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CHAPTER XIII.

PROFESSORIAL AND JUDICIAL LIFE.

My Father's MODE OF LECTURING IN THE LAW SCHOOL LECTURES

ON WILLIAM PINKNEY AND CHIEF JUSTICE PARSONS МЕмоRANDA OF ONE OF HIS LECTURES.

Of my father's Lectures in the Law School there are, unfortunately, almost no written traces. They were wholly extempore, and delivered without minutes; and no record was ever made of them by himself. Generally the text-book furnished the theme of his discourse ; but occasionally a chance remark at the beginning of the hour would start a train of thought or reminiscence remotely connected with the subject, which he would pursue for the whole time allotted to the lecture, pouring forth his wealth of knowledge and experience in a stream of easy colloquial remark, now deepening into earnest thought and exposition, and now swelling into a noble flow of eloquence.

One occasion I well remember, during the time when I was a student at the school. It was the last lecture of the term, on the Constitution, and it was not probable that the whole class would ever again meet.

As my father took his seat to commence the exercise, this fact seemed to strike his mind, and he began by alluding to it. Moved, as he proceeded, by the train of thought and feeling thus accidentally set in motion, he slid into a glowing discourse upon the principles and objects of the Constitution ; the views of the great men of the Revolution, by whom it was drawn; the position of our country; the dangers to which it was exposed; and the duty of every citizen to see that the republic sustained no detriment. He spoke, as he went on, of the hopes for freedom with which America was freighted; of the anxious eyes that watched it in its progress ; of the voices that called from land to land to inquire of its welfare ; closing in an exhortation to the students to labor for the futherance of justice and free principles ; to expand, deepen, and liberalize the law; to discard low and ambitious motives in the profession, and to seek in all their public acts to establish the foundations of right and truth. The hour flew by while we yet listened in silent attention to this touching, earnest, and eloquent discourse, and the clang of the bell broke it off at its culminating point. In returning home with him, I remarked how much I had been impressed with his remarks, and he answered: “I was entirely led away, and spoke without preparation. Indeed, I had not the slightest intention of saying a word of the kind when I entered the room.”

At the close of the Summer Term of the Law School, in the year 1843, he was requested to lecture on the character of some of the distinguished lawyers with whom he had been acquainted. He acceded to this request; and selected as the subject of his remarks William Pinkney and Chief Justice Parsons. These two lectures, which were very familiar in their character, were reported by a member of the senior class, and published in the Law Reporter. Deprived of the beaming face, fluent delivery, and persuasive tones, that gave grace and point to every word, their chief charm is gone. The reports are mere sketches; but they afford a tolerable idea of the manner and matter of these lectures. They are as follows.

NOTES OF LECTURE ON WILLIAM PINKNEY.

William Pinkney acquired his profession with Judge Chase, of Baltimore. His early education was not extensive. What first brought him into general notice, and gave a complexion to his after life, was his appointment as one of the commissioners under the treaty of 1794 (I think) with England. In the exercise of his office, Lord Eldon, and other great English lawyers, argued before him — men of learning and acquirements far before what his could be -- and it was the importance he attached to sustaining himself, that led him to study thoroughly the law upon all the subjects then before him. He was six years settling the claims arising under this treaty; and employed much of his leisure in attendance upon the courts at Westminster; observing their manner of conducting business, their modes of argument and of speaking, in order to fit himself to compete with the first members of the bar in this country, on his return. His position, as American Commissioner, gave him a privilege, offered to but few of his countrymen, of frequenting the first circles, which were then filled with men of wit and learning. Mr. P. told me that at one of these parties, at which were Pitt, Fox, and other great scholars of the time, the conversation turned upon a passage in Euripides. The debate was carried on for a long time with a great deal of spirit — each side quoting many passages from Euripides and other Greek authors. “Of course,” says Mr. P., “I took no part in all this; and after a while, one of the disputants noticing that I took no part in the conversation, turned to me, saying, Why, Mr. Pinkney, you don't share in this talk, - come, sir, what

is your opinion of this passage?' I was obliged,” said Mr. P., “ to confess that I was listening to acquire information rather than impart any; but I resolved from that time to study the classics, and from that time I did.”'

When Mr. P. returned to this country, there was a great interest to hear him in public. Everybody wanted to know whether he was equal to his reputation. The Supreme Court was accordingly crowded with gentlemen and ladies, to witness his first performance in the Supreme Court of the United States. The personal appearance of Mr. P. was as polished as if he had been taken right from the drawer; his coat of the finest blue, was nicely brushed; his boots shone with the highest polish ; his waistcoat, of perfect whiteness, glittered with gold buttons; he played in his hand with a light cane; in short, he seemed perfectly satisfied with himself, and walked through the court house with an air of ease and “ abandon," arising from perfect self-confidence. The first cause he had to argue in the Supreme Court was rather an unfortunate one. It so happened that it was one of insurance, upon a cargo of animals which are not very proper to be dwelt on before a polite audience, especially of ladies. The insurance was upon a cargo

of asses. Mr. P. never once expressed the name of those poor animals, but used a great deal of circumlocution, and was so vague in his expressions that it was impossible for the ladies to understand what kind of animals he was talking of; it was not probable that he was discoursing of angels, — further than that they could not guess. He attempted to introduce a little finery to please the ladies; though in fact the case did not well admit of it. He foamed at the mouth, and tore things all to tatters. The argument was very good, as an argument; but he evidently overdid. But, then, what could he do? There was the audience; they had come with expectation of hearing a specimen of fine speaking, — be the subject what it might, — and they must be gratified. He did not, on the whole, sustain himself on that occasion. Many of the lawyers would say, —“ Why, that is no better than some of us can do," and were evidently disappointed. Mr. Pinkney was exceedingly anxious to know how he had succeeded, and found out from his friends, before a great while, that his performance was considered as a failure,- not by what they said, but by what they did not say. He felt very much mortified and chagrined, and resolved to retrieve his reputation. His next cause was more favorable. He sustained himself admirably; and no one of the large audience who listened to him went away without being convinced that he was fully equal to his reputation.

Mr. Pinkney's style was ornate in the highest degree; very much like Lord Stowell's decisions in the Admiralty. He possessed a great fund of general information, and great good taste.

He introduced into his arguments a great deal of figurative language, and would often indulge the pleasure of the audience by an interlude of twenty or thirty minutes, so nicely fitted in, that it would be impossible to find the beginning or end of it - though doubtless written out and studied beforehand, on purpose for the occasion. The interludes were always applicable to and grew out of the subject; and it was in these that he would launch out into that stream of eloquence which completely captivated and carried away all within his hearing. His voice was thick and guttural, and when wrought up to the paroxysms, in which he would sometimes indulge, was harsh and unpleasant. His excited manner was, no doubt, derived in part from the great English lawyers, who often indulged in that mode of speaking, which was not in accordance with the quiet customs of the American courts. He had listened to Erskine, Law, and all the great lawyers of the time, then practising in England, who must be supposed to excel those of this country, not only in legal attainments, but in classical studies, having been whipped into a familiarity with them from their earliest youth. He brought much of the spirit and learning of Westminster Hall with him; and did not content himself with arriving at distinction in one branch of the law, but mastered it in all its

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