Eminent Lawyers of the New York Bar 1869 Brady-Field

James T. Brady

James T. Brady is the only lawyer of the New York bar who has positive genius. O'Conor, Evarts, and others have the highest order of talent, but they stop just short of genius. High as Mr. Brady stands in the profession as an advocate, a counselor, and a lawyer of the largest and widest capacity in every department, he illustrates eminently the fact that heavenly genius must be wedded to earth-born industry to insure perfect and complete success in any walk in life. Not that Mr. Brady is without great legal attainments. On the contrary few men surpass him even in this direction. But his lack of steady application is well known, and its effects often injuriously felt by himself, at least, though not perhaps perceived by others. Had he the industry, the close and constant study of Mr. O'Conor, for example, he would be a very Titan.

 His versatility of talent is most remarkable. Whether arguing an abstruse and intricate question of law to a court or indulging in the pleasing flights of fancy, or thrilling bursts of eloquence to a jury, he is equally at home, equally ready, facile, forcible, convincing. He is a most equally ready, facile, forcible, and convincing. He is a most felicitous speaker at the bar, in the forum, on the platform as a lecturer, on the stump in a political canvass, at a public dinner, literary festival, or private entertainment, and at a social gathering. In private life he is a man "of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy." He has an ardent temperament, a highly poetic nature, and the most exquisite imagination. With all his genius he is as simple, unostentatious, as a child, and his affability to the younger members of the profession is worthy of imitation. He is always ready to grapple with the most difficult case, and never loses his self-command or self-possession, either at the bar or elsewhere. No draft can be made on him for services of any kind which is not readily honored at sight. He is by far the finest rhetorician at the bar, with a wealth of diction, a gorgeousness of imagery, a felicity of classic allusion, and a richness of ornate, apt, and refined illustration, that are without parallel. He tries many very desperate cases, so desperate in fact that no other lawyer will touch them, and often wins them by his fertility of resource, and the assiduous devotion to the interests of his clients. Mr. Brady may be properly styled the most genial member of the bar ; always courteous, polite, polished, considerate, especially to his inferiors, he is the Chevalier Bayard of the profession always sans peur et sans reproche.

David Dudley Field

David Dudley Field will always have a niche in the temple of legal fame, as the author of the New York Code of Procedure, and is eminently worthy of honorable mention as a lawyer of sterling common sense and untiring energy, who holds his position by the sheer force of an unbending will. The excellent suggestions of that quaint writer on the crudities and absurdities of the law, good old Jeremy Bentham, were first put into legal practice by Mr. Field when he made the New York Code, which mowed down, as with a McCormick's reaper, the rank and luxuriant harvest of technical fictions and incongruous absurdities that for centuries had overgrown and covered up the simple rules of reason and justice that it is the object of all laws to sub-serve and enforce. Mr. Field, for this, will be remembered, when the ablest lawyers of his time will be forgotten in the dust of ages; albeit, some of them even now affect to regard his system of common sense practice as a bold innovation, which lays an iconoclastic hand upon the idol of their false prejudice and traditional legal education. Mr. Field, in his code never forgets that the law addresses itself to the sense of plain men, and he proceeds by no indirection to his point. That is a striking anecdote related of the Russian Emperor, who directed his engineers to lay out a railroad between St. Petersburg and Moscow. 'When the plans were submitted to the Czar's inspection, he asked the meaning of the crooked angles and lines that marked the devious route. " To accommodate the intervening towns and villages," was the reply. The Emperor drew his pen .across the map turned it upon its face, and marked upon the back dots representing the two cities. He then made straight line between the points, and said, " Build now that road."

The illustration is apt for other matters than the survey of railroads, and especially does it apply to Mr. Field's code. He treats the whole subject of the law in a common-sense manner, utterly ignoring those endless involutions, redundancies of expression, and the profuseness of verbiage, that usually bury the sense in such a fog of words that if a fog-bell were rung in the middle of one of these legal sentences it could not be heard at either end of the paragraph.

Mr. Field is emphatically an earnest man ; and, like all such men, who spend no time in trifles, has neither courted nor found popularity. His manner is cold, almost forbidding, very like that of an English barrister; and yet the few who break through this outer crust, which exerts a repelling influence upon, the many, find him pleasant and companionable in private life. He has never succeeded in obtaining public station, although eminently fitted for it by great executive ability. Were he personally more popular among his associates, and professional and political confreres, he would long ago have held high rank in public affairs.

Mr. Field has a fine presence, a tall, commanding figure, a thoroughly English manner, and a clear voice, with unusual distinctness of enunciation. He has not the fervor of the impassioned orator, but his arguments are always clear, occasionally eloquent, and generally convincing. He pays the closest attention to the interests of his clients, and always prepares his cases with industrious zeal. He does not allow his attention, during the progress of a trial, to flag or waver for an instant, but is always watchful and devoted to the matter before him. Like all successful lawyers, he is a great worker, and pays the inevitable price of sleepless nights and laborious days, illustrating the poet's lines, 

"He who would climb Fame's dizzy steep
Must watch and toil while others sleep."

Take him for all in all, he is a man whose place at the bar will not readily be filled when he shall have passed away.


Website: The History Box.com
Article Name: Eminent Lawyers of the New York Bar 1869 Brady-Field
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Sunshine and Shadow in New York By Matthew Hale Smith; J.B. Burr and Company 1869
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