He will simply refuse—and be justified.

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Tea Addict

Senior Member
Republic of Korea Korean
Hello everyone. I would like to know what "He will simply refuse—and be justified." means in the following sentences:

‘But we have a right to the money, law or no law. He must pay it.’
He will simply refuse—and be justified. Poverty doesn’t allow of honourable feeling, any more than of compassion.'

- George Gissing, New Grub Street, Chapter 3

In this novel which was published in 1891 in the United Kingdom, Mrs. Milvain, the protagonist Jasper Milvain's mother, confessed to his son that she wrote a letter to William Milvain, who was a brother of her husband, urging him to pay the money he borrowed from her husband. Some ten years ago, William had borrowed 170 pounds from his brother Mr. Milvain (Jasper's father), and even after the death of Jasper’s father, the debt remained still unpaid, because William had a large family and was financially struggling. Nonetheless, this time Mrs. Milvain was forced to write the letter to him because she was financially struggling, too. At this confession, Jasper said to her that he didn't think William would pay the debt, because she could not recover the money now by law. At this, Mrs. Milvain said that she and her children (we) had a right to the money, law or no law. But Jasper shook his head saying that William would refuse paying the debt and be "justified."

In this part, I would like to know what "justified" exactly means.
Who, and what would justify him for not paying the debt...? Because for me Mrs. Milvain would clearly disagree at his refusal to pay the debt.
Is it lawfully justified for him, because long time has passed since Mr. Milvain lent the money to William?
Or does poverty justifies him refusing to pay the money? (I am throwing a wild guess because the sentence is followed by Jasper's remark about poverty, but is it right that the poverty here indicates William's, rather than Mrs. Milvain's?)

I would very much appreciate your help. :)
 
  • boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    Who, and what would justify him for not paying the debt...?
    This is a theoretical construct, a hypothesis to make a point.
    No one in particular will justify him, but a reasonable bystander would - an unprejudiced person, e.g. a judge.

    And then, they mention the law, so they must have discussed the option of taking him to court for the money. The court will justify him as well. :)
     

    Tea Addict

    Senior Member
    Republic of Korea Korean
    Dear boozer,

    Thank you very much for the explanation.
    Then he is saying that a judge would justify William for not paying the debt. Would that be because of his poverty...?

    I sincerely appreciate your help. :)
     

    Tea Addict

    Senior Member
    Republic of Korea Korean
    Dear boozer,

    Thank you very much for the explanation.
    I didn't know that the word "justified" has some legal connotation in this context, but I learned a new thing thanks to you.
    I am much obliged to you. :)
     
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