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constant warfare than any other in setting bounds to the exercise of arbitrary power. It was because they were the relentless enemies of despotic power that the great Napoleon feared and hated them, and sought to degrade the bar of France, and, by depriving it of its ancient privileges, to emasculate, if not destroy, its influence. But, tyrant and well-nigh omnipotent as he was, he was forced to succumb. The intellectual force arrayed against him was too formidable. Nor had he counted on such courage and heroic devotion to principle as was displayed by that noble institution known as the “old French bar.” This brings me to remark that lawyers, in all ages, have always been the pioneers and apostles of liberty. They imbibe its principles from their education and training. They are the natural enemies of tyranny in all its forms. To relieve the oppressed, to vindicate the innocent, to open the dungeon and free the victim of despotic power, are among the holiest duties of their sacred office.
Let us take a glance at their achievements in England, the source and inspiration of the laws under which we live. That wonderful piece of political mechanism, the British Constitution, comprising the fundamental rights of private property, of personal security and personal liberty, is mainly their work. Although existing largely in tradition, its principles are as well understood as if they were written on tables of
Under its limitations the prerogatives of the sovereign and the rights of the citizen are clearly prescribed and defined. The distinctive features of each department of government-executive, legislative and judicial—are set forth with such precision that each moves in its appropriate orbit with the approximate ease and certainty of the planets in their circuit around the sun. Its checks on attempted encroachments, by one department on the rights and privileges of the others, are admirably adapted to prevent such usurpations. The work of ages of resistance to power, it is an imperishable monument to the genius, the courage and the patriotism of the men who laid its foundations and builded thereon. Whilst inferior to our own Federal Constitution in clearness and scope, and in guarantees against oppression, it nevertheless breathes the same spirit which animated our fathers in laying the foundations of American liberty and furnished, in many respects, a model for the government which they established. It guarantees all the freedom practicable under the mildest form of monarchical government, and, although, not founding a government by the people and for the people," it was, considering the difficulties, the dangers and the sacrifices encountered in the successful stages of its growth and maturity, a notable triumph of truth over error, of justice over wrong, and of popular freedom over tyranny and oppression. It laid, broad and deep, the foundations of that noble system of jurisprudence, known as the “common law of England." This also was the work, chiefly, of lawyers. Its growth, too, was gradual; every precious principle it embodies has been purchased with blood.
Whilst Blackstone's well-known tribute to its merits may be the language of extravagant eulogy, it is certainly a marvel of human wisdom, a work whose fundamental principles will survive the innovations of time. Amid change, changeless; amid decay, enduring.
It was not without ceaseless warfare against the encroachments of power that the principles of the British Constitution and of the English common law were firmly established. Like all great achievements, they were fought with blood. Russell and Sydney and a host of others, the best and the bravest of England's sons-yielded their lives
as a willing sacrifice on the altar of human liberty; and Shaftsbury, whose only crime was his patriotic devotion to the cause of the people against the oppressions of the crown, was saved from martyrdom by the courage and independence of a grand jury which could neither be bought nor intimidated by the subservient instruments of despotic power.
All are familiar with the history of Magna Charta ; how it was wrested by an outraged people, an unwilling concession from the profligate King John, and re-enacted and confirmed by subsequent kings and parliaments times almost without number. The right to the writ of habius corpus and the right of trial by jury, justly regarded as the bulwarks of civil liberty, were thus firmly established as fundamental parts of the British Constitution; and have forever become the priceless heritage of all Englishmen and their descendants throughout the world.
Far be it from me to claim that these heroic sacrifices on the altar of English liberty, and these brave assaults on the encroachments of power, were made or led by lawyers only ; but I do claim that they bore an honorable and, often, a conspicuous part in battling for the liberties of Englishmen, and in upholding the principles of the British Corstitution against the usurpations of the crown. It is true there were members of the bar, especially during the reigns of the Charleses, who were willing tools of those corrupt and despotic sovereigns, and were a disgrace to the profession of which they were members and to our common humanity. But the character of the profession is not to be judged by the conduct of such infamous men. A Judas Iscariot was a mernber of the College of Apostles, and a Benedict Arnold may be found in almost every army of patriots. Rather let it be judged by the conduct and characters of such men as Coke and Hale and Holt and Mansfield and Ellenborough and Thurlow and Erskine and Blackstone and Campbell, and a host of others whose names are worthy a place in the bright constellation of genius which illumined the judicial history of England. These men bent not the knee to Baal. Giants in intellect, elevated in character, true to the instincts of honor and faithful to every trust, they were the pillars on which the Constitution and laws of their country and the rights of the people rested in perfect security. The struggle for those rights was by no means ended by the grant or the subsequent enactments of Magna Charta. Many were the devices to nullify these enactments, in the practical administration of the laws. Subservient judges were selected and used to overawe and intimidate or to usurp the province of juries. In spite of the danger encountered by a judge who gave offense to rulers, in the time of Sir Matthew Hale, that upright and fearless judge held the scales of justice with an impartial hand and preserved his independence against all attempts to influence or intimidate him. Lord Campbell, in his Lives of the Chief Justices, gives the following account of a trial at which Lord Hale presided, as illustrative of his independence as a judge: “A trial was brought before him at Lincoln, concerning the murder of one of the townsmen, who had been of the King's party, and was killed by a soldier of the garrison there. He was in the fields with a fowling-piece on his shoulder, which, the soldier seeing, he came to him and said, “it was contrary to an order the Protector ( Cromwell ) had made, that none who had been of the King's party should carry arms, and so he would have forced it from him ; but as the other did not regard the order, so being stronger than the soldier, he threw him down, and having beat him, he left him. The sol. dier went into the town and told one of his fellow-soldiers how he had been used, and got him to go with him and lie in wait for the man that he might be revenged on him. They both watched his coming to town, and one of them went to him to demand his gun, which, he refusing, the soldier struck at him, and as they were struggling, the other came behind and ran his sword into his body, of which he presently died. It was in the time of assizes, so they were both tried. Against the one there was no evidence of forethought felony, so he was only found guilty of manslaughter, and burned in the hand; but the other was ound guilty of murder, and though Col. Whaley, that commanded the garrison, came into the court and urged that the man was killed only for disobeying the Protector's orders, and that the soldier was but doing his duty, yet the judge regarded both his reasonings and his threatenings very little, and, therefore, he not only gave sentence against him, but ordered the executiou to be suddenly done, that it might not be possible to get a reprieve, which he believed would have been obtained if there had been time enough granted for it."
As still further evidence of the fearlessness of this en.inent and immortal judge in discharging his duty and faithfully administering the laws, even at the peril of offending such a tyrant as Cromwell, Lord Campbell relates that
“On another occasion he defied His Highness not only with spirit, but with perfect propriety. A government prosecution coming on for trial at the assizes, Hale received information that the jury had not been fairly named. To get at the truth, he questioned the sheriff, who said, I refer all such matters to the under-sheriff.' The under-sheriff acknowledged that the jury had been returned by Cromwell. The judge, thereupon cited the statute whereby all juries ought to be returned by the sheriff or his lawful officer;' and this not being done, he dismissed the jury, and would not try the cause. When he came back to London, the protector, in a passion, severely censured him, saying, . You are not fit to be a judge.' The only answer was, “Sir, what your Highness has said is indeed very true.' "
No wonder that such a man was universally reverenced in life and regarded by the people as a saint after his death, and that so great and good a man as Richard Baxter should have written of him such a eulogy as this:
“Sir Matthew Hale, that unwearied student, that prudent man, that solid philosopher, that famous lawyer, that pillar and basis of justice (who would not have done an unjust act for any worldly price or motive), the ornament of his majesty's government and honor of England, the highest faculty of the soul of Westminster Hall, and pattern to all the reverend and honorable judges.”
If time permitted, instances of similar fearlessness and fidelity on the part of Mansfield and Erskine and others might be cited, illustrating their devotion to the principles of justice and constitutional liberty. So, too, in our own country, it was the fervid eloquence of a Virginia lawyer which kindled the fires of the Revolution ; and lawyers were amongst the foremost champions of liberty in the field, on the hustings and in the halls of legislation throughout the struggle for independence.
Lawyers aided in formulating the fundamental principles of civil and religous liberty which are embodied in our Federal and State Constitutions; and Marshall and Story and their associates have, by their lucid exposition of those principles, put them into successful practical operation and established them on foundations which cannot be shaken. Webster, Clay and Calhoun-that grand triumvirate of American lawyers and statesmen-spent their lives in elucidating and defending constitutional liberty, in the forum and on the floor of Congress, and in extending sympathy and encouragement to the oppressed of all nations in their struggles for independence; and amongst the most trusted lieutenants of Lee and Johnston were leading representatives of the bar, who, laying aside the gown and the ermine, led battallions and brigades in vindication of what they conscientiously believed to be the rights of freemen as guaranteed in the fundamental law of the land.
But lawyers have not been conspicuous only as the champions of liberty. In all lands they have been noted for their learning and statesmanship As a consequence, they have exerted a wider influence in shaping legislation and in administering government, in all its various departments, than any other class of citizens. On them, chiefly, has devolved the duty of negotiating treaties and of formulating those principles of international law which regulate nations in their intercourse and trade with each other. They predominate in legislative assemblies and in constitutional conventions, and, in all republican governments, are more frequently than others called to fill the high office of chief magistrate of the nation. To be thus honored and trusted is a tribute to their character, to their integrity and sense of right, as well as to their patriotism and learning. Much as they are criticised by the ignorant and narrow-minded, it is undeniable that they are, as a class, honorable and upright men, loyal to law and to the cause of constitutional liberty--the chief pillars of state and the orraments and supports of society and civilization.
In Great Britain, who have been the superiors in intellectual and moral graces and excellences of Hale, of Mansfield, of Stowell, of Burke, of Pitt, of Erskine, of O'Connell, of Romilly, of Blackstone, of Cockburn, of Coleridge and of Charles Russell ? And, in this country, what a bright array of brilliant intellects have adorned its bar and graced its temples of justice! As great and good men, who have been the compeers of Marshall, of Story, of Webster, of Clay, of Calhoun, of Choate, of Stansbury, of Crittenden, of Wirt, of Pinckney, of Prentiss, or of Berrien, Stephens, Toombs, and Joseph Henry Lumpkin, of our