This continues the previous
BitsAndPieces, with a relevant quotation on the talents and
motives of most lawyers.
Here are some wise words from that worldfamous intrepid explorer
and English gent Captain Lemuel Gulliver, whose biography was
written by Jonathan Swift.
I quote from the fifth chapter of the fourth book of "Gulliver's
Travels". It seems a correct appraisal of the race of men
"There was another point which a little perplexed him at present.
I had said that some of our crew left their country on account of
being ruined by law; that I had already explained the meaning
of the word; but he was at loss how it should come to pass that the
law which was intended for every man's preservation,
should be any man's ruin. Therefore he desired to be farther
satisfied by what I meant by law, and the dispensers thereof,
according to the present practice in my country; because he taught
Nature and Reason were sufficient guides for a reasonable animal, as
we pretended to be, in showing us what we ought to do, and what to
I said there was a society of men among us, bred up from their youth
in the art of proving by words multiplied for the purpose, that
white is black, and black is white, according as they are paid. To
this society all the rest are slaves. For example, if my neighbour
hath a mind to my cow, he hires a lawyer to prove that he ought to
have my cow from me. I must then hire another to defend my right, it
being against all rules of law that any man should speak for
himself. Now in this case, I who am the true owner lie under two
great disadvantages. First, my lawyer, being practised almost from
the cradle in defending falsehood, is quite out of his element when
he should be an advocate for justice, which as an office unnatural,
he always attempts with great awkwardness, if not with ill-will. The
second disadvantage is, that a lawyer must proceed with great
caution, or else he will be reprimanded by the Judges, and abhorred
by his brethren, as one who would lessen the practice of the law.
Now, your Honour is to know that these Judges are persons
appointed to decide all controversies of property, as well as for
the trials of criminals, and picked out from the most dexterous
lawyers who are grown old or lazy, and having been biassed all their
lives against truth and equity, lie under such a fatal necessity of
favouring fraud, perjury, and oppression, that I have known several
of them refuse a large bribe from the side where justice lay, rather
than injure the Faculty [the profession] by doing anything
unbecoming their nature or their office.
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 to direct
In pleading, they studiously avoid entering into the merits
of the cause; but are loud, violent and tedious in dwelling upon
all circumstances which are not to the purpose. (..)
It is likewise to be observed that this society hath a peculiar cant
and jargon of their own, that no mortal can understand, and wherein
all their laws are written, which they take special care to
multiply; whereby they have wholly confounded the the very essence
of truth and falsehood, of right and wrong; so that it will take
thirty years to decide whether the field, left me by my ancestors
for six generations, belong to me or to a stranger three hundred
miles off. (..)
Here my master, interposing, said it was a pity, that creatures
endowed with such prodigious abilities of mind as these lawyers, by
the description I gave of them, must certainly be, were not rather
encouraged to be the instructors of others in wisdom and knowledge.
In answer to which, I assured his Honour, that in all points out of
their own trade they were usually the most ignorant and stupid
generation among us, the most despicable in common conversation,
avowed enemies to all knowledge and learning, and equally disposed
to pervert the general reason of mankind in every other object of
discourse, as in that of their own profession."
Comment: Of course, Jonathan Swift was a misanthrope, a satirist, and
he is long and safely dead. I have heard and read more recent other
opinions on the law and its practice, by lawyers and/or politicians,
which did not seem to me better informed, and that certainly did not
have fewer illusions or a better style.
And of course, and like my previous piece, this is only quoted to
clarify some of my own attitudes.
As to lawyer-types: I have met quite a few, rarely met an
intelligent one, and never what I would call a moral one.
And the civil cases I have battled out in Dutch courts, that I
generally won without benefit of lawyers, since I usually dismissed
them after a short while as incompetents or liars, but against great
loss of my time, taught me that in a court of law all everyday
terms (and more, including commas) have almost completely
ceased their everyday meanings, and are - jurisprudentially -
replaced by identically sounding terms with very obscure and often
nonsensical legal "definitions" or uses, normally at many points at
variance with my own logical, semantical, moral or philosophical
knowledge of the meanings of these terms outside law courts.