Kill all the lawyers?

Most people are familiar with Dick the Butcher’s famous line in Shakespeare’s King Henry VI, “Now first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” What does it mean?

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The First Step to Tyranny is to Kill all the Lawyers

Most people do not know about the famous line in King Henry VI, by Shakespear, “Now first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers!” is that Shakespeare was really giving lawyers one of the greatest compliments of all time. Just about everyone assumes that this famous line is an expression of Shakespeare’s disdain for lawyers. Nothing could be further from the truth. Let’s look first to who made the statement, Dick the Butcher. In King Henry VI, Dick the Butcher was a dim-witted, barbarous villain. His leader, so to speak, was John Cade. Cade was the leader of a band of rebels who were determined to overthrow the King. Neither Dick nor John was a good man, and both were mentally challenged.

Why would Shakespeare have a dumb, depraved, villainous character say, “kill all the lawyers”? Shakespeare believed that lawyers were protectors of law and order – the good guys. Dick and John, who were bent on creating disorder and upheaval, wanted to get rid of those who stood in the way of tyranny. First on the list of those who protect against oppression, domination, and abuse by the government were lawyers.

As the famous remark by the plotter of treachery in Shakespeare’s King Henry VI shows, getting rid of lawyers is the surest way to chaos and tyranny. Lawyers, particularly criminal defense lawyers, are the guardians of independent thinking and civil rights.

Lawyers Are On the Front Line Against Oppressive Enforcement of the Law

The truth of the matter is that the government, like its citizens, can be out of control. Prosecutors are often heard saying, “We do God’s work!” Police often feel that the ends justify the means. The mindset of “the ends justify the means” motivates some police officers to feel that hiding, manufacturing evidence, or making up a confession may be justified if they feel that the right person is in custody. It has been determined that hundreds of innocent people are wrongfully convicted in trials every year in the United States. Hundreds more, maybe thousands, of innocent or overcharged people plead guilty or no contest to charges in exchange for plea bargains because they are afraid or unable to face the risk of being wrongfully convicted of their original charge. If you “kill all the lawyers,” there will be nothing to hold rogue law enforcement agents in check.

The criminal defense attorney is the last person standing between out-of-control prosecutors and rogue police officers and wrongfully accused citizens. A true warrior-style defense attorney, who is not afraid to stand up to rogue governmental agents, is the last line of defense against governmental tyranny.

Shakespeare used Dick the Butcher to demonstrate the precious value of lawyers by having him call for the destruction of the single greatest threat to despoliation…attorneys.

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