Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Complete list of 8,000+ Thatcher statements & texts of many of them

1988 Jun 18 Sa
Margaret Thatcher

Speech on being elected an Honorary Bencher of the Law Society of Upper Canada

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Osgoode Hall, Toronto
Source: Thatcher Archive: speaking text
Editorial comments: 1730-1800 local time.
Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 837
Themes: Monarchy, Civil liberties, Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Law & order

Chief Justices, Judges, Treasurer, Benchers, guests.

May I first thank you for doing me this very great honour of electing me an Honorary Bencher of the Law Society of Upper Canada. As a member of your profession, the distinction is one which means a very great deal to me. [end p1]

Indeed nothing could bring home more powerfully how great the distinction is than the identity of your other two Honorary Benchers: —Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother whose energy and vitality are truly remarkable and who is so very greatly loved in Britain and throughout [end p2] the Commonwealth; and —the Right Honourable Roland Michener—Rhodes Scholar, Speaker of the House of Commons and Governor-General—truly one of Canada's greatest names, who has done us the honour of being present today.

Our High Commissioner kindly sent me his entry [end p3] from Canada Who's Who and it took most of the journey from London to Toronto to read it.

Indeed so great and so numerous are his honours and achievements that I am tempted to recite a characteristically modest little poem which Lord Attlee once wrote about himself. [end p4]

“Few thought he was even a starter There were many who thought themselves smarter But he ended PM CH and OM An Earl, and a Knight Of the Garter.”

Among those achievements is, I understand, the [end p5] organisation of the annual Oxford and Cambridge cricket match in Toronto, which takes place tomorrow. Well, it won't be the only match in town—I intend to do some fairly vigorous batting myself on a different pitch. But whichever side wins in your match, the victory will go to those carrying the good Conservative colour of blue. [end p6]

Madam Treasurer, my pleasure at being elected is of course the greater because of the particular links which exist between this Society and this hall and my own Lincoln's Inn. I am proud to join the tradition of those links and shall do my best to serve further and perpetuate them.

Our profession is not a universally admired [end p7] one. The tendency to be suspicious of lawyers goes back a long way. Our patron saint, St. Ives, came originally from Britanny, where they still celebrate his birthday by singing a high mass which includes this eulogy of him:

“Advocatus quo non latro Res miranda populo”
[end p8] Or translated roughly into English:
“An advocate and not a thief A thing well nigh beyond belief.”

Of course we don't deserve that, although those of us rash enough to combine the professions of the law and politics have only ourselves to blame. [end p9] If ever there was a case of volenti non fit injuria, we are it.

Britain and Canada share a great legal heritage, as you pointed out Madam Treasurer and they are fortunate to do so. It is that heritage of freedom under the law which has made our countries and our societies democracies. [end p10]

But the rule of law is something which we can never take for granted: as we look round the world, we see endless examples of order without liberty, of people's courts and no justice for people.

We have always to remember that the foundation of democracy is not just universal suffrage and the rule of the majority, it is even more importantly recognition of [end p11] the right of everyone to live under the rule of an impartial law and impartial justice—and that will be the true test of whether the changes we are seeing in the Communist societies are a step towards genuine democracy.

It is when their rulers accept that the law imposes restraints on their power that those people will begin to be free. [end p12]

The second point which I want to make in these very brief remarks is that too often the law is seen as a negative and restraining force where it ought to be a creative and a liberating force.

The law is what gives life to our societies, it enables the individual to exercise his talents freely and know that the just [end p13] rewards of those talents will be secure and his to dispose of as he sees fit. It guarantees that he can go as far as his energies and his talents will take him. It does not tell him what to do, only what he should not do if others too are to enjoy their freedom.

It is no mere chance that the most successful societies are those such as Canada and the [end p14] United Kingdom in which the law is seen in that light.

I expect you will know a verse of Rudyard Kipling 's which sums up what I want to say better than I ever could:

“Keep ye the law—be swift in all obedience— Clear the land of evil, drive the road [end p15] and bridge the ford. Make ye sure to each his own That he reap where he hath sown; By the peace among our peoples let men know We serve the Lord.”

Madam Treasurer, fellow benchers, Thank you for arranging this ceremony here [end p16] in Osgoode Hall with its particular links with Britain and with the imposing statue of Winston Churchill just outside; Thank you for doing me the honour of allowing me to join your distinguished Society; Thank you for all that you do to serve the law and make our societies an example [end p17] to others of freedom and of justice.