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Washington Lawyer

Legal Spectator: Waifs and Strays

From Washington Lawyer, June 2013

By Jacob A. Stein


Over the weekend, with Sunday cold rain outside, I decided to look at old clippings I saved with the thought that I would organize them for a Commonplace Book. Well, the time for it has passed. Nevertheless, the clippings deserve a posting, such as this one on character:

Character. Oh, young man, character is worth more than money. Character is worth more than anything else in this wide world. I would rather have it said of me … than to have a monument of gold….
—Dwight L. Moody (1837–1899)

But now this:

My friends, money is not all. It is not money that will mend a broken heart or reassemble the fragments of a dream. Money cannot brighten the hearth nor repair the portals of a shattered home. I refer, of course, to Confederate money.
—Judge Kelly of Chicago

Here is a writing by Malcolm Muggeridge (1903–1990), an erratic English journalist, essayist, and novelist. Here, he compares the past to the present:

The present is always chaos, its prophets always charlatans, its values always false. When it has become the past, and may be looked back on, only then is it possible to detect order underlying the chaos, truth underlying the charlatanry, inexorable justice underlying the false values. That man had to speak, and that man had to be silent; that man had to rise to power, and that man fall; that victory had to be won, and that defeat suffered. Looked back on, the past makes a pattern, every element of which, however trivial, is necessary to the whole; each incident, each word spoken, the tilt of each hat, the modulation of each voice, falling into its place. Then it is apparent that nothing takes place aimlessly, no one exists aimlessly; that truly the hairs of each head have been numbered, and the fall of each sparrow to the ground, foreseen.

G.W.E. Russell (1853-1919), a Parliamentarian, describes another Parliamentarian, Henry Labouchére:

It was a chequered experience that made him what he was. He had known men and cities; had probed in turn the mysteries of the Caucus, the Green-room, and the Stock Exchange; had been a diplomatist, a financier, a journalist, and a politician. Under these circumstances it was not surprising that his faith—no doubt originally robust—in the rectitude of human nature and the purity of human motive should have undergone some process of degeneration. . . .

Quotes like these are not to be found in the customary quotation books such as Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. Ten years ago, I wanted to find a Dorothy Parker poem for showing off in a conversation. I looked in my Bartlett’s—not there. The new Bartlett’s has just come out. It has the poem:

Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
A medley of extemporanea;
And love is a thing that can never go wrong;
And I am Marie of Roumania.

Here are a few more quotes that are interesting. We learn that John Quincy Adams did not think much of the law as logic or a system of reasoning. He may have a point.

I told [a friend] that I thought it was law logic—an artificial system of reasoning, exclusively used in Courts of justice, but good for nothing anywhere else.
—John Quincy Adams, Sec’y of State, to Wm. Wirt, Atty. Gen.

Edmund Burke thought otherwise. In characterizing a friend, Burke said:

He was bred to the law, which is, in my opinion, one of the first and noblest of human sciences; a science which does more to quicken and invigorate the understanding, than all the other kinds of learning put together; but it is not apt, except in person very happily born, to open and liberalize the mind exactly in the same proportion.

In the 1700s, Samuel Johnson advised Boswell how to keep the clients he has and how to get more clients:

Johnson: Sir, it is wrong to stir up law–suits; but when once it is certain that a law–suit is to go on, there is nothing wrong in a lawyer’s endeavoring that he shall have the benefit rather than another.

Boswell: You would not solicit employment, Sir, if you were a lawyer?

Johnson: No, Sir, but not because I should think it wrong, but because I should disdain it. However, I would not have a lawyer to be wanting to himself in using fair means. I would have him to inject a little hint now and then to prevent his being overlooked.

These Waifs and Strays, these orphans on the floor all around me, are saying they want a home in a Commonplace Book. You know, they are right. My friends, I shall start tomorrow.

Reach Jacob A. Stein at [email protected].