Sivut kuvina

mony running through all parts of the Bible, and the certainty that it is throughout, what it claims to be, "given by inspiration of God.”



The Forum; or, Forty Years Full Practice at the Phila

delphia Bar. By DAVID PAUL Brown. Two Volumes. Philadelphia: Robert H. Small, Law Bookseller, No. 21 S. Sixth Street. 1856.

Our main purpose is not so much with Mr. Brown's book, as with a topic he has incidentally discussed—the ethics of the legal profession. We fully agree with him in the statement that his work has no pretensions to style. The frankness of the disclaimer will somewhat blunt the edge of criticism. As mere collectanea of anecdotes, and brief sketchings of legal biography, his volumes will prove to be passably interesting, and pleasant light reading ;had their author claimed for them a higher position, they would unquestionably not have secured it. Humble, however, as are the claims of Mr. Brown's work, it should not go wholly unrebuked. We admit his perfect right to publish as many of his personal recollections as he may choose; and if designed and heralded as his own life, to mingle with it as much of egotism and self-laudation as may suit his taste; but we strongly question his right to devote largely more than a hundred pages of a work, professedly giving an account of the practice and practitioners of Pennsylvania, to a discussion of his own merits and position, while his recital of the character and life of such a man as Justice Washington is compressed into about twenty. The disproportion may not have been noted by Mr. Brown. He may possibly imagine that each has been treated according

to his deserts-that the author of The Forum'' is entitled to fill a much larger space in the public eye, than the great, venerable and distinguished Justice; but Mr. Brown will scarcely get the reading public, either professional or nonprofessional, to agree with him. To prevent mistake here, let us say that the memoir of Mr. Brown prefixed to his work was not written by his own hand. It seems to have been prepared originally by a friend of the author, for a place among the catalogue of the distinguished living, published by Mr. John Livingston in his “ Biographies.'

The writer, however, had peculiar advantages for the work. He quotes the private journal of Mr. Brown, and gives us an account of his first public effort. . From this it appears that Mr. Brown's debut in the courts of Pennsylvania equalled, if it did not excel, the highest efforts of Grecian or Roman oratory, and instantly placed the orator upon the pinnacle of fame! The biographer does not tell us, that like Erskine on the occasion of his famous first speech before Lord Mansfield, the Philadelphia orator received thirty retainers before he left the court room. He doubtless deserved them.

Having said thus much in censure of these volumes, we must say what it is in our heart to say in commendation of the writer and his work. He seems to be a good natured, cheerful old gentleman, liberal to a fault, and a sincere teacher of the lesson of good fellowship. He has placed a high, but not too high, estimate upon the practical value of strict professional decorum; and inculcates as one of the essentials to success as well as to comfort in the practice of the law, the cultivation of an equable temper, and seasonably and shrewdly remarks, that “no client would be safe in trusting the management of his cause to a lawyer who is incapable of self-government.' He calls attention, too, to another feature in legal life, which may strike with some surprise those who are not familiar with its inner departments : “ The result of professional harmony is the greatest mutual confidence. They rely upon each other's word as an infallible bond. As between themselves, they rarely require any writing as an assurance. They neither doubt nor are doubted. This, among the other lofty prin

ciples of the profession, has secured them here and everywhere a position which neither envy nor calumny can ever destroy or impair.”

The legal profession has been the subject of calumny. No one will doubt this who is in any wise conversant with the ordinary opinions cherished and expressed by some even of the more intelligent classes who have devoted themselves to other pursuits. As the result of calumnies widely and industriously diffused by those who believe them to be true, we think we do not err in saying, that a large proportion of thinking men, outside of the profession, regard the vigorous, faithful and earnest prosecution of the law as incompatible with the highest standard of morality; as illy consonant with the life and principles of the Christian religion.

It is our design, in the present article, to vindicate the profession from these charges, and to show that the prosecution of the law is not only consistent with the sincere profession and practice of Christianity; but that, in some particulars, the lawyer enjoys peculiar advantages for attaining to eminent usefulness in the Christian life.

It is scarcely necessary to say that if the law may be practiced at all, its practitioner is called upon to do so with vigor and fidelity. It argues neither a Christian heart nor a Christian head to falter in the prosecution of any work we may properly undertake. Energy and striving for success are as obligatory upon the Christian in the pursuit of lawful secular callings, as diligence and fidelity in the discharge of any peculiarly Christian duty. If, then, the Christian may be a lawyer, he should prosecute his profession vigorously and earnestly ; he should not hesitate to meet its full responsibilities, and to discharge them all; and if the life of the Christian be incompatible with the energetic discharge of the lawyer's office, duty to the client, duty to himself demands that the Christian lawyer should lay aside his professional robes, and devote hinıself to some other pursuit. This is the practical question to which we invite attention: may the Christian do this without soiling his Christian character, or impairing his Christian influence ?

There is nothing essentially variant in the profession of Christianity and the practice of the law. To embrace the principles of the one does not, in itself, imply the denial of the principles which should rule in the other. So far as human laws are written on the statute books of the country, or have been unfolded and expounded in the decisions of the courts, the principles which underlie and regulate them are found to be, are designed to be modelled after and built upon the principles of Divine truth. If there be occasional aberrations from the standard, these have occurred, not from intentional disregard of the claims of the “higher law,”” but from misinterpretation or misapplication of the test; and as fallible men have had to expound and interpret in the statutes and to apply in practice these principles, it is surely not without excuse that occasional departures from their true development have been made-occasional errors committed.

There is not only no essential variance between the principles of Christianity and the principles which should rule in the practice of the law; there are designed coincidence and harmony between them.

In civilized countries, the great code regulating the dealings of man with man is the code contained in the Holy Scriptures. Variously expressed as their statutes have been,-assuming with every different nation and people a distinct and separate form, according to the condition, and mental habits, and varying circumstances of the people for whose control they are designed,-they all acknowledge, and are all designed to inculcate, obedience to the Divine law, as expounded from Mount Sinai, and as interpreted by the only Infallible Interpreter. Let a man but obey this law, in its spirit and letter; and he need not fear having broken any of the positive statutés, or run counter to the written decisions of the courts of a civilized people. Legislatures and courts alike have bowed in homage to the Divine model; and have striven to make their enactments and their rulings conform to its high standard. The Common Law of England, though its foundations were laid in a dark and inauspicious age, has become the boast of lawyers and

statesmen, and the pride and glory of the Anglo Saxon race, its highest and happiest accomplishment, in a history crowded with wonderful successes, and almost unexampled fortunes. No wonder that it was cherished with affectionate remembrance by our fathers; and though they were compelled to sever the national bond of union between them and the mother country, no wonder they fondly clung to this, the earliest and the best boon they had inherited. Yet after all, what is this Common Law, which law writers proudly characterize as the highest reason? Whence has it derived its splendor, its justness of proportion, its solidity of principle, and its practical value? From what source has it received the maxims which it has written as the guide of the courts? Whence derived the canons which govern and control them? When we assert for this.common law these high claims, we are not asserting them as due to its intrinsic and self-derived excellence; we are only commending a glory and a grace which are reflected from it, only as it has imitated and embodied the principles of the Divine law, as promulgated by Moses and as expounded by Christ. David Hoffman, in his excellent treatise on a course of legal study,—a work distinguished for its comprehensiveness and completeness, --instructs the student to lay the basis of his legal studies by securing an accurate acquaintance with the Bible.' We quote his language:

“The purity and sublimity of the morals of the Bible have at no time been questioned; it is the foundation of the common law of every Christian nation. The Christian religion is a part of the law of the land, and, as such, shouid certainly receive no inconsiderable portion of the lawyer's attention. In vain do we look among the writings of the ancient philosophers for a system of moral law comparable with that of the Old and New Testament. How meagre and lifeless are even the Ethics' of Aristotle, the ‘Morals' of Seneca, the 'Memorabilia’ of Xenophon, or the Offices' of Cicero, compared with it."

“If treatises on morals should be the first which are placed in the hands of the student, and the structure of his legal education should be raised on the broad and solid foundation of ethics, what book so proper to be thoroughly studied with this view, if no other, as the Bible. But the religion and morals of the Scriptures by no means constitute the only claim which this inestimable volume possesses on the earnest attention of the legal student. There is much law in it, and a great deal which sheds more than a glim nering light on a variety of legal topics. Political science is certainly indebted to it for an accurate account of the origin of society, government and property. The subjects of marriage, the alienation of property inter vivos, its acquisition by inheritance, and bequest, the obligation of an oath, the relations of governor and governed, of master and serv

« EdellinenJatka »