Chapter 13

Having turned his back on the hospital, there was a concourse of people: the cry was a new code of laws.

A new code? said a grave man. Is not the old, the result of experience, a gradual accession of rules and regulations in society? Begin again, and you would come to the same result at last. But to form laws from abstract comprehension, fitted to all exigencies, is not within the compass of the powers of man. It is sufficient if he can form a schedule or plan of government; this is the outline; the interior gyrations, must be made up from repeated experiments.

The words new code, were mistaken by some amongst the crowd, for no code.

No code, was repeated through the multitude.

What, no laws at all? said the grave man.

No laws, was the outcry immediately, and every vociferous person wishing to hear himself speak, and every timid person afraid of being suspected of incivicism, began to call out, no laws.

That will never do, said the grave man, it were better to have no judges than to have no laws, or at least as bad. For how can men judge but by laws? Arbitrary direction is a blind guide.

The words no judges, had been heard more distinctly than the rest, and supposing it to be a substitute for no laws, voices came from every quarter in support of the amendment. I support the amendment; I agree to the substitute, no judges, no judges.

The clamour became general, down with the judges.

This puts me in mind, said the Captain, of the sermon of the Lay Preacher. I should have no objection to an amendment of the law, or to new judges but no laws, no judges, is more than I had expected to have heard in an assembly of republicans.

A person standing by was struck with the good sense and moderation of this remark, and stepping forward, made his harangue.

I will not say, said he, that I am for no judges; but this I will say, that new judges is a desideratum in the body politic. The greater part that we have are grown gray, and are as blind as bats: they cannot see without spectacles. I am for new judges.

You talk of judges, said the grave man, as if it was as easy to make a judge of law as to make a bird-cage, or a rat-trap.

What, said a merry fellow, shall we have new shoes, new pantaloons, and new every thing; and shall we not have new judges? We shall never do any good with the present set of judges on the bench

It was carried that there should be new judges.

But having disposed of the old, it became a question whom they should elect for new. The bog-trotter was proposed for one, having had his name up before in the matter of the newspaper.

What, my waiter? said the Captain. Yes, your waiter, said a wag, or a fool, I do not know which.

You astonish me, said the Captain. My waiter a judge of the courts! He will make sad work on a bench of justice. He will put down all law. He will silence all lawyers. He will have no law: no books; no cases; all plain sailing with him. Every man his own lawyer, state his own cases, and speak for himself. No Hooks and Crooks; no Hawkins; no Bacons; or Blackstones; or Whitestones; no Strange cases; no law of evidence. Every man sworn and tell what he knows, whether he has seen it, or heard it at second, or at first hand: interest or no interest; all the same; let the jury believe what they think proper; and the judge state the law from his thumbs ends without books.

This is madness, and here I have more trouble on my hands with this bog-trotter, than I have ever had before. It is a more delicate matter to see him placed on the seat of justice, to administer the laws, than to be in the senate house, and assist to make them. For in that case he would be but a component member of a great body, and his errors, might be lost in the wisdom of the other members. But in the capacity of judge he is sole, or with but a few, and it is an easier matter to frame a single law, than to expound and apply a thousand.

Gentlemen, said he, addressing himself to the multitude, you will ruin your administration. You will bring disgrace upon it. The people will not feel your error at once; but they will feel it by and bye, and will depose you who have been the most active in this cavalcade. That is, they will withdraw from you their confidence. The abuse of power leads to the loss of it. No party in a government, can exist long, but by moderation and wisdom. The duration of power, will always be in proportion to the discrete use of it. I am shocked at your indiscretion. Have not some of you read Don Quixotte; In the capacity of judge, Sancho Panza made some shrewd decisions; or rather Cervantes made them for him; for, I doubt much whether Sancho ever made one of them. But who is there of you, will make decisions for Teague. I doubt much whether he would take advice, or let any one judge in his behalf. Besides that of a judge is not a ministerial office, and cannot legally be exercised by deputy. You will make pretty work of it with Teague for a judge. It may be according to the light of nature; but not according to the law of nature that he will judge. At least, not according to the law of nations: for no nation under heaven ever had such a judge. Not even in the most unenlightened times. If he had a knowledge even of the old Brehon law, in his native country, it might be some help. But in matters of meum and tuum he has a certain wrong-headedness that hinders him from ever seeing right. He thinks always on the one side; that is on his own side. But what he would do between suitors, I am not so clear, but I take it he would be a partial judge. The man has no principle of honour or honesty. He would be an unjust judge.

Will not the commission make him a judge? exclaimed one of the multitude.

But will it make him capable of judging? said the Captain.

Why not? said a boisterous man. What else qualifies or makes fit? Can the most sensible man, or the most learned person, judge without a commission?

Doubtless that is the authority, said the Captain. But still the capacity.

Capacity? Said a man, with a bit out of the one side of the membrane of his nose, sniveling in his speech-- capacity! Give me the commission, and I will shew you the capacity. Let me see who will dare to question my capacity.

Such a burlesque, said the blind lawyer, tends naturally to the overthrow of justice. For able and conscientious men will withdraw from a degraded station. Intrigue, worse than, perhaps, the arm of flesh itself, will come to be employed in the management of causes. Security of person, property, and reputation, the great end of civil institutions, will be rendered precarious. The security of them depends upon fixed and known rules, as well as the application of them. It is not an easy matter to attain a knowledge of these rules. The laws of a single game at school, or of such as employ manhood, in an hour of amusement, is a thing of labour to acquire. The law parliamentary, or rules of a legislative body, is not learnt in a day. And yet without a knowledge of it, there is a want of order, as well as despatch in business. The laws of municipal regulation in a community, laws of external structure, and internal police, are not attainable with the celerity of a moments warning. But when we come to the rules of property, the laws of tenure and of contract, a field opens, that startles the imagination. Even the study of years, makes but a sciolist. But, you will say, lay aside rules. Let all decisions spring from the dictates of common sense applied to the particular case before the judge. But the mere arbitrary sense of right and wrong, is an unsafe standard of justice. A free government, is a government of laws. A Cadi or a Mufti are tolerable only in despotic countries. You are destroying your republic by undermining the independence, and respectability of your judiciary. It is that branch of the government, on which liberty most essentially depends.

The multitude seemed to be but little moved by these observations, which made it necessary for the Captain to try what could be done with the bog-trotter himself, to dissuade him from accepting the appointment. Accordingly, taking him aside, he spoke to him as follows:

Teague, said he, will there be no end of your presumption? I take it to be a great error of education in our schools and colleges, that ambition is encouraged by the distribution of honours, in consideration of progress in letters; that one shall be declared the first scholar in languages, another in mathematics. It is sufficient that the fact be without announcing it. The self-love of the student will find it out himself, without information, and his fellows will be ready to acknowledge it, provided that it is not arrogated, or a demand made that it be formally acknowledged. For this takes away the friendship of others, and corrupts the moral feelings of the successful competitor himself. Ambition springs up, that accursed root which poisons the world. Now, you cannot lay your ambition to the charge of schools or colleges: for, you have never been at any seminary whatever, as far as I understand, if I may guess from your want of attainments in academic studies; and yet notwithstanding you have never been in the way of the distinction of grades, and prizes, and literary honours; you have discovered an ambition of a full grown size, even at this early period of your life. It must be a bad nature that has generated this preposterous aiming and stretching at promotion. A wise man will weigh what he undertakes; what his shoulders can bear, and what they cannot. He will consider whether the office is fit for him, or whether he is fit for the office. He will reflect that the shade is oftentimes the most desirable situation. Do you see that bird upon the tree there? It builds its nest with care, and endeavours to render it convenient. But does it build it on the topmost bough, exposed to the sun, and the heavy rain; or rather does it not choose an inferior branch in the thickest of the umbrage? Take a lesson from the fowls of the heaven, and the brutes of the field. It is not the elevation of place, but the conveniency of accommodation that governs them. Ambition is an accursed germ of evil in the human mind. It is equally destructive of the happiness of the possessor and of that of others. You a republican, and yet destitute of republican virtue, the basis of which I take to be humility and self-denial. Were I the master of an academy, the first, and continual lesson would be, to attain science, and be learned; but as to seeming so, to consider it as of no account. Science would discover itself. The possessing knowledge would be its own reward. The concealment of all self-knowledge of this advantage, not only constitutes the decent and the becoming in life, but lays the foundation of emolument in the good will of others. It may be pardonable in early age to have pride in the advantage of bodily form; but we call in question the modesty of a youth, male or female, who seems to set an inordinate value on a limb or a feature. How much less tolerable, the pride of mental superiority. But of all things under heaven the most contemptible, and the least sufferable, is that of incompetency to a trust, and the aspiring to a place for which the candidate is not qualified; or, even if qualified, against modesty, and the claims of others. It brings a man to be the subject of a laugh, and ridicule. Do you know that the making you a judge, was but a farce, in the manner that Sancho Panza was advanced to a government. You have read the Don Quixotte of Cervantes, I presume. But what do I say; you read Don Quixotte! you have read nothing; and yet you would be a judge. Ambition, I tell you is an evil. You have read of Julius Caesar, in the Roman history. Again I forget myself. You have read nothing. But I may tell you of him. What was the purple to him compared with losing the affections of his countrymen? Though, by the bye, there is some reason to think that it was neck or nothing with him, and that self-preservation made it necessary to usurp the empire, things having come to that state at Rome, that if he did not usurp, another would. But a good republican, and a virtuous man, would rather fall, than save his life at the expence of the rights of others. But it slips my memory that I am talking to a bog-trotter. There is no making a silk purse out of a sows ear. Suppose you were made a judge; in this hurly burly of the public mind, would your standing be secure, even with the most perfect competency for the place? You would not stand two throws of a weavers shuttle. Your chair, under you, would be like an old piece of furniture bought at a vendue, put together for sale; the glueing gone, and the joints broken. It would fall before it had felt half your weight, and leave you, with your backside upon the floor. New judges to-day, and the public mind would have desired new judges to-morrow. Consider the physical consequence of being broken from the bench. Take my word it is not a common breaking this; it will affect your frame at every change of the weather. It will make an almanac of your whole system. It will make your joints ache. It will be worse than a sprain in the ancle; or a rheumatism in the limbs; or a sciatica in the small of the back. It will give you a cholic every new moon, and take away your sleep at midnight. It will give you the jaundice; and hurt your complexion. Your eyes will become yellow, and your cheeks green. You will lose your appetite; and not be able to eat, even when you can get it. Why man, it will blister your feet, and break your shins. It will bring you to death's door, before you have lived half your days.

By de holy poker, said Teague, I will be no judge, if dat is de way of it. Dey may judge for demselves; I will be no judge. De devil a judge will I be; I would sooner dig turf or be a horse-jockey at fairs in Ireland, dan be a judge on dose terms; so dey may make whom dey please a judge for me.