Page:The Green Bag (1889–1914), Volume 25.pdf/446

This page needs to be proofread.


The Volume XXV

The

Thirty-sixth

Green

Bag

October, 1913

Annual

Meeting

Number 10

of the

American

Bar Association THE most modern note in all the proceedings of the American Bar Association at Montreal was struck by Lord Haldane. At the present time there is a widespread survival in the legal profession of ways of looking at the law which have come down from earlier periods. While the eighteenth century natural rights theory is not often clearly enunciated nowadays, there are frequent indications that the influ ence of the analytical jurists of the first part of the nineteenth century has not yet spent itself. This influence is apparent in those who find the sanction of the law in the command of the sovereign, though the sovereign may have died long ago; who rest the author ity of the Constitution of the United States on the wisdom of the founders of the nation rather than on its vitality as one of the paramount forces in our national life of today. Another view, which may be called theological, is like wise still in evidence; according to this the divine law is regarded as the fount of eternal justice, and the principles of our organic law have their foundation in something more than secular and contemporary conditions. These atti tudes were both in evidence at Mon treal. They easily ally themselves with the mental habit of the lawyer whose interests are chiefly confined to the province of his own specialized craft,

and who, when he says that the law must be adapted to shifting circum stances, means that a new application of old rules ought to be made rather than that any material modification of the principles of his chosen science ought to be countenanced. Such a view, however, does not come naturally today to the lawyer of broad mental interests, whose mind has received the impress of the more significant intellec tual movements of the times. In Lord Haldane's address there was not a trace of any re-actionary attitude; at once broad in its survey of great matters and profound in its insight into deep problems, it was, apart from its other conspicuous merits, an exemplary pro duct of a mind exemplifying the highest qualities of the Anglo-Saxon legal intel lect of today. The dignity of this address, considered on its intrinsic merits quite as much as the dignity of the great public office held by its author, imparted a priceless quality of distinction to the sessions at Montreal, and probably no previous meeting of the association had been equally notable in this respect. A stimulating characteristic of the address was the assumption tacitly made, as if the point were not debateable, that there exists in this country a consider able element of the bar exerting a bene ficent influence on the ethical ideals of the community and contributing exten