No doubt Globe Editorials Friday and to follow will sanctimoniously opine that this willful disregard for law represents a higher wisdom by the Legislature, and is saving us all from a far greater evil. Such transparent self-justification reminds me of this short passage from the play “A Man for All Seasons”, where Thomas More’s family urges him to arrest Richard Rich, a plainly evil man whose perjury will eventually send More to his execution. Out of respect for the rule of law, More refuses.
ALICE He is! Arrest him!Our Democratic legislators have today ignored the law and instead hoisted the voters of the Commonwealth onto the wobbly mainmast of their own principles. Their insouciance toward the rule of law will bring us far worse results than could the progress of any single constitutional amendment.
MARGARET Father, that man's bad.
MORE There is no law against that.
ROPER There is! God's law!
MORE Then God can arrest him.
ROPER Sophistication upon sophistication!
MORE No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal.
ROPER Then you set man's law above God's!
MORE No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact-I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of the law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God . . .
(He says this last to himself)
ALICE (Exasperated, pointing after RICH) While you talk, he's gone!
MORE And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law!
ROPER So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law!
MORE Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
ROPER I'd cut down every law in England to do that!
MORE (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on ROPER) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you-where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? (He leaves him) This country's 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-d'you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake.
ROPER I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god.
MORE (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god . . . . (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle . . . I don't know where he is nor what he wants.
ROPER My god wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else!MORE (Dryly) Are you sure that's God? He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God- And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly!