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The fugitive papers and addresses contained in this volume are the by-product of a busy professional life. They were prepared during the last decade; and yet the march of events has been so rapid that little more than a historic interest now attaches to the subjects they deal with. Their publication in a book was suggested by the difficulty I have encountered in collecting addresses of my father delivered threequarters of a century ago. Aside from the desire to put in a permanent form the results of some labor, I have some hope that the publication of the contents of this volume may have some effect upon the younger members of the legal profession in stimulating them not only to greater effort in promoting the effective administration of justice, but also to a more active performance of the duties of citizenship.
The pursuit of an absorbing profession in a metropolitan city leaves little time for the indulgence of tastes in the fields of general culture. The law is such a jealous mistress that she does not suffer gladly even dilettante ramblings in art or science or literature. If a lawyer does disentangle himself from the phylacteries of a system of law and procedure whose practice frequently tends to a narrowness of vision, he quite naturally turns to some phase of public affairs, and, moreover, as I have pointed out in these papers, a sense of public duty ought to press him, more than those engaged in other pursuits, in that direction. But the complexities of modern existence in America
militate against actual office-holding by a lawyer. An interruption of professional activities is generally detrimental. There are so many competent lawyers that there is little difficulty in replacing those who forsake for politics their practice at the bar; and a lawyer who yields to the allurements of public life by accepting office generally finds that the political prestige he gains is of little practical use and that on returning to the law he must make new professional connections. In England the case is quite different and leaders of the bar may continue to practice their profession while they engage in parliamentary activities.
To participate in partisan politics in a great city like New York, and, at the same time, build up and keep together a law practice, is most difficult. It is surprising how few men of real talent have performed the double rôle of lawyer and politician. This always becomes manifest when the state or federal appointing power seeks to fill vacancies on the bench. Lawyers of eminent qualifications for such positions are numerous, but to find those who are politically anything more than ciphers is most difficult. And yet it ought to be possible to maintain a first-rate position at the bar and at the same time acquire an influence in politics of sufficient importance to enable a lawyer to contribute something to the elevation of the tone of our public life. By training, environment and aptitude, lawyers are usually well equipped to engage in political activities, and if circumstances do not permit them to hold office, at least they may and ought to devote a substantial part of their time to the discharge of the duties and responsibilities of citizenship. Conspicuous examples show that this can be done without detriment to professional success. The career of Mr. Elihu Root is a striking illustration. No member of our bar de
voted himself more assiduously to the practice of his profession until after he became fifty-five years of age, when he entered Mr. McKinley's Cabinet. With the exception of a brief period when he was United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, he had for many years, without holding office of any kind, kept so closely in touch with political and party affairs as to be a factor whom leaders of party organizations could not afford to ignore.
I am led by this comment on Mr. Root's career to advert to the efforts of lawyers from other parts of the country who have achieved national fame in public life and have presumed upon the reputation thus acquired to enter the ranks of the working bar of New York City. A few have succeeded,,if success consists in making adequate incomes through connections formed on account of their prestige; most, however, have failed, and to their bitter disappointment. That they should attain at the numerous and competent bar of a great city a position commensurate with a repute acquired in other fields, has been generally shown to be impossible, and when the glamour attaching to public office has—as it generally has—become dimmed, the exotic lawyer and the retired statesman either must content himself with an obscurity that irks, or return to the field of his earlier activities.
In an address to the students of the Harvard Law School printed in this volume, I attempted to point out some of the conditions under which the modern practice of the law must be conducted. In thirty-eight years of observation I have seen the most radical changes. In my early days at the bar the leaders were great advocates. Indeed, forensic power and its habitual exercise in the trial of great causes of all kinds, combined with force and elevation of character, were the qualities esteemed to be necessary for leadership. From its foundation in 1870, the presidency of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York was the blue ribbon of professional life, and for more than thirty years it was awarded to men eminent as advocates. Thus we had a long line of men of the highest distinction such as William M. Evarts, Stephen P. Nash, Francis N. Bangs, James C. Carter, William Allen Butler, Joseph H. Choate, Frederic R. Coudert, Wheeler H. Peckham, Joseph Larocque, John E. Parsons, William G. Choate and Elihu Root. In later years, however, we find the Presidents of the Bar Association distinguished not so much for their forensic talent or their frequent appearance as advocates, as for the esteem in which they were held for qualities of leadership based upon personal character, general legal attainments, and occasional appearances in the trial of the great litigations such as have become in the last generation more frequent in settling the relations between corporate interests and the agencies of government. It may be said with certitude that conspicuous talent in advocacy, prestige on account of reputed ability in obtaining results in court, and vogue among the lay public, have ceased to play such an important part in determining leadership at the bar as they did forty years ago.
It is perhaps due to the tradition surviving from the old order that there commonly prevails among the lay public an idea that a lawyer's experience cultivates an aptitude for public speaking on general topics. But, while generalization where so many exceptions must be made is dangerous, I have observed that the pursuit of advocacy in the courts, particularly under modern conditions, while it leads to compression and lucidity of statement, tends to the impairment rather