Eminent Lawyer, Judge & Thoughtful Writer
James Fitzjames Stephen was a prominent English lawyer, judge, and writer, born on March 3, 1829. Known for his contributions to legal philosophy and his insightful writings on a wide range of topics, he left a lasting impact on the fields of law and literature.
Stephen's thought-provoking essays, such as those in "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" (1873), explored issues of individual rights, morality, and the role of government in society.
His dual roles as a legal scholar and writer reflect his profound engagement with the complexities of law and culture in Victorian England.
To me this question whether liberty is a good or a bad thing appears as irrational as the question whether fire is a good or a bad thing. It is both good and bad according to time, place, and circumstance, and a complete answer to the question, In what cases is liberty good and in what cases is it bad? would involve not merely a universal history of mankind, but a complete solution of the problems which such a history would offer.
DirectionA well-judging man will open his trunk-line of study in such a direction that, while habitually adhering to it, he may enjoy a ready access to such other fields of knowledge as are most nearly related to it.
WisdomWisdom may be the ultimate arbiter, but is seldom the immediate agent in human affairs.
The things which cannot be adequately represented by words are more important than those which can.
PowerPower and courtly influence form an intoxicating draught even when raised to the lips of an ascetic and a saint.
CourageUncertaintyDecision-MakingRiskAcceptanceEach must act as he thinks best; and if he is wrong, so much the worse for him. We stand on a mountain pass in the midst of whirling snow and blinding mist through which we get glimpses now and then of paths which may be deceptive. If we stand still we shall be frozen to death. If we take the wrong road we shall be dashed to pieces. We do not certainly know whether there is any right one. What must we do? Be strong and of a good courage. Act for the best, hope for the best, and take what comes. . . . If death ends all, we cannot meet death better.
FriendshipLoveFamilyLawTo try to regulate the internal affairs of a family, the relations of love or friendship, or many other things of the same sort, by law or by the coercion of public opinion, is like trying to pull an eyelash out of a man's eye with a pair of tongs. They may put out the eye, but they will never get hold of the eyelash
DemocracyThe result of cutting [political power] up into little bits is simply that the man who can sweep the greatest number into one heap will govern the rest... In a pure democracy the ruling men will be the wirepullers and their friends; but they will no more be on an equality with the voters than soldiers of Ministers of State are on an equality with the subjects of monarchy.
Parliamentary government is simply a mild and disguised form of compulsion. We agree to try strength by counting heads instead of breaking heads, but the principle is exactly the same... The minority gives way not because it is convinced that it is wrong, but because it is convinced that it is a minority.
СправедливістьEqualityThe only shape in which equality is really connected with justice is this - justice presupposes general rules. If these general rules are to be maintained at all, it is obvious that they must be applied equally to every case which satisfies their terms.
MoralityNot only are the varieties of morality innumerable, but some of them are conflicting with each other.
VisionHopeUsed with due abstinence, hope acts as a healthful tonic; intemperately indulged, as an enervating opiate. The visions of future triumph, which at first animate exertion, if dwelt upon too intently, will usurp the place of the stern reality; and, noble objects will be contemplated, not for their own inherent worth, but on account of the day-dreams they engender. Thus hope, aided by imagination, makes one man a hero, another a somnambulist, and a third a lunatic; while it renders them all enthusiasts.