pages 231 - 238
Our early legislatures never thought it necessary to protect us against ignorant
pretenders in the practice of medicine, but did in the practice of the legal
profession and we have always had laws that required every lawyer to undergo
an examination as to his qualifications before he received a license to practice
law. Not only does the law require that the student shall know the law, but he
must prove that he has read at least for the space of two years in the office of
some regular practitioner. This being so, it has been wondered how some have
license to practice without any legal learning. The thing is simple enough when
explained. The Supreme Court has always deemed it an act of courtesy to the
sister states that any lawyers they had examined and admitted to practice there
should be admitted here without an examination, and some of the sister states
require no particular amount of reading before being admitted. At one time our
Supreme Court was very exact on this subject. While that was the case, young men
could go across the line and get a license, and walk into court here with
triumph, without having studied the two years, or two months even. Much of the
time our court here has been very indulgent on the subject, and, in stead of
examining the student themselves, would appoint a committee to examine him, who,
having enough to do, and expecting no pay for the service, would sign a report
in the student's favor with little or no examination. I have seen poor fellows
examined in open court, until they would sweat profusely; I have also known
licenses granted upon examinations that amounted to nothing.
Gov. Ford and some one, I believe G. T. Metcalf, Esq., and I, were appointed a committee to examine an applicant. We met in Mr. M.'s office; Gov. Ford asked "What is law?" and the usual answer being given, he signed the recommendation. Mr. M. asked a similar question, and signed it; I asked two or three others, and signed it also. Then, all at once, he who dreaded the examination and looked upon it with awful misgivings lest he should be rejected, found himself a happy, new-fledged lawyer.
Samuel Q. Richardson, who, in his day, was well known in Kentucky (especially will his tragical death be remembered), told me (nearly forty years ago) the following story: He and two others were appointed by a court in Cincinnati to examine an applicant for the profession; they met, and a tall, rather good-looking, but at the same time a verdant, young man made his appearance before them. They examined him a little and told him they could by no means recommend him to the court as qualified to practice the legal profession. He told them that he was no lawyer; that he had been brought up a carpenter, and was plying that trade then in that city, but he had concluded he could do better. I see, said he, where the shoe pinches. You perceive I am ignorant (which fact is as well known to me as to you), and you are ashamed to have such a one side by side with you in the bar of Cincinnati. I propose nothing of the kind. If you will procure my license, I will go immediately to Indiana, and apply myself to reading, and before the people find out how ignorant I am I will cease to be so ignorant. His argument prevailed, and he obtained the license, went to Indiana, and, when the story was told to me he was governor of that state. His name was James B. Ray.
I once heard of, but was not present at, the following examination:
1st Committeeman.—What is law?
2d Committeeman.—What is meant by the common law?
3d Committeeman.—What is meant by the civil law?
1st Committeeman—What is good brandy made of?
2d Committeeman.—Are you a judge of the article?
3d Committeeman.—Do you know where the article can be got? Ans. I do.
1st Committeeman.—That will do.
And while he was getting the brandy they signed his recommendation, and the
brandy ended the farce.
This sounds ridiculous enough, but really the public needs but little protection
against ignorant lawyers. Let a fellow who knows nothing obtain a license to
practice law, and who will employ him? He will not get business enough to keep
him from starving, and will have to quit and go to some other business. This is
the rule. The only exception is that a man of great persistence may endure the
mortifications of defeat until he rises above them.
Not so with doctors. If a lawyer commits blunders, there is always a man on hand hired to expose them; whereas, the quack, with his dignified and mysterious airs, creeps quietly into your family (perhaps in the dead hours of night), and administers to your dearest friend a nostrum that will kill or cure, no one knows which, nor will the secret ever beknown until Gabriel's last trump shall be sounded. How villainously wicked is the man who, when intrusted with the life of your wife, your husband, or child, will administer a drug that he does not know whether it will kill or cure, or do neither! Every honest, well-educated physician ought to be in favor of a law that would prohibit a man from practicing medicine or surgery who is not acquainted with the power of medicines and the anatomy of the human frame.
I, would make the same remarks with regard to the necessity of having learned men in the profession of divinity (for divines, like doctors, have no one present hired to expose their errors); but, from the earliest history of man up to the present time, a large majority of men have had the organ of marvelousness so strongly developed, that they must be humbugged. They can not do without it; and if no one will humbug them gratis, they will readily pay some one to do it. For the present, at least, every body must be permitted to preach—saints and sinners, philosophers and fools.
To John L. Bogardus, Esq., must be awarded the credit of being the pioneer lawyer of Peoria, and next in order of time stands Hon. Lewis Bigelow.
When I came here, in November 1831, they were the only lawyers here, and the latter was only looking out for a location. He only remained a few days, and then went to St. Louis, and spent the winter there, I suppose because there was no place in Peoria where he could comfortably board. About the middle of March he returned to Peoria, and made this place his home until he died, in October 1838. He may, therefore, be called the second lawyer who settled in Peoria.
He was born in Massachusetts in 1783; was educated to the law, and practiced that profession for years there, and was a member of Congress from 1821 to 1823. He published a Digest of the first twelve volumes of Massachusetts Reports.
Mr. Bigelow was a well-read lawyer, but not a successful practitioner. He was a man of strong prejudices, and lacked complaisance of manner. He was not void of logic, and appeared to be a good grammarian, and would argue a question of law pretty well, but his speeches were destitute of ornament, and his action was ungraceful. But probably the main reason of his failing as a lawyer was his want of tact. He seemed to me to be unskillful in the selection of a jury, and when selected, in addressing them so as to take advantage of their prejudices, or to avoid running against them. He would have selected the same kind of jurymen were he defending a horse-thief, as he would had he been prosecuting him; or had he been adjusting a mercantile policy of insurance, or a controversy between farmers about the trespasses of cattle. The question with him was not whether this man, from his peculiar habits and prejudices, will likely go against him or for him, but whether, according to Mr. B.'s standard, he was a sensible and good man—that is, whether he was a man of staid New-England habits. He seemed to have a poor opinion of southern and western people and their habits.
He was not an orthodox Christian, according to New-England ideas. He was, as I understood him, a strong believer in the Christian religion, but not in the Trinity, and some other strong Calvinistic doctrines. I understood him to be a Unitarian.
He seemed to be aware of his want of adaptedness to the kind of jury practice we had here, and withdrew from the practice of the law for the offices of Justice of the Peace and Clerk of the Circuit Court, although those offices were then by no means lucrative.
The name of Mr. Bigelow is made most familiar to the present generation by his being one of the proprietors of Bigelow & Underhill's Addition to Peoria. He left, at his death, no wife nor son, but four daughters, Mrs. Frisby, afterward Mrs. Rankin, Mrs. Harding, Mrs. Armstrong, and Mrs. Metcalf, all of whom have raised children.
Several lawyers who have cut a considerable figure in their profession in Peoria have left this scene of action, whether for a better or worse, the writer hereof presumes not to decide, viz., William Frisby, Lincoln B. Knowlton, Onslow Peters, Norman H. Purple, Halsey O. Merriman, Julius Manning, Thomas Ford, Ezra G. Sanger and William L. May. Mr. Frisby and Mr. Sanger died young, before they had had time to establish high reputations, but their prospects of success as lawyers were bright. Mr. May was more of a politician than lawyer. He seldom attempted to argue a question of law, but on a question of fact, before a jury, or in a political speech, his ability was above mediocrity.
He was by birth a Kentuckian, and at one time a member of the Illinois Legislature, and at another register at the Springfield land-office, and from 1835 to 1839 he was a member of Congress. He, with thousands of others, rushed to California on the first report of the discovery of gold in that country, but the fatigues and exposure of that journey were too severe for his constitution. He sickened and died, leaving a wife and some children in Peoria. He had had, in his life, three wives. The one he left when he died was the daughter of the once somewhat celebrated Caesar A. Rodney.
Mr. May was a profane man, who made no pretensions to religion of any kind; yet as such men at heart often believe the Christian religion, he may have done so. He, however, was one of those who do not 'show their faith by their works'.
The following compose the present bar of Peoria:
|Elihu N. Powell||L. H. Kerr|
|Bryan & Cochran||H. W. Wells|
|Cooper & Moss||O'Brien & Harmon|
|Wead & Jack||Lindsay & Feinse|
|Henry Grove||Chauncey Nye|
|Johnson & Hopkins||Worthington & Puterbaugh|
|Ingersoll & McCune||F. W. Voigt|
|Robison & Caldwell||Griffiths & Lee|
|McCoy & Stevens||M. C. Quinn|
|McCulloch & Rice||L. A. Lapham|
|Kellogg & Son||W. Loucks|
|Thomas Cratty||A. M. Scott|
|Julius S. Starr||George E. Ford|
|Ellis Powell||George L. Bestor|
Several of these do but little business, but as they have license and are willing to do business, I include them. There are several others who have license, but, as I suppose they obtained it not expecting to practice, but for the honor of the thing, I omit them. I also omit Hon. S. D. Puterbaugh, because he has left the bar for the bench; Hon. E. C. Ingersoll, because he has abandoned the bar for a seat in Congress; and myself, because I have not abandoned the profession temporarily, as I suppose they have done, but for life.
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