« PreviousContinue »
Benchers of the Inner Temple in a Parliament held on the 9th February, 1617.
“ It is ordered that no man shall be called to the bar before he has been full eight years of the House, and been for all or most part of that time here resident in Commons, and shall be known to be a painful and sufficient student, and shall have usually frequented and argued grand and petty moots in the Inns of Chancery, and have brought in moots and argued clerks' common cases within this House, and are known to be of sound and good religion, free from popery, and shail show themselves all the time of their continuance within this House by usually resorting to the Church and receiving the Holy Sacrament. And if any man shall procure letters or messages from any great persons to the Treasurer or benchers of this House to be called to the bar, he shall for ever after be disabled to receive that degree within this House.”
The Judges, supported by the King and the Lords of the Privy Council, did what they could to maintain the ancient forms.
There was, perhaps, less zeal in this respect on the part of the Benchers and the Bar, amongst whom a feeling was growing up that the old exercises, the Readings and moots, whilst they imposed an increasing burden on the leaders of the Bar, were fast losing their importance and value as a practical training. In 1591 the Judges had called attention to the “late examples of short and few Readings,” which they attributed largely to the “excessive and sumptuous charges of which Readings brought in of late time contrary to the ancient usage, which they fear may
lead to an
utter overthrow to the learning and study of the law, and consequently an intolerable mischief to the commonwealth of this realm." The old rule was that the Reading in Lent should be by a “double” reader, that is to say, by a bencher who had already served as an Autumn reader, but when the Judges in 1594
proposed a rule that “no single reader be permitted to read in Lent," the Benchers of Lincoln's Inn replied that they would “endeavour to move and persuade such of the Benchers as are in course to read their double Reading to perform the same; yet it seemeth very difficult to effect, for that they suppose that their double Reading is rather a hindrance than a furtherance unto them in their proceeding besides their charge.” Stow writing in the 16th century, says that the expenses of the Reader sometimes exceeded £1,000. The records show the increasing difficulty of supplying “double" Readers. In 1594 Mr. Townesende, who had been appointed Lent Reader, prays to be excused, but his letter “is thought to be over peremptory to be written to the bench, and to contain no sufficient matter of excuse for disciiarge of his double Reading." He nevertheless refused to read, and was fined £30, which was reduced to £20, and finally, on payment of £13 6s. 8d., the balance was remitted. Similar cases became very common. When, in 1633, it was Mr. Ughtred Shuttleworth's turn to read in the following Lent, he neither attended the Council at which the appointinent had to be made, nor sent any intimation what he purposed to do, and inasmuch as his default was aggravated by the fact that he, "living in remote and unknown parts,” had absented himself for a long time, the Benchers ordered, “though not without grief, to cut off from themselves a member so well esteemed of and so much respected by them, that the said Mr. Shuttleworth be put from the bench, and shall no longer retain nor hold the place of a Bencher of this House.”
It is also very apparent from the records during the reigns of James I, and Charles I. that it was becoming more and more difficult to induce the members of the Inns of Court to discharge their duties in maintaining the Readings and exercises of learning at the Inns of Chancery. An
interesting example of this may be found in the case of John Selden, who, in 1624, then being an utter barrister of the Inner Temple, was chosen Reader at Lyon's Inn, but refused to read. Though thrice summoned before the Benchers of the Inner Temple, and "notwithstanding many courteous and fair persuasions and admonitions by the masters of the bench,” he persisted in his refusal and was fined £20, and declared to be disabled to be called to the bench, or to be Reader of the Inner Temple. These disabilities were, however, removed a few years later, and he was called to the bench in 1633.
The Inns of Chancery, though connected with and under the control to a certain extent of the Inns of Court, appear to have been more peculiarly the houses of the attorneys and solicitors. The students of these societies were probably sor the most part preparing for admission to the Inn of Court with which their Inn of Chancery was connected Many of the students, however, became attorneys or solicitors, and the ancients and governing bodies of these lesser Houses consisted probably to a great extent of attorneys and solicitors. Before the reign of James I. it does not appear that any regular course of legal study was a necessary qualification for admission to practice as a solicitor or attorney. Their duties were regarded as ministerial only, and mechanical. Although the Inns of Chancery were appropriated to those who desired to apply themselves to what was then regarded as the merely clerical work of the profession, it appears that from a very early date the benchers of the Inns of Court found it necessary to take steps to prevent their students from neglecting the exercises of learning, in order to occupy themselves with more lucrative employment as attorneys.
At Lincoln's Inn, on the 14th May, 1556, it was ordered that if “any man shall be admitted as a student, and after shall only exercise the office of attorney and shall not kepe the
lernynges in the vacations that then he shall lose the fellowship and his chambers.” And again in 1614, one of the Judges' orders for the reformation of the Inns of Court directs that “there ought alwaies to be preserved a difference between a councellor-at-law, which is the principal person next unto Serjeants and Judges in administration of Justice ; and Attorneys and Sollicitors, which are but ministerial persons, and of an inferiour nature; therefore it is ordered that from henceforth no Common Attorney or Sollicitor shall be admitted of any of the four Houses of Court.” A year or two later, on the 13th June, 1616, amongst a number of regulations made by the Bench of Lincoln's Inn, for the management of their Hall and kitchen, there appears an order, which looks almost like a joke, but was no doubt meant seriously, in these words :“ It is further ordered that the second third and fowerth Butlers be admonished from tyme to tyme to be diligent, and to ymploye themselves as attorneys or clarckes, and the wash-pott to doe the like, and not to keep howndes &c., wch yf they shall neglecte, then are they to be removed.” It seems sufficiently clear that notwithstanding strict and frequently renewed prohibition members of the Inns of Court occupying chambers practised as attorneys or solicitors. This is recognised by an order of the 2nd June, 1679, which directs that “ henceforth noe practizeing Attorney or Solicitor of this House be called to the Bar." And the Joint Regulations agreed to by the four Inns of Court in 1762, which made the standing for the bar five years from admission, did not forbid the admission of attorneys and solicitors, but provided that they should not be called until they had discontinued practising as such for
This digression upon attorneys and solicitors has carried us forward into the eighteenth century. We must return to the reign of Charles I. The Civil War began in August,
1642, and during the two years following no Council was held at Lincoln's Inn, no parliament at the Inner Temple, and probably no exercises were performed and no Commons held at any of the Inns of Court. In 1644 their work was resumed, but imperfectly and under great difficulties. The war and the disturbed state of the country still kept great numbers of their members in the country, either with one or other of the contending armies
at their own homes. The government of the Inns was under the control of the Parliamentary party, * but many of their fellows took the side of the King. In November, 1646, an order of the Commons House was presented to the benchers of Lincoln's Inn by the Speaker, Lenthall, who was himself a bencher, by which they were directed to take care that no persons who had “adhered to the enemy against the Parliament ” should be permitted to come again into any of their chambers or allowed to live in any of the Inns of Court or of Chancery. Diminished numbers rendered it difficult to maintain the exercises of learning or to carry on the business of the Inn at all. The Society of Lincoln's Inn became heavily indebted to the Steward, and in 1645 two of the benchers were directed to sell the plate of the house (except the spoons) and apply the proceeds to his satisfaction so far as they would go. The judges complain from time to time of the neglect of exercises, and in 1657 it was ordered by the Commons House that it should be recommended to the Protector and Council to take some effectual course, upon advice with the Judges, for reforming the government of the Inns of Court and for reviving the Readings in the several Inns, and the keeping up of exercise by the
* When the civil war began Oliver St. John was treasurer of Lincoln's Inn, and the Speaker, Lenthall, was a bencher. In 1653; John Thurlow, Cromwell's Secretary of State, was called to the Bar, with a direction that his call "be published with all convenient speed,” and three months later was called to the Bench.