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[98] warm and active.1 His intellect lacked subtlety; it was generally repelled by abstruse and technical questions, and, led by Story's example, sought the more congenial domains of international and commercial law. Some of his surviving fellow-students recall that he was not thought to have what is called ‘a legal mind;’ though Story and Greenleaf, each of whom counted on him as colleague or successor, do not appear to have observed this defect. His classmate Browne took exception at the time to his articles in the ‘Jurist,’ as being speculative rather than practical in their topics; and certainly his contributions to that magazine, then and later, show that he preferred to write upon the literature of the law rather than upon the law itself. One with his qualities of mind would be more likely to find his place in the profession as author or teacher, than among the details of office-business or the hand-to-hand contests of the court-room.

Contemporaneous letters, written chiefly by his classmates, show his habits at this time, and the expectations entertained as to his future. His father wrote to him, April 4, 1832, ‘Charles, while you study law, be not too discursive. Study your prescribed course well. That is enough to make you a lawyer. You may bewilder your mind by taking too wide a range.’

Stearns, in a similar tone, wrote, Sept. 19, 1831, ‘You were cut out for a lawyer. . . . I cannot altogether applaud your resolution to include so much in your system of study for the coming year. “Law, classics, history, and literature” is certainly too wide a range for any common mind to spread over at one time. Better follow Captain Bobadil's example; take them man by man, and “kill them all up by computation.” ’ Hopkinson, Jan. 6, 1832, calls him ‘the indefatigable, ever-delving student, and amorous votary of antiquity;’ and refers, May 12, ‘to the study and diligence for which the world gives you credit.’

Browne wrote from Cambridge to Stearns, May 6, 1832:—

We, in Cambridge here, are studying law at a trot, or rather I should say, reciting it. Some study hard,—among them your good friend Charles, hater of mathematics; but as to your other friend [himself], he studies the books but little. Sumner will be a vast reservoir of law, if he lives to be at the bar; which, if you take the bodings of a harsh, constant cough and a most pale face, might seem doubtful. Yet his general health seems perfect. He eats well, sleeps well, and so through all the functions of the animal man.

1 Hopkinson wrote, Oct. 28, 1831, taking him to task for assuming positions because of their novelty, and for depreciating authority and prescription.

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Jonathan F. Stearns (2)
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