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1 New Orleans Bench and Bar in 1823 1988

handle is hein.beal/nworl0001 and id is 1 raw text is: []WE NEW  ORLEANS BENCH AND BAR IN 1823.
BY CHARLES GAYARR9.

T WENTY years had elapsed since the
cession of Louisiana to the French
by the Spaniards, and by the French to
the United States, and yet very few of
the ancient population of the Latin race
who had witnessed that event, or who
had been born since, had acquired any
knowledge of the English language, and
still fewer among the new-comers of An-
glo-Saxon origin had made any effort to
learn to speak French, or even to under-
stand it, so that intercourse between the
two races, either for pleasure or business,
was not a thing of easy accomplishment.
The great majority of the ex-colonists
were French in language, in blood, in
feelings, in ideas, in manners, habits, and
temperament. They were intensely anx-
ious to retain an autonomy which they
fondly believed to have been guaranteed
by the treaty of cession. They keenly
resented the act of the Federal govern-
ment which made the English language
the official one, and they clung the more
tenaciously to the language of their an-
cestors. Those who had succeeded in
mastering the foreign idiom, as the
English was then called, affected to use
it only when they could not do otherwise,
and only on rare occasions. On the oth-
er hand, the Americans, the aventuriers
(adventurers), as they were designated at
that epoch, were intent upon assimila-
ting to themselves as quickly as possible
what they looked upon as an extraneous
element, which had no right to a pro-
longed existence. They vanted a fusion
in which they would predominate and
control. They were determined to ab-
sorb, but not to be absorbed. Hence, on
the part of the primitive colonial inhab-
itants, a vigorous resistance to this pro-
jected effacement of all the old landmarks
of the past regime of European domina-
tion. Hence also frequent collisions of
an unpleasant nature; every friction be-
tween these two antagonisms emitted
sparks that showed the combustibility of
the materials at hand. This want of ho-
mogeneity of language and feelings man-
ifested itself in a striking manner in the
courts of justice. We proceed, as an il-
lustration of it, to describe faithfully some
of the scenes which we witnessed at the
New Orleans bar a few years after that

city had become the capital of the State
of Louisiana.
For a long while it was almost of abso-
lute necessity that the judges should un-
derstand both the English and French
languages, and in consequence of the
motley composition of our cosmopolite
population there was in every court a
permanently appointed interpreter, who,
as a sworn and regular officer thereof,
translated the evidence, the testimony of
the witnesses, and, when necessary, the
charges of the judge to the jurors. Our
jurisprudence was based on the laws of
Spain and on the Napoleon Code,whicl
had been adopted by our Legislature with
such modifications as had been thought
advisable. The commentaries of French
and Spanish jurists, with decisions of the
tribunals of the two countries of which
Louisiana had successively been the col-
ony, were daily and extensively quoted
as authorities. The juries being coin-
posed of men some of whom did not
understand one word of French, and oth-
ers equally as ignorant of the English,
it became imperative on litigants to em-
ploy in each case on both sides two
lawyers, one speaking French, the other
English, and supposed to command indi-
vidually the sympathies of that portion
of the population to which they belonged.
Under such circumstances and exigencies
the trial of cases was necessarily long and
expensive. The petitions and answers,
the citations, and all writs whatever, were
usually in both languages, and the records
containing the testimony of witnesses, and
original documents with their indispensa-
ble translations, were oppressively volu-
minous.
Will the reader accompany me to one
of the district courts of the old rHgine,
and witness some of the judicial proceed-
ings of the epoch? The presiding judge
is Joshua Lewis, a high-minded gentle-
mail, if not a profound jurist, who com-
mands universal esteem in the communi-
ty where he has come to reside. As irre-
proachable in his private as in his public
life, Judge Lewis was born in Kentucky,
and did honor both to his native and to
his adopted State. When the British in-
vaded Louisiana he hastened to descend
from the bench, shouldered his rifle, and

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