Erskine





On Mr. Erskine's receiving his appointment to succeed Mr. Dundas,
as justiciary in Scotland, he exclaimed that he must go and order his silk

robe. "Never mind," said Mr. Dundas, "for the short time you will want it

you had better borrow mine!"--"No!" replied Erskine, "how short a time

soever I may need it, heaven forbid that I commence my career by adopting

the _abandoned habits_ of my predecessor!"





Erskine is said to have once forgotten for which party, in a particular

cause, he had been retained; and, to the amazement of the agent who had

retained him, and the horror of the poor client behind, he made a most

eloquent speech in direct opposition to the interests he had been hired to

defend. Such was the zeal of his eloquence, that no whispered remonstrance

from the rear, no tugging at his elbow could stop him. But just as he was

about to sit down, the trembling attorney put a slip of paper into his

hands. "You have pleaded for the wrong party!" whereupon, with an air of

infinite composure, he resumed the thread of his oration, saying, "Such, my

lord, is the statement you will probably hear from my brother, on the

opposite side of this cause. I shall now beg leave, in a very few words, to

show your lordship how utterly untenable are the principles, and how

distorted are the facts, upon which this very specious statement has

proceeded." He then went once more over the same ground, and did not take

his seat till he had most energetically refuted himself, and destroyed the

effect of his former pleading. He gained the cause.





A similar circumstance happened in the Rolls Court, in 1788. Mr. A., an

eminent counsel, received a brief in court a short time before the cause

was called on, for the purpose of opposing the prayer of a petition. Mr.

A., conceiving himself to be the petitioner, spoke very ably in support of

the petition, and was followed by a counsel on the same side. The Master of

the Rolls then inquired who opposed the petition? Mr. A. having by this

time discovered his mistake, rose in much confusion, and said, that he felt

really much ashamed for a blunder into which he had fallen, for that,

instead of supporting the petition, it was his business to have opposed it.

The Master of the Rolls, with great good humour, desired him to proceed now

on the other side, observing, that he knew no counsel who could answer his

arguments half so well as himself.





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