Page images

May I quote an epigram from an address given by the Honourable John W. Davis (an honorary member of our Association) in 1922 at Vancouver : “ The house of the lawyer is the oracle of the whole State.”

On a former occasion I spoke to the effect that the common educated judgment of all mankind justly holds the instructed, the welltrained, the gifted and the upright most responsible for the welfare of our country, and all the more justly, where, in our popular gorernment, such qualifications create the only aristocracy. In the deep thought of our people there is no other profession so competent and therefore none with so great responsibility for whatever is wrong in public affairs, for whatever the Government ought to do but has left undone, and for whatever is defective in the laws and their administration, and for whatever is unworthy or inadequate in our own ranks.

Contiguous to the field of our primary professional activities is another, for the most part poorly tenanted, and therein lies peril to the people) the field of public office and of politics. For work in that field, whether it be small or large, municipal or national, the lawyer is well equipped. Knowledge of the law and its practical application to ordinary human affairs and his contact with all classes make the lawyer conversant not only with the best methods of managing those affairs, but the best policies relating to them. He is usually a gentleman and of high principle. By entering the profession he dedicates himself to service as the man of commerce does to gain. Therefore the people are right in thinking that most of our profession are better qualified than those of other callings for public leadership, which is an expert service. Our security lies in the group, the better they are led the greater that security, the more human the man the more useful the leader. A good leader translates and erpresses to the crowd their own best ideals and desires. He must be one of them, for one can best serve and lead those whom one's sympathy embraces and understands. He is the foremost companion, far enough ahead for all to see him, but not too far for them to hear him say “Follow me.” He differs from the demagogue, a dwarfed and mal-formed leader who also is of the crowd, and knows them, but not their best ideals; he therefore does not lift them, but, as a traitor, lets them wallow. Every normal person aspires to some kind of leadership. What is it keeps the lawyer back? Timidity, fear to speak out, self depreciation ? Off with them! They are a handicap. Sometimes he has the thought that leadership in public affairs will mean an abandonment of professional work and of a livelihood. It does

not. They are not inconsistent. For a wise man there is time for both. But it does mean constant courage, endurance, a tax on sympathy and some sacrifice. Now the multitude is longing for leadership, almost willing for the moment to accept any who will offer, even a known demagogue. Hence the necessity that the worthy and the qualified and the honourable should step in and promptly take position, and prevent disorder and loss. Leadership is not a smooth road where, on beds of ease or under canopies reclining, the chaplet of “Well done” is gained, yet it has its splendid compensations. It is:

“ That rare track made by great ones lone, and beaten

Through solitary hours;
Climbing past fear and fate and sin iron eaten

To Godlier powers.” We are proud of our profession and its traditions. Hats off to the past! Under its inspirations let us resolve to make our profession better and more useful. Therefore, coats off to the future!


I hope before proceeding to the more formal subject of my address that you will permit me to express my regret, my deep and sincere regret, that conditions which I could neither conquer nor control, have prevented me from taking part in the proceedings of your Association. I have been deprived of the pleasure, to which I greatly looked forward, of hearing Sir James Aikins and Mr. Wickersham, and also that opportunity, which has been before my eyes ever since I received your invitation, of both making and renewing my acquaintance with the members of the Canadian Bar.

No man can fitly value kind words that are said about him or honours that he receives unless he has an uneasy feeling that they are undeserved. I can at least assure you that no lacking sense of my own deficiencies has prevented me from enjoying to the full not only the splendid and spacious hospitality which I have everywhere received, but also the high compliment that is paid in asking me to address you tonight. I will only ask you to let your generosity be extended so as to cover any of my shortcomings and defects, for the task that is before me is not an easy one.

I stand in succession to a line of predecessors with whom I do not venture to challenge comparison, and I am speaking to a body of

men not like the men in the Old Country, who have been all drilled and trained in exactly the same school, but men who in every diversity of place and circumstance, in every changing condition of social and industrial activity have been busily engaged in weaving the web of the law which binds together all civilized life. To my mind the amazing success that you have achieved affords not only remarkable evidence of the great and growing power of your country, but gives also the fullest assurance of its superb and final destiny. These thoughts have been present to my mind throughout the short period of my visit. The material triumphs that you have accomplished are plain to the dullest mind. Spots where but a few years ago a mere group of sheds sheltered the brave hearts of early pioneers are today cities bursting with vigour and life. Large tracts of country where within the memory of living men wild beasts roamed unmolested and unafraid today testify by the abundance of their crops to the supreme profusion in which there is from year to year renewed the ancient promise of seed time and of harvest. The mechanical triumphs that no eye can miss are even more wonderful. You have girdled together the two great oceans on the east and on the west by links of steel, and have converted to the common use of your people the strength of your majestic rivers and the power of the great waters that sleep for ever among the forests and the hills. These are great achievements, and I can assure you that the pride which you must feel at their success is shared to the full by those who are none the less your kinsfolk and your fellow countrymen because the ocean divides our homes.

They are the triumphs won in the eternal struggle to subdue the forces of the universe to the service of mankind. They mark the progressive steps in the great adventure which nature invites all men to undertake, the great adventure in which she rewards abundantly courage and success, and never forgives weakness or mistake. They are obvious things, but there is another thing that to my mind is greater far. It is the power by which you have given order and expression to all this vast. tumultuous life, by which you have knit together the whole community with laws, varied as they must be, to suit the different traditions and needs of all its various component parts, but which none the less secure that throughout the length and breadth of this vast Dominion a man may enjoy in security the fruits of his labour, and that for every one there shall be justice and protection for property and life.

This is the great achievement, and it is this that entitles us to say that the science of ihe law is, after all, one of the greatest of all

the forces that have humanised and civilised the world. You have written a great chapter in the history of our common Empire, upon whose knees and within the shelter of whose protecting arms onefourth of the whole human race finds justice, security and peace. Without this binding and solidifying influence all the forces of the world break up into anarchy, and are dissipated and lost. An earthquake can lay a great city in ruins, but all the powers that bind all the worlds of the Universe cannot, unless directed by man's intelligence, put together a hut. Nor can you without the influence of the law enable a mere group of sheds to become a great city throbbing with life.

These are the considerations that I would beg each member of this Association to keep in mind for the purpose of glorifying and ennobling the profession to which we belong, and to refute the calumries to which we are often subjected, that the law is a narrow subject of study, and that its success depends upon trickery and device. It is nothing whatever of the kind. Knit, as you should, law with history and it becomes life, life in movement advancing from a continuous past to a continuous future. The history and development of the laws of the country are the surest possible means of determining the progress that is made along the great pathway of civilisation.

I have not referred you to this today merely for the purpose of self-congratulation. It is not in order that we may look back and be proud of what we have done, but for a very different purpose. It is for the purpose of stimulating and encouraging us to pursue the

The besetting danger that threatens all great communities lies in the thought that we have accomplished most of the things that can be done; that nature has yielded up her secrets; that science has revealed all her truth; that we have organized and arranged the laws for all the growing masses of our people so perfectly that there is little left to be improved, and that we can gratify ourselves on looking back and comforting ourselves with the accomplishment, instead of looking forward and nerving ourselves for a renewed and a greater effort.

I want this evening, just for a short time, by way of illustration, to show you how commonly that feeling has been felt, and to enable you to see how false it always was. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, one of the greatest of our essayists, William Hazlitt, who certainly did not lack liberal feelings and ideas, wrote an essay about the year 1815—between that time and 1825-which began with these words: “The present is an age of talkers and not of doers, and the reason is that the world is growing old. We are so far advanced


in the arts and sciences that we live in retrospect and dote on past achievements. The accumulation of knowledge has been so great that we are lost in wonder at the height it has reached instead of attempting to climb or add to it, while the variety of objects distracts and dazzles the looker on. What niche remains unoccupied? What path untrod? What is the use of doing anything unless we could do it better than all those who have gone before us? And what hope is there of this?"

I wish to recall to your minds the condition of the world at the time that William Hazlitt wrote those lines. I will do it very briefly, for it is merely for the purpose of emphasising the point I desire to make that I wish to call your minds back even for a few moments to those conditions. At the beginning of the nineteenth century the Eddystone lighthouse was still standing, and it was lit by two rows of tallow dips. The laws of electricity were absolutely unknown. They were just toys with which children might play. The whole of the spectrum analysis by which we can detect and have established the unity of matter between all the different elements of the Universe was not even thought of. Smallpox, plague, typhus ferer, and all the other diseases that ravaged mankind were regarded as the visitation of God with which it was impious to interfere. Microscopic examination of disease and its causes were not within sixty years of birth. Anæsthetics, of course, were not within twenty-five or thirty years of their common use. There is hardly a condition today from which we derive comfort and happiness which was known to these miserable benighted people at the beginning of the nineteenth century, who had the audacity to write and say that all knowledge was known, that there was nothing left to do, that every path had been trodden, and there was no hope that you could go ahead.

That is a most important reflection, and if you apply it to our laws I think you will see even more how important it is. Let us for a moment consider what the laws were at that time. I happened just by accident to pick up a law list of 1815. It was the earliest I could find. I was amazed when I found that the office of senior registrar in the Court of Chancery, a most august if somewhat dry official, was held by the Duke of St. Albans, and I marvelled greatly what the Duke of St. Albans would do as a senior registrar in the Court of Chancery until an inspiration came to me and I remembered that in one of the frolicsome days of Charles II. he had made Miss Vell Gwyn Chief Registrar of the Court of Chancery, an appointment which did credit to his originality, and I undertake to say that if she attended to the duties of that office no more popular registrar could

« PreviousContinue »