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[75] a course of lectures given under the auspices of the ‘Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.’ Among the lectures, of which he wrote out full notes, were those of Judge Davis on ‘Natural History,’ James T. Austin on the ‘History of Massachusetts,’ and John Pierpont on ‘Useful Knowledge the Ally of Religion.’

The great orator of the period, Daniel Webster, was then in his prime. Aspiring young men spared no pains to obtain sitting or standing room at political meetings and in court-rooms where he was to speak. Sumner, accompanied by Browne, who came from Salem for the purpose, heard Webster's tariff speech, which was begun at Faneuil Hall, Oct. 30, and concluded the next (Sunday) evening at Quincy Hall. A few days later, Sumner went to Salem, as Browne's guest, and attended the trial of Joseph J. Knapp, as accessory to the murder of Stephen White. He heard Mr. Webster's closing argument for the government. It was in this address, which according to the newspapers of the day ended with ‘a peroration of surpassing pathos,’ that Mr. Webster, alluding to the suggestion that the jury should have compassion on the prisoner, said that their compassion should be for his internal, not his external, condition; ‘it is,’ he added, ‘his greatest misfortune to be what he is, not where he is.’ Knapp was convicted and executed.1

Rev. Dr. Emery, a classmate of Sumner, writes:—

Immediately after graduating, I opened a private school in Beverly; and, while residing in that town, the great trial of Knapp, as an accomplice of Crowninshield in the murder of Mr. White, took place in Salem. Mr. Franklin Dexter and Mr. W. H. Gardiner were Knapp's counsel, and Webster was on the side of the State. The trial attracted many from the neighboring towns,—law-students and young lawyers. Among them Sumner was present. I recollect how delighted he was with the keenness of Dexter in worming the truth out of witnesses on their cross-examination, and especially in summing up the evidence in the prisoner's behalf. I met him at the trial several times, and he seemed to take as much interest in it as if he were one of the lawyers. He was not a member of the Law School at the time; and I could not help thinking that, if he had not decided what profession to study, the dignity and even solemnity of that trial, conducted by the ablest counsel to be found, must have decided him to study law.

1 The points contested at this trial between Franklin Dexter, the defendant's counsel, and Mr. Webster are given in Commonwealth v. Knapp, 10 Pickering's Reports, p. 477. The celebrated argument of Mr. Webster on the earlier trial of John F. Knapp as principal is printed in his Works, Vol. II. pp. 41-105. See Curtis's ‘Life of Webster,’ Vol. I. pp. 378-385.

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