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John Jay
by [?]

To such an extent was this system of taking students carried that, in Seventeen Hundred Sixty-eight, we find New York lawyers alarmed “by the awful influx of young Barristers upon this Province.” So steps were taken to make all attorneys agree not to have more than two apprentices in their office at one time. About the same time the Boston newspaper, called the “Centinel,” shows there was a similar state of overproduction in Boston. Only the trouble there was principally with the doctors, for doctors were then turned loose in the same way, carrying a diploma from the old physician with whom they had matriculated and duly graduated.

Law schools and medical colleges, be it known, are comparatively modern institutions–not quite so new, however, as business colleges, but pretty nearly so. And now in Chicago there is a “Barbers’ University,” which issues diplomas to men who can manipulate a razor and shears, whereas, until yesterday, boys learned to be barbers by working in a barber’s shop. The good old way was to pass a profession along from man to man.

And it is so yet in a degree, for no man is allowed to practise either medicine or law until he has spent some time in the office of a practitioner in good standing.

In the Catholic Church, and also in the Episcopal, the novitiate is expected to serve for a time under an older clergyman; but all the other denominations have broken away, and now spring the fledgling on the world straight from the factory.

Several other of his children having sorely disappointed him, Peter Jay seemed to center his ambitions on his boy John. So we find him paying Benjamin Kissam, the eminent lawyer, two hundred pounds in good coin of the Colony to take John Jay as a ‘prentice for five years. John went at it and began copying those endless, wordy documents in which the old-time attorney used to delight. John sat at one end of a table, and at the other was seated one Lindley Murray, at the mention of whose name terror used to seize my soul.

Murray has written some good, presentable English to the effect that young Jay, even at that time, had the inclination and ability to focus his mind upon the subject in hand. “He used to work just as steadily when his employer was away as when he was in the office,” a fact which the grammarian seemed to regard as rather strange.

In a year we find that when Mr. Kissam went away he left the keys of the safe in John Jay’s hands, with orders what to do in case of emergencies. Thus does responsibility gravitate to him who can shoulder it, and trust to the man who deserves it.

It was in Kissam’s office that Jay acquired that habit of reticence and serene poise which, becoming fixed in character, made his words carry such weight in later years. He never gave snapshot opinions, or talked at random, or voiced any sentiment for which he could not give a reason.

His companions were usually men much older than he. At the “Moot Club” he took part with James Duane, who was to be New York’s first continental mayor; Gouverneur Morris, who had not at that time acquired the wooden leg which he once snatched off and brandished with happy effect before a Paris mob; and Samuel Jones, who was to take as ‘prentice and drill that strong man, De Witt Clinton.

Before his years of apprenticeship were over, John Jay, the quiet, the modest, the reticent, was known as a safe and competent lawyer–Kissam having pushed him forward as associate counsel in various difficult cases.

Meantime, certain chests of tea had been dumped into Boston Harbor, and the example had been followed by the “Mohawks” in New York. British oppression had made many Tories lukewarm, and then English rapacity had transformed these Tories into Whigs. Jay was one of these; and in newspapers and pamphlets, and from the platform, he had pleaded the cause of the Colonies. Opposition crystallized his reasons, and threats only served to make him reaffirm the truths he had stated.