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Comparisons Are Odious: Ferguson and Middle Ages Justice

John Fortescue is a judge of the King's bench and unswervingly loyal to King Henry the 6th. After King Henry was deposed, John fled with the family and began the education of the young Prince of Wales. He wrote a book to help with that education. It is entitled "Commendation of the Laws of England." Obviously the judge is unhappy with the English justice system as it is. The book won't be published for another 70 years, but it will be remembered in the modern day for two quotes:

  • "Comparisons Are Odious"
  • "One would much rather that twenty guilty persons should escape the punishment of death, than that one innocent person should be condemned and suffer capitally."
My Take by Alex Shrugged
People who oppose capital punishment generally use the above quote to justify NEVER putting someone to death for a capital crime, but the quote is actually advocating using strict judicial procedure and rules of evidence. It is human nature to want to win, to get vengeance, to bring justice to the guilty, to blame someone... anyone... when one feels wronged. In Ferguson, Missouri, Mr. Brown lays dead. The mob demands that someone be blamed. The Grand Jury must consider the evidence carefully, using strict procedure. Lives hang in the balance. However it turns out, whoever lives or dies, when we use the rule of law and strict procedure, we have done the best we can and leave the rest to God. [1] [2]

Just to be clear, it seems to me that the police officer did the best he could. However, all I know is what has come from the media and the media is notorious for getting things wrong... so ... however it turns out, if we follow procedure, we know we have done our best even if we get it wrong. People get the most angry when the procedures are circumvented for the sake of (fill-in-the-blank).

In a Word: Tangerine... Mocha... and the Beatles

The Portuguese invade what is known today as Tangier, Morocco in north Africa. They want to establish a colony there since it was once a Christian stronghold. They had tried an invasion years before but this time it's going to work. Tangier will become a base of operations and a major shipping port for centuries to come. Like the port of Mocha in Yemen which shipped coffee beans, a special product will take on the name of the port of Tangier from which it is shipped... Tangerines. [3] [4] [5] [6]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
I was surprised to find that another word is associated with the invasion of Tangier. A few years ago the map the Portuguese used to invade Tangier was found. It included the plans for the kasbah. A kasbah [kahz-bah] is an Old English word describing a small defensive fort that a leader will retreat to when the city is under attack. I am old enough to remember the phrase "Meet me at the Casbah". The Casbah Coffee Club was a popular coffee house started in a family basement in Liverpool, England in the 1950s. It was a place where young people would go to listen to that newfangled rock and roll. It is also the place where the Beatles got their first booking but the family made them paint the basement before they could play. [7] [8]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1471, Wikipedia.

See Also


  1. Sanders, Sam (November 11, 2014). Ferguson, Mo., Anxiously Awaits Michael Brown Grand Jury Decision. npr.org. Retrieved on 20 November 2014.
  2. Bartlett, John. Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 14th Edition. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. 1968. p. 171a (BOOK)
  3. (1968) "Tangerine", Words from History (PDF), Books on Words, Boston: Houghton Mifflin. “"At the extreme west of the southern Mediterranean shore was the Roman city of Tingis. It was taken by the Arabs when they swept across northern Africa in the seventh century, and kept by them till 1471, when the Portuguese took it."” 
  4. Tangier - Wikipedia (2014). Retrieved on 21 November 2014.
  5. Tangerine - Wikipedia (2014). Retrieved on 24 November 2014.
  6. Mocha, Yemen - Wikipedia (2014). Retrieved on 24 November 2014.
  7. The Casbah Coffee Club - Wikipedia (2014). Retrieved on 24 November 2014.
  8. Kasbah - Wikipedia (2014). Retrieved on 24 November 2014.

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