previous next
[p. 50] did not exist, as it was held objectionable that lawyers should direct men in their causes. Men in all callings, and particularly the clergy, meddled and dabbled with the law's administration.

The Court House was an early necessity, and was as easy of access to all as were the House of Correction, the stocks and the schools. Beside the meeting-house was the whipping post; in the market-place was the stocks. The dealing out of justice was rough and substantial, though direct and effective.

When we remember the fate of Thomas Lechford, who seems to have been the first lawyer in Massachusetts, it is with a feeling of trepidation that we seek for his successors for many years after.

‘I am kept,’ wrote Lechford, ‘from the sacrament, and all places of preferment in the Commonwealth, and forced to get my living by writing petty things, which scarce finds me bread, and therefore I sometimes look to planting corn, but have not yet here an house of my own to put my head in or any stock going.’

It was not until the last quarter of the eighteenth century that law as a profession offered any inducement to men of learning and ability and that the dominant prejudice was overcome. About 1768 there were about twenty-five lawyers in Massachusetts; they were clustered at the larger and more thickly populated localities. Many of the surrounding towns were, until comparatively recent times, without lawyers.

We look upon those distant and early days with a pitying estimate, a tender compassion, on account of the narrowness, ignorance and demoralizing customs then existing, yet, then were formed the elements of a national character, and of a great Commonwealth, with an unexcelled system of jurisprudence—a profession, within the circle of which the halo of fame surrounds many names commanding our admiration, stirring our enthusiasm and exciting our sober approbation quite as much as any military or naval glory.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Massachusetts (Massachusetts, United States) (2)
hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Thomas Lechford (2)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
1768 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: