Protection of Law (Sir Thomas More quote from Man for All Seasons)
If you asked me to name my favorite movies of all time, A Man for All Seasons, based on the life of Sir Thomas More, would be at the top of my short list. I don’t know how many times I have watched that movie–many times. There are several timeless quotes in the show, but pasted below is one of the best dialogues from my perspective as an attorney.
William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!
Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
William Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
Sir Thomas More: 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!
Among the things I like about that conversation and part of why I admire Thomas is his respect for the rule of law. The movie is a juxtaposition between the church and the state and the interaction of church laws vs. secular laws. It is also a story about how Thomas trusts in King Henry and the church (both, to a point), but believes most in his faith and his God.
In my view, what separates our great country from just about any other country in the world (at least if we are looking over the course of the past 200 years), is the rule of law, both based on our Constitution and all of the other laws and regulations which flow therefrom at all levels of government. Do we have problems with some of our laws, rules, regulations and government bodies (and officials)? Of course, we do–many problems. Even so, ours is still the best form of government in the world (even with all of its flaws and problems). And one of the foundational premises of our Founding Fathers and the Constitutional frameworks they gave us is that there are a great many laws which govern various aspects of our lives. I believe that the Founders intended to err on the side of protecting liberty and the innocent, even if that meant that the “devils” would sometimes go free (reference again the quote from Sir Thomas).
Whether or not you agree with my analysis of history, our government or legal system, do yourself a favor and watch A Man for All Seasons. Be warned that it is NOT an action movie…:) Rather, it is slow moving drama that is mainly historical, but includes some fictional embellishments.