Turning the Justice into a Joke

Crime and the law were popular subjects for jokes, and the fact that a man could be a magistrate just by the fact of his gentry birth rather than because of any legal qualifications or experience, was clearly the source of disquiet, mockery, or humour.

A seventeenth century joke about the magistrate ran as follows:

A Justice of the Peace overtaking a Parson upon the Road, between London and Bow, told his Company that he would put a Trick upon him: and so, coming up to him said, “Sir, you don’t follow your Master’s rule, for he was content with an Ass, but you have a very fine Horse.” The Parson replied, the reason was, because the King had made so many Asses Justices, that a Clergyman could not get one to Ride on.

From John Ashton’s collection, Humour, Wit and Satire of the Seventeenth Century (London, 1883)