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date: 16 April 2024


  1. Written laws are like spiders' webs; they will catch, it is true, the weak and poor, but would be torn in pieces by the rich and powerful.
    Anacharsis Scythian prince of the 6th century bc: Plutarch Parallel Lives ‘Solon’ bk. 5, sect. 2; see Swift
  2. Law is a bottomless pit.
    John Arbuthnot 1667–1735 Scottish physician and pamphleteer: The History of John Bull (1712) title of first pamphlet
  3. Laws are like sausages. It's better not to see them being made.
    Otto von Bismarck 1815–98 German statesman: attributed, but not traced and probably apocryphal
  4. Bad laws are the worst sort of tyranny.
    Edmund Burke 1729–97 Irish-born Whig politician and man of letters: Speech at Bristol, previous to the Late Election (1780)
  5. Salus populi suprema est lex.
    The good of the people is the chief law.
    Cicero (Marcus Tullius Cicero) 106–43 bc Roman orator and statesman: De Legibus bk. 3, ch. 8
  6. How long soever it hath continued, if it be against reason, it is of no force in law.
    Edward Coke 1552–1634 English jurist: The First Part of the Institutes of the Laws of England (1628) bk. 1, ch. 10, sect. 80
  7. You know my views about some regulations—they're written for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men.
    Harry Day British pilot: to Douglas Bader, 1931; Paul Brickhill Reach for the Sky (1954)
  8. The one great principle of the English law is, to make business for itself.
    Charles Dickens 1812–70 English novelist: Bleak House (1853) ch. 39
  9. ‘If the law supposes that,’ said Mr Bumble…‘the law is a ass—a idiot.’
    Charles Dickens 1812–70 English novelist: Oliver Twist (1838) ch. 51; see Chapman
  10. Be you never so high, the law is above you.
    Thomas Fuller 1654–1734 English writer and physician: Gnomologia (1732) no. 943; see Denning
  11. Laws grind the poor, and rich men rule the law.
    Oliver Goldsmith 1728–74 Irish writer, poet, and dramatist: The Traveller (1764) l. 386
  12. A verbal contract isn't worth the paper it is written on.
    Sam Goldwyn 1882–1974 American film producer: Alva Johnston The Great Goldwyn (1937) ch. 1
  13. I know no method to secure the repeal of bad or obnoxious laws so effective as their stringent execution.
    Ulysses S. Grant 1822–85 American Unionist general and statesman, 18th President 1869–77: inaugural address, 4 March 1869
  14. Dirt is only matter out of place; and what is a blot on the escutcheon of the Common Law may be a jewel in the crown of the Social Republic.
    John Chipman Gray 1839–1915 American lawyer: Restraints on the Alienation of Property (2nd ed., 1895) preface
  15. The people should fight for their law as for their city wall.
    Heraclitus c.540–c.480 bc Greek philosopher: Philip Wheelwright Heraclitus (1959) fragment 82
  16. Judicial decrees may not change the heart; but they can restrain the heartless.
    Martin Luther King 1929–68 American civil rights leader: speech in Nashville, Tennessee, 27 December 1962, in James Melvin Washington (ed.) A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings of Martin Luther King, Jr. (1986) ch. 22
  17. The more laws and orders are made prominent,
    The more thieves and bandits there will be.
    Lao Tzu c.604–c.531 bc Chinese philosopher; founder of Taoism: Tao-te Ching ch. 57, tr. Wing-Tsit Chan
  18. Loopholes are not always of a fixed dimension. They tend to enlarge as the numbers that pass through wear them away.
    Harold Lever 1914–95 British businessman and politician: speech to Finance Bill Committee, 22 May 1968
  19. However harmless a thing is, if the law forbids it most people will think it wrong.
    W. Somerset Maugham 1874–1965 English novelist: A Writer's Notebook (1949) written in 1896
  20. Laws were made to be broken.
    Christopher North 1785–1854 Scottish literary critic: Blackwood's Magazine (May 1830) ‘Noctes Ambrosianae’ no. 49
  21. Nothing is law that is not reason.
    John Powell 1645–1713 English judge: Lord Raymond's Reports (1765) vol. 2
  22. Ignorance of the law excuses no man; not that all men know the law, but because 'tis an excuse every man will plead, and no man can tell how to confute him.
    John Selden 1584–1654 English historian and antiquary: Table Talk (1689) ‘Law’
  23. The big print giveth, and the fine print taketh away.
    Fulton J. Sheen 1895–1979 American Roman Catholic bishop: attributed
  24. Everything not forbidden is compulsory.
    T. H. White 1906–64 English novelist: The Sword in the Stone (1938) ch. 13