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John Coleridge (1820 – 1894)


British lawyer, judge and Liberal politician.
John Coleridge
I for one would never be a party, unless the law were clear, to saying to any man who put forward his views on those most sacred things, that he should be branded as apparently criminal because he differed from the majority of mankind in his religious views or convictions on the subject of religion. If that were so, we should get into ages and times which, thank God, we do not live in, when people were put to death for opinions and beliefs which now almost all of us believe to be true.
Coleridge quotes
As long as we have to administer the law we must do so according to the law as it is. We are not here to make the law.
Coleridge
We are now Courts of equity, and must decide the thing according to all the rights.




However much men may honestly endeavour to limit the exercise of their discretion by definite rule, there must always be room for idiosyncracy; and idiosyncracy, as the word expresses, varies with the man. But there is, besides this, that of which every student of legal history must be aware, the leaning of the Courts for a certain time in a particular direction, balanced at least, if not reversed, by the leaning of the Courts for a certain time in a direction opposite. The current of legal decision runs often to a point which is felt to be beyond the bounds of sound and sane control, and there is danger sometimes that the retrocession of the current should become itself extreme.
It is no longer true in the sense in which it was true when these dicta were uttered, that " Christianity is part of the law of the land." Nonconformists and Jews were then under penal laws, and were hardly allowed civil rights. But now, so far as I know the law, a Jew might be Lord Chancellor. Certainly he might be Master of the Rolls, and the great Judge whose loss we have all had to deplore2 might have had to try such a case, and if the view of the law supposed be correct, he would have had to tell the jury, perhaps partly composed of Jews, that it was blasphemy to deny that Jesus Christ was the Messiah, which he himself did deny, and which Parliament has allowed him to deny, and which it was part of " the law of the land " that he might, deny.
John Coleridge quotes
As a lawyer I am before and above all things for the supremacy of law.
John Coleridge
To me the entire uselessness of such rules^as practical guides lies in the inherent vagueness of the word "reasonable," the absolute impossibility of finding a definite standard, to be expressed in language, for the fairness and the reason of mankind, even of Judges. The reason and fairness of one man is manifestly no rule for the reason and fairness of another, and it is an awkward, but as far as I see, an inevitable consequence of the rule, that in every case where the decision of a Judge is overruled, who does or does not stop a case on the ground that there is, or is not, reasonable evidence for reasonable |men, those who overrule him say, by implication, that in the case before them, the Judge who is overruled is out of the pale of reasonable men.
I was brought up under a system in which discretion when given was practically absolute. It was the unbroken tradition of Westminster Hall. I believe that system worked justice and saved expense. I hope I may be forgiven if, with what energy remains to me, I strive after many years' experience and drawing near the close of my judicial career, to preserve this unfettered discretion which in my opinion, was given me by Parliament, and which I have never, at least intentionally abused.
Coleridge
I am sure from my experience of juries that, in a criminal case especially, they will obey the law as declared by the Judge; they will take the law from the Judge, whether they like it or do not like it, and apply it honestly to the facts before them.
The moment juries or judges go beyond their functions, and take upon themselves to lay down the law or find the facts, not according to the law as it is, but according to the law as they think it ought to be, then the certainty of the law is at an end; there is nothing to rely upon; we are left to the infinite variety and uncertainty of human opinion; to caprice which may at any moment influence the best of us, to feelings and prejudices, perhaps excellent in themselves, but which may distort or disturb our judgment, and distract our minds from the single simple operation of ascertaining whether the facts proved bring the case within the law as we are bound to take it.
John Coleridge
A difficult form of virtue is to try in your own life to obey what you believe to be God's will.




John Coleridge quotes
Fellows of colleges in the universities are in one sense the recipients of alms, because they receive funds which originally were of an eleemosynary character.
John Coleridge
I think there should be no occasion on which it is absolutely, as a point or rule of law, impossible for a man to redeem his character.
Coleridge quotes
Law grows, and though the principles of law remain unchanged, yet (and it is one of the advantages of the common law) their application is to be changed with the changing circumstances of the times. Some persons may call this retrogression, I call it progression of human opinion.
We must follow the old authorities and precedents in criminal matters.
Persecution is a very easy form of virtue.
John Coleridge
We have to administer the law whether we like it or no.
John Coleridge quotes
I must lay down the law as I understand it, and as I read it in books of authority.
John Coleridge
It is far more important the law should be administered with absolute integrity, than that in this case or in that the law should be a good law or a bad one.
It would not be correct to say that every moral obligation involves a legal duty; but every legal duty is founded on a moral obligation.


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