John Eardley Wilmot

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Sir John Eardley Wilmot PC (Derby, England, 16 August 1709 – London, 5 February 1792), was an English judge, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas from 1766 to 1771.


  • If once we go upon niceties of construction, we shall not know where to stop. For one nicety is made a foundation for another; and that other for a third; and so on, without end.
    • Rex v. Inhabitants of Caverswall (1758), Burrow (Settlement Cases), 465.
  • Nothing could be of worse consequence, than that an officer of the Court should combine with a criminal to frustrate the sentence of the Court.
    • Rex v. Beardmore (1759), 2 Burr. Part IV. 175.
  • There is no merit in a settlement: it depends upon positive law.
    • Rex v. Corporation of Carmarthen (1759), 2 Burr. Part IV. 873.
  • It is the principle of the common law, that an officer ought not to take money for doing his duty.
    • Stotesbury v. Smith (1759), 2 Burr. Part IV. 928.
  • The time makes no difference in the reason of the thing.
    • Rex v. Inhabitants of Christchurch (1759), 2 Burr. Part IV. 949.
  • It is a strange, wild jurisdiction, where the jurors are judges both of law and fact, and ignorant country fellows2 are to determine the nicest points of law.
    • Doe v. Roe (1760), 2 Burr. Part IV. 1047.
  • 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.
    • Robinson v. Bland (1760), 2 Burr. Part IV. 1084.
  • The sentences of foreign Courts have always some degree of regard paid to them by the Courts of justice here: and it is very right that an attention should be paid to them, as far as they ought to have weight in the case depending.
    • Robinson v. Bland (1760), 2 Burr. Part IV. 1084.
  • An hiatus in government is so detested and abhorred, that the law says, "the King never dies," that there may never be a "cesser" of regal functions for a moment.
    • Case of John Wilkes (1763), 19 How. St. Tr. 1130.
  • We cannot explore any mode of sentencing a man to imprisonment, who is imprisoned already, but by tacking one imprisonment to the other.
    • Case of John Wilkes (1763), 19 How. St. Tr. 1134.
  • You all very well know what deference I always pay, and ever will, to that part of the office of a jury which properly belongs to them. In regard to the law, I have always been as tenacious of the proper function of a Judge, as I have been of that of the jury. I never will, while I have the honour of executing the office of a Judge, attempt to controul or influence their minds in respect of damages; but only submit to them such observations as occur to me upon the evidence.
    • Wilkes v. Lord Halifax (1763), 19 How. St. Tr. 1410.
  • Many of the old cases are strange and absurd : so also are some of the modern ones.
    • Pillans v. Van Mierop (1764), 3 Burr. Part IV. 1671.
  • The husband is not liable for the criminal conduct of his wife.
    • Lockwood v. Coysgarne (1764), 3 Burr. Part IV. 1681.
  • God forbid that the rights of the innocent should be lost and destroyed by the offence of individuals.
    • Mayor, &c. of Colchester v. Seaber (1765), 3 Burr. Part IV. 1871.
  • These laws must be construed according to the intention of them: and the circumstances of things at the time of enacting them ought to be taken into consideration.
    • Rex v. Inhabitants of Burton-Bradstock (1765), Burrow (Settlement Cases), 536.
  • Settlements are supposed in law to be indifferent to paupers; though they are often in fact desirous of one in preference to another.
    • Rex v. Inhabitants of Burton-Bradstock (1765), Burrow (Settlement Cases), 535.
  • A course of precedents and judicial proceedings in Courts of justice make the law: it would be endless to cite cases upon it. A course of practice for a few years has been held to controul an Act of Parliament.
    • Wilkes' Case (1770), 19 How. St. Tr. 1130.

Collins v. Blantern (1767)

  • I am not for stirring a single pebble of the common law.
    • 2 Wils. 341.
  • I have always thought that formerly there was too confined a way of thinking in the Judges of the common law Courts, and that Courts of equity have risen by the Judges not properly applying the principles of the common law, being too narrowly governed by old cases and maxims, which have too much prevented the public from having the benefit of the common law.
    • 2 Wils. 341.
  • You shall not stipulate for iniquity. All writers upon our law agree in this, no polluted hand shall touch the pure fountains of justice.
    • 2 Wils. 341.
  • The statute law is the will of the legislature in writing; the common law is nothing else but statutes worn out by time; all our law began by consent of the legislature, and whether it is now law by usage or writing, it is the same thing.
    • 2 Wils. 341.
  • The manner of the transaction was to gild over and conceal the truth; and whenever Courts of law see such attempts made to conceal such wicked deeds they will brush away the cobweb varnish and show the transactions in their true light.
    • 2 Wils. 349.
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