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Lecture wrought, while they became immortal. This is
not a digression, but belongs to my subject; though if it be considered a digression, I pray you to pardon it to the love of literature. It would lead me too far afield to mention with proper comment the great names in the law who constitute the pride and glory of the respective Inns; and I therefore resume my main purpose, namely, a consideration of the Inns in connection with legal education, and their exclusive faculty of calling persons to the bar.
From the institution of the Inns down to about legal edu
the period of the civil disturbances of 1640, the the Inns. exercise of readings was the principal mode of
legal instruction therein. The Inns were established for this purpose among others, but provision
was made only for instruction in the common law. Readings The instruction so far as given in the Inns was ings.
mainly by readings and mootings. The ancient readings continued only about “ three weeks in every Lent and every August of each year,” until they fell off in consequence of the excessive and sumptuous practices which will be referred to pres
1 In Mr. Smith's paper on “ Ancient Legal Education in the Imms of Court," 1856, vol. i., Juridical Society Papers, 385, it is said : “On the whole, the system of education anciently in use at the Inns is entitled to more respect than it often receives, although the slight esteem of it is not surprising. At all events, the system in these legal colleges was obviously suited to their special objects, – the cultivation of a learned acquaintance with the laws, and readiness and skill in applying them. There is something pleasing in the co-operation of the different grades of the societies in their common occupation. Benchers and readers, utter and inner barristers, and students appear to have been combined in the pursuit of legal knowledge." See also Smith, “ History of Education of the English Bar,” London, 1860, chaps. ii., v., vi.; Douthwaite, “Gray's Inn: History and Associations," chap. iv. ; Pearce, " Inns of Court," chap. iv.
ently. Mootings were arguments of put cases or doubtful questions in the law, between benchers and barristers, in the hall of the Inn, in the presence of the students
The reader was annually elected by the benchers What the from the most eminent or learned of the barristers, consisted and the office was considered one of great distinc- of. tion. The readings consisted of an analysis and exposition of some leading statute, or important section of a statute, in the light of the common law and the adjudged cases. Many of these readings, relating “ to the grounds and originals of the law” extending back to the time of Edward VI., are still extant, and the more important of them have been published.
The original object of the readings and the kindred exercises of mootings was instruction, but in the course of time the readings were attended with expensive entertainments given to the nobility, judges, and gentry of the kingdom; the expenses
1 " The readings were, from the very foundation of these seminaries, looked upon as a vital part of their constitution.” Pearce, “Inns of Court,” chap. iv., p. 65. Lord Coke (1 Inst., Preface) enumerates, after his laborious and learned manner, five excellent characteristics of the ancient readings. We owe to this exercise twenty-three readings ou “Fines” (27 Edw. I., chap. i.), by Sir Edward Coke, reader of the Inner Temple (temp. Elizabeth); a reading on “Sewers" (23 Henry VIII., chap. v.), by Robert Callis, reader of Gray's Inn, A. D. 1622, republished as late as 1824, and known as “ Callis on Sewers ; "Statute of Uses ” (27 Henry VIII., chap. iii.), by Sir Francis Bacon, also reader at Gray's Inn (temp. Elizabeth); and many other readings by such lawyers as Littleton, Dyer, Plowden, Fitzherbert, and Finch. Many of these readings are still regarded with great, and often with authoritative, respect in the courts of Westminster Hall. An alphabetical list of principal Readings on Statutes is given in Clarke's. Bibliotheca Legum (2d ed.), p. 402.
Lecture fell upon the reader, and often amounted to £1,000
in the course of two or three weeks, – a sum equal in value to more than three times that amount in
our day. This expensive honor finally caused the readings; revels, disuse of readings. During the period when these plays, and entertain- sumptuous entertainments were given by the read
ers, the Inns of Court were at certain seasons the scene of fantastic plays and masques, and riotous revels, which were likewise conducted on an extravagant scale, and were scarcely consistent with the purpose of the Inns as seminaries of legal learning. These were often attended by the Sovereign, the court, and the nobility, and reached their height in the reign of Elizabeth. They continued until the rebellion of 1640; but when the spirit of the Puritan obtained ascendency, entertainments of this character were denounced by an act of Parliament as “the very pompes of the Divell.” 1
As legal colleges or universities the Inns of
1 Pearce, " Inns of Court,” p. 113. See Gardiner's “ History of England," vol. vii., chap. lxxiii., as to Inns of Court masque of 1633, the prevailing immorality of the stage, the prosecution and cruel punishment of Prynne, who was sentenced by the Star Chamber to be imprisoned for life; to a fine of £5,000; to be expelled from Lincoln's Inn; to be incapable of practising his profession, degraded from his degree
in the university, set in the pillory, where both his ears were to be cut off. In reading the history of that era, even as drawn by the calm and temperate Gardiner, we feel our blood grow warm, and conclude that Cromwell was necessary and that he came none too soon. Milton's “Comus” prefigured and heralded the coming ele. vation of the literature of the drama, though destined to be delayed beyond the Restoration.
“The Czar of Muscovy, Peter the Great, was present at the Christmas revels in the Temple, 1697-8. The last of the revels in the Inns of Court took place in the Inner Temple Hall, on the elevation of Mr. Talbot to the woolsack in 1733.” Pearce, “Inns of Court," p. 128.
Court were chiefly deficient in the want of a gen. Lecture eral, comprehensive, and systematic course of instruction. The course was essentially practical, system of - exclusively and distinctively English. The main legal edupurpose was instruction in the common law and the Iuns. its statutable modifications and additions. It must have been contemplated that much the greater part of a legal education should be acquired in other modes than from the brief readings and occasional mootings. Accordingly the custom of reading in attorneys' offices, or with a barrister or private tutor, has long prevailed in England. It is called by Lord Campbell “the pupilizing system,” which is much the same as reading in lawyers' offices in this country, although the pupil is in chambers at one of the Inns of Court.
The Inns of Court maintained their primary and leading character as largely intended for legal instruction until the fifteenth century, when they became, as I have said, places of gayety and revelry. Their efficiency as seminaries of instruction declined, and from the middle of the seventeenth century the instruction in them was nominal, the real instruction being chiefly conducted in private offices. It Modern
legal edu. is only in our own time that the function of the cation in Inns as places of legal instruction has been restored. In 1852 the four Inns, acting in concert, jointly, established a uniform system for the legal education of the students, and to that end created five
1 Smith, “ Legal Education,” p. 157. For an excellent sketch of the instruction given at that time in the Inns of Court, see Chancellor Hammond's article in Steiger's “ Cyclopedia of Education,” p. 515, title “ Law Schools."
Present scheme of
cation in the Inns.
Lecture professorships; and students were required, as a con
dition of eligibility to be called to the bar, to attend for one year the lectures of two of the readers, or if this were not done to pass a satisfactory public examination. The readerships were filled by eminent jurists, and the prescribed course of instruction was minute and quite comprehensive. In 1872 an enlarged and amended scheme of legal education was promulgated by the four Inns.
At the present time (1892) the Council of Legal legal edu. Education of the Inns of Court has the superintend
ence of all matters relating to the education and examination of students for the purpose of being called to the bar, or of practising under the bar. This council consists of twenty benchers, five of whom are nominated by each of the four Inns. Before a person can be admitted into either of the Inns as a student he must satisfactorily pass an examination in the English and Latin languages and in English history. A public examination is also required and must be satisfactorily passed as a condition of being called to the bar. The scheme of instruction has been much enlarged, and it embraces an examination in the Roman as well as in the English law. The details concerning the legal education now required of both branches of the profession are set forth in the Report on Legal Education, prepared by a most competent and learned committee of the American Bar Association, with the active assistance of the United States Bureau of Education, and submitted to the Association at its meeting in 1892. That report is the most complete view of the subject that has ever