"Laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made.” This quotation had long been thought to have been from German ruler Otto Von Bismarck (1815-1898).
However, recent research has uncovered 1869 attributions of this statement to Vermont-born poet and lecturer John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887). Saxe died at Albany, New York, but he might have made the statement while lecturing in New York City.
Wikipedia: John Godfrey Saxe
John Godfrey Saxe (June 2, 1816 – 1887) was an American poet perhaps best known for his parable “The Blindmen and the Elephant”.
According to Fred Shapiro, author of the Yale Book of Quotations, the Daily Cleveland Herald in its issue of Mar. 29, 1869, quotes Saxe as saying “Laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made.” (source: Languagehat.com for July 29, 2008)
Appleton’s Cyclopedia of American Biography
SAXE, John Godfrey, poet, born in Highgate, Vermont, 2 June, 1816; died in Albany, New York, 31 March, 1887. He entered Wesleyan university in 1835, but left in his freshman year, and was graduated at Middlebury in 1839. During the four years following he studied law in Lockport, New York, and then in St. AI-bans, Vermont, where, in 1843, he was admitted to the bar. He practised with success in Franklin county for several years, becoming in 1850-’1 state’s attorney for Chittenden county, and in 1847-’8 he was superintendent of common schools, His fondness for literature to journalism, and in 1850 he purchased the ‘Burlington Sentinel,” which he edited until 1856. Mr. Saxe served as attorney-general of Vermont in 1856, and for a time was deputy collector of customs. In 1859, and again in 1860, he was the unsuccessful Democratic nominee for governor. Settling in New York, he devoted himself to literature and lectured until 1872, when he moved to Albany, and became an editor of the “Evening Journal.” In 1866 Middlebury gave him the degree of LL. D. Mr. Saxe achieved his greatest reputation by his poetry. As a young lawyer he sent his earliest verses to the “Knickerbocker,” and in after years he contributed to “Harper’s Magazine” and the “Atlantic Monthly.” His “ Rhyme of the Rail,” “The Briefless Barrister,” “The Proud Miss McBride,” and similar humorous poems, as well as his more serious “Jerry, the Miller,” “I’m growing Old,” “The Old Church-Bell,” and “Treasures in Heaven,” were very popular. His published works include “Progress: a Satirical Poem” (New York, 1846) ; “Humorous and Satirical Poems” (Boston, 1850); “The Money King, and other Poems” (1859); “The Flying Dutchman, or the Wrath of Herr Von Stoppelnose” (New York, 1862); “Clever Stories of Many Nations rendered in Rhyme” (Boston, 1865); “The Times, the Telegraph, and other Poems” (London, 1865) ; “The Masquerade, and other Poems” (Boston, 1866); “Fables and Legends of Many Countries” (1872) ; and “Leisure-Day Rhymes” (1875). There have also been numerous collections of his poems.
The Yale Book of Quotations
edited by Fred R. Shapiro
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press
Otto von Bismarck
German statesman, 1815-1898
To retain respect for laws and sausages, one must not watch them in the making.
Attributed in Southern Reporter, 2d Series 104: 18 (1958). Today usually credited to Bismarck, but much earlier evidence appears in the McKean Miner (Smethport, Pa.), 22 Apr. 1869: “Saxe says in his new lecture: “Laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made.” “Saxe” here may refer to lawyer-poet John Godfrey Saxe.
29 March 1869, Cleveland (OH) Daily Herald:
Saxe says in his new lecture: “Laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made.”
1 April 1869, Dubuque (Iowa) Daily Herald, pg. 3, col. 3:
John G. Saxe says that “laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made.”
Mirthfulness and Its Exciters, Or, Rational Laughter and Its Promoters: Or, Rational Laughter and Its Promoters
By Benjamin Franklin Clark
Boston, MA: Lee and Shepard
Laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made.
4 May 1871, Edwardsville (IL) Intelligencer, pg. 1, col. 3:
Fun in the Illinois Legislature.
From the Chicago Tribune.
Another member, speaking of his high sense of the compliment paid him when he was nominated and elected, stated that he had called to see a former legislator, a personal friend, to whom he expressed his very great regard for the laws of his country.—“Yes,” said his friend, somewhat hesitatingly, “yes—laws are like sausages—the less you know of how they are made the better you like them.”
New York City • Government/Law/Politics/Military • (0) Comments • Tuesday, September 09, 2008 • Permalink