|Before Magna Carta, professional Liars were hired by accused to defend them in the court of their autocratic feudal Lords or Barons. Things haven’t changed very much in the intervening 800 years.Originally, only commoners could be accused of crimes and brought before their ruling Lord for a very rough and ready justice. Nobles were exempt. There was no system of defense and no organized legal profession. The accused was on his own and pretty well defenceless against his Lordship, the local nobleman to whom he belonged. Justice was capricious, arbitrary and frequently fatal.
The only defence available to an accused was to try and produce an eye witness who could contradict the charges. Fear of the absolute power of the feudal lords frightened off most potential witnesses and the unfortunate wretch would usually be strictly on his own.
However, the power of a little silver in the right hands produced a solution of sorts. Professional witnesses began to appear ready and willing to testify on behalf of an accused. Minor details or niceties, such as possessing no actual knowledge of the events, did not dissuade them. These paid liars would attest to anything at all. Using these services, the occasional commoner would escape the wrath of his lordship.
These professional witnesses would hang around the court awaiting clients whom they could defend with their purchased testimony. They took to wearing a piece of straw in their shoes to identify themselves. They were the original “men of straw.”
Soon, demand for their services was widespread. As always, demand created the supply. The number of professional witnesses, who would effectively lie for their clients, grew and thrived.
Over time a sort of respectability developed for these men of straw and they became part of the mainstream.
They stopped hanging about court steps with straw in their shoes and opened offices. They became known as “Liars,” an obvious title which recognized their chief talent. Accused were advised by their associates to get a “Liar,” whenever he was called to appear in court. Medieval civil rights warnings were eventually revised to include the admonition to “git yer self a Liar son or if you cannot afford it, one could be appointed for you.”
Business was good. As time passed, these Liars grouped together and formed a Guild. It became informally known as the Liar’s Society.
But the term, Liars, was a little too graphic for most and distasteful to many with their newly acquired and growing respectability. Time and dialects took care of the problem for them.
Today the pronunciation and spelling of the original term has evolved.
We know them today as Lawyers.
J K Inwood