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[149] at Lowell on the Merrimac River, which is fed by the waters of Lake Winnipiseogee, have a right of action against parties who divert for mill-uses the waters of Merrymeeting Pond, which flow into the Lake.

In June, 1835, he was appointed by Judge Story a commissioner of the Circuit Court of the United States,1 and a year later was admitted to practice in that court.

Sumner, at this period, succeeded as well as the average of young lawyers; but he did not, like his classmate Hopkinson, step into a lucrative practice, nor obtain the business which, with his laborious studies and many friends, he had expected. His docket was a slender one even for those days. He was too much absorbed in amateur studies to become a shrewd and ready practitioner; and his mind, while so employed, was the less inclined to the petty details of an office. His engagements at the Law School, yet to be mentioned, for the first three months of each year—the busiest season for a lawyer—seriously invaded the regularity of office hours, keeping him at Cambridge every alternate day at some seasons. Clients are quick to detect such departures from the professional routine, and prefer some painstaking attorney who is always to be found at his desk. Sumner, not meeting at once with the success which he had hoped for, confessed his disappointment to his intimate friends. But while with continuous devotion to the profession he would have doubtless attained a very respectable rank at the bar, it may be questioned whether he had the qualities which draw to a lawyer ‘litigious terms, fat contentions, and flowing fees.’ According to tradition, he weighted his arguments with learning where only a skilful handling of testimony would have been most effective; and was not gifted with the quickness of perception which is as essential in the court-room as in the field. His tastes and qualities of mind fitted him rather for a position as judge or teacher, where his chief duty would be the exposition of the principles of the law. But he expressed no discontent with his profession, and certainly had no thought of leaving it. His enthusiasm in the study of jurisprudence as a science was unabated.

In Jan., 1835, he began to give instruction in the Law School in the place of Judge Story, who was absent at Washington on official duty. Judge Story wrote to him, Feb. 9,—

1 Office resigned by letter, Dec. 9, 1853, but vacated by law on his acceptance of the office of Senator, in 1851.

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