Law quotes 2

See also: Law quotesLaw quotes 3Law quotes 4 – Lawyer Quotes

In reality there are two, and only two, foundations of law; and they are both of them conditions without which nothing can give it any force: I mean equity and utility. With respect to the former, it grows out of the great rule of equality, which is grounded upon our common nature, and which Philo, with propriety and beauty, calls the mother of justice. All human laws are, properly speaking, only declaratory; they may alter the mode and application, but have no power over the substance, of original justice. The other foundation of law, which is utility, must be understood, not of partial or limited, but of general and public, utility, connected in the same manner with, and derived directly from, our rational nature: for any other utility may be the utility of a robber, but cannot be that of a citizen,-the interest of the domestic enemy, and not that of a member of the commonwealth.

Edmund Burke : Tract on the Popery Laws.

It is sufficiently known that the first Christians, avoiding the Pagan tribunals, tried most even of their civil causes before the bishop, who, though he had no direct coercive power, yet, wielding the sword of excommunication, had wherewithal to enforce the execution of his judgments. Thus the bishop had a considerable sway in temporal affairs, even before he was owned by the temporal power.

Edmund Burke : Abridgment of English History .

The Common law , as it then prevailed in England, was in a great measure composed of some remnants of the old Saxon customs, joined to the feudal institutions brought in at the Norman Conquest. And it is here to be observed that the Constitutions of Magna Charta are by no means a renewal of the Laws of St. Edward, or the ancient Saxon laws, as our historians and law-writers generally, though very groundlessly, assert. They bear no resemblance in any particular to the Laws of St. Edward, or to any other collection of these ancient institutions. Indeed, how should they? The object of Magna Charta is the correction of the feudal policy, which was first introduced, at least in any regular form, at the Conquest, and did not subsist before it.

Edmund Burke: Abridgment of English History .

By the Feudal Law, all landed property is, by a feigned conclusion, supposed to be derived, and therefore to be mediately or immediately held, from the crown. If some estates were so derived, others were certainly procured by the same original title of conquest by which the crown itself was acquired, and the derivation from the king could in reason only be considered as a fiction of the law.

Edmund Burke: Abridgment of English History.

There is scarce any object of curiosity more rational than the origin, the progress, and the various revolutions of human laws. Political and military relations are for the greater part accounts of the ambition and violence of mankind: this is an history of their justice. And surely there cannot be a more pleasing speculation than to trace the advances of men in an attempt to imitate the Supreme Ruler in one of the most glorious of his attributes, and to attend them in the exercise of a prerogative which it is wonderful to find intrusted to the management of so weak a being. In such an inquiry we shall, indeed, frequently see great instances of this frailty; but at the same time we shall behold such noble efforts of wisdom and equity as seem fully to justify the reasonableness of that extraordinary disposition by which men, in one form or other, have been always put under the dominion of creatures like themselves.

Edmund Burke: Abridgment of English History.

The Norman Conquest is the great era of our laws. At this time the English jurisprudence, which had hitherto continued a poor stream, fed from some few, and those scanty sources, was all at once, as from a mighty flood, replenished with a vast body of foreign Learning , by which, indeed, it might be said rather to have been increased than much improved; for this Foreign Law , being imposed, not adopted, for a long time bore strong appearances of that violence by which it had been first introduced. All our monuments bear a strong evidence to this change. New courts of justice, new names and powers of officers, in a word, a new tenure of land as well as new possessors of it, took place. Even the language of public proceedings was in a great measure changed.

Edmund Burke: Abridgment of English History.

In effect, to follow, not to force, the public inclination,-to give a direction, a form, a technical dress, and a specific sanction, to the general sense of the community, is the true end of legislation.

Edmund Burke: Letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol, April 3, 1777.

Surely the state of Ireland ought forever to teach parties moderation in their victories. People crushed by law have no hopes but from power. If laws are their enemies, they will be enemies to laws; and those who have much to hope and nothing to lose will always be dangerous, more or less.

Edmund Burke: Letter to Hon. Chas. James Fox, Oct. 8, 1777.

There is nothing certain in the principles of jurisprudence, if this be not undeniably true, that when a special authority is given to any persons by name to do some particular act, that no others, by virtue of general powers, can obtain a legal title to intrude themselves into that trust, and to exercise those special functions in their place.

Edmund Burke: Speech on the Nabob of Arcot’s Debts, Feb. 28, 1785.

And first of all, the science of jurisprudence, the pride of the human intellect, which, with all its defects, redundancies, and errors, is the collected reason of ages, combining the principles of original justice with the infinite variety of human concerns, as a heap of old exploded errors, would be no longer studied. Personal self-sufficiency and arrogance (the certain attendants upon all those who have never experienced a wisdom greater than their own) would usurp the tribunal. Of course no certain laws, establishing invariable grounds of hope and fear, would keep the actions of men in a certain course, or direct them to a certain end.

Edmund Burke: Reflections on the Revolution in France, 1790.

Cromwell knew how to separate the institutions expedient to his usurpation from the administration of the public justice of his country . For Cromwell was a man in whom ambition had not wholly suppressed, but only suspended, the sentiments of religion, and the love (as far as it could consist with his designs) of fair and honourable reputation. Accordingly, we are indebted to this act of his for the preservation of our laws, which some senseless asserters of the rights of men were then on the point of entirely erasing, as relics of feudality and barbarism. Besides, he gave, in the appointment of that man [Sir Matthew Hale], to that age, and to all posterity, the most brilliant example of sincere and fervent piety, exact justice, and profound jurisprudence.

Edmund Burke: Letter to a Member of the Nat. Assembly, 1791.

That discretion, which in Judicature is well said by Lord Coke to be a crooked cord, in legislature is a golden rule.

Edmund Burke: Letter to Sir Hercules Langrishe, on the Roman Cathotics of Ireland, 1792.

Reports, though of a kind less authentic than The Year Books , to which Coke alludes, have continued without interruption to the time in which we live. It is well known that the elementary treatises of law, and the dogmatical treatises of English jurisprudence, whether they appear under the names of institutes, digests, or commentaries, do not rest on the authority of the supreme power, like the books called the Institute, Digest, Code, and authentic collations in the Roman law. With us doctrinal books of that description have little or no authority, other than as they are supported by the adjudged cases and reasons given at one time or other from the bench; and to these they constantly refer. This appears in Coke’s Institutes, in Comyns’s Digest, and in all books of that nature. To give judgment privately is to put an end to reports; and to put an end to reports is to put an end to the law of England.

Edmund Burke: Imp. of W. Hastings: Report on the Lords’ Journals, 1794.

Your Committee is of opinion that nothing better could be devised by human wisdom than argued judgments publicly delivered for preserving unbroken the great traditionary body of the law, and for marking, whilst that great body remained unaltered, every variation in the application and the construction of particular parts, for pointing out the ground of each variation, and for enabling the learned of the bar and all intelligent laymen to distinguish those changes made for the advancement of a more solid, equitable, and substantial justice, a progressive experience, and the improvement of moral philosophy, from those hazardous changes in any of the ancient opinions and decisions which may arise from ignorance, from levity, from false refinement, from a spirit of innovation, or from other motives, of a nature not more justifiable.

Edmund Burke: Imp. of W. Hastings: Report on the Lords’ Journals, 1794.

At length, Lord Hardwicke, in one of the cases the most solemnly argued that has been in man’s memory, with the aid of the greatest Learning at the bar, and with the aid of all the learning on the bench, both bench and bar being then supplied with men of the first form, declared from the bench, and in concurrence with the rest of the judges, and with the most learned of the long robe, the able council on the side of the old restrictive principles making no reclamation, “that the judges and sages of the law have laid it down that there is but ONE general rule of evidence,-the best that the nature of the case will admit.”

Edmund Burke: Imp. of W. Hastings: Report on the Lords’ Journals, 1794.

Lord Hardwicke had before declared, with great truth, “that the boundaries of what goes to the credit and what to the competency are very nice, and the latter carried too far;” and in the same case [King v. Bray] he said, “that, unless the objection appeared to him to carry a strong danger of perjury, and some apparent advantage might accrue to the witness, he was always inclined to let it go to his credit, only in order to let in a proper light to the case, which would otherwise be shut out;” and in a doubtful case, he said, it was generally his custom to admit the evidence, and give such directions to the “jury as the nature of the case might require.”

Edmund Burke: Imp. of W. Hastings: Report on the Lords’ Journals, 1794.

In truth, it seems a wild attempt to lay down any rule for the proof of intention by circumstantial evidence. All the acts of the party,-all things that explain or throw light on these acts,-all the acts of others relative to the affair, that come to his knowledge, and may influence him,-his friendships and enmities, his promises, his threats, the truth of his discourses, the falsehood of his apologies, pretences, and explanations, his looks, his speech, his silence where he was called to speak,-everything which tends to establish the connection between all these particulars,-every circumstance, precedent, concomitant, and subsequent, become parts of circumstantial evidence. These are in their nature infinite, and cannot be comprehended within any rule or brought under any classification.

Edmund Burke: Imp. of W. Hastings: Report on the Lords’ Journals, 1794.

I know no human being exempt from the law. The law is the security of the people of England; it is the security of every person that is governed, and of every person that governs. There is but one law for all, namely, that law which governs all law, the law of our Creator, the law of humanity, justice, equity,-the Law of Nature and of Nations. So far as any laws fortify this primeval law, and give it more precision, more energy, more effect by their declarations, such laws enter into the sanctuary, and participate in the sacredness of its character.

Edmund Burke: Imp. of W. Hastings, 1794.

The Law of Nations is the law of India as well as of Europe, because it is the law of reason and the law of Nature, drawn from the pure sources of morality, of public good, and of natural equity, and recognized and digested into order by the labour of learned men.

Edmund Burke: Imp. of W. Hastings, 1794.

It has ever been the method of public jurists to draw a great part of the analogies on which they form the law of nations from the principles of law which prevail in civil communities. Civil laws are not all of them merely positive. Those which are rather conclusions of legal reason than matters of statutable provision belong to universal equity, and are universally applicable. Almost the whole prætorian law is such.

Edmund Burke: Letters on a Regicide Peace, Letter I., 1796.

Do they mean to invalidate, annul, or call in question that great body of our statute law? to annul laws of inestimable value to our liberties?

Edmund Burke.

His grants are engrafted on the public law of Europe, covered with the awful hoar of innumerable ages.

Edmund Burke.

He [Lord-Commissioner Whitelocke, in a speech in parliament, in 1649] showed that the silence of counsellors on capital cases was the fault of the law, which kept them silent; and he “ingenuously confessed that he could not answer that objection, that a man, for a trespass to the value of sixpence, may have a counsellor to plead for him; but that where life and posterity were concerned, he was debarred of that privilege. What was said in vindication or excuse of that custom-that the Judges were counsel for the prisoner-had no weight in it; for were they not to take the same care of all causes that should be tried before them? A reform of that defect he allowed would be just.” But it was nearly two hundred years before that reform came, and I am ashamed to say it was to the last opposed by almost all the Judges.

Lord Campbell: Lord Chancellors, iii.: Life of Whitelocke.

The venerable sages who apprehended such multiplied evils from altering the practice [of not allowing counsel to prisoners in capital cases] must have been greatly relieved by finding that their objections have proved as unfounded as those which were urged against the abolition of peine forte et dure; and the alarming innovation, so long resisted, of allowing witnesses for the prisoner to be examined under the sanction of an oath.

Lord Campbell: Lord Chancellors, iii.: Life of Lord-Chancellor Jeffreys.

There have been several efforts made with various success in the way of law amendment. Thirty years ago. Sir Robert Peel in three statutes consolidated a large mass of the old criminal law. Five years afterwards, Lord Melbourne consolidated the whole law relating to offences against the person. The Chief Baron of the Exchequer procured the passing of a law which brought together all the regulations scattered among many local acts with reference to notices of action, statutes of limitation, and double and treble costs. Better still in the way of superseding old, bad law, with better; two acts of Parliament-the act which established County Courts and that which regulated a fresh Common law Procedure, for which we have Mr. Baron Martin, Mr. Baron Brumwell, and Mr. Justice Willes to thank-have saved a million a year to the law-needing part of the community.

Household Words, March, 1856.

The famous code of Justinian was perfected in less than four years; fourteen months of which were spent in winnowing the chaff out of the legal grain accumulated in a thousand years. Trebonian, aided by a staff of seventeen lawyers, in three years reduced three million sentences to one hundred and fifty thousand; so perfecting the pandects and institutes. For the framing of the Code Napoléon a commission of jurists was appointed on the twelfth of August in the year eighteen hundred. In four months it delivered its report, which was then open to criticism. The council of state afterwards completed the discussion of it in one hundred and two sittings.

Household Words, March, 1856.

There are one or two legal terms of which the meaning is not perhaps generally known. We need remind no one that lunacy is derived from an idea that madness is connected with the moon; but many may not be aware that felony is derived from an idea that felons are prompted by excess of gall. Felonies were crimes committed felleo animo, with a mind affected by the gall; and Hale was of opinion that the reason why a lunatic cannot be guilty of a crime, is a want of gall. Then, again, maiming is not any kind of wounding, but such wounding as lessens a man’s power of battling in his own defence. Therefore, it was ruled that to knock out a man’s front tooth is to maim him; but that he is not maimed by the knocking out of a grinder; because with a front tooth he can bite and tear an enemy, but with a grinder he can only masticate his food.

Household Words.

It is curious to note how long and how steady has been the process of reform in the administration of our criminal justice. The spirit of English liberty-the sense of equal rights among all citizens-has, in this one department of the law, prevailed against every unwholesome precedent, and has slowly raised our courts of criminal law to a character of which we have had, in the trial of the Poisoner, certainly a crowning illustration. They are undoubtedly the freest and the fairest courts of justice-we may say it most deliberately-in the world.

Household Words, 1856.

But one touch more is needed to complete this rough sketch of the union between law and order on our statute-books and records. Of the legislation thus conducted no proper accounts are kept. We have, indeed, some consolidation of the criminal law, and some effort to supply annually criminal statistics. But while in France the whole relation of crime to the population is set forth by tables of the results of accusations and decisions, carefully recorded, we have no returns whatever from our civil courts; none with regard to the common law, and none from any of the courts of equity. Even the returns we have are almost useless.

Household Words, March, 1856.

I wonder why I feel a glow of complacency in a court of justice, when I hear the learned judges taking uncommon pains to prevent the prisoner from letting out the truth. If the object of the trial be to discover the truth, perhaps it might be as edifying to hear it, even from the prisoner, as to hear what is unquestionably not the truth from the prisoner’s advocate. I wonder why I say, in a flushed and rapturous manner, that it would be “un-English” to examine the prisoner. I suppose that with common fairness it would be next to impossible to confuse him, unless he lied; and if he did lie, I suppose he could hardly be brought to confusion too soon.

Household Words.

Even in this country we have had complaints of judge-made law; even in this country, where the standard of morality is higher than in almost any other part of the world; where during several generations not one depositary of our legal traditions has incurred the suspicion of personal corruption; where there are popular institutions; where every decision is watched by a shrewd and learned audience; where there is an intelligent and discerning public; where every remarkable case is fully reported in a hundred newspapers; where, in short, there is everything which can mitigate the evils of such a system. But judge-made law, where there is an absolute government and a lax morality, where there is no bar and no public, is a curse and scandal not to be endured. It is time that the magistrate should know what law he is to administer, that the subject should know under what law he is to live.



See Also

References and Further Reading

About the Author/s and Reviewer/s

Author: international

Mentioned in these Entries

Abridgment of English History, Common law, Constitutions, Edmund Burke, Foreign Law, Judicature, Law quotes 3, Law quotes 4, Law quotes, Learning, Quotes, The Year Books, country.



, ,




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *