Chapter 8: early professional life.—September, 1834, to December, 1837.—Age, 23-26.
A young attorney's ‘first case’ is always with him a wellremembered event, and Sumner
's happened to have some points of public interest.1 Suffolk County
had then a Commonwealth's attorney, from whose strong gripe it was hard to wrest any prisoner; but Sumner
was fortunate in this attempt at a rescue.
A few weeks after his admission to the bar he engaged, as a volunteer, in the defence of one Waylen, indicted in the Municipal Court
under a statute for sending a challenge to one Alessandro Gherardi
,—a case which probably came to him through his father's connection with the jail.
He was associated with George S. Hillard
, who was admitted to the bar in April of the previous year.
The grounds of defence at the trial were, that the paper sent by the defendant was an invitation to a conference, with a view to a satisfactory adjustment, rather than a challenge; and that the defendant's surname ended with an n
, instead of an r, as written in the indictment.
The trial occupied part of the day, Oct. 13, 1834, and resulted in an acquittal.
A newspaper of the next day said: ‘The defence was conducted with much ability by Messrs. G. S. Hillard
and Charles Sumner
This is the first essay of the latter gentleman, who is said to be more deeply read in the law than any other individual of similar age.’2 Sumner
, as his preserved minutes show, argued at length, citing numerous authorities on the question of misnomer and the construction of the statute.
He reviewed with his characteristic fulness the celebrated duels in English and French history urged that they were peculiar to men of fashion, and rarely