Page images
PDF
EPUB
[blocks in formation]

crime as

Favour me, gentlest of readers, with your attention for a few minutes, and I will endeavour to place before you, in all the awful terrors of gown and parchment, the gentlemen, who compose, what is technically termed, the “ Bar” of Hobart Town. With their Honors, the Judges, 1 dare not meddle, because there is such a contempt of Court,” and such a place as

“ Bisdee's hotel”—“where the wicked cease from troubling,but “ where the weary are not at rest."

First, then, let me “begin at the beginning," and commence with His Majesty's Attorney General för Van Diemen's Land and its dependencies, Alexander M‘Dowall, Esq. We consider the Colony fortunate in its possession of this gentleman: as an advocate he is very effective, as a lawyer acute, talented and spirited-too spirited, indeed, to be shrewd—that is, to avail himself of the crooked obliquities of legal technicalities—trusting rather to strength of argument, and downright fact for the success of his pleading, than to the more easy and ingenious aid of quirk and quibble. The Attorney General's style of eloquence is characterized by considerable force, and the most pungent sarcasm : perhaps, a little over-addiction to metaphor may be charged against him; but as he is evidently an accomplished scholar, he usually manages his metaphors with tact and effect. As an instance of this we may adduce his reply on the last trial of Mr. Meredith, for a libel on Major Schaw, on which occasion he uttered the following spirited apostrophe :

“Gentlemen, it becomes my duty after this long case to address to you a few observations.

Mr. Meredith anticipated that from you he would receive ample justice. In that expression my client fully

VOL. II. NO. IX.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

114

A Day in the Supreme Court. concurs, and is well convinced he shall receive from you the justice he comes to seek. He confounds the two most separate and distinct functions, those of the Judge and Jury, and he has called upon you-he has had the moderation to ask of you to commit perjury in order to give a verdict against him. The course of conduct he has adopted to-day, has aggravated the original injury, and demands damages. Gentlemen, I have watched the men who pretend to act in the name of Patriotism, and I find their course to be to deceive, seduce and betray. The moment any of them puts himself forth, as one of the correctors of grievances, he becomes lost to every accurate recollection of himself, and is governed only by the most dangerous principles. He erects himself into a personage of prodigious dimensions, and in his imaginary character swells with utterly artificial importance. Mr. Meredith has drunk deeply of this oblivious cup, of self-forgetfulness, and now has the modesty to ask of you to sanction him in so doing. Mr. Meredith's principle is, to raise a rumour by the most slanderous inventions, and then to justify himself, for his conduct, by referring to them."

But eloquence of itself is not a very useful or effective virtue, especially in those cases, where Assessors are to determine the matters at issue; and we question very much, whether in any case of legal pleadings, it is ever very influential. The great test of an advocate's abilities, as well as the probability of his success, depends chiefly upon his manner of conducting a cause; that is, upon his skill in lucidly placing the facts before the Court, and of availing himself of every circumstance, that may be applied to his client's advantage. I may illustrate this by the following example of a lawyer's tact and acumen.

A man was committed to Newgate upon a charge of murder. If I recollect rightly, there were but little doubts of his guilt; but as the evidence was nierely circumstantial, there was a chance of his escape. By come means or other, it was proved on the Coroner's Inquest, that the murdered man must have been killed by a lefthanded person: I do not recollect the particulars, but such was the fact. The evening before the prisoner was to be tried, a legal gentleman, who had interested himself in his behalf, visited him in prison, and urged him, if he really had committed the murder, to confess to him, of course, in confidence, the whole particulars, with a view of enabling him the more successfully to prepare for the defence: the man, however, rigidly persisted in declaring his innocence, and the lawyer departed. On his arraignment at his trial, in pleading “not guilty," he held up his left hand; of which simple circumstance, the counsel for the prosecution took such advantage, as very materially to influence the Jury: the man was convicted, and, of course, executed—but not before he confessed that he was the guilty murderer, and that he had killed his victim with his left hand.

Combined, then, with his eloquence, the Attorney General possesses a considerable portion of this useful, and as it were, intuitive

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

readiness; and, in a matter of any importance, we know of no person, to whom we would more willingly entrust the leading of a cause, than to this gentleman. He enters, with admirable warmth and facility into the spirit of the case, and evinces a degree of interest and anxiety for his client, that is extremely delightful, even to a mere spectator. We end as we began, therefore by avowing, as our opinion, that the Colony isindeed fortunate in the possession of Mr. M‘Dowall.

If, however, we would give the preference to the Attorney General, as leader or conductor of a cause, give us,

by all means, Mr. Gellibrand for a defence. Although by no means deficient in oratorial energy, eloquence is not this gentleman's forte : he possesses, in a remarkable manner, that tact and talent, in the management of a case, which characterized Sir James Scarlet in his best and most vigorous days. His examination of witnesses is admirable, without effort or even the appearance of effort, he elicits the information he requires with the greatest ease imaginable : and applies it to good and pertinent purpose. His knowledge of technicalities is extensive, and extremely useful, and the Court always listens with great deference and attention to his arguments and pleading, which are founded upon an accurate knowledge of his profession, acquired during a long and extensive practice. He has a very happy talent of sifting cases to the bottom with great ease and rapidity, and, by so doing, saves the Court a great deal of time and even trouble, without any carelessness to his client, or any want of exertion in his behalf. In disputed cases, where property is concerned, as in the late important one of Solomon and Davis, Mr. Gellibrand shows to great advantage and effect, bringing his knowledge and experience to bear upon the different points with great ability, and evincing to the most careless observer, an intimate and accurate acquaintance with a very laborious and intricate profession. In addition to his legal and forensic acquirements, Mr. Gellibrand possesses no mean literary talents, having, we believe, conducted one of our Colonial Journals, and being, now, an occasional contributor to them.

Mr. Horne is next on our list; and, although clearly a man of no mean ability, he does not possess the means of displaying it. Like Dr. Llhotsky of Sydney, his fund of information is, we do not doubt, copious and abundant: but, like that gentleman, he has not yet acquired the right mode of either using or applying it. There is a laborious heavinessa want of the lucidus ordo-a cumbersome reiteration in his way of conducting a case, which are extremely oppressive, and which try the patience of the Court-more espe. cially, when Mr. Justice Montagu presides—in a manner well calculated to remind it and all other persons, of the proverbial fortitude and forbearance of Job. Yet Mr. Horne enters with considerable spirit and eagerness into his cases : perhaps, were he a little less anxious, he would be enabled to shine more advantageously. In the mere matter of examining witnesses, he is most particularly prolix, tiresome, and wearisome: the same question is asked over and over again, even until the Court is oftentimes compelled to interpose its authority, and prevent the grievous repetition : but, I really think, all this might be avoided, by the simple curbing of Mr. Horne's exuberant fancy, and a little more addition to some formal steadiness of procedure: he is a clever man, and has the means, we think, of decidedly displaying his abilities. Why, then, will he not study these means ?

As an advocate, we must now approach Mr. Sutton; and we do so, with the utmost respect and reverence. An extraordinary man, in every respect, is Mr. Sutton, and we are sincerely grieved, that he does not more frequently adorn the Bar of Tasmania with the profundity of his legal erudition, and electrify the public with the lightning and force of his forensic eloquence. Who can conduct the case of a “fence” with more ability than Mr. Sutton? Who can mystify a jury with greater tact than Mr. Sutton ? And, finally, who can enforce his arguments with greater effect than Mr. Sutton ? Truly, we opine, that the inhabitants of Tasmania ought to subscribe for the perpetual retention, in all popular cases—libel, as well as others—of this talented gentleman. And we think they would do so, were the object of their adoration not so shy and diffident: as it is, the inherent modesty of his character repulses the natural impetus of his ardent constitution, and keeps him in the back ground : we sincerely lament this, and pray for its reformation.

Mr. Allport, the only other gentleman, who pleads to any extent in the Supreme Court, is rather a "new hand,” but, from what we have observed of him, we esteem him an acquisition to the Colony, There is a quiet, but most estimable demeanour about Mr. Allport, which must inevitably win the good feeling of all persons. In conducting a case, he uses every effort to elucidate its prominent points, and, generally, succeeds: he is not yet sufficiently acquainted with the "quips and cranks" of this Colony to avail himself of the various manœuvres, which are constantly put in practice; but, we doubt not, that he will and when he does, he will be a much abler advocate than he is.

We have, by an unpardonable oversight, omitted Mr. Rowlands, as well as Mr. Hugh Ross, both frequently engaged in the Supreme Court, but not so much in the character of Counsel, as in that of Solicitors: when they do appear in the former capacity, they evince a considerable ingenuity, and Mr. Rowlands, especially, whether engaged in a rich man's cause or a poor one's, exerts himself with a zeal and an energy, that renders his services always valuable.

Y. Z

THE ARREST.
They are come!--who ne'er knew pity,

At the sight of another's fears!
They are come-whose orbs are rolled in blood

But were never dimm'd with tears !

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »