Release Date: February 9, 2006 [EBook #17726]
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*** Start of this project gutenberg EBOOK the Bay state monthly ***
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[Illustration: Henry W. Paine]
A Massachusetts Magazine.
Vol. III. November, 1885. No. VI.
* * * * *
By prof. William Mathews, LL.D.
Among the callings acknowledged to be not only useful, but indispensable to society, there is no one, except the medical, which has been oftener the butt of vulgar ridicule and abuse than the legal. “Lawyers and doctors,” says a writer on Wit and Humor in the British Quarterly Review, “are the chief objects of ridicule in the jest-books of all ages.” But whatever may be the disadvantages of the Law as a profession, in spite of the aspersions cast upon it by disappointed suitors, over-nice moralists, and malicious wits, it can boast of one signal advantage over all other business callings,—that eminence in it is always a test of ability and acquirement. While in every other profession quackery and pretension may gain for men wealth and honor, forensic renown can be won only by rare natural powers aided by profound learning and varied experience in trying causes. The trickster and the charlatan, who in medicine and even in the pulpit find it easy to dupe their fellow-men, find at the bar that all attempts to make shallowness pass for depth, impudence for wit, and fatal for wisdom, are instantly baffled. Not only is an acute, sagacious, and austere bench a perilous foe to the trickery of the ignorant or half-prepared advocate, but the veteran practitioners around him are quick to detect every sign of mental weakness, disingenuous artifice, or disposition to substitute sham for reality. Forensic life is, to a large extent, life in the broad glare of day, under the scrutiny of keen-eyed observers and merciless critics. In every cause there are two attorneys engaged, of whom one is a sentinel upon the other; and a blunder, a slip, an exaggeration, or a misrepresentation, never escapes without instant exposure. The popular reputation of a lawyer, it has been well said, is but the winnowed and sifted judgment which reaches the world through the bar, and is therefore made up after severe ordeal and upon standard proof.