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DINNER OF THE CHARLESTON BAR.*
The Bar Dinner in honor of Daniel Webster, the great master of law and leader of the profession in the Union, took place, at St. Andrew's Hall, on Monday, the 10th instant. Henry A. Desaussure, Esq., the senior practising lawyer, the courteous chief patriarch of the profession in Charleston, presided, assisted by Messrs. James L. Petigru, B. F. Hunt, H. Bailey, and Richard Yeadon, as Vice-Presidents. A number of retired members of the Bar participated in the festive scene, attracted by the desire to do honor to one who conferred such honor on the profession. After a sentiment from the chair in honor of the legal profession, James L. Petigru, Esq., one of the Vice-Presidents, rose and made a few remarks on the law as the noblest of human sciences, and on the tribute due to those who profoundly studied and illustrated its principles. He concluded with the following appropriate sentiment:
“ The accomplished orator, who, as well in private causes as in public affairs, has not only set an example to his contemporaries, but earned a name among the illustrious masters of a former age.”
This sentiment was received with the greatest enthusiasm, and was responded to by Mr. Webster as follows :
GENTLEMEN, - I feel highly honored by this tribute of respect and regard from my professional brethren of the Charleston Bar. I take pleasure in expressing my sincere and grateful satisfaction in thus meeting them at the friendly and social board. Such are the emotions of my bosom, I can scarcely trust myself with a response, or be expected to make a set speech in reply. Let me say, Gentlemen, that I love our common profession, and love
* Abridged from the Charleston Courier of the 12th of May, 1847.
all who honor it. I regard it as the great ornament, and one of the chief defences and securities, of free institutions. It is indispensable to and conservative of public liberty. I honor it from the bottom of my heart. If I am any thing, it is the law - that noble profession, that sublime science which we all pursue – that has made me what I am. It has been my ambition, coeval with my early manhood, nay, with my youth, to be thought worthy to be ranged under the banner of that profession. The law has been my chief stimulus, my controlling and abiding hope, nay, I might almost say, my presiding genius and guardian angel.
We have met this evening, Sir, my brothers and myself, brethren in the law, under the influence of common feelings. We are students of the same profession, followers and disciples of the same great leaders and teachers whom history has chronicled for our contemplation and example; such as the sages of the Roman jurisprudence; such as D’Aguesseau and Domat, Coke and Holt and Mansfield, and other great names in Europe; such as the masters of the profession in our own country, - great lights and luminaries in every branch of legal science and in the principles of legislation. I feel it no common good fortune to belong to a profession so useful, so honorable, and so distinguished. Although it may not always, although it does not often, in this country, lead to wealth, it does what is infinitely better and more important, - it enables us to do good in our day and generation. I repeat, it is not calculated to yield its members the greatest fortunes. It seldom, in this respect, fulfils the sanguine expectations of beginners in the toilsome path. After twenty-five years' observation, I can give it as the condensed history of most, if not all, good lawyers, that they lived well and died poor. In other countries, and in England especially, it is different. Great fortunes are there accumulated in every branch of the legal profession. Many noble and wealthy families in England have been built up on the acquisitions of the law. Such is not the course of things with us, nor, with our habits and inclinations, is it to be expected.
The only regret to be felt at the slenderness of professional emolument arises out of the difficulty of impressing on the general mind sufficiently strong inducements, to make adequate and honorable provision for those who are selected from the legal
profession to go on the bench. In my opinion, there is no character on earth more elevated and pure than that of a learned and upright judge. There is no cause to which I would more cheerfully and more largely contribute the earnings of my life, than the adequate support of the learned and upright judge. But although such a character exerts an important agency in the public service and influence for the public good, - an influence, like the dews of heaven, falling without observance, it is not always sure, among a people of great activity, like ours, to attract the proper regard or proper reward. The inadequacy of legal emolument is not the only reason which prevents the profession in this country from accumulating wealth. Their standing in society compels them to live somewhat expensively, and, I may add, their inclinations too. Lawyers always think themselves bound to be hospitable. Friends come to town, and they must be entertained. These positions do not rest on disputable authority, but are favored by every authority from Lord Coke down.
But though not the road to wealth, our calling is not the less honorable. Out of the profession of the law, magistrates are chosen to dispense private and public justice. This is a great proof of respectability of standing in a government like ours. Merit, and not political favor, determines with us who shall occupy the seat of justice. He would profane our institutions who should be bold and daring enough to put one on the bench unqualified in mind and morals for the high position.
I have observed that the administration of justice is the great end of human society. All the complex machinery of government has for its object that a magistrate should sit, in purity and intelligence, to administer justice between individuals and the country. The judiciary, selected from our profession, makes every one feel safe in life, liberty, and property. Where is there a higher function or dignity than that of a chancellor to dispense equity between litigants and to the widow and orphan? Learned and virtuous judges are the great masters, and lawyers the apprentices of justice. No morality, save that of the Saviour of mankind, is more ennobling than that of a court of equity, as illustrated in the judgments of men like D'Aguesseau and Hardwicke and Eldon, of Marshall and Desaussure and Kent and Story. No moral lesson, except those of holy writ, surpasses the teachings of these great lights of the law on
the subject of fiduciary relations, and in matters of trust and confidence. An eminent lawyer cannot be a dishonest man. Tell me a man is dishonest, and I will answer he is no lawyer. He cannot be, because he is careless and reckless of justice; the law is not in his heart,- is not the standard and rule of his conduct.
A great equity lawyer has truly said, that, ever since the Rev. olution of 1688, law has been the basis of public liberty. 1 hold it to be undoubted that the state of society depends more on elementary law, and the principles and rules that control the transmission, distribution, and free alienation of property, tban on positive institutions. Written constitutions sanctify and confirm great principles, but the latter are prior in existence to the former. The Habeas Corpus Act, the Bill of Rights, the trial by jury, are surer bulwarks of right and liberty than written constitutions. The establishment of our free institutions is the gradual work of time and experience, not the immediate result of any written instrument. English history and our colonial history are full of those experiments in representative gov. ernment which heralded and led to our more perfect system. When our Revolution made us independent, we had not to frame government for ourselves, to hew it out of the original block of marble; our history and experience presented it ready made and well proportioned to our hands. Our neighbor, the unfortunate, miserably governed Mexico, when she emerged from her revolution, had in her history nothing of representative government, habeas corpus, or trial by jury; no progressive experiments tending to a glorious consummation; nothing but a government calling itself free, with the least possible freedom in the world. She has collected, since her independence, $ 300,000,000 of revenue, and has unfortunately expended it all in putting up one revolution and putting down another, and in maintaining an army of forty thousand men in time of peace to keep the peace.
Liberty and law are in this respect intimately connected. Civil liberty consists in the establishment of those great and inherent principles of government and human regulation, which have prevailed in England from the time of Somers and Holt. I pray Heaven that we may never relinquish the independence of the judiciary. A timeserving judge is a spectacle to inspire abhorrence. The independent judge draws around him
the respect and confidence of society. Law, equity, and justice require that this should be done and that should not be done, and judicial decisions should command entire acquiescence from full confidence in the purity, integrity, and learning of the judge. The profession of the law is the support of public liberty. True, there was once an Empson and a Dudley, blots and stains on the profession. There was once a Jeffreys, but never twice. Such a monster of judicial savageness and ferocity has never again appeared on the face of the earth. In England ever since her Revolution, eminent members of the bar have been eminent lovers and eminent supporters of public liberty; Somers, Holt, and Camden, and numerous others, emi*nent lawyers, are bright names on the honorable roll.
Liberty is the creature of law, essentially different from that authorized licentiousness that trespasses on right. It is a legal and a refined idea, the offspring of high civilization, which the savage never understood and never can understand. exists in proportion to wholesome restraint; the more restraint on others to keep off from us, the more liberty we have. It is an error to suppose that liberty consists in a paucity of laws. If one wants few laws, let him go to Turkey. The Turk enjoys that blessing The working of our complex system, full of checks and restraints on legislative, executive, and judicial power, is favorable to liberty and justice. Those checks and restraints are so many safeguards set around individual rights and interests. That man is free who is protected from injury.
Again, the law is an instrument and means of instruction to the mass of the people. Merchants, planters, farmers, and every other class of the community, acting as litigants, jurors, witnesses, or spectators, find it a useful school. The trial by jury is the popular teacher of our system; the ægis of protection to individual rights, the shield and defence against the encroachments of power. Why call a jury?”
say some. judge, a learned, virtuous, impartial judge, decide.” But no, let the judge give the charge to the jury on the law, but let the people in the jury-box adjudge the facts of the case. ple, it is true, as a mass, are not capable of understanding recondite subjects and abstruse reasoning. But, before juries, and especially unlearned ones, lawyers should have the good sense not to use terms which their hearers cannot understand. To be followed in a logical train of argument, they should speak
66 Let a