: Laws And Lawyers.
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.