The True Picture of an Ill Practiser of the Law

in a Dialogue between a Sollicitor and his Intended Client

London: Printed in the Year 1703

[author anonymous / unknown]


The Design of these Sheets is not to Divert thee with Flourishes of Rhetorick, but to lay before thee Matter of Fact; hoping this may awaken some Abler Pen, more amply and accurately to Prosecute this Subject; that the Spirits of People may be Rouzed to seek to our Grave and Worthy Senators for Redress in so Great and Publick a Calamity.

The Parliament in the Year 1653 had made a good Progress in this Matter; and ’tis great Pity so Pious a Design did not then succeed, but hath slept ever since.

Reader, I would be understood to Reverence our Laws as much as any Man, and to pay all due Honor and Respect to our Judicious and Pious Judges, and Honest Lawyers; and sincerely Pray for their Increase and Prosperity, as a great Blessing to this Nation; And do as heartily with for the speedy Conversion of the Rest: But if there be no Hopes left of Converting them, (and ’tis too much to be fear’d) may immediate Vengeance overtake them, to their Utter Extirpation.

If this be as well Taken as ’tis Meant, the World may be presented with something perhaps more Edifying. -- Vale.; ’A DIA

A Dialogue Between A Sollicitor And his Intended Client

Client. Sir, I want a Sollicitor; and you, I think, may do as well as another: Pray what’s your Name?

Sollicit. My Name, Sir, is Legion.

Cl. Whence had you that Name, I have not heard of the Family?

Soll. ’Tis very Ancient; I had it from my Old Dad, (the Tormentor of Mankind) as you may find it Recorded by St. Luke, in his Gospel, chap. viii. ver. 30.

Cl. I find, indeed, in the quoted Text, That Legion was the Name the Devil call’d himself by, when he had Possess’d and was Torturing a poor distressed Man. But how came You intitled to this Name?

Soll. Because I am his Legitimate Child; and, in Truth, never was Child so like a Father: We are as Numerous as He, and as closely Combin’d in the same Design of Tormenting Man. He is the Father of Lies, a Calumnator, One who delights in bringing out Afflictions and Ruine on Mankind; He goeth about like a Roaring Lion, seeking whom he may devour. He was (as well as I) an Angel of Light, but now a Child of Darkness, a Wolf in Sheep’s Cloathing, and finally, One that would gladly set the whole World together by the Ears. Now, Sir, I dare be bold to say, That Thousands in England will bear me Witness, That in describing my Father, I have drawn my own Picture to the Life; with this Difference only, That whereas in the Text you find many Devils employ’d in Tormenting one Man, We are arriv’d to that Perfection in Mischief, That one knavish Lawyer can Torment and Ruine Hundreds of honest Men. You will easily believe then, that Hundreds, nay, Thousands of us linkt together, are likely enough to bring Confusion and Ruine to a whole Kingdom, by stopping the Source of Justice, and perverting the Laws; making Liberty and Property, whereon you so much rely, serviceable only to our Selves.

Cl. Mr. Legion, You seem by your bold insulting of our Laws and Liberties, to be some Clerk or Sollicitor in Chancery: Pray, Sir, are you of that Number?

Soll. I am. Equity, as the Matter now stands, is my best beloved Mistress, with whom I spend most of my Time, and with best Success; But if store of Iniquity wasn’t to be found in her, Who as wou’d adore her for me. But pray, Sir, observe, We have in our Fraternity, Registers, Attorneys, Under-Sheriffs, Serjeants, Scriveners, Bayliffs, & al’; some of Higher, some of Lower Ranks: Also some Equity-Men, some Civilians, some Common Lawyers, zealously advancing the same Design.

Cl. Thou seem’st a dangerous Fellow: Before I engage too far, I would gladly know some of your Principles.

Soll. In compliance with your Request, (though a very unusual thing amongst Us) I shall avow my Principles; viz.

I. I esteem Money as the Summum Bonum; so that if I can get Twenty Shillings, it matters not if another loses a hundred Pounds by’t.

II. I hold that the Justest Cause, where there is Most Money: Therefore whether it be my Client, or Client’s Adversary, ’tis all one to me. I take part with that Side where is greatest Plenty; but I hold it best where I can take Money with both Hands.

III. That nothing is Evil which tends to my Profit or Pleasure, whether to be Whoring or Drunkenness; or That which is most to my Purpose, Delaying, Betraying, or Selling the Fatherless, Widows, and Oppressed.

IV. That a Tender Heart, a Tender Conscience, Honour, and Justice are Destructive to the very Essence of Lawyers; and therefore to be shunn’d by them as the Plague.

V. I don’t like any of your Ten Commandments; But am positively perswaded, the Tenth was purposely put in by some Heretick, to spight me and fright me: For it contains Hard Sayings, Who can bear them? I am sure Legion nor none of his Tribe can. In short, Sir, a Lawyer that can be brought to believe that Commandment, is in a pitiful Plight.

VI. That a Sunday is the best Day in the Week to Travel in, since I sha’n’t be so often put out of my Road by Coaches, Waggons, Carts, and C-----: For, you must know, ’tis Death to me to go out of my Road.

VII. I think Ours to be the Best Trade in the World, and do think that Highway-Men and House-Breakers are Mad, that they don’t all leave off their foolish Trade, and turn Sollicitors, their necessary Qualifications now a-days being only Lying, Impudence, and a Seared Conscience, which surely those Gentlemen can’t be without: And then besides, Ours is more Gainful, Safe, Reputable, whereas Theirs is Scandalous, Mean, and Dangerous. They run through innumerable Dangers and hazard Life and All in a Retale Trade, for Small Profit; When in Our Way they may Live without Disturbance in all Excels of Rioting and Wantonness, at their Clients Cost, and be caressed by those they undo; and may carry on a Wholesale Trade; that is, They may by Fraud and Violence take away Money, Plate, Jewels, Houses, Lands, and overturn whole Families, and gain and retain the Name of Honest Gentlemen too.

The only Objection I can see, is, Some Highway-Men, though they have abandon’d Honesty, yet they have some Honor cleaves to them: I confess the objection has Force in it; for till they can free themselves from that Pernicious Errour, They are not fit for our Society; And if they were amongst us, they would Live and Die Beggars. Well, then! Let them go with their Honour,and be Hang’d, whil’st I Ride in my Coach.

Cl. For all your Vampouring, You are under great Restraints, and are not so Arbitrary as you pretend: Did you never hear of Magna Charta?

Soll. Yes; But little value it.

Cl. Ha! Why, does it not say, “No Man shall be taken, or imprison’d, or be disseiz’d, or outlaw’d, or exil’d, or any mise destroy’d or dealt with but by the Lawful Judgement of his Peers, or by the Law of the Land. We shall Sell no Man, Deny nor Defer to no Man either Justice or Right.

“A Freeman shall not be Amerced for Small Offense, but after the Quantity of the Offense, and for a great Offense after the Manner thereof; Saving to him his Freehold, And no Amercement Assessed, but by the Oath of good and honest Men.”

Sol. ’Tis true: But, We don’t regard all this: We can Imprison, Disseize, Destroy, Delay Suits by Injunctions, and What else we please, without Form of Law, by our own Arbitrary Authority.

Cl. How comes that to pass?

Soll. We Act by the Sovereign Conscience with which we are intrusted.

Cl. Has not the Abuse of that Sacred Conscience occasioned several good Laws to be made, to Govern and Restrain You? As that under the Title Accusation. “Those that make Suggestions shall give Security to Pursue their Suggestions; and if they cannot prove the same, shall be imprison’d, there to abide till they have satisfied the Defendant for his Damages, and for the Slaunder, and shall also pay fine and Ransome unto the King,” Ann. 37. E. 3. cap. 18. Ann. 38. E. 3. cap. 9. Again; “No Subpoena shall be granted till Surety be found to satisfie the Defendant his Damages and Expenses, if the Matter in the Bill can’t be made good,” Ann. 15. H. 6. cap. 4. Again, under the Title of Justice and Right, “It shall not be Commanded under the Great Seal or Little Seal to delay or distrub Common Right,” Ann. 2. E. 3. cap. 8. And divers others there are; for which brevity sake I omit at this Time?

Soll. True indeed; and Excellent Laws they are; and, if duly Executed, would secure the Liberty, Property, and Quiet of the Subject, and prevent many Vexatious Suits, Irregular Prosecutions, Arbitrary Imprisonments, &c. But, for my part, for these Reasons I hate them; and, had we not a Trick to evade them, We should be utterly Undone by them: So that instead of Highway-Men turning Clerks or Sollicitors, We must turn Highway-Men our selves, for We should have but little to do at our Trade.

Cl. I know you have more Tricks than a Dancing Bear; but, pray, what Trick is this?

Soll. Our Power is grounded on the Prerogative Royal, and is therefore Unlimited.

Cl. Is not every King and Queen of this Realm, on their Coronation Oblig’d Solemnly to Promise and Swear to Govern the People of this Kingdom of England, and Dominions thereunto belonging, according to the Statutes in Parliament agreed on, and the Laws and Customs of the same? How came you then by an Unlimited Power?

Soll. We are not indeed to go contrary to Law, (tho sometimes perhaps we may strain a point) but we can Dispense with, and Suspend the Laws.

Cl. Have you forgot that the Suspending and Dispensing Power was Exploded in the Late Reign; and that both Houses of Parliament, for the Vindicating and Asserting their Ancient Rights and Liberties, declare, “That the Suspending of Laws, and Dispensing with Laws by Regal Authority, was Illegal”: And that ’twas Enacted into a Law, 1. W. and M. Seff. 2. cap. 2. And well agrees with the Statutes afore Recited, especially those of Not Lightly Granting Subpoena’s or Injunctions?

Soll. This was to Restrain the King, not Us.

Cl. You are arrived to a Fine Heighth! Don’t You know, That the Greatest Prince on Earth can’t conferr a more Absolute Power on any of his Ministers than Himself hath; according to that Maxim in our Laws, founded on Solid Reason, Potest as Ditivativa non potest esse major Primitiva: Is Yours a Derived Power, or no?

Soll. Yes: But if any Shou’d be so Hardy, as to Complain of the Injuries We do to them; or so Inquisitive, as to Search into these Nice Matters; I promise you, We shou’d use Him very Scurvily, to Deterr others from Vainly Prying into the Hidden Secrets of our Great Diana: And let me tell you, Sir, You had better strike at a Bee, that at One of Us, for We are as Unanimous as They in Revenge, and Our Power of Hurting Greater: You’ll soon find the whole Swarm of Us about You, with a Fury never to be asswag’d, no, not with Money! And how just soever your Causes are, We’ll take Care you shall never have Right done You; and will Persecute You too, even to the Remotest Part of the Kingdom, with the vilest Clamours that Malice can invent. Think, Sir, what Mischief then, You are to Expect, who have made an Assault upon us All.

Cl. What, are You Angry? Have I touch’d You to the Quick? You shall be no Sollicitour of mine; I will lose my Coat, rather than look after my Cloak; I’ll have none of your Equity --

But stay however; I have not yet done with You: A Word or two more before You go.

Soll. I think you have said a great deal too much already.

Cl. But hark a little! You said that you were Unanimous in Revenge?

Soll. I did say so: And You shall find it True to your Cost. For whoever you go to next, They will inquire who was your last Sollicitour; and being inform’d, will not fail to come to me, to know if you are free of your Money; or if your Advesary be Rich, and willing to Bribe well: Or whether You be Ignorant and Negligent in your Affairs, relying entirely with an Implicite Faith on your Sollicitour,and easie to be led by the Nose; Or One that dilligently informs your self of the Strength and Weaknesses of your Causes, and are careful to know what Progress your Agents make in your Affairs; and when abused, whether you take it Patiently or Impatiently; Sit still, or seek to Right your self? I shall so answer to these Interrogatories, That either you shall not get any one that will be concern’d for you; or else it shall be such an one as will betray you.

Cl. I well know all this; But am amazed to hear Truth come out of your Mouth; and Thank you for it: Fore-warn’d, Fore-arm’d, is an old Proverb.

Soll. Keep your Thanks to your self till I merit them; Had it been possible for you to have avoided the Mischief I will do you, I would never have told You.

Cl. Though there are too many Base Pretenders in your Profession, I don’t doubt of meeting One of Honest Principles, over whom You can have no Influence.

Soll. You may assoon meet with a Black Swan; But grant there is One, and that You shou’d meet with Him too; Yet, before ever he looks over your Papers, he will come to me (thought I were worse than I am, if ’twere possible) and I will tell him your Causes are Villanous and Unjust; That your Advesaries are very Honest Gentlemen: That you are guilty of more Crimes than e’er were committed in Tyre and Zidon; And will name some of your Advesary’s Villanies, and charge them on You.

Cl. This is Fine Work! But are not you known to be a Lyar and a Slanderer?

Soll. Yes, But being a Brother of the Quill, I shall be believed before you; however to put the matter out of doubt and to secure my own Credit, I have many that will swear to what I say be it right or wrong, and some honest Men too, in the Opinion of the World; For I have an Art to make Black appear White, and to make White appear Black, and can perswade Men out of their Senses. In Fine, after your Honest Lawyer has been with me, ’tis a Thousand to One whether ever he will look over your Papers; but without giving any Reason for it, will leave you to shift for your self. But suppose he should not believe me, and go on with your Causes, I would endeavour to have the Court possessed with an Opinion that you are a very ill Man, and Letigious, and so should disappoint you one way or another.

Cl. Why is it a Fault to be Letigious?

Soll. Yes, With the Officers and Practisers, how much soever you are abused by them; But quarrel as much as you will amongst your selves, the more Mischief the better Sport.

Cl. I know ’tis your method to rail against those you oppress, and to multiply Injuries on them, to confound both their Brains and their Purses, thereby to disable them from helping themselves, and to amuse [sic] others that would help them; and that to secure your selves you employ your Skill to give the Courts an ill Opinion of them: And indeed you have been too successful herein, the more is the Pity. ’Tis sad to think such a Practice should be suffered which had its Rise from Hell. We find it practised of old against the most Holy and Innocent Person that e’re was in the World. I mean our dearest Lord the Blessed Jesus, who could not escape the Calumny of those who unjustly persecuted Him; They Railingly said he was a Glutton, a Wine-Bibber, a Deceiver, a Friend to Publicans and Sinners, and an Enemy to Caesar; Nay, a Confederate by Belzebub the Prince of Devils, and whatever malice could invent. In Truth this Method was and is used to pervert Justice and Judgment, to oppress the Innocent and Needy.

Soll. Insolent Slave! Bold to thy own Ruine; hold thy Peace or thou shalt feel my Power.

Cl. Tyrant! I so little fear your mighty Threats that I proclaim open War against you.

Soll. Hold, my Friend! for all my Talk, whoever falls out, You and I will live in Peace.

Cl. Peace! What Peace? So long as the whoredoms of thy Mother Jezabel and her Witchcrafts are so many? What Peace? So long as the good Laws made for our Safety and Comfort, are abused by you to our Ruine; Liberty and Property ridiculed, and invaded at your Pleasure; The Fatherless, Widows and Afflicted, mock’d, sold, and oppressed by your Artifices; by which you have armed Heaven’s Justice against you, methinks I hear an Angel crying aloud (as against Israel of old for the like Crimes) shall not my Soul be avenged on such Miscreants as these? Come, Legion, let me tell you, your great Pride and Bare Faced Injustice are good Omens of your speedy Downfall.

Soll. Thank my Stars, Thou art no Prophet, neither the Son of a Prophet.

Cl. I may predict right, however. ’Tis recorded in our Histories, that the Popish Clergy in this Nation in the days of King Henry the Eighth had arrived to a very great Heighth of Pride, Insolence, and Barbarous Cruelty; and had usurp’d an Arbitrary Authority, and exercised it with such Tyranny, that it became a Cause of the Happy Reformation began in that Reign. A Second was, the Avarice of that degenerate Clergy was such, that they had by Fraud and Craft not only heap’d together a vast Treasure in Money and Jewels, but also had ingross’d to themselves mighty Possessions in Lands and Houses, by which means the Laity were so enslaved and impoversh’d ’twas no longer to be born; and so visible Ruine attended the Commonwealth, that it laid a Necessity on the Government to seek a Remedy, and since one Member of the Commonwealth was tumifyed to a prodigious Bigness, ’twas not enough to stop the growing Evil, but this Member must immediately for the Health of the rest of the Body, by some powerful Application, be reduced to a proportionable and natural Size, which being done there ensued a blessed Reformation in the Church; And this mighty Wealth being distributed amongst the Laity was the Cause also of a prosperous State, not immediately indeed, but under the Reign of a Queen, Elizabeth, of Blessed and Glorious Memory, the Finisher of this great Work.

Soll. From a Prophet you are turn’d an Historian.

Cl. Have a little patience, Legion, and you will find me again presaging a Period to your turbulent and wicked Reign, from a Parity of Reason; for let me tell you, there is the same Causes now strongly inforcing a Necessity upon the State, to reform the evil Practicers in the Law, as there was then to reform the Clergy: viz. There are now many ill Pracitsers both in the Law and Equity, who are altogether as proud, insolent, cruel, arbitrary and unjust in their usurp’d Authority, as the Clergy were then, and have by Fraud, Craft, and open Violence, got at least as great a part of our Money and Estates in their Hands as the Clergy has in those days; and are eagerly grasping at all the rest; And then ’tis to be considered that there are more numerous than those were, and more prolifick too, so that the vast Numbers of their young Generation of Vipers, now coming on the Stage, is so amazing, that the Thoughts of it almost puts me into a Convulsion; Sure I am, that when these are full grown, and have bred again they will put the State into one, if not timely prevented. And as their numbers are great and increasing, so is their Power too. But as that glorious Reformation in our Church was brought to Perfection by an Excellent and Victorious Queen; Why may not we believe and hope that Heaven has reserved the like Blessing and Honour of Reforming the State to our present and no less Excellent nor less Victorious Princess Queen, Anne, whose unparalelled Wisdom and matchless Zral for the good of her People gives us comfortable Expectations and even Assurance of some happy Product.

Soll. Don’t flatter yourself, for how well soever the Queen may love you; There’s the Stamp Office in the way. Come, Sir, the worse the Practicers are, the more vexatious Suits will be commenced and delay’d, and consequently the greater will be the Queen’s Revenue by the Stamps.

Cl. Thanks be to Heaven we have a Queen, that values the Repose and happiness of her Subjects above any Branch of her Revenue; But were you dealt withal according to your Desert, and made to disgorge the ill gotten Wealth you have swallowed, as the Clergy of Old did, ’twou’d take off the Force of your Objection; But there is no Fear that the Stamp Revenue should be lessened by your being reformed, for if there were a nearer and less expensive and more certain Access to Justice; (you having with your Legdermain Tricks so ruffled every ones Affairs) plenty of Complaints wou’d come in to be set to Rights, and innumerable Applications would be made for Justice against many of you, which would take up an Age to determine them in. And I dare undertake, that whenever the Government pleases to lay Hands on you, an ample Recompense shall be made to the Crown for lessening the Revenue arising by the Stamps.

Soll. I am safe still, for this great Work can’t be done without the Lawyers Help; And you may be assured we shall not clip our own Wings.

Cl. When the Blessed Reformation was made in our Church, amongst great Numbers of ill Clergymen, some good were found, who set their Hands to, and assisted in that great Work. And I am confident we may now find a Competent Number of Pious Gentlemen (whose Hearts God has touch’d with a Sense of the Afflictions of their Bretheren of the Commonwealth,) who would chearfully set their Hands to so good a Work. But from Sollicitours, Clerks, Registers, Attorneys &c. Good Lord deliver us.


[ About this tract: the original document appears to reside somewhere in the Harvard Law Library, most probably locked away in the rare books archive, where due to its brevity and extremely thin spine (and also restricted access), is difficult to come across. Apparently transferred to microfilm in Aug., 1979, the tract was rediscovered twenty years later by a researcher examining a different volume recorded on the same roll of film. While the publisher and author of this fascinating dialogue are anonymous, perhaps clues to its origin (and also contemporary public reaction to it) may be found by reviewing newspaper archives from London in the year 1703, when it first appeared. ]

Rendered from microfilm by Rob Walters <>