A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from April 07, 2014
“The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it”

"The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly” has been credited to Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) since at least 1884, but there is no evidence that he ever said it. U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885) said at his first inaugural address on March 4, 1869:

“I shall on all subjects have a policy to recommend, but none to enforce against the will of the people. Laws are to govern all alike—those opposed as well as those who favor them. I know no method to secure the repeal of bad or obnoxious laws so effective as their stringent execution.”

If a bad law is stringently executed, according to Grant’s statement, then everyone will immediately know how bad it is and the law will quickly be repealed. “The best possible way to secure the repeal of a bad law is to enforce it rigidly, that the country m&y feel just how bad it is” was cited in a newspaper the day after this speech.

Grant’s observation might not be original. “The way to defeat a bad law is to insist on its being carried out” was cited in print on January 26, 1869.


Wikiquote: Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln (12 February 1809 – 15 April 1865) was the 16th President of the United States and led the country during the American Civil War.
(...)
Misattributed
The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it.
. Attributed in A Dictionary of Thoughts (1908) by Tryon Edwards; this is earlier attributed to Theodore Roosevelt in Life of William McKinley (1901) by Samuel Fallows, and could be derived from the remarks of Ulysses S. Grant in his First Inaugural Address (4 March 1869): “I know no method to secure the repeal of bad or obnoxious laws so effective as their stringent execution”.

26 January 1869, Boston (MA) Journal, “The Ballot in England,” pg. 4, col. 2:
The way to defeat a bad law is to insist on its being carried out.

President Ulysses S. Grant
First Inaugural Address
Washington, DC
Thursday, March 4, 1869

Citizens of the United States:

Your suffrages having elected me to the office of President of the United States, I have, in conformity to the Constitution of our country, taken the oath of office prescribed therein. I have taken this oath without mental reservation and with the determination to do to the best of my ability all that is required of me. The responsibilities of the position I feel, but accept them without fear. The office has come to me unsought; I commence its duties untrammeled. I bring to it a conscious desire and determination to fill it to the best of my ability to the satisfaction of the people.

On all leading questions agitating the public mind I will always express my views to Congress and urge them according to my judgment, and when I think it advisable will exercise the constitutional privilege of interposing a veto to defeat measures which I oppose; but all laws will be faithfully executed, whether they meet my approval or not.

I shall on all subjects have a policy to recommend, but none to enforce against the will of the people. Laws are to govern all alike—those opposed as well as those who favor them. I know no method to secure the repeal of bad or obnoxious laws so effective as their stringent execution.

5 March 1869, Indianapolis (IN) Journal, “President Grant’s Inaugural,” pg. 4, col. 4:
He declares that he means to administer the Government so as to restore peace, and remove the prejudices and heart-burnings which the war has left; that he understands his responsibilities, and that if he don’t like what Congress does he will veto it; that his duty, however, compels him to execute all laws whether he likes them or not, and he will do his duty,—and he shrewdly suggests, at this point, that the best possible way to secure the repeal of a bad law is to enforce it rigidly, that the country m&y feel just how bad it is.

6 April 1869, The Daily Picayune (New Orleans, LA), “The Distribution of the Spoils,” pg. 4, col. 2:
Gen. Grant said in his inaugural address, that the best method for obtaining the repeal of a bad law is to administer it with a rigor, to give it additional unpopularity.

7 April 1880, Hawaiian Gazette (Honolulu, HI), “Remarks of Rev. Dr. Stebbins,” pg. 4, col. 3:
[The following remarks of Rev. Dr. Stebbins, of San Francisco, on the disorderly Sand-lot speeches, was thoughtful and worthy of application wherein capital and labor are sought to be arrayed against each other, ED.]
(...)
The best way to get a bad law repealed is to execute it rigidly.

Google Books
Day’s Collacon:
An Encyclopaedia of Prose Quotations, Consisting of Beautiful Thoughts, Choice Extracts, and Sayings

Compiled and arranged by Edward Parsons Day
New York, NY: International Publishing and Printing Office
1884
Pg. 493:
The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly.  A. Lincoln.

Chronicling America
1 December 1888, Los Angeles (CA) Daily Herald, pg. 4, col. 2:
We do not believe in the law; but as Gen. Grant said, the best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it.

Google Books
A Dictionary of Thoughts
Edited by Tryon Edwards
Detroit, MI: F. B. Dickerson COmpany
1908
Pg. 292:
The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly. — Lincoln.

Google Books
20,000 Quips & Quotes
By Evan Esar
New York, NY: Barnes & Noble Books
1995, ©1968
Pg. 462:
The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly. — Lincoln

RushLimbaugh.com
GOP Ignores Lincoln’s Advice, Softens Blow of Obamacare
April 07, 2014
(...)
RUSH:  One thing the Republicans are doing is, they are softening the blow of Obamacare by offering a change in the impact of Obamacare on small businesses.  Now, the original Republican hatemonger, Abraham Lincoln (Remember him?) said, “The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly,” which this one has not been.  This one has yet to be fully implemented, by design, so that you don’t know how bad it is until it’s too late to vote the people out of office who did it to you. 

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • Monday, April 07, 2014 • Permalink