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PLAIN ADVICE TO MR. GABRIEL BLACKADDER,
A YOUNG COUNTRY ATTORNEY,
ON WILL-MAKING, AND ON THE EXECUTORSHIP AND TRUSTEESHIP.
• I said there was a society of men among us, bred up from their youth in the art of proving, by words multiplicd for the purpose, ihat white is black, and black is white, according as they are paid. To this society all the rest of the people are slaves.'-Swirt.
Tee recent irregularities of the Post Office deliveries have caused the following letter of advice to get into a wrong attorney's hands, and he has, as a matter of course, opened it, and retained it. Intended, as it appears to be, for the instruction and guidance of an individual only, still the matter is of such general interest that its publication and dissemination would appear to promise good in various quarters. There are more "Mr. Blackadders’ than one in the Law List; and those victims of the fang, styled in the pleasing language of France, Cestuique trusts,' may like to know how they are bitten!
TO GABRIEL BLACKADDER, ESQ.
Little Graspington, 19th Augost, 1840. MY DEAR GABRIEL,
Out of the great regard I bore to your dear father, Mr. Aspley Blackadder,—who might have turned his many professional opportu. nities to vast account, if he had not unfortunately been counteracted by a softness of heart and disposition quite inimical to the progress and success of a country attorney, -I am anxious to put you in posses. sion of a few hints as to arrangement, conduct and prudence, as a pro. fessional man, which I think will not be thrown away upon you. Your probationary time with the respectable firm of Messrs. Pike, Row, Badgery, and Cramp, (Lincoln's Inn attorneys,) is now over; and from finding you at your office at least once out of every twenty times I called upon you, I am satisfied that you have applied yourself to your avocations with more diligence and zeal than is to be found in any one young gentleman from the districts out of fifty. And I must say that when I have found you at your post, you have not been idling your time as others of your kind are in the habit of doing,—for I have invariably detected you reading the morning paper, or mending a pen, or engaged in some way cultivating your knowledge of men and things. Your valuable life, Gabriel, is now to commence. As with Mr. Mil. ton's Adam,* your world is all before you where to choose your
• The moment Eve was created—that is, the moment there were two on the earth, brawling and bickering commenced,—and a separating mediator (the true character of the attorney) immediately stepped in, and taught the pair to • sever.' I believe the devil is the first solicitor on record. He has, huwever, left a large pro. fessional family!
place for practice and emolument; and it will not be my fault if the son of my departed friend do not turn out an eminent attorney as well as a right prosperous man. The name of Blackadder will, I trust, be for ever associated with that of a country attorney!
The inability of your father (who resided near Lancaster), my good young friend, to co-operate cordially and effectively with that ingenious but unfortunate practitioner, Mr. Wrong, who made himself a beacon to all country professors in litigation-not only to guide but to warn—is fresh in my memory. Mr. Wrong practised, I understand, on a great and commanding scale, and but for meeting an obstinate old sea-officer, who had rugged and antiquated notions of rights and property, I have no doubt he would have been an opulent example to sequent trustees, and all rural advisers and followers; and would have distinguished himself extensively as 'a next friend' to persons of landed property. Your father-forgive me, Gabriel, for alluding to his frailties and imperfections,-was a far too yielding, good, easy, conscientious man; and there cannot be a doubt but that he affected with some taint of a timorous, enfeebling consideration, several parts of the great but unhappy will cause in his neighbourhood. It is a pity he interfered. You must endeavour, if you cannot forget, to avoid this undermining weakness; and let me assure you that it will require all your care (as you mean to set. tle somewhere in Yorkshire, Lancashire, or Westmoreland), to overcome the prejudice which exists (owing to this improvident dispute) against legal persons as executors, guardians, trustees, and next friends. However, I never yet knew a comely, well-fed blue-bottle object to fly into the web, though he did see sundry little, dried, brown skeletons of his fellow-creatures gibbeted in film, as it would appear, for the sake of example: and, in angling in the Greta or the Lune (your favourite rivers) you must have observed that you never in the spring saw a par object to rise because he had just seen one of his barred companions estranged by your means from his society.
Before you can possibly (unless you have some lucky parochial turmoil, or professional death in the village)-I say, my dear Gabriel, before you can possibly become fairly embedded, as it were, in a solid practice, you will have to watch the querulous on fair-days, provoke little disputes at the farmers' ordinaries, bestir yourself in bastardy cases (of course I need not caution you to be invariably concerned for the father,-a mother never pays!) and prosecute or defend poachers, as the case may be ; I have known poachers as worthy men in the way of paying a lawyer, as the squire that prosecutes them, or the justice that commits them. Besides, -as you are probably better paid by the victim of the game-laws,-your zeal in the cause of a poor oppressed man gets you a good name in the neigh. bourhood ; and as there is a free and rapid communication passed between the followers of similar pursuits, you are likely to have professional calls from the surprised hawker without a licence,—the maimed sufferer snatched out from under the wheels of that great political Jaggernaut, the Customs,' and from the twilight prey of the Excise. These will make your first clients, and much depends upon your own effrontery before a bench of magistrates for a triumphant career in this particular line. Be not abashed. Never attend without three or four volumes of Bacon's Abridgment, or a bunch or so of Reports, or Jacob's Law Dictionary, or any light calf-bound book,-if in folió the more imposing. You cannot be too loud against the bench,—too brow.beating towards witnesses,-or too unflinching in the assertion of cases and precedents. Never mind your grammar-be garrulous. Fat, aged, vain old gentlemen, in powder, and the commission of the peace, like to have law supplied to them by the ton, like coal, from your wharf, and are not particular as to the slatishness in quality, provided you deliver them as law coal. I cannot too strongly impress it upon you that you must take it for granted when you enter the justice-room that the only law then present is under your own arm, and that the only instrument for calling it into use is in your own mouth. I remember once attending on behalf of a man who was discovered working an illicit still, and having no book abont me but an odd volume of Cook's Bankrupt Law, I read an extract from the act on the subject of beginning to keep house, &c. and worked it up with reference to a case or two on the subject of the petitioning creditor's debt, and I brought my man off on the bare ground of the extreme difficulty of the law on the matter ! From this you may safely set it down as an unalterable rule, that you may quote any law upon any occasion, provided you confound it with the subject in hand, and well knead it up with impenetrable cases and imaginary precedents. However, I shall take it for granted that a young man of your talent and intentions, will not long remain without an imbecile landowner, a sick farmer, or a distressed widow, to open to you the field of power, wealth, and fame ; over which it will be my earnest endeavour to direct you properly and triumphantly to tread!
And here let me tell you, ex cathedrâ, that you must yourself have no granite or passion of humanity within your breast, my dear Ga. briel, of which to make your highway of life. Your feelings, your very heart must be macadamized ; so that while all may appear smooth to others, you yourself may repose in that confidence which arises from the knowledge that even all the ground and small particles of your nature are but dissevered, multiplied, and individual flints! Harden yourself into a practice of being severe and rigid in all your actions, and then you shall never fail
. Pope, acknowledged to be one of our best moral writers, remarks, The habit of a whole life is a stronger thing than all the reason in the world! Let wealth be your first great aim and end : ‘Put money in your purse,' and the world is your very obedient humble servant. What says Swift,— Grow rich, and you will have no enemies !'-Of this, however, I have my doubts, if you have a friend.
You are an only son. It is a misfortune. I wish you could have had one brother in the Church, and another in the medical line. You then would, bating the linendraper, the grocer, and the banker, (which, probably, however, would be one and the same,) be in possession of the whole village and its neighbourhood. It would be hard indeed if any given ailing man could escape the whole of you ; and of a truth the leech and the spiritual adviser must work indolently indeed if they do not by the usual means reduce the poor man into a state fit for the making, in a reasonable time, a will. Physicking, .sound, unremitting physicking, and an uninterrupted course of spiritual admonishing, cannot fail to bring down the bur. liest of minds to the required lowness: and then you come in upon the troubled waters of his mind, like oil, to smooth his worldly affairs, and provide for the trusteeship hereafter.
The common interchange of thoughts and converse with those who
will indisputably become your first clients, will very much tend to qualify you for a strict application and adherence to your duties. Do not be very squeamish about your night-times; because I have known much early business spring out of the little hours. But permit yourself rest enough to ensure your leaving your bed early in the morning. It is then that the corns of the conscience get sore and painful. Rise before you have time to air your thoughts on the pillow: the peace of mind of an attorney, like eloquence, consists in action, action, action! Demosthenes was no simpleton. I read lately, to show the weakness to which the human mind of a man not crystallized by the law, may be subdued, a maudlin sentiment of one Dr. Arbuthnot, painful indeed to contemplate in one of his years, piety, and practice: 'I have not seen anything as yet to make me recant a certain inconvenient opinion I have, that one cannot pay too dear for peace of mind !' One rejoices to see that the inconvenience is admitted. And what, let me ask, is anything in this life, apart from convenience ?
You will find, my dear Gabriel, that the fundamental principles on which our laws are based have been referred to and acknowledged by our best writers time out of mind. And surely nothing could be more unwise in a follower of the law, as far as his own interests are concerned, or more discourteous on his part to the admitted sovereignty of custom, than to break in upon the delicacies, and to disturb the mazes in which the all-abundant law is rich. I have known a very simple gentleman, who hath been lately labouring very lustily in the idle and futile endeavour to bring about a new and plain phraseology in our acts of Parliament; but I have such confidence in the wisdom and constancy of our legislators, and in their devoted attachment to precedent, that I shall be very much surprised if they can be brought to consent to an abandonment of the good old English artistical, mystical, parliamentary language. Surely if the laws were comprehensible by magistrates and unprofessional everyday men, they would lose half their dignity and effect upon the people in general; for, depend upon it, Gabriel, the difficulty in arriving at a meaning at all, even by experienced lawyers, is one of the grand sources of moral effect in an act of parliament. Swift (the literary gentleman I have already referred to) in the following passage sketches a likeness of the law, with perhaps a bitter expression, but still certainly with something like fidelity.
'It is a maxim among these lawyers, that whatever bath been done before may legally be done again : and therefore they take special care to record all the decisions formerly made against common justice, and the general reason of mankind. These, under the name of precedents, they produce as anthorities to justify the most iniquitous opinions; and the judges never fail of directing accordingly.
'In pleading they studiously avoid entering into the merits of the case ; but are loud, violent, and tedious, in dwelling upon all circumstances which are not to the purpose. For instance, in the case already mentioned, they never desire to know what claim or title my adversary hath to my cow, but whether the said cow were red or black, her horns long or short ; whether the field I graze her in be round or square; whether she were milked at home or abroad ; what diseases she is subject to, and the like. After which they consult precedents, adjourn the cause from time to time, and in ten, twenty, or thirty years come to an issue.
• It is likewise to be observed, i hat this society hath a peculiar cant and jargon of their own, that no other mortal can understand, and wherein all their laws are written, which they take special care to multiply; whereby they have wholly confounded the very essence of truth and falsehood, of right and wrong, so that it will take thirty years to decide whether the field, left me by my ancestors for six generations, belong to me, or to a stranger three hundred miles off.'
Having offered these general observations for your consideration, I shall now conclude that through the death or defalcation of a previous agent, or in consequence of sudden illness in a country gentle. man, or through the benevolent selection on the part of some wellfortuned widow, you are called upon to exercise those great powers and functions with which you are endued ; and that estates and families are about to become dependent upon your legal husbandry. You are sent for to a languishing or an agitated bedside, and now, my dear Gabriel, throw your whole professional soul into a passage which ought to be printed in letters of gold in the Law List, and in your Lett's Diary,
• There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Your fortune is at the flood in the dying man's room. And now are you called to act with firmness, oneness, and discretion. The will is to be made! The property ascertained, it is for you to suggest the mode of its appropriation ; for I never yet saw the man who was competent to undertake himself this difficult part of the task.
You will, Gabriel, have been an ill manager if you have not in some cases wormed yourself into the stewardship, or accomplished the possession of leases and title-deeds, and in fact been the active manager or agent of the testator some time before he dies. Get a farm into your own tenancy as soon as may be, and never mind the rent being a little large at the outset. You will see anon the value of this course of conduct. Confirm firstly in the will the appointment of yourself as steward. Allow all reasonable travelling expenses; costs as between client and solicitor, and give yourself a life-interest in the farm at a nominal rent. Make yourself trustee and executor, with enunciating powers to all around you. You are to pay the annuity to the widow during her widowhood (according to your approval of her conduct). You are to be guardian to the son or daughter, with a prohibitory power over marrying. You are to have a discretionary right to cut timber; sell, buy, or exchange lands; keep, hire, or discharge servants; and to repair buildings, and let farms or houses. You will take care that a large surplus is to be at your disposal, -either to be invested or divided (as you please), or expended in improvements, or consumed in costs; for on this surplus the great command over an excited family is to depend. Let'a one of them' talk of chancery, and you cut off the supplies. You act as a conscientious trustee against the rebellious, to protect the submissive; and can have apparently no personal motives to act otherwise than for the benefit of the estate. Invest yourself with liberty to raise monies by way of mortgage, and to pay them off again ; because you can always get up an arrearage