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A little bit of Swift

Once upon a time, in response to one editor from France, Jonathan Swift wrote that his work did not have the spatial and temporal boundaries, because such works were written about the eternal human vices.

And by reading Swift, I can only agree with him. Down almost three hundred years after Swift, the vices that were described by him not only diminished, but on the contrary, multiplied and became more sophisticated.

And I could not help quoting some short abstracts from "Gulliver's Travels to the country of the Houyhnhnms", in which taking us three hundred years ago the present vices of lawyers and judges are described with a lively sarcasm.

To clarify the essence of the outlined, I want to help a reader and explain that the "Houyhnhnms" are the horses which are the only rational and civilized animals in their own country. At the same time, in this country people are called "Yahoos". They are wild, uneducated, dirty, greedy, evil animals similar to the monkeys and live on the trees.

Having got in this country, Gulliver met a wise Horse, and decided to tell him about his world and his country. At the time of this tale, Horse was surprised with Gulliver`s phrase "people, which are brought to the poverty by law" and asked him to explain, because he believed that the law must protect people and not bring them to poverty. In response to that comment Gulliver told him the following:

«I assured his honour, "that the law was a science in which I had not much conversed, further than by employing advocates, in vain, upon some injustices that had been done me: however, I would give him all the satisfaction I was able. I said, "there was a society of men among us, bred up from their youth in the art of proving, by words multiplied for the purpose, that white is black, and black is white, according as they are paid. To this society all the rest of the people are slaves. For example, if my neighbour has a mind to my cow, he has a lawyer to prove that he ought to have my cow from me. I must then hire another to defend my right, it being against all rules of law that any man should be allowed to speak for himself. Now, in this case, I, who am the right owner, lie under two great disadvantages: first, my lawyer, being practised almost from his cradle in defending falsehood, is quite out of his element when he would be an advocate for justice, which is an unnatural office he always attempts with great awkwardness, if not with ill–will. The second disadvantage is, that my lawyer must proceed with great caution, or else he will be reprimanded by the judges, and abhorred by his brethren, as one that would lessen the practice of the law. And therefore I have but two methods to preserve my cow. The first is, to gain over my adversary's lawyer with a double fee, who will then betray his client by insinuating that he hath justice on his side. The second way is for my lawyer to make my cause appear as unjust as he can, by allowing the cow to belong to my adversary: and this, if it be skilfully done, will certainly bespeak the favour of the bench.

Now your honour is to know, that these judges are persons appointed to decide all controversies of property, as well as for the trial of criminals, and picked out from the most dexterous lawyers, who are grown old or lazy; and having been biassed all their lives against truth and equity, lie under such a fatal necessity of favouring fraud, perjury, and oppression, that I have known some of them refuse a large bribe from the side where justice lay, rather than injure the faculty, by doing anything unbecoming their nature or their office.

It is a maxim among these lawyers that whatever has been done before, may legally be done again: and therefore they take special care to record all the decisions formerly made against common justice, and the general reason of mankind. These, under the name of precedents, they produce as authorities to justify the most iniquitous opinions; and the judges never fail of directing accordingly.

In pleading, they studiously avoid entering into the merits of the cause; but are loud, violent, and tedious, in dwelling upon all circumstances which are not to the purpose. For instance, in the case already mentioned; they never desire to know what claim or title my adversary has to my cow; but whether the said cow were red or black; her horns long or short; whether the field I graze her in be round or square; whether she was milked at home or abroad; what diseases she is subject to, and the like; after which they consult precedents, adjourn the cause from time to time, and in ten, twenty, or thirty years, come to an issue.

It is likewise to be observed, that this society has a peculiar cant and jargon of their own, that no other mortal can understand, and wherein all their laws are written, which they take special care to multiply; whereby they have wholly confounded the very essence of truth and falsehood, of right and wrong; so that it will take thirty years to decide, whether the field left me by my ancestors for six generations belongs to me, or to a stranger three hundred miles off.

In the trial of persons accused for crimes against the state, the method is much more short and commendable: the judge first sends to sound the disposition of those in power, after which he can easily hang or save a criminal, strictly preserving all due forms of law."

Don't you think that nothing has changed for the better - and only became worse?!

Verily Swift was right, his works were written for any time and for any country!

Will it remain so for all times, or we are able to change it?!

Author: Leading partner of the Law Firm "FOX" Vladimir Marinich