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American Detective Fiction    April 1841-July 1891

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Leaves from the Diary of a Law-Clerk by the Author of “Recollections of a Detective Police Officer,” &c. London: J.C. Brown & Co., 1857.
 
A Life Assurance
  consequence, that the imperfectly-informed attorney would be unable to render his client the justice to which every person, however criminal, is clearly entitled—that of having his or her case presented before the court appointed to decide upon it in the best and most advantageous manner possible. Let it not be forgotten either that the attorney is the only real, practical defender of the humble and needy against the illegal oppressions of the rich and powerful—the shrewd, indomitable agent who gives prosaic reality to the figurative eloquence of old Chancellor Fortescue, when he says “that the lightning may flash through, the thunder shake, the tempest beat, upon the English peasant’s hut, but the king of England, with all his army, cannot lift the latch to enter in.” The chancellor of course meant that in this country overbearing violence cannot defy, or put itself in the place of the law. This is quite true; and why? Chiefly because the attorney is ready, in all cases of provable illegality, . . .

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Besides being the confidential advisers, attorneys are the “confessors” of modern England; and the revelations—delicate, serious, not unfrequently involving life as well as fortune and character—confided to the purchased fidelity and professional honour of men whom romancers of all ages have stereotyped as the ghouls and vampires of civilised society, are, it is impossible to deny, as rarely divulged as those which the penitents of the Greek and Latin churches impart to their spiritual guides and helpers; and this possibly for the somewhat vulgar, but very sufficient reason, that “a breach of confidence” would as certainly involve the professional ruin of an attorney as the commission of a felony. An able but eccentric jurisconsult, Mr. Jeremy Bentham, was desirous that attorneys should be compelled to disclose on oath whatever guilty secrets might be confided to them by their clients; the only objection to which ingenious device for the conviction of rogues being, that if such a power existed, there would be no secrets to disclose; and, as a necessary

   

 

 


 

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