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makes a false step. It is an easy thing to make a moderate lawyer; it is a simple thing to make constant blunders which disturb the inner gravity of a sound minded judge, who strives to give no outward sign of his hidden well spring of nirth. It is an uncanny thing to play tricks with the judge and jury, for by and by will come the avalanche, and then, where will the trickster be?
But we have already said that no matter how good and honorable a lawyer we may be, we cannot properly content ourselves with legal attainments alone. In every country, and at all times, the lawyer has been prominent in his civic relations. It is in fact, expected of him by the public, and properly so. It is not meant by this statement that he should be a politician, but that he should be bold and earnest in the discharge of civic obligations. In the phrase of the day we as lawyers must be neither optimists nor pessimists, but be reasonable and sensible. Notwithstanding all that is said by the advocates of either theory, the political sky is neither absolutely clear, nor completely beclouded. It is but slightly
cloudy, with an excellent prospect of fair weather. There may be an occasional storm, but not more clouds than are necessary to form a rainbow when the storm is
forms are outgrown, but only slowly and at the time when the new ones are ready to take effect. It took the Romans a thousand years to develop a magnificent system of law, destined to dominate or to instruct the whole civilized world for all time. Then political power slowly passed away, to be replaced by a historic Christian church and a territorial nobility. It has taken eight hundred years for the last to be slowly displaced by a new order of institutions, based on a new order of thought. All of these institutions so displaced are worn out and effete. No one who worships them in memory would return to them. The old world, were it not overawed by military forces which overshadow it would be more democratic than the new. The dominant feeling in England to day is more radical than in the United States. If in our political institutions we suffer from anything, it is in an excess of conservatism. Every political institution that has grown old on this continent, meets with an excess of favor. It is almost impossible to amend it. Instead of despairing over a tendency to excessive radicalism, we need to be anxious over a feeling of hyper-conservatism. crowds that come to us from the old world smarting from a sense of imagined wrongs, and crying out for the destruction of our own institutions do not make us radical. They cannot, for after a little while they or their descendants become themselves conservative. We touch every other nation at all its points-both on the side of its excellencies and of its defilements, and yet as a nation we are not defiled. Our digestive apparatus is of the best. We have enormous powers of assimilation. An English poet well characterizes us in a glowing apostrophe.
"America! half-brother of the world,
Yet by the grace of God, America will hold her seat or stand in her place while other nations stand, for she has in her a potency of life, a grand power of devouring raw life and then transforming and transfiguring it just as the island country, to which most of us owe our origin, has had for centuries, and to which she owes her greatness. In fact, the capacity for assimilation is the test of national vigor. No Eastern nation has it, therefore East is in a state of decrepitude. Now it belongs to such men as I see before me to-night to aid in working out this most desirable consummation. We may tolerate political despair in an old man, though it is not agreeable there. In a youth it is well nigh intolerable, for it will deepen with age.
The prophets of evil have predicted ruin from our very origin. It fell to my lot in early life to have an ancestral bequest of Pre-Raphaelite addresses and sermons-now dingy with age. When I feel politically gloomy, I cure myself by taking down an ancient discourse or two, lurid with prophecies of disasters that have never happened, and thick with forebodings that have never been realized. Why did these sagacious orators and thinkers make such ludicrous mistakes? Simply because they did not take all the mighty and complicated factors in the problem into account. They did not reflect that America was not born
prematurely to die. She did not spring full armed out of the solitudes of the West at once to wither and decay. Where else in the world do you find fixed safeguards for liberty, political tolerance, absolute political repose, tenderness of feeling, and a hand as open as the day to the demands of well-regulated charity; conjoined with general activity of intellect and marvellous capacity for faithful and efficient work? These are the signs of longevity in the
They also betoken long life in the experience of a nation, and few deep political changes. There may be breezes on our political waters, but no rocking, disturbing wave. No where else in the civilized world to-day is there such political repose. Gigantic forces are elsewhere in an internecine struggle. This fact surely portends change, swift it may be, or slow, but certainly material change in political institutions. We are substantially in a state of political equilibrium and at rest. This is a fact of tremendous significance in calculating the permanency of political institutions. Still, I do not deny that all material growth and life, here as well as elsewhere, are beset with dangers that unless watched and averted may become fatal. It is our duty as lawyers to lead and guide public opinion in the right direction, and to contend manfully for those things which should never be separated, and which, when united, are invincible-the true, the beautiful and the good.
A nation without an enlightened, educated and fearless bar is in serious danger. There are but two effective modes of testing the strength of political institutions one is by war, the other by legal controversy.
controversy. Litigation is the normal method. It is peaceful, conducted by rules of order, and yet irresistible, since behind it is the supreme power of the state. When the question is too vast and complex for litigation, the alternative resort is war, and there is no other. However war may turn out, it is a terrible strain, and never leaves a nation in the condition in which it previously was. New elements are introduced into national life, which may produce in other directions most disastrous results. It is the province of the bar to see that political questions are settled by legal action, be it
legislative or judicial decisions, in such a just manner that discord and war shall be averted. Every generation has some such question. It will devolve upon you and others like you to determine in what way the will of the people shall be best and most accurately ascertained. It will be for you to insist upon an equal and honest ballot, truly certified by public authority. Corruption in the ballot, if continued, is a sign of mortal disease-it may lead to revolution, or it may develop into political apathy and decay. By the side of this threatening evil, all other dangers shrink into insignificance.
A sound basis for political prognostication is to ascertain whether there are any signs of decay. Evolution is slow; decay is slow. It takes a great nation a long while to die. No student of history can possibly affirm that there is in the United States the least evidence of coming political decrepitude. The great evils with which we, as a nation, have had to contend are inherited defects. They came to us as hateful legacies from an old world, now past. Instead of succumbing to them we are gradually shaking them off. Our greatest curse came from the bad government of the English aristocracy. It supplied the worst examples of corruption in civil service, without any adequate sign of sensitiveness on the part of the English people. This corruption has been extirpated there by efficient measures gradually introduced. It will also be so here. Do not let us despair. Thorough and detailed historical reading is the best cure for political pessimism, for it shows the toilsome way in which a nation guided by an inward impulse climbs the heights of political freedom, by a pathway which in the end leads to purity, serenity and invincibility. There was much truth in the remark of Horace Greely, who, overhearing the words of
some rather captious foreigners, declaring that the United States deserved a thorough drubbing, said that the difficulty was, that there was none who could administer it. That difficulty will remain permanent if we are only true to ourselves. You who recall your Greek—and I presume there are many-will remember that Minerva, crowning the Athenian Acropolis, was both wise and invincible; not wise because she was invincible, but invincible because she was wise.
The ideal lawyer is also a true man. Nothing is of more value to him than a high and honorable character-strengthened and purified by the struggles, trials and discipline of life. The great inquiry for us all is how shall we develop ourselves, and use our development best in aiding our fellows. Self culture is an excellent thing, but its crowning excellence is as an instrument of good. When self centered it has its enjoyments, but they are fleeting; while those which are derived from service rendered to others are permanent and undying.
There is no finer object of contemplation among men than an aged jurist full of honors, who having rounded up the measure of his active years, receives the tributes of his fellows for his earnest spirit of work, the breadth and solidity of his judgment, and the worth of his transparent character.
The truth of these remarks is illustrated by the tributes of respect and deep regard paid during the last few weeks in this city to an aged and venerable member of the New York Bar, who has passed among us sixty years of honorable practice; commencing his service in 1829, while the law of New York was as yet young and simple, and Codes of Procedure were as yet unknown. He has lived all through the formative period of our jurisprudence.
When he commenced practice, all the law reports of the State could have been carried around from circuit to circuit in a large sized Saratoga trunk, suited to the needs of modern female civilization. The Revised Statutes had as yet not gone into effect. The wants of the people were simple, and the law corresponded. When he entered the law it was like going into a botanical garden, where the plants were few and all classified and labelled; when he emerges from it, it resembles an overgrown wilderness, defying orderly arrangement and simplicity of classification. He did his share of legal work; he argued great cases, assisted leading clients, showed learning, acuteness and legal skill among the leaders of the Bar. But when he came to lay down the results of his work before his professional brethren, and to submit to their decision upon the achievements of his life, none of these things were spoken of by those who of all men might be expected to be influenced by them. This gentleman at the age of eighty-four was greeted by his professional brethren of all ages and of various standing with the warmest demonstrations; but the uppermost topic with them all was Mr. Silliman's weight of character. All other considerations were merged in this general summing up and estimate of this good man's life.
I desire to round up these general views by giving you an outline of the life of one of the greatest names in English legal history. Principles of action seen in the biography of a noble man are not abstractions. They They are living realities. His works and ways live for us as well as for the man who passed through experiences that may be in store for some of us. The circumstances that surround his career were truly extraordinary, since he served with the utmost loyalty, fidelity
and alacrity a government with which he was wholly out of sympathy. He was thoroughly patriotic, of matchless legal ability, of a most genial and loving nature, and of the utmost purity of character. You anticipate me by the observation that I refer to Sir Matthew Hale, whose life is an object lesson for us all. Born in 1609, he devoted in youth much of his time to athletics, pursuing them with passion until his master for selfish ends flattered him into the belief that he surpassed himself, when after an easy defeat and a great loss of property, Hale learned the salutary lesson useful to the youth of our day, that athletics are only to be pursued with moderation as a means to the accomplishment of nobler ends. After a time he addicted himself to the law with a more absorbing and ever more passionate devotion-reading law at the rate of sixteen hours a day, until he nearly lost his life, whereupon he reduced his time to what he regarded as the truly scanty rations of six hours per day. When he needed diversion he studed mathematics, philosophy, history and theology. I have not heard that this kind of diversion is now resorted to, but then polo and kindred delights were not invented. His devotion to Sunday surpassed that of any modern newspaper, for he was never absent once from church on that day for a period of thirty-six years. Being always in church he has been described as a pillar of the church in contrast with the great Lord Chancellor Eldon, who being as strong a friend of the church but never going inside of it, was termed a buttress of the church.
In following his profession, nothing could daunt him. In the trials of certain lords for high treason, the attorneygeneral, in accordance with the arbitrary ways of his time, threatened him for