POST-GAZETTE - Res Publica

The Law is an Ass

by David Trumbull

July 30, 2004

"The Law is an Ass"

--Mr. Bumble in Charles Dicken's Oliver Twist

As this goes to press the Democratic National Convention is in Boston, and I am as far away as possible! I know it's bad form to ascribe, to one's enemies, motives for their actions. So I'll proceed in bad form and aver that the Democrats seek power because they see so many ways in which we need to regulate by more laws.

I might have supposed that in the 384 years since the Pilgrims wrote the Mayflower Compact, we had created about all the laws we need here in Massachusetts.

Our current stock and store of statutory inhibitions might benefit from some judicious trimming. Take, for example Mass. General Law Chapter 272: Section 86 "No person shall stable a horse or mule on the second or any higher floor of any building... This section shall not apply to cities." Does that mean I may stable my mule in a Hanover Street third-floor walk-up?

There is a special prize awaiting the Post-Gazette reader who can explain to me the current application of MGL Chapter 272: Section 63 "...An act of begging or soliciting a person having no residence in the town within which the act is committed, or the riding upon a freight train of a railroad, whether within or without any car or part thereof, without a permit from the proper officers or employees of such railroad or train, shall be prima facie evidence that such person is a tramp."

On the face, MGL Chapter 272: Section 33 "Whoever exhibits for hire an albino person, a minor or mentally ill person who is deformed or a person who has an appearance of deformity produced by artificial means shall be punished by a fine of not more than five hundred dollars" would seem to prohibit Michael Jackson concerts.

As our State Constitution says, we are a government of laws. And anyone visiting Boston had better behave or he may come up against MGL Chapter 272: Section 53 "...common railers and brawlers, persons who with offensive and disorderly acts or language accost or annoy persons...lewd, wanton and lascivious persons in speech or behavior, idle and disorderly persons, disturbers of the peace...may be punished by imprisonment in a jail or house of correction for not more than six months, or by a fine of not more than two hundred dollars."

Better keep that one on the books -- at least until the Democrats leave town.

David Trumbull is the chairman of the Boston Ward Three Republican Committee; he may be contacted at (617) 742-6881 or Boston's Ward Three includes the North End, West End, part of Beacon Hill, downtown, waterfront, Chinatown, and part of the South End.