Ten years of happy life have been allotted to this great jurist beyond even the three score and ten, which are the measure of extraordinary length of days. His venerable years are another illustration of the saying of one of the early masters of the law (it is Littleton who speaks, or his commentator, Lord Coke), that there is something in the cultivation of jurisprudence favorable to a protracted life, and that grave judges, by the benign regard of Providence, are sure to be crowned by a green old age. Happy are they, indeed, upon whom Time lets fall the riches of knowledge and experience, and does not withdraw the priceless boon of health and strength! Thrice happy, if the fires of the family hearth still glow with cheerful brightness while loving friends surround it! Such is the fortunate lot of Chancellor Kent. On the 31st of July last he completed his eightieth year. Twenty years before,—on the 31st of July, 1823,—he had ceased to discharge the judicial functions, in obedience to the Constitution of New York, which pronounces the incapacity of a judge at sixty years of age. After hearing and disposing of all the matters before him, on his sixtieth birthday he descended from the bench. This occasion was seized by the bar to offer him an expression of their unabated confidence and attachment. To the learned leisure that ensued we are indebted for his invaluable “Commentaries,” which have become a necessary text-book alike for the student and the lawyer. In every part of our widespread country,—wherever law has penetrated with its life-giving influences, wherever justice is administered,—this work is regarded as a guide and authority. . . . Highly, however, as we prize this work,—priceless as it is to the profession,--we are disposed to regard many of the opinions of the author pronounced from the bench as evidencing even a higher order of juridical talent. In this view we may differ from others whose opinions are entitled to far higher weight than ours; yet we wish to be understood that it is not because we appreciate the ‘Commentaries’ less, but the opinions more. We know of nothing in the English books surpassing in merit some of the golden judgments preserved in the volumes of Mr. Johnson. The learning of Eldon is there set forth with the grace of Stowell; and the deep researches of Hargrave, never equalled by an English judge, are rivalled on the American bench. Chancellor Kent seems to have been born with those eminent judicial qualities at which others arrive only by the experience of years.Longa aetas Pylium prudentem Nestora fecit.But the Nestor of our profession was prudent before length of days had set their mark upon him. As early as March, 1797, when only thirty-four years of age, he was appointed Recorder of the city of New York; and in February, 1798, he was appointed a Justice of the Supreme Court of the State. It has been the rare felicity of this jurist to pass his life far from the ignoble strife of the crowd. His days have been counted out in the serene
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