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The exception proves the rule
(If there were no rule, no exception would be needed)
by Opus the Penguin
Cicero's defense of L. Cornelius Balbo (56 B.C.) is the earliest
known citation of this logic and is sometimes cited as the origin of
the phrase. Balbo was accused of having been illegally granted Roman
citizenship. The prosecutor pointed out that treaties with some
non-Roman peoples prohibited granting them citizenship and suggested
this should be inferred in Balbo's case. Cicero replied "If the
exception makes such an action unlawful, where there is no exception
the action must necessarily be lawful." (Quod si exceptio facit ne
liceat, ubi <non sit exceptum, ibi> necesse est licere.)