A bishop in 13th century Norway tries to bring order to a lawless people…

“But in the course of the night Olav [who has come to town to seek the Bishop’s ruling on a family law dispute] awoke and lay thinking of all that had been told him of Bishop Torfinn. He was afraid of the Bishop after all.

Rather let ten men lose their lives than one maiden be ravished, he was reported to have said.  There was a case that had been much talked about in the country round, a year before.  A rich man’s son in Alvheim had set his mind on a poor peasant’s daughter; as he could not tempt the woman with promises and gifts, he came one evening in springtime, when the girl was ploughing, and tried to use force.  Her father was below in the wood, busy with the mending of a fence; he was old and ailing, but on hearing his daughter’s cries he took his woodcutter’s axe and ran up; he cleft the other’s skull.  The ravisher was left unatoned; his kinsmen had to be content with that.  But, as was natural, they tried to get the slayer to leave the country.  First they offered to buy him out, but when he would not have it, they fell upon him with threats and overbearing treatment.  Then Bishop Torfinn had taken the poor peasant and his children under his protection.

Then there was that case of the man at Tonstad who had been found slain in his coppice.  His wife and children charged the other tenant of the farm with the murder; the man had to flee to save his life, and his wife and young children suffered affliction and cruelty without end at the hands of the murdered man’s relatives.  Then it came about that the dead man’s own cousin confessed that he was the one who had killed his kinsman – they had quarrelled about an inheritance.  But it was said that Bishop Torfinn had forced the murderer to avow before the people what he had confessed to the Bishop – saying that no priest had power to absolve him of the sin before he had shown sincere repentance and rescued the innocent who might be suffering from his misdeed.”

To be continued…

From “The Master of Hestviken” tetralogy by Sigrid Undset (“The Axe”, Ch 8), translated by Arthur G. Chater

6 June 2017

The legal background to a famous painting - "The Arnolfini Marriage"...

“It may well be that the financial agreement in the present case was particularly important, since this is clearly a “left-handed” marriage.  The man takes the woman’s hand in his left hand, not his right as was otherwise the convention.  Such marriages were concluded between partners of unequal rank, and are still occasionally practised in ruling houses in our own times. 

More precisely, it was always the woman who came from the lower class.  She had to relinquish all rights of inheritance for herself and her children and thus could not continue the family lineage, but was guaranteed sufficient financial means to support herself in the event of widowhood.  These means, or title-deeds relating to them, were originally presented on the morning after the marriage.  It is from the Low Latin morganatica, meaning a gift from a bridegroom to a bride, that we derive the term more politely given to this sort of union, namely a “morganatic” marriage.” ”

Rose-Marie and Rainer Hagen, commenting on “The Arnolfini Marriage” (1434) by Jan van Eyck.  From Taschen’s “Masterpieces under the Microsope” calendar for 2014.

30 May 2017

“Only at the Council of Trent a good century later did the Church succeed in making the attendance of a priest and two witnesses a necessary element of the marriage ceremony.  It did so not for religious reasons, but in order to clamp down on the abuse and deception possible under the old system.  Even after this, however, the ceremony still did not have to take place before the altar, but at most in front of a church door.

Although witnesses are not required at the Arnolfini wedding, two are nevertheless clearly visible in the mirror.  They are needed for a different reason, namely to legalize a written contract of marriage.  Such contracts were common where – as here – large amounts of money were involved; they regulated financial matters between the marriage partners and had to be signed by two witnesses.”

To be continued…

Rose-Marie and Rainer Hagen, commenting on “The Arnolfini Marriage” (1434) by Jan van Eyck.  From Taschen’s “Masterpieces under the Microsope” calendar for 2014.


23 May 2017


“The woman lays her right hand carefully in the man’s left.  There is a solemnity to this joining of hands, which the artist places in almost the very centre of the composition and which is thereby lent particular significance….For van Eyck’s contemporaries, the joining of hands and the gesture of oath-taking were sure indications that two people were pledging each other their troth.

In the 15th century, you needed neither a priest nor witnesses to enter into a Christian and legal marriage.  A wedding could be performed anywhere, including – as here – in a private bedchamber.  The sacrament of marriage was conducted not by priests but by husband and wife themselves.  To officially announce their marriage, the newly-weds would attend Communion together the following morning, although even this was not compulsory."

To be continued…

Rose-Marie and Rainer Hagen, commenting on “The Arnolfini Marriage” (1434) by Jan van Eyck.  From Taschen’s “Masterpieces under the Microsope” calendar for 2014.

16 May 2017

“The way people worked had changed radically since the formation of the Hanseatic League three hundred years previously.  At the beginning, merchants travelled in person across the country or overseas to do business.  They bought and sold their goods themselves, usually trading by barter.  In Holbein’s day, however, they stayed behind in their offices, relying on sea captains and travelling sales staff, and on business partners in other centres of trade, sometimes members of their own family.  The handshake that had formerly concluded a deal was replaced by the written agreement, a contract or a letter from distant parts bearing a seal. 

There are two possible explanations as to why Gisze should have half a dozen signets and seals in his office all at one time, both of which may be correct.  Perhaps he gave them to members of his sales team to take with them on trips, or perhaps he himself represented a number of different companies whose seals he used when working on their behalf.”

To be continued…

Rose-Marie and Rainer Hagen, commenting on “Portrait of the Merchant Georg Gisze” (1532) by Hans Holbein the Younger.  From Taschen’s “Masterpieces under the Microsope” calendar for 2014.

9 May 2017

“Next to the clock lies a signet:  a die used to make seals of wax or lacquer.  A second signet, more decorative in its design and attached to a ball of amber, hangs from the shelf on the left....Lying further back is a pair of scissors; these assumed a role in a certain type of contract, whose text was written out twice, once at the top and once at the bottom of the same piece of paper.  Each party then received one half.  In the event of a dispute, the two halves were compared to see if they fitted together

All these objects can be found in paintings by other masters, including the signet ring lying on the tablecloth in the foreground.  But only Holbein painted three or four such rings within one and the same canvas.  Another can be seen on Gisze’s index finger, while two more are hanging from a hook on the shelf above.  Four signet rings in one office?  The fact that Holbein draws no particular attention to them within his composition, but includes them almost in passing, suggests that he is simply making a dutiful record of his subject.  Today, however, the rings provide us with a clue to the nature of Gisze’s job."

Rose-Marie and Rainer Hagen, commenting on “Portrait of the Merchant Georg Gisze” (1532) by Hans Holbein the Younger.  From Taschen’s “Masterpieces under the Microsope” calendar for 2014.

2 May 2017

A startling glimpse of litigation practices in the early 17th century…

“Unless some unavoidable necessity oblige her in conscience to become involved in public proceedings such as lawsuits, I counsel the true widow to abstain from them altogether, and to adopt that way of conducting her affairs which is most peaceable and tranquil, even though it seem not to be the most profitable.  For the fruits derived from such labours and anxieties must needs be very great, to bear any comparison with the good of a holy tranquillity; quite apart from the fact that lawsuits and such disagreements distract the heart and oftentimes open the door to the enemies of chastity, because, while such things are in progress, to please those whose favour they need, persons behave themselves in a manner that is neither devout nor pleasing to God.”

St Francis de Sales, “Introduction to the Devout Life”, Ch. XL, translated by Allan Ross.  St Francis is addressing himself to women who wish to remain widows – though, he adds, “the true widow should never blame nor censure those who marry a second time, or even a third or fourth time, for in some cases God arranges matters in this way for his greater glory”.

25 April 2017

St Francis de Sales on the need for gentleness towards ourselves…


“One of the good uses that we should make of gentleness, is that whereof the subject is in ourselves, never fretting at ourselves or at our imperfections; for though reason requires, that when we commit faults we should be displeased and sorry for them, yet we must restrain ourselves from having a displeasure which is bitter and sullen, fretful and angry....these fits of anger, fretfulness and irritation, which we have against ourselves, tend to pride and have no other source than self-love, which is troubled and disquieted at seeing ourselves imperfect.

We must, then, have a dislike for our faults which is peaceable, dispassionate, and firm; for as a judge punishes the guilty much better, when he is guided by reason in passing judgement and proceeds in a spirit of tranquillity, than when he does so with impetuosity and passion, because if he judges with passion he does not punish the faults according as they are, but according as he is himself; even so we correct ourselves much better by a tranquil and steadfast repentance, than by that which is harsh, eager and passionate, because repentance made with impetuosity is not according to the gravity of our faults, but according to our inclinations.  For example, he that prizes chastity will fret most bitterly over the least fault committed against this virtue, and will only smile at a gross slander which he has committed.”

St Francis de Sales, in “Introduction to the Devout Life”, Ch. IX

11 April 2017 - Holy Week

“The police went back to the chief priests and Pharisees who said to them, ‘Why haven’t you brought him?’  The police replied, ‘There has never been anybody who has spoken like him.’  “So’ the Pharisees answered ‘you have been led astray as well?  Have any of the authorities believed in him?  Any of the Pharisees?  This rabble knows nothing about the Law – they are damned.’  One of them, Nicodemus – the same man who had come to Jesus earlier [by night - John 19:38-42] – said to them, ‘But surely the Law does not allow us to pass judgement on a man without giving him a hearing and discovering what he is about?’  To this they answered, ‘Are you a Galilean too?  Go into the matter, and see for yourself:  prophets do not come out of Galilee.’ ”

John 7:45-52.  After the crucifixion Nicodemus helps his fellow Sanhedrin member, Joseph of Arimathea, take away the body of Jesus, and brings myrrh and aloes to the tomb to anoint and perfume the body once the Sabbath is over (John 19:38-42).  The Didache Bible comments “Their boldness, a true example of the virtue of fortitude, contrasts with the secrecy with which they had embraced the teachings of Christ for fear of reprimand from Jewish authorities.”

4 April 2017


Unfair land distribution during the “long boom” of New South Wales…

“The fight to sub-divide the great squatter holdings raged between the 1860s and 1890s.  Some land was prised away, but in fact the Land Acts of New South Wales achieved very little for the settlers.  By ‘peacocking’, i.e., buying areas that included all the creek fronts and waterholes, squatters rendered the large intermediate spaces of their ‘runs’ useless to intruders.  Similarly, by putting up their own relatives as ‘dummies’ when their lands were sub-divided, squatters managed to retain their wide acres.  Meanwhile, as a result of the increased demand, the price of land in both town and country began to rise steadily.

….The amount of land encompassed in the pastoral leases was enormous.  And because members of parliament held a further nine million acres between them, the same could not be said of government charges.  The AML&F’s Lake Victoria station for example, situated near Wentworth, comprised 1,400,000 acres at 1d. an acre!  Similarly Connulpie Downs, a 500,000 acre run near Wilcannia was the largest station leased by the Bank of New South Wales and it was leased for two-thirds of one penny per acre.”

Alan Dunstan in “Land Monopoly:  Who Owned New South Wales?” in Annals Australasia, January/February 2004

Dunstan also quotes these lines from Banjo Paterson’s “Man from Snowy River”:

‘I went to Illawarra, where my brother’s got a farm,
he has to ask his landlord’s leave before he lifts his arm;
The landlord owns the country side – man, woman, dog, and cat.
They haven’t the cheek to dare to speak without they touch their hat…’

28 March 2017


“The almost standard historical view of New South Wales is that the years between the late 1840s and the ‘Great’ Depression of the 1890s, were generally prosperous with high growth. This view is supported by large increases in both the sheep and immigrant populations….Indeed so ingrained has the idea become that historians generally describe the period, somewhat loosely, as the ‘long boom.’

But we might ask, just whose boom was it?  All who are acquainted with town life as described by the young Henry Lawson, for example, are aware that far from living amidst ‘Sunny Australia’s’ millions of empty acres, the working population were crushed into small rooms in the city because of the high price of land.

The seeds of this problem were planted in the first decades of the 19th century when the idea of maintaining ‘Botany Bay’ solely as a jail was re-jigged to create an Australian ‘Virginia.’  Or, more plainly, when a clique of aristocratic pastoralists were given the ‘whole of the country,’ so far as it had been opened up, ‘to divide among themselves.’  In the wake of this madness Macquarie’s scheme for fostering a society of healthy yeomen was scrapped in favour of a one-product export economy based on wool. 

The chief beneficiaries of the policy were initially large individual landholders like Macarthur, and thereafter, corporate landholders such as the Australian Agricultural Company (AA Co.) which, in the 1820s, was given a million-acre grant at Port Stephens.  Other imperial land grant companies were the Van Diemen’s Land Company, the South Australian Land Company, and the Peel River Company.  This last, and the AA Co. were practically one, owned and controlled by the same men.  Linked with these estates were the ‘old English gentry’ who, by the simple act of ‘squatting,’ appropriated still more millions of acres of seemingly endless pasturages.”

To be continued…

Alan Dunstan in “Land Monopoly:  Who Owned New South Wales?” in Annals Australasia, January/February 2004

21 March 2017

Governor Macquarie tries to reform colonial Sydney by legislative means…

“Macquarie was convinced that under his rule from 1810 to 1821 religion and morals had advanced.  Commissioner Bigge in his report-card on Macquarie’s administration allowed in passing that there had been ‘some improvement’ in religious feelings but took more notice of the governor’s chaplains than the governor himself. 

The chaplains believed that the convicts and ex-convicts had exhibited no permanent substantial change for the better.  Bigge was impressed by the case of two emancipated convicts at Richmond whom the Reverend Robert Cartwright had pointed out as exceptional for their good conduct.  These two were subsequently discovered to be horse thieves.”

From “Australians and the Christian God:  An Historical Study” by Hugh Jackson, Ch. 2

14 March 2017

Governor Macquarie tries to reform colonial Sydney by legislative means…

“A week later Macquarie gave an order for the introduction of patrols of constables to arrest persons idling in the streets during church services.  As part of their Sunday duties the constables were to enter houses which were disorderly or noisy or in which people were drinking, and lock up disturbers of the Sabbath quiet.  Further regulations regarding Sunday trading were issued in May 1813.  These included a prohibition on the hiring of boats on the Parramatta River, a practice that had occasioned ‘idle and disorderly scenes of dissipation, to the profanation of the Sabbath’.

In March 1817, with Macquarie in the chair, a group of leading citizens of Sydney held a meeting to establish a Bible society.  The aim was to make the Scriptures more widely available in the colony.  Macquarie’s personal motivation for his involvement here was surely exclusively hope of moral improvement.  In private life he was an infrequent churchgoer.  A practising freemason, Macquarie sat lightly to anything in the Christian religion that set it apart from a generalised belief in God.  Macquarie’s wife, Elizabeth, on the other hand was a devout Christian, drawn to the religious and political outlook of Dr Johnson.”

To be continued…

From “Australians and the Christian God:  An Historical Study” by Hugh Jackson, Ch. 2

7 March 2017

Governor Macquarie tries to reform colonial society by legislative means…

“In 1809 a week before Lachlan Macquarie sailed to take up his appointment as governor of New South Wales, Lord Castlereagh gave him confidential instructions.  At the top of Castlereagh’s list was lifting the moral condition of the colony.

Macquarie was officially welcomed to New South Wales on the last day of 1809....On 24 February 1810 Macquarie issued a proclamation declaring that a woman who was cohabiting could not inherit if her man died intestate.  He had already introduced Sunday trading regulations and ended the practice of publishing the Sydney Gazette on a Sunday.  On 19 May 1810 a Government and General Order announced that a proper Sabbath observance was necessary on the part of the convicts if they were to be reclaimed from their vicious habits.  To this end government gangs were to be mustered on Sunday mornings and be marched to church for worship.” 

To be continued…

From “Australians and the Christian God:  An Historical Study” by Hugh Jackson, Ch. 2

7 February 2017

Is the Jaffa cake really a cake?  A multi-million pound question in the UK…

“If the Jaffa Cake is defined as a cake, it does not have VAT added, but if it is a biscuit, because it is chocolate-covered it must carry VAT.  The problem is that Jaffa Cakes come in packs like biscuits, are eaten like biscuits and are stacked on supermarket shelves next to biscuits. On the other hand, they are made from a bit of sponge cake topped in chocolate with a ‘smashing orangey bit’.  Fortunately for lovers of Jaffa Cakes, a ruling at the United Kingdom VAT Tribunal in 1991 decided that a Jaffa Cake was and always will be a cake.  The clinching evidence was when the manufacturers showed that a Jaffa Cake when left out in the air will go hard.  I find this to be a remarkable piece of research, as whenever I find myself near a Jaffa Cake that has been left out, it disappears.”

Marty Jopson in “The Science of Everyday Life:  Why teapots dribble, toast burns and light bulbs shine”, 1st chapter, pp. 34-6

31 January 2017

“When is a biscuit a cake and when is a cake a biscuit?....Diversions aside, there is a simple way to determine what kind of bakery product you have:  just leave it unwrapped on the counter top for a day or two.  If it’s a cake, it will dry out and become hard and brittle, whereas if it’s a biscuit it will become soft.

….You may feel that being armed with the true definition of a cake and a biscuit is of trivial importance.  However, the semantic difference between a biscuit and a cake is a multi-million pound question.  In the United Kingdom you can buy a packet of Jaffa Cakes at any supermarket or convenience store.  For the uninitiated, a Jaffa Cake is a 64-mm (2½-in) disc of Genoese sponge, topped by a smaller disk of orange-flavoured jelly that is then slathered in dark chocolate….The big and valuable question, though, is this:  are Jaffa Cakes a biscuit or a cake?

In the United Kingdom, VAT, or Value Added Tax (sales tax), is not charged on the sale of cakes, nor is it charged on biscuits unless the biscuit is covered in chocolate.  Why and how they concocted this rule is way beyond the scope of this book.”

To be continued…

Marty Jopson in “The Science of Everyday Life:  Why teapots dribble, toast burns and light bulbs shine”, 1st chapter, pp. 34-6

27 December 2016

“The booklet also contains a foreword by Larry Siedentop, the author of Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism, which is an essential study of how individualism and freedom have their roots in St Paul.

....As Siedentrop points out: “The understanding of justice itself began to be more closely associated with the assumption of moral equality.

For a strong case can be made that the earliest form of natural rights theory was the work of canon lawyers from the 12th to the 14th century – lawyers who transformed the idea of natural law inherited from the ancient world, by giving it a far more individualist cast.

In their hands, ‘aristocratic’ liberty, liberty understood as personal and corporate privileges, began to give way to a more ‘democratic’ conception of liberty.

“Today there is a widespread embarrassment about confronting the role of the Christian church in the formation of the Western world. The Western debt to ancient Greece and Rome is far more likely to be emphasized than its debt to Christian moral thought.”

Of course this is not an isolated incident; the eradication of the Church’s influence on Magna Carta is part of a wider cultural amnesia in which the Christian origins of so many ideas we now assume to be universal have been forgotten. In that sense Christianity has rather been a victim of its own success.”

From “The Church’s central role in Magna Carta has been airbrushed out of history” by Ed West, posted on the Catholic Herald’s website, 10 June 2015

20 December 2016

“To miss the role played by the Church is to “miss a crucial part of the Magna Carta’s story”, he argues. “This is particularly true of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who was instrumental not only in negotiating the Charter of 1215, but also in the important reissue of 1225 under Henry III, which confirmed the Magna Carta’s place in history. Perhaps more important than this, however, is that a failure to acknowledge the Christian theological context within which the Magna Carta arose is to miss out on an understanding of some of the most important roots of our political and intellectual heritage.” ”

To be continued…

From “The Church’s central role in Magna Carta has been airbrushed out of history” by Ed West, posted on the Catholic Herald’s website, 10 June 2015

13 December 2016

“Archbishop Langton was perhaps intellectually the most important figure behind Magna Carta, and although he may not have written it (no one knows exactly who, although it was certainly a collaboration), according to one chronicler he played a big part in suggesting the idea by raising the subject of Henry I’s 1100 coronation charter, a series of promises made by the Norman king which influenced the men of 1215.

More significant, though, as Andrew states, was the Christian intellectual tradition that led to the lasting ideas within Magna Carta, which is ignored today:

“A more nuanced position recognises that the ideas contained within the Magna Carta are part of a developing intellectual tradition. They did not emerge ex nihilo, but arose as an expression of pre-existing thought, given shape and substance in the political demands of the moment. And a key aspect of that intellectual tradition is the contribution of the Christian Church and Christian theology.

“No account of the Magna Carta can be complete without reference to the Church. Indeed, given the prominence placed on the principle of ecclesiastical liberty within the text, no account of the Magna Carta should even begin without acknowledging the Church’s role in its formation. And yet popular thinking seems all too willing to ignore it altogether. While academic scholarship has produced some notable studies into the theological background of the Archbishop of Canterbury, material aimed at the general public has largely failed to recognise the contribution of Christian theology or the Church in the formation of the Magna Carta. When the British Library ran a series of events exploring the 800 year-old roots of ‘Britain’s struggle for freedom' the contribution of the Church was all but ignored. And as the professor of political science Cary Nederman points out, while commentators will often pay lip service to the principles of ecclesial liberty enshrined in the first clause of the Magna Carta, this is generally done with the attitude of someone fulfilling a formal requirement, before they can move on to the meatier parts of the text.” ”

To be continued…

From “The Church’s central role in Magna Carta has been airbrushed out of history” by Ed West, posted on the Catholic Herald’s website, 10 June 2015

6 December 2016

The Catholic roots of the Magna Carta...

“In particular Andrew addresses the unsung hero of Magna Carta, Archbishop of Canterbury Stephen Langton, who played a huge part in drawing up the treaty and implementing it.

Langton was a strange and unusual choice for the role; he was the former tutor to Pope Alexander III, and was a rather otherworldly scholar who wrote page upon page of totally impenetrable commentary on the Bible.  However, there was a theme in his later writing, much of which seemed to focus on the bad kings of the Old Testament who broke God’s law and who therefore had terrible things done to them. Biblical kings, he wrote, had a book of laws written down by the priests; today’s kings though ignore the advice of priests and rule without restraint. The archbishop gave lectures in which he attacked these modern rulers who tax not out of necessity but greed and vanity, and where he said kingship was a punishment to mankind. To a king as paranoid as John it would have been clear what he was getting at. Langton also attacked “princes who flee from lengthy sermons”, which would certainly apply to King John, who was so openly bored by church he once sent three notes to a bishop presiding over Mass to hurry up so he could have lunch. (On another occasion, reminiscent of Edmund Blackadder, John took out a gold coin at collection time, fiddled with it, and then ostentatiously put it back in his purse.)”

To be continued…

From “The Church’s central role in Magna Carta has been airbrushed out of history”, posted by Ed West on the Catholic Herald’s website, 10 June 2015

29 November 2016

“This Monday coming marks the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, a peace treaty between a comically cowardly drunken king and his leading barons. It mainly focused on financial disputes but it nonetheless came to become ‘the Bible of the English Constitution’, as William Pitt the Elder put it.

Although there is some understandable scepticism about the way that Magna Carta was romanticized by 17th century opponents of the Stuart monarchs, and the motives of the barons were almost entirely selfish, its four surviving clauses (sometimes counted as 3, as 39 and 40 were merged into one in the definitive 1297 reissue) still hold enormous weight, legally, culturally and emotionally.

But though Clause 39 – “No free man is to be arrested, or imprisoned, or disseised, or outlawed, or exiled, or in any other way ruined, nor will we go against him or send against him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land” – is well-known to educated people, it is less commonly recalled that Clause 1 states “that the English Church is to be free, and to have its full rights and its liberties intact”.

More importantly, the Christian origins and influence of the Great Charter are mostly ignored, a point raised in a new Theos report by Thomas Andrew, The Church and the Charter: Christianity and the Forgotten Roots of Magna Carta.”

To be continued…

From “The Church’s central role in Magna Carta has been airbrushed out of history”, posted by Ed West on the Catholic Herald’s website, 10 June 2015

22 November 2016

“He does not judge by appearances,
he gives no verdict on hearsay,
but judges the wretched with integrity,
and with equity gives a verdict for the poor of the land.
His word is a rod that strikes the ruthless,
his sentences bring death to the wicked.”

Isaiah 11

15 November 2016

The French government confiscates the Carthusian monks’ Charterhouse in southern France in 1903…

“By this time, the authorities were having second thoughts.  For fear of making them martyrs, after questioning the monks, the police told them that they were free.  All the monks immediately went back into the Charterhouse.  The Prior said, “I need no authorization to reenter my own house.”  They did not leave until surrounded by soldiers with fixed bayonets.  They were finally expelled on April 19, 1903.  They resettled in the Italian Charterhouse in Farneta, but they had already built a double Charterhouse in England to house the monks and store the treasures they had sent ahead.  The order carried on in exile without missing a heartbeat, not returning to the Grande Chartreuse until 1940, during the unsettled conditions of World War II.”

From “An Infinity of Little Hours:  Five Young Men and their Trial of Faith in the Western World’s Most Austere Monastic Order” by Nancy Klein Maguire, Ch 2

8 November 2016

“The monks unanimously decided to resist as far as they could – that is, until the soldiers violently removed them.  They locked the gates of the Charterhouse and carried on their normal activities, twice refusing to even speak with the examining magistrate and his policemen. 

The French government needed a battalion of infantry, fifty mounted police, two squadrons of heavily armed cavalrymen, a detachment of bomb experts, a squad of military engineers, and reinforcements of mounted police to remove twenty-three Carthusians from their Charterhouse.  After breaking through the assembly of thousands of local protesters, the authorities got to the main gate, which the monks still refused to open.  Once they had broken through all the outer and inner gates, the authorities found the monks praying in church.  They still refused to leave.  The police captain brought warrants of arrest and removed the monks amid jeers from the inhabitants of the surrounding villages.”

To be continued…

From “An Infinity of Little Hours:  Five Young Men and their Trial of Faith in the Western World’s Most Austere Monastic Order” by Nancy Klein Maguire, Ch 2

1 November 2016

“The Carthusians’ unique identity resides, to a considerable extent, in the Grande Chartreuse.  The psychic power of the first Charterhouse seems nearly unique, rather like the power of Jerusalem for Jews and Arabs.  Rather than just being a collection of religious buildings, the Grande Chartreuse itself seems an ancient state.  As early as January 30, 1132, an avalanche buried the entire Charterhouse, killing seven of the monks.  In 1561, during the wars of religion, the Grande Chartreuse was plundered and burned to the ground, not for the first time.  The monks reconstructed it.  After it was again in perfect repair, in 1676, the Chartreuse burned for the eighth time.  Perhaps the most significant Prior of the Grande Chartreuse, Dom Innocent Le Masson, rebuilt the Charterhouse, at tremendous expense, in stone.  The Grande Chartreuse “Annals” record that the rebuilding was nearing conclusion in 1686.  Then in 1792, the French Revolution forced the monks to flee; over the course of the revolutionary years, many things were carted away and even destroyed, such as the crosses in the cemetery and some paintings.  When the monks reentered in 1816, they set about rebuilding.  In 1903, during the period of anti-clerical legislation, the French government confiscated the Grande Chartreuse, but this time the monks were prepared.”

From “An Infinity of Little Hours:  Five Young Men and their Trial of Faith in the Western World’s Most Austere Monastic Order” by Nancy Klein Maguire, Ch 2

26 July 2016

Lord Atkin's Australian connection...

“Richard Atkin never did return to Queensland, but many years later, when his father’s tomb had fallen into disrepair, he sent funds to restore it. That column, and a series of carved timber panels by the celebrated Queensland sculptress Daphne Mayo in the little Anglican church at Sandgate, were the only reminders of the life of a pioneer in Australian politics and journalism. Then Gerard Carney, Dean of Law in the University of Queensland, researched the family history for a monograph for the Queensland Supreme Court’s history program.

This led to a visit to Queensland of the grandson and grand-daughter of Lord Atkin, who were present for the unveiling of a memorial plaque in the courtyard of the Commonwealth Courts, the site of Ellandale cottage, commemorating the birthplace of Lord Atkin of Aberdovey: “Erected 2012 on the 145th anniversary of his birth and the 80th anniversary of his most celebrated judgement in Donoghue v Stevenson.”

Lord Atkin may never have returned, but through his membership of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, his influence on the law and politics of British Commonwealth countries was considerable. In 1932 he was a member of the Judicial Committee which defeated the attempt by the Lang government to abolish the New South Wales upper house. The Privy Council held that the Legislative Assembly had no power to abolish the Legislative Council or alter the constitution without first taking a referendum of electors on the matter.”

From “The Story Behind Lord Atkin of Snail” by Geoffrey Luck, Qudrant, January-February 2015

19 July 2016

Lord Atkin's Australian connection...

"In his time as a parliamentarian and newspaper owner, Robert Atkin fought for many principled causes: electoral reform, as the first to introduce an Additional Members Bill; enfranchisement of gold miners, whose discoveries had saved the economy; the independence of the public service under a UK-style commission; a Rivers Trust for the Brisbane River; an end to “blackbirding”, describing the Polynesian Labourers Act as a legalised system of kidnapping; and more migration from the British Isles and Germany to develop the colony.

Robert Atkin passed through Brisbane life like a comet, brilliantly illuminating but without leaving a lasting influence. For a few brief years his oratory and his energetic journalism captivated the town, but his ideas that politics should be principled and consistent in the interests of the common man remained alien and ignored.

What then, was his influence, if any, on his celebrated son? Obviously none, directly, since he never saw him again after the boy sailed for Britain with his mother on the Chartyce at the age of three. But Mary had been an intimate part of Robert’s journalism, contributing women’s articles and doing much of the proofreading of his papers. She undoubtedly would have transmitted to her boys his values, principles and sense of outrage against the oppression of vested interests. Her letters home, many written cross-hatched in the economical fashion of the nineteenth century, reveal her powerful determination to succeed in difficult times.”

To be continued…

From “The Story Behind Lord Atkin of Snail” by Geoffrey Luck, Quadrant, January-February 2015

12 July 2016

“So much for the case that made Lord Atkin famous. What forces made him such a pivotal jurist? Photographs taken in the 1930s, at the peak of his career and reputation, show an avuncular figure, with a kindly smile that reflected a self-possessed contentment derived from his Christianity, his belief in civil liberties and sympathy for the working man. Much of this quality was no doubt due to the influence of his mother, growing up in his grandmother’s cottage, “Pantiludw”, just outside the Welsh seaside village of Aberdovey. The nineteenth-century dwelling is now a classified heritage building.

But James Richard “Dickie” Atkin had an unpromising and tragic early start to his life. He was born in Brisbane in 1867, and lost his father at the age of six. Brisbane was then a colonial village of 14,000 people. An embryonic parliament was struggling to assert Queensland’s new-found independence from New South Wales, and develop a vast hinterland dominated by squatters’ interests. The state had been bankrupted by the collapse of its London banks, and was using its only asset—land—in an imaginative financing system. To populate the country, the government had created a system of land orders promising land to migrants, and appointed an Agent-General of Immigration, Henry Jordan, to recruit throughout the British Isles.

One of the 20,000 people Jordan found and sent out to the new colony was Robert Travers Atkin, aged twenty-three, originally from Clonakilty, County Cork, Ireland, but then living in Shropshire, with a new Welsh wife, Mary.”

To be continued…

From “The Story Behind Lord Atkin of Snail” by Geoffrey Luck, Quadrant, January-February 2015

5 July 2016

“After the historic decision, the case was remitted to the Scots Court of Session to try the case on the facts. This could have proved awkward for Leechman and Donoghue. Stevenson (who had died by then) had claimed the bottle was not a type from his brewery—quite possible, due to the penny-deposit system and the common practice of using other manufacturers’ bottles. May Donoghue was all for fighting on, but was persuaded to settle for £200, all of which must have gone in legal costs.

That the Scottish court did not examine the facts of the incident left a curious snail trail. In 1942, Lord Justice Mackinnon delivered his Holdsworth address, saying flippantly he detested “that snail”: “It was found that there never was a snail in the bottle at all.” Which created a small legal ruckus, with an objection from Lord Atkin. The Birmingham Law Librarian kindly sent me a copy of the Mackinnon speech. It contains a correction page in which Mackinnon acknowledged he had been corrected; he should have said the issue of fact was never decided.

Indeed he was corrected—by Lord Normand, who had been the leading counsel for Stevenson. He wrote to Lord Macmillan: “We had a very strong case on the facts. If the case had gone to proof, I think it would have been fought, and possibly on the issue whether there was a snail in the bottle.” But the story would not die. Twelve years later in the important “Himalaya” case of Adler v Dickson which invoked the Atkin principles, Lord Justice Jenkins said, quite erroneously: “When the trial was finally held there was no snail in the bottle at all.”

To be continued…

From “The Story Behind Lord Atkin of Snail” by Geoffrey Luck, Quadrant, January-February 2015

28 June 2016

“When the case finally came before the five Law Lords, sitting before a fire in a cosy committee room, dressed in ordinary suits, counsel for Mrs Donoghue argued for a new principle of responsibility—“the case of goods intended for human consumption sold to the public in a form in which investigation is impossible”.

In May 1932, the five Lords rose in turn, in order of seniority, and read their judgments as speeches to the Chamber. Twenty years later, Lord Justice Denning passed his judgment on the participants: Lords Buckmaster and Tomlin were “timorous souls who were fearful of allowing a new cause of action”, in contrast to Lords Atkin and Macmillan, “the bold spirits who were ready to allow it if justice so required”.

Lord Atkin gladly accepted the role of demolisher of precedent. He argued two propositions—the “Neighbour Principle” which he abstracted from St Luke’s Gospel and the parable of the Good Samaritan; and what he termed “sound common sense” that “a manufacturer … with the knowledge that the absence of reasonable care in the preparation and putting up of the products will result in an injury to the consumer’s life or property, owes a duty to the consumer to take that reasonable care”.

Nobody should have been surprised. Two years earlier, he had canvassed these ideas in his presidential speech to the Holdsworth Club, the prestigious law society of Birmingham University. He spoke of achieving convergence between morality and the law, saying, “I doubt whether the whole of the law of tort could not be comprised in the golden maxim to do unto your neighbour as you would that he should do unto you.”

To be continued…

From “The Story Behind Lord Atkin of Snail” by Geoffrey Luck, Quadrant, January-February 2015

21 June 2016

“Lord Moncrieff, we might agree, got it right, and would have been the hero of this tale had not Mr Stevenson appealed to the Second Division of the Court of Session.  It overturned Lord Moncrieff’s decision in a three-to-one verdict.  Unsurprisingly, it proved impossible for the majority of the Lords of Appeal to concede they were wrong in the Barr “mice” cases.

Mrs Donoghue’s solicitor, Glasgow town councillor Walter Leechman, was a political radical.  He held strong views on injustice and individual rights; it was he who had launched the two “mice” cases against A.G. Barr and was now saddling up for an even more expensive attempt to sheet responsibility home to ginger-beer brewers.

It seems this was on a “speculative fee” basis similar to today’s practice of “no win, no fee” by ambulance-chasing lawyers. Shrewdly, he limited the appeal to the House of Lords to a point of law, not the facts. Later, this led to misunderstanding and the absurd claim in some high legal circles that the case was a hoax—and that there never had been a snail!”

To be continued…

From “The Story Behind Lord Atkin of Snail” by Geoffrey Luck, Quadrant, January-February 2015

14 June 2016

"It was not likely an action against the cafe owner, an Italian, Francis Minghella, would succeed, because the bottle had been delivered sealed, and he could not have been expected to spot the snail in the opaque bottle. A claim for £500 damages was therefore filed against the brewer whose name was on the bottle, David Stevenson of Glen Lane, Paisley, for shock and the gastro-enteritis which required medical consultations. He denied that he had any liability under current law, since he had no contract with Mrs Donoghue. At that time Scottish and English law provided only two grounds for liability: sale of dangerous goods or withholding knowledge of a defect in goods that could be dangerous.

The case came before Lord Alexander Moncrieff, the Lord Ordinary, in the Outer House of Scotland’s Court of Session on June 27, 1930. Mrs Donoghue faced a severe legal hurdle. Only three weeks earlier, the Second Division of the Court of Session had dismissed claims in two similar cases—of mice being found in bottles of ginger beer made by a Glasgow company, A.G. Barr Ltd. The court held that negligence could not be inferred from the facts, and even if it could be proved, no duty of care was owed to the ultimate consumer.

Nevertheless Lord Moncrieff managed to find wiggle room around this. He found for Mrs Donoghue on the grounds that there was a general duty owed by the wrongdoer to the victim, and brought food products within the scope of “dangerous goods”, requiring that “an ostensible food be not replaced by a latent and actual poison”.

To be continued…

From “The Story Behind Lord Atkin of Snail” by Geoffrey Luck, Quadrant, January-February 2015

6 June 2016

“At 8.50 p.m. on Sunday August 26, 1928, Mrs May Donoghue (nee McAlister), having taken the thirty-minute tram ride from Glasgow to Paisley, met a friend in the Wellmeadow Cafe.  Mrs Donoghue was at the time living with her brother, having separated from her husband, Henry. 

....The friend bought her an ice-cream, served in a glass, and ginger beer to pour over it, making the popular Scottish ice-cream “float”. After she had drunk some, the friend refilled the glass, whereupon a decomposed snail flowed out with the ginger beer, and May Donoghue very likely had a fit of the vapours. The friend, however, had the presence of mind to note the name of the manufacturer on the bottle. (Does that suggest the friend was more likely a man?)

(To interpose two historical facts: ice-cream cafes had spread like wildfire in Scotland after the First World War, as Italian migrants fled an impoverished country; ginger beer was probably the most popular drink at the time, with 3000 breweries throughout Britain. In the days before sterile filtration, it was invariably sold in brown glass or stoneware bottles to disguise the suspended sediment of the brewing process.)”

To be continued…

From “The Story Behind Lord Atkin of Snail” by Geoffrey Luck, Quadrant, January-February 2015

31 May 2016

“On Tuesday March 17, 1931, Britain’s Lord Chancellor Lord Sankey, the 4th Duke of Wellington, two bishops, two marquesses, twenty-four earls, sixteen viscounts and eighty-eight barons took their seats in the House of Lords and voted to permit a Glasgow shop assistant to prosecute, as a pauper, her forlorn appeal for damages. “I am very poor, and am not worth in all the world the sum of five pounds, my wearing apparel and the subject of the said appeal excepted,” May Donoghue had petitioned. Without that approval, the five Law Lords would not have heard the case of Donoghue v Stevenson, and the legal path to the consumer protection laws we enjoy today would have been very different.
Every first-year law student is familiar with the story of the snail in the bottle of ginger beer; how against all odds, a new tort of negligence was created, defining the duty of care a provider owes to the end user, thus bridging the gap in conduct between the moral and the legal. Against all odds, it introduced the “Neighbour Principle” of St Luke’s Gospel into the common law.
But law schools rarely have time to probe behind the legal facts and the significance of the precedent the case created, to get to know the characters involved, or speculate on the mysteries in it, some never to be resolved. This little story may, I hope, satisfy some curiosity.”

To be continued…

From “The Story Behind Lord Atkin of Snail” by Geoffrey Luck, Quadrant, January-February 2015

24 May 2016

“Exodus 19-24 describes a first presentation of the covenant, and Exodus 31-34 tells how it was given again after Moses broke the original tablets in anger at the people’s apostasy with the golden calf.  But behind this arrangement, there were originally two separate accounts of the same Sinai event, one from the E source (now in chapters 20-24) and one from the J source (now in chapters 33-34).

....Behind the mixed accounts of the making of the covenant, however, we can note the important elements of the Near Eastern treaty. 

God identifies himself and his blessings to the people in Exodus 20:2 as he gives his stipulations and laws.  In chapter 24, Moses brings it down for formal reading and acceptance by the people.  Missing are curses and the witness of other gods, but this is understandable when we realize that there was only one God for Israel.  And although there are a few threats to punish those who do not keep the commandments (cf. Ex 20:5), curses seem rare in this early covenant, unlike the long lists in the later Book of Deuteronomy (chapters 26-27).  This is similar to the difference between the early Hittite treaties with their few short lists of curses, and the later, greatly lengthened curses of the Assyrians.  It argues that the tradition behind the story of Mount Sinai is very old.”

Lawrence Boadt in “Reading the Old Testament:  An Introduction”, Ch. 9.

17 May 2016

“Because there were no common courts of law to decide cases between nations, ancient treaties depended heavily on the power of the oath that each party took before the gods as witnesses, and on the conviction that the gods would in fact act to punish offenders.  As a result, such a treaty demanded some form of ceremony in order to ratify it, a ritual that made the point clear.  The most common form was cutting an animal in two.  Thus in a Mari tablet from the eighteenth century we find a covenant sealed by cutting a donkey into two parts.  Similarly, an eighth century treaty from Sefire in Syria records a number of animals cut into parts, with a curse attached to each:  “As this calf is cut into two, may Mati’el be cut in two.”  Even Jeremiah refers to this custom when he condemns those who violated Yahweh’s covenant:

The men who violated my covenant and did not observe the terms of the agreement they made before me, I will make like the calf which they cut into two, and between whose parts they passed (Jer 34:18-19).

Even the usual Hebrew expression for making a covenant employs this idea:  karat berith, “to cut a covenant.”  Genesis 15 may make reference to this ceremony when Abraham cuts the animals in two and God passes through them in fire.”

To be continued…

Lawrence Boadt in “Reading the Old Testament:  An Introduction”, Ch. 9.

10 May 2016

“The Book of Deuteronomy reveals the covenant forms much more clearly.  It is written so that it resembles a formal treaty between God and Israel through the speech of Moses.  It has all the elements of the classical Hittite treaties and yet shows strong connections to the later interests of the Assyrian types as well in its stress on extended blessings and curses (Dt 27-28) and on the right of inheritance of the land by Israel.

Joshua 24, under the influence of Deuteronomy, describes a renewal of the Sinai covenant under Joshua which is the closest parallel to a Hittite covenant in the Old Testament.  It even includes the people as witnesses against themselves (Jos 24:22) and a public writing and deposit of the agreement in a sanctuary (Jos 24:25-26).  The only part missing is the list of curses and blessings.

From another angle, the entire Pentateuch must have been influenced by the covenant format.  The “story” from Abraham to the escape through the Red Sea serves as a formal preamble and prologue listing the overlord’s great deeds to the vassal before the giving of the law on Sinai.

To be continued…

Lawrence Boadt in “Reading the Old Testament:  An Introduction”, Ch. 9.

3 May 2016

“The later Assyrian treaties show many of the same parts, although they sometimes lack the elaborate preamble and prologue of the Hittite types, while the list of curses and exotic punishments increases dramatically, perhaps to serve as a scare tactic to make the vassal keep the treaty.  A fine example of an Assyrian vassal treaty is the seventh century agreement that King Esarhaddon forced on the small nations subject to Assyria that they would swear support for his son Ashurbanipal as his successor, and not rebel when Esarhaddon died.  It lists all of the gods who back up the oath first, and then contains literally hundreds of different obligations covering all possible threats against the crown prince and his right to become king. 

....It would be very pleasant to discover that the early Hittite covenants matched the early Israelite covenant at Mount Sinai, and that the later description in Deuteronomy matched the Assyrian treaties of the same period.  But it doesn’t work out that way.  The covenant described in Exodus 19-24 is pictured very generally and does not match detail for detail the exact format of either the Hittite or the Assyrian treaties, although there are some points of similarity with the Hittite structure:

(1)  Preamble and Prologue in which God gives his reasons for the covenant are seen in Exodus 19:3-6 and 20:2.

(2)  The stipulations or demands are reflected in the ten commandments (Ex 20:3-17) and in the following covenant law code (Ex 20:22-23:19).

(3)  The deposit of the treaty and its public nature is understood in the use of stone tablets for a permanent record.

(4)  The curses and blessings and divine witnesses are naturally missing since Israel’s faith made no room for other gods.  But God himself backs up the obligation to obey this covenant by the signs of his powerful presence in thunder, lightning, and dark clouds (Ex 19:16-19; 20:18-20).”

To be continued…

Lawrence Boadt in “Reading the Old Testament:  An Introduction”, Ch. 9.

26 April 2016

"We can learn much about Israel’s covenant with Yahweh by comparing the Old Testament descriptions with actual examples of covenants from other ancient nations.

....Let us look at a sample of an early Hittite treaty form.  Since no treaty tablet has been completely preserved, the quoted illustrations are borrowed from different texts:

1.  The Preamble in which the overlord, or great king, gives his name and title:

“These are the words of the Sun Mursillis, the great king, the king of Hatti-land, the valiant, the favorite of the storm-god, the son of Suppiluliumas, the great king” (ANET 203).

2.  The Historical Prologue in which the great king lists his past acts of kindness to the vassal as the reason for the vassal king’s obligation to obey:

“Aziras, your grandfather, and Du-Teshub, your father remained loyal to me as their lord....Since your father had mentioned to me your name with great praise, I sought after you…and put you in the place of your father” (ANET 203-204).

3.  The Stipulations or Demands that the overlord binds the vassal to keep:

“If anyone utters a word unfriendly to the king or the Hatti-land before you, Duppi-Tessub, you shall not withhold his name from the king” (ANET 204).

4.  Deposit of the treaty in a temple and public readings at set times:

“A duplicate of this treaty has been deposited before the sun-goddess of Arinna....In the Mitanni land, a duplicate has been deposited before Teshub....At regular intervals they shall read it in the presence of the king of the Mitanni land and in the presence of the sons of the Hurri land” (ANET 205).

5.  The list of witnesses is important to any contract.  But for a solemn state covenant, the witnesses are the gods of the two lands:

“We have called the gods to be present, to listen, and to serve as witnesses:  the sun-goddess of Arinna…the sun-god, the lord of heaven, the storm-god, the lord of the Hatti-land…the mountains, the rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates, heaven and earth, the winds and clouds” (ANET 205-206).

6.  The Curses and Blessings end the treaty.  The divine beings are called on to maintain the treaty in the divine courtroom by imposing rewards and penalties:

“Should Duppi-Teshub not honor these words of the treaty and oath, may these gods of the oath destroy Duppi-Teshub together with his person, his wife, his son, his grandson, his house, his land....But if he honors these words…may these gods of the oath protect him with his person, his wife, his son, his grandson, his house and his country” (ANET 205).”

To be continued…

Lawrence Boadt in “Reading the Old Testament:  An Introduction”, Ch. 9.

26 April 2016

“We can learn much about Israel’s covenant with Yahweh by comparing the Old Testament descriptions with actual examples of covenants from other ancient nations.  We have two major passages about the covenant in the Pentatuech:  Exodus 19-24 and the Book of Deuteronomy.  Luckily we also have two major sources of ancient Near Eastern covenants:  the Hittite treaties from the period 1400-1200 B.C. and a series of Assyrian treaties from the eighth and seventh centuries B.C. 

Since so much time divides the Hittite from the Assyrian examples, many differences can be found between the two groups.  But we must also remember that nearly six hundred years separate the events in Exodus from the time of Deuteronomy (about 650 B.C.), and that we will find quite a number of differences in the biblical accounts as well.

Ancient treaties show two major types.  One is a treaty between equal kings.  This is generally called a parity treaty.  We possess an excellent example of this kind of covenant in the peace treaty made between King Ramesses II of Egypt and the Hittite King Hattusilis to end their war in Syria about 1290 B.C.  The second type is the vassal treaty, made between an overlord, a major power, and small nations that were either conquered by him or were forced to cooperate lest he take them over.  The two types of treaty differ in the kind of obligations that the parties take on.  In the parity treaty, each side agrees to mutual responsibilities because they have equal status and neither can force the other to carry out their obligations.  But in the vassal treaty, the overlord usually does not bind himself to any particular duties beyond being kindly and protective of the vassal, but he does spell out a series of demands for the vassal to faithfully perform.  This second type is the more helpful in interpreting the Sinai covenant between Yahweh, the divine overlord, and Israel, the mere creatures whom he has chosen.”

To be continued…

Lawrence Boadt in “Reading the Old Testament:  An Introduction”, Ch. 9.

12 April 2016

“The first part of the Book of Exodus moves from Israel’s slavery through Moses’ struggle against the pharaoh to freedom and the dangerous journey to the sacred mountain of Sinai in only eighteen chapters.  The remaining twenty-two chapters of Exodus, all twenty-seven chapters of Leviticus, and the first ten chapters of Numbers describe a single stay at this mountain where God made a covenant with Israel.  This covenant is thus the central event of the Pentateuch [the first five books of the Bible - Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy].

....The Book of Deuteronomy is written in covenant language from beginning to end, seeking a national renewal of fidelity to Yahweh in the promised land.  This theme is echoed in the covenant scenes of Joshua 23-24 and the reform program of Josiah in 2 Kings 22-23.  Among the prophets, Amos and Hosea echo many of the covenant ideals without mentioning Moses or Sinai, but the later prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel make constant reference to the covenant in the desert.  Finally, the post-exilic reform of Ezra the scribe (around 450-400 B.C.) is centered on a covenant renewal.

....What then is this term “covenant” that it should be so central to Israelite faith?  The Hebrew word berit, which is used most often to express the idea of a covenant, originally meant a “shackle” or “chain,” but it came to be any form of binding agreement.  It expresses the solemn contract between Jacob and Laban in Genesis 31:44, or the alliance of friendship between David and Jonathan in 1 Samuel 18:3.  It describes the peace pact made by Abraham with a whole tribe of Amorites in Genesis 14:13, and the bond of marriage in Proverbs 2:17 or Malachi 2:14.  And it can be a solemn treaty between kings, as is the case with Solomon and Hiram of Tyre in 1 Kings 5, or with Ahab and Benhadad of Syria in 1 Kings 20:34.  But most often it is used of the special alliance between Yahweh and Israel.”

To be continued…

Lawrence Boadt in “Reading the Old Testament:  An Introduction”, Ch. 9.

5 April 2016

“If God limited himself to only justice, he would cease to be God, and would instead be like human beings who ask merely that the law be respected. But mere justice is not enough. Experience shows that an appeal to justice alone will result in its destruction.  This is why God goes beyond justice with his mercy and forgiveness. Yet this does not mean that justice should be devalued or rendered superfluous. On the contrary: anyone who makes a mistake must pay the price. However, this is just the beginning of conversion, not its end, because one begins to feel the tenderness and mercy of God. God does not deny justice. He rather envelopes it and surpasses it with an even greater event in which we experience love as the foundation of true justice....God’s justice is his mercy given to everyone as a grace that flows from the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Thus the Cross of Christ is God’s judgement on all of us and on the whole world, because through it he offers us the certitude of love and new life."

Pope Francis in "Misericordiae Vultus - Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy”, 11 April 2015 (though the Holy Year didn’t commence until 8 December 2015, the feast the Immaculate Conception).

29 March 2016

“The appeal Jesus makes to the text from the book of the prophet Hosea – “I desire love and not sacrifice” (6:6) – is important in this regard. Jesus affirms that, from that time onward, the rule of life for his disciples must place mercy at the centre, as Jesus himself demonstrated by sharing meals with sinners. Mercy, once again, is revealed as a fundamental aspect of Jesus’ mission. This is truly challenging to his hearers, who would draw the line at a formal respect for the law. Jesus, on the other hand, goes beyond the law; the company he keeps with those the law considers sinners makes us realize the depth of his mercy.”

To be continued...

Pope Francis in "Misericordiae Vultus - Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy”, 11 April 2015 (though the Holy Year didn’t commence until 8 December 2015, the feast the Immaculate Conception).

22 March 2016

“For his part, Jesus speaks several times of the importance of faith over and above the observance of the law. It is in this sense that we must understand his words when, reclining at table with Matthew and other tax collectors and sinners, he says to the Pharisees raising objections to him, “Go and learn the meaning of ‘I desire mercy not sacrifice’. I have come not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mt 9:13). Faced with a vision of justice as the mere observance of the law that judges people simply by dividing them into two groups – the just and sinners – Jesus is bent on revealing the great gift of mercy that searches out sinners and offers them pardon and salvation. One can see why, on the basis of such a liberating vision of mercy as a source of new life, Jesus was rejected by the Pharisees and the other teachers of the law. In an attempt to remain faithful to the law, they merely placed burdens on the shoulders of others and undermined the Father’s mercy. The appeal to a faithful observance of the law must not prevent attention from being given to matters that touch upon the dignity of the person.”

To be continued...

Pope Francis in "Misericordiae Vultus - Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy”, 11 April 2015 (though the Holy Year didn’t commence until 8 December 2015, the feast the Immaculate Conception).

15 March 2016

“It would not be out of place at this point to recall the relationship between justice and mercy. These are not two contradictory realities, but two dimensions of a single reality that unfolds progressively until it culminates in the fullness of love. Justice is a fundamental concept for civil society, which is meant to be governed by the rule of law. Justice is also understood as that which is rightly due to each individual. In the Bible, there are many references to divine justice and to God as “judge”. In these passages, justice is understood as the full observance of the Law and the behaviour of every good Israelite in conformity with God’s commandments. Such a vision, however, has not infrequently led to legalism by distorting the original meaning of justice and obscuring its profound value. To overcome this legalistic perspective, we need to recall that in Sacred Scripture, justice is conceived essentially as the faithful abandonment of oneself to God’s will.”

To be continued...

Pope Francis in "Misericordiae Vultus - Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy”, 11 April 2015 (though the Holy Year didn’t commence until 8 December 2015, the feast the Immaculate Conception).

8 March 2016

The core error in Australia's administration of Papua New Guinea – the destruction of its simple but effective legal system...

“All that changed with the removal of experienced officers from police and magisterial duties.  They were replaced by officers with little or no language skills or understanding of the local customs that were the bedrock of criminal law.  Following Australian practice in an era of street protests, the police introduced armed riot squads which were then seen to be contestants in any dispute rather than peacemakers.

In the courts, informality and simple procedure were replaced by begowned and bewigged barristers who had no knowledge of indigenous peoples, who had to depend sometimes upon relays of interpreters, and whose proceedings, delays and incomprehensibility contributed to a loss of respect for the law.  It was a triumph of process over rational performance.”

To be continued…

From “Triumph of the Bureaucrats” by Michael O’Connor, published in Annals Australasia, September 2013

23 February 2016

“A serious problem for Papua New Guinea has been the failure of sound administration and the corruption that this has engendered although, again, who is to say that we in Australia can be smug about a lack of official corruption in this country.  The most basic source of administrative failure was the determination in Canberra from the mid-1960s through to independence [in 1975] to design and implement an administration that slavishly copied Australia’s.  Like ours, it is too complex and too ponderous.  Unlike ours, it lacks the skills and traditions which allow ours to work.

Perhaps the core failure was the destruction of a simple but effective territory system of law and justice in favour of our highly specialised – and stylised – system.  Judges and magistrates typically held court in the open with highly simplified rules of procedure that were accessible to everybody.  The police were a community force devoted to keeping the peace rather than an Australian-style metropolitan force.  In the context of tribal or clan disputation, the police were – and were seen to be – impartial and trusted.”

To be continued…

From “Triumph of the Bureaucrats” by Michael O’Connor, published in Annals Australasia, September 2013

15 February 2016

From the Pope’s New Year message about indifference…

“On both the individual and communitarian levels, indifference to one’s neighbour, born of indifference to God, finds expression in disinterest and a lack of engagement, which only help to prolong situations of injustice and grave social imbalance.  These in turn can lead to conflicts or, in any event, generate a climate of dissatisfaction which risks exploding sooner or later into acts of violence and insecurity.

Indifference and lack of commitment constitute a grave dereliction of the duty whereby each of us must work in accordance with our abilities and our role in society for the promotion of the common good, and in particular for peace, which is one of mankind’s most precious goods.

....Saint John writes: “If any one has the world’s goods and sees his brother or sister in need, yet refuses help, how does God’s love abide in him? (1 Jn 3:17; cf. Jas 2:15-16).”

From the Message of Pope Francis for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace, 1 January 2016

9 February 2016

“In other cases, indifference shows itself in lack of concern for what is happening around us, especially if it does not touch us directly. Some people prefer not to ask questions or seek answers; they lead lives of comfort, deaf to the cry of those who suffer. Almost imperceptibly, we grow incapable of feeling compassion for others and for their problems; we have no interest in caring for them, as if their troubles were their own responsibility, and none of our business. “When we are healthy and comfortable, we forget about others (something God the Father never does): we are unconcerned with their problems, their sufferings and the injustices they endure… Our heart grows cold. As long as I am relatively healthy and comfortable, I don’t think about those less well off.” ”

To be continued…

From the Message of Pope Francis for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace, 1 January 2016

2 February 2016

“Indifference to our neighbour shows itself in different ways. Some people are well-informed; they listen to the radio, read the newspapers or watch television, but they do so mechanically and without engagement. They are vaguely aware of the tragedies afflicting humanity, but they have no sense of involvement or compassion. Theirs is the attitude of those who know, but keep their gaze, their thoughts and their actions focused on themselves. Sadly, it must be said that today’s information explosion does not of itself lead to an increased concern for other people’s problems, which demands openness and a sense of solidarity.  Indeed, the information glut can numb people’s sensibilities and to some degree downplay the gravity of the problems. There are those who “simply content themselves with blaming the poor and the poor countries themselves for their troubles; indulging in unwarranted generalizations, they claim that the solution is an ‘education’ that would tranquilize them, making them tame and harmless. All this becomes even more exasperating for the marginalized in the light of the widespread and deeply rooted corruption found in many countries – in their governments, businesses and institutions – whatever the political ideology of their leaders.” ”

To be continued…

From the Message of Pope Francis for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace, 1 January 2016

26 January 2016

“The first kind of indifference in human society is indifference to God, which then leads to indifference to one’s neighbour and to the environment. This is one of the grave consequences of a false humanism and practical materialism allied to relativism and nihilism. We have come to think that we are the source and creator of ourselves, our lives and society. We feel self-sufficient, prepared not only to find a substitute for God but to do completely without him.”

To be continued…

From the Message of Pope Francis for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace, 1 January 2016

19 January 2016

“Personal dignity and interpersonal relationships are what constitute us as human beings whom God willed to create in his own image and likeness. As creatures endowed with inalienable dignity, we are related to all our brothers and sisters, for whom we are responsible and with whom we act in solidarity. Lacking this relationship, we would be less human. We see, then, how indifference represents a menace to the human family.”

To be continued…

From the Message of Pope Francis for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace, 1 January 2016

12 January 2016

“God is not indifferent! God cares about mankind! God does not abandon us! At the beginning of the New Year, I would like to share not only this profound conviction but also my cordial good wishes for prosperity, peace and the fulfilment of the hopes of every man and every woman, every family, people and nation throughout the world, including all Heads of State and Government and all religious leaders. We continue to trust that 2016 will see us all firmly and confidently engaged, on different levels, in the pursuit of justice and peace. Peace is both God’s gift and a human achievement. As a gift of God, it is entrusted to all men and women, who are called to attain it.”

To be continued…

From the Message of Pope Francis for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace, 1 January 2016

29 December 2015

 “The feast of Christmas will outlive all of its commercial rivals and in fact business needs Christmas. No market will be sustained in the long term by selfish people buying presents for themselves!

Christmas is a time for others and especially Christmas is a time for God…to thank God Almighty for sending his Son among us, to teach us and redeem us.

Those who accept and understand the Christ Child have genuine insight into God himself, into God’s love and wisdom. This is the message of Christmas.”

From “Christmas Gifts” in “Contemplating Christ with Luke” by Cardinal George Pell

22 December 2015

“It is good to try to identify what we, what the Catholic Church celebrates at Christmas. As a first step the feast clearly teaches us that human existence has a meaning beyond the material facts of life. Money is a means to either good or bad ends; it is not a value in itself. Money and possessions cannot return your love and in the long run money cannot do much against personal suffering and cannot beat death, although it can delay it.

....The Christian message is clear and provocative. Human life has truth and meaning, so much so that our loving God sent his Son to share our human condition; the highs and the lows and the humdrum.

You do not need to be a duchess or a professor to understand this. You do not even need to be a believer to be moved by the idea of God being among us as a baby in a stable, as a young man crucified on a cross.”

From “Christmas Gifts” in “Contemplating Christ with Luke” by Cardinal George Pell

15 December 2015

“I always have resisted those who suggest that Father Christmas is hostile to our Christian understanding of the feast.  He is a bit of a “Johnny come lately”, created by Coca Cola in an advertising campaign in the 1920s, but his prototype was St. Nicholas from Turkey in the fourth century A.D., a bishop renowned for the practical help he gave to battlers and specially for the dowries he provided for three young sisters which enabled them to be married and saved them from a life of prostitution.

I hope that this type of charity is not needed among us today, but the general Christian message is clear; that at Christmas we should be thinking of others, especially those who could do with a helping hand, and not thinking of ourselves.  Christmas is God thinking of us.

Recently I had dinner with a group which included a duchess from Europe.  She grew up in a good Catholic family and she spoke lovingly of her father, who had a strong faith and was also a wise and loving husband and father.  As they were rich, the children always had many Christmas presents, but before opening them each had to choose three to give to the poor.  I am sure this caused some heartburn to the children, but it was a lesson that woman never forgot.  It captures something of the real spirit of Christmas.”

From “Christmas Gifts” in “Contemplating Christ with Luke” by Cardinal George Pell

8 December 2015

The Pope concludes his welcome to a congress of criminal lawyers…

“Dear friends, press on in this direction, because I understand that in it is the difference between an inclusive and an exclusive society, one which does not place the human person at the centre and disregards the leftovers that are no longer needed.

I bid you farewell, placing you in the hands of the Lord Jesus, who, during the days of his earthly life, was arrested and unjustly condemned to death, and who identifies with all those who are imprisoned, guilty and not (“in prison and you came to me” Mt 25:36). He also descended upon that darkness created by the evil and sin of man to bring you the light of justice which ennobles and exalts, in order to proclaim the Good News of salvation and conversion. May he who was unjustly stripped of everything, grant you the gift of wisdom, so your dialogues and deliberations meet with success. I ask you to pray for me, as I greatly need it.”

From the Letter of Pope Francis to Participants in the 19th International Congress of the International Association of Penal Law and of the 3rd Congress of the Latin-American Association of Penal Law and Criminology, 30 May 2014

1 December 2015

“Contrition is the way to repentance, that favoured path that leads to the heart of God, which embraces us and gives us another chance, which always opens us to the truth of atonement and by his mercy allows us to transform.

....The manner of God, who primerea, or is there even before the human sinner, waiting and offering him his forgiveness, thus reveals a higher justice which is, at the same time impartial and compassionate, without contradiction in these two aspects. Forgiveness, in fact, neither eliminates nor diminishes the need for correction, precisely that of justice, nor does it overlook the need for personal conversion, instead it goes further, seeking to reestablish relationships and reintegrate people into society. To me, this seems to be the great challenge that we all must face together, so that the measures adopted against evil are not satisfied by restraining, dissuading and isolating the many who have caused it, but also helps them to reflect, to travel the paths of good, to be authentic persons who, removed from their own hardships, become merciful themselves. The Church, therefore, proposes a humanizing, genuinely reconciling justice, a justice that leads the criminal, through educational development and brave atonement, to rehabilitation and reintegration into the community.”

From the Letter of Pope Francis to Participants in the 19th International Congress of the International Association of Penal Law and of the 3rd Congress of the Latin-American Association of Penal Law and Criminology, 30 May 2014 

24 November 2015

“We are all sinners; Christ is the only just one. We too sometimes run the risk of being drawn by sin, by evil, by temptation. In every person the capacity for doing great good coexists with the possibility for causing great evil, even if one wants to avoid it (cf. Rm 7:18-19). And we must ask ourselves why some fall and others do not, being of the same human condition.

Crime is not infrequently rooted in economic and social inequalities, in the web of corruption and in organized crime, which seek accomplices from among the most powerful and victims from among the most vulnerable. To ward off this scourge, having just laws is not enough; it is essential to train the people who are responsible and capable of putting the laws into practice. A society supported only by the market rules and which has created false expectations and excessive needs, rejects those who do not measure up and blocks those who are slow, weak and less talented from finding opportunities in life (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, n. 209).”

From the Letter of Pope Francis to Participants in the 19th International Congress of the International Association of Penal Law and of the 3rd Congress of the Latin-American Association of Penal Law and Criminology, 30 May 2014

17 November 2015

“Confession is the attitude of one who recognizes and regrets his crime. If the criminal is not sufficiently helped, if he is not offered the opportunity to convert, he will end up being a victim of the system. It is necessary to do justice, but true justice is not satisfied by simply punishing criminals. It is essential to go further and do everything possible to reform, improve and educate the person, so that he matures from every point of view, does not become discouraged, addresses the damage he caused, and can reestablish his life without being crushed under the weight of his hardships.”

From the Letter of Pope Francis to Participants in the 19th International Congress of the International Association of Penal Law and of the 3rd Congress of the Latin-American Association of Penal Law and Criminology, 30 May 2014

10 November 2015

“In this regard, the media, in the legitimate exercise of freedom of the press, play a very important role and have a great responsibility: it falls to them to accurately inform and not to raise alarm or create social panic when reporting on criminal offenses. Lives and personal dignity are in play, and must not become publicity cases, often becoming even obsession, condemning the presumed guilty party to social contempt prior to judgment, or forcing the victims, for sensationalistic motives, to publicly relive the pain they experienced.”

From the Letter of Pope Francis to Participants in the 19th International Congress of the International Association of Penal Law and of the 3rd Congress of the Latin-American Association of Penal Law and Criminology, 30 May 2014

3 November 2015

“In our communities, we tend to think that crimes are resolved when the criminal is caught and condemned, directly in relation to the damage that he caused, or without paying enough attention to the situation in which the victim is left. However, it would be error to model compensation only on punishment, to confuse justice with revenge, which would contribute only to increasing violence, even if it is institutionalized. Experience tells us that enhancing and enforcing penalties often fails to resolve social problems, nor do they result in reducing the crime rate. Moreover this method can create serious problems for the community, such as overcrowded prisons and people held without [valid] convictions.... In many cases the offender fulfills his punishment objectively, serving his sentence but without changing inside or healing his wounded heart.”

From the Letter of Pope Francis to Participants in the 19th International Congress of the International Association of Penal Law and of the 3rd Congress of the Latin-American Association of Penal Law and Criminology, 30 May 2014

27 October 2015

The Pope relects on the principle of compensation in criminal law…

“The Lord has gradually taught his people that there is a necessary asymmetry between crime and punishment, that one cannot apply the remedy: an eye for an eye or a tooth for a broken tooth, by breaking that of another. Justice is to be rendered to the victim, not by executing the aggressor.
The Good Samaritan can serve as a biblical example of compensation. Without giving thought to persecuting the guilty party, so that he assumes the consequences of his action, [the Good Samaritan] tends to the one severely injured on the roadside and takes care of his needs (cf. Lk 10:25-37).”

From the Letter of Pope Francis to Participants in the 19th International Congress of the International Association of Penal Law and of the 3rd Congress of the Latin-American Association of Penal Law and Criminology, 30 May 2014

20 October 2015

“You well know that criminal law requires a multidisciplinary focus, which seeks to integrate and harmonize all aspects, culminating in a fully humane, free, informed and responsible law. The Church would also like to speak as part of her evangelizing mission, and in fidelity to Christ, who came to “proclaim release to the captives” (Lk 4:18). Therefore, I would like to share with you a few ideas which, as part of the treasure of the Scripture, nurture the soul and share in the millennia-long experience of the People of God.

From the very earliest Christian times, the disciples of Jesus have sought to confront the fragility of the human heart, so often weak. In different ways and with various initiatives, they have accompanied and supported those who are buckling under the weight of sin and evil. Despite the historical changes, three elements have been consistent: reparation or compensation for the injury caused; confession, through which man expresses his own internal conversion; and contrition in order to reach the encounter with God’s merciful and healing love.”

From the Letter of Pope Francis to Participants in the 19th International Congress of the International Association of Penal Law and of the 3rd Congress of the Latin-American Association of Penal Law and Criminology, 30 May 2014

13 October 2015

The influence of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on Pope John XXIII…

“One world leader who was early to recognize the Declaration’s importance was Angelo Roncalli, who became Pope John XXIII ten years after he had given “encouragements” to René Cassin in Paris in the fall of 1948.  Finding its principles compatible with Catholic social teaching, he adopted (to the surprise of many) its dignitarian language of rights in his 1963 encyclical Pacem in Terris.  This new mode of speaking about freedom and social justice enabled him and his successors to break new ground in interfaith relations, by addressing themselves not only to members of their own faith, but to “all men and women of good will.”  René Cassin often expressed his pleasure at these developments, noting the many echoes of the Declaration in the documents of the Second Vatican Council, which he called “the very image of universality.” ”

From “A World Made New:  Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” by Mary Ann Glendon, Ch. 11.

In their supplement celebrating John XXIII’s canonization, Kairos describes Pacem in Terris:

“St John produced several historic encyclicals, including Mater et Magistra, on Christian social doctrine, and Pacem in Terris, issued in 1963 at the height of the Cold War, on the need for global peace and justice....Considered a highlight in Catholic social teaching the encyclical addresses universal rights and relations between states.”  (Kairos, Vol. 25 Issue 8)

6 October 2015

The influence of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on Pope John XXIII…

“René Cassin was still living on the Boulevard Saint-Michel in the same apartment he had occupied on the day he had decided to join de Gaulle in London.  As a reminder of the death sentence delivered against him during the war, he kept on his door a black seal placed there by the Gestapo.  In his memoirs Cassin wrote that “on a number of occasions” in the fall of 1948, “I received discreet personal encouragements from the Papal Nuncio Roncalli.”  Angelo Roncalli was then a popular mediator between conservative churchmen and a younger, more socially active, clergy.  Ten years later, at age seventy-seven, he would be elected pope.  As John XXIII he remained an advocate of social reforms to improve the lot of workers and the poor and convened the Second Vatican Council in 1962 to consider measures for renewal of the church in the modern world.  There were many correspondences between his own thoughts on peace and justice and the Universal Declaration, which he praised in his encyclical Peace on Earth as “an act of the highest importance.” ”

From “A World Made New:  Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” by Mary Ann Glendon, Ch. 8  

29 September 2015 

“The Long March through the Articles” – the painfully slow negotiation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948…

“In mid-November the provisions on social and economic rights predictably slowed the committee down.  The debate was not over the principle of including these rights, but on their scope and details. 

....René Cassin temporarily took the chair on November 18 to handle questions about the “new” rights.  Humphrey was bemused to note that Cassin, with “one of the quickest minds that I have ever seen,” was a poor chairman. 

“He sometimes forgets indeed that he is in the chair,” Humphrey wrote in his diary, “and the meeting goes on merrily without leadership.”  General de Gaulle had been similarly disappointed in Cassin’s administrative skills in the summer of 1941 when he had left his legal aide in charge of the Free French operations in London while he traveled to the Middle East for talks with leaders of British and Turkish forces.  The general had told Cassin to use a firm hand, but when he returned he found the office in chaos.  That one incident marked a change in the relationship between the two men.  From that time on, according to historian Jean-Louis Crémieux-Brilhac, “René Cassin, secure in the honor of being a founding father of Free France and its republican conscience, would never again be entrusted with first-rank political responsibilities.”  Despite the high legal positions he had achieved after the war, Cassin always resented his exclusion from the innermost circles of power.

In his own sphere of expertise, though, Cassin excelled.  Throughout the third committee sessions, and especially in connection with the social and economic rights, he reverted to his old role of law professor, patiently explaining each article in relation to the structure of the whole document – the connections among various articles and the way the different parts of the Declaration worked to amplify or limit other parts.”

To be continued…

From “A World Made New:  Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” by Mary Ann Glendon, Ch. 9 

22 September 2015

“The Long March through the Articles” – the painfully slow negotiation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948…

“John Humphrey [a law professor from McGill University], bored to distraction, used some of the time to catch up on his correspondence.  He wrote to his sister on October 14:

I am writing this letter during a session of the Third Committee of the General Assembly.  I suppose I should be listening to the South American gentleman who is expounding on Article 3 of the Declaration of Human Rights, but I have heard so many of these speeches that it is only in revolt that I can hope to find sanity.  We have been on this thing for 3 weeks now and have adopted 2 out of the 28 articles.  When we will finish the Lord only knows.  But I am really very happy about the way things have gone so far and fully expect that the General Assembly will adopt the declaration substantially as it was drafted by the Human Rights Commission....A sense of duty calls me back to work.  They also serve who only stand and wait.” ”

To be continued…

From “A World Made New:  Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” by Mary Ann Glendon, Ch. 9

15 September 2015

“The Long March through the Articles” – the painfully slow negotiation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948…


“Perhaps only someone like Malik [Charles Malik of Lebanon], from a small, newly independent country, could understand how important it was for every member state to have a sense of ownership with respect to the Declaration....Not that Malik was less determined than any of his fellow commissioners to get the Declaration to the General Assembly before its adjournment in December:  when some speakers went on for too long, he reminded them in the language of the draft itself that everyone’s rights are limited by the rights of others.

....Even Malik’s heart must have sunk, however, when it took six days to get through Article 1.  That much-revised draft article at this stage read:

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.  They are endowed by nature with reason and conscience, and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

To be continued…

From “A World Made New:  Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” by Mary Ann Glendon, Ch. 9 

8 September 2015

“The Long March through the Articles” – the painfully slow negotiation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948…

“When the third committee turned from its general discussion to the specific provisions of the Declaration, Mrs. Roosevelt was dismayed to find that the members of that large group seemed determined to debate “every single word of that draft declaration over and over again.”  There was hardly any issue that the human rights commissioners had not thoroughly considered, yet the third committee, she complained, was treating each article “exactly as though it was all an entirely new idea and nobody had ever looked at it before.”

To a bored and impatient John Humphrey [a law professor from McGill University], most of the speeches and proposed amendments seemed inspired by considerations of national prestige.  He found the silent role of an international civil servant increasingly frustrating.  “Sitting next to the Chairman, and both professionally and emotionally involved, I wished at times that I were a delegate....There were times when I felt that I must speak if only to set the record straight.” ”

From “A World Made New:  Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” by Mary Ann Glendon, Ch. 9

1 September 2015

The 2 lawyers  - one Canadian, one French - who were the key players in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights...

“To give each man his due, one might say that Humphrey's work was to Cassin’s as Tycho Brahe’s was to Johannes Kepler’s.  Just as Kepler could not have had his paradigm-breaking insight into the movements of planets without Tycho’s meticulous records, so Cassin could not have produced an integrated document of worldwide applicability without Humphrey’s distillation of the material he had collected.  But just as Tycho was unable to see in his own data what Kepler saw, Humphrey had simply compiled a list of rights, loosely grouped into categories.  Cassin’s draft illuminated their meaning and relations.  No one would suggest that Cassin’s revisions yielded a document as elegant as the Code Napoléon, whose lucid style and lapidary phrases were so much admired by the novelist Stendhal that he kept a copy on his bedside table, but they did guarantee that the document would be more than a mere list or “bill” of rights in the Anglo-American sense.  It was about this time that the committee began to use the term declaration more often than bill.

....Cassin’s synthesis yielded a whole that was greater than the sum of its parts.  By fusing rights from an older tradition of political and civil liberty to those reflecting a more modern preoccupation with social and economic needs, by providing both sets of rights with an interpretive framework, and by declaring that all these rights belonged to everyone, everywhere, the Declaration was bringing something new into the world.”

To be continued…

From “A World Made New:  Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” by Mary Ann Glendon, Ch. 4. 

25 August 2015

“That Humphrey wrote the first draft, and that Cassin’s draft was a revision of Humphrey’s, is clear from the official UN records.  Some confusion resulted, perhaps, from the frequent use of the term outline to describe Humphrey’s work.  But the records leave no room for doubt.  On June 17, 1947, the verbatim transcript finds Mrs. Roosevelt saying, “Now we come to Mr. Cassin’s draft, which has based itself on the Secretariat’s comparative draft.”  Cassin himself acknowledged in the drafting committee that “it is always the Secretariat’s draft which should be considered the basic source of the Committee’s work.”

Unfortunately a few careless authors created the impression not only that Cassin had written the first draft, but that he was the principal architect of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  This error not only scanted the roles of other key individuals such as Humphrey, Malik [Charles Malik of Lebanon], and Chang [P.C. Chang, delegate for pre-Communist China], but it detracted from the universality of the document.

Humphrey felt especially aggrieved when the UN itself helped perpetuate this myth by permitting the French government to organize a display of Cassin’s handwritten redraft in the lobby of UN headquarters on the occasion of the Declaration’s tenth anniversary.  That display, without any accompanying explanation, was wounding to the hardworking and generally self-effacing director of the UN Human Rights Division.”

To be continued…

From “A World Made New:  Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” by Mary Ann Glendon, Ch. 4.  

18 August 2015

“A comparison of Cassin’s draft with Humphrey’s shows that Cassin made very few substantive additions....Though the document would undergo many further changes over the next year and a half, most of the ideas in Humphrey’s draft ultimately found their way into the Universal Declaration, and the “logical arrangement” contributed by Cassin held firm.” ”

A regrettable dispute developed many years later over the question of who had written the “first” draft of the Universal Declaration.  It was not exactly a question of paternity, since neither Cassin nor Humphrey ever claimed to be the “author” of the Declaration.  But when Cassin was in his seventies, he claimed in a speech that he had had “sole responsibility” for the “first draft” and dismissed Humphrey’s contribution as “excellent basic documentary work”.  This claim, repeated in a 1968 article, was puzzling but not without historical precedent.  To this day, no one has been able to explain why Alexander Hamilton, just before his death, claimed authorship of several of The Federalist Papers that were actually written by James Madison!

Cassin’s more enthusiastic admirers began calling him the “father” of the Declaration.  Some of them downplayed Humphrey’s role to such an extent that he felt obliged to set the record straight in his memoir.  In 1984 the Canadian lawyer, who by then had served with distinction for many years in the important if low-profile post of director of the UN Secretariat’s Human Rights Division, presented a straightforward account of the drafting process.  “In many cases,” he pointed out, Cassin “merely prepared a new French version of the official United Nations translation, and when this was translated back into English the result seemed further removed from the original than it really was.” ”

To be continued…

From “A World Made New:  Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” by Mary Ann Glendon, Ch. 4. 

11 August 2015

“Humphrey had faithfully fulfilled his assignment.  But Cassin believed that if people were to make sense of how the various rights fit together, more clarity was needed in their presentation.  He added a Preamble, followed by what is known in continental legal terminology as a “general part”:  six introductory principles to guide the interpretation of each specific provision that followed.  Cassin here was imitating the structure of the Code Napoléon, whose six preliminary articles perform a similar function, by providing judges with general directions on how to apply the law.

His Preamble explained the “why” of the Declaration.  His introductory provisions affirmed the equal rights of every member of the human family and embodied concepts of man and society that were neither individualist nor collectivist.  The rights themselves were arranged according to the logic of the introductory articles or general principles, proceeding from those belonging to the individual as such to the rights of persons in social and political relationships.  The draft that Humphrey had loosely organized by topic began to take on a more organic structure, a beginning, middle, and end.  Colonel Hodgson [the Australian delegate] noticed the difference at once.  Cassin’s first few articles, he commented, “are in a sense, a prelude and a keynote to the actual rights themselves.”

Geoffrey Wilson [the British delegate], correctly fearing that work on the Declaration was about to take priority over a binding convention, was not at all pleased.  He said little in the drafting committee but wrote London that such a document, if adopted by the General Assembly, “would thereupon become morally, though not legally, binding on all members.  The moral obligations it imposed would be very vague and no means whatever would be provided for enforcing them and the whole thing would be a perpetual source of mischief.” ”

To be continued…

From “A World Made New:  Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” by Mary Ann Glendon, Ch. 4. 

4 August 2015

A working group gets to work on revising the first draft of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1947…

“It did not take long for the four-person working group to conclude that the document would have greater unity if the revisions were handled by a single drafter.  Malik, Roosevelt, and Wilson then turned to René Cassin....Over the weekend of June 14-15, Cassin revised Humphrey’s draft with the help of Émile Giraud, the French international lawyer who had assisted Humphrey.  His redraft consisted of a Preamble, six introductory articles, thirty-six substantive articles grouped analytically under eight headings, and two concluding provisions on implementation.

Cassin preserved most of the substantive content of Humphrey’s draft, but under his hand the document acquired an internal logic and achieved greater unity.  Humphrey, a practical man impatient with what he called “philosophical assertions,” had deliberately left out any material other than what he considered the key “justiciable” rights gathered from his varied sources.  By his own account he “had had practically no experience drafting documents.”  Cassin, by contrast, was well versed in writing legislation, a craft that has been sorely neglected in the Anglo-American common-law countries but that was brought to high refinement in the code-based continental civil law tradition.”

To be continued…

From “A World Made New:  Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” by Mary Ann Glendon, Ch. 4. 

28 July 2015

John Humphrey, a law professor from McGill University, prepares the first draft of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1947…

"After poring over all this material, Humphrey and his top aide, Émile Giraud, came up with a list of forty-eight items that represented, in Humphrey’s view, the common core of the documents and proposals his staff had collected. 

“The Secretariat,” he said, “has put all this together and included every conceivable right which the Drafting Committee might want to discuss.”

Humphrey’s draft may not have included every conceivable right, but it provided the drafting committee with a distillation of nearly two hundred years of efforts to articulate the most basic human values in terms of rights.  It contained the first-generation political and civil rights found in the British, French, and American revolutionary declarations of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries:  protections of life, liberty, and property; and freedoms of speech, religion, and assembly.  It also included the second-generation economic and social rights found in late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century constitutions such as those of Sweden, Norway, the Soviet Union, and several Latin American countries:  rights to work, education, and basic subsistence....The UN proudly announced in its Weekly Bulletin that it had produced “the most exhaustive documentation on the subject of human rights ever assembled”. ”

To be continued…

From “A World Made New:  Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” by Mary Ann Glendon, Ch. 4

21 July 2015

John Humphrey, a law professor from McGill University, starts work on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1947…

“The drafting group was not, of course, inventing rights out of whole cloth.  The Secretariat had provided them with a review of the most fundamental and widely shared principles to have emerged over humanity’s long, ongoing process of reflection on freedom.  Aiming for comprehensiveness, John Humphrey had instructed his staff at the UN to study all the world’s existing constitutions and rights instruments, as well as the suggestions that had poured in to the Secretariat from members of the Commission, outside organizations, and even from various interested individuals.

....Humphrey was particularly impressed by two contemporary declarations:  the draft of a “Pan American” declaration then in deliberation in Latin America, and the 1944 “Statement of Essential Human Rights” produced on the basis of a study sponsored by the American Law Institute (ALI), a prestigious organization of judges, practitioners, and academics dedicated to the improvement of the law.  The Latin American draft, prepared for the predecessor of the Organization of American States, was an interesting document in several respects:  it represented a harvest of the main elements of the continental European, as well as Anglo-American, rights traditions; it accompanied its list of rights with a list of duties; it was supranational; and it proclaimed that “the essential rights of man are not derived from the fact that he is a national of a certain state, but are based upon attributes of his human personality.”

“The group sponsored by the American Law Institute had consulted experts from “Arabic, British, Canadian, Chinese, French, pre-Nazi German, Italian, Indian, Latin American, Polish, Soviet Russian and Spanish” countries and cultures in order to “ascertain to what extent there can be worldwide agreement respecting rights.” ”

To be continued…

From “A World Made New:  Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” by Mary Ann Glendon, Ch. 4. 

14 July 2015

An exiled French lawyer broadcasts to his homeland during World War II…


“In a radio broadcast from London in April 1941, Cassin spoke of his feelings about being Jewish and French.  Addressing his remarks to the Jews of Vichy France, he said:  “This voice does not come to you from a rabbi nor from one of the chaplains in de Gaulle’s army, nor even from one of the faithful followers of your rites.  However, certain fellow feelings that slumber in times of prosperity spontaneously reawaken in time of trial....Israelites of France, you know well that the French people are not responsible for the measures the enemy and its collaborators have imposed on you....It is in vain that they strive to break the bonds among the spiritual families of France, the most precious of its strengths.”  Reminding his listeners that the Jews had been accorded full citizenship by the French Revolution, he concluded:  “No sacrifice, none, is too great to partially repay this debt by aiding France to recover her liberty and her greatness.”  The following month, the Vichy government deprived Cassin of his French citizenship, and the next year a military tribunal sentenced him to death in absentia.

As General de Gaulle’s chief legal adviser during World War II, Cassin had been responsible for all the documents governing the internal structure and the external relations of the Free French.  When liberation approached, he prepared the ordinances that would ease the transition to republican government.  Now, in 1947, Cassin held the most important legal position in France.  As head of the Conseil d'État (the central organ of public administration and the highest court for public law disputes), he was responsible for reestablishing the French administrative and judicial systems and restoring the credibility they had lost under the Vichy regime.”

To be continued…

From “A World Made New:  Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” by Mary Ann Glendon, Ch. 4. 

7 July 2015

An exiled French lawyer presents himself to Charles de Gaulle in London in 1940…

“To Cassin’s surprise, he was escorted directly to the chief.  In the presence of the tall young general, the older man was suddenly acutely conscious of his white hair, his limp, his old-fashioned beard, and his lack of military expertise.  “General,” he said, “I have come to respond to your call of June 18.  I know France needs all her sons.  I am a disabled infantryman from the war of 1914 to 1918.  I have headed a federation of a million veterans and disabled veterans.  Do you think my assistance might be useful to you?”  Almost apologetically he added that he was also a law professor.

This was what de Gaulle had been waiting for.  The British prime minister, Winston Churchill, had just agreed to recognize the Free French, but he had insisted that there must be a legal basis for such recognition.  The loose collection of individuals that had gathered around de Gaulle had to be constituted as a legal entity – with a plausible claim to being the “real” government of France.  De Gaulle badly needed a lawyer.

Vous tombez à pic!” he told his visitor.  (“You’ve hit the mark.”)  Thus began a long collaboration between two men who had little in common beyond their love of country.  Cassin later wrote he had the feeling that “everything in my life had mysteriously prepared me for that moment.”

To be continued…

From “A World Made New:  Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” by Mary Ann Glendon, Ch. 4. 

30 June 2015

Law professor René Cassin flees occupied France in 1940…

“Cassin had come of age in a society torn in two by the Dreyfus case.  At the insistence of his devoutly religious mother, he had received an Orthodox Jewish education, but he was more influenced by his intensely antireligious father, from whom he imbibed the secularist spirit of the French Revolution.  As a result of youthful friendships with members of Catholic social action groups, he acquired, he said, “a great respect for religion and for Christian thought.”

....Though raised in an ardently Dreyfusard family, Cassin had once seriously considered a military career, believing that the army, whatever its faults, was the only means of restoring to France her lost honor and territory.  He served in the French army in World War I, suffering a grievous wound that required him to use a cane for the rest of his life.  On his return to civilian life he married his university sweetheart, a woman of Protestant background, rose to distinction as a professor of civil law, and became active in veterans’ organizations.  In 1925 he helped to found an international veterans’ organization so that soldiers of former enemies could work together for peace.

In June 1940 Cassin was teaching law in Paris when he heard the news of his country’s capitulation to German invasion.  He confided his dismay to a friend, who told him about Charles de Gaulle’s radio broadcast from London calling all Frenchmen to join the Resistance.  Cassin then made a fateful decision.  After driving all night, he picked up his wife, Simone, at Bayonne and the couple made their way to the port of Saint Jean-de-Luz, where they managed to catch the last departing English ship.  On June 29 the fifty-three-year-old jurist showed up at the Free French headquarters on the bank of the Thames.”

To be continued…

From “A World Made New:  Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” by Mary Ann Glendon, Ch. 4. 

30 June 2015

Lawyer René Cassin travels to New York in 1947 to work on the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights…

“France’s Cassin…had missed the beginning of the first session, including the election of officers, owing to severe storms that had delayed his Atlantic crossing. Years later Cassin wrote that he had been disappointed to find on arrival that there was “no European” among the officers of the Commission; he noted that many of the commissioners had had no legal training.  He seems to have been disconcerted, too, by the fact that the main common language of the commissioners was English.  Though Cassin had spent the war years in London as legal adviser to General Charles de Gaulle, his English was shaky.  Shortly after his arrival he mistakenly voted in favor of a procedural proposition he opposed, and later in the day he accidentally voted twice.  In his memoirs he lamented, “I failed to understand, and thus let pass, proposals and resolutions that did not correspond to my own views.” ”

On another occasion, Cassin himself caused language difficulties…

“At one point, after French member René Cassin had spoken for fifteen or twenty minutes without pausing for translation, the interpreter broke down in tears and fled the room, leaving Mrs. Roosevelt, who fortunately was fluent in French, to summarize his remarks as best she could.”

To be continued…

From “A World Made New:  Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” by Mary Ann Glendon, Ch. 3 and Ch. 2. 

16 June 2015

John Humphrey, the lawyer who wrote the first draft of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights…

“The decision to entrust the first draft to Humphrey made good sense.  He and his multinational staff had been collecting and studying pertinent material from all over the world.  Humphrey himself was well grounded in both civil and common law and fluent in French and English.  Indeed, it was his linguistic ability that led to his appointment at the UN.  During the war years he had befriended Henri Laugier, a French refugee in Montreal who spoke no English.  In 1946, when Laugier became the UN’s assistant secretary-general for social affairs, he recruited the idealistic Canadian to head the Secretariat’s Human Rights Division.

To Humphrey, then a forty-year-old law professor at McGill University, it must have seemed an exciting opportunity.  Intelligent and ambitious, he had already built a solid academic reputation as the author of several learned articles on international law and a monograph dealing with the relations among nations in the Americas.  Childhood adversity and the Great Depression had given him a lively sense of empathy for the disadvantaged:  as a boy of six he had lost his left arm in an accident; then, orphaned at eleven, he was placed in a boys’ boarding school, where he learned to detest the abuse of authority.  From an early age he had dreamed of helping to “make the world a better place.”  To Humphrey, as to Eleanor Roosevelt, the new international organization seemed full of hope and promise.  Though he had been unable to fight in the war, he could perhaps help to shape the peace.”

To be continued…

From “A World Made New:  Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” by Mary Ann Glendon, Ch. 3. 

9 June 2015 

The UN Human Rights Commission meets in 1946 to discuss the first draft of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights…

“Mrs. Roosevelt took a few minutes at the start of the June 9 meeting to thank Humphrey and his staff for their prodigious efforts. [John Humphrey was a law professor from McGill University in Canada.] She had scarcely finished her encomium when Colonel Hodgson [the representative for Australia] erupted.  “It seems to me there is no order in this document,” he complained.  In the January-February meeting, Hodgson had wanted to turn over the drafting job entirely to Humphrey and his staff, but now the colonel was in a cantankerous mood. He brusquely demanded to know what “philosophy” had guided the Secretariat’s work. “I personally would like some explanation of this monumental document from the Secretariat,” he said. “All I would like to know is – and I think we should know – what was the philosophy behind this paper? What principles did they adopt; what method did they follow? Is it their own idea; is it a collection of various principles?” Humphrey replied that he could not oblige Colonel Hodgson “for the simple reason that [the draft] is based on no philosophy whatsoever.” As far as he was concerned, he had been asked to compile a list of rights for discussion purposes, and that was what he had done.

Geoffrey Wilson regarded the comprehensiveness of Humphrey’s list as a grave defect. Wilson had arrived at the June meeting with instructions from the British Foreign Office to work for a covenant that would impose legal obligations on the states that ratified it, rather than a mere declaration that would have no legal effect. He had been supplied with a concise Foreign Office bill of familiar Anglo-American civil and political rights. The young barrister reported to his superiors in London that the Humphrey draft was “highly unsatisfactory,” because many of its provisions, especially those involving social welfare, did not lend themselves to legal enforcement. It “included everything that the Secretariat had been able to cull from previous drafts, from national constitutions, and from their own imagination.” The breadth of sources that made the draft so un-British was, of course, an important element of its claim to universality.

At that stage there seems to have been confusion in the minds of some members about the difference between a nonbinding declaration of principles by the UN General Assembly and instruments such as treaties, conventions, and covenants that impose enforceable legal duties on the states that sign and ratify them. Most of the human rights commissioners, after all, were not lawyers. And the precise nature of the document they were about to draft was still an open question.”

To be continued…

From “A World Made New: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” by Mary Ann Glendon, Ch. 4.

2 June 2015

The fledgling UN Human Rights Commission meets in 1946…

“Early in the first session it became evident that a discussion document could not be produced by the full eighteen-member Commission.  The members thus unanimously approved a joint French, Lebanese, and Yugoslavian resolution that a “preliminary draft” of an international bill of rights should be prepared for submission at the Commission’s second session by the three officers of the Commission, “with the assistance of the Secretariat.”

....Tepliakov [Valentin Tepliakov, the Soviet representative] abstained from the decision on the grounds that the drafting committee was too small, while Australia’s representative, Colonel Hodgson, maintained that a three-person committee was too large.  Hodgson took a dim view of drafting by committee, period.  The work, he believed, ought to be carried out by the UN Secretariat (that is, by Humphrey’s office) under the supervision of the committee. 

....In later years the scrupulous Humphrey [John Humphrey, a law professor from McGill University] took pains to acknowledge that the Declaration “had no father in the sense that Thomas Jefferson was the father of the Declaration of Independence,” because “literally hundreds of people….contributed to its drafting.”  What a pity that Humphrey did not live to learn that the Declaration of Independence had no single author, either!  Historian Pauline Maier recently revealed that Thomas Jefferson drew upon many “earlier documents of his own and other people’s creation.”  Maier concludes in her Pulitzer Prize-winning book on the making of the Declaration of Independence that “considering its complex ancestry and the number of people who actively intervened in defining its text, the Declaration of Independence was the work not of one man, but of many.” "

To be continued…

From “A World Made New:  Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” by Mary Ann Glendon, Ch. 2. 

26 May 2015

An Australian at the first meeting of the Human Rights Commission in 1947…

“Colonel William Roy Hodgson of Australia and Mrs. Mehta [Hansa Mehta of India] were adamant that an international bill of rights would be meaningless without some machinery for enforcement.  Neither of these individuals would prove easy to ignore....Noisy Colonel Hodgson, a champion of the interests of small nations, was one of Australia’s leading experts in international relations.  A U.S. State Department memo noted that he demonstrated “an extremely critical attitude towards most foreign countries” and a “peppery aggressive manner” that seemed to be aggravated by consumption of alcohol.  The memo conceded, however, that the Australian’s “blustering and provocative approach is said often to hide a very thorough knowledge of the question under consideration.”  Hodgson put forward a proposal for an entirely new sort of legal institution – an International Court of Human Rights that could hear complaints from individuals that their rights had been infringed by their own governments.”


From “A World Made New:  Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” by Mary Ann Glendon, Ch. 3.  Colonel Hodgson was a diplomat, but, unlike most of the commissioners drafting the Universal Declaration, also had a law degree.

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