Wikiquote:Dictionary of Legal Quotations/Section 02

From Wikiquote
Jump to navigation Jump to search


  • The truth is, we live in an age where men are apt to bring those things in question, of which our ancestors never doubted.
    • Powell, J., Britton v. Standish (1704), 6 Mod. 190.
  • Great men ruminating back to the origin of things, lose sight of the present state of the world; and end their enquiries at that point where they should begin our improvements.
    • Willes, J., Millar v. Taylor (1768), 4 Burr. Part TV. 2339.
  • I shall not enter into the crude and uncertain opinions of early times.
    • Blackstone, J., Goodright v. Harwood (1773), Lofft. 221.
  • The children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.
    • St. Luke xvi., 8.
  • Multi multa,nemo omnia novit: Many know many things, no one everything.
  • A duty of imperfect obligation attaches on every one to do what is for the good of society.
    • Cotton, L.J., Waller v. Loch (1881), L. R. 7 Q. B. 622.
  • Every man is bound not wilfully to deceive others or to do any act which may place them in danger.
    • Willes, J., Gautret v. Egerton (1867), L. R. 2 C. P. Ca. 375.
  • A man cannot be allowed to neglect a duty which he has undertaken.
  • Infection is God's arrow.
    • Lord Hale, 1 Hale, P. C, Vol. I. (ed. 1778), p. 432.
  • Now what is the act of God? I consider it to mean something in opposition to the act of man: for everything is the act of God that happens by his permission; everything, by his knowledge.
  • The act of God shall prejudice no man; as, where the law prescribeth means to perfect or settle any right or estate, if by the act of God the means, in some circumstances, become impossible, no party shall receive any damage thereby.
  • Actus Dei nemini faeit injuriam: The act of God is so treated by the law as to affect no one injuriously.
    • 2 Black's Commentaries 122.
  • "He that is greatest among you, let him be your servant" (Matt. xxiii., 11).
    • Quoted by Hobart, C.J., Pitts v. James (1614), Ld. Hob. Rep. 125.
  • Nothing is so easy as to be wise after the event.
    • Quoted by Bramwell, B., Cornman v. The Eastern Counties Rail. Co. (1859), 5 Jur. (N. S), 658.
  • Experience hath shewn, that between the prisons and the graves of princes, the distance is very small.
    • Sir M. Foster, J., Foster's Crown Cas. (1762), Discourse I. c. 1, s. 3.
  • A man is not born a knave; there must be time to make him so, nor is he presently discovered after he becomes one.
    • Lord Holt, Reg. v. Swendsen (1702), 14 How. St. Tr. 596.
  • You know very well the old counsel, and it is a good one, "Fear God, and honour the King, and meddle not with them that are given to change." Meddling with them that are given to change has brought too much mischief already to this nation; and if you will commit the same sin, you must receive the same punishment: for happy is he that by other men's harms take heed.
    • Sir Robert Forster, C.J., Trial of Thomas Tonge and others (1662), 6 How. St. Tr. 265.
  • The Latin is somewhat worse, I think, in this Charter, than in that of Edward the Third: Worse, indeed, I think never existed. The more a man understands Latin the less he will be able to understand this.
    • Lord Mansfield, Mayor, &c. of Berwick-upon-Tweed v. Johnson (1773), Lofft. 338.
  • For he that leaps, before he look, good son,
    May leap in the mire, and miss what he hath done."
    • The Marriage of True Wit and Science (Wit), Act IV. Sc. i.
  • There are no means at my disposal for cutting this Gordian knot.
    • Chitty, J., Cunnack v. Edwards (1895), L. R. 1 C. D. [1895], p. 498.
  • We must take the thing in the grip of our hands.
    • Bowen, L.J., The Queen v. Justices of County of London, &c. (1893), L. R. 2 Q. B. 494.
  • Metaphysical reasoning is too subtile.
    • Willes, J., Millar v. Taylor (1768), 4 Burr. Part IV., 2334.
  • If bitter waters are flowing, it is not necessary to inquire from what source they spring.
    • Sir Wm. Scott, Holden v. Holden (1810), 2 Hagg. Con. Rep. 458.
  • You must have a very good opinion of the ladies, Mr. Attorney; for
    "In amore hace omnia insunt vitia, injurise,
    Suspiciones, inimicitise, induciae,
    Bellum, pax rursum.
    • Hardwicke, L.C., Moore v. Moore (1737), West, Ch. R. 44.
  • Fear thou the Lord and the King: and meddle not with them that are given to change.
    • Prov. xxiv., 21.
  • The point lies in a nutshell.
    • Lord Mansfield, Bulbrook v. Goodere (1765), 3 Burr. Pt. IV. 1770.
  • That was putting the case in a nutshell. But it is one thing to put a case like Shelley's in a nutshell and another thing to keep it there.
    • Lord Macnaghten‎, on the subject of the rule in Shelley's Case (1 Rep. 104a).
  • It was a wise saying, that the farthest way about was often the nearest way home.
    • Quoted by Lord Redesdale, Corporation of Ludlow v. Greenhouse (1827), 1 Bligh, New Rep. 49.
  • "Tout exemple cloche."
    • Quoted by Knight Bruce, L.J., Boyse v. Rossborough (1854), 23 L. J. Rep. Part 5 (N. S.), Ch. 332.
  • Masterly inactivity may be prudence to one man, desperate rashness to another.
    • Kekewich, J., In re Liverpool Household Stores Assoc. (1890), 59 L. J. Rep. C. D. 618.
  • The furthest way about, t' o'ercome,
    In the end does prove the nearest home.
    • Butler, " Hudibras," Pt. II, Canto 1, line 227.
  • Sape viatorem runa, rum fetus, orbita fallit: A new road, not an old one, often deceives the traveller.
    • 4 Inst. 34.
  • The next way home's the farthest way about.
    • Quarles, "Emblems," Bk. IV., Pt. II., Ep. 2.
  • A wager!
    • Eyre, L.C.J., Tooke's Case (1794), 25 How. St. Tr. 418.
  • Comparative necessairement suppose un positive, et que riens est un mere privative: A comparative necessarily supposes a positive, and nothing is a meer privative.
    • Vaughan, J., Tustian v. Roper (1670), Jones's (Sir Thos.) Rep. 37.
  • Touch not a cat, but (without) a glove.
    • Motto of the Macphersons; quoted by Lord Brougham, Abbott v. Middleton (1858), 7 H. of L. Ca. 76.
  • He who sows ought to reap.
  • Thou shalt not feethe a kid in his mother's milk.
    • Quoted by Lord Mansfield, Archbishop of Canterbury v. House (1774), Lofit. 622.
  • It is sometimes difficult to get rid of first impressions.
    • Lord Kenyon, C.J., Withnell v. Gartham (1795), 6 T. R. 396.
  • What may be good circumstances in one man, cannot be deemed so in another.
  • He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.
    • 2 Corinthians ix., 7.
  • You shall not turn what was designed to support and benefit mankind into their destruction.
    • Mr. Waller, in his defence before the House of Commons. Quoted in Archbishop of Canterbury v. House (1774), Lofit. 622.
  • The tree must lie where it has fallen.
    • North, J., In re Bridgewater Navigation Co., Ltd. (1890), 60 L. J. Rep. (N. S.) C. D. 422; invoking Ecclesiastes xi., 3: "In the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be".
  • A man who has done one contemptible thing to benefit himself will do another, if necessary, in order to carry out and complete the object he has in view.
    • Lord Usher, M.R., Exchange Telegraph Company v. Gregory & Co., (1896) L. R. 1 Q. B. D. [1896], p. 151.
  • It certainly is of consequence to prevent men hanging out false colours.
    • Laurence, J., Jordaine v. Lashbrooke (1798), 7 T. R. 611.
  • When thieves fall out, honest men get their own.
    • Sir Matthew Hale. In a case before Hale, the two litigants unwittingly set out that at a former period they had in conjunction leased a ferry to the injury of the proprietor, on which Hale made the above remark. This will be found recorded in "Familiar Words," p. 277. Another similar saying is, "When thieves fall out, true men come to their goods." Proverbs (J. Heywood), Bk. II., Ch. ix.
  • They that once begin first to trouble the water, seldom catch the fish.
    • Jefferies, L.C.J., Trial of Wm. Sacheverell and others (1684), 10 How. St. Tr. 92.
  • No dog is entitled to have one worry with impunity.
    • Lord Cockburn, Orr v. Fleming (1853), 1 W.R. 339.
  • This was laying the axe to the root of the tree?
    • Quoted by Parker, C J., Reg. v. Ballivos, &c. de Bewdley (1712), 1 P.Wms. 226.
  • The best men are but men, and are sometimes transported with passion.
    • Sir Robert Atkyns, L.C.B., Trial of Sir Edw. Hales (1686), 11 How. St. Tr. 1206.
  • Res profecto stulta est nequitia modus: There is no mean in wickedness.
    • 11 Co. 8 b.
  • Ei nihil turpe, oui nihil satis : To whom nothing is sufficient, to him nothing is base.
    • 4 Inst. 53.
  • Que mala sunt inehoata in principio viz bono peragnntur exitu: Things bad in principle at the commencement seldom achieve a good end.
    • I Co. 2. Compare: Bien mal acquisne prospere jamais. (French Proverb).
  • The lecturer should remember that
"Beneath this starry arch
Nought resteth or is still;"
and that his duty is to watch over and criticise new modes of thought, new works, the march of intellect, and those discoveries which
"Make old knowledge
Pale before the new."
Even in pure mathematics there may be alterations and additions, and ethical science is not free from the inexorable law of mutability.
  • Lord Fitzgerald, Caird v. Sime (1887), 57 L. J. Rep. P. C. Cas. 13; L. R. 12 App. Cas. 354.
  • The end directs and sanctifies the means.
    • Wilmot, L.J.C., Collins v. Blantern (1767), 2 Wils. Rep. 351.
  • Swift, in one of his verses upon Whiston writes:
    "Who prov'd, as sure as God's in Gloucester,
    That Moses was a great impostor".

It is said of Lord Alvanley that he would now and then talk in a slip-shod manner, as if sitting in an arm-chair and presiding over a free-and-easy club. Of this deportment a singular instance was mentioned by the late Mr. Whitbread, when arraigning Lord Melville at the bar of the House of Lords (see Trial of Lord Viscount Melville (1806), 29 How. St. Tr. 550).

"It was not long since Lord Alvanley was trying a cause in this hall, and an Act of Parliament was in question. A learned serjeant quoted a particular section of the Act; Lord Alvanley said there was no such clause in the Act.
"' Why but, my lord, here it is,' said the Serjeant;
"' Never mind, I tell you I know it is not there,' retorted the Judge.
"'I beg your lordship's pardon, but here it is in the book ; read it.'
"The learned Judge at length took the book, and having read it, exclaimed—
"' Oh true, here it is sure enough, as sure as God is in Gloucester.'" —Townsend, "Lives of Twelve Eminent Judges," Vol. I., p. 158. This incident in reference to Lord Alvanley brings to recollection a somewhat similar anecdote related by Mr. Baron Huddlestone some few years back, and to be found recorded in the following paragraph :— An Anonymous Case.—Mr. Finlay, Q.C., in arguing some matters of law, referred to a case which, he said, had been decided lately, but had not been reported; so that he could not quote it in the usual way. Mr. Baron Huddlestone said that he recalled to his mind that years ago Mr. Wakefield, in one of the Chancery Courts, referred to what he described as an anonymous case; and the matter for the time passed off. When Mr. Bethell, however, came to reply, he said, "I have to inform your lordship that that case has been overruled in the House of Lords." Thereupon Mr. Wakefield, somewhat losing his temper, retorted, "There never was such a case." In a similar way the case now adverted to might, perhaps, be called "An anonymous case," and Mr. Reid might answer it by saying, "It has been overruled in the House of Lords."
  • The [London] Standard, 4th July, 1885 ; Cases Heard and Determined in the Supreme Court of the Straits Settlements, by the Author, Vol. I. cviii.
  • "The end must justify the means."— Matthew Prior, " Hans Carvel," line 67.
  • Fallacy That "The End Justifies The Means." "The end justifies the means. Yes: but on three conditions, any of which failing, no such justification has place:—
    1. One is, that the end be good.
    2. That the means chosen be either purely good—or, if evil, having less evil in them than on a balance there is of real good in the end.
    3. That they have more of good in them, or less of evil as the case may be, than any others, by the employment of which the end might have been attained.
    Laying out of the case these restrictions, note the absurdities that would follow.
    Acquisition of a penny loaf is the end I aim at. The goodness of it is indisputable. If, by the goodness of the end, any means employed in the attainment of it are justified, instead of a penny, I may give a pound for it: thus stands the justification on the ground of prudence. Or, instead of giving a penny for it, I may cut the baker's throat, and thus get it for nothing: and thus stands the justification on the ground of benevolence and beneficence, II. 470.
    • Jeremy Bentham; reported in Benthamiana; or. Select Extract! from the Works of Jeremy Bentham (1843), p. 419.
  • . Wickedness and weakness generally go hand-in-hand together; and upon the repeated observation of their doing so, is founded that well known saying, "Quos Deus vult perdere prius dementat."
    • Mounteney B., Annesley v. Lord Anglesea (1743), 17 How. St. Tr. 1431.
  • How happy could I be with either
    Were t'other dear charmer away;
    But now you both tease me together,
    To neither a word will I say.
    • John Gay, "The Beggar's Opera" (Macheath sings), Act II., sc. ii. Quoted by Vaughan Williams, L.J., (in reference to the meaning of the word "either "), In re Pickworth; Snaith v. Parkinson (1899), L.R. 1 C. D. C. A. 655.
  • Aut Caesar aut nullus.
    • Quoted by Lord Maenaghten in Van Grutten v. Foxwell (1897), 66 L. J. Rep. (N. S.) Q. B. D. 752.

Said in reference to a solicitor in large practice who sold his business covenanting not to practise on his own account in England or Scotland, but who afterwards set up in the immediate neighbourhood and thus tried to steal the business he had sold. A similar proverb to the above may be found in the following: "Would yee both eat your cake and have your cake ?"—See Proverbs (Heywood), Bk. II., Ch. ix.

"Either Caesar or nobody:" I will attain supreme eminence, or perish in the attempt.—A saying of Julius Caesar.

New trial[edit]

  • There is no doubt now, that now-a-days, on proper ground, we would grant a new trial.
    • Lord Mansfield, Rex v. Curril (1773), Lofft. 156; reported in James William Norton-Kyshe, Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 182.
  • Motions for new trials have been very much encouraged of late years, and I shall never discourage them; for nothing tends more to the due administration of justice, or even to the satisfaction of the parties themselves, than applications of this kind.
    • Buller, J., Vernon v. Hankey (1787), 2 T. R. 120; reported in James William Norton-Kyshe, Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 182.
  • Though this motion for a new trial is an application to the discretion of the Court, it must be remembered that the discretion to be exercised on such an occasion is not a wild but a sound discretion, and to be confined within those limits within which an honest man, competent to discharge the duties of his office, ought to confine himself. And that discretion will be best exercised by not deviating from the rules laid down by our predecessors; for the practice of the Court forms the law of the Court.
    • Lord Kenyon, C.J., Wilson v. Rastall (1792), 4 T. R. 757; reported in James William Norton-Kyshe, Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 182-183.


  • It is a great satisfaction to a Judge, that a nonsuit is not conclusive.
    • Lord Mansfield, Brookshaw v. Hopkins (1773), Lofft. 244; reported in James William Norton-Kyshe, Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 183.

Notice to quit[edit]

  • It seems to me that each case must be taken by itself, and that one decision on the meaning of a notice to quit does not afford much guidance for the interpretation of a notice in different words. . . . We must remember that we are dealing with sensible people, and we must try to interpret the notice as if it were given by a man of sense.
    • Ridley, J., Wride v. Dyer (1899), L. R. 1 Q. B. D. [1900], p. 25; reported in James William Norton-Kyshe, Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 183.