Morton's Fork

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Morton's Fork an argument used by the English prelate and statesman John Morton (c.1420–1500), as Chancellor in demanding gifts for the royal treasury: if a man lived well he was obviously rich and if he lived frugally then he must have savings. The phrase in this form dates from the mid 19th century, but Francis Bacon in his Historie of the Raigne of King Henry the Seventh (1622) says that, ‘There is a tradition of a dilemma that Bishop Morton…used to raise up the benevolence to higher rates; and some called it his Fork.’ The term is now found in wider allusive use.