The History Of John Bull Quotes

"Law Is A Bottomless Pit"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: The title page of the first edition of the first installment of this work, which was issued as five pamphlets, reads: Law is a Bottomless-Pit, Exemplify'd in the Case of the Lord Strutt, John Bull, Nicholas Frog, and Lewis Baboon, Who Spent all they had in a Law-Suit. In 1727 the collection of pamphlets was reprinted in Pope and Swift's Miscellanies in Prose and Verse as Law is a Bottomless Pit, or, The History of John Bull, and since that time it has been known as The History of John Bull. It is popularly attributed to John Arburthnot, but whether Jonathan Swift (1667–1745) had a hand in it, or whether he wrote it, is a matter of debate. The work is a satire on the situation that prevailed after the death of Charles II of Spain in 1700. Charles left the Spanish monarchy to Philip of Anjou, grandson of Louis XIV of France. England and Holland feared that the combining of the two monarchies in one family would injure their trade and in 1702 declared war on Spain and France. The first four chapters of the work give the characters of the various contestants. Chapter VI tells of the Dutch and English military successes during 1702–1709. The victories, however, cost huge sums of money, which were supplied by borrowings. The allegory of the lawsuit means the military campaign; Hocus is the leader of the Dutch and English armies, the Duke of Marlborough; John Bull is England; Lord Strutt is Philip of Spain. Chapter VI begins as follows:

Law is a bottomless pit, it is a cormorant, a Harpy, that devours everything; John Bull was flattered by his lawyers that his suit would not last above a year or two at most; that before that time he would be in quiet possession of his business; yet ten long years did Hocus steer his cause through all the meanders of the law, and all the courts; no skill, no address, was wanting; and to say truth, John did not starve the cause; there wanted not yellow-boys to fee counsel, hire witnesses, and bribe juries. Lord Strutt was generally cast, never had one verdict in his favor; and John was promised, that the next and the next would be the final determination; but alas! that final determination, and happy conclusion was like an enchanted island, the nearer John came to it, the further it went from him: new trials upon new points still arose; new doubts, new matters to be cleared; in short, lawyers seldom part with so good a cause till they have got the oyster, and their clients the shell.