[ocr errors]

profession of the law. I mentioned what I had observed, and asked for an explanation. He gave it pretty nearly as follows; I am inclined to confide in what he stated as substantially correct. Your remark is just, that our bar is grievously overstocked; and crowds of fresh members are flocking to it every term, as if for the sole purpose, and certainly with the effect, of starving one another. If the annual emoluments of the profession were collected into a common fund, and equally distributed among the body, the portion of each would not exceed a miserable pittance. The inordinate preference for the profession of the bar in Ireland arises from many causes. As one of the chief, I shall mention the preposterous ambition of our gentry, and their fantastic sensitiveness on the article of 'family pride.' An Irish father's first anxiety is to give his son a calling in every way befitting the ancient dignity of his name; and in this point of view, the bar has peculiar attractions. It is not merely that it may, by possibility, lead to wealth, or perhaps, to a peerage or a seat in the privy council-though these are never left out of the account

but, independently of all this, an adventitious dignity has been conferred upon it, as a profession, by the political circumstances of the country. Until the act of 1792, no Catholic could become a barrister: all the emoluments and dignities of the law were the exclusive property of the privileged few; and they were so considerable, that the highest families in the kingdom rushed in to share them. This stamped an aristocratic character and importance upon the profession. To be a 'counsellor' in those days, was to be no ordinary personage. Many of them belonged to noble houses; many were men of name and authority in the state; all of them, even the least distinguished, caught a certain ray of glory from the mere act of association with a favored class, contending for the most dazzling objects of competition. Much of this has passed away; but a popular charm, I should rather say a delusion, still attaches to the name; and parents, duped by certain vague and obsolete associations, continue to precipitate their sons into this now most precarious career, without the least advertence to their substantial prospects of success, and in utter




no one who really This may be very

ignorance of the peculiar habits and talents required to obtain it. It is a common by-word with us, that deserves to succeed at our bar, will fail.' true; but what a complication of qualities, what a course of privation, what trials of taste, and temper, and pride, are involved in that familiar and ill-understood assertion.

"A young barrister who looks to eminence from his own sheer unaided merits, must have a mind and frame prepared by nature for the endurance of unremitting toil. He must cram his memory with the arbitrary principles of a complex and incongruous code, and be equally prepared, as occasion serves, to apply or misapply them. He must not only surpass his competitors in the art of reasoning right from right principles-the logic of common life; but he must be equally an adept in reasoning right from wrong principles, and wrong from right ones. He must learn to glory in a perplexing sophistry, as in the discovery of an immortal truth. He must make up his mind and his face to demonstrate, in open court, with all imaginable gravity, that nonsense is replete with meaning, and that the clearest meaning is manifestly nonsense by construction. This is what is meant by 'legal habits of thinking;' and to acquire them, he must not only prepare his faculties by a course of assiduous and direct cultivation, but he must absolutely forswear all other studies and speculations that may interfere with their perfection. There must be no dallying with literature; no hankering after comprehensive theories for the good of men; away must be wiped all such 'trivial fond records.' He must keep to his digests and indexes. He must see nothing in mankind but a great collection of plaintiffs and defendants, and consider no revolution in their affairs as comparable, in interest, to the last term reports of points of practice decided in banco regis. As he walks the streets, he must give way to no sentimental musings. There must be no commercing with the skies;' no idle dreams of love, and rainbows, and poetic forms, and all the bright illusions upon which the 'fancy free' can feast. If a thought of love intrudes, it must be connected with the law of marriage settlements, and articles of separation from bed and board. So


of the other passions; and of every the most interesting inci dent and situation in human life- he must view them all with reference to their legal effect and operation.' If a funeral passes by, instead of permitting his imagination to follow the mourners to the grave, he must consider how far the executor may not have made himself liable for a waste of assets, by some supernumerary plumes and hatbands, beyond the state and circumstances of the deceased;'—or if his eye should light upon a requisition for a public meeting, to petition against a grievance, he must regard the grievance as immaterial, but bethink himself whether the wording of the requisition be strictly warrantable, under the provisions of the Convention Act.

"Such is a part, and a very small part, of the probationary discipline to which the young candidate for forensic eminence must be prepared to submit; and if he can hold out for ten or fifteen years, his superior claims may begin to be known and rewarded. But success will bring no diminution of toil and self-denial. The bodily and mental labor alone of a successful barrister's life would be sufficient, if known beforehand, to appal the stoutest. Besides this, it has its many peculiar rubs and annoyances. His life is passed in a tumult of perpetual contention, and he must make up his sensibility to give and receive the hardest knocks. He has no choice of cases; he must throw himself heart and soul into the most unpromising that is confided to him. He must fight pitched battles with obstreperous witnesses. He must have lungs to outclamor the most clamorous. He must make speeches without materials. He must keep battering for hours at a jury that he sees to be impregnable. He is before the public, and at the mercy of public opinion, and if every nerve be not strained to the utmost to achieve what is impossible, the public, with its usual goodnature, will attribute the failure to want of zeal or capacity in the advocate-to anything rather than the badness of the cause. Finally, he must appear to be sanguine, even after a defeat; and be prepared to tell a knavish client, that has been beaten out of the courts of common law, that his 'is a clear case for relief in equity.' The man who can do all this de



serves to succeed, and will succeed; but unless he be gifted with the rare qualifications of such men as Curran,* Bushe, and Plunket, or be lifted by those fortuitous aids upon which few have a right to count, he can not rationally expect to arrive at eminence in his profession upon less rigorous conditions.

"Hitherto," continued my informant, "I have been speaking of such as come to the bar as simply and solely to a scene of professional exertion; but there is another and a still more numerous class, who are sent to it for the sake of the lucrative offices with which it abounds. It was no sooner discovered that our bar was uninfluential, and likely, on occasions, to be a troublesome body in the state, than the most decisive measures were taken to break its spirit. Places were multiplied beyond all necessity and all precedent in England. By a single act of Parliament, two and thirty judicial offices were created, to be held by barristers of six years' standing, and averaging each from five to eight hundred pounds a year. This was one of the political measures of the late Lord Clare,t

* John Philpot Curran, formerly master of the rolls in Ireland (born in 1750, and died in 1817), memorable alike for genius and geniality- eloquence and patriotism-wit and pathos. His forensic exertions in defence of the victims of arbitrary power, during the closing years of the last century, were alike fearless, independent, and chivalrous.-M. "des

† John Fitzgibbon, Earl of Clare, who is described by Barrington as a pot and the greatest enemy Ireland ever had," was the son of a gentleman in the county of Limerick, who had been a Roman catholic, and intended for a priest, but changing his tenets, became an eminent barrister and member of Parliament. It is untrue, as reported, that Fitzgibbon was originally poor and of low birth; one of his sisters married Mr. Jeffreys, the rich owner of Blarney Castle, and is immortalized in song as


-Lady Jeffreys who owns this station.

Like Alexander or like Helen fair,

There's no commander throughout the nation,

In emulation can with her compare,"

and the other espoused Beresford, Archbishop of Tuam. Born in 1749, Jolin Fitzgibbon entered Trinity college, Dublin, in 1763, where he was in the same division with Henry Grattan, with whom he competed for collegiate honors, many of which he obtained. It is not generally known that, after obtaining his B. A. degree, he was a member of Christ Church, Oxford, having been admitted ad eundem, and became M. A. of the English university, in 1770. Admitted barrister, in Dublin, he speedily obtained extensive practice. His fee-book

an able lawyer, and excellent private character; but, like many other sound lawyers and worthy gentlemen, a most mischievous statesman. He had felt in his own experience how far the receipt of the public money may extinguish a sensibility to public abuses. And he planned and passed the bar-bill. The same policy has been continued to the present day. The profession teems with places of emolument; and the consequence is, that every subdivision of the 'parliamentary interest' deputes its representative, to get forward in the ordinary way, as talents or chance may favor him, but at all events to receive, in due time, his distributive portion of the general patronage.

"I must add, as highly to the credit of the Irish bar, that their personal independence, in the discharge of their professional duties, has continued as it used to be in the best days of their country. The remark applies to the general spirit of

showed that from June 19, 1772, when he commenced practice, until December, 1789, he received forty-five thousand nine hundred and twelve pounds sterling, from his profession. In 1782 his income was six thousand, seven hundred and two pounds sterling. In 1784, he was appointed Attorney-General, owing his elevation as much to his political support of the Government, as member of Parliament, as to his legal merit. On the death of Lord Chancellor Lifford, in 1789, Mr. Fitzgibbon was appointed his successor (not without violent opposition from Thurlow, Chancellor of England, who contended that his Irish birth should prevent his holding the highest law-office in Ireland), and from that time until his death, in January, 1802, was virtually ruler of Ireland-intolerant, harsh, and unforgiving. In the earlier part of his career, having fought a duel with Mr. Curran (at whom he took deliberate aim), he continued his resentment after he became Judge, and let it be seen, by contemptuous treatment and hostile decisions, that the great advocate had not "the ear of the Court." In 1789, he was created Baron Fitzgibbon, in the peerage of Ireland. In 1793, he was advanced to the rank of Viscount. In 1795, he was made Earl of Clare, and was created an English Baron in 1799, in reward for his severity during the Rebellion of '98. He was appointed Vice-Chancellor of Dublin University, in 1791. Moore, in the auto-biographical prefaces to his poems, gives an interesting account of the searching examination to which he and other young members of Trinity College were subjected by Lord Clare under suspicion of holding "rebellious principles." Implacable in his political and personal enmities, Lord Clare had few friends. He ruled with a rod of iron, and for twelve years was hated by the bulk of the Irish, whom he so much, and so long oppressed.-M.

« VorigeDoorgaan »