Laws and Sausages: Is It Bismark or Saxe?

Do you know who said:

Laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made.

It’s happens to be a very famous maxim most often attributed to Otto von Bismarck, however the attribution is not entirely accurate.

According to a 2009 New York Times story by Fred Shapiro, the quotation originated when “[t]he Daily Cleveland Herald, March 29, 1869, quoted lawyer-poet John Godfrey Saxe.” It figures that it would take a lawyer to come up with something so profound on this subject.

A blog post by Quote Investigator identifies an even earlier version of this “anecdote” in a South Carolina newspaper in 1867, however there appears to be no direct link between that and Saxe’s saying.

Here are other variations of this quotation that we found on WikiQuote, as of February ,2011.

  • If you like laws and sausages, you should never watch either one being made.
  • Laws are like sausages — it is best not to see them being made.
  • Laws are like sausages. It is better not to see them being made.
  • Laws are like sausages. You should never see them made.
  • Laws are like sausages. You should never watch them being made.
  • Law and sausage are two things you do not want to see being made.
  • No one should see how laws or sausages are made.
  • To retain respect for sausages and laws, one must not watch them in the making.
  • The making of laws like the making of sausages, is not a pretty sight.
  • The less the people know about how sausages and laws are made, the better they sleep in the night.

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