Page:The Green Bag (1889–1914), Volume 25.pdf/68

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On the Judgment of One's Peers contemporaneous posterity has been taken more seriously than any half truth deserves to be. Foreigners are quick to recognize something akin to their own national genius, as French men did in the works of Poe, but a writer whose inspiration is indigenous must first arrive in his own country. Now, whether one be laying out his life on a five-talent plan, or be more humbly striving to make one talent go as far as it can, he must begin with an appeal to the appreciation of the man next door. Recalling the look of polite resignation you have often worn in my presence I can fancy your expression of patronizing indulgence as you read. I have a practical corollary, however, which may not be altogether trite. Most people realize the judgment of their peers only through the bitter experience of tangible failure. Some, indeed, ask advice as to definite projects in view. Next to nobody seeks generally to sen sitize himself to the influence of outside criticism. Cousin Horace and his numer ous ilk "cultivate people" in order to "break into society," or to gain clients or customers. Very few deliberate how far they may attain to seeing themselves as others see them as the basis of selfcriticism. That old rat, Polonius — he was baned for a rat by the way — touched upon the point when he admon ished "Takehiseach son :man's — censure but reserve thy judgment." If you ever decide to follow in my professional footsteps it should be from a spontaneous call to the law much stronger and more unmistakable than my present call to preach. You must not impute a motive of indirectly inter esting you in professional affairs when I say that the benefit of something akin to forensic advocacy is desirable for the good of one's general intellectual life.


Forensic ethics indeed limit an advocate to presentation of the evidence and mak ing the facts themselves speak; the expression of his personal opinion is precluded. Nevertheless, the underlying theory is that truth is mighty and will prevail and that the best method of reaching truth is through hearing the strongest utterances from diverse points of view. This policy has survived centu ries of misconception of its ethics by lay men because of its real utility. Even if you do not become a member of the bar I trust you will cultivate the atti tude of judicial receptivity without which advocacy itself misses its major convincingness. My secretary is away and I copy this passage out of Bryce's "American Com monwealth" in my own hand — fortun ately you are one of the few persons in the world who could read it : — "Any one who has made it his business to feel the pulse of English opinion must be sensible that when he has been away from England for a few weeks, he is sure, no matter how diligently he pe ruses the leading English papers of all shades, to 'lose touch' of the current sentiment of England in its actuality. The journals seem to convey to him what their writers wish to be believed, and not necessarily what the people are really thinking; and he feels more and more as weeks pass, the need of an hour's talk with four or five discerning friends of different types of thought, from whom he will gather how current facts strike and move the minds of his countrymen. Every prudent man keeps a circle of such friends, by whom he can test and correct his own impressions better than by the almost official utterances of the party journals." A politician is necessarily an oppor tunist and with him, sensing public opinion is of primary concern and not