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S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.

Sir Edward Coke

  • [The eminent English jurist; born in Norfolk, 1552; educated at Cambridge; solicitor-general, 1592; attorney-general, 1594; speaker of the House of Commons, 1593; chief-justice of the common pleas, 1606, and of the King’s Bench, 1613, from which he was removed by James I., 1616; opposed the court party from that time until 1628, when he produced his commentary upon Littleton; died 1633.]
  • Law is the safest helmet (lex est tutissima cassis).

  • The Latin inscription on the rings which he gave when made serjeant.
  • A man’s house is his castle.

  • In the “Third Institute,” Coke says, “For a man’s house is his castle” (et domus sua cuique tutissimum refugium); and in Semayne’s case, 5 Rep. 91, “The house of every one is to him as his castle and fortress, as well for his defence against injury and violence as for his repose.” Chatham made a splendid use of this comparison in a speech on the Excise Bill: “The poorest man may, in his cottage, bid defiance to all the forces of the crown. It may be frail, its roof may shake, the wind may blow through it, the storm may enter, the rain may enter; but the king of England cannot enter! All his force dare not cross the threshold of the ruined tenement.” When an Irish attorney said of his client’s house, “The rain may enter it: the king cannot,”—“What!” said the judge (Lord Norbury), “not the reigning king?”
  • Grattan said of Burke, “He became at last such an enthusiastic admirer of kingly power that he could not have slept comfortably upon his pillow if he had not thought that the king had a right to carry it off from under his head.”
  • Magna Charta is such a fellow that he will have no sovereign.

  • Objecting to the words, “sovereign power,” which the lords, in an amendment to the Petition of Eight, desired to leave with the crown for the protection of the people. At a conference between the Lords and Commons on the Petition of Right, May 8, 1628, Coke said, “We have a maxim in the House of Commons, and written on the walls of our house, that old ways are the safest and surest ways.”
  • When the judges were asked if they ought not to stay proceedings until his Majesty had consulted them in a case where he believed his prerogative or interests concerned, and required them to attend him for their advice, all the judges except Coke answered in the affirmative: he proudly replied, “When the case happens, I shall do that which shall be fit for a judge to do.”
  • Corporations have no souls.

  • In the case of Sutton’s Hospital, 10 Rep. 39, Coke said, “They [corporations] cannot commit trespass, nor be outlawed, nor excommunicate; for they have no souls.” Lord Thurlow once asked, in his characteristically rough way, “You never expected justice from a company, did you? They have neither a soul to lose, nor a body to kick.”