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 Lawyer / Liar “Joke” from 1693.

I got a lot of comments from the previous 1906 Lawyer/Devil Card, primarily people wanting to see more examples of lawyers being joked about throughout history, or referencing other works from their memories or collections.

So I pulled another one from my private marketing-history stash, a 1693 article from The Athenian Mercury newspaper * (full page shown at bottom), that recognized the Lawyer/Liar half rhyme connection:


The text: (ital. original, bold added):

   “Quest. 3 Who was the first Lawyer?

   “Answ.  We can tell you who was the first Lyer, (forgive the Pun if you can, for the sake of the Old Story) who was the first Cheat, and first troublesome Disputant, Brangler,** or if you please Baretter, that ever was in the World, but for the first profess’d Lawyer, tho we verily believe there was never any more ancient than those we have been talking of, We must ingeniously subscribe N.L.”

In other words —

   “Who was the first Lawyer?

   “Well, I can tell you who the first Liar and Cheat were…”1693-lawyer-liar-joke

I’m not sure whether “Baretter” is a 17th-century word for “Barrister” or is simply a mocking reference to Barretry, “most commonly applied to an attorney who attempts to bring about a lawsuit that will be profitable to her or him.

Barratry is an offense both at Common Law and under some state statutes.”  See

Again, I don’t think modern-day law firm marketing had much to do with forming that Editor’s opinion. 

* “a periodical written by The Athenian Society and published in London twice weekly between 17 March 1690 and 14 June 1697.”
** a “Brangler” is defined as a “quarrelsome person.”