Quotations about   legislation

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It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is today, can guess what it will be tomorrow.

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
The Federalist Papers, #62 (Feb 1788)
Added on 27-Aug-15 | Last updated 27-Aug-15
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The final battle against intolerance is to be fought, not in the chambers of any legislature, but in the hearts of men.

Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969) American general, US President (1953-61)
Speech, Hollywood Bowl, Beverly Hills, California (19 Oct 1956)
Added on 16-Jul-15 | Last updated 16-Jul-15
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One of the greatest delusions in the world is the hope that the evils of the world can be cured by legislation.

Thomas Brackett Reed (1839-1902) American politician, Speaker of the House (1889-91, 1895-99)
(Attributed)
Added on 8-Aug-14 | Last updated 8-Aug-14
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The period of Prohibition — called the noble experiment — brought on the greatest breakdown of law and order the United States has known until today. I think there is a lesson here. Do not regulate the private morals of people. Do not tell them what they can take or not take. Because if you do, they will become angry and antisocial and they will get what they want from criminals who are able to work in perfect freedom because they have paid off the police.

Gore Vidal (1925-2012) American novelist, dramatist, critic
“The State of the Union”, Esquire (May 1975)
Added on 6-Nov-12 | Last updated 28-Jan-20
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Laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made.

Otto von Bismark (1815-1898) Prussian statesman
(Misattributed)

This and variants are attributed to Bismark, but this is the earliest known use of the phrase, attributed to John Godfrey, Saxe University Chronicle, University of Michigan (27 Mar 1869). According to  Fred R. Shapiro, "Quote... Misquote", New York Times (21 Jul 2008), the remark was first attributed to Bismark in the 1930s.

Variants (usually attrib. to Bismark):
  • "If you like laws and sausages, you should never watch either one being made."
  • "Laws are like sausages — it is best not to see them being made."
  • "Laws are like sausages. It is better not to see them being made."
  • "Laws are like sausages. You should never see them made."
  • "Laws are like sausages. You should never watch them being made."
  • "Law and sausage are two things you do not want to see being made."
  • "No one should see how laws or sausages are made."
  • "To retain respect for sausages and laws, one must not watch them in the making."
  • "The making of laws like the making of sausages, is not a pretty sight."
  • "Je weniger die Leute darüber wissen, wie Würste und Gesetze gemacht werden, desto besser schlafen sie nachts." [The less the people know about how sausages and laws are made, the better they sleep in the night.]
Added on 24-Aug-12 | Last updated 13-Dec-17
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And now bills were passed, not only for national objects but for individual cases, and laws were most numerous when the commonwealth was most corrupt.

[Corruptissima re publica plurimae leges.]

Tacitus (c.56-c.120) Roman historian, orator, politician [Publius or Gaius Cornelius Tacitus]
Annals, Book 3, ch. 27 (AD 117)

More common variants:

  • "The more numerous the laws, the more corrupt the government."
  • "The more corrupt the state, the more laws."
Added on 9-Apr-10 | Last updated 4-May-15
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It may be true that morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated. It may be true that the law cannot change the heart but it can restrain the heartless. It may be true that the law can’t make a man love me, but it can restrain him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important also.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
“The Other America,” speech, Stanford U. (1967)
    (Source)

A motif King used frequently. In the Wall Street Journal (13 Nov 1962), King used the line, "It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that's pretty important." In Strength to Love, 3.3 (1963), he wrote, "Morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated. Judicial decrees may not change the heart, but they can restrain the heartless."
Added on 14-Sep-07 | Last updated 1-Oct-15
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