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established rules, without drawing after it universal indignation and resistance? Yet, how few have mastered the elementary treatises on this subject, the labors of Albericus Gentilis, and Zouch, and Grotius, and Puffendorf, and Bynkershoek, and Wolfus, and Vattel? How few have read with becoming reverence and zeal the decisions of that splendid jurist, the ornament, I will not say of his own age or country, but of all ages and all countries; the intrepid supporter equally of neutral and belligerent rights; the pure and spotless magistrate of nations, who has administered the dictates of universal jurisprudence with so much dignity and discretion in the Prize and Instance Courts of England ? Need I pronounce the name of Sir William Scott? How few have aspired, even in vision, after those comprehensive researches into the law of nations, which the Introductory Discourse of Sir James Mackintosh has opened and explained with such attractive elegance and truth?
Sucli are some of the studies, from which American jurisprudence may, in my humble judgment, derive essential improvements; and I cannot but indulge the belief, that they will be eagerly sought and thoroughly examined by the good and the wise of succeeding ages.
The mass of the law is, to be sure, accumulating with an almost incredible rapidity, and with this accumulation, the labor of students, as well as of professors, is seriously augmenting. It is impossible not to look without some discouragement upon the ponderous volumes, which the next half century will add to the groaning shelves of our jurists. The habits of generalization, which will be acquired and perfected by the liberal studies, which I have ventured to recommend, will do something to avert the fearful calamity, which threatens us, of being buried alive, not in the catacombs, but in the labyrinths of the law. I know, indeed, of but one adequate remedy, and that is by a gradual digest, under legislative authority, of those portions of our jurisprudence, which, under the forming hand of the judiciary, shall from time to time acquire scientific accuracy. By thus reducing to a text the exact principles of the law, we shall, in a great measure, get rid of the necessity of appealing to volumes, which contain jarring and discordant opinions; and thus we may pave the way to a general code, which will present, in its positive and authoritative text, the most material rules to guide the lawyer, the statesman, and the private citizen. It is obvious, that such a digest can apply only to the law, as it has been applied to human concerns in past times. But by revisions at distant periods it may be made to reflect all the light, which intermediate decisions may have thrown upon our jurisprudence. To attempt more than this would be a hopeless labor, if not an absurd project. We ought not to permit ourselves to indulge in the theoretical extravagances of some well meaning philosophical jurists, who believe, that all human concerns for the future can be provided for in a code, speaking a definite language. Sufficient for us will be the achievement, to reduce the past to order and certainty; and that this is within our reach cannot be matter of . doubtful speculation. It has been already accomplished in a manner so triumphant, that no cavil has been able to lessen the same of the authors. The Pandects of Justinian, imperfect as they are, from the haste, in which they were compiled, are a monument of imperishable glory to the wisdom of the age; and they gave to Rome, and to the civilized world, a system of civil maxims, which has not been excelled in usefulness and equity. They superseded at once the immense collections of former times, and left them to perish in oblivion; so that, of all the ante-Justinianean jurisprudence, little more remains than a few fragments, which are now and then recovered from the dust and rubbish of antiquity, in the Codices Rescripti of some venerable libraries. The modern code of France, – embracing, as it does, the entire elements of her jurisprudence in the rights, duties, relations, and obligations of civil life; the exposition of the rules of contracts of every sort, including commercial contracts; the descent, distribution, and regulation of property; the definition and punishment of crimes; the ordinary and extraordinary police of the country; and the enumeration of the whole detail of civil and criminal practice and process, - is perhaps the most finished and methodical treatise of law, that the world ever saw. This code forms also the law of Holland, and, with comparatively sew alterations, has been solemnly adopted as its fundamental law by the state of Louisiana. The materials of it were to be sought for among an almost infinite variety of provincial usages and customary laws; and were far more difficult to reduce into system than any, which belong to the common law. It is left to the future jurists of our country and England to accomplish for the common law, what has thus been so successfully demonstrated to be a practical problem in the jurisprudence of other nations ; a task, which the modest but wonderful genius of Sir William Jones did not scruple to believe to be within the reach of a single mind successfully to accomplish.
Gentlemen,- I have thus endeavoured, not as I could wish, but as I have been able, amidst the cares of private lise, and the distractions of official business, to lay before you some imperfect sketches of the past bistory of the law, of its future prospects, and of the sources, whence we may derive improvement. May I add, in the language of the eminent living jurist (Sir James Mackintosh)* whoin I have already cited, that “ There is not, in my opinion, in the whole compass of human affairs, so noble a spectacle, as that, which is displayed in the progress of jurisprudence; where we may contemplate the cautious and unwearied exertions of a succession of wise men through a long course of ages, withdrawing every case, as it arises, from the dangerous power of discretion, and subjecting it to inflexible rules; extending the dominion of justice and reason; and gradually contracting, within the narrowest possible limits, the domain of brutal force and of arbitrary will.”
If, in the discussion of these topics, I have suggested a single hint, that may cheer the student in his laborious devotion to the elements of the law; or have awakened in the mind of a single advocate another motive to quicken bis eloquence or zeal, my humble labor will not be without its consolations. We are all bound by the strong ties of civil obligation, by professional character, by patriotic pride, and by moral feelings, to cultivate and extend this interesting science. No Bar in America is more justly entitled to public confidence than that of my native state ; and none may more justly claim respect for its moral, literary, and juridical elevation, than that, which I have now the honor to address. Much, however, remains to be done, to satisfy a just ambition for excellence; and every day's experience admonishes us, that life is short, and art is long, furnishing motives at once to excite our diligence, and to restrain an undue ardor in any human pursuit.
When, indeed, I look round, and contemplate the ravages, which death has made during my own brief career, not only among the sages of the law, but among those in the fresh bloom of youth, just struggling for distinction, — the consideration fills me with the most profound melancholy. Since we were convened here on the last anniversary, the modest and accomplished Gallison has closed his useful life, and buried with him many a brilliant hope of his parents, friends, and country. I will not dwell upon his distinguished talents and virtues, bis blameless innocence of life, his elevated piety, his unwearied diligence, his extensive learning, his ardent devotion to literature, bis active benevolence, exhausting itself in good deeds, and “ blushing to find it fame.” You knew him well, and your sympathies have mingled with the tears and sorrows, that embalm his memory. But I may propose him as an example, polished, if not perfect, of that excellence, which the studies, I have this day ventured to recommend, are calculated to produce. Tacitus bas recorded with affectionate solicitude the life and character of Agricola. May I be permitted to borrow from bis admirable page a single passage, to grace the memory of my lamented friend and pupil ? “ Placide quiescas, nosque, domum tuam, ab infirmo desiderio et muliebribus lanientis ad contemplationem virtutum tuarum voces, quas neque lugeri, neque plangi fas est ; admiratione te potius quam temporalibus laudibus, et si natura suppeditet, ærnulatione decoremus. Is verus honos, ea conjunctissimi cujusque pietas.”
* Introd. Disc. 62.
We, too, must soon pass away to the tomb, where our friends and instructers, the Ameses, the Sullivans, and the Dexters, the Lowells, the Danas, the Parsonses, and the Sewalls, are gone before us. We cannot be indifferent to the fate of our children, or our country; and the happiness, as well as the honor of both, is indissolubly connected with the faithful administration of justice. Nor ought we to disguise, that that science, which has been the choice of our youth, and the ambition of our manhood, bas much in its milder studies to sooth and cheer us in the infirmilies of old age. Nor can it be deemed a human frailty, if, when we take our last farewell of the law, we “cast one longing, lingering look behind," and bless those rising lights, wbich are destined to adorn our juridical tribunals, however dimly they may be descried by our fading vision.
May our successors in the profession look back upon our times, not without some kind regrets, and some tender recollections. May they cherish our memories with that gentle reverence, which belongs to those, who have Jabored earnestly, though it may be humbly, for the advancement of the law. May they catch a holy enthusiasm from the review of our attainments, however limited they may be, which shall make them aspire after the loftiest possessions of human learning. And thus may they be enabled to advance our jurisprudence to that degree of perfection, which shall make it a blessing and protection to our own country, and excite the just admiration of mankind.
PRONOUNCED UPON THE INAUGURATION OF THE AUTHOR, AS DANE PRO
FESSOR OF LAW IN HARVARD UNIVERSITY, AUGUST 25th, 1829.
It has been customary in this University for professors, upon their induction into office, to deliver a public discourse upon some topics suitable to the occasion. Upon the establishment of a new professorship it may also be expected, that be, who for the first time fills the chair, should give some account of the foundation, and of the studies, which it proposes to encourage. I shall endeavour not wholly to disappoint the just expectations of my audience in both respects; premising, however, that much reliance must be placed upon their indulgence, since the subject affords little scope for elegant disquisition, and almost forbids those ornaments, which gratify the taste, and warm the imagination of the scholar.
My plan is, in the first place, to lay before you some considerations touching the general utility of the study of the law; and to address them with more pointed application to those, who propose to make it the business of their lives. In the next place, I shall briefly unfold the nature and objects of the professorship, which I have now the honor to occupy, and the particular studies, which it comprehends ; so that the noble design of the founder may be amply vindicated, and receive, as it deserves, the public approbation. In proportion, however, to the value and importance of these studies, I cannot but feel a diffidence, lest they should fail under my care of becoming as attractive and interesting as they ought to be; and lest my own imperfect execution of duty should cast a shade
upon the bright prospects, which the founder is opening to our view.
In the present state of knowledge, such a diffidence might well become the teacher of any science ; but the remark applies with augmented force to a science so vast, so intricate, and so comprehensive, as that of jurisprudence. In its widest extent it may