Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Eloquence, rather than jurisprudence, was the study of pleaders. Cicero says, that three months study would make a complete civilian; nay, it was thought that a man might be a good pleader without any previous study. Among the Romans there was a set of men, called Pragmatici, whose office it was to supply the orator with all the law knowledge his cause required; wbich he disposed in that popular form, and decorated with those colours of eloquence which were most fitted for influencing the judges.

It may also be observed, that the civil and criminal judges in Greece and Rome, were more numerous than with us, and formed a kind of popular assembly. The celebrated tribunal of the Areopagus at Athens consisted of fifty judges at least. In Rome the Judices Selecti, were always numerous, and had the office and power of judge and jury. In the famous cause of Milo, Cicero spoke to fifty one Judices Selecti, and thus had the advantage of addressing his whole pleading, not to one or a few learned judges of the point of law, as is the case with us, but to an assembly of Roman citizens. Hence those arts of popular eloquence, which he employed with such success. Hence certain practices which would be reckoned theatrical by us, were common at the Roman bar; such, as introducing not only the accused person dressed in deep mourning, but presenting to the judges bis family and young children, endeavouring to excite pity by their cries and tears.

The foundation of a lawyer's reputation and success must be laid in a profound knowledge of his profession. If his abilities, as a speaker, be

exer so eminent; yet, if his knowledge of the law be superficial, few will choose to engage him in their defence. Beside previous study and an ample stock of acquired knowledge, another thing inseparable from the success of every pleader, is a diligent and painful attention to every cause with which he is entrusted; to all the facts and circumstances with which it is connected. Thus he will in a great measure be prepared for the arguments of his opponent; and, being previously acquainted with the weak parts of his own cause, he will be able to fortify then in the best manner against the attacks of his adversary.

Though the ancient popular and vehement manner of pleading is now in a great measure superseded, we must not infer that there is no room for eloquence at the bar, and that the study of it is superfluous. There is perhaps no scene of public speaking, where eloquence is more requisite. The dryness and subtilty of subjects usually agitated at the bar, require, more than any other, a certain kind of eloquence, in order to command attention; to give proper weight to the arguments employed; and to prevent what the pleader advances from passing unregarded. The effect of good speaking is always great. There is as much difference in the impression made by a cold, dry, and confused speaker, and that made by one who pleads the same cause with elegance, order, and strength, as there is between our conception of an object, when presented in twilight, and when viewed in the effulgence of noon.

Purity and neatness of expression is in this species of eloquence chiefly to be studied; a style perspicuous and proper, not needlessly overcharged with the pedantry of law terms, nor affectedly avoiding these, when suitable and requisite. Verbosity is a fault of which men of this profession are frequently accused; into which the habit of speaking and writing hastily, and with little preparation, almost unavoidably betrays them. It cannot therefore be too earnestly recommended to those, who are beginning to practice at the bar, that they early guard against this, while they have leisure for preparation. Let them form themselves to the habit of a strong and correct style; which will become natural to them afterward, when compelled by multiplicity of business to compose with precipitation. Whereas, if a loose and negligent style have been suffered to become familiar, they will not be able, even upon occasions when they wish to make an unusual effort, to express themselves with force and elegance.

Distinctness in speaking at the bar is a capital property. It should be shown, first in stating the question; in exhibiting clearly the point in debate; what we admit; what we deny; and where the line of division begins between us and the adverse party. Next, it should appear in the order and arrangement of all the parts of the pleading. A clear method is of the highest consequence in every species of oration ; but in those intricate cases, which belong to the bar, it is infinitely essential.

Narration of facts should always be as concise as the nature of them will admit. They are always very necessary to be remembered; conse

quently unnecessary minuteness in relating thera overloads the memory. Whereas, if a pleader omit all snperfivous circumstances in his recital, he adds strength to the material facts; gives a clearer view of what he relates, and makes the impression of it more lasting. In argumenta, tion however, a more diffuse manner seems requisite at the bar than on some other occasions. For in popular assemblies, where the subject of debate is often a plain question, arguments gain strength by conciseness. But the intricacy of law points frequently requires the arguments to be expanded and placed in different lights, in order to be fully apprehended.

Candour in stating the arguments of bis ad. versary cannot be too much recommended to eva ery pleader. If he disguise them, or place them in a false light, the artitice will soon be discov. ered; and the judge and the hearers will conclude, that he either wants discernment to perceive, or fairness to admit, the strength of his opponent's reasoning. But, if he state with accuracy and capdour the arguments used against him, before he endeavour to combat them, a strong prejudice is created in bis favour. He will appear to have entire confidence in his cause, since he does not attempt to support it by artifice or concealment. The judge will therefore be inclined to receive more readily the impres. sions made upon him by a speaker who appears both fair and penetrating.

Wit may sometimes be serviceable at the bar, particularly in a lively reply, by which ridicule is thrown on what an adversary has advanced, But a young pleadershould never rest his strength

on this dazzling talent. His office is not to excite laughter, but to produce conviction; nor perhaps did any one ever rise to eminence in his profession by being a witty lawyer.

Since an advocate personates his client, he must plead his cause with a proper degree of warmth. He must be cautious however of prostituting his earnestness and sensibility by an equal degree of ardour on every subject. There is a dignity of character, which it is highly important for every one of this profession to support. An opinion of probity and honourin a pleader is his most powerful instrument of persuasion. He should always, therefore, decline embarking in causes which are odious, and manifestly onjust; and, when he supports a doubtful cause, he should lay the chief stress upon those arguments which appear to him to be the most forcible; reserving his zeal and indignation for cases where injustice and iniquity are flagrant.

ELOQUENCE OF THE PULPIT. Having treated of the eloquence of popular assemblies, and that of the bar, we shall now consider the strain and spirit of that eloquence which is suited to the pulpit. This field of public speaking has several advantages peculiar to itself. The dignity and importance of its subjects must be allowed to be superior to any other. They admit the highest embellishment in description, and the greatest warmth and vehemence of expression. In treating his subject, the preacher has also peculiar advantages. He speaks net to one or a

« AnteriorContinuar »