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[150] Sumner became very zealous in the controversy, and during the autumn of 1841 was engaged in taking testimony in Boston, New Haven, and New York. His final argument of the cause in 1844 will be referred to hereafter.

England was at this time asserting the right to search vessels carrying the American flag, when they were suspected both of being engaged in the slave-trade and of being other than American vessels; and her ships of war had made searches even when the vessel, although suspected as a slaver, was known to be American. British officers who had made them, when afterwards found here, were sued in actions of tort. Sumner and Hillard were retained by the British Consul at Boston in actions of this kind brought in Massachusetts.1 Rufus Choate and Mr. Perkins, of Salem, were the plaintiff's counsel. Sumner's connection with this litigation directed his attention more closely to the question of search and inquiry in cases of suspected slavers, which he afterwards discussed in the public journals.

He occasionally sat as a commissioner to take depositions pending in the United States courts. Sometimes, the counsel on one side or the other were worried by his disposition to extend his duty beyond a mere record of questions and answers to a fuller examination by himself,—he maintaining it to be a part of his functions as magistrate to obtain the whole truth from a witness, instead of merely writing down what a skilful counsel saw fit to draw from him.

Sumner never took kindly to the details of law business. He wrote to Mr. Perkins once: ‘I found the bill of costs without understanding it; and I sometimes believe that it is not in my power to understand any thing which concerns such matters.’ If he had the responsibility of an important cause, he was inspired by the gaudium certaminis,and worked with diligence and enthusiasm; but he was less vigilant in the ordinary routine of the office. Once, when he consented rather thoughtlessly to the continuance of an action, his absent associate, who had left it in his charge, wrote regretfully to him ‘of that facility of temper and disinclination to say No, of which I have so often discoursed to you.’

Sumner had come home with the determination to work diligently

1 ‘Law Reporter,’ May, 1841, Vol. IV. p. 33. In these cases the plaintiffs, who belonged to the American vessel Tigris, sued for false imprisonment the defendant, a midshipman of the British brig Waterwitch, who had overhauled the ‘Tigris,’ and brought her into one of our ports.

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