Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 85.djvu/91

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
87
HABIT OF HAVING LAW MAKERS AND LAWYERS

THE BAD HABIT OF HAVING LAW MAKERS AND LAWYERS
By JOHN COTTON DANA
NEWARK, N. J.

IN the process of social development early societies invented certain customs and institutions to satisfy certain more or less well-defined needs. That is to say, all customs and institutions have had their origins, in part, in sheer utility. All of them were therefore good; for they all helped, if they did nothing more, to establish and maintain that social stability which is a prime essential to progress. It is probable that we owe our present advanced position to cannibalism in precisely the same sense, though not necessarily in the same degree, in which we owe it to slavery, to polygamy, to autocracy, to monogamy and to property in land. At certain points in society's advance one and all of these customs were demanded by circumstances, were developed and gave humanity an uplift.

These several customs were adopted by social groups of a relatively low order. They were beaten out, as it were, by pressure of adverse circumstances, under the guidance of the barbarous and the semi-civilized. Crude as are many of our methods of so modifying our own customs as to meet wisely the changing conditions of our social life, the methods used in early days were very much cruder. The results were unsatisfactory. Cannibalism was doubtless a helpful custom in its day; but was not good for all time and in due course was abandoned. Slavery was more useful and for a longer period. It even helped bring to full flower a very refined civilization. But it demonstrated its own ill effects and was duly abandoned.

It is obvious that in all customs established in the early days of primitive society there are defects. Having been devised in a society of the socially unskilled they must all partake of a certain coarseness and crudity, and they must have fitted but ill the needs for which they were devised. If one of them by rare chance proved perfectly adapted to its purpose in the society for which and by which it was fashioned, it could not possibly fit the far more advanced and far more complex society into which the crude society gradually developed.

Now the law, meaning the power behind the law; and the law, meaning both rules given by legislators and judges and legislators and judges themselves; and the law, meaning the technique of its alignment as practised by a privileged class, the lawyers—the law in all these three forms or aspects, is a social eject of extreme antiquity. It is one of those