Chapter 2

It is abundantly evident from the history of the human mind, that the more extravagant any opinion is, it is the more likely to prevail in some times and places. This will have been found to be the fact in many theories of philosophy, or systems of religion. Were there two such presented to me upon any subject which comes within the province of imagination; the one rational and moderate, the other absurd; and I were to take which I chose, with a view to the speediest propagation, and the greatest number of adherents, I would take the absurd; for what merit is there in admitting what nobody, without an effort, could dispute? And independent of this, there is a secret power in the unknown, and incredible, to arrest the fancy and subdue the judgment. The outrageous, when first presented, shocks, and then domineers over the understanding. I would just as soon undertake to persuade the bulk of mankind, that they saw a bull in the firmament, as that two and two make four. At all events, when I had once got such a thing into their heads, as a buffalo grazing on a cloud, I would defy years to get it out again.

Hence it is not to be wondered at, if the idea of the improvable nature of beasts having got into the hands of the people, all reasoning with them was at an end. The visionary man had made proselytes to such an extent, that the people insisted on an experiment, by raising some of the brute creatures, at least, to executive offices. The clerkship of one of the courts being vacant, great interest was made by the owner of a monkey, to have him appointed. The Governor was harrassed by the application, which was at the same time so respectably supported, that he could not possibly avoid the nomination. Not that even yet he had the smallest confidence in his capacity of discharging the duty; but that he might save himself from the importunity of the friends of the experiment. Accordingly, the monkey was appointed, and his commission made out in form. He had remonstrated against the solicitation, representing his persuasion of the incompetency of the animal; but it was so firmly impressed upon the public mind, that the thing deserved a trial, that he was obliged to yield. For they insisted that, whatever might be the incapacity of the animal, the commission would supply the defect. Indeed they argued very plausibly upon this; and it seemed not to be without foundation that they urged, that it was every day before their eyes, that persons were appointed to office who were not qualified; and what was more, never could become qualified; and yet the world did not stand still; nor did even the order of society, and the affairs of men seem deranged. It is incredible what a little matter will go to support one in the discharge of an office. Hence it is not so absurd what the buffoon said, "let the king give me a commission, and I will see who will say I am not fit for it." However, in the present instance, it was carrying the jest, or as it ought to be said, the experiment too far.

The monkey did not make out even to save appearances for a short time; whether owing to the mismanagement of those who had the command of him or to his own incurable restlessness, and locomotive faculty. For being brought in, and placed upon the table, with the implements of writing before him, and the docket to make entries; the first thing that struck him, was the basket of a fruiterer at some distance; and it was not a second of time before he had leaped upon it, and had a pippin in his paw. Being brought back, and put to his desk again, and desired to make a minute, he deliberately got up and made water on the table, the inkstand being in the way. This was encouraging to the sanguine; for it was thought he wished to have the ink made thinner, as being about to write. But no appearance of this, when the next bound was upon the bench, and the judge's wig hauled off his head, and pulled under the table. This was ruled a contempt of court, and pug was ordered into custody. It was with some difficulty that this was accomplished; the constable and sheriff exerting themselves to take him, but his leaps were so nimble, that it was not until after a considerable time, with the assistance of the whole bar, and the suitors of the court, that they could lay their hands upon him. In fact, it was not until some of them had laid their sticks upon him, and knocked him down, that they were able to entangle him in such a manner as to overcome his cantrips and get him in a bag, as you would a cat, in order to convey him to prison.

Who could have thought that such a practical experiment would not have reduced the falsity of the hypothesis of the improvability of beasts to the extent alleged by some, to an evident demonstration? And yet so ingenious is the pride of the mind, to support the error which it has once patronized, that some did not even yet submit to reason and common sense. They averred, a want of candor in the court and bar to have the experiment fairly made, alleging the craft of the profession; that pug could not have had fair play in the trial; that he must have been pinched in the tail, or in some other way, rendered unmanageable. For, that of himself, he never could have shown such an unwillingness to discharge the duties of the office; more especially, as by showing him apples and nuts at a distance, it was a hint to him, what he might expect in the way of fees, provided that his capacity, and his diligence, was found to equal the hopes his friends had entertained of him.

But, whether the experiment, in making a monkey a prothonotary, was baffled by the utter incapacity of the animal himself, or by the intrigue of the profession, and the court frowning on it, the practicability of making more out of the brute creation, than had ever yet been done, was not wholly given up. It was determined to make an experiment of what might be done, in bringing forward some of them into the profession itself; and with a view to this, choice was made of the more noisy of the dumb creatures, a dog. For though this beast comes under the denomination of dumb, yet it is no uncommon thing to compare a lawyer to him, or him to a lawyer; and though we say a dumb dog, yet I have heard a lawyer called an impudent dog; and there are many who are said to bark, rather than to argue a cause like a rational creature.

The court were a good deal opposed to the admitting a hound to the bar. But the people out of doors and those of the circumstantibus, or by-standers, would insist upon it. The court said, they would not be understood to entertain a doubt of the capacity, in such advocates, at least so far as respected the making motions; but they were apprehensive of disorderly behaviour; not so much as to side bar conversation, and sitting on their posteriors and looking up to bark, as to their movements to and fro, and leaping upon the bench; in which case it would not be much less difficult to keep them to their places, than it had been in the case of the monkey, whom they had all seen could not be kept to order. As to the keeping to the point in their discourses, of that there was not so much matter; for it was not always easy to see what was the point that was made, and to which it became necessary to stick. Was there no danger that, instead of confining themselves to a wrangle, they would actually wage war, and interchange bites in the course of their altercation? Wager of battle did not exist as the mode of trial; and therefore fighting like dogs was not known in judicial proceedings, though the quarrels of counsel did sometimes approach a little towards it.

On all these considerations, the court would have been willing to have confined the construction of the constitution, that "a man shall be heard by himself or his counsel," to the being heard by himself, or some animal of his own species. Nor was there any great reason to believe that, though in many instances we see the more incompetent of a bar at the head of the business; yet, in general, people will find out those who can serve them best; and it was not probable that, if the real, natural, and actual tykes were admitted to plead, any one would be so weak as to employ them in a cause; it is true, they had known many an ignorant impudent puppy at the bar; and some good natured of the dog tribe, so called by way of figure and resemblance, even make fortunes. But this was by way of figure; and they had never yet known one so perfect a beast, as to want the shape of a man, to make his way, or even to attempt practice. And if no suitor did employ such a one, when admitted, where would be his business; unless in the case of a pauper unable to defend himself, where the court might appoint counsel; which would not be decorous in them to do, even in the case of a misdemeanor, unless they had greater reason to expect something like a defence for the unfortunate accused, than from such unexperienced persons. It is true, that such appointment by the court, as in the case of a horse-thief that every body believed guilty, even before he was tried, might pass without censure; but if an honest pauper was convicted, being falsely accuse, and this owing to the blunder of an advocate appointed by the court, the reflection would fall upon them; for these reasons they would be shy in taking such nomination upon them; and would be disposed to leave the dog, whether what is called a feiste, or a mastiff, to his own exertions to get himself employed as he could; and if it came to them to assign counsel at any time, they would select, if the younger, yet at least some of the bar more likely to do justice.

It was to no purpose that these matters were urged. For however weighty the reasons, they were of no avail against the current of public opinion; whether it was that there was some, as there was reason to suspect, wished the lawyers burlesqued, and the profession made a subject of ridicule; or that the greater part were really credulous, which is more probable, to the representation of the philosopher.

Hence it was that, on the day appointed for the experiment, a great number attending, some of the most respectable of the community; two of the canine species were brought in, and placed opposite each other, as adversaries in a cause. They were said to be dogs of a good bark, and had been pitted against each other several times before the bringing them to court, and had worried each other pretty comfortably on more occasions than one. Hence there could be no doubt, but that they would take different sides of the question, and snarl, and grin, and growl abundantly; the only difficulty would be the keeping them apart until the testimony in a cause had been introduced, and they were directed by the court to proceed.

This difficulty, as was foreseen, did actually occur; for no sooner were the beagles uncoupled, than they actually flew at each other, and had one another by the throat. It was in vain that the judge called out order, gentlemen order; I shall be under the necessity of committing you for this irregularity of proceeding; your behaviour is unbecoming your profession. The dogs continued their contest, till one knocked under and howled most piteously. The humanity of the spectators, some of whom were suitors, and some not, at length interposed, and wished them to be separated, but not an individual of the bar gave themselves the least concern on the occasion; but, on the contrary, seemed diverted with it as a farce, and laughed immoderately; which gave grave offence to the people, and much reason to suspect, as in the case of the monkey, there had not been fair play in the experiment. Who could tell what spurs, or sharp weapons, there might have been under the table to prick and goad these simple and unsuspecting creatures to battle? If Jowler and Caesar had actually succeeded in maintaining a standing at the bar, it might materially have affected the employing human bull dogs, to mange a controversy. And could it be supposed that, having this interest at stake, the profession would have made no exertion, secret or reserved, to counteract the introduction of quadrupeds? Upon these grounds the persuasion of the capacity of beasts to advocate the most difficult question of law or fact, was strengthened, rather than reduced, by the experiment made; or if some did query whether all at once, they might be competent to give the best advice, as chamber counsel, in a matter of difficulty respecting the legal tenure of estates; yet no one hesitated to pronounce his conviction that they were capable of being good advocates, in a criminal case of assault and battery, at least; or where noise and racket went a great way to constitute a good pleader.

The public opinion out of doors, was formed a good deal upon the noise they had heard. It was thought to resemble that of lawyers in their sparring. If some surmise did get out, that in nothing but yelping did they resemble, it was attributed to their not being of the genuine breed, that was fit for the bar; that experiment ought to be made from the Norwegian lap dog, to the little Indian dog of the South sea, until they came to one that had the right genuine snarl. But all idea of incapacity was hooted at by others, who had taken up a more favourable impression, having been in the way of hearing that one of them made a speech of an hour in length; and that, had he not been stopped by the court, he would have spoken two hours.

What did he say? said a man somewhat incredulous.

I never can tell very well, said the other, what the lawyers say.

It is all the same sort of jargon to me, consisting of law terms; but this I know, if I had a cause to try, I would leave it as soon to the dog that I heard bark, as to most lawyers that I have seen plead at a bar.

Owing to these averments, and promulgation of rumours all tending to make dog pleading popular, it was not longer than the next week, that there were several people who had come into town, enquiring where the dog lawyers had their offices. The real lawyers were so enraged that they knocked them on the head, though of the profession; but clandestinely; for they were not without apprehension of the resentment of the suitors, if the dogacide should come to light. The law might take hold of them also, if they could be considered as coming under the description of reasonable creatures in the peace of the commonwealth.

But there was no need of this precaution, and secrecy; for the whole circumstance relating to the dogs, and their appearance in court, or the manner in which they acquitted themselves in the trial of a cause was lost and forgotten in the introduction of a wolf and fox the third day of the court; the wolf muzzled, having been taken in a trap. But to avoid all insinuation, or popular obloquy, of not giving them a fair chance, by admonishing them before they began, of the duty of counsel, the rules of the court were read to them, and it was stated what abuses in the conduct of attornies, had been observed, and which it behooved them to avoid; such as scratching their noses, puffing their breath, turning and twisting in their seats, or sitting with their posteriors on the counsel table, and talking to the bench; holding side-bar conversations, and looking and yelping to the juries, or grinning when they thought they had said a great thing smart. Growling and grumbling when the point was given against them, they ought not to take it for granted, that they were the only persons who had a knowledge of a law case; and that their opinion of a law case, or the application, was not infallible.

Gentlemen, said the chief justice, you are entering on a profession that, independent of legal knowledge, for that, we take it for granted, you have a competent share of, requires in a practitioner the utmost delicacy of behaviour, both to the bar and to the bench, as the surest means of your success. For it is a mistake to suppose, that impudence is the principal qualification here. It may go some length in the opinion of bystanders, to give them the impression of boldness; but it goes no length with the court. It is, on the contrary, a great draw-back. Diligent preparation in your offices, and modest demeanour at the bar, is the most likely way to secure confidence, and to conciliate attention, and to have what is called the ear of the court. For when a person merely barks the moment he begins, nothing but a bark being expected; the judge lets his mind go to pasture, if I may be allowed a figure, that is, indulges himself in absence of mind, until the harangue wears near a close. There is what is called having the ear of the court: for should you howl ever so loud, or bark, unless there is a previous respect founded in the expectation of what you are about to say, there will be little attention in reality, whatever there may seem to be.

Opinion had been expressed in the mean time, on the talents of the respective advocates, according as any one had augured favourably, or the reverse of one or the other. It was expected the fox would show the most address in the management of a cause; but that the wolf would be most likely to carry his point by browbeating his adversary, and the court.

Gentlemen, said the court, fox and wolf, or wolf and fox, whichever of you it is that begins first, and that will depend upon your being for the plaintiff or defendant--you will please to proceed.

The wolf being unmuzzled, and the fox let slip, the one ran under the bench, and the other leaped out at the window, the dogs after him, which gave occasion to leave this matter of professional capacity still undetermined; the pursuit of the dogs giving occasion to the old surmise of the lawyers having set them upon them to get rid of a formidable rival. In the hurry scurry, there was little said about the fox, and he was supposed to have made his escape.

The reprimand that the chief justice gave to the squirrels and the pigs for their behaviour in court, was perhaps the most pointed of that given to any of the beasts; to the squirrels for cracking nuts, and chirping like cockroaches, while the charge was delivering, and conversing in corners with each other. To the pigs, for munching apples; because it was not only a trespass against decorum but an interruption to the argument of counsel, which could not be so well heard. Mouthing on the stage is spoken of as far from being agreeable. But such mouthing produces but a slight tumefaction of the oral orifice, and gives a rounding to the voice,

"Ore rotundo."

But the mouthing the pippin, or the peach, distends the jaws occasionally to an immeasurable width; and if one half the hemisphere is attempted to be embraced like a snake swallowing a hare, the eyes have an appearance of starting from their sockets, which communicates pain to the beholder, because it impresses the idea that the actor is in pain.