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own State ? Time would fail me to mention one tithe of the great and good men of our profession whose lives have shed lustre on the history of our country and State.
Brethren of the bar of Georgia, we have no cause to be ashamed of our profession. Ours is not only a goodly, but a noble heritage. Ashamed we are and ought to be of those who dishonor a vocation so elevated in its aims, and whose roll of membership is adorned with the names of so many illustrious men.
Let it be the high purpose of this Association to close the door of our noble profession against those who are unworthy a place in its membership; to rescue it from the demoralizing influences which assail it; to reform its code of ethics; to restore its esprit du corps and the high standard of honor and rectitude which prevailed in the days of Berrien, Law, Lumpkin, Nisbet and Warner; and to save it from the base and degrading influences of this degenerate age. Be this its high and holy aim, earnestly and persistently pursued, and this organization will be a blessing to the profession and to the State!
THE CIRCUIT JUDGE.
THE GEORGIA BAR ASSOCIATION
AUGUST 3RD, 1887.
By JOHN W. AKIN.
If any apology were needed for presenting to this body such a theme, our relationship to him, our contact with him, the weeks we sperd in mutual conflict before him and sometimes with him, the months we toil in preparing to meet him, and the fact that so many of us desire to be him, is ample excuse for addressing you on The CIRCUIT JUDGE.
The Circuit Judge is an old institution. He has been on the bench from a time “whereof the memory of man runneth not to the contrary.” In turban, in toga, in silk robe, in Prince Albert,-on Egypt's sands, on Areopagus, by yellow Tiber, in the green fields of Albion, on the red old hills of Georgia,-he has judged and misjudged. He is also a divine institution. God established
THE JEWISH JUDICIARY. After their wanderings in the wilderness, he brought the Israelites into the land of Canaan and gave them judges to rule over them. These judges are not appreciated as they deserve; for, in spite of environments, they were remarkable men. There were Othniel and Ehud, and Elon, and the valorous Gideon, and Tola, who won for himself the title of " Defender of the People ;" her honor, Judge Deborah, the only woman on the bench, a poet, a singer, a warrior ; Samson, distinguished for physical strength and moral weakness, espe. cially as concerned the fair sex. In one thing Samson reminds us of some modern judges : for we have heard expressions from the bench which seemed to indicate that the judge used, like Samson, the jawbone of an ass. There was Jepthah, the brave, the fearless judge, -a bastard, an outcast from his father's home,-who so overcame the difficulties of his early youth that he rose to eminence as deliverer of his people. His zealous vow and its tragic results embalm his name in pathetic sadness. Even the Bible does not dissipate the humor of the scene, when we see Judge Abdon, distinguished only for his large family, riding the circuit, followed by his seventy sons astride seventy asses.
These judges held office during life or good behavior. They sat upon the bench an average of thirty years each. Only one was deposed from office, and he for private faults. The last but one is remembered for his sudden death of a broken heart. Except the last,
NONE RESIGNED. They got no salary, so far as the records show. In this respect, they resemble the Georgia judge to a painful degree. None of them ever went to Congress. They seem never to have discovered what fine opportunities for electioneering are offered by the bench. From Dan to Beersheba, they rode the circuit and tried causes of all sorts. No distinctions of actions or forum existed. They were both judge and and chancellor, court and jury. They had no statutes to construe. Hence, we find no complaint that the judiciary usurped the province of the legislature in that day. A few of the most remarkable records are briefest. Some of the longest are undisturbed by any break in the monotony of the bench. Some are merely mentioned--distinguished for nothing. They were probably easy-going fellows, who tried to please everybody. How chosen, we do not know. Certainly, they were not appointed by the Governor nor elected by the Legislature. We therefore read of no bargains made by them,—no trades. Nor do we see them congregating at Shiloh or Bethlehem, log-rolling to help their friends into office.
Wonderful judges ! Inimitable circuit-riders! Their judgments were never reversed. When appealed from, it was to the sword, and, without exception, they were sustained. Not one is charged with incompetency, and not a suspicion is cast on their official integrity. The last of these thirteen successive judges is Samuel,
DedicATED TO THE OFFICE from his early youth and trained for it from his mother's breast. In his old age, Samuel assembles the people together. Another dispensation has arisen, and Samuel resigns the judgeship to become Attorney
General to the new king. His record is made up.
His record is made up. His last judgment is rendered. As he lays aside the spotless ermine, he calls upon the assembled multitude to bear witness to his official integrity, in these noble words : Behold, here I am ; witness against me before the Lord. Whose ox have I taken? or whom have I defrauded? Whom have I oppressed ? or of whose hand have I received any bribe to blind mine eyes therewith ?”
The Roman judge decided causes on principles of a jurisprudence greatly contributory to ours. But in England, to whose judicial institutions we involuntarily turn whenever we make inquiry into our own, we first find the Circuit Judge administering the law over whose hoary principles the Georgia law-student so often nods. In the early part of the twelfth century, a system of
ITINERANT JUDICATORIES was instituted in England. Indeed, as far back as the time of William the Conqueror, we find a king occasionally commissioning a judge to go out into the realm and administer justice. But not until exactly six hundred years before our Declaration of Independence did the itinerant justices become an established institution of the kingdom. There were then six circuits and three judges to each circuit. Soon the number of circuits was reduced, and the number of judges to the circuit increased. Thus began this celebrated system. The Circuit Judge here first became a fixture-an indissoluble part of English jurisprudence He has since followed the English emigrant
AROUND THE WORLD. His jurisdiction is co-extensive with the Anglo-Saxon race. nounces his judgments wherever the English language is spoken; and on his bench, as on the flag of that kingdom whose history is coeval with his own, the sun never sets.
These judges had great powers. They were executive agents of the king. They had certain duties as to collection of his fines and forfeitures. They were charged with caring for the loyalty of the subject, having to cause every citizen to take the oath of fealty at stated periods, and even to act the spy on his political opinions. It is not strange, therefore, that a judiciary charged with such duties, deriving office from the king and holding it at his pleasure, should contain some unworthy sycophants—even some corrupt and
CONSCIENCELESS TYRANTS. The wonder is that so many preserved stainless characters, both personal and professional. It is a tribute to that Anglo-Saxon virtue of
moral responsibility, that these itinerant justices, amid so many temptations and allurements, and under such despotic influences, became, even in a comparatively unenlightened era of jurisprudence, distinguished for probity of judicial conduct, purity of private life, and administrations which elevated and developed the then crude state of the law.
It may be well surmised that, but for the high character of this primitive judiciary, that reverence for precedent which is instinctive in the English lawyer would lack its present influence.
They had no precedents themselves, to speak of. A large law library at that day could have been carried in the saddle-bags. Almost entirely they were compelled to rely on mother-wit and natural reason, interpreting and gradually amalgamating the divers local customs of the realm. No law schools afforded them opportunity for interchange of opinion or study of manuscripts. Through the Latin of the Roman law,
THEY STRUGGLED BY RUSH-LIGHT, to adapt, to the legal system of a Christian country, the principles of a pagan jurisprudence. The rude customs of unlettered Saxons were pitted against the polished institutes of cultured Romaus. But in those rude customs was embalmed the genius of a people who were honest by instinct, shrewd by nature, obstinate by conviction, and liberty-loving by inheritance. This conflict was decided by these early English Circuit Judges. Their successors have only amplified their decisions and adjusted them to changing circumstances. The result is seen to-day in the comparatively small, and gradually decreasing, area where the civil law prevails; while the common law, taking on the gloss of Roman polish, but retaining a vigor strong as the heart of English oak, follows civilization around the world, strikes into the frontier forest along with the pioneer's axe, locks the wheels of Juggernaut, implants its principles in Australian wilds, and rules the courts of the Great Republic.
GREEN BE THE MEMORY of these old Circuit Judges ! Westminster Abbey guards the dust of many heroic dead. But its walls, so redolent of fame, hold none who, in those inestimable blessings that flow from an enlightened jurisprudence, have contributed more to the good of mankind, than those forgotten judges who sleep on England's bosom in graves unknown !
THE AMERICAN CIRCUIT JUDGE is one of our happiest inheritances from the mother country. With incomparable advantages over his English prototype, he has stamped