"No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the Legislature is in session” is a classic political phrase that popularly began with a New York court decision in 1866. The phrase has been applied to the legislatures of other states as well.
The phrase has sometimes wrongly been attributed to statesman Daniel Webster (1782-1852) or writer Ambrose Bierce (1842-1913).
The Yale Book of Quotations
Edited by Fred R. Shapiro
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press
Gideon J. Tucker
U.S. judge, fl. 1866
The error arose from want of diligent watchfulness in respect to legislative changes. He did not remember that it might be necessary to look at the statutes of the year before. Perhaps he had forgotten the saying, that “no man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the Legislature is in session.”
Final Accounting in the Estate of A.B. (1866)
16 June 1971, New York Times, “Letters to the Editor,” pg. 44:
“No man’s life, liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session...” is a quote lifted mirthlessly, not from a 1971 Times editorial but from a 105-year-old New York court decision [1 Tucker 248 (N. Y. Surr. 1866)]. However hoary, it is uncomfortably apt as we view the carnage left by this year’s legislative session—sighing with relief that the legislators have gone home before they could do even more damage.
JOHN V. P. LASSOE Jr.
Assistant to the Bishop
Episcopal Diocese of New York
4 September 1976, Washington (DC) Post, pg. C7:
A 19th century sage—reportedly Daniel Webster—once observed: “Now is the time when men work quietly in the fields and women weep softly in the kitchen; the legislature is in session, and no man’s property is safe.”
6 February 1977, New York (NY) Times, pg. O24:
IN 1868, a surrogate Court Judge in New York State made a comment that, while aimed at Albany rather than Hartford, still haunts the Connecticut Legislature today. His passing remark, “No man’s wife or property is safe when the Legislature is in session,” is often repeated as a joke about the atmosphere and the procedure of the Connecticut Legislature and how it is perceived by the news media and much of the public.
27 February 1977, New York (NY) Times, “Letters to the Connecticut Editor,” pg. 425:
The quote “No man’s wife or property is safe while the Legislature is in session” should really have read “No man’s life or property” etc.--I think.
Seriously, please inform your readers that to the best of my knowledge and belief the danger from the Legislature is to their lives not their wives--the Congress to the contrary notwithstanding.
LEWIS B. ROME
19 November 1979, Chicago (IL) Tribune, pg. C3:
In 1866, a judge in New York heard the case of an attorney who was accused of negligence for not reading the most current state statutes before advising a widow on the settlement of her husband’s estate. The judge, in his ruling, stated what is only too true today in Illinois: “No man’s life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session.”
13 September 1981, Chicago (IL) Tribune, pg. G30:
“No man’s house or property is safe is safe when the legislature is in session.”
New York City • Government/Law/Politics • Thursday, August 10, 2006 • Permalink