Legislature

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The way to secure liberty is to place it in the people's hands, that is, to give them the power at all times to defend it in the legislature and in the courts of justice. ~ John Adams
In its proper meaning equality before the law means the right to participate in the making of the laws by which one is governed. ~ Nelson Mandela

A legislature is a decision-making organization, usually associated with national government, that has the power to enact, amend and repeal laws. Legislatures observe and steer governing actions and usually have exclusive authority to amend the budget or budgets involved in the process. The most common names for national legislatures are "parliament" and "congress", although these terms have more specific meanings.

Quotes[edit]

  • Parliament will train you to talk; and above all things to hear, with patience, unlimited quantities of foolish talk.
  • That a Parliament, especially a Parliament with Newspaper Reporters firmly established in it, is an entity which by its very nature cannot do work, but can do talk only.
  • He [Oliver Cromwell] in a furious manner, bid the Speaker leave his chair; told the house "That they had sat long enough, unless they had done more good;… and that it was not fit they should sit as a parliament any longer, and desired them to go away."
    • Oliver Cromwell, dissolving Parliament, April 20, 1653, as reported by Bulstrode Whitlocke; Cobbett's Parliamentary History of England, from the Norman Conquest, in 1066, to the Year 1803 (1808), vol. 3, col. 1383. There is no official version of this speech because the journal entry was expunged by order of Parliament, January 7, 1659. The version most often quoted is that of Thomas Carlyle, who combined three original sources, including Whitlocke, to obtain an "authentic, moderately conceivable account": "You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing lately…. Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God,—go!" Thomas Carlyle, Oliver Cromwell's Letters and Speeches (1897), vol. 3, part 7, p. 34–35. On May 7, 1940, Leopold Amery quoted the Carlyle version (omitting "lately") in the House of Commons, urging Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain to resign. Winston Churchill, The Gathering Storm (vol. 1 of The Second World War; 1948), p. 659. Senator George J. Mitchell quoted the Carlyle version on December 23, 1982; Congressional Record, vol. 128, no. 17, p. S16068 (daily ed.).
  • I come to present the strong claims of suffering humanity. I come to place before the Legislature of Massachusetts the condition of the miserable, the desolate, the outcast. I come as the advocate of helpless, forgotten, insane men and women; of beings sunk to a condition from which the unconcerned world would start with real horror.
  • A plural Legislature is as necessary to good Government as a single Executive. It is not enough that your Legislature should be numerous; it should also be divided. Numbers alone are not a sufficient Barrier against the Impulses of Passion, the Combinations of Interest, the Intrigues of Faction, the Haste of Folly, or the Spirit of Encroachment. One Division should watch over and controul the other, supply its Wants, correct its Blunders, and cross its Designs, should they be criminal or erroneous. Wisdom is the specific Quality of the Legislature, grows out of the Number of the Body, and is made up of the Portions of Sense and Knowledge which each Member brings to it.
    • Benjamin Franklin, "Queries and Remarks Respecting Alterations in the Constitution of Pennsylvania", in Albert H. Smith, ed., The Writings of Benjamin Franklin (1907, reprinted 1970), vol. 10, p. 55–56. This section of his "Queries and Remarks" is a rearrangement and slight rewording of a portion of an anonymous article, "Hints for the Members of the Convention", Federal Gazette (November 3, 1789), p. 2, which had been reprinted from the Carlisle Gazette (October 21, 1789).
  • Great constitutional provisions must be administered with caution. Some play must be allowed for the joints of the machine, and it must be remembered that legislatures are ultimate guardians of the liberties and welfare of the people in quite as great a degree as the courts.
  • Woe to those who make unjust laws,
to those who issue oppressive decrees,
to deprive the poor of their rights
and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people,
making widows their prey
and robbing the fatherless.
What will you do on the day of reckoning,
when disaster comes from afar?
To whom will you run for help?
Where will you leave your riches?
  • No one should negotiate their dreams. Dreams must be free to fly high. No government, no legislature, has a right to limit your dreams. You should never agree to surrender your dreams.
Thomas Jefferson:In fact, it is comfortable to see the standard of reason at length erected, after so many ages, during which the human mind has been held in vassalage by kings, priests, and nobles; and it is honorable for us, to have produced the first legislature who had the courage to declare, that the reason of man may be trusted with the formation of his own opinions.
  • In fact, it is comfortable to see the standard of reason at length erected, after so many ages, during which the human mind has been held in vassalage by kings, priests, and nobles; and it is honorable for us, to have produced the first legislature who had the courage to declare, that the reason of man may be trusted with the formation of his own opinions.
  • The commons, faithful to their system, remained in a wise and masterly inactivity.
    • James Mackintosh, Vindiciae Gallicae, section 1, p. 14 (1838). Originally published in 1791. The phrase "a wise and masterly inactivity" was used in America by Representative John Randolph of Roanoke: "We ought to observe that practice which is the hardest of all—especially for young physicians—we ought to throw in no medicine at all—to abstain—to observe a wise and masterly inactivity." Register of Debates in Congress (January 25, 1828), vol. 4, col. 1170. The phrase was mostly associated, however, with John C. Calhoun, who used it during the nullification crisis and later during the Oregon controversy in 1843. While vice president, Calhoun spoke to the people of South Carolina by addressing the legislature at the close of the session of 1831: "If the Government should be taught thereby, that the highest wisdom of a State is, 'a wise and masterly inactivity,'—an invaluable blessing will be conferred". The Works of John C. Calhoun (1859), vol. 6, p. 143. See Hans Sperber and Travis Trittschuh, American Political Terms (1962), p. 263–64.
  • In its proper meaning equality before the law means the right to participate in the making of the laws by which one is governed, a constitution which guarantees democratic rights to all sections of the population, the right to approach the court for protection or relief in the case of the violation of rights guaranteed in the constitution, and the right to take part in the administration of justice as judges, magistrates, attorneys-general, law advisers and similar positions.
In the absence of these safeguards the phrase 'equality before the law', in so far as it is intended to apply to us, is meaningless and misleading. All the rights and privileges to which I have referred are monopolised by whites, and we enjoy none of them. The white man makes all the laws, he drags us before his courts and accuses us, and he sits in judgement over us.
  • Nelson Mandela, Court statement responding to charges of inciting persons to strike illegally, and of leaving the country without a valid passport (1962), in Law and Morality: Readings in Legal Philosophy, p. 564
  • The legislature, like the executive, has ceased to be even the creature of the people: it is the creature of pressure groups, and most of them, it must be manifest, are of dubious wisdom and even more dubious honesty. Laws are no longer made by a rational process of public discussion; they are made by a process of blackmail and intimidation, and they are executed in the same manner. The typical lawmaker of today is a man wholly devoid of principle—a mere counter in a grotesque and knavish game…. If the right pressure could be applied to him he would be cheerfully in favor of chiropractic, astrology or cannibalism.
    • H. L. Mencken, "The Library," The American Mercury (May 1930), p. 123. This view of Mencken's comes from his book review of The Dissenting Opinions of Mr. Justice Holmes (1930).
  • Average Americans have little or no influence over the making of U.S. government policy. ... Wealthy Americans wield a lot of influence. By investing money in politics, they can turn economic power into political power.
    • Benjamin I. Page and Martin Gilens, Democracy in America?: What Has Gone Wrong and What We Can Do About It (University of Chicago Press: 2017), p. 90
  • Lawyers are apt to speak as though the legislature were omnipotent, as they do not require to go beyond its decisions. It is, of course, omnipotent in the sense that it can make whatever laws it pleases, inasmuch as a law means any rule which has been made by the legislature. But from the scientific point of view, the power of the legislature is of course strictly limited. It is limited, so to speak, both from within and from without; from within, because the legislature is the product of a certain social condition, and determined by whatever determines the society; and from without, because the power of imposing laws is dependent upon the instinct of subordination, which is itself limited. If a legislature decided that all blue-eyed babies should be murdered, the preservation of blue-eyed babies would be illegal; but legislators must go mad before they could pass such a law, and subjects be idiotic before they could submit to it.
  • Bills were passed, not only for national objects but for individual cases, and laws were most numerous when the commonwealth was most corrupt.
  • No man's life, liberty or property are safe while the Legislature is in session.
    • Saying quoted by Gideon J. Tucker, Surrogate, in 1866 report of the final accounting in the estate of A. B. New York Surrogate Reports, 1 Tucker (N. Y. Surr.) 249 (1866).
  • It makes not the smallest difference to the motives of the thrifty and industrious part of mankind whether their fiscal oppressor be an Eastern despot, or a feudal baron, or a democratic legislature, and whether they are taxed for the benefit of a Co.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

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