PART IV--A VOYAGE TO THE COUNTRY OF THE HOUYHNHNMS.
5. CHAPTER V.
"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
"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
Here my master interposing, said, "it was a pity, that creatures
endowed with such prodigious abilities of mind, as these lawyers,
by the description I gave of them, must certainly be, were not
rather encouraged to be instructors of others in wisdom and
knowledge." In answer to which I assured his honour, "that in all
points out of their own trade, they were usually the most ignorant
and stupid generation among us, the most despicable in common
conversation, avowed enemies to all knowledge and learning, and
equally disposed to pervert the general reason of mankind in every
other subject of discourse as in that of their own profession."