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Jonathan Swift quotes on law and lawyers

Jonathan Swift believed totally in the rule of law but he was often scathing about how it worked and how lawyers applied it. He believed that the law too often favoured the rich and powerful.

He feared that lawyers were more interested in making money and finding legal loopholes to protect the guilty than they were in upholding justice. Many of Swift’s quotes on the subject of the law in his time still strike a chord with people today.

Cartoon illustration of shamrocks. Image copyright Ireland Calling

Come, agree, the law’s costly.

Jonathan Swift quote. Come, agree, the law’s costly. Image copyright Ireland Calling

It is a maxim among these lawyers, that whatever hath been done before, may legally be done again: and therefore they take special care to record all the decisions formerly made against common justice and the general reason of mankind. These, under the name of precedents, they produce as authorities, to justify the most iniquitous opinions; and the judges never fail of decreeing accordingly.
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It is the folly of too many to mistake the echo of a London coffee-house for the voice of the kingdom.
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Jonathan Swift quote. Laws are like cobwebs, which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornets break through. Image copyright Ireland Calling

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Judges… are picked out from the most dexterous lawyers, who are grown old or lazy, and having been biased all their lives against truth or equity, are under such a fatal necessity of favouring fraud, perjury and oppression, that I have known several of them to refuse a large bribe from the side where justice lay, rather than injure the faculty by doing anything unbecoming their nature in office.
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Jonathan Swift quote. Laws are best explained, interpreted and applied by those whose interest and abilities lie in perverting, confounding and eluding them. Image copyright Ireland Calling

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