Quotations about   equal protection under the law

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We should take care also that the punishment shall not be out of proportion to the offence, and that some shall not be chastised for the same fault for which others are not even called to account.

[Cavendum est etiam, ne maior poena quam culpa sit, et ne isdem de causis alii plectantur, alii ne appellentur quidem.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Officiis [On Duties; On Moral Duty; The Offices], Book 1, ch. 25 / sec. 89 (44 BC) [tr. Miller (1913)]

(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

Diligent care should be taken, in the next place, that the penalty be proportioned to the nature of the crime; and that some do not pass without ever being questioned, while others are punished for the same misdemeanours.
[tr. Cockman (1699)]

Great care too must be taken, that the punishment be not greater than the offence; and that some should not be punished for the same offences, for which others are not called to account.
[tr. McCartney (1798)]

We ought, likewise, to take care that the punishment be proportioned to the offence, and that some be not punished for doing things for which others are not so much as called to account.
[tr. Edmonds (1865)]

Care also must be taken lest the punishment be greater than the fault, and lest for the same cause some be made penally responsible, and others not even called to account.
[tr. Peabody (1883)]

Again, we should never impose a penalty disproportioned to the offence or for the same crime punish one and let another go unchallenged.
[tr. Gardiner (1899)]

We must take care that the punishment is not in excess of the crime


, and that it is not inflicted on some only while others equally guilty are not even brought to trial.
[ed. Harbottle (1906)]

One should also be careful that the punishment does not surpass the crime and that some people receive beatings while others do not even receive a reprimand.
[tr. Edinger (1974)]

Added on 19-May-22 | Last updated 19-May-22
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By the theory of our Government majorities rule, but this right is not an arbitrary or unlimited one. It is a right to be exercised in subordination to the Constitution and in conformity to it. One great object of the Constitution was to restrain majorities from oppressing minorities or encroaching upon their just rights. Minorities have a right to appeal to the Constitution as a shield against such oppression.

James K. Polk (1795-1849) American lawyer, politician, US President (1845-1849)
Inaugural Address (4 Mar 1845)
Added on 21-Oct-20 | Last updated 28-Oct-20
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I can hardly believe that any person can be found who will not admit that every one of these provisions is just. They are all asserted, in some form or other, in our Declaration or organic law. But the Constitution limits only the action of Congress, and is not a limitation on the States. This amendment supplies that defect, and allows Congress to correct the unjust legislation of the States, so far that the law which operates upon one man shall operate equally upon all. Whatever law punishes a white man for a crime shall punish the black man precisely in the same way and to the same degree. Whatever law protects the white man shall afford equal protection to the black man. Whatever means of redress is afforded to one shall be afforded to all. Whatever law allows the white man to testify in court shall allow the man of color to do the same. These are great advantages over their present codes.

James A. Garfield (1831-1881) US President (1881), lawyer, lay preacher, educator
Speech, House of Representatives (4 Apr 1871)

On the proposed 14th Amendment to the US Constitution, which forbade to each state the ability to "deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."
Added on 16-Oct-20 | Last updated 16-Oct-20
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Justice is indiscriminately due to all, without regard to numbers, wealth, or rank.

John Jay (1745-1829) American statesman, diplomat, abolitionist, politician, Chief Justice (1789-1795)
Georgia v. Brailsford, 3 US 1 (1794) [unanimous opinion]
Added on 21-Apr-20 | Last updated 21-Apr-20
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But in view of the Constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens. There is no caste here. Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law. The humblest is the peer of the most powerful. The law regards man as man, and takes no account of his surroundings or of his color when his civil rights as guaranteed by the supreme law of the land are involved.

John Marshall Harlan (1833-1911) American lawyer, politician, Supreme Court Justice (1877-1911)
Plessy v. Ferguson 163 U.S. 537, 559 (1896) [dissent]
Added on 1-Apr-20 | Last updated 1-Apr-20
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That your Sex are Naturally Tyrannical is a Truth so thoroughly established as to admit of no dispute, but such of you as wish to be happy willingly give up the harsh title of Master for the more tender and endearing one of Friend. Why, then, not put it out of the power of the vicious and the Lawless to use us with cruelty and indignity with impunity? Men of Sense in all Ages abhor those customs which treat us only as the vassals of your sex; regard us then as Beings placed by Providence under your protection, and in imitation of the Supreme Being make use of that power only for our happiness.

Abigail Adams (1744-1818) American correspondent, First Lady (1797-1801)
Letter to John Adams (31 Mar 1776)
Added on 5-Jun-15 | Last updated 5-Jun-15
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All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
Inaugural Address (4 Mar 1801)
Added on 4-Apr-13 | Last updated 13-Apr-15
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There is far too much law for those who can afford it and far too little for those who cannot.

Derek Bok (b. 1930) American lawyer, educator
Report to Harvard Board of Overseers (21 Apr 1983)
Added on 1-Oct-08 | Last updated 20-Aug-15
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