Edward Law, 1st Baron Ellenborough

Lord Chief Justice of England (1750-1818)

Edward Law, 1st Baron Ellenborough, PC, KC (16 November 1750 – 13 December 1818) was an English judge. After serving as a Member of Parliament and Attorney General, he became Lord Chief Justice.


  • Every man must be taken to be cognizant of the law, otherwise there is no saying to what extent the excuse of ignorance may not be Law carried. It would be urged in almost every case.
    • Bilbie v. Lumley (1802), 2 East, 469.
  • What may be good circumstances in one man, cannot be deemed so in another.
    • Rex v. Locker (1803), 5 Esp. 106.
  • The law of England is a law of liberty, and, consistently with this liberty, we have not what is called an imprimatur (let it be printed); there is no such preliminary licence necessary. But if a man publish a paper, he is exposed to the penal consequences, as he is in every other act, if it be illegal.
    • R. v. Cobbett (1804), 29 How. St. Tr. 49.
  • In a criminal case I can presume nothing.
    • King v. Brett (1806), 5 Esp. 261.
  • Every one must be supposed to be cognizant of a public law.
    • Smith v. Beadnell (1807), 1 Camp. 33.
  • No man should be allowed to have an interest against his duty.
    • Thompson v. Havelock (1808), 1 Camp. 528.
  • Persons in trade had better be very cautious how they add a fictitious name to their firm, for the purpose of gaining credit.
    • Guidon v. Robson (1809), 2 Camp. 304.
  • There have been errors in the administration of the most enlightened men.
    • Rex v. Lambert and Perry (1810), 2 Camp. 405.
  • I know but of one Being to whom error may not be imputed.
    • Rex v. Lambert and Perry (1810), 2 Camp. 402.
  • The law merchant respects the religion of different people.
    • Lindo v. Unsworth (1811), 2 Camp. 603.
  • Cock-fighting must be considered a barbarous diversion.
    • Squires v. Whisken (1811), 3 Camp. Rep. 141.
  • I will not suffer the Christian religion to be reviled, while I sit in this Court, and possess the power of preventing it.
    • Baton's Case (1812), 31 How. St. Tr. 939.
  • No man can make a stable-yard of the King's highway.
    • Rex v. Cross (1812), 3 Camp. 227.
  • I wish that objections to questions as leading, might be a little better considered before they are made. It is necessary, to a certain extent, to lead the mind of the witness to the subject of inquiry. If questions are asked, to which the answer "Yes" or "No" would be conclusive, they would certainly be objectionable, but in general no objections are more frivolous than those which are made to questions as leading ones.
    • Nicholls v. Dowding and another (1815), 1 Stark. 81.
  • It has been sometimes said, communis error facit jus; but I say communis opinio is evidence of what the law is; not where it is an opinion merely floating and theoretical floating in the minds of persons but where it has been made the ground-work and substratum of practice.
    • Isherwood v. Oldknow (1815), 3M. &S. (K. B. Rep.) 396, 397.
  • I am willing to put the case into any shape you choose.
    • Richmond v. Heapy and another (1816), 1 Starkie, 204.
  • As a general rule, I beg that it may be understood, that a case is not to be cut into parts, but that when it is known what the question in issue is, it must be met at once.
    • Rees v. Smith and others (1816), 2 Starkie, 32.
  • I am as jealous of the rights of juries as of those of the Court.
    • Rex v. Hucks (1816), 1 Starkie, 522.
  • It is a principle of law, that a person intends to do that which is the natural effect of what he does.
    • Beckwith v. Wood and another (1817), 2 Starkie, 266.
  • It is difficult to struggle with the common law.
    • Kerr v. Willan (1817), 2 Starkie, 54.
  • It is of the greatest importance that the administration of justice should not only be free from spot or blame, but that it should be, so far as human infirmity could allow it to become, as free from all suspicion.
    • King v. Hunt (1820), 2 Chit. Bep. 134.


  • The greater the truth the greater the libel.