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We propose, in a series of articles, to direct the especial attention of our readers to the characteristics of those illustrious men who, in a line of unbroken succession from Lord Chatham, have conferred an imperishable glory on their country, by their matchless efforts of eloquence in the Forum and the Senate. The task is one of great interest and importance. At • various times, and in different places, elaborate separate criticisms have been made upon many of our forensic and statesmen orators; but we feel that no Englishman has an adequate appreciation of the intellectual greatness of his country who is not familiar with them as a group, and has not attentively considered the unprecedented extent to which the gift of supereminent eloquence has prevailed in this favoured nation, and carried her, in this peculiar department of power, as in others, to the “foremost place of all this world.” We speak advisedly when we say, that this gallaxy of statesmen orators, Albani patres, has no equal in history. The Greeks could boast one unrivalled, and several excellent, speakers; the surpassing fame of Cicero, in the annals of Roman eloquence, only has eclipsed the memory of men of great, though inferior, merit of a similar order, occasionally produced by the military republic. But where are we to find the people, among whom for seventy years there has been an uninterrupted succession of such men as have adorned the Senate and Bar of this country more than one fit to stand comparison with the greatest men of antiquityamong whom, if we may be allowed the expression, the inspiration of the God of Eloquence has been never wanting, and the voice of his oracles has never ceased? Yet again, the great English orators have made their names immortal by their exertions on subjects of an universal interest, far surpassing any which animated ancient eloquence. To the Greeks, indeed, it was of the last importance to resist the invasion of Philip; we admire the efforts by which they were excited to it, and the noble principles asserted by Demosthenes. We feel that the bitter invectives against Anthony, fulminated by the Roman orator, were proofs, no less of his courage and patriotism, in the last days of his life, than of his eloquence. But the conquests of Philip sink into comparative insignificance, when contrasted with the independence of the United States, in relation to their influence on the destinies of mankind; and the second philippic, which cost Cicero his life, “ divina philippica,” as Juvenal calls it, was delivered to a people too lost to respond to its stirring appeals: it displayed the intellectual power
and courage of its illustrious author, but it produced no effect on his country
The doom of Rome was fixed the greatest of her orators was the last of her patriots — and the fulness of time had come for the establishment of the Imperial sway. Moreover, the influence of Christianity, every where beneficial, has had a mighty effect, which is happily even yet daily and constantly increasing, in elevating the moral tone of nations; and the subject which has excited the greatest efforts of our orators, has been one which would have condemned the Greek and Roman to personal danger or-deri
sion - the annihilation of slavery. Such is the animating and evident advance of our race: while, 2000 years ago, in the most brilliant era of the most enlightened nation then existing in the world, it would have been held an act of madness to whisper any complaint on behalf of the slave, some of our statesmen and orators have derived their greatest fame from their devotion to, not merely the mitigation of his sufferings, but the destruction of his bonds.
We therefore feel that such a scrutiny as we propose, - an examination as in a gallery, of the greatest masters of public eloquence who have adorned this land, — must be of deep interest to Englishmen, who feel a legitimate pride in the glory of their country. Nor is the contemplation of such great men matter only of deep interest, but of the highest utility. Man is made to be instructed from above. It is by the superior influences proceeding from the illustrious teachers of the race, that the world at large has advanced; and it is by such influences alone that each one amongst us can be instructed and elevated. It is only by the light and movements of the stars that we are able to trace our course, and ascertain our position, and navigate with safety, on the mighty waters of our earth.
We shall commence with the Bar, and shall select Erskine and Curran men whose memory ought ever to be dear to the English people, for the dauntless courage and unrivalled power with which they, “in evil days," maintained the liberties of their country. But we shall preface our examination of those two ornaments of their respective bars, by a summary outline of the history and purposes of the forensic profession.
For the institution of the order of advocates we are indebted to the republics of Greece. Among the eastern nations no such class existed. The despotic character of their governments, which render the decrees of justice the mere expression of the arbitrary will of the prince, or of his ministers who adjudicate upon causes; the extent to which judicial among other corruption prevails, and ever has prevailed; and the indifference to individual life, liberty, and property, which marks Oriental annals, convince us that no Bar did or could exist. Some portion of the duty which is performed by advocates, when they exist, was evidently discharged by the judges. Thus we find, in the “ Arabian Nights' Entertainments," tales of the administration of justice by the Kadees, where they take upon themselves the office of cross-examination. And in the only nation of antiquity, before the time of the Greeks, where life and property were respected and protected, viz. the Hebrew, it is evident that of advocates, such as ours, there is no appearance in any part of the Old Testament. As cases were heard at the city-gate, where the people assembled to hear news, or to pass away their time, Michaelis thinks that men of experience and wisdom might be asked for their opinion, and inight sometimes assist, with their advice, those who seemed embarrassed in their own cause, even when it was a good one. This suggestion seems very probable, but at any rate, it is clear that the judges took upon themselves the duties of advocates, as among the other nations of the East. Thus, in the famous case wherein Solomon early displayed his penetrating judgment, we find, from the sacred volume, that the two women pleaded their cause in person. And again, in the sublimely simple and expressive narrative of Susannah, we have a similar account of the prophet Daniel, who evidently acted as a judge, when he demonstrated the innocence of Susannah, by a separate examination of the tempting and accusing elders. Shakspeare refers to this proceeding, when he puts into
* Introduction to the Study of the Scriptures, vol. iii. p. iii, s. 1.
the mouth of Shylock the celebrated exclamation, which has now become proverbial, “ A Daniel come to judgment !”
In Greece there was the first concurrence, in the history of mankind, of the two causes to which we conceive the origin of a Bar may be attributed, viz. a respect for individual life, liberty, and property; and the cultivation of eloquence as an art, in consequence of the important political results to which its successful exercise led. The first cause would confer on the administration of justice a character of impartiality, sobriety, and anxiety to sift the truth, which it would be vain to expect in Oriental despotisms; and, combined with the operation of the second, would naturally point out the institution of advocates. Accordingly we find that both parties spoke set orations, which were composed, for the most part, by some of the orators; or, if they desired it, the judges granted them Zumypor, or advocates, to plead for them, who used to plead for a fee: and lest, by the length of their orations, they should weary the patience of the judges, and hinder them from proceeding to other business, they were limited to a certain time, measured by an hour-glass.” This custom was introduced by the Pompeian law into Roman jurisprudence, and, some of our readers, perhaps, may think, might find its way into our own courts with advantage.
The Bar thus formed at Athens was adorned by eminent men, whose memory has been preserved to us by Quintilian and Cicero, by the learned Isæus, and the flowing Isocrates. Here, too, the first youthful efforts of the glory of Grecian orators, Demosthenes, were made, and his emulation was excited and encouraged by the legal proceedings he carried on in person against his rapacious guardians : being one of the very few exceptions ever known to the rule which declares, that he who is his own counsel has a fool for his client. His greatest speech, too, in which the full maturity of his powers is displayed, and which has elicited the united admiration of the critics of all succeeding times, was delivered, as the advocate of Ctesiphon, on the famous prosecution “De coronâ.” The illustrious band of Grecian orators, and especially their chief, produced the excellence of Roman pleading. Their superiority was fully admitted, as we see from the celebrated contrast between Greece and Rome, drawn by the greatest of Latin poets, in the most charming and elegant lines of all Latin poetry t, where he says, addressing the Romans, and writing of the Greeks, Orabunt causas melius." The assiduous study of their works created at last the consummate forensic power of Cicero: with him Roman eloquence attained its zenith, and with him it set. The loss of liberty, which is the vivifying power of eloquence, has ever yet been, and ever must be, followed by the downfall of that noblest of the fine arts. And grievous indeed was the fall at Rome! For we are informed by Dr. Adam, in his “ Roman Antiquities t,” that “under the emperors, advocates used to keep persons in pay to procure for them an audience, or to collect hearers, who attended them from court to court, and applauded them while they were pleading, as a man in the midst of them gave the word.” Such was the brutalising tyranny of the Cæsars, that even in the Temple of Justice, the last sanctuary where flying Liberty makes her stand, the very audience itself was venal ! It is easy to guess the honesty of the judges and the Bar.
The whole course of judicial history demonstrates that it is only in free states the profession of advocates has ever flourished.
“ Truly,” says
† Æneid, b. vi. I. 850.
* Potter's Grecian Antiquities, b. i. c. xxi.
B. i. c. 6. VOL. V.
Giannone, himself an advocate, in his masterly “ History of Naples *,” "it is in popular states the Bar acquires its authority and fame.”
The spirit of freedom in our government, and the love of liberty in the people, have ever made that profession a favourite object of patronage with the English nation. It has “grown with the growth and strengthened with the strength” of the constitution; and whenever that has declined in vigour, whenever it has been perverted from its legitimate spirit and scope, the disastrous epoch has been marked, among its other characteristics, by a base servility of the Bar. In the earliest ages of our judicial history after the Conquest, legal office and power were monopolised by the clergy, till, in the reign of Henry III., they were forbidden to appear as advocates in the secular courts. About that epoch our constitution began to assume a settled form. The House of Commons was created, or at any rate, without entering into any antiquarian dispute as to its foundation, commenced then to exercise a power that was felt, and made its voice heard in the national councils. And the state of the Bar then, and for some succeeding period, appears to have been one of considerable independence, especially as contrasted with its degraded position under the following dynasties of the Tudors and the Stuarts. Mr. Hallamt justly observes, —." This establishment of a legal system, which must be considered as complete at the end of Henry III.'s reign, might in some respects conduce to the security of public freedom. For, however highly the prerogative might be strained, it was incorporated with the law, and treated with the same distinguishing and argumentative subtlety, as any other part of it. Whatever things, therefore, it was asserted that the kings might do, it was a necessary implication that there were other things which they could not do. It is not meant to press this too far, since, undoubtedly, the bias of lawyers towards the prerogative was sometimes too discernible. But the sweeping maxims of absolute power which servile judges and churchmen taught the Tudor and Stuart princes, seemed to have made no progress under the Plantaganet line.” Passing on, then, to those reigns of Tudors and Stuarts, the retrospect of the judicial history of that era presents a scene of degradation, pitiable indeed. The servility of the bench towards the crown, paid off by insolence towards the Bar and the unfortunate persons accused — the double sycophancy of the Bar, alike to crown and bench, compensated for in like manner — afford a picture of human nature, it must be confessed, humiliating in the extreme, esp cially when we remember that Lord Bacon and Sir Edward Coke are among the worst instances that can be found of the prevalence of that degraded system. Among the many blessings which we owe to the revolution of 1688, it will be difficult to find one of greater value than the destruction of this system of judicial and forensic corruption; and that happy event has rendered it impossible that the sacred bench of justice should ever be again polluted by a Jeffries or a Scroggs.
Since that era, the judges have been made independent of the crown, and the Bar has been moulded and supported by a public, who watch with intelligent interest the proceedings of the courts. Our immense and daily increasing commercial wealth — the vast undertakings which are conducted by its powerful operations — the important litigation which is the result of that capital and enterprise-and, above all, the vital questions of public freedom occasionally agitated in our courts -— have rendered the existence of a jury an essentially necessary portion of our judicial tribunals. So long as that palladium of British liberty remains in the sacred citadel of the consti
tution, so long will a Bar, intelligent, learned, and independent, exist ; and so long is the freedom of England, and, by consequence, her greatness,
But this noble institution, so conducive to the ends of justice and to the liberty of the people, has, it must be owned, found detractors in writers of different classes. Thus our great satirist, Fielding, in one of his popular novels*, has drawn an amusing picture of Serjeant Bramble retained on the right side, and Serjeant Puzzle on the left, where the balance of opinion (so equal were their fees) alternately inclined to either scale. The sarcasms, however, of that great master of humour, are not to be taken, for they were never intended, to convey the precise results of his deliberate judgment. His office was caricature. But another writer, from whom a different opinion might have been expected (being a brother of a chief justice), has delivered apparently a serious judgment, hostile to the profession of advocates, although we confess we do not think it demands much sagacity to show how very inadequate and unsatisfactory are the reasons adduced by him in support of his opinion. We refer to that entertaining and gossipping biographer; Roger North, who, in his life of his brother, Sir Dudley, bestows a long panegyric on the system of Turkish jurisprudence; and one of the points which excites his warmest encomiums is the exclusion of advocates. For, says he, ing in person can scarce be brought to speak false: they must be strangely abandoned to all shame, that in the face of a court, without stammering and blushing, will do so; whereas, when they sit at home, and leave their counsel to plead for them, there shall be false pleas, for delay professedly, and no concern at all to their countenances.” This argument, adduced by Roger North, is probably the most plausible and ingenious one that can be urged in opposition to a class of advocates: but it is, in truth, easily answered; for, let it be observed, in the first place, that the argument, if good for any thing, really points to this, — that the parties should be subjected to the ordeal of personal examination ; and then any discrepancy between the statements of the counsel and the client would only recoil upon both. Whether the advantages of such a course would be outweighed by the disadvantages, is a question still agitated; into which, however, we do not intend to enter: it must be discussed by other reasoners than ourselves. We
that is the real question raised by Roger North's plausible argument. And, in the next place, let us ask, what could be more unequal, and, consequently, more unjust, than to drag parties into court as combatants differing in age, sex, rank, talent, knowledge, and courage? Besides, the practical advantages arising from a fixed body of constant forensic practitioners are great and obvious. In the foremost rank may be placed the jealous and intelligent scrutiny which its members exercise over each other and over the judges, and which could only be exercised by an established class of men. In the next place, what is to become of regularity and order in the administration of justice and of the public time, if every case is to present a new pleader, who has a right to expect indulgence for his ignorance and inexperience ? If justice is to be administered according to settled principles and rules, the waste of time would be endless, with a perpetual succession of untaught parties; and, even with the most astute judge, the confusion would be extreme. Without, therefore, going further into this question, we feel, with Lord Erskine, that, “ without the Bar, impartial justice would have no existence.”
The indiscriminate defence of right and wrong has also been made a grave
• Joseph Andrews, c. 9.