On one occasion he so terribly cut up the work of a poor devil of an author, that he came on here all the way from New York with the intention of challenging the editor, who happened fortunately to be out of the city. The author fumed round a few days and then went home, leaving a letter to the editor full of violence and wrath, and evincing the extent of his legal attainments by the assertion that he intended to prosecute the editor, a citizen of Massachusetts, in the Circuit Court of the United States, sitting in New York! All this time Sumner was sitting quietly in his office, without the least knowledge of the commotion that was going on in mine. All these things—this writing for the “Law Reporter” and for the newspapers and magazines–were mere diversions. In point of fact, he kept steadily in view the profession of his choice. He was fully determined to be a great lawyer; he held himself ready for practice; he took depositions, acted as master in chancery and commissioner, and avoided nothing that came to him in the line of his professional duty. No man could more truthfully say,—Though pleas'd to see the dolphins play,No doubt he found the professional life rather irksome; no doubt, after his remarkable career abroad, it seemed somewhat dull to settle down at No. 4 Court Street; no doubt he had less zeal and enthusiasm than when he first came to the building. But still, I believe that he would have become a great lawyer or a great judge, had he not been called to a different stage of action, where his whole time and attention were absorbed in the consideration of great questions, and in the defence of principles which lie at the foundation of civil liberty. Sumner's entrance upon the political arena, and particularly his election as Senator, broke the harmony of No. 4 Court Street, although the relations of personal friendship continued. No one differed from him more on certain questions than the writer of this; and no one feels more keenly, now, that Sumner was far in advance of the rest of us in the maintenance of just principles and the true theory of a republican government. In closing these desultory observations, and in view of my early and intimate friendship with this distinguished man, I desire to say that I never heard him utter a mean sentiment, or use a vulgar expression, or make a suggestion in regard to any act that was not in accordance with the strictest principles of honor and integrity. He was a gentleman in the best sense of the term,—courteous in manner; dignified in bearing; firm in the expression of his opinions, but gentle in his intercourse with those who differed from him, although he was sometimes so earnest and persistent in what was regarded as extreme views as seriously to annoy his friends. But with all his kindly ways he would never submit to any discourtesy from others, and required that they should observe the rules which he rigidly adhered to himself. I remember his deliberately refusing the hand of one of the oldest members of the bar, who had reported his private conversation under circumstances involving a breach of confidence; and he continued the nonintercourse
I mind my compass and my way.
This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.