Imágenes de páginas

from all correspondence with us, I shall direct this to you.

There are many particulars in the condition of this country, that must appear surprising to any one who has not seen a community in its infantine state. We have here lawyers who have not been regularly educated in the knowledge of their profession. Blackstone's Commentaries are considered the great medium of instruction. The young man who has carefully read these, and who has for a short time wrote for a practising attorney, is admitted to the bar. It is said that even the latter part of this preparatory course has, in many instances, been dispensed with. The occupation of barrister and attorney is usually performed by the same practitioner. He transacts with clients, writes and pleads before courts of justice, or before a squire, as occasion requires. If we may judge from grammatical and orthographic inaccuracies, we must be apt to believe that, although some of them may be esteemed as lawyers, they are not good English scholars. Lawyers here, as elsewhere, take their stand as being of the first class in society, and a great proportion of our backwood legislators, in State assemblies, and in the general government, are elected from among this body of gentlemen. Such are many of the coun sellors who grow up in Transmontane-America; but it would be unfair to omit noticing that men of a very different character arise here.-I shall only mention one example in Henry Clay, a Kentuckian lawyer, who has for eight years made a distinguished figure in the conspicuous situation of speaker of the House of Representatives at the capital. Mr. Clay was commissioner on the part of the United States, at the treaty of Ghent, in 1814, and plenipotentiary for commercial arrangements with Great Britain in 1815. The profession

also owes much of its respectability to the ingress of young gentlemen of liberal education from the Atlantic States, who make diligent research in the history of cases, and whose libraries are usually stored with law authorities, and the best models of forensic eloquence in the English language.

The medical men here are all doctors, nor is the inferior degree, surgeon, at all recognised. In new settlements, many practise on life and limb who have not obtained the diploma of any medical school. The smallness of their laboratories renders it probable, that the universal medicine is included. Here, too, there are honoured exceptions; and the medical colleges instituted at Cincinnati and Lexington may soon furnish more accomplished practitioners.

The clergy would perhaps excuse my not giv ing their order the precedence, if they were told that men hold forth here, who can have no pretensions to qualifications derived from human tuition. Many of their harangues are composed of medley, declamation, and the most disgusting tautology. I have chiefly in view itinerant preachers of the methodist sect, who perhaps cry as loud as ever did the priests of Baal. Their hearers frequently join in loud vociferations, fall down, shake, and jerk in a style, that it would be in vain to attempt to describe.

Incapacity is not confined to those situations that ought to be filled with men of learning, but extends to the rudest branches of the mechanical arts. It is not thought wonderful to see a blacksmith without a screw plate; and I have known of several very plain pieces of joiner work that were stolen for patterns by unqualified workmen. Almost every well-finished article is imported, and

so long as this impolicy is continued, handicraft must remain in a low state.

We have here justices of the peace who would not be promoted to the office of constable in some older communities. They are mere petty-foggers, who are occasionally employed in collecting debts, and raising suits to be brought before their own. tribunals. In these cases, they act in the double capacity of agent for one party, and judge, and have no repugnance against collecting their fees in the hour of cause. I shall relate two anecdotes. One of these gentlemen, who lives at no great dis-1 tance from the spot where I write, was hearing the representations of two opponents in open court. They disagreed, and commenced a fight. The squire, not averse to this sort of decision, joined with the constable and some other people in form. ing a ring for the combat. A A negro man and a white woman came before the squire of a neighbouring township, for the purpose of being married. The squire objected to the union as contrary to a law of the State, that prohibits all sexual intercourse between white and coloured people, under a penalty for each offence, but suggested, that if the woman could be qualified to swear that there was black blood in her, the law would not apply. The hint was taken, and the lancet was immediately applied to the Negro's arm. The loving bride drank the blood, made the necessary oath, and his honour joined their hands, to the great satisfaction of all parties*. The last of these squires

*Equivocations of this sort have been so often noticed in the United States, that they must be looked on as notorious. The practice of naturalizing foreign seamen by the solemn farce of an old woman's first cradling bearded men, and then swearing that she rocked them; and that of procuring pre-emption rights to land in new territories, by sowing only a few grains of corn, and subsequently swearing that a crop has been cultivated on

was not elected by the people, but appointed under the late territorial government of Indiana. He is a naturalized citizen of the United States, but a native of England.

The election of a magistrate, is an affair that usually occasions a considerable sensation in a little town. The most respectable citizens naturally support the candidate that has the real interests of society at heart; and the more licentious are as naturally averse to promote the man who, they believe, would punish themselves. It is, therefore, the relative numerical strength of the two parties, that frequently determines the character of a town judge. It is understood, that in new towns by the Ohio, the unruly part most commonly prevail, and that as they advance in population and wealth, the more orderly people take the sway. A case has come under my notice, where the conduct of

the tract claimed, have been so frequent, that it would be invidious to particularize. In England, affidavits are often managed in a simpler way. Swallowing a customhouse oath is there a well known expression. Mercantile houses of London have kept persons, called swearing clerks, to vouch for transactions, on being paid at the rate of sixpence for each oath. If it is not true that men stand at Westminister Hall with straws in their shoes, indicating their willingness to undertake any dirty job, it is time that the foul imputation were washed from that pure fountain of justice. Before prosecutions for conspiracies had become so fashionable in England as they are now, a witness on behalf of the crown was convicted of ten separate perjuries. It would appear that a false oath is a morsel so hard, that it requires cooking before it can be masticated by the immoral in America, and that a less delicate class in England can gulp it down in the raw state. Without making any comment on regulations that protect revenue at the expense of morality; those laws that set the interests, and the very personal liberties of men at variance with their consciences, and without inquiring how far evasive subterfuges may palliate the conduct of the ignorant in their own eyes, or in the sight of the great being invoked; it is suggested, in explanation, that popular institutions have the innate property of impressing an external reverence for the law, on the worst of men.


a squire was at variance with the practices of a large proportion of his constituents. He had resolved on exerting his power to suppress fighting, swearing, and breach of the Sabbath, and to exact the statutory penalties against the two last of these offences. On a Sabbath soon after his election, a man carrying a gun and a wild duck passed his door. He intimated his resolution of having the offender brought to justice; but the culprit gave him much abusive language, with profane swearing, and threatened to beat him for the interruption. The squire soon perceived that he was losing his popularity, and that his opposition to the will of the sovereign people was injuring his business, and for that reason resigned his commission. In cases where the squire is supposed to be remiss in the execution of his duty, the people sometimes interfere extrajudicially. At this place, a tailor's shop was lately broke into by night, and a quantity of goods carried away. On the following day, a stranger and the lost property were discovered in an empty house adjoining. He was instantly carried before one of our magistrates. On being interrogated, he confessed being found in the house, but denied having any concern with the booty. squire dismissed him. But the young men of the town who had assembled to hear the examination, were too sensible of the strength of the presumptive circumstances of the case, and of the admitted act of housebreaking, in entering the uninhabited apartment, to allow him to escape with impunity. They caught him at the door, led him out behind the town, where they tied him to a tree, and put the cowhide into the hand of a furious young man, who happened to be half intoxicated. The whipping was performed with such vigour, that the blood sprung in every direction. A gentleman of


« AnteriorContinuar »