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[116] but showed no marked aptitude for either. But as a writer and a speaker he soon gave indications of extraordinary promise. Many of his school compositions were admirable, both in plan and execution. They were singularly free from the usual extravagances and affectations of the school-boy's first attempts at writing. . . . . He expressed his best thoughts, and expressed them in the best words; and a fine instinct taught him that the simplest words were the best. . . . .

He was a born orator. In all my experience as a teacher, I have never known his equal as a speaker. He declaimed with the same simplicity and earnestness with which he wrote. All his conduct and demeanor at school was equally natural, unassuming, and unpretentious, yet marked by a manly earnestness and dignity beyond his years. He was beloved and respected by all, teachers as well as scholars. He was as pure in heart, as frank, and truthful, and artless, as a child; yet as brave, as chivalrous, as heroic in spirit, as when he fought at Antietam.

Tom and “Henry W.,” as we used to call him, Adjutant Henry Ware Hall, Fifty-first Illinois Volunteer Infantry, [whose memoir will be found in this volume,] and ‘Charlie Humphreys’ (Chaplain C. A. Humphreys, Second Massachusetts Cavalry), were three out of seven boys who, in June, 1853, formed a school debating-society, which was kept up with remarkable spirit and ability for three years, or more than one hundred meetings. Here these boys were unconsciously preparing themselves for the parts they were to play in the drama of life and of history, ten years later. The first debate in the society was on the question, “Is it our duty to obey the Fugitive Slave Law?” These three boys took an active part in the discussion, after which the question was decided in the negative by a very strong vote. A few months after this we find them debating the question, “Whether slavery or intemperance is the greater curse to this country?” Tom leads the affirmative, and the merits of both the argument and the question are decided by vote to be on that side. Later, we have the trial of H. W. Hall, an alleged fugitive from South Carolina, before the United States Commissioner (me), and Tom is counsel for the defendant, who had been duly blackened for the part he was to play. The Commissioner decided that there was not sufficient evidence to justify the giving up of the negro to the claimant. Had he decided otherwise, there would have been a rescue. Again, the society becomes a State Senate, and here, too, with Hoosac Tunnel, the Liquor Law, and the like, is again the Fugitive Slave Law. Soon we find this is the question

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