Published online by Cambridge University Press: 25 October 2017
On 25 January 1854 the Faculty of Advocates established a committee to consider and report on “The Qualification of Intrants”. When presented, the committee's report, dated 11 July 1854, noted that intrants had to satisfy three requirements for admission as an advocate. The first was to show a knowledge of Latin as a test of general scholarship. This was examined by requiring the intrant to read aloud a passage of the Digest ad aperturam libri. The committee commented that this “ensures but slight acquaintance with the Latin language”. Next, there were examinations in Civil Law and Scots law, but – stated the committee – these had “degenerated into nearly a formal proceeding” and could be passed “by persons whose study of the subjects of Civil and of Scotch jurisprudence has not been great”. The committee reserved its greatest scorn for the third qualification: the preparation of a Latin thesis upon a title of the Digest. The committee said of this thesis that, “written as it is, in very many cases, by others than the person whose name it bears, it is no test of the scholarship of its professed author, and tends somewhat to throw ridicule upon the whole of the Faculty examinations”. Such criticisms were not new. In 1818 the Professor of Logic and Rhetoric in the University of Glasgow, George Jardine, in an influential work on educational method and theory, had stated that the Faculty's examinations rendered “the study of the law altogether nugatory”. In 1826 in evidence before a Royal Commission investigating the Scottish universities, Thomas Thomson, a member of the Faculty, Deputy Clerk Register, and a noted scholar, had said the examinations were “too slight to afford anything like a test of actual advancement”, and the Whig advocate and one of the founders of the Edinburgh Review, Francis Jeffrey, had merely commented that the Faculty's examination was a “farce”.