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THE lawyers are the real aristocracy of America; they comprehend nearly the whole of the gentility, talent, and- liberal information of the Union. Any one who has had the pleasure of being at one of their meetings, such as the Kent Club at New York, would be satisfied that there is no want of gentlemen with enlightened, liberal ideas in the United States; but it is to the law, the navy, and the army, that you must chiefly look for this class of people. Such must ever be the case in a democracy, where the mass are to be led ; the knowledge of the laws of the country, and the habit of public speaking, being essential to those who would preside at the helm or assist in the evolutions: the consequence has been, that in every era of the Union,
the lawyers have always been the most promi
nent actors; and it may be added that they ever will play the most distinguished parts. Clay and Webster of the present day are, and all the leading men of the former generation were, lawyers. Their Presidents have almost all been lawyers, and any deviation from this custom has been attended with evil results; witness the elevation of General Jackson to the presidency, and the heavy price which the Americans have paid for their phantom glory. The names of Judge Marshall and of Chancellor Kent are well known in this country, and most deservedly so: indeed, I am informed it has latterly been the custom in our own law courts, to cite as cases the decisions of many of the superior American judges—a just tribute to their discrimination and their worth.
The general arrangement of that part of the American constitution relating to the judicature is extremely good, perhaps the best of all their legislative arrangements, yet it contains some great errors; one of which is, that of dis
VOL. III. K
trict and inferior judges being elected, as it leaves the judge at the mercy of an excitable and overbearing people, who will attempt to dictate to him as they do to their spiritual teacher. Occasionally he must choose whether he will decide as they wish, or lose his situation on the ensuing electio'n. Justice as well as religion will be interfered with by the despotism of the democracy.
The Americans are fond of law in one respect; that is, they are fond of going to law. It is excitement to them, and not so expensive as in this country. It is a pleasure which they can afford, and for which they cheerfully pay.
But, on the other hand, the very first object of the Americans, after a law has been passed, is to find out how they can evade it : this exercises their ingenuity, and it is very amusing to obQerve how cleverly they sometimes manage it. Every State enactment to uphold the morals, or for the better regulation of society, is immedi
ately opposed by the sovereign people.
An act was passed to prohibit the playing at nine pins, (a very foolish act, as the Americans have so few amusements) : as soon as the law was put in force, it was notified every where, “ Ten pins played here,” and they have been played every where, ever since.
Another act was passed to put down billiard tables, and in this instance every precaution was taken by an accurate description of the billiard table, that the law might be enforced. Whereupon an extra packet was added to the billiard table, and thus the law was evaded.
When I was at Louisville, a bill which had been brought in by Congress, to prevent the numerous accidents which occured in steam navigation, came into force. Inspectors were appointed to see that the steam-boats complied with the regulations; and those boats which Were not provided according to law, did not receive the certificate from the inspectors, and were liable to a fine of five hundred dollars if they navigated without it. A steam-boat was ready to start; the passengers clubbed together and subscribed half the sum, (two hundred and fifty dollars), and, as the informer was to have half the penalty, the captain of the boat went and informed against himself and received the other half; and thus was the fine paid.
At Baltimore, in consequence of the prevalence of hydrophobia, the civic authorities passed a law, that all dogs should be muzzled, or, rather, the terms were, “that all dogs should wear a muzzle,” or the owner of a dog not wearing a muzzle, should be brought up and fined; and the regulation further stated that anybody convicted of having “ removed the muzzle from off a dog should also be severely fined.” A man, therefore, tied a muzzle to his dog’s tail (the'act not stating where the muzzle was to be placed). One of the city officers, per~ ceiving this dog with his muzzle at the wrong end, took possession of the dog and brought it to the Town-hall; its master, being well
known, was summoned, and appeared. He