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THE GEORGIA BAR ASSOCIATION,
AUGUST 31, 1887,
BY THE PRESIDENT, CLIFFORD ANDERSON.
Gentlemen of the Georgia Bar Association :
I regret that the exactions of official and professional duty have left me so little opportunity for preparation to meet the just expectations of this occasion. In grateful recognition of the honor done me, I would gladly, if I could, bring, for your entertainment, things new as well as old.
No less a philosopher than Gibbon has declared that "conversation enriches the understanding, but solitude is the school of genius ;” solitude, not spent in slumber, but in deep and earnest meditation and thought. He who has not enjoyed such seasons of meditation has no conception of the companionships of solitude or of the capabilities and resources of the mind. He never hears the sweet music of nature, and never enters the work-shop of the soul. He is a stranger to the delights of the imagination--never visits her picture galleries, nor beholds the splendid panoramas which she spreads before the intellectual vision. It has been said that “thought rules the world.” Certain it is that it is one of the mightiest forces which contend for mastery in human affairs. Without it the mind is not fed, and is unprepared to contribute to the entertainment of others.
In addressing a convocation of lawyers, one of the themes naturally suggested is the profession to which lawyers belong. Even a partial review of the achievements of lawyers, and of the impress they have made on the times in which they lived, will, I venture to assert, elevate our conceptions of the dignity and usefulness of the profession, and excite our ambition to attain to more honorable distinction in its ranks.
The profession of the law is as ancient as it is distinct from the other vocations and callings of life. There were certainly lawyers in the time of our Saviour, for He refers to them by name. The fact that He does not allude to them, or rather address them, in complimentary terms, is not to be regarded as a condemnation of the profession or order to which they belonged. The men whom he addressed were learned in the traditions and customs of the Jews, and had doubtless imbibed the prejudices of their race against the meek and lowly person, who disregarded and made void their traditions, and who proclaimed the adivent of a new dispensation, and himself as their Messiah and spiritual King
Lawyers were a well-known order or class amongst the ancient Greeks and Romans, and were usually men of the highest character and the most liberal culture. Being generally men of intellect and education, they exerted a marked influence in affairs of state, as well as in the administration of the laws. Few ages or countries have produced as accomplished statesmen, orators and jurists as Pericles and Cicero; and yet they were but representative men of the bar of their day, loyal to the law and to the rights of the people, enemies alike of lawlessness and of the encroachments of power. They left their impress on the age in which they lived—their “foot-prints on the sands of time,"—and their fame and renown are among the innperishable treasures of succeeding ages.
The task of the lawyer, at that early period in the world's history, was a more difficult and delicate one than under the enlightened jurisprudence of the age in which we live. The laws then were not reduced to a system, as now, and the tribunals established for the administration of justice were less regulated and restrained by settled principles and recognized precedents. This was especially so amongst the Greeks, the machinery of whose early tribunals bore some similarity to that of our own, inasmuch as they had a body of citizens, or jurors, known as a dikastery, selected to try each case, and a magistrate to preside at the trial; but the jury, or dikastery, was practically omnipotent, being judges both of the law and fact, and having no regular code or system of laws to guide or control their decision. As illustrative of the administration. of the criminal law, Grote, in his History of Greece, gives this description of the methods used to acquit a person on trial :
56 That which an accused person at Athens usually strives to produce is an impression in the minds of the dikasts favorable to his general character and behavior; of course, he meets the particular allegation of his accuser as well as he can, but he never fails, also, to remind them how well he has performed his general duties as a citizen; how many times he has served in military expeditions ; how many trierarchies and liturgies he has performed, and performed with splendid efficiency. In fact, the claim of an accused person to acquittal is made to rest too much on his prior services, and too little upon innocence or justifying matter as to the particular indictment."
It was Pericles, I believe, who successfully defended a man, accused of murder, by causing his client to exhibit his empty sleeve, and appealing to the court in behalf of one who had thus suffered in defense of Greece in the Pelopenessian War.
Amongst the Romans, the law, as a science, approximated more nearly to a system; but it fell far short of being what Blackstone claims the common law of England to be-"the perfection of human reason." They also had something resembling “ trial by jury," called the judex, and composed of judices, or jurors, and presided over by a praetor or magistrate. Their system of pleading was analogous to the system of special pleading which prevailed, until recently, in England. Until the pleadings were perfected so as to bring the parties to a distinct issue, no trial could take place. Roman jurists, moreover, have made valuable and enduring contributions to the literature of the legal profession, comprising a system now universally known as the civil law," and furnishing a model for many existing codes.
The Roman lawyer, like the Great Apostle to the Gentiles, did "magnify his office." He had exalted conceptions of the purity and nobility of his profession. Whilst he expected and accepted the honorarium which custom imperatively exacted of the client, he was not influenced or controlled by mercenary motives or considerations. He esteemed his calling as a high and noble profession, not an ignoble trade or craft. He regarded the law as a system of justice, and himself as a repository of its principles, a guardian of its honor and a minister of the temple dedicated to its triumphs.
The limits appropriate to this address do not permit even a passing reference to the bar of other European countries, in comparatively ancient times, nor to show its influence in promoting their civilization and development. If time allowed, it might easily be demonstrated that men learned in the law have contributed, more than any other class, to their intellectual and moral growth, and have waged more