The Law is a ass (Innit?)

Whenever I hear someone say something along the lines of “but you must do (this or that) because its the Law”; all to often by someone bleating about some real or imagined slight, I am reminded of the often misquoted and wrongly attributed “The Law is an ass“.

The phrase is variously attributed to many people in particular Doctor Samuel Johnson but most attribute it to Charles Dickens in a complaint from ‘Mr Bumble’ concerning Bumble’s domineering wife in the 1853 novel; ‘Oliver Twist’.

“It was all Mrs. Bumble. She would do it,” urged Mr. Bumble; first looking round, to ascertain that his partner had left the room.

That is no excuse,” returned Mr. Brownlow. “You were present on the occasion of the destruction of these trinkets, and, indeed, are the more guilty of the two, in the eye of the law; for the law supposes that your wife acts under your direction.”

If the law supposes that,” said Mr. Bumble, squeezing his hat emphatically in both hands, “the law is a ass — a idiot. If that’s the eye of the law, the law is a bachelor; and the worst I wish the law is, that his eye may be opened by experience — by experience.”

― Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist

The ‘misquotation’ is with those that attribute the phrase to Dickens who wrote that the ‘the Law is a ass’ rather than ‘the Law is an ass’.

But the truth of the matter is that it was neither Doctor Johnson, nor Charles Dickens that first coined the phrase.

In fact, ‘the law is an ass’ is from a play published by the English dramatist George Chapman in 1654 –Revenge for Honour:

“Ere he shall lose an eye for such a trifle… For doing deeds of nature! I’m ashamed. The law is such an ass”.

‘Published by’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘written by’. In 1653, Chapman’s play was registered, as The Parricide, or, Revenge for Honor. Some contend that the phrase was written even earlier around 1620.

All very interesting but…the actual subject of the Law is a much more serious a matter.

No civilised society can function properly without some form of Law; a set of rules by which we all must live in order to live reasonably together.  The problem arises in the application of the Law and for whatever reason any particular law was established.

We in Britain are among the most fortunate of Nations in that, specifically, we have ‘English Common Law’ which is the basis for all jurisprudence in the British Isles.  Not only that, British Common Law has been established as the basis for most of the English speaking World which is retained more or less intact but with variations to suit the individual States in which it is recognised.

The ‘Common Law’ has a long and hard fought history.

Throughout most of the rest of Europe, their Law has been derived from the wishes or prejudices of whichever Monarch, Potentate or religious master was in power.  Britain, specifically England, has escaped most of that turmoil.

As early as the 9th Century in Britain, King Alfred (the Great) unified England which was previously a collection of small ‘Kingdoms’ and established the principle of a Parliament with his Council of Advisors or ‘Witan’.  He also accredited with the laying down the basics of ‘Common Law’.

King Alfred the Great

Not all subsequent Monarchs were as enlightened and it took the Barons at Runnymede in the year 1215 to force King John to sign the Magna Carta (or Great Charter) which gave ‘freemen’ specific basic rights including the principle of ‘Habeus Corpus’ (Latin – Show me the body) which required due process of evidence and that the accused was brought to trial within a very short time rather than the months or even years previously occurring.  There was also the introduction of the ruling against ‘Double jeopardy’ in which no person could be tried more than once for the same crime.

Those rights do not occur in European Law, so why would any Briton want to give their rights away?

Mandelson, Campbell and Heseltine are perfectly right in their assertion that some British People did not understand what they were voting for in the Referendum.  The problem is that they were referring to People that wished to leave the European Union rather than the real dullards that voted to remain in it.

The EU favours a system of jurisprudence based on the old ‘Napoleonic’ system of Law in which there is no assumption of innocence until found guilty as in most countries that use ‘Common Law’ as a basis for their legal system.

The proposed (and partially implemented) EU system of Law; ‘Corpus Juris’ (Latin – The Body of the Law), instead of making the rights of the individual paramount, assumes the ‘Law’ itself paramount.

There are many documented instances of people being incarcerated, often for months, without ‘due process’ whilst the charge is investigated and frequently released at the end without charge.  The principle of Habeus Corpus is entirely absent in such a system.

So too is the abrogation of ‘double jeopardy’ which does not exist legally in many parts of Europe.  A Prosecutor can, and often does, appeal against an acquittal and forces a retrial.  This can often occur without even the Defendant being present.  The Defendant can often be completely unaware of this retrial until they are once again arrested and put into jail to begin a sentence.

Under British Law, nothing is forbidden unless a Law is enacted that specifically forbids that act.  Under EU Law, nothing is allowed unless specifically permitted.

Most people never in their lives fall foul of the Law, yet the EU system of Law is constantly added to in the order of tens of thousands under the aegis of unelected bureaucrats and it is impossible for the individual to be aware of every Law yet anyone can fall foul of them as ignorance of the Law is no defence.

Which Briton, in their right mind, would voluntarily give up their hard won rights in favour of such a regime?

Most Europeans have lived under such a regime all of their lives and are complacent because it is all that they are used to and know no better.  Britons, on the other hand, have considerable rights which protect them and would be lost to us if politicians have their way and keep us in an ever burgeoning European Union intent upon federalisation.  Even the habitually Law abiding Briton would find the burden intolerable.

I wrote earlier ‘The problem arises in the application of the Law and for whatever reason any particular law was established’.

Most laws are written in favour, one way or another, of the Lawmakers whether that be for personal gain or for some political purpose.  In Britain, it is the Westminster Parliament (and to a lesser extent; Local Authorities) who make the Laws.  Both have consolidated their power to the point where they no longer (if ever) worked for the good of the People and have become self-perpetuating and omnipotent.  They have completely tied up the Party Political system to ensure that one or other of the main political parties each have their turn at power and to follow their own doctrine.

Parliament claims that it is ‘Sovereign’.  It is not.  Sovereignty belongs to the People and each General Election, we allow them to rule in our name.

The current debacle over EU Membership is their last ditch attempt to overcome the democratic will of the People.  They were heartily shaken at the result of the mistakenly allowed referendum and are busily closing ranks in order to water down the result or even overturn the result.  They are joined in their endeavours by those that stand to lose much of their ill-gotten wealth derived from EU Membership.

It is small wonder that so many of the hoi-polloi are ignorant of the true deviousness of the EU as not even the so-called ‘Eurosceptic’ politicians will ever utter a word to enlighten us.  Not even UKIP.  Why should they?  It is not those exalted people that will bear the brunt of continued EU Membership.  It is us, the ‘small’ People who will do that.

Now is not the time to sit back and allow this to be done to us.  We must let our ‘representatives’ know that we will not stand for it before it is too late.



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Thanks, I didn’t know that Mr Bumble wasn’t the first to call the law an ass.

English-derived civil law has spread widely because of the global reach of the Empire but also because it works well and is responsive to change. English Laws and English courts are also popular for commercial contracts and cases because outcomes are likely to be fairer and more predictable than others, If you sue the Government you might even win! See:

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