IR Folks from Times Past

IR Folks from Times Past

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


There is a point beyond which even justice becomes unjust. Sophocles, Electra, c. 450 B.C.

In a really just cause the weak conquer the strong. Sophocles, Edipus Coloneus, c. 450 B.C.

Justice is a contract of expediency, entered upon to prevent men harming or being harmed. Epicurus, Aphorisms, c. 300 B.C.

Justice is the crowning glory of the virtues. Cicero, De officiis, I, 78 B.C.

The fundamentals of justice are that no one shall suffer wrong, and that the public good be served. Ibid.

The aim of justice is to give everyone his due. Cicero, De legibus, I, c. 50 B.C.

Though justice moves slowly, it seldom fails to overtake the wicked. Horace, Carmina, III, c. 20 B.C.

A kingdom founded on injustice never lasts. Seneca, Medea, c. 60

Whoever does injustice does injustice to himself, for to that extent he makes himself bad. Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, ix, c. 170

Justice is the earnest and constant will to render to every man his due. The precepts of the law are these: to live honorably, to injure no other man, to render to every man his due. The Institutes of Justinian, intro., 533
We will deny justice to none, nor delay it. Magna Carta, 1215

Justice is a certain rectitude of mind whereby a man does what he ought to do in the circumstances confronting him. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, LXI, c. 1265

Let justice be done, though the world perish. (Fiat justitia, et pereat mundus.) Motto of Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor (1503-64)

The extremity of justice is extreme injustice. Richard Grafton, Chronicle at Large, 1568

Use every man after his desert, and who should 'Scape whipping? Shakespeare, Hamlet, II, c. 1601

It is because of justice that man is a god to man and not a wolf. Francis Bacon, De augmentis scientiarum, 1623

Justice in her very essence is all strength and activity; and hath a sword put into her hand, to use against all violence and oppression on the earth. John Milton, Eikonoklastes, XXVIII, 1649

Justice [consists] in taking from no man what is his. The definition of injustice is no other than the not performance of covenant. Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, 1651

Justice may wink a while, but see at last, Thomas Middleton, The Mayor of Quinborough, V, 1651

Love of justice in the generality of men is only the fear of suffering from injustice. La Rochefoucauld, Maxims, 1665

Angry justice shows her awful face,
Where little villains must submit to fate,
That great ones may enjoy the world in state.
Samuel Garth, The Dispensary, 1699

Injustice swift, erect, and unconfined,
Sweeps the wide earth, and tramples o'er mankind.
Alexander Pope, translation of Homer, Iliad (c. 800 B.C.), 1717

The three fundamental rules of justice—the stability of possession, its transference by consent, and the performance of promises—are duties of princes as well as of subjects. David Hume, Treatise on Human Nature, 1739.

We are to look upon all the vast apparatus of our government as having ultimately no other object or purpose but the distribution of justice. Kings and parliaments, fleets and armies, officers of the court and revenue, ambassadors, ministers and privy councillors, are all subordinate in the end to this part of administration. Even the clergy, as their duty leads them to inculcate morality, may justly be thought, so far as regards this world, to have no other useful object of their institution. David Hume, Essays, Moral and Political, I, 1741

To withdraw ourselves from the law of the strong, we have found ourselves obliged to submit to justice. Justice or might, we must choose between these two masters: so little are we made to be free. Luc de Vauvenargues, Réflexions, 1746

There are men whom a happy disposition, a strong desire of glory and esteem, inspire with the same love for justice and virtue which men in general have for riches and honors. . . . But the number of these men is so small that I only mention them in honor of humanity. C. A. Helvétius, De l'esprit, II, 1758

God aims at satisfying justice in the eternal damnation of sinners. Jonathan Edwards, God's Chief End in Creation, 1765

Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society. It ever has been and ever will be pursued until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit. James Madison, The Federalist, No. 51, 1788

Justice is the great standing policy of civil society; and any eminent departure from it, under any circumstances, lies under the suspicion of being no policy at all. Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France, I, 1790

However small the object of an injustice may be, the injustice itself may be very great. Immanuel Kant, Perpetual Peace, Appendix ii, 1795

I believe that justice is instinct and innate, that the moral sense is as much a part of our constitution as that of feeling, seeing, or hearing. Thomas Jefferson, Letter to John Adams, 1816

In civilized nations, the most arbitrary governments have generally suffered justice to have a free course in private suits. T. B. Macaulay, Hallam, 1828 (Edinburgh Review, Sept.)

There is no happiness, there is no liberty, there is no enjoyment of life, unless a man can say, when he rises in the morning, I shall be subject to the decision of no unwise judge today. Daniel Webster, Speech in New York, March 10, 1831

Justice is the great interest of man on earth. It is the ligament which holds civilized beings and civilized nations together. Daniel Webster, Speech at the funeral of Mr. Justice Story, Sept. 12, 1845

I departed from legality only to return to justice. Napoleon III, Explanation of the coup d'etat of Dec. 2, 1851

Truth is justice's handmaid, freedom is its child, peace is its companion, safety walks in its steps, victory follows in its train. Ascribed to Sydney Smith, in A Memoir of the Rev. Sydney Smith by his daughter, Lady Holland, 1855

Justice is spontaneous respect, mutually guaranteed, for human dignity, in whatever person it may be compromised and under whatever circumstances, and to whatever risk its defense may expose us. P. J. Proudhon, De la justice dans la révolution, I, 1858

Justice is a faculty that may be developed. This development is what constitutes the education of the human race. Ibid

There is a passion in the human heart stronger than the desire to be free from injustice and wrong, and that is the desire to inflict injustice and wrong upon others, and men resent more keenly an attempt to prevent them from oppressing other people than they do the oppression from which they themselves suffer. Lord Palmerston, Letter to Lord Clarendon, Dec. 2, 1859

Judging from the main portions of the history of the world, so far, justice is always in jeopardy. Walt Whitman, Democratic Vistas, 1870

Every immortal deed was an act of fearful injustice; the world of grandeur, of triumph, of courage, of lofty aspiration, was built up on injustice. George Moore, Confessions of a Young Man, viii, 1888

The wound that injustice makes goes deeper and lasts longer than any other. Dickson G. Watts, c. 1890

Justice, though due to the accused, is due to the accuser also. The concept of fairness must not be strained till it is narrowed to a filament. We are to keep the balance true. Mr. Justice B. N. Cardazo, Decision in Snyder vs. Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Jan. 8, 1934

One hour of justice is worth a hundred of prayer. Arab Proverb

Justice is founded in the rights bestowed by nature upon man. Liberty is maintained in the security of justice. Inscription on the Department of Justice Building, Washington

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Main Source: H.L. Mencken, A Dictionary of Quotations