The Benefit of Law

Sir Thomas More (7 February 1478 – 6 July 1535), venerated by Catholics as Saint Thomas More, was an English lawyer, social philosopher, author, statesman and noted Renaissance humanist. He was also a councillor to Henry VIII, and Lord High Chancellor of England.

More opposed the Protestant Reformation, in particular the theology of Martin Luther and William Tyndale. He also wrote Utopia, published in 1516, about the political system of an imaginary ideal island nation. More opposed the King's separation from the Catholic Church, refusing to acknowledge Henry as Supreme Head of the Church of England and the annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. After refusing to take the Oath of Supremacy, he was convicted of treason and beheaded.

"Roper: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law!

More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

Roper: I'd cut down every law in England to do that!

More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you — where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast — man's laws, not God's — and if you cut them down — and you're just the man to do it — d'you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake."


After Roper accuses More of respecting man’s law over God’s, More delivers this defense of his actions. Though More believes in the afterlife, he also recognizes that he has no right and no means to make judgments that are better left to God. More respects man’s law as the best available means of protecting against evil, even if it lets people like Rich off the hook from time to time. Bolt explains in his preface that he uses seafaring and water metaphors to signify the uncertainty of the great beyond, the moral universe that Roper aims to navigate. In this passage, More’s vision of a stable, lawful earthly existence is signified by images of the forest, and a lawless earth is signified by images of a barren wasteland.


From the movie 'The Siege',

General William Devereaux: [announcing the declaration of martial law in Brooklyn] Good morning. Today with the invocation of the War Powers Act by the President, I am declaring state of martial law in this city. To the best of our knowledge we are opposed by no more than 20 of the enemy. He is hiding among a population of roughly two million. Intelligence tells us that he is most likely Arab speaking, between the age of 14 and 30, narrowing the target to 15,000 suspects. We can further reduce that number down to those that have been in this country less than six months. Now you have 20 hiding among 2,000. If you are one of these 20 young men, you can hide among a population of similar ethnic background. Unfortunately for you, you can only hide there. And that population, in the classic immigration pattern, is concentrated right here in Brooklyn. We intend to seal off this borough, then we intend to squeeze it. This is the land of opportunity, gentlemen - the opportunity to turn yourselves in. After sundown tonight, any young man fitting the profile I described who is not cooperating will be arrested and detained. There is historically nothing more corrosive to the morale of a population than policing its own citizens, but the enemy would be sadly mistaken if they were to doubt our resolve. They are now face-to-face with the most fearsome military machine in the history of man, and I intend to use it and be back on base in time for the playoffs. Thank you for your time.

Anthony 'Hub' Hubbard: [upon learning Devereaux's plans to torture Tariq] Are you people insane? What are you talkin' about?

General William Devereaux: The time has come for one man to suffer in order to save hundreds of lives.

Anthony 'Hub' Hubbard: One Man? What about two, huh? What about six? How about public executions?

General William Devereaux: Feel free to leave whenever you like, Agent Hubbard.

Anthony 'Hub' Hubbard: Come on General, you've lost men, I've lost men, but you - you, you *can't* do this! What, what if they don't even want the sheik, have you considered that? What if what they really want is for us to herd our children into stadiums like we're doing? And put soldiers on the street and have Americans looking over their shoulders? Bend the law, shred the Constitution just a little bit? Because if we torture him, General, we do that and everything we have fought, and bled, and died for is over. And they've won. They've already won!

General William Devereaux: Escort him out.

Anthony 'Hub' Hubbard: to General Devereaux during the final standoff] You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to a fair trial. You have the right not to be tortured, not to be murdered, rights that you took away from Tariq Husseini. You have those rights because of the men who came before you who wore that uniform. Because of the men and women who are standing here right now waiting for you to give them the order to fire. Give them the order, General.