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With these purposes and ideals so well known we feel like this meeting is entitled to the best you have in your city and that the Association is entitled to your support for your own better protection and safety if for no other reason.
In spite of all our goodness, we have not come to your city as did the angels in the days of old, to warn you to flee from the wrath of God, for if I remember correctly the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers met in Memphis just before the last meeting of the Association and there were many times as many of the engineers present as there were lawyers, but the liquor dealers said they much preferred the lawyers. If by chance we should leave the Association and visit the Bar, forget it, forget it.
We appreciate your eloquent and heartfelt welcome and assure you it is a real pleasure and a joyful feeling to be permitted to enjoy your hospitality and live with you for only a too short a time in your matchless city.
ADDRESS OF THE PRESIDENT, ALBERT W. BIGGS. Gentlemen of the Association and Ladies :
I was not present at the meeting of this Association, which was held in Knoxville last year, hence I did not have the opportunity of returning to you my thanks for the honor conferred upon me by my election as its President. I beg of you that I may be permitted to do so now.
I know of few honors that can come to a Tennessee lawyer greater than to preside over the Tennessee Bar Association. For more than one hundred years the bar of Tennessee has played an important and an honorable part in our history. From the days of Felix Grundy, Haywood and Cooke, a long and illustrious line of lawyers, Catron, Andrew Jackson, the Wrights, Archibald and our own Luke E., the Reeses, the Greens, the Carrolls, Howell E. Jackson, Horace H. Lurton, Jacob M. Dickinson, and others, have furnished not only to the State, but to the nation, examples of the highest ethics united with great ability and unselfish patriotism. It has been to the honor of the Tennessee bar that its members have been selected for the most difficult and important tasks which have confronted our national government, and it many instances by a President of a different political party. Thus it was that one of the members of this Association was called to represent the United States Government in the Behring Sea controversy ; another was sent to formulate a government for a semi-savage people in the distant islands of the sea. Both occupied seats in the cabinet of presidents of different political beliefs. Twice have members of this bar been appointed to places on the bench of the Supreme Court of the United States, when the appointee was of a different political faith from the appointing power. I may say that the time has never been, and I trust it never will be, when the lawyers of Tennessee will be ready to enlist under any flag which promised personal aggrandizement at the sacrifice of professional honor.
To be numbered among the distinquished presidents of an Association, with a membership such as this Association has, is an honor of which I am justly proud, and I thank you, gentlemen of the Association, for my election.
The Constitution of this Association makes it the duty of the President to open each annual meeting with an address, in which he is enjoined to “communicate the most noteworthy changes in the statute law on points of general interest made in this State and by Congress during the preceding year.” At the present writing (June 21, 1913), the session of the General Assembly which convened on the first Monday of January last. is yet in session, and, while a few weeks ago there were none who would venture to say when it would adjourn, there are now some of greater faith, who look for an adjournment during this calendar year. For the benefit of our invited guests I pause to say that not all of these have been legislative days, but during at least half of the time both houses have but met and adjourned from day to day. I venture that if such were not the case, and if all this time had been given to the making of laws, we would be in the condition here that was once said of France: “We have more laws in France than in all the rest of the world besides.” I do not disparage the quantity of our laws, despite the fact that our legislature has not been running at full capacity. Indeed, during a part of the time, owing to the biennial pilgrimage of some of the members to another jurisdiction, and a refusal at other times to attend the sessions, they
have been "short-handed.” What might have been done if such had not been the case, we are left to conjecture. At least, when we consider their opportunities, we are constrained to marvel at their moderation.
When a roll of states is called Tennessee cannot, however, claim more than honorable mention in this particular, for with the making of laws, as with books, there is no restraint, reasonable or unreasonable, save the protecting care of the constitution and the Bill of Rights, and there are some who would remove these.
In truth, we are fast becoming a law-ridden people. Some years ago the speaker of one of the houses of the New York Assembly, when reviewing the work of a session just brought to a close, in an address before a Chautauqua assembly, said:
“It is a terrible thing to be governed to death.”
When this Association was organized thirty years ago, and it was made the duty of the President to communicate to the annual meeting the most noteworthy changes made in the statute law, the lawmaking habit had not become so fixed as at present. If so, I seriously doubt if such provision would have been inserted in our constitution. Rather it would have been provided that the meeting should be opened with a prayer that “from the making of so many laws may the good Lord deliver
From what I have said it follows that I cannot, within reasonable limitations as to time, present for your consideration all of the most noteworthy changes in the statute law, State and Federal, during the preceding year. I shall therefore avail myself of the quite prevalent custom of filing a list of such laws as an appendix to this address (with leave to print); and content myself as well, as in that matter at least, please you, by calling to your attention only a few of the most important changes and commenting on the general trend of legislation.
I shall not attempt to lay down any formula whereby too much legislation may be prevented. I know of no remedy. Nor shall I stop to lament the departure from the days of a few laws and simple living. Those days have passed, and we cannot hope to return to them. To do so we would have to turn back the hands of progress on the dial of time and go back, in fact, if in theory, to the stage coach and tallow candle, which we would not do if we could.
This government was founded on the theory that the best government is the one where there is the least interference by the State with the citizen consistent with law and order, and the security of person and property.
When we recall that the fathers had what they thought was too much government of the kind, and when the dearly bought liberties of the English people had not become time-worn with use, we can well understand how zealous they were to establish governments which would interfere the least with the rights of the individual. For a hundred years we boasted of such a government. Yet from the first, though imperceptible for many decades, we drifted from that doctrine of laissez faire, or the non-interference by the government with the citizen. A review of legislation, State and National, will show that after the first few decades the recurring sessions of the general assemblies of States and Congress carried us further from this one-time highly prized doctrine. He has been a superficial student who does not realize that we are approaching paternalism and adding to the powers of the central governments, State and National.
In the early days it was not considered either the right or the duty of the State to interfere by law with those matters of individual concern which were then best worked out by the intercourse of one citizen with another, under natural laws. What was termed “personal liberty” was highly prized. Centralized power was looked upon with disfavor, even fear. The conflict between the king, who was the State, and the individual, was too fresh in the minds of the framers of our government for them to want a government of great power. The right of local self-government (existing at the time of the adoption of the State constitutions, though frequently not mentioned in them) was regarded as one of the most valued rights of the citizen, and was not affected or deemed as surrendered by the adoption of these constitutions. Each community regulated in its own way its purely local matters.
The citizen pursued his own vocation in his own way, untrammeled by laws or regulations, and looked to the government for protection of his life, his liberty and his property, but not for assistance in the pursuit of either pleasure or profit. The line of demarcation between the functions of government and the individual rights of the citizen was clear, and encroachments by the former were not readily accepted. Witness the whiskey rebellion in Pennsylvania against the tax on spirits, and later the attempt by South Carolina to nullify the customs, which was more of a conflict between the Federal and State authority than of the resistance of the people to the curtailment by the government of rights of the individual.
Many things have united to bring about changes from these conditions. Within the limitations of an address such as this I can not enumerate all of them. I shall not attempt to give them in a nutshell. I shall name a few of the many to illustrate my premise, that our government has become a paternal one, and will attempt to show that it will continue such. First of all, from a small population lying along the Atlantic seaboard, with few cities of importance, and a vast unsettled frontier, the extent of which was unknown, with a people devoted largely to agriculture and to such commerce as we had by sea with the mother country and West Indies, we have grown to be a nation with a population approaching one hundred millions of people, with no longer any frontier, having an urban population of approximately one-third of the total. Inventions, following fast and furious, have changed the habits and customs of the people. Rapid transit has put in touch the most distant places of the country. We have telegraphic and telephonic communications everywhere and with everybody. Our wealth is unknown to any other country. Though our territory extends from sea to sea, we are a compact people, so dependent one upon another that commercial depression or prosperity in one section is immediately reflected through the great trade centers to every part of the common country. Conditions of life have changed. Things are now regarded as the essentials which were the luxuries of the rich of a decade ago, and were unknown at the close of the Civil War. Legislative favors, which were the first indicia of paternalism, have fostered private interests and