Page images

Mind, Bacon's Essays, and other standard works of our language, are well suited to engender and nourish in the mind those sentiments of pure integrity, without which the practice of the law becomes a curse. The elaborate advice of Mr. Hoffman upon this point, and the directions to be culled from the books we have noted, may be summed up in a few words. Let perfect honour and integrity, and politeness free from servility, be the rule of the lawyer's career. To none more than to him will. the Divine injunction—“Do unto others as ye would men should do unto you,”—be applicable. The caution would probably hardly be necessary to one impressed with the slightest sense of the importance of character in regard to those matters which the court, their associates at the bar, or the world generally, may have the means of knowing. But a great proportion of the doings of a lawyer is transacted in his own office, alone with his client; or exempt even from that surveillance. The confidence of his employer is necessarily unbounded --that of the court and of his fellows probably equally great ; there is no check upon him but his own conscience, his sense of honour, and feeling of right. The temptations in his path are numerous-money, more persuasive even than “the tongue of the tempter," when his own wants are pressing, may perchance lie in his way, to seduce him from the straight road of

Christian honour. He should be fortified, therefore, as far as human advice can effect that purpose, before he embarks on the hazardous ocean of professional life. The lessons of experience, the warning voice of the moralist, and above all, the effusions of inspiration, are all properly poured into his ear, and by their repetition stamped upon his memory. He is (upon Mr. Hoffman's plan) not subjected to the risk (which has overtaken many) of being led into the paths of dishonour, in the first instance, by unguarded ignorance, and kept there afterwards by a sense of shame. If the young lawyer fall, after such a course of preparation, it is knowingly and with premeditation, and he was always unfit for the profession he has disgraced. We said in the outset of our remarks, that Mr. Hoffman's

legal study was highly intellectual; and we think that our readers, after even this rapid survey of it, will agree with us in our opinion. Our author estimates that it will take seven years to make a lawyer, and he therefore allots that time for his full course. To make a complete lawyer, in our sense of the term, we should consider double seven years a short period. But the question is not exactly such-it is, what length of time ought a young man to devote to his studies in order to prepare himself for the bar? We confess we think four years enough in the case of those who have received a collegiate education; and for such as have not been so fortunate we would prescribe

the study of the dead languages, in addition to a course embracing the subjects which Mr. Hoffman recommends, with, however, a curtailment of the books, and with the exception we have before noted. A youth should be thoroughly armed with religious and moral principles before admission, but he cannot be expected to be a complete lawyer. To return, however, to the character of the course.

The student will be taught by it the proper dignity of his profession—that it is one among the noblest sciences ; not a mere pettifogging trade for the purpose of amassing wealth. With his sense of the importance and honour of his profession, will be connected a just feeling of his own standing as a member of so high a calling, and a watchfulness to permit no act of his to degrade it by lowering himself. He will estimate more properly the dignity of mind, and be taught to place it in the scale of value far above the mere physical advantages which are so apt to dazzle the young. He will be more deeply sensible of the inestimable worth of character; a treasure above the vicissitudes of fortune or life, and which he may transmit to his descendants, though every thing else have been swallowed up in the gulf of misfortune.

If there be any set of men in our community whose profession requires of them a complete education, assuredly they are lawyers and divines. Of the latter we have not now to speak; but it is the province of the advocate to direct the actions of his fellow-men ; to compose their strifes ; to regulate their estates ; to assert their rights; and finally, to make laws for their guidance. Such men should be well instructed to fit them for so responsible an office; at the least, their knowledge of their language should be thorough, and their integrity incorruptible.

In the United States particularly, should this be deemed essential to the profession. Respect for the law and the importance and influence of her ministers, are proportionate to the freedom of a government. Their respectability and refinement should increase with their growing importance and responsibility. The individuals composing the profession should never be a drawback or impediment to its intrinsic value and available influence.

The spirit of the age is opposed to every thing graduated by a narrow or illiberal scale. The empire of thought has been widely extended, and the measure of all mental exercises enlarged. The intellect of the mass has been more freely cultivated, and various knowledge been brought home even to the door of the comparatively humble. More is expected from the learned and the scientific when even mechanical employments, and the pursuits of operatives, are claimed to work no bar to familiar intercourse with the highest truths and most abstruse


principles of politics and ethics, or with the refinements of literature. Amid this babbling upon such exalted themes, the members of the learned professions should not suffer their real pretensions to be abased, but should labour to retain them at their comparative height.

Every student should feel, when commencing the study of the law, that he is entering upon a line of life which leads directly to the highest position in his country ; that it is not the accident of birth, nor the inheritance of broad paternal acres, which opens to him the door to honours and emoluments beyond and above the hopes of the less favoured mass: but that to the strenuous exertion of the powers of his own mind, whose energies human institutions are not able to cripple, sanctified by integrity and virtue, he is to be indebted for his

Such sentiments Mr. Hoffman has most creditably laboured to instil.

The student of law in our day has no trifling duty to fulfil. The study of his profession is no child's play. It is not enough for him to be acquainted with the common law as it prevailed until recent innovations in England, and as it existed a few years since in this country, modified only so far as the peculiar condition of our land required. It is not enough for him to know the venerable tracks which marked the great divisions of municipal law, and which, considered equally sacred, remained as unmoved as the supposed divinely guarded boundaries of ancient demesnes. It is not enough for him to be as wise as his forefathers, and to expend his time and employ his industry, and load his memory with the details of a science which the wisdom of ages has combined to bring to perfection. This would scem ample occupation. But he must do more than this. He must learn novel principles, which are supposed to be more accordant with the spirit of the age,

and which are introduced upon theoretic notions of their fitness; the very worst basis for the introduction of a legal principle. He must learn not to apply, or rather he must learn to forget, the good old science, (which he has necessarily been taught, for without such knowledge the innovations themselves would be unintelligible,) and he must endeavour to square his views in accordance with a new system, whose mode of operation is dubious because altogether conjectural.

The death of the law is uncertainty. Profane wit has designated it as “glorious"—the glory however is reaped but by rogues and speculators. The perfection of law would be its certainty; its fiat to follow its dictum; and the former to be predicated of principles as stable as axioms in mathematics. A legal system should never be manufactured for a nation; it should grow with its growth ; be the spontaneous product of

[ocr errors]

times and circumstances; and be modified from season to season, as the exigencies of the case require, and after practical proof of need of the particular provision. The people themselves are in one sense the best legislators; the changes they introduce are gradual; not carried further than the particular emergency and the effect of the emergency itself. Gentlemen in their closets cannot chalk out a rule which, anticipating all contingencies, or suiting all modifications of society, will expand or contract to fit the one or meet the other. It is beyond human wisdom to frame so comprehensive, and at the same time so pliable a general rule; the mere light of experience is not the spirit of prophecy. A useful, in fact, a tolerable system of law is gradually built up; little by little the pile is reared ; and its foundation being laid in the circumstances of society, like the arch, every regular addition, while it conduces to the finish of the structure, at the same time imparts to it solidity and strength.

The “tempora mutantur, &c. of the poet may be aptly read,

Leges mutantur et nos mutamur in illis.” With a change of laws, long established and intimately interwoven with the business transactions of a people, comes a change of settled modes of thought, fixed principles of action, long continued practice, if you will, deeply rooted prejudices; but still prejudices which have largely contributed to the security and certainty of the law. The minds of professional men are rudely jarred by innovations; their judgments become hesitating; their confidence in their own opinions shaken; even the abstract fitness of the alteration (supposing the change to exhibit such an aspect) is regarded as a small compensation for the evils we have indicated.

But as a general remark it may be asserted that change in settled law is for the worse. We would not be understood as objecting to the gradual growth of new provisions to meet the increasing wants of a growing community. There are different departments of law which are required for the different phases of society. But we do object to the remodelling of the law upon new theoretical principles; in a word, to legal radicalism. It is of less importance in general, what the law is, than that it should be certain. A system of arbitrary rules and a great part of every legal system necessarily is such) may as well, for all purposes of practical utility, be of one kind as of another; let but people know what the rules are, and let them feel a consciousness that they will continue what they are. They will frame their contracts and arrange their affairs accordingly. There is always at hand, too, a body of men who make the laws their study, to assist the ignorant with their advice and guide them through the labyrinth. The practice of the law was never

intended for the mass; and the appearance of no day should we regret more than of that which announced that—every man was his own lawyer.

ART. V.- Recollections of the Private Life of General Lafayette.

By M. JULES CLOQUET, M. D. #mbellished with fortyfive engravings. 2 vols. 12mo. New York, 1836.

The reflections with which we sat down to the perusal of these volumes, we have, doubtless, made in common with many of their readers. Historians who attempt to portray those events in national existence which have passed under their own eye, or whose sound has vibrated in their own ears, are, proverbially, liable to prejudiced views and opinions. Indeed facts, and notorious facts, are seldom entirely safe from danger of distortion under the hands of such writers. To this oft repeated caution we may add, that the task of the biographer is one in which the struggle between philosophic impartiality, and the biases of education, of party, and of feeling, is still more difficult and uncertain. He who really endeavours to give a faithful account of great political revolutions, to investigate thoroughly the hidden causes of the events which he records, conscious of the difficulties of his undertaking, and absorbed in the grandeur of the subject, may sometimes overcome, in a great degree, the strength of untoward prepossessions. But such motives and influences are, of necessity, less powerful when an individual, instead of a nation, is to be depicted; of course, growing weaker, as that individual's fortune has been less identified with the fortunes of his country and the history of his times. To carry out the comparison; he who attempts to exhibit the private life and opinions of an individual, is, of all biographers, exposed to the greatest disturbances in his orbit. Our judgment of a man's true character is, in many cases, materially influenced by our knowledge of his domestic habits; but when we enter his calm retreat from the bustle of the world; when we sit with him at the fire-side, we can scarcely bring ourselves to attach much importance to the scenes which there meet our eyes, or to reason philosophically upon passing motives and appearances; we are guided, in our conclusions, rather by impulse than by reflection. Indeed we believe that a public career is usually estimated much more correctly than a private life; not that our judgment, in regard to the former,

« PreviousContinue »