Chapter 6

A cavalcade was coming by, and upon enquiry it was found to be a crowd of people with a lawyer gagged. The knob in his mouth was rather long; and the poor man seemed to be in pain, by the extension of his jaws. He could not speak, which was a great privation, it being his daily employment, and the labour of his vocation. For the people thought he spoke too much, or at least was tedious in his speeches, and took up the time of the court, and juries, unnecessarily. But this was a new way of correcting amplification in an orator. It is true that things strike more than words, and the soldier, in a Roman assembly, who held up the stump of his arm lost in battle, pleaded more effectually, for his brother, the accused, than all the powers of eloquence. But it was a wicked thing, and entirely, a la mob, to stretch the jaws so immeasurably. But the people will have their way; when they get a thing into their heads; there is no stopping them; especially on a fair day, such as this was. It is true the thing was illegal, and he could have his action, but they took their chance of that.

The fact is, the tediousness of lawyers, in their harangues, is beyond bearing, and is enough to drive the people to adjustment bills, and any thing, to get quit of them. The opener of a cause must lead you into the whole transaction, instead of leaving it to the evidence to do it. He must give you a view of the whole scope of his case. This might be in a few words. But he wants to make a speech; a strong impression at the first. He must tell you how he means to draw up his evidence; how to fight his men. I should not like my adversary to know this; I would not tell the court, lest he should hear it. What would we think of a general who should mount the rostrum in the presence of the enemy, and explain the order of his battle? I love the art of managing a cause for its own sake, and I like to see it scientifically won. The less speaking, almost always, the better for a cause. There s such a thing, as "darkening counsel by words without knowledge." Atticism is favourable to perception in the hearer. We do not carry wheat to be ground before it is sifted of the chaff. Yet there may be an error on the other side. The declination to brevity may be too great. I am afraid to say much on this head, lest I should be understood to undervalue eloquence, and check it altogether. But certain it is, that excess is on the side of quantity, in speaking at the bar at present. The juries feel it, and twist and turn themselves into all shapes to avoid it. The courts feel it, and on many occasions groan for deliverance.


What necessity on a point of law to read all cases, that have relation to the subject? To give a lecture on the elementary principle, and adduce cases, from the first decision to the last. It has been in vogue with the clergy, to begin with Genesis, and end with Revelations; to prove their doctrine as they go along, by an enchainment of texts; and to say the same thing over again, in many words. But in demonstrating the forty-seventh proposition of the first book of Euclid, we do not lay down every postulate, and axiom; nor do we go through the demonstration of every preceding problem, on which this is built; but we refer to such of them as enter into that which is before us. The demonstrations of Euclid are brief; and that constitutes their excellence. Ad eventum festinat. Here is no detour; or winding that does not accelerate, and force the conclusion.


In the mean time, the blind lawyer, being at hand, delivering a lecture, had heard of the tribulation of his brother, the gagged lawyer; and for the honour of the profession, stretching out his hands to the people, had obtained his enlargement; and the removal of the pig. But it was said, this would be a warning to the advocate, to shorten his speeches for the future. The branks which had been upon his head; that is, the woody's which had tied the knob, were laid aside for another occasion.