« ZurückWeiter »
cultivated and lucid state. So long as it was disincorporated from general knowledge,' and pursued exclusively under the guidance of professional men, in the Inns of Courts, or in offices of practitioners, its outline was obscure, its aspect forbidding and mysterious; none dared to pretend to master it, except the regularly initiated ; and to some of these, its reason was a closed book, which they had not the strength or patience to open. No sooner, however, was the Common Law introduced among the branches of University education, than it became liberalized and refined. Its particular light was “augmented and rectified by the superior light of universal knowledge.' Its foreign jargon was abandoned. Its technicalities were diminished. If we were to say that all the improvements, which have been introduced into the study and science of the law since the middle of the last century, were the consequence of the publication of the single work of Blackstone, we should assert, perhaps, more than we could prove, though possibly not more than is true. That work introduced the science of the English law to the acquaintance of men of general science. It was no longer a study from which such men were repelled, by the wildness of its aspect and the impervious barbarousness of its terms. By the labors of Blackstone the rough scene was changed. After the publication of his work, men of general science began to think and to speak of the English law, as of a subject which could be understood without the exclusive devotion of a whole life to it. Professional men also, their progress being thus facilitated, found more leisure themselves to pursue general science. Thus, by the reciprocal action of influences without and within the profession, its nature has been ameliorated, and its general character elevated. It is of no importance, as to our present purpose, to say, that these improvements were the consequence of the general advance of the age, and not of the connexion of the study of the law with the Universities. This connexion was either an instrument or a cause. And whether the connexion of the science of the law with the Universities be considered as an instrument, to which in its advancing progress, the age resorted for the improvement of that science, or whether it was itself the cause of the advance of the age in the direction which led to those improvements, on either hypothesis, the object of the present argument is attained ; either as a
cause, or as a selected instrument, the connexion of the study of the law with the Universities has had an efficient agency in those great improvements in the science, which have been introduced in our day. From the hour when the great magician, Blackstone, standing in the halls of Oxford, stretched his scientific wand over the illimitable ocean, without bound,' where, to the uninstructed eye, 'cold, hot, moist, and dry, in their pregnant causes mixed, seemed to strive for the mastery,' confusion disappeared. In its stead was seen a well-proportioned, well-cemented fabric, pleasing to the sight, satisfactory to the taste, approved by the judgment, its architectural principles just, its parts orderly and harmonious, in which justice was found consorting with reason, and controversy guided by the spirit of truth, and not by the spirit of victory.
Such being the advantages already consequent upon the establishment of Professorships of law in connexion with seminaries of learning, the question arises, whether farther advantages are to be anticipated from their continuance and increase. This leads necessarily to an inquiry into the actual state of education in the science of the law, at the present day. What it is in Great Britain, Professor Park, in his · Introductory Lecture, before referred to, indicates very strongly.
· Few things,' he says, will less bear looking into (with other eyes than those of habit) than the system of legal education hitherto prevailing in this country (Great Britain); and if the public at large could see it in its real nakedness, common sense and safety would alike dictate that such culpable neglect should no longer be permitted to insult society, and set at nought the deep interests that are at stake, in the proficiency of those who offer themselves to the public as legal practitioners.' He avers, that a great number of young men are annually let loose upon the public, calling themselves solicitors, and barristers, and conveyancers, and having perhaps personal claims upon many to be intrusted with their business, who have given no other security to the public for their having qualified themselves for a most important and arduous profession, than that of having paid a certain sum of money for articles of clerkship, or having purchased the name of pupil in the chambers of some practitioner.' 'I have myself,' he adds, 'had pupils, whom no expostulations or exhortings of mine could induce to attend an average
of two hours a day, or to take any pains when they did attend. I have known others, who have not come to chambers once in a week. I have known still more, who would do nothing but talk and banter when they were there.' Upon the present system,' he adds, 'scarcely one in every five has a single chance of attaining that proficiency, which would enable him to keep practice, even should he be so fortunate as to obtain it."
What resemblance this state of legal education in Great Britain, bears to that in the offices of practitioners of the law in this country, at the present day, it is not for me to assert. Of the state of things, in this respect nearly half a century ago, some experience and observation enable me to speak with sufficient accuracy.
Books were recommended as they were asked for, without any inquiry concerning the knowledge attained from the books previously recommended and read. Regular instruction there was none; examination as to progress in acquaintance with the law,- none; occasional lectures, none; oversight as to general attention and conduct,
The student was left to find his way by the light of his own mind, and obliged to take possession of the wilderness upon which he had entered, as one of our backwoodsmen takes possession of an American forest; — of just as much as he could clear and cultivate by the prowess of bis single arm, in hopeless ignorance of all he did not thus personally vanquish.
Was it the student's fortune to be placed in an office where there was little business, and of course the spirit of study little vexed with official manipulations! In such case, his reading might be more, but his chances for external aid were not therefore with certainty increased. His instructer could not inspire a love for the profession, which perhaps he did not feel. Very likely, by his complaints of its labors or of its profitlessness, juvenile ardor was cooled, if not quenched. Possibly the student was taught by example, or even by precept, to seek wealth in the rise of lands or of stocks; or was led to mistake the way of party strife for the path of true glory.
Was it the student's lot to be placed in the office of one of the greater lights of the bar ;- Hic labor ille domûs, et
' Park's Introductory Lecture, pp. 16, 21.
inextricabilis error.' What copying of contracts! What filling of writs! What preparing of pleas! How could the mind concentrate itself on principles amid the perpetual rotation of this machinery ; while at the same time it was distracted by the sorrows of clients and the prosing of witnesses !
All this indeed gave knowledge of business, and skill in the handicraft labor of the profession ; — in the later stages of study useful, indeed necessary ; but in the earlier, positively injurious; since the eye of the student was thus first directed to the mechanism of the art, and not to the principles of the science. He was taught, not to seek first the divinity of the temple, and to raise his thoughts to the glorious attributes and noble powers which its true worship requires, but on the contrary, he was made to meet at the very threshold whatever in it was low, selfish, and repulsive, and condemned first to drudge at the menial services of the altar, to live amid the offal of the sacrifice, and to look with a single eye to that which brought profit to the shrine. How could the great principles of the law, except in very propitious natures, be made to take an early root; how could deep foundations for future greatness in it be laid, by reading necessarily desultory, — attendance upon courts unavoidably casual, — and mental exercises, which could not be otherwise than occasional and listless, when conducted, without excitement and without encouragement, with just so much vagrant attention as a young man could persuade himself to give, in the midst of all the temptations which youth, society, and a sense of complete irresponsibility as to conduct, continually placed in his
As its respects the education for the law in private offices, at the present day, compared with that in a former period, it is said that improvements have been made ; – that a more systematic intercourse between instructers and students is growing into use ; — that in some places moot courts are held, at which eminent professional men preside by turns over these exercises of their students. It is even said, that, in some offices, lectures have been read. All this is well, and highly laudable. It is, however, proper on this occasion, to state, that, on inquiry, it will be found that all these improvements have kept pace with the establishment of law-schools in the vicinity where they have occurred, and have been the direct consequence of the example those schools have set, or of the spirit they have diffused.
How ipserior, after all, are these advantages, to those which may be attained in a law-school, connected with this University, or with any similarly endowed seminary.
First, a great body of intelligent young men are here brought together, of about the same age and general range of attainments; all of them inspired with a love of study, and ambitious of professional eminence. At least such is the fair conclusion from the fact, that they have voluntarily exchanged the absolute independence and irresponsibility of the private office, for the examination, the instruction, and responsibility established in this institution. From such minds, thus brought into contact, result honorable collision, concurrent inquiries, public discussions, comparison of themselves with each other; - all powerful stiinulants of intellectual progress.
Next, a systematic course of prescribed study, selected with great deliberation by men of the highest rank in the profession ; rising in just gradation from the simple to the complex, from the familiar to the abstruse ; leading the young mind, by orderly induction, and by a progress secured at every step, to all the elevated points of professional attainment, where the wide view presented naturally inspires noble thoughts and generous resolutions as to truth and duty.
Lastly, a regular succession of daily examinations in study, accompanied by commentary and illustration, by one of the Professors; and, in concurrence with these, public lectures on some one or other of the great divisions of the law. To these are added appropriate exercises, having reference to practical skill in technical learning; and moot courts, superintended by men of great experience both at the bar and on the bench. Nor, in this place, will it be deemed the language of compliment, if I enumerate among the advantages of the institution the distinguished privilege it enjoys, in being under the immediate supervision of two gentlemen, possessing all the endowments which constitute high professional character, and not only capable by their talents and acquirements to excite the student to raise his thoughts to the high and true sources of legal knowledge, but also singularly qualified, by the example of their past lives, as well as by their daily precepts, to inspire him with the
VOL. IX.-NO. XVII.