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Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume 25. (ed. Reverend J. William Jones), Sergeant Smith Prentiss and his career. (search)
Sergeant Prentiss. In some form or other, Prentiss always was a student. Probably the most largely developed of all his faculties was his memory. He gathered information with marvelous rapidity. The sun stroke that makes its impression upon the medicated plate is not more rapid in transcribing, or more faithful in fixing its image than was his perception in taking cognizance of the principles, or his ability to retain them. Once fixed, the impression was there forever. It is true, as Mr. Wirt observed, that genius must have materials to work on. No man, how magnificently soever endowed, can possibly be a safe, much less a great, lawyer, who does not understand the facts and law of his case. But some men may understand them much more readily than others. There are labor-saving minds, as well as labor-saving machines, and that of Mr. Prentiss was one of them. In youth he had devoted himself with intense application to legal studies, and had mastered, as few men have done, the e