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December 13, 2005

A Message to the Dear Leader.

All these delightful changes in the law that the Maximum Tone has been offering to us...at the back of my mind there’s been that quote from A Man for All Seasons. In this Crooked Timber thread Mrs. Tilton points out that More actually really did say something very similar (she thinks at least). There’s also the full judgement from the Law Lords on the admissibility of evidence gained by torture....and a fascinating extract from it, a discussion of when extraordinary rendition was last used in English law.

But here’s the quote in full, the one from the play, the one I really do wish the Supreme  Being could bring himself to read and understand:

Lady Alice More:
Arrest him!

Sir Thomas More:
For what?

Lady Alice:
He’s dangerous!

Will Roper:
For all we know he’s a spy!

Margaret More:
Father, that man’s bad!

There’s no law against that.

There is – God’s law!

Then let God arrest him.

Lady Alice:
While you talk he’s gone!

And go he should, if he were the Devil himself, until he broke the law.

So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!

Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!

Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down – and you’re just the man to do it! – do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!

December 13, 2005 in Law | Permalink


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I LOVE that play. And that extract is the one that has bme jumping in my seat, pointing and shouting "EXACTLY!"

I recently saw the new Martin Shaw production and was struck by a nice little line that the common man says that I had never even really noticed before:

"In those days, unlike our more civilised times, a man could be arrested without charge and held indefinitely" (or words to that effect)

OH the dramatic IRONY.

Posted by: Katie Bartleby | Dec 13, 2005 1:58:42 PM

Telling points, and well-said. But what do you do when the Devil, having ZERO respect for your forest of laws, games the system to maximum effect? What do you do when the Devil is committed to his cause to the extent that he will murder the innocent at the drop of a hat? P
Platitudes are easy, but what should be done?

Tim adds: This will sound very harsh indeed. 54 dead is the price we pay to remain a free society. An extremely unfair bargain for those 54 but one that as a society as a whole weshould be happy with.

Posted by: RS | Dec 14, 2005 12:53:54 PM