • To disrespect the masses is moral; to honor them, lawful.
    • Friedrich Schlegel, Lucinde and the Fragments, p. Firchow, trans. (1991), “Athenaeum Fragments” § 211.
  • Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
  • It is as if a man were acquiring the knowledge of the humors and desires of a great strong beast which he had in his keeping, how it is to be approached and touched, and when and by what things it is made most savage or gentle, yes, and the several sounds it is wont to utter on the occasion of each, and again what sounds uttered by another make it tame or fierce, and after mastering this knowledge by living with the creature and by lapse of time should call it wisdom, and should construct thereof a system and art and turn to the teaching of it, knowing nothing in reality about which of these opinions and desires is honorable or base, good or evil, just or unjust, but should apply all these terms to the judgments of the great beast, calling the things that pleased it good, and the things that vexed it bad, having no other account to render of them, but should call what is necessary just and honorable, never having observed how great is the real difference between the necessary and the good, and being incapable of explaining it to another.
  • Curse on all laws but those which love has made.
  • Mark what unvary'd laws preserve each state,
    Laws wise as Nature, and as fixed as Fate.
  • I stand ready to negotiate, but I want no part of laws: I acknowledge none; I protest against every order with which some authority may feel pleased on the basis of some alleged necessity to over-rule my free will. Laws: We know what they are, and what they are worth! They are spider webs for the rich and mighty, steel chains for the poor and weak, fishing nets in the hands of government.
    • Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, in "The Authority Principle" in No Gods, No Masters : An Anthology of Anarchism (1980) Daniel Guérin, as translated by Paul Sharkey (1998), p. 90.
  • If one were to pass a law limiting holistic physicians to a single holistic method, I would stick with my dentist.
  • Laws are only observed with the consent of the individuals concerned and a moral change still depends on the individual and not on the passage of any law.
  • Necessity creates the law, — it supersedes rules; and whatever is reasonable and just in such cases is likewise legal.
    • William Scott, 1st Baron Stowell, The Gratitude (1801), 3 Rob. Adm. Rep. 240. Note that "The Gratitude" is the name of a legal case in admiralty, such cases being styled by the name of the vessel at issue.
  • Quædam iura non scripta, sed omnibus scriptis certiora sunt.
    • Some laws are not written, but are more decisive than any written law.
    • Seneca the Elder, Controversiae , Book 1, Chapter 1, sect. 14; translation from Norman T. Pratt Seneca's Drama (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1983) p. 140.
  • You who wear out a good wholesome forenoon in hearing a cause between an orange-wife and a fosset-seller; and then rejourn the controversy of three pence to a second day of audience.
  • He hath resisted law,
    And therefore law shall scorn him further trial
    Than the severity of the public power.
  • In the corrupted currents of this world,
    Offence's gilded hand may shove by justice;
    And oft 'tis seen the wicked prize itself
    Buys out the law
    : but 'tis not so above;
    There is no shuffling, there the action lies
    In his true nature; and we ourselves compell'd,
    Even to the teeth and forehead of our faults,
    To give in evidence.
  • But, I prithee, sweet wag, shall there be gallows standing in England when thou art king? and resolution thus fobbed as it is with the rusty curb of old father antic the law?
  • Faith, I have been a truant in the law,
    And never yet could frame my will to it;
    And therefore frame the law unto my will.
  • Press not a falling man too far! 'tis virtue:
    His faults lie open to the laws; let them,
    Not you, correct him.
  • We must not make a scarecrow of the law,
    Setting it up to fear the birds of prey,
    And let it keep one shape, till custom make it
    Their perch and not their terror.
  • It must not be; there is no power in Venice
    Can alter a decree established:
    'Twill be recorded for a precedent;
    And many an error by the same example
    Will rush into the state.
  • The bloody book of law
    You shall yourself read in the bitter letter
    After your own sense.
  • I am a subject,
    And I challenge law: attorneys are denied me;
    And therefore personally I lay my claim
    To my inheritance of free descent.
  • Before I be convict by course of law,
    To threaten me with death is most unlawful.
  • When I hear any man talk of an unalterable law, the only effect it produces upon me is to convince me that he is an unalterable fool.
  • Law is the rule, principle, obligation or requirement of natural justice.
  • Who ever knew an honest brute
    at law his neighbor prosecute?
  • Necessity knows no law except to conquer.
  • Corruptissima republica, plurimæ leges.
    • The more corrupt the state, the more laws.
    • Tacitus, Annales (AD 117), III. 27.
  • Rebus cunctis inest quidam velut orbis.
    • In all things there is a kind of law of cycles.
    • Tacitus, Annales (AD 117), III. 55.
  • Initia magistratum nostrorum meliora, ferme finis inclinat.
    • Our magistrates discharge their duties best at the beginning; and fall off toward the end.
    • Tacitus, Annales (AD 117), XV. 31.
  • It is important, of course, that controversies be settled right, but there are many civil questions which arise between individuals in which it is not so important the controversy be settled one way or another as that it be settled. Of course a settlement of a controversy on a fundamentally wrong principle of law is greatly to be deplored, but there must of necessity be many rules governing the relations between members of the same society that are more important in that their establishment creates a known rule of action than that they proceed on one principle or another. Delay works always for the man with the longest purse.
    • William Howard Taft, informal address to the judicial section of the American Bar Association, Cincinnati, Ohio (August 30, 1921); reported in "Adequate Machinery for Judicial Business", American Bar Association Journal (September 1921), p. 453.
  • But speaking of rules, you've been arrested dozens of times in your life. Specific incidents aside, what's common to these run-ins? Where do you stand vis-à-vis the law?
    "Goddammit. Yeah, I have. First, there's a huge difference between being arrested and being guilty. Second, see, the law changes and I don't. How I stand vis-à-vis the law at any given moment depends on the law. The law can change from state to state, from nation to nation, from city to city. I guess I have to go by a higher law. How's that? Yeah, I consider myself a road man for the lords of karma."
  • No man e'er felt the halter draw,
    With good opinion of the law.
  • In civilized life, law floats in a sea of ethics.
    • Earl Warren, Speech at the Louis Marshall Award Dinner of the Jewish Theological Seminary, Americana Hotel, New York City (11 November 1962).
  • American industry is not free, as once it was free; American enterprise is not free; the man with only a little capital is finding it harder to get into the field, more and more impossible to compete with the big fellow. Why? Because the laws of this country do not prevent the strong from crushing the weak. That is the reason, and because the strong have crushed the weak the strong dominate the industry and the economic life of this country.
    • Woodrow Wilson, The New Freedom: A Call For the Emancipation of the Generous Energies of a People (1913).
  • The law isn't perfect. Neither are the people who've created it. But it's been made with the endless effort to do good.
    • Takeshi Kaga as Soichiro Yagami, "Death Note: The Last Name" (2006). (author?).
  • Law is the backbone which keeps man erect.
    • Seymour C. Yuter, arguing for passage of the Nuclear Test Ban treaty and Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Vol. 25, No. 8 (October 1969), p. 23.
  • Because of plea-bargaining, I guess we can say, "Gee, the trains run on time." But do we like where they are going?

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations[edit]

Written laws are like spiders' webs, and will like them only entangle and hold the poor and weak, while the rich and powerful will easily break through them. ~ Anacharsis
Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 430-34.
  • Ove son leggi,
    Tremar non dee chi leggi non infranse.
    • Where there are laws, he who has not broken them need not tremble.
    • Vittorio Alfieri, Virginia, II. 1.
  • Law is king of all.
  • Written laws are like spiders' webs, and will like them only entangle and hold the poor and weak, while the rich and powerful will easily break through them.
  • Law is a bottomless pit.
  • One of the Seven was wont to say: "That laws were like cobwebs; where the small flies were caught, and the great brake through."
  • All this is but a web of the wit; it can work nothing.
  • There was an ancient Roman lawyer, of great fame in the history of Roman jurisprudence, whom they called Cui Bono, from his having first introduced into judicial proceedings the argument, "What end or object could the party have had in the act with which he is accused."
  • I do not know the method of drawing up an indictment against an whole people.
  • A good parson once said that where mystery begins religion ends. Cannot I say, as truly at least, of human laws, that where mystery begins, justice ends?
  • The law of England is the greatest grievance of the nation, very expensive and dilatory.
    • Bishop Burnet, History of His Own Times.
  • The law of heaven and earth is life for life.
  • Who to himself is law, no law doth need,
    Offends no law, and is a king indeed.
  • Jus gentium.
    • The law of nations.
    • Cicero, De Officiis (44 B.C.), III. 17.
  • For as the law is set over the magistrate, even so are the magistrates set over the people. And therefore, it may be truly said, "that the magistrate is a speaking law, and the law is a silent magistrate."
    • Cicero, On the Laws, Book III. I.
  • Silent enim leges inter arma.
    • For the laws are dumb in the midst of arms.
    • Cicero, Pro Milone, IV.
  • After an existence of nearly twenty years of almost innocuous desuetude these laws are brought forth.
  • Magna Charta is such a fellow that he will have no sovereign.
    • Sir Edward Coke, Debate in the Commons (17 May 1628).
  • Reason is the life of the law; nay, the common law itself is nothing else but reason. * * * The law which is perfection of reason.
  • The gladsome light of jurisprudence.
  • According to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not.
  • Trial by jury itself, instead of being a security to persons who are accused, shall be a delusion, a mockery, and a snare.
    • Lord Denman, O'Connell vs. the Queen, II. C. and F., 351 (Sept. 4, 1894).
  • Whatever was required to be done, the Circumlocution Office was beforehand with all the public departments in the art of perceiving — HOW NOT TO DO IT.
  • When the judges shall be obliged to go armed, it will be time for the courts to be closed.
    • S. J. Field, when advised to arm himself, in California (1889).
  • Our human laws are but the copies, more or less imperfect, of the eternal laws, so far as we can read them.
  • Just laws are no restraint upon the freedom of the good, for the good man desires nothing which a just law will interfere with.
  • Whenever the offence inspires less horror than the punishment, the rigour of penal law is obliged to give way to the common feelings of mankind.
    • Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapter XIV, Volume I.
  • Es erben sich Gesetz und Rechte
    Wie eine ew'ge Krankheit fort.
  • A cloud of witnesses.
    • Hebrews, XII. 1.
  • Quid leges sine moribus
    Vanæ proficiunt?
    • Of what use are laws, inoperative through public immorality?
    • Horace, Carmina, III. 24. 35.
  • To the law and to the testimony.
  • The law is the last result of human wisdom acting upon human experience for the benefit of the public.
  • Dat veniam corvis, vexat censura columbas.
    • The verdict acquits the raven, but condemns the dove.
    • Juvenal, Satires, II. 63.
  • Ad quæstionem juris respondeant judices ad quæstionem facti respondeant juratores.
    • Let the judges answer to the question of law, and the jurors to the matter of the fact.
      • Law Maxim.
  • We must never assume that which is incapable of proof.
    • G. H. Lewes, The Physiology of Common Life, Chapter XIII.
  • Hominem improbum non accusari tutius est quam absolvi.
    • It is safer that a bad man should not be accused, than that he should be acquitted.
      • Livy, Annales, XXXIV. 4.
  • La charte sera désormais une vérité.
  • And folks are beginning to think it looks odd,
    To choke a poor scamp for the glory of God.
  • Perchè, cosi come i buoni costumi, per mantenersi, hanno bisogno delli leggi; cosi le leggi per ossevarsi, hanno bisogno de' buoni costumi.
    • For as laws are necessary that good manners may be preserved, so there is need of good manners that laws may be maintained.
    • Niccolò Machiavelli, Dei Discorsi, I. 18.
  • The law is a sort of hocus-pocus science, that smiles in yeer face while it picks yeer pocket: and the glorious uncertainty of it is of mair use to the professors than the justice of it.
    • Macklin, Love à la Mode, Act II, scene 1.
  • Nisi per legale judicium parum suorum.
    • Unless by the lawful judgment of their peers.
    • Magna Charta, Privilege of Barons of Parliament.
  • Certis * * * legibus omnia parent.
  • The law speaks too softly to be heard amidst the din of arms.
    • Caius Marius, when complaint was made of his granting the freedom of Rome to a thousand Camerians, in Plutarch's Life of Caius Marius.
  • Render therefore unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar's.
    • Jesus in Matthew, XXII. 21.
  • Litigious terms, fat contentions, and flowing fees.
  • Le bruit des armes l'empeschoit d'entendre la voix des lois.
  • There is no man so good, who, were he to submit all his thoughts and actions to the laws would not deserve hanging ten times in his life.
  • Neque enim lex est æquior ulla,
    Quam necis artifices arte perire sua.
    • Nor is there any law more just, than that he who has plotted death shall perish by his own plot.
    • Ovid, Ars Amatoria, I. 665.
  • Sunt superis sua jura.
    • The gods have their own laws.
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, IX. 499.
  • Nescis tu quam meticulosa res sit ire ad judicem.
    • You little know what a ticklish thing it is to go to law.
  • Non est princeps super leges, sed leges supra principem.
    • The prince is not above the laws, but the laws above the prince.
  • All, look up with reverential awe,
    At crimes that 'scape, or triumph o'er the law.
  • Piecemeal they win this acre first then, that,
    Glean on, and gather up the whole estate.
  • Once (says an Author; where, I need not say)
    Two Trav'lers found an Oyster in their way;
    Both fierce, both hungry; the dispute grew strong,
    While Scale in hand Dame Justice pass'd along.
    Before her each with clamour pleads the Laws.
    Explain'd the matter, and would win the cause,
    Dame Justice weighing long the doubtful Right,
    Takes, open, swallows it, before their sight.
    The cause of strife removed so rarely well,
    "There take" (says Justice), "take ye each a shell.
    We thrive at Westminster on Fools like you:
    'Twas a fat oyster—live in peace—Adieu."
  • Let us consider the reasons of the case. For nothing is law that is not reason.
  • He that is surety for a stranger shall smart for it.
    • Proverbs, XI. 15.
  • That very law which moulds a tear,
    And bids it trickle from its source,
    That law preserves the earth a sphere,
    And guides the planets in their course.
  • La loi permet souvent ce que défend l'honneur.
  • Si judicas, cognosce; si regnas, jube.
  • Qui statuit aliquid, parte inaudita altera,
    Æquum licet statuerit, haud æquus fuerit.
    • He who decides a case without hearing the other side, though he decide justly, cannot be considered just.
  • Inertis est nescire, quid liceat sibi.
    Id facere, laus est, quod decet; non, quod licet.
    • It is the act of the indolent not to know what he may lawfully do. It is praiseworthy to do what is becoming, and not merely what is lawful.
    • Seneca the Younger, Octavia, CCCCLIII.
  • There is a higher law than the Constitution.
  • Laws are generally found to be nets of such a texture, as the little creep through, the great break through, and the middle-sized alone are entangled in.
  • When to raise the wind some lawyer tries,
    Mysterious skins of parchment meet our eyes;
    On speeds the smiling suit—
    . . . . . .
    Till stript—nonsuited—he is doomed to toss
    In legal shipwreck, and redeemless loss,
    Lucky, if like Ulysses, he can keep
    His head above the waters of the deep.
    • Horace and James Smith, Rejected Addresses, Architectural Atoms. Translation by Dr. B. T.
  • Men keep their engagements when it is an advantage to both parties not to break them.
  • Laws are like cobwebs, which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornets break through.
  • Bonis nocet quisquis pepercerit malis.
    • He hurts the good who spares the bad.
    • Syrus, Maxims.
  • Judex damnatur cum nocens absolvitur.
    • The judge is condemned when the guilty is acquitted.
    • Syrus, Maxims.
  • A man must not go to law because the musician keeps false time with his foot.
    • Jeremy Taylor, Volume VIII, p. 145. The Worthy Communicant, Chap, IV. Sect, IV. Quoted from Schott, Adagia, p. 351. Prov. E, Suida. Cent, II. 17.
  • Quod vos jus cogit, id voluntate impetret.
    • What the law insists upon, let it have of your own free will.
    • Terence, Adelphi, III. 4. 44.
  • Jus summum sæpe summa est malitia.
    • The strictest law sometimes becomes the severest injustice.
      • Terence, Heauton timoroumenos, IV. 5. 48.
  • The law is good, if a man use it lawfully.
    • I Timothy. I. 8.
  • No man e'er felt the halter draw,
    With good opinion of the law.
  • The Law: It has honored us, may we honor it.
  • The glorious uncertainty of law.
    • Toast of Wilbraham at a dinner of judges and counsel at Serjeants' Inn Hall (1756). Quoted by Mr. Sheridan in 1802.
  • And he that gives us in these days
    New Lords may give us new laws.
  • And through the heat of conflict keeps the law
    In calmness made, and sees what he foresaw.
  • He it was that first gave to the law the air of a science. He found it a skeleton, and clothed it with life, colour, and complexion; he embraced the cold statue, and by his touch it grew into youth, health, and beauty.

The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904)[edit]

Quotes reported in James William Norton-Kyshe, The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 147-157; 182
The law of necessity dispenses with things which otherwise are not lawful to be done.
  • It is my province to lay down the law. Every lawyer knows that the law is the result of a great deal of learning.
    • Erie, J., Queen v. Dowling (1848), 7 St. Tr. (N. S.) 438.
  • The law does not consist in particular instances, though it is explained by particular instances and rules, but the law consists of principles, which govern specific and individual cases, as they happen to arise.
  • Law grows, and though the principles of law remain unchanged, yet (and it is one of the advantages of the common law) their application is to be changed with the changing circumstances of the times. Some persons may call this retrogression, I call it progression of human opinion.
  • We may appeal to the experience of every sensible lawyer, whether anything can be more hazardous or discouraging than the usual entrance on the study of the law.
  • I cannot say the law was ever a hard mistress to me: and she did not allow me long to languish in idleness, nor ever suffer me to be without hope. But, of course, I had many idle days, and I was rather fond of note-taking as a very instructive practice, whenever the case was an interesting one, and I found great benefit from it when the facility of taking an accurate and full note rapidly became of the greatest importance in the course of my after life at the Bar and on the Bench.
    • Right Hon. Sir John T. Coleridge, "Circuit Reminiscences." The Jur. (N.S.) Vol. V. and VI., Part 2 (1869—1860), p. 377. See also post, Law Reports, 3, n.
  • Reading, maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man; — and, therefore, if a man write little, he had need have a great memory; if he confer little, he had need have a present wit; and if he read little, he had need have much cunning to seem to know that he doth not.
    • Lord Bacon.
  • Leges posteriores priores, contrarias abrogant
    • Subsequent laws repeal prior contrary laws.
    • 11 Co. 626.
  • The truth is . . . the old feudal law existing in England … is only being broken down slowly by legislation and decisions of the Court, and . . . still exists to a very great extent.
    • Kay, J., Whitby v. Mitchell (1889), L. R. 42 C. D. 500.
  • There is no positive law: Many things are bad by that, which otherwise were not.
  • No man can come into a British Court of justice to seek the assistance of the law who founds his claim upon a contravention of the British laws.
    • Lord Alvanley, C.J., Morck v. Abel (1802), 3 Bos. and Pull. 38.
  • That whom he could not by the sword destroy, he might supplant by the law.
    • Hobart, C.J., Sheffeild v. Ratcliffe (1614), Lord Hobart's Rep. 335.
  • Contemporaria expositio legis est optima, a contemporary exposition of a law, if there be any question about it, as our books tell us, is always the best, because the temper of the law-makers is then best known.
    • Holt, C.J., Harcourt v. Fox (1693), Shower's Rep. 326.
  • I am sorry to think, that Englishmen should seem to excuse themselves by ignorance of the law, which all subjects are bound to know, and are born to have the benefit of.
    • Popham, C.J., Trial of Sir Christopher Blunt and others (1600), 1 How. St. Tr. 1450.
  • He had no right to take the law into his own hands.
    • Lord Kenyon, Tarleton v. McGawley (1795), 2 Peake, N. P. Ca. 208.
  • Every one must be supposed to be cognizant of a public law.
  • Every man (who is of sufficient understanding to be responsible for his actions) is supposed to be cognizant of the law, as it is the rule by which every subject of the kingdom is to be governed, and therefore it is his business to know it.
    • Willes, J., King v. Shipley (1784), 3 Doug. 177.
  • Every man must be taken to be cognizant of the law, otherwise there is no saying to what extent the excuse of ignorance may not be Law carried. It would be urged in almost every case.
  • Ignorantia juris non excusat. The true meaning of that maxim is that parties cannot excuse themselves from liability from all civil or criminal consequences of their acts by alleging ignorance of the law, but there is no presumption that parties must be taken to know all the legal consequences of their acts, and especially where difficult questions of law, or of the practice of the Court are involved.
    • Lord FitzGerald, Seaton v. Seaton (1888), L. R. 13 Ap. Ca. 78.
  • A mere evasion, colour, disguise and device to evade the law.
    • Lord Mansfield, Sulfton v. Norton (1761), 3 Burr. Part IV., p. 1237.
  • It has been said that ignorance of law is no excuse, but when the Court has a discretion the petitioner's ignorance of the law may be properly excused.
    • Barnes, J., Whitworth v. Whitworth and Thomasson (1893), 62 L. J. Rep. P.C.C. (1893), p. 73.
  • Very happily, the more the law is looked into, the more it appears founded in equity, reason, and good sense.
  • It being a maxim that three things are always favoured in law, life, liberty and dower.
    • Per. Cur., Dumsday v. Hughes (1803), 3 Bos. and Pull. 456.
  • Lex est sanctio jiista jubens honesta et prohibens contraria.
    Lex est summa ratio.
    Ratio est anima legis.
    Nulla vetita ant turpia praesumuntur, sed contraria omnia legitima ataue honesta
    .
    The common lawe itselfe is nothing else but reason; which is to be understood of an artificiall perfection of reason, gotten by long study, observation, and of experience, and not of every man's natural reason; for nemo nascitur artifem. This legall reason est summa ratio. And therefore if all the reason that is dispersed into so many severall heads, were united into one, yet could he not make such a law as the law of England is, because by many successions of ages it hath been fined and refined by an infinite number of grave and learned men, and by long experience growne to such a perfection, for the gouvernment of this realme, as the old rule may be justly verified of it, neminem oportet esse sapientiorem legibus: no man, out of his own private reason, ought to be wiser than the law, which is the perfection of reason.
  • It is true as a general proposition that knowledge of the law must be imputed to every person, but it would be too much to impute knowledge of this rule of equity; election as a question of intention of course implies knowledge.
    • Lord Westbury, Spread v. Morgan (11 H. L. C. 602).
  • The laws alone are they that always speak with all persons, high or low, in one and the same impartial voice. The law knows no favourites.
    • Sir Robert Atkyns, L.C.B., Trial of Sir Edward Hales (1686), 11 How. St. Tr. 1206.
  • The law would be a strange science if it rested solely upon Cases; and if after so large an increase of Commerce, Arts and Circumstances accruing, we must go to the time of Rich. I. to find a Case and see what is law.
  • It is far more important the law should be administered with absolute integrity, than that in this case or in that the law should be a good law or a bad one.
  • Every object and purpose of justice is effectually answered, and every supposed inconvenience is effectually rebutted by the law as it stands.
    • Bayley, J., King v. Woolf (1819), 1 Chit. 423.
  • Sometimes rhetorical phrases are applied even by eminent Judges to propositions of law. In Lord Dungannon v. Smith Lord Brougham in eloquent language declared it as "one of the corner stones of the law," and I understand the Lord Chancellor in the same case to have considered the decision in Jee v. Audley to be "one of the landmarks."
    • Chitty, J., In re Dawson; Johnston v. Hill (1888), L. R. 39 C. D. 152.
  • I cannot help thinking that where a person appeals to the Law of England, he must take his remedy according to the Law of England to which he has appealed.
    • Wilmot, J., Robinson v. Bland (1760), 2 Burr. Part IV. 1084.
  • The sparks of all the sciences in the world are raked up in the ashes of the law.
    • Finche, L. b. 1, c. 3.
  • The law is not apt to catch at actions.
    • Powys, J., Ashby v. White (1703), 2 Ld. Raym. 944.
  • It was nobly said in another place (I heard it with pleasure, and thought it becoming the dignity of the person who pronounced it, and the place in which it was pronounced) " that the law is best applied, when it is subservient to the honesty of the case."
    • Buller, J., Master v. Miller (1791), 4 T. R. 335.
  • It is of very little consequence to the public to lay down definite rules of law, if you have indefinite rules of evidence.
    • Thurlow, L.C., Fox. v. Mackreth (1788), 2 Cox, 320.
  • It has been sometimes said, communis error facit jus; but I say communis opinio is evidence of what the law is; not where it is an opinion merely floating and theoretical floating in the minds of persons but where it has been made the ground-work and substratum of practice.
  • Judges could by their resolution alter the practice, but never the law.
    • Blackburn, J., Reg. v. Charlesworth (1861), 9 Cox, C. C. 67.
  • Law and conscience are one and the same.
    • Bacon, J., Watson v. Watson (1670), Style's Rep. 56.
  • The law is for the protection of the weak more than the strong.
    • Erie, J., Reg v. Woolley (1850), 4 Cox, C. C. 196.
  • The law protects nothing in that very respect, in which it is, at the same time, in the eye of the law, a crime.
    • Lord Mansfield, Evans v. The Chamberlain of London (1720), (App. to Furneaux's Letters), 2 Burn's Eccl. Law, 207; Harrison v. Evans (in Error) 6 Bro. P. C. 181.
  • The law of England will not sanction what is inconsistent with humanity.
    • Best, J., Hott v. Wilkes (1820), 4 B. & A. 319.
  • The law rarely hesitates in declaring its own meaning; but the Judges are frequently puzzled to find out the meaning of others.
  • The law does not act vindictively.
    • Bacon, V.-C, Barrett v. Hammond (1879), L. R. 10 C. D. 289.
  • The law has respect to human infirmity.
    • Best, C.J., Robertson v. McDougall (1828), 4 Bing. 679.
  • We cannot judge of the fact, but the law upon the fact.
    • Pratt, J., Rex v. Inhabitantes de Haughton (1718), 1 Str. Rep. 84.
  • As a lawyer I am before and above all things for the supremacy of law.
  • A Court has no right to strain the law because it causes hardship.
  • Your lordships must look hardships in the face rather than break down the rules of law.
    • Lord Eldon, C, Berkeley Peerage Case (1811), 4 Camp. 419.
  • I would wish to do as much as possible for you; but I cannot strain the law.
    • Earl of Clonwell, L.C.J., Jackson's Case (1795), 25 How. St. Tr. 879.
  • It is a principle of law, that a person intends to do that which is the natural effect of what he does.
  • Hard cases, it is said, make bad law.
    • Lord Campbell, C.J., Ex parte Long (1854), 3 W. R. 19.
  • All arguments on the hardship of a case, either on one side or the other, must be rejected, when we are pronouncing what the law is; for such arguments are only quicksands in the law, and, if indulged, will soon swallow up every principle of it.
    • Buller, J., Yates v. Hall, (1785), 1 T. R. 80.
  • What I desire to point out is that I wish the law was not so, but that being the law, I must follow it.
    • Romer, J., Davies v. Parry (1899), 1 L. R. C. D. 605.
  • There is no worse torture than the torture of laws.
    • Lord Bacon, fo. edit. Vol. I. 440, 441.
  • Hard cases, it has been frequently observed, are apt to introduce bad law.
    • Wolfe, B., Winterbottom v. Wright (1842), 10 Meeson k Welsby, 116.
  • General laws cannot give way to particular cases.
  • We must not, by any whimsical conceits supposed to be adapted to the altering fashions of the times, overturn the established law of the land: it descended to us as a sacred charge, and it is our duty to preserve it.
    • Lord Kenyon, C.J., Clayton v. Adams (1796), 6 T. R. 605.
  • We must proceed according to evidence, and forms and methods of law; they may think what they will of me, but I will always declare my mind according to my conscience.
    • Wright, L.C.J., Trial of the Seven Bishops (1688), 12 How. St. Tr. 344.
  • Lex Anglite est lex misericordite. The law of England is a law of mercy.
    • Coke, 2 Inst. 315.
  • If the law be thought to be improper or inconvenient, application to correct it must be made elsewhere, and not to those who are bound by the repeated and solemn judgments of their predecessors.
    • Buller, J., Bishop of London v. Ffytche (1800), 1 East, 495.
  • No person is less disposed than I am to accommodate the law to the particular convenience of the case: but I am always glad when I find the strict law and the justice of the case going hand in hand together.
    • Lord Kenyon, C.J., Peaceable v. Read and others (1801), 1 East. 573.
  • I agree that is the law, though I think it is a hard law; but we have nothing to do with the question of hardship.
    • Lord Esher, M.R., In re Perkins (1890), L. R. 24 Q. B. D. 618.
  • Anglite jura in omni catu libertatis dant favorem: The laws of England in every case of liberty are favourable.
    • Fortescue c. 42.
  • What is ridiculous and absurd never is, to my mind, to be adopted either in law or in equity.
    • Brett, M.R., In re Garnett; Gandy v. Macaulay (1885), L. R. 31 C. D. 9.
  • I think the law is generally reasonable.
    • Cotton, L.J., Bidder v. Bridges (1887), L. J. 57 C. D. 304.
  • Now when a rule of law which is against principle is alleged to be established, there are two points to be considered; first of all, was any such rule of law ever laid down by any Judge? That is the first point to be decided; and secondly, if it was so laid down, has it passed into a binding rule of law ?—that is, has it been so recognised and dealt with by subsequent Judges as to prevent a Judge of a tribunal of co-ordinate jurisdiction from saying that the decision is contrary to the course of law, and is not binding upon him.
    • Jessel, M.R., Henty v. Wrey (1882), L. R. 21 C. D. 340.
  • The picture of law triumphant and justice prostrate, is not, I am aware, without admirers. To me it is a sorry spectacle. The spirit of justice does not reside in formalities, or words, nor is the triumph of its administration to be found in successfully picking a way between the pitfalls of technicality. After all, the law is, or ought to be, but the handmaid of justice, and inflexibility, which is the most becoming robe of the latter, often serves to render the former grotesque. But any real inroad upon the rights and opportunities for defence of a person charged with a breach of the law, whereby the certainty of justice might be imperilled, I conceive to be a matter of the highest moment.
    • Lord Penzance, Combe v. Edwards (1878), L. R. 3 P. D. 142.
  • Whatever disadvantages attach to a system of unwritten law, and of these we are fully sensible, it has at least this advantage, that its elasticity enables those who administer it to adapt it to the varying conditions of society, and to the requirements and habits of the age in which we live, so as to avoid the inconsistencies and injustice which arise when the law is no longer in harmony with the wants and usages and interests of the generation to which it is immediately applied.
    • Cockburn, C.J., Wason v. Walter (1868), L. R. 4 Q. B. 93.
  • You say well: the law of God is the law of England; and you have heard no law else, but what is consonant to the law of reason, which is the best law of God; and here is none else urged against you.
    • Keble, C.J., Lilburne's Case (1649), 4 How. St. Tr. 1307.
  • God made man, and gave him a law to live by; and the laws of England are grounded on the laws of God: and in the laws of England every man is concerned.
    • Garmond, J., Streater's Case (1653), 5 How. St. Tr. 387.
  • Personally, I detest any attempt to bring the law into maxims. Maxims are invariably wrong, that is, they are so general and large that they always include something which is not intended to be included.
    • Lord Esher, M.R., Yarmouth v. France (1887), L. J. 57 Q. B. 9.
  • There is no other power in England, but a legal power to punish according to law.
    • Holt, C.J., Duncombe's Case (1699), 13 How. St. Tr. 1077.
  • Retrospective laws are, primd facie of questionable policy, and contrary to the general principle that legislation by which the conduct of mankind is to be regulated ought, when introduced for the first time, to deal with future acts, and ought not to change the character of past transactions carried on upon the faith of the then existing law. Leges et constitutiones futuris certum est dare formam negotiis non ad facta proBterita revocari; nisi nominatim et de praiterito tempore et adhuc pendentibus negotiis cautum sit.
    • Willes, J., Phillips v. Eyre (1870), L. R. 6 Q. B. 23.
  • Whatever place becomes the habitation of civilized men, there the laws of decency must be inforced.
    • McDonald, C.B., Rex v. Crunden (1809), 2 Camp. 89.
  • There is no law whatsoever but may be dispensed with by the Supreme Law-giver; as the laws of God may be dispensed with by God himself; as it appears by God's command to Abraham, to offer up his son Isaac: so likewise the law of man may be dispensed with by the legislator, for a law may either be too wide or too narrow, and there may be many cases which may be out of the conveniences which did induce the law to be made; for it is impossible for the wisest lawmaker to foresee all the cases that may be, or are to be remedied, and therefore there must be a power somewhere, able to dispense with these laws.
    • Herbert, C.J., Hale's Case (1686), 11 How. St. Tr. 1196.
  • Nova constitutio futuris formam impomere debet non praeteritis: A new state of the law ought to affect the future, not the past.
    • 2 Inst. 292.
  • Lex prospicit non respicit: The law looks forward, not backward.
    • Jenk. Cent. 284.
  • Omnis nova eonstitutio futuris temporibus formam imponere debet, non prateritis: Every new enactment should affect future, not past times.
    • 2 Intt. 95.
  • If the law be so, there must be some just and honest reason for it, or else some universal settled rule of law upon which it is grounded.
    • Holt, C.J., Coggs v. Bernard (1704), Raym. 909.
  • If it is law, it will be found in our books. If it is not to be found there, it is not law.
    • Camden, L.C.J., Case of Seizure of Papers (1765), 19 How. St. Tr. 1066.
  • You were speaking of the laws being in other tongues; those that we try you by are in English; and we proceed in English against you; and therefore you have no cause to complain.
    • Michel, J., Lilburne's Case (1649), 4 How. St. Tr. 1311.
  • The laws of England will protect the rights of British subjects, and give a remedy for a grievance committed by one British subject upon another, in whatever country that may be done.
    • Bayley, J., Forbes v. Cochrane and Cockburn (1824), 2 St. Tr. (N. S.) 159.
  • A residence in a new country often introduces a change of legal condition, which imposes rights and obligations totally inconsistent with the former rights and obligations of the same persons.
    • Lord Stowell, The Slave Grace (1827), 2 St. Tr. (N. S.) 289; 2 Hagg. 94.
  • The law of nature is that which God at the time of creation of the nature of man infused into his heart, for his preservation and direction; and this is lex ceterna, the moral law, called also the law of nature. And by this law, written with the finger of God in the heart of man, were the people of God a long time governed, before the law was written by Moses, who was the first reporter or writer of law in the world.
    • Lord Coke, Calvin's Case (1608), 4 Co. 21.
  • De non apparentibus, et noti existentibia, eadem est ratio: Things which do not appear are to be treated as the same as those which do not exist.
    • Co.
  • Shew me any law for that if you can, Mr. Williams, I know you are a lawyer.
    • Jefferies, L.C.J., Trial of John Hampden (1684), 9 How. St. Tr. 1057.
  • Every moral man is as much bound to obey the civil law of the land as the law of nature.
    • Eooke, J., Aubert v. Maze (1801), 1 Bos. & Pull. 375.
  • If a man endeavours to obtain a repeal of those laws, which are conceived to be obnoxious, or the introduction of any laws which he believes to be salutary, if he does that legally, there is no objection to it.
    • Bayley, J., R. v. Hunt and others (1820), 1 St. Tr. (N. S.) 484.
  • The law has prescribed a particular method, and we cannot alter the law, nor prevent the inconveniences.
    • Holt, C.J., Tawney's Case (1703), 2 Raym. 1013.
  • Sans fact conus, est impossible de seier la ley sur cest fact: Without a known fact, it is impossible to know the law on that fact.
    • Vaughan, J., Bushel's Case (1670), Jones's (Sir Thos.) Rep. 16.
  • It would be of ill-consequence, to authenticate a body of laws, that have lain dormant for two hundred years.
    • Foster, J., The King v. Bishop of Ely (1750), 1 Black. Rep. 59.
  • It is a public scandal when the law is forced to uphold a dishonest act.
    • Lord Macnaghten, Nordenfelt v. Maxim Nordenfelt &c. Co. (1894), L. R. App. Ca. Part 5, p. 573.
  • Legality and oppression are not unknown to run hand in hand.
    • Hawkins, J., Roberts v. Jones; Willey v. Great Northern Railway Co. (1891), L. R. 2 Q. B. [1891], p. 203.
  • The law of necessity dispenses with things which otherwise are not lawful to be done.
    • Per Cur.,1 Manby v. Scott (1672), 1 Levinz, 4; 2 Sm. L. C. (8th ed.) 446.
  • Necessity is the law of the time and action, and things are lawful by necessity, which otherwise are not; "Quicguid necessitas cogit, defendit"; and the law of the time must regulate the law of the place in such public things.
  • Necessitas est lex temporis et loci
    • Necessity is the law of time and place.
    • Hale's V. C. 54.

Respectfully Quoted (1989)[edit]

  • He that keepeth the law of the Lord getteth the understanding thereof: and the perfection of the fear of the Lord is wisdom.
    • The Bible (Apocrypha), Ecclesiasticus 21:11.
  • If you like laws and sausages, you should never watch either one being made.
    • Widely attributed to Otto von Bismarck. Reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).
  • So great moreover is the regard of the law for private property, that it will not authorize the least violation of it; no, not even for the general good of the whole community.
    • Sir William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England (1783, reprinted 1978), 9th ed., book 1, chapter 1, section 3, p. 139.
  • The law is not a "light" for you or any man to see by; the law is not an instrument of any kind. The law is a causeway upon which so long as he keeps to it a citizen may walk safely.
    • Robert Bolt, A Man for All Seasons (1967), act II, p. 92. Sir Thomas More is speaking.
  • Law never is, but is always about to be.
    • Benjamin Cardozo, justice, Court of Appeals of New York State, lecture to Yale Law School, 1921; The Nature of the Judicial Process (1921), lecture 3, p. 126.
  • There is no jewel in the world comparable to learning; no learning so excellent both for Prince and subject, as knowledge of laws; and no knowledge of any laws (I speak of human) so necessary for all estates and for all causes, concerning goods, lands or life, as the common laws of England.
    • Sir Edward Coke, Le Second Part Des Reportes Del Edward Coke(1600–1659), p. vi . Spelling modernized.
  • Good men must not obey the laws too well.
    • Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Politics", Essays: Second Series, in The Complete Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1929), vol. 1, p. 300.
  • Republics abound in young civilians who believe that the laws make the city, that grave modifications of the policy and modes of living and employments of the population, that commerce, education and religion may be voted in or out; and that any measure, though it were absurd, may be imposed on a people if only you can get sufficient voices to make it a law. But the wise know that foolish legislation is a rope of sand which perishes in the twisting; that the State must follow and not lead the character and progress of the citizen; that the form of government which prevails is the expression of what cultivation exists in the population which permits it. The law is only a memorandum.
    • Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Politics", Essays: Second Series in The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1903), vol. 3, p. 199–200.
  • It cannot be helped, it is as it should be, that the law is behind the times.
    • Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., speech at Harvard Law School Association of New York, New York City (February 15, 1913); Speeches by Oliver Wendell Holmes (1934), p. 101.
  • It is revolting to have no better reason for a rule of law than that so it was laid down in the time of Henry IV.
    • Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., associate justice, supreme court of Massachusetts, address delivered at the dedication of the new hall of Boston University School of Law, Boston, Massachusetts (January 8, 1897), Holmes, Address Delivered at the Dedication… (1897), p. 18.
  • The laws of God, the laws of man,
    He may keep that will and can;
    Not I: let God and man decree
    Laws for themselves and not for me;
    And if my ways are not as theirs
    Let them mind their own affairs.
    • A. E. Housman, "The laws of God, the laws of man", line 1–6, Last Poems, in The Collected Poems (1967), p. 79.
  • A strict observance of the written laws is doubtless one of the high duties of a good citizen, but it is not the highest. The laws of necessity, of self-preservation, of saving our country when in danger, are of higher obligation. To lose our country by a scrupulous adherence to written law, would be to lose the law itself, with life, liberty, property and all those who are enjoying them with us; thus absurdly sacrificing the end to the means.
    • Thomas Jefferson, letter to John B. Colvin (September 20, 1810), in Paul L. Ford, ed., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (1898), vol. 9, p. 279.
  • There is, therefore, only one categorical imperative. It is: Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.
    • Immanuel Kant, Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals (1969), trans. Lewis W. Beck, ed. Robert P. Wolff, section 2, p. 44.
  • Because just as good morals, if they are to be maintained, have need of the laws, so the laws, if they are to be observed, have need of good morals.
    • Niccolò Machiavelli, Discourses on the First Decade of Titus Livius (1965), trans. Allan Gilbert, book 1, chapter 18, p. 241.
  • It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is to-day, can guess what it will be to-morrow.
    • James Madison (?), The Federalist, ed. Benjamin F. Wright (1961), no. 62, p. 411–12.

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