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Government, where Law is so greatly influenced by public opinion, and where every citizen is, in some measure, intrusted with the public safety. In a strain of manly eloquence, it then speaks of the morals of the law, and the duties of the lawyer, exhorting the student to acquire a just conception of the dignity and importance of his vocation, and not to debase it by a low and narrow estimate of its requisites or its duties, — but devoting to it earnest and laborious hours, to study it in the spirit of philosophy, history, and humanity. After a few vivid paragraphs on the eloquence appropriate to the Bar, he draws an outline of the duties of his Professorship, and gives a general sketch of the different departments of the Law of Nature, the Law of Nations, Maritime and Commercial Law, Equity, and the Constitutional Law of the United States, upon which he was to be required to lecture. The discourse concludes with a commendatory notice of Mr. Dane, and of his labors and donation.
In this discourse my father again attacks the doctrine asserted by Mr. Jefferson, that Christianity is not recognized in the Common Law. He says,
“ One of the beautiful boasts of our municipal jurisprudence is, that Christianity is a part of the Common Law, from which it seeks the sanction of its rights, and by which it endeavors to regulate its doctrines. And, notwithstanding the specious objection of one of our distinguished statesmen, the boast is as true, as it is beautiful. There never has been a period, in which the Common Law did not recognize Christianity as lying at its foundations. For many ages it was almost exclusively administered by those, who held its ecclesiastical dignities. It now repudiates every act done in violation of its duties of perfect obligation. It pronounces illegal every contract offensive to its morals. It recognizes with profound humility its holidays and festivals, and obeys them, as dies non juridici. It still attaches to persons believing in its divine authority the highest degree of competency as witnesses; and until a comparatively recent period, infidels and pagans were banished from the halls of justice, as unworthy of credit. The error of the Common Law was, in reality, of a very different character. It tolerated nothing but Christianity, as taught by its own established church, either Protestant or Catholic; and with unrelenting severity consigned the conscientious heretic to the stake, regarding his very scruples as proofs of incorrigible wickedness. Thus, justice was debased, and religion itself made the minister of crimes, by calling in the aid of the secular power to enforce that conformity of belief, whose rewards and punishments belong exclusively to God.”
An interesting and highly characteristic correspondence between my father and Hon. John Quincy Adams, grew out of certain passages in this Discourse in which the genius and labors of Lord Mansfield and Lord Stowell were mentioned in terms of high praise, and the phrase “ that philosophy which dwells not in vain imaginations and Platonic dreams," was used.
TO HON. JOSEPH STORY.
Quincy, September 25th, 1829. MY DEAR SIR :
In offering you my sincere acknowledgment for the copy of
your Inaugural Discourse which I have had the pleasure of receiving from you, I ought to discharge an arrearage of debt in the account of friendship and good office between us for similar favors before. There are times and seasons when all the faculties of mind and body are so absorbed by the duties of the first class, that those of minor moment though not of inferior obligation, are involuntarily neglected. But the act of kindness though not duly reciprocated, is faithfully committed to the memory and is there cherished, perhaps with more durable gratitude than when its reception has been formally manifested. Yet upon this new opportunity being presented to me of returning you my thanks, I cannot let it pass without adding to them those which have been justly due to you heretofore.
I have read your discourse with great attention and great pleasure. I share in all your feelings with regard to the founder of this noble benefaction to our beloved Harvard, and to our country. My personal acquaintance with Mr. Dane has been so slight and is so remote in date, that he has probably no recollection of it; but I am no stranger to his character, nor to the eminent services he has rendered to his country. The Ordinance for the Northwestern Territory alone, entitles him to the gratitude of this nation, and of posterity, as long as the Union shall last.
I regretted that I could not be present at your Inauguration; but the rending of the heart with which it has lately pleased heaven to visit me and my family, has unfitted me for participation in any public festivity. Yet my heart was with you, and the anxious wish and fervent prayer that the founder, Mr. Dane, may realize all the excellent purposes of his design, and furnish to the rising generations of our native Commonwealth the means of improving the future ages of mankind, and of elevating at once the standard of our morals and of our laws.
Certain incidents, which occurred at the convivial board after your inauguration, and of which I had notice by the various animadversions upon them in the public journals, induce me to offer a few remarks which I should otherwise have thought unnecessary.
I lament that Mr. Dane should have been a member of the
Hartford Convention. I lament that he should have entertained the opinions which made it possible for him to be a member of that assembly. I more deeply lament that his name should appear to the Resolutions and to the final Report of that body. But this detracts not from the high respect which I have for his character, nor from the estimate I have formed of his services. I deem it the more necessary to say this to you inasmuch as you will recollect that during the last session of the Supreme Court of the United States at Washington, I informed you I was occupied in preparing a vindication of my own conduct and character, which necessarily involved in it a critical examination of the history and proceedings of the Hartford Convention; and that I asked of you as an act of friendship, when my manuscript should be completed, to receive and read it before it should be committed to the press, and to give me, as my friend, and as a friend of our country, your free and candid opinion of it, general and particular, that is, of the whole composition and of every part of it which you should think proper for publication or otherwise.
That manuscript is completed, and it embraces a strict and severe analysis of the proceedings of the Hartford Convention,- of their Resolutions and of their final Report. Although you encouraged my intended confidence in you, by a ready promise that you would perform for me the office of friendship which I requested, the relation into which you have since entered, both with Mr. Dane and with his patriotic Institution, has induced doubts in my mind whether a sentiment of delicacy might not now raise objections in yours, to the fulfilment of that engagement. My own confidence in your candor and judgment is unimpaired; and my desire of submitting the manuscript to your opinion as a friend has rather increased than abated. But "in omni re considerandum est, et quid postules ab amico, et quid potiare a te impetrari" - What I asked as a favor I would not impose as an unwelcome task.
Before sending you my manuscript, therefore, I would ascertain whether you still are disposed to peruse it with the eye of a censorious friendship, and with the balance of justice in the hand.
In that event, as an example of the freedom with which I should hope and expect you to perform the office, I will take the liberty of exposing to you two or three observations, which have occurred to me upon the perusal of your dis
In the first place, besides the general commendation which I would bestow upon it as a whole, I thank you especially for the vindication of the honor of our Law by the firm assertion at the bottom of the twentieth page, that Christianity is a part of the Common Law. The specious objection to which you allude deserves severer reprobation than you have passed upon it.
You say, page 46, that the Treatise of Grotius de Jure Belli et Pacis, was the first great effort in modern times to reduce into any order the principles of the Law of Nations. Was he not preceded by Albericus Gentalis ?
I find, page 5, the word inosculated. Is it a misprint ?
In your admirable recommendation of the Spirit of Philosophy to the Student of Law, you say, by way of exception, “ that Philosophy which dwells not in vain imaginations and Platonic dreams.” Is not this a severe reflection upon Plato ? Is there in all antiquity a philosophy more deserving of profound study than that of Plato; which is, in fact, that of Socrates.
You speak in terms of unqualified admiration of Lord Mansfield and Lord Stowell. Is not Lord Mansfield the most responsible of all men of that age, for the war of the American Revolution ? Was he not originally a Scottish Jacobite, with the principles of Sir Robert Filmer bred in the bone? Did he not carry them to the grave, and how much of them did he introduce into his system of Commercial Law, and fly-blow into the Common Law ?
Is not Lord Stowell the most responsible man of our age