The Thicket of the Law

Something about Alberto Gonzalez and James Comey made me think of this scene from A Man for All Seasons. Who would Sir Thomas More be?

ALICE – He is! Arrest him!

MARGARET – Father, that man’s bad.

MORE – There is no law against that.

ROPER – There is! God’s law!

MORE – Then God can arrest him.

ROPER – Sophistication upon sophistication!

MORE – No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what’s legal not what’s right. And I’ll stick to what’s legal.

ROPER – Then you set man’s law above God’s!

MORE – No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact-I’m not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can’t navigate. I’m no voyager. But in the thickets of the law, oh, there I’m a forester. I doubt if there’s a man alive who could follow me there, thank God . . .
(He says this last to himself)

ALICE – (Exasperated, pointing after RICH) While you talk, he’s gone!

MORE – And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law!

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 – (Roused and excited) 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? (Quietly) Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.

ROPER – I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law’s your god.

MORE – (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you’re a fool, God’s my god . . . . (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too subtle . . . I don’t know where he is nor what he wants.

ROPER – My god wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else!

MORE – (Dryly) Are you sure that’s God? He sounds like Mo¬≠loch. But indeed it may be God- And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I’ll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly!

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