Page images
PDF
EPUB

IN CASES OF APPEAL. 125

an arbitrary and unconstitutional discretion, and in perfect understanding with the plaintiffs attorney, who was of those entitled to his private and friendly interview, refusing to stay proceedings in the cause, until an application could be made, and argument had in legal course at the next sitting of the court, on the reserved points made by counsel at the trial; and by which means the plaintiff, favoured by a most iniquitous verdict, was enabled to enter up judgment, issue execution, and satisfy his demand before that a time even could arrive to the defendant to bring his case on appeal, before any competent legal tribunal for further hearing and adjudication.

Case, in his further efforts to set aside the verdict on the grounds we have stated.

The suppression of this charge and substitution of another instead, declaring a very opposite version of the same law, byJudge Betts (when the case subsequently came before him for revision previous to its being argued) which this learned functionary never uttered, and perhaps never thought of on the trial, was a grievous wrong—a severe and deliberate injustice done to the plaintiff or appealing party—an outrage upon decency, and as it must appear to be, an outrage of no ordinary kind, against the due and impartial administration of justice— even in America.

We have dwelt upon this subject from its extreme importance in faithfully characterising the law of this country—the door which is thus open to the most iniquitous wrong, with the evil which it inflicts upon society in America; where it virtually abrogates the trial by jury in all cases of civil controversy, and leaves every suitor at the mercy and disposition of every venal and corrupt judge, before whom any cause may be called up for trial and adjudication.

But such is American law.—Such indeed a fair sample of American justice in its every day practice; so little calculated to secure our respect or ensure the least measure of our confidence. When such things can come to pass, and find a response in nearly every state of the republic, are we to feel surprised at the distrust, the little reliance that is placed, even by Americans, in the honesty and uprightness of their rulers, in the efficiency of their legal institutions, or the integrity and good faith of those entrusted with the protection of their character, life, and property; that exhausting human patience, seeks a requital in the wild and fierce revenge, of which in America, we have had so many and fearful examples. The Lynch law code, the reenactments of the unrestrained violence of savage life, is partly of its generating; and which is even attempted to be sustained in it principles, by the asserted necessity of its influence, in checking the growing licentiousness of the people, who are otherwise uncontrolled by the equitable administration of any milder law, in which reliance can be placed for the protection of the innocent, or punishment of the guilty.

Some estimate may be formed of the little interest that Americans attach to the proceedings in their law courts, and the little time they bestow in the consideration of all such matters, from the fact, that these courts are often held with an auditory of some two or three attorneys or lawyers, and of scarcely half a dozen other persons, the parties perhaps immediately concerned, as listeners to the

AMERICAN APATHY. 127

proceedings. It is not unfrequently that we have gone into the United States District court of the south district of New York, and besides the presiding judge, finding only his register or clerk, two or three lawyers, one representing the plaintiff, the other the defendant, and engaged in the midst of a legal argument of some importance to the luckless suitors, besides whom, the crier, and door-keeper, there was scarcely another present. We could no longer feel surprise, at the conduct we have already noticed in the presiding functionary of this court; in part attributing to this general exemption of all law proceedings from public observation or notice, with the near certainty, that whatever might transpire within these courts, the report would seldom travel beyond their precincts, the lax and very culpable conduct with which we have already charged these institutions.

We have endeavoured to impress upon the emigrant who may have the misfortune to be involved in legal warfare in America, the expediency, we might have added the necessity, with a view to an impartial adjudication, or of the ultimate success of his suit, of employing only such counsel or conducting agent in any such he may undertake, as may at least be on some friendly or amicable footing with the presiding judge. We have known instances where undue means have been resorted to from the facility of access to the judge's private study, or his personal dislike to the opposing party, and where the litigant, contrary to every just expectation, has in consequence, wrongfully succeeded in the attainment of an unjust, and unworthy object. At the same time that we have known lawyers, and of some eminence, refuse to be engaged in a suit, unwilling to risk their reputations from a certainty of defeat, in acting in conjunction with others of their profession to whom the presiding judges of the court were known to be hostile. Nay, to such an extent does the influence of a friendly feeling or otherwise, existing in the court extend itself, that we were ourselves individually concerned, on behalf of another, or third party, in a chancery suit in one of the most influential States of the Union, when the course, or proceedings to be adopted were suggested and definitively arranged, the bill altered and amended in private chamber by the very judge who was afterwards to adjudicate and pass upon its merits, when before him in open court. We inquired of our solicitor, how such could come to pass, or for an hour to be tolerated amongst any thinking or well-regulated community? and received as our answer, that "His Honour," was in fact indebted to a memorial that had been signed by this individual, as by some others, in placing him in the high official situation which he then occupied, and could not well refuse any return service of this kind, that my informant might at any time choose to exact from him.

CHAPTER V.

Alderman or assistant Justices' courts—Ea9y mode of recovering small debts—Characteristic scene in an Alderman's court in Philadelphia—Of American Lawyers and Attorneys — Both professions conjoined and held by the same individual— The great inconvenience occasioned thereby to suitors—Litigation in America—Average number of cases usually for trial on the calendar of the principal state courts—Unusual procrastination of suits—Qualification necessary in adopting the legal profession—The character of American lawyers generally— Their want of all honest principle, with the danger and risk of any man entrusting his affairs to their hands —The late Henry Storrsof New York—David B. Ogden—Hon. G. W.Dallas, with other practitioners at the American bar—The existence of a dangerous legal society in the United States, directed by a Tetrarch or head—Their rules and organization—Their special objects and power—Honourable W. Livingstone, late Minister to France, supposed at their head —Their dangerous influence on American society—Laws for the settlement and regulation of property in the United States—Bights and privileges secured to married females—Laws relating to debtor and creditor—American bankrupt law—English bankrupt law possessing no efficacy in the United States—Facilities given in the United States to sue on behalf of British or Foreign creditors—Mode of proceeding in such cases—Insolvent law of the several states—The law of one state inoperative in any other —The efficacy of a judgment recovered in any of the states— Foreign judgments received only as evidence, as indebtedness to be otherwise established by due legal process before that execution can issue—Insolvent law in Philadelphia—Its mode of dispensation exemplified in a remarkable case tried before the Honourable Judge King.

If that the higher legal tribunals of the country are distinguished, as well for their pi•ofligacy, as for

VOL. I. K

« PreviousContinue »