“Law is nothing else but the best reason of wise men applied for ages to the transactions and business of mankind.” – Abraham Lincoln
As an opening post I thought it would be interesting to explore the quote above. It is interesting to note that while this quote gives the impression that all law is infallible, this may not always be the case.
For instance, who makes the laws ? The legislature, the people or wealthy political donors? It takes a strong democratic government to ensure that the will of the people is reflected in the laws that are promulgated. Do we have strong, democratic government in Ontario? And are the people of Ontario always wise and infallible? Or does the Premier feel free to make laws without it being in the will of the people? And if the Premier feels free to make laws without it being in the will of the people, does the law reflect the Premier’s best reason or does it reflect external interests, such as the interest of powerful & wealthy political donors? Powerful and wealthy political donors may not always be wise.
In our common law system, law can also be made through court decisions by judges interpreting the meaning and application of legislation. Since judges are generally well-respected and accomplished lawyers before being appointed to the bench (and therefore wise), could it be said that the wisest laws in Ontario come from the bench? And what is with the emphasis on wise men? Aren’t women able to reason, and their wisdom capable to being applied for ages to the transactions and business of humankind? Certainly today’s society is more inclusive, and as a result law today is much more than merely the wisdom of wise men, but also that of wise women.
As a result the Lincoln quote above stating that law is nothing else but the best reason of wise men applied through the ages isn’t entirely correct. The minds that guide the law then and today may not always be wise and they may not always be men.