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Chapter 6: Law School.—September, 1831, to December, 1833.—Age, 20-22.

Sumner joined the Law School of Harvard University, Sept. 1, 1831.1 This school grew out of the Royall Professorship of Law, which was established in 1815. It was organized as a distinct department two years later; but its vigorous life began in 1829, with the appointment of Judge Story and John H. Ashmun as professors. The character of Story as jurist and teacher, his immense learning, copious speech, great enthusiasm, and kindly interest in students have been often commemorated.2 Ashmun was remarkable for his acumen and logical method; and the two professors were well mated. At that time the method of teaching was, not only to illustrate the topic of study by decided or supposed cases, and to comment upon and criticise the text-book, but also to examine most of the students quite closely upon the lesson of the day. The exercise was a recitation rather than a lecture,—a mode of instruction which becomes inconvenient when a professional school is largely attended.

Professor Ashmun was the sole instructor when Judge Story was absent on judicial duty at Washington, or on his circuit. His service as teacher was cut short by his death, April 1, 1833. Sumner alone was with him when he died, his sole watcher for the night.3 He afterwards collected the funds for a monument to his teacher, and revised his manuscripts for posthumous publication in the ‘American Jurist.’ He was admitted to the professor's [91] confidence, and received peculiar help from his severe method of legal investigation. Ashmun insisted always on definiteness of thought and exactness of expression, and was in the habit of testing the knowledge of his favorite pupils by close scrutiny and criticism. This was a healthy discipline for one of Sumner's tastes and habits of study, and he profited much by it.

Professor Ashmun was succeeded, in July, by Simon Greenleaf,4 the author of the treatise on ‘The Law of Evidence;’ the vacancy being filled during the intervening period by James C. Alvord, of Greenfield, a young lawyer of marked ability. Both saw in Sumner a student of large promise, and became at once his friends. Professor Greenleaf's interest in him was hardly second to Judge Story's, and was prolonged after the close of Sumner's connection with the school as pupil or instructor.

Judge Story was at first attracted to Sumner by a long-existing friendship with his father; and he had been in the school but a short time before a very close intimacy was established between them. Biography gives no instance of a more beautiful relation between teacher and pupil. The judge admired Sumner's zeal in study, enjoyed his society, and regarded him like a son. Sumner conceived a profound respect for the judge's character and learning, and was fascinated by his personal qualities. This friendship entered very largely into Sumner's life, and for many years gave direction to his thoughts and ambition. The eloquent tributes which he afterwards paid to the memory of his master and friend are the witnesses of his veneration and love.5

Sumner, during the early part of his course at the Law School, occupied room Number 10 Divinity Hall, the most retired of the college buildings, and took his meals in commons. Afterwards, he became librarian of the school, and, as one of the privileges of his office, occupied as a dormitory room Number 4 Dane Hall, from the time that building was opened for use in Oct., 1832.6

The Law School then numbered forty students,7 and was divided into three classes,—the Senior, Middle, and Junior. There were three terms a year, corresponding to the college terms; and the instruction was given, prior to the erection of Dane [92] Hall, in College House, Number 1, nearly opposite to its present site. Of the law-students, Sumner associated most with his college classmate Browne, who, entering at the same time, was, on account of a year's study in an office, advanced to the Middle Class; with Wendell Phillips, who, graduating from college a year later than Sumner, now entered with him the Junior Class; with Henry W. Paine, of Winslow, Me.,8 who entered Sumner's class in the spring of 1832, and whose acquaintance he then made; and with his classmate Hopkinson, who joined the school in the autumn of that year.9 With each of these he discussed common studies and plans of life, in his room and in occasional walks. Sumner and Phillips had been fellow-students, though in different classes, at the Latin School and in college; but their familiar acquaintance dates from their connection with the Law School.10

Sumner had now attained the full height of his manhood,— six feet and two inches. He was tall and gaunt, weighing only one hundred and twenty pounds. His hair was dark-brown; his eyes hazel, and inflamed by excessive use; his face sharp-featured; his teeth gleaming with whiteness; his complexion dark and not clear; his visage and person not attractive to the eye, and far unlike his presence in later life, when with full proportions and classic features he arrested attention in the Senate and on the street. He was never disabled by illness, and seemed exempt from the physical limitations which beset others, denying himself the exercise and sleep which Nature commands. He was swift on his feet, striding from Boston to Cambridge at the pace of nearly five miles an hour, and putting out of breath any companion who had been unlucky enough to undertake the walk with him. His voice was strong, clear, and sonorous. His countenance was lighted up with expression, and his genial smile won friends upon an introduction. His spirits were buoyant [93] in company, and his laugh was loud and hearty. But, whatever were his physical characteristics, there was a charm in his perfect simplicity and naturalness, his absolute sincerity of heart, his enthusiasm and scholarly ambition, his kindness to fellows-students, his respect for older people, his friendliness for all,— qualities which never fail to win interest and affection. Many who knew him in early days, parted afterwards by divergent tastes or sharp political antagonisms, now recall the memory of this period only to speak pleasantly and even tenderly of him.

The beginning of his studies in the Law School marks a distinct transition in Sumner's early life. To the classmates who were nearest to him in sympathy he frankly confessed his ambition. It had, while in college and the year after, been stirred by the great names of history; but, until he decided to study at the Law School, it was vague and unsettled. Having chosen his profession, the jurist became his ideal. He aspired to know the law as a science, and not merely to follow it as a lucrative occupation. Such names as those of Grotius, Pothier, Mansfield, and Blackstone dwelt much in his thoughts. Fascinated by Story's learning and fame, he looked probably to the bench or the professor's chair as the highest reward of his unwearied toils.11

He entered on his chosen study with the greatest ardor and enthusiasm. To a classmate he wrote of the law as ‘a noble profession, an immense field.’ He husbanded his time, and grudged every moment of diversion. Early and late at his books, limiting personal associations to a narrow circle, abstaining from needful recreation even in vacations, chary of evenings spared for amusements, and only yielding to the attractions of some eminent actor, he devoted himself to his studies, not only during the day and evening, but prolonged them past midnight till two in the morning,—his usual hour of retiring. Once, when poring over his books, he was startled by the janitor's tread and the breaking daylight. He knew the place of each book in the library so well, that he could readily find it in the dark. No monk ever kept his vigils with more absorbing devotion. The tone of his letters changed perceptibly at this time; no longer light and sportive as before, they are altogether serious, and relate chiefly to his studies, with only brief references to the incidents of college life and tidings from classmates. [94]

Shortly after he entered the Law School, he procured a ‘Lawyer's Commonplace-Book,’ in which he wrote out tables of English kings and lord-chancellors, with dates of reigns and terms; sketches of lawyers, drawn largely from Roscoe's ‘Lives;’ extracts from Sir Matthew Hale's ‘History of the Common Law;’ and the definitions and incidents of ‘Estates,’ as laid down by Blackstone.

The list of books read by him at the school, as noted in his commonplace-books, is remarkable for its wide range, and begins with this memorandum and extract from Coke's First Institute: ‘Law reading commenced Sept., 1831, at Cambridge. “Holding this for an undoubted verity, that there is no knowledge, case, or point in law, seeme it of never so little account, but will stand our student in stead at one time or other.” 1 Inst. 9.’ Besides his common-law studies, he read widely in French law.

Sumner's memory was not less extraordinary than his industry. Students applied to him for guidance in their investigations, and even lawyers in practice sought, in a few instances at least, his aid in the preparation of briefs.

While his friends admired his zeal and enthusiasm, they were not altogether pleased with his excessive application, and advised greater moderation in his studies. There was reason in their caution. It is possible to task the receptive capacity of the mind to the injury of its creative power; and Sumner, perhaps, gathered his knowledge too fast for the best intellectual discipline.

His notes of the moot-court cases heard by the professors, in several of which he was counsel,12 are preserved. In Feb., 1833, he maintained (Wendell Phillips being of counsel on the other side) the negative of the question, whether a Scotch bond, assignable by the law of Scotland, can be sued by the assignee in his own name in our courts. He seems to have been dissatisfied with his argument, and wrote to Browne, stating his hesitation in public speaking, and his difficulty in selecting fit language for his thoughts. Browne replied, saying that he had overstated the difficulty, which was not peculiar to him; and advising a simpler style, with less effort and consciousness, and the rejection of large words,—sesquipedalia verba (‘to which you know you are addicted’),—and ‘uncommon, brilliant, and Gibbonic phrases.’ ‘You do not stumble,’ he said; ‘you utter rapidly enough. [95] To be sure, you have not the torrens dicendi, and that is a very fortunate thing.’

Sumner competed successfully for a Bowdoin prize offered to resident graduates for the best dissertation on the theme, ‘Are the most important Changes in Society effected Gradually or by Violent Revolutions?’ His manuscript bore a motto from the ‘Agricola’ of Tacitus: ‘Per intervalla ac spiramenta temporum.’ It was written in a fortnight, without interfering with his regular studies, and covered fifty pages. Some of its quotations may be traced in his orations. The early part is elaborate, but the latter hurriedly written. Much space is taken with a review of the condition of Europe in the ‘Dark Ages,’ and of the agencies which promoted modern civilization,—a line of thought probably suggested by his recent reading of Hallam's ‘Middle Ages.’ This progressive development, he maintained, shows that the improvement of society is effected by gradual reforms, often unobserved, rather than by revolutions. The former are always to be encouraged; the latter become necessary when society has outgrown its institutions, and peaceful changes are resisted by the governing power. The dissertation bears the marks of haste in composition, and is marred by digressions and wanting in compactness.13 He did not then apply the labor of assiduous and repeated revision, which was afterwards habitual with him. While not falling below the similar efforts of clever young men, it is not prophetic of future distinction. One passage is interesting, when read in the light of his subsequent career:–

Times like these (when revolutions become necessary) call for the exertions of the truly brave man. The good citizen may revolt at violence and outrage, and all the calamities which thicken upon a people divided with itself; but if he be true to his country, he will incur the risk for the prize in store. “ For surely, to every good and peaceable citizen,” said Milton,14 himself an actor in scenes like these to which I am referring, “ it must in nature needs be a hateful thing to be the displeaser and molester of thousands. But when God commands to take the trumpet and blow a dolorous or a jarring blast, it lies not in man's will what he shall say or what he shall conceal.” The question is one upon which hangs the prosperity and happiness of his country for years to come. A great battle is to be fought; but the fruits of the victory are not to him alone. The honor and garland are his; but the benefit goes [96] down to the latest posterity. The toil and danger are his; but, in Milton's words again, “ he shall have his charter and freehold of rejoicing to him and his heirs.”

It was Sumner's purpose to leave the Law School in July, 1833, at the end of a two years course; but he yielded to the persuasions of Judge Story, who urged him to remain during the next term, which would close with the year. The judge wrote to him from Washington, July 12: ‘I am very glad that you have concluded to remain at the Law School another term. It will, I think, be very profitable to you, and not in the slightest degree affect your means of practical knowledge. Let nothing induce you to quit the law. You will, as sure as you live, possess a high rank in it, and need not fear the frowns of fortune or of power.’

While Judge Story was absent at Washington, Sumner was his correspondent at Cambridge, and served him in forwarding books, distributing presentation copies of his works, and in similar good offices. The judge wrote, Feb. 6, 1833,15 ‘There are not many of whom I would venture to ask the favor of troubling themselves in my affairs; but I feel proud to think that you are among the number, and I have, in some sort, as the Scotch would say, a heritable right to your friendship.’ And again, on Feb. 4, 1834: ‘You must begin to be chary of your intellectual as well as physical strength, or it may be exhausted before you reach the fair maturity of life.’

During the summer and autumn of 1833, while serving as librarian, Sumner prepared a catalogue of the library of the Law School. His work, for which he was voted one hundred and fifty dollars by the corporation, was carefully done and much approved at the time. It contains, besides the list of books, an interesting sketch of the growth of the library, and of the gifts of the second Thomas Hollis, of Lincoln's Inn, which was republished in the ‘American Jurist.’16

In 1833, he contributed two articles to the ‘American Monthly Review:’17 one, a review of the impeachment trials before the Senate of the United States, and particularly that of Judge Peck; and the other, a notice of an edition of Blackstone's ‘Commentaries,’ with special reference to the notes of Christian [97] and Chitty. Browne wrote to him in relation to the former article:—

It is learned without a show of learning. To have been able to accomplish such a matter is no small subject of rejoicing. I am glad to see you grow. You have improved your style in proportions and muscle. It bears in that article a favorable comparison with a strong, healthy, well-built man. Did you get that Latin quotation from Persius? That was the only thing I would ask to strike out. It was far-fetched, knotty, and hard to be translated.

Near the close of his second year in the Law School, he began to write for the ‘American Jurist,’ a law periodical which maintained a high rank, and numbered among its contributors Theron Metcalf, Simon Greenleaf, Luther S. Cushing, George S. Hillard, and Dr. I. Ray. Some of its series of articles—notably, Judge Metcalf's on Contracts—afterwards grew into treatises. Willard Phillips—author of the treatise on ‘The Law of Insurance’—was the editor. Sumner's first contribution was to the number for July, 1833,—a notice of a lecture before King's College, London, by Professor J. J. Park, on ‘Courts of Equity.’18 The article defines at some length and with happy illustrations the distinction between law and equity, then much misconceived. Judge Story noted it, in his ‘Equity Jurisprudence,’ as ‘a forcible exposition of the prevalent errors on the subject,’ and as ‘full of useful comment and research.’19 It is a thoughtful and well-written paper, entirely worthy of a lawyer who had added practice to his professional studies.

Sumner's method of composition changed perceptibly while he was in the Law School. His style became more compact, his vocabulary more select, his thought clearer and more exact. His topics exercised the critical faculty, and the discipline of legal studies counteracted his tendency to diffuseness. He was, more than before, the master of his material. There was not as yet the glow, the earnestness, or the moral inspiration which were afterwards the peculiar traits of his writings; these were reserved for a period when his life was to be among events rather than among books. His freedom of thought, and his sympathy with new ideas and reforms, checked probably in some measure by his association with conservative teachers, appear thus early [98] warm and active.20 His intellect lacked subtlety; it was generally repelled by abstruse and technical questions, and, led by Story's example, sought the more congenial domains of international and commercial law. Some of his surviving fellow-students recall that he was not thought to have what is called ‘a legal mind;’ though Story and Greenleaf, each of whom counted on him as colleague or successor, do not appear to have observed this defect. His classmate Browne took exception at the time to his articles in the ‘Jurist,’ as being speculative rather than practical in their topics; and certainly his contributions to that magazine, then and later, show that he preferred to write upon the literature of the law rather than upon the law itself. One with his qualities of mind would be more likely to find his place in the profession as author or teacher, than among the details of office-business or the hand-to-hand contests of the court-room.

Contemporaneous letters, written chiefly by his classmates, show his habits at this time, and the expectations entertained as to his future. His father wrote to him, April 4, 1832, ‘Charles, while you study law, be not too discursive. Study your prescribed course well. That is enough to make you a lawyer. You may bewilder your mind by taking too wide a range.’

Stearns, in a similar tone, wrote, Sept. 19, 1831, ‘You were cut out for a lawyer. . . . I cannot altogether applaud your resolution to include so much in your system of study for the coming year. “Law, classics, history, and literature” is certainly too wide a range for any common mind to spread over at one time. Better follow Captain Bobadil's example; take them man by man, and “kill them all up by computation.” ’ Hopkinson, Jan. 6, 1832, calls him ‘the indefatigable, ever-delving student, and amorous votary of antiquity;’ and refers, May 12, ‘to the study and diligence for which the world gives you credit.’

Browne wrote from Cambridge to Stearns, May 6, 1832:—

We, in Cambridge here, are studying law at a trot, or rather I should say, reciting it. Some study hard,—among them your good friend Charles, hater of mathematics; but as to your other friend [himself], he studies the books but little. Sumner will be a vast reservoir of law, if he lives to be at the bar; which, if you take the bodings of a harsh, constant cough and a most pale face, might seem doubtful. Yet his general health seems perfect. He eats well, sleeps well, and so through all the functions of the animal man. [99] We often laugh together in speaking of the time to come, when I tell him 1 will send to him for law when I have a case to look up. He is to the law what he used to be to history,—a repertory of facts to which we might all resort. Let him speed in his studies, increase in the color of his cheeks, expel his cough from a dominion whose title is almost confirmed by prescription, and he will hold himself higher than his legal brethren by the head and shoulders.

Stearns wrote to Sumner, May 14:—

Browne tells me you are studying law with all the zeal and ardor of a lover. But by all means do not sacrifice your health. You must take care of that. You owe it as a duty to yourself, a duty to your friends and country, a duty to your God. It will be too late to think of this when disease has taken a firm grapple on the body. . . . You cannot be a man and reach the lawful height to which your intellect is capable of being raised, unless you carefully watch over and preserve your health. You may think these remarks are frivolous, but I consider them as serious truths. I look forward to the time, if you do not kill yourself prematurely, when I shall see you a decided, powerful champion of the cause of justice, patriotism, and the true Christian faith.

Hopkinson wrote, July 17:—

‘Congratulations are matter of course; but I hope you will consider it equally a matter of course that a friend should feel great joy in your success.21 Your pen was always that of a ready writer, once indeed racy and loose. But words were always your obedient slaves. They came and ranged themselves at your bidding; nay, seemed often to outrun your swift intent, and marshal you the way. But I have for two years been observing your pen to grow stiffer. Your crude troops have been growing more disciplined and forming in straighter lines, till you have a numerous and well-ordered army. . . . Be this a foretaste of many successes in laudable undertakings.’

Again, on July 30:—

You never think of bodily health. Do you have the folly to spend this vacation in poring? For shame! Take a country tour,—a long pedestrian tour. It will be the best way to further your intellectual progress. Give that pallid face a little color, those lean limbs a little muscle, and the bow of your mind a greater elasticity.

Again, on May 9, 1833, Hopkinson wrote from Lowell, where he was practising law as the partner of Mr. Luther Lawrence:

Had I but your application, I might consider myself in a good way. Not, indeed, that I could grasp such honors as are within your reach; not that I could walk over the heads of all young practitioners, and be in fact a counsellor during my attorneyship: but I could take an immediate practice and [100] profit. Your chance at Cambridge, had I your fitness for the place, would tempt me more than a tour to Washington, which has so kindled your imagination. . . . As to your despondency, or whatever other name you please to give it, take exercise!—exercise!—exercise!—and it will vanish like the morning dew.

Henry W. Paine, having left the Law School, wrote from Winslow, Me., March 12, 1833:—

There is not one among my friends in whom I feel a more lively interest, whose prosperity would more essentially contribute to my happiness. Be careful of your health, my friend, and the day is not distant when I shall have the proud satisfaction of saying that Sumner was once my classmate.

Again, on May 25:—

Since my last, you have been called to mourn the departure of poor Ashmun. Indeed, we all mourned the event; but you must have felt it more sensibly than the rest of us, situated so near him as you were, and so intimate with him as you had been for the past two years. You were present, too, at the last solemn scene, performing those acts of kindness which you must now reflect upon with satisfaction. . . . If you could realize what a treat is one of your letters, you have too much of the milk of human kindness to withhold the favor. I seem to see in them once more Old Harvard, and to be seated again in the librarian's room of Dane Law College. But you are soon to leave, and thus the strongest chain that binds me to the “ sacred ” spot is to be severed. I have always supposed that the place of your ultimate destination was certain. Surely you cannot hesitate. You were made for Boston. There your talents and attainments will be appreciated, and cannot fail of securing you that reputation which all who know you would rejoice to see you attain. But, as you have been so incessant in your application, I am sincerely concerned for your health; and, if my poor advice could avail, you would spend your coming vacation in journeying. Come “down East.” Dismiss your books and the toils of study. You may think this “interested advice;” and in part it is, though not wholly so. I feel it would be beneficial to you. It would be a joyous event to me.

Hopkinson wrote from Lowell, July 13:—

Dear Charles,—I regret to learn that you are to stay yet a term further at Cambridge, for I had calculated on your coming here this fall. Yet nothing is so like yourself as to stay to please your friend [Judge Story],— and such a friend! I most earnestly congratulate you on having gained the confidence, esteem, and friendship of that truly great man. It will fix your life's direction, and I would not have you forego the advantages which that situation and that intercourse will secure to you for my pleasure or gratification. You will find your employment probably in the science of the law, and will escape its drudgery.


In March, 1833, a temperance society was formed in the college, which included members of the professional schools, as well as undergraduates. It was a period of special interest in this reform. The pledge of this society admitted the use of wines, excluding only that of spirituous liquors, and was binding only during the signer's connection with the college. The meeting for organization was held in a room in University Hall, which was used for commons.22 Sumner was chosen President; Abiel A. Livermore, of the Divinity School, Vice-President; and Samuel Osgood, of the Divinity School, Secretary. Among the members of the Executive Committee were Barzillai Frost, of the Divinity School, and Richard H. Dana, Jr., of the Sophomore Class. Public meetings were held in the City Hall, or one of the churches; at one of which Rev. John G. Palfrey delivered an impressive address, still well remembered for its effective reference to graduates of the college who had fallen victims to the vice. He then, for the first time, met Sumner, who presided; and was attracted by his manly presence and genial smile. In the autumn of 1833, Sumner invited George S. Hillard to repeat before the society a temperance lecture which he had delivered in other places.

Rev. A. A. Livermore, of Meadville, Penn., a living officer of the society, writes:—

A peculiar life-and-death earnestness characterized even then all that Sumner did and said. His voice had a trumpet tone, and he was a good leader to rally under; but temperance was not popular.

Rev. Dr. Osgood, of New York, also writes:—

Sumner was then a law-student, and I saw a good deal of him. He talked much of ethics and international law. He had great strength of conviction on ethical subjects and decided religious principle; yet he was little theological, much less ecclesiastical.

He was connected, at least during his first year in the Law School, with a debating society, and bore his part in discussions which related to the utility of trial by jury and of capital punishment, and the value of lyceums. He was not fluent in speech, but he prepared himself with care, as his minutes still preserved show.

One attraction at this time proved stronger with Sumner than [102] even his books. Miss Frances A. Kemble, the daughter of Charles Kemble, the English actor, and the niece of Mrs. Siddons, came with her father to this country in 1832, three years after her debut at Covent Garden in the character of Juliet. She was then but twenty-one years old; and her youth added to the fascination of her brilliant talents. Wherever she played, her acting was greatly admired; and by no class so much as by students. After fulfilling engagements in New York and other cities, she made her first appearance in Boston in April, 1833. Sumner was an enthusiast in his devotion, walking again and again to the city during her engagement at the Tremont Theatre, witnessing her acting with intense admiration, and delighting to talk of her with his friends.23 He did not know her personally at this time, but greatly enjoyed her society some years afterwards, during a visit to Berkshire County.

Sumner visited, while a student in the Law School, but few families. He was a welcome guest at the firesides of the two professorsStory, and Mrs. Story and Mrs. Greenleaf took an interest in him almost equal to that of their husbands. His friendship with the family of President Quincy, which began at this period, remained unbroken through life; and from them, in all the vicissitudes of his career, he never failed to receive hearty sympathy and support. While he entered sympathetically into the household life of his friends, he was, at this period,—which is marked by an absorbing, almost ascetic, devotion to the pursuit of knowledge,—indifferent to the society of ladies whose charms were chiefly those of person and youth; and his preference for the conversation of scholarly persons gave at times much amusement to others; but, as some lifelong friendships attest, no one was ever more appreciative of women of superior refinement and excellence.

Mrs. Waterston, a daughter of President Quincy, writes:—

Charles Sumner entered his Senior year in 1830. The son of an old friend of my father's, he must have had an early invitation to our house. The first distinct remembrance I have of him personally was on one of my mother's reception evenings, held every Thursday during the winter, and [103] open to all acquaintances and the students. I was standing at the end of one of the long, old-fashioned rooms, and saw, among a crowd of half-grown youths and towering above them, the tall, spare form and honest face of Charles Sumner. Years after we recalled that evening; and from his wonderful memory he mentioned a little fact. “ A three-cornered note was brought to you,” said he, “and you said to the gentlemen round you, ‘it is from Miss M.; she cannot be here this evening.’ ” “Why were you not introduced to me?” said I. “Oh, I did not dare to be; I only looked at you from afar with awe.” I was, in fact, a year younger than himself; but in those simple days the chasm was wide between a raw collegian, as he then was, and a young lady in society. I recall him very distinctly in his seat on Sundays. It was in the old chapel in University Hall, before any alteration had been made. The President's pew was in the gallery, on the right of the pulpit. Perched there, I looked down, first on good Dr. Ware, Sr., in his professor's gown; and, while he discoursed “furthermore,” I looked beyond and below on the very young Sophomores, and saw Sumner's long proportions in the front seat of the Seniors.

It was during his residence as a law-student that he was most frequently at our house. I do not think he ever sought ladies' society much, though I remember we always enjoyed his conversation, and that my mother foresaw a future for Charles Sumner. It was during his law-studies that Judge Story and my father recognized his uncommon abilities. On one of those memorable Sunday evenings, when the judge, seated by my mother, drew all present around them, he spoke of Sumner, and said: “ He has a wonderful memory; he keeps all his knowledge in order, and can put his hand on it in a moment. This is a great gift.” On July 28, 1833, the new First Parish church was in progress; and the steeple, after being finished inside, was to be raised entire and placed on the tower. I give an extract from my journal: “We sent Horace to ask Mr. Sumner, the law-student, to let us come over to the Law School and see the raising. In a few moments, mamma, Margaret, and myself were joined by Mr. Sumner, who escorted us not only to the Law School, but all over the building, even into his own room, as, being librarian, he lives there. This youth, though not in the least handsome, is so good-hearted, clever, and real, that it is impossible not to like him and believe in him. JudgeStory and Mrs. Story and several other ladies joined us, and we sat on the portico; for Judge Story, fearing some accident would occur, would not let any of us go over to the church to see how the raising was managed. The steeple went up so slowly that mamma and my sister could not wait for it; but I staid with Mrs. Story until it rose to its full height and was safely moored on the tower. Mr. Sumner walked home with me arm in arm.” This latter clause is underlined, as I suppose it was a very remarkable attention; at least he had now no “ awe” of the young lady.

It was in the preceding April, 1833, that John Hooker Ashmun died,— the Royall Professor of Law,—and Sumner must have been present at Judge Story's eulogy on Mr. Ashmun. In my journal of that day I write: “ After the services closed and the men came forward to remove the body, a number of Mr. Ashmun's students, as if moved by an irresistible impulse, pressed [104] forward and surrounded him for the last time. They were to see his face no more.”

Mr. Alvord took Mr. Ashmun's place as professor, but, in the summer of 1833, he also was taken very ill. During the weeks after the notice of the steeple-raising, I find Mr. Sumner's name mentioned constantly, coming in to report Mr. Alvord's state, as he visited him daily. One extract more from the journal: “Charles Sumner came to give his account of Mr. Alvord, which is more favorable. He paid me a long visit, and we talked at the rate of nine knots an hour. He gave a curious account of a young man who has been studying Latin and Greek in a lighthouse, to prepare for college. The reason of his choosing a lighthouse is to save the expense of oil! We agreed that he deserved all success. Mamma returned from Dedham while Mr. Sumner was still here, and he staid and had a good long talk with her.”

His classmate, Rev. Dr. Emery, writes:—

In Oct., 1833, I returned to Cambridge and became a resident graduate. I found Sumner in the Law School, pursuing his studies with great enthusiasm, and we were often in each other's rooms. He was the same scholarly person then as when in college, and he lived, as it were, in intimate converse with the learned of ancient and modern times. I have no doubt his mind was better stored with accurate and critical knowledge than that of any other student in the school. He occupied as librarian one of the front rooms in the second story of Dane Hall, “ the pleasantest room in Cambridge,” as he told me. If he had at that time any thought of being one of the foremost public men in the country beyond that of an eminent lawyer, he certainly kept it to himself, for he seemed to take but little interest in political matters. He came one day to my room in Massachusetts Hall, and told me how he had unfortunately just congratulated a professor, recently resigned, on his election to the State Senate, not knowing that he had been defeated. His mind was wholly absorbed in other pursuits, which, perhaps unconsciously to himself, were preparing him for the lofty stand he attained in after life.

Professor William C. Russell, of Cornell University, who saw much of Sumner at Cambridge in 1832-33, writes: —

He was a tall, thin, bent, ungainly law-student; his eyes were inflamed by late reading, and his complexion showed that he was careless of exercise. I was from New York, and he had less experience of life; and from that cause, I suppose, liked to talk to me. He certainly was very kind, very simple, and very easily pleased. I rather think, however, that I owed a great deal of the kindness with which he treated me to the fact that I was personally acquainted, though very slightly, with “ Fanny Kemble,” as we boys used to call her. He was, as much as any of us, infatuated by her acting; and I remember his one day stopping me in the street, and drawing me out of the thoroughfare, and saying, “ Come, Russell, tell me something about Fanny Kemble,” with all the interest of a lover.

His personal kindness never ceased while I remained at Cambridge, and [105] he helped me on one occasion when I needed a friend, with the tenderness of a girl. When I left, in 1834, to no one of the friends whom I had gained there was I more attached.

A lady, then a fiancee of one of his most intimate classmates, writes:—

As a young law-student, I remember very well the first impression he made upon me of a certain dignity and strength, which supplied the want of grace, and which was as perceptible in his conversation as in his person. You would have said then that he was a man of ideas, and that the ideas of other people would never be trammels, only steps, for him.

William W. Story writes from Rome:—

I was a mere boy when I first knew him, but the affectionate kindness which he then showed me remained unclouded by the slightest shadow until the day of his death. His father was in a class two years before my father at Harvard; and when Charles Sumner entered the Law School, my father took an interest in him at first, because of his father, and this interest soon ripened into a warm affection. My first recollections of him are at this period. He used to come to our house some two or three evenings in the week, and to his long conversations I used to listen night after night with eager pleasure. His simplicity and directness of character, his enthusiasm and craving for information, his lively spirit and genial feeling, immediately made a strong impression on me. My father was very fond of him, always received him with a beaming face, and treated him almost as if he were a son; and we were all delighted to welcome him to our family circle. He was free, natural, and naive in his simplicity, and plied my father with an ever-flowing stream of questions; and I need not say that the responses were as full and genial as heart and mind could desire. When I heard that he was in the room, I quitted all occupations to see and hear him, though for the most part I only played the role of listener. When other persons came in, he would turn to me and make inquiries as to my studies, and endeavor to help me in them; and at last, out of pure good nature, he proposed to me to come to his room in the Dane Law College, and read Latin with him and talk over the ancient authors. I gladly accepted the offer, and many an evening I used to spend with him in half study, half talk. He had the art to render these evenings most agreeable. He talked of Cicero and Caesar; of Horace, Virgil, Tacitus, Sallust, and indeed of all the old Latin writers; of the influence they had on their age, and their age had on them; of the characteristics of their poetry and prose; of the peculiarities of their style; of the differences between them and our modern authors: and he so talked of them as to interest and amuse me, and bring them before me as real and living persons out of the dim, vague mist in which they had hitherto stood in my mind. We used then, also, to cap Latin verses; and he so roused my ambition not to be outdone by him that I collected from various authors a book full of verses, all of which I committed to memory. Of course he beat me always, for he had [106] a facile and iron memory which easily seized and steadily retained every thing he acquired.

English poetry was also a constant subject of our talks; and he used to quote and read favorite passages which we earnestly discussed together. Among all the poets, at this time certainly, Gray was his favorite;24 and I have still a copy of his poems, presented to me by him, and full of annotations, many of which are due to these conversations. I shall never cease to feel grateful to him for these happy evenings, so full of interest and instruction.

Then, as afterwards, his judgment in respect to poetry was not a keen one. The higher flights of the imagination, or the rapid ranges of fancy, were above him; and I think his noblest idea of poetry was embodied in Gray's “Elegy,” which he would repeat with sonorous tones. But poetry was with him more all acquired taste than a natural one. He had himself little imagination or fancy, and better loved strong manly sentiments and thoughts within the range of the understanding, and solid facts and statements of principles. When he could steady himself against a statement by an ancient author he felt strong. His own moral sense, which was very high, seemed to buttress itself with a passage from Cicero or Epictetus. He seemed to build upon them as upon a rock, and thence defy you to shake him.

He was then, as ever in after life, an indefatigable and omnivorous student. He lived simply, was guilty of no excesses of any kind, went very little into society, and devoted his days and nights to books. Shortly after my first acquaintance with hi, he became librarian of the Dane Law School, and I think there was scarcely a text-book in the library of the contents of which he had not some knowledge. Nor was this a superficial knowledge, considering its extent and his youth. He had acquainted himself, also, with the lives, characters, and capacity of most of the authors, and could give a fair resume of the contents of most of their works. His room was piled with books: the shelves overflowed and the floor was littered with them. Though a devoted student of law, he did not limit his reading to it, but ranged over the whole field of literature with eager interest. He was at this time totally without vanity, and only desirous to acquire knowledge and information on every subject. Behind every work he liked to see and feel the man who wrote it, and, as it were, to make his personal acquaintance. Whenever a particular question interested him, he would come to my father and talk it over with him, and discuss it by the hour.

He had no interest in games and athletic sports; never, so far as I know, fished or shot or rowed; had no fancy for dogs and horses; and, in a word, was without all those tastes which are almost universal with men of his age. As for dancing, I think he never danced a step in his life. Of all men I ever knew at his age, he was the least susceptible to the charms of women. Men he liked best, and with them he preferred to talk. It was in vain for the loveliest and liveliest girl to seek to absorb his attention. He would at once [107] desert the most blooming beauty to talk to the plainest of men. This was a constant source of amusement to us, and we used to lay wagers with the pretty girls, that with all their art they could not keep him at their side a quarter of an hour. Nor do I think we ever lost one of these bets. I remember particularly one dinner at my father's house, when it fell to his lot to take out a charming woman, so handsome and full of esprit that any one at the table might well have envied him his position. She had determined to hold him captive, and win her bet against us. But her efforts were all in vain. Unfortunately, on his other side was a dry old savant, packed with information; and within five minutes Sumner had completely turned his back on his fair companion, and engaged in a discussion with the other, which lasted the whole dinner. We all laughed. She cast up her eyes deprecatingly, acknowledged herself vanquished, and paid her bet. Meantime, Sumner was wholly unconscious of the jest or of the laughter. He had what he wanted,—sensible men's talk. He had mined the savant as he mined every one he met, in search of ore, and was thoroughly pleased with what he got.

Though he was an interesting talker, he had no lightness of hand. He was kindly of nature, interested in every thing, but totally put off his balance by the least persiflage; and, if it was tried on him, his expression was one of complete astonishment. He was never ready at a retort, tacked slowly, like a frigate when assaulted by stinging feluccas, and was at this time almost impervious to a joke. He had no humor himself, and little sense of it in others; and his jests, when he tried to make one, were rather cumbrous. But in “plain sailing” no one could be better or more agreeable. He was steady and studious, and, though genial, serious in his character; while we were all light, silly, and full of animal spirits, which he sympathized with but could not enter into.

He was, as a young man, singularly plain. His complexion was not healthy. He was tall, thin, and ungainly in his movements, and sprawled rather than sat on a chair or sofa. Nothing saved his face from ugliness but his white gleaming teeth and his expression of bright intelligence and entire amiability. None could believe that he was thus plain in his youth, who only knew him in his full and ripened manhood. As years went on, his face and figure completely changed; and at last he stood before us a stalwart and imposing presence, full of dignity and a kind of grandeur. Age added to his appearance as well as to his influence. His genial illuminating smile he never lost; and at fifty years of age he was almost a handsome, and certainly a remarkable, man in his bearing and looks.

I do not think, in his early years, he had any great ambition. That developed itself afterwards. Circumstances and accidents forced him forward to the van, and he became a leader terribly in earnest. He had the same high-mindedness, the same single aim at justice and truth, the same inflexible faith and courage then that ever after characterized him.25


In an address to the students—colored—of Howard University, Washington, D. C., Feb. 3, 1871, Sumner said:—

These exercises ‘carry me back to early life, when I was a student of the Law School of Harvard University as you have been students in the Law School of Howard University. I cannot think of those days without fondness. They were the happiest of my life. . . . There is happiness in the acquisition of knowledge, which surpasses all common joys. The student who feels that he is making daily progress, constantly learning something new,—who sees the shadows by which he was originally surrounded gradually exchanged for an atmosphere of light,—cannot fail to be happy. His toil becomes a delight, and all that he learns is a treasure,—with this difference from gold and silver, that it cannot be lost. It is a perpetual capital at compound interest.’

Letters to classmates.

To Jonathan F. Stearns, Bedford, Mass.

Sunday, Sept. 25, 1831. Div. 10.
To Cambridge,26—your missile hit the mark; though, from its early date and late coming, one would think that the post-office powder was not of the best proof. To Cambridge,--yes; it has come to me here–Law School. Yester afternoon presented me with it, as I looked in at the office on my return from sweet Auburn, where Judge Story had been, in Nature's temple, set around with her own green and hung over with her own blue, dedicating to the dead a place well worthy of their repose. The general subject was the claims of the dead for a resting-place amongst kindred; the fondness of their living friends for seemly sepulchres in which to bury them, and where a tear can be shed unseen but by the waving grass or sighing trees; and the customs of nations in honors to the dead,—all naturally arising from the occasion.27

Your objections to the Anti-masonic party, and not to Anti-masonry, are perhaps good, though rather too strong. What party ever showed uniform placidness; and especially what young party? The blood is too warm to beat slowly or healthfully; sores and ulcers show themselves. And so it is with Anti-masonry. Some there are with more zeal than knowledge, and whose rabid philosophy will not suffer them to judge in candor and truth. They strain the principles of their party to such a tension that they almost crack (as in the case you instanced); but pray set this down to the infirmity [109] of man. They, poor men, have their consciences on their side; and with that ally need we admire that they are insensible to those feelings which would make them stop? For myself, my mind is made up: I shall never give back. Yet may this hand forget its cunning, if ever aught shall come from me savoring of intolerance or unwarrantable exclusion. I have been scourged into my present opinions by the abuse which my father has met with,—namely, my mind was brought by this to see what Masonry did, and to inquire what it could do. Anti-masonry has rather a ridiculous, repulsive air, of which no one is more conscious than myself; and had not the circumstances of my father's relation to it brought me into close contact (almost perforce) with it, I should probably have been an unbeliever to this day. Anti-masonry cannot claim its due proportion of talent for the numbers of its professors; and there is nothing strange in this, for it is new. The religion you profess drew to it none but fishermen when it first came down with the Son of the Father. Truth always walks lame when she first starts. It is time which habits her in the wings that bear her upward. I have said more upon this than I wished to; for I care not to have it in my mind. I feel so strongly upon it, that when it is called before me my mind engages itself too much, to the detriment of more profitable thoughts.

Come to Cambridge and see me. I room at Divinity Hall, No. 10, on the lower floor; and you shall have half of the couch which is mine. Come, and we will have an evening's chat. You will not disturb me; for, though I try to seize every moment of time, yet our law-studies are so indefinite that no number of hours cut out will be missed. We recite but three times a week; and one forenoon will master our lesson, though days can be given to it with profit. Come, then, and bring with you ‘The Nine’ book, and Browne and yourself and myself will renew old scenes and live happy times over again. I like living here, for I can be by myself. I know hardly an individual in the school. Days of idleness must be atoned for; the atoning offering is at hand, and it is a steady devotion to study. Late to bed and early to rise, and full employment while up, is what I am trying to bind myself to. The labor ipse voluptas I am coveting. I had rather be a toad and live upon a dungeon's vapor than one of those lumps of flesh that are christened lawyers, and who know only how to wring from quibbles and obscurities that justice which else they never could reach; who have no idea of law beyond its letter, nor of literature beyond their Term Reports and Statutes. If I am a lawyer, I wish to be one who can dwell upon the vast heaps of law-matter, as the temple in which the majesty of right has taken its abode; who will aim, beyond the mere letter, at the spirit,—the broad spirit of the law,— and who will bring to his aid a liberal and cultivated mind. Is not this an honest ambition? If not, reprove me for it. A lawyer is one of the best or worst of men, according as he shapes his course. He may breed strife, and he may settle dissensions of years. But when I look before me and above me, and see the impendent weight,—molem ingentem et perpetuis humeris sustinendam,—I incontinently shrink back. Book peers above book; and one labor of investigation is gone only to show a greater one. The greatest lawyers, after fifty years of enfolding study, have confessed, with the Wise Man, [110] that they only knew that they knew nothing. And what a discomfiting expression is here, that all the piled — up grains of human wisdom will raise one not at all from this earth; that he may labor and heap his acquirements, and yet they are as nothing! He begins with nothing, and ends where he began. If it is so, yet knowledge and acquirements are relative; and the man who knows that he knows nothing is yet more wise than the herd of his fellow-men,—even as much more wise, as wisdom itself is wiser than he is. And here is the place for hope,—though we cannot mount to the skies or elevate ourself from mother earth, yet can we reach far above those around us, and look with a far keener gaze. ‘What man has done, man can do;’ and in these words is a full fountain of hope. And again, hear Burke: ‘There is nothing in the world really beneficial that does not lie within the reach of an informed understanding and a well-directed pursuit. There is nothing that God has judged good for us that He has not given us the means to accomplish, both in the natural and the moral world.’28 What a sentiment! how rich in expression, how richer in truth!

A lawyer must know every thing. He must know law, history, philosophy, human nature; and, if he covets the fame of an advocate, he must drink of all the springs of literature, giving ease and elegance to the mind and illustration to whatever subject it touches. So experience declares, and reflection bears experience out.

I have not yet methodized my time,—and, by the way, method is the life of study,—but I think of something like the following: The law in the forenoon; six hours to law is all that Coke asks for (sex horas des legibus aequis), and Matthew Hale and Sir William Jones and all who have declared an opinion; though, as to that matter, I should be influenced little more than a tittle by any opinions of others.29 We all of us must shape our own courses; no two men will like the same hours or manner of study. Let each one assist himself from the experience of others; but let him not put aside his own judgment. Well, six hours,—namely, the forenoon wholly and solely to law; afternoon to classics; evening to history, subjects collateral and assistant to law, &c. I have as yet read little else than law since I have been here; but the above is the plan I have chalked out. Recreation must not be found in idleness or loose reading. “Le changement d'occupation est mon seul dZZZlassement,” says Chancellor D'Aguesseau, one of the greatest lawyers France ever saw.

And now have I blackened enough paper? Have you read to this spot? If you have, you are a well-doing servant, and shalt surely have your reward. But pray visit upon these sheets the heretic's fate,—fire, fire, fire. And now I stop. ‘Dabit deus his quoque finem.’30

Your true friend,

C. S.


To Charlemagne Tower, Waterville, N. Y.

Law School, Divinity Hall, No. 10, Sept. 29, 1831.
A new curtain has arisen. I am treading another scene of life. I behold new objects of study, and am presented with new sources of reflection. I have left Boston and the profitless thoughts which its streets, its inhabitants, its politics, and its newspapers ever excite. I find myself again in loved Cambridge, where are sociability and retirement, and where those frittering cares and thoughts which every city inflicts upon its unlucky sojourners do not intrude. I feel differently, very differently, from what I did when I enjoyed this town, in all the nonchalance of an undergraduate, heedless of time,—that property more valuable than silver and gold,—and seeking, in the main, a pleasant way to throw away hours and minutes. I now feel that every moment, like a filing of gold, ought to be saved. But in the acting up to this feeling, strong as it may be, will lie the failure. Labor, though we all acknowledge its potency, still has too repulsive a front. Be it my duty to see in its appearance nothing but invitation and incentive. Yes, duty shall gird me for its endurance. But, to stop this vague sermonizing, I am now a regular member of the Law School, have read a volume and a half of Blackstone, and am enamored of the law. Tower, we have struck the true profession; the one in which the mind is the most sharpened and quickened, and the duties of which, properly discharged, are most vital to the interests of the country,—for religion exists independent of its ministers; every breast feels it: but the law lives only in the honesty and learning of lawyers. Let us feel conscious, then, of our responsibility; and, by as much as our profession excels in interest and importance, give to it a corresponding dedication of our abilities. And yet I give back in despair when I see the vast weight which a lawyer must bear up under. Volumes upon volumes are to be mastered of the niceties of the law, and the whole circle of literature and science and history must be compassed. . . .

Tell me what law-books you have read and are reading, and whether you have taken notes of or ‘commonplaced’ any of your study. I have taken some notes from Blackstone of the different estates, contingent remainders, &c. As to Blackstone, I almost feel disposed to join with Fox, who pronounced him the best writer in the English language. He is clear, fluent, and elegant, with occasionally a loose expression and a bad use of a metaphor; but what a good thing for our profession that we can commence our studies with such an author. His commentaries unfold a full knowledge by themselves of the law,—a knowledge to be filled out by further study, but which is yet a whole by itself. . . .

The lower floor of Divinity Hall, where I reside, is occupied by law-students. There are here Browne and Dana of our old class, with others that I know nothing of,—not even my neighbor, parted from me by a partition-wall, have I seen yet; and I do not wish to see him. I wish no acquaintances, for they eat up time like locusts. The old classmates are enough. . . . I [112] admire that filial piety which would make you give up formed plans and professional studies for cares with which your mind has little sympathy. It will result in good.

Your friend in truth,

To Charlemagne Tower.

Cambridge, Law School, Jan. 31, 1832.
my dear friend,—I never receive a letter from one of my old college friends without experiencing a most pleasing melancholy. Memory is always at hand, with her throng of recollections and associations, the shadows of past joys,—joys gone as irrevocably as time. Youth and college feelings have given way to manhood and its sterner avocations. The course is fairly commenced in the race of life, and every intellectual and corporal agency is bent to exertion. There are now no Saturdays bringing weekly respites from drudgery, allowing a momentary stop in the path of duty. All is labor. It mattereth not the day or hardly the hour, for duty is urgent all days and all hours. What, then, could bring up more pleasing recollections, and yet tinged with melancholy (because they are never more to be seen, except in memory's mirror) than a letter from one who was present and active in those scenes to which the mind recurs? I sometimes let a whole hour slip by unconsciously, my book unvexed before me, musing upon old times, feelings, and comrades. My eye sees, as exactly as if I had left it but yesterday, the old recitation-room and all its occupants. My ear seems yet to vibrate with the sound of the various voices which we heard so often. But the reverie has its end, for the present and future drive from the mind musings of the past.

Judge Story is at Washington, with the Supreme Court, for the winter. Of course the school misses him. Our class, as yet, has had nothing to do with him. Those who do recite to him love him more than any instructor they ever had before. He treats them all as gentlemen, and is full of willingness to instruct. He gives to every line of the recited lesson a running commentary, and omits nothing which can throw light upon the path of the student. The good scholars like him for the knowledge he distributes; the poor (if any there be), for the amenity with which he treats them and their faults. Have you determined never again to return to the shadows of Cambridge? By the way, the judge has a book in press, which will be published within a week, which you must read. I mention this because I doubted whether you would hear of it immediately. It is called ‘Commentaries on Bailments,’ and will entirely supersede the classic work of Jones. The title of ‘Bailments’ is of but a day's growth. It is hardly known to the common law. Jones's work was written about forty years ago. Since then it has gained a much completer conformation. Story's work will supply all deficiencies, and, I suspect, be an interesting book; certainly a useful one.

I am now upon Kent's second volume. He is certainly the star of your State. I like his works, though less than most students. To me he is very [113] indistinct in his outlines. This, perhaps, is the more observable, stepping, as I do, from the well-defined page of Blackstone. Truly, the English commentator is a glorious man; he brings such a method, such a flow of language and allusion and illustration to every topic! I have heard a sensible lawyer place Kent above him; but, in my opinion, sooner ought the earth to be above the clear and azure-built heavens! And yet the character of Kent, as told to me, bewitches me. His works, in fact, are crude, and made to publish and get money from (he has already cleared twenty thousand dollars from them) rather than to be admired and to last. A revision may put them in a little better plight for visiting posterity, and I understand he is giving them this.31

When you write, tell me all the law you have read. I wish to compare ‘reckonings’ with you occasionally, as we are voyaging on the same sea.

This is written in the vexation of a cough,

By your true friend,

To Charlemagne Tower.

Cambridge, Friday Morning, May 11, 1832.
my dear friend,—The moment I saw the black seal of your letter my mind anticipated the sorrowful intelligence it bore.32 Permit me to join with you in grief. I offer you my sincere sympathies. The loss of a father I can only imagine: may God put far distant the day when that affliction shall come over me! You have been a faithful son; and, I know, a joy to his eyes. I reverence the spirit with which you have sacrificed all your professional and literary predilections. You did that for your father's sake; and the thought that you did it on his account must be to you a spring of satisfaction and consolation as hallowed as the grief which you feel. You follow duty: what nobler object can man follow; and what can bring him to a nobler end? The professions or walks of life in which we may tread are of but little consequence, so that the way we take is well trod. I promise that your sacrifice will be ever unrepented; not that I undervalue the study of the law, or the means which it affords of advancement and honor, but because your sacrifice was one of duty and piety.

You kindly mentioned my sister.33 I owe every one thanks and regard who speaks of her with respect. But my grief, whatever it may be, has not the source that yours has. A Persian matron, oppressed by a tyrant king, had the leave of the monarch to save from death one of her family and relatives. She had many children and a husband; but she had also a father, old and decrepit. Him she selected and saved, saying that another husband and other children she might have, but another father never. I have lost a sister; but I [114] still have other sisters and brothers, entitled to my instructions and protection. I strive to forget my loss in an increased regard for the living. . . .

Let me then remind you (of what I know there is no need of reminding you) that the cares and honors of your father's house devolve upon you. Serve all as you have served him. I have written with the freedom of a friend who takes an unfeigned interest in you and yours.

Death, this winter, has glutted himself among those to whom my acquaintance and regards extended, more than in all the rest of my life. Penniman, our classmate, died,—a calm and easy death, unconscious that he was sinking into a sleep longer than that of a night. Yesterday's paper told me of the death of Hale, from New York, who graduated the year after we did. What death may come next,—who can tell? . . .

I have thought but little of the Bowdoin subjects, and it is from now just a month when the dissertations must be handed in. If I write at all, it will be upon the second subject. I shall choose that, because it will require but little immediate investigation. A general knowledge of the course of events, the progress of society, and the causes and effects of some of the principal revolutions, is all that is wanted for a discussion of this subject. To be sure, that is a good deal; but my historical studies have, in some degree, fitted me for reflection upon it. To discuss the third subject, I should be obliged to review in detail the history of Mohammedanism. I am now studying the law with some singleness, and should feel unwilling to give myself to any so serious study aside from those of my profession. I much doubt whether I shall touch either subject. Fifty dollars is an inducement,—great to me; for I just begin seriously to feel the value of money. Last January I was twenty-one. New feelings have been opened to me since I arrived at that age. I feel that I ought to be doing something for myself, and not to live an expense to my father, with his large family looking to him for support and education. Stearns is somewhat recovered. He is with his father at Bedford, and has the care of a suspended boy from college. I doubt whether many days be in store for him.

I am anxious to know the extent of your law-studies. You will be for five years a business man. Never forget that you are also a scholar. If I can ever be of use to you, on account of my access to the library or on any other account, fail not to command me. Any trouble you may put me to will be a pleasing one. . . .

Excuse my long scrawl, and believe me your true friend,

C. S.

To Jonathan F. Stearns.

34 Divinity Hall, Friday Evening, 10 o'clock, May 18, 1832.
my dear friend,—I am grateful to you for the regard you have expressed for my sister. She is now beyond the show of my affection and regard. I will then transfer them, for her sake, to those who speak and think well of her. Matilda died on March 6. You were the last of my friends who saw her. If I remember, when you were last at my father's, you [115] sat for a while in her chamber. She gradually became weaker and weaker, sinking by degrees, imperceptible except in their aggregate; always contented and cheerful, and, till the last two days of her tarry here, able to sit up a good portion of the day. It was evident, though, a fortnight—perhaps a month—before she died, that she could not live. It is, I believe, the nature of consumption to deceive its unfortunate victim into the belief that health may yet be regained, or, at least, life retained. It is accompanied with no decided pain, and thus leaves the mind to its hopes and anticipations. That such was the state of my sister's mind, I do not know. I never ventured to introduce my fears to her, and she seemed as studiously to avoid allusion to that topic. My mother, but a few days before her death, introduced the subject, and found her to be perfectly conscious of her situation and resigned to that Will which is the governor of our lives. She sank into death ‘calmly as to a night's repose,’ the last words she uttered being those of gratitude to one of her young friends who was watching her wants and comforts. My father's distress was very great. More than once I saw tears steal from his eyes. My mother is still dejected and comfortless. . . .

You have referred to my health, &c. I never was better; in fact, I never was unwell. I've always been well. Who can have spoken to you of me such flattering words, as should imply that I was hurting my health with study? Contra, I reprove myself for lack of study. I am well-determined, though, that, if health is continued to me, lack of study shall not be laid to my charge. Study is the talisman.

Carter is trying to start a school in Boston. Browne is well. He does not love the law. He is a keen, direct, and close debater.

From your true friend,

To Charlemagne Tower.

Boston, Sunday, July 29, 1832.
my dear friend,—This is vacation,—if such time there can be to one who has doubled his twenty-first year, and is moderately aware of the duties of manhood,—and I am at home. I have not stirred within sight of the Boston boundary-line since I came into town, and probably shall not cross it during the whole six weeks, except perhaps to make a pilgrimage to Cambridge. I am grateful to you for your kind invitation to visit you and see your doings. The gratification of friendship aside, I should be much delighted to travel through your great and growing State, and look at and hear ‘Niagara's roar.’ But pockets not full, and an attention given to studies by which I must earn what of bread and credit may be my lot, prevent. . ..

I wrote a Bowdoin dissertation on the subject which I mentioned in my last to you as uppermost in my mind. I commenced one evening, and a fortnight after I wrote the last sentence,—some fifty pages. During all the while I attended closely to the exercises of the school. . . .

Your affectionate friend,

C. S.


To Charlemagne Tower.

Cambridge, Wednesday, Oct. 24, 1832
my dear friend,—... Yesterday, Dane Law College (situated just north of Rev. Mr. Newell's church), a beautiful Grecian temple, with four Ionic pillars in front,—the most architectural and the best-built edifice belonging to the college,—was dedicated to the law. Quincy delivered a most proper address of an hour, full of his strong sense and strong language. Webster, J. Q. Adams, Dr. Bowditch, Edward Everett, Jeremiah Mason, Judge Story, Ticknor, leaders in the eloquence, statesmanship, mathematics, scholarship, and law of our good land, were all present,—a glorious company. The Law School have requested a copy for the press. It will of a certainty be given. I shall send you the address when published.

When you again visit Cambridge you will be astonished at the changes that have been wrought,—trees planted, common fenced, new buildings raised, and others designed. Quincy is a man of life, and infuses a vigor into all that he touches.

Commencement Day,—it was a good one; parts full of modest merit, nothing poor; orations not great, but thoughtful and pleasantly composed. There was no strong and salient merit, but there was an abundance of that respectable talent which excites our respect and gives earnest of future usefulness. The world is apt to judge of a day's performances by the few brilliant and striking parts that are heard. This is not the proper test.

There was a general rising against the Master's degree. Curtis,34 by far the first man of his class, with the highest legal prospects before him, refused it, and stirred many of his class to the same conclusion....

From your sincere friend,

To Charlemagne Tower.

Cambridge, Dec. 17, 1832.
my dear Tower,—A letter from you is now something of an event in my meagre life. Last year and the year before I had several correspondents, who occasionally favored me with their letters. But they have all shrunk away but yourself. Professional studies, and those cares which thicken upon us all as we gain in years, gradually weaned them from the pleasures of friendship, binding them to those labors which may secure them bread and fame. With you I have now held a long correspondence, which to me has been full of interest and instruction. Every letter brings up crowds of associations, in which I like to find myself. The bare sheet before me has an intrinsic interest, indeed, of its own; but it is doubly grateful as it calls to my mind all those college scenes in which I so much delighted, those friends in whom I have such pride, and all the pleasures and improvement which I [117] received in their society. I sit oftentimes, after having read one of your letters, filled with that mingled melancholy and joy which comes over one when thinking of the enjoyments of the past, and of the too palpable certainty that those enjoyments will never again be met except by Memory in her pleasant wanderings. But stop!—

We truly are in a sad state. Civil war, in a portentous cloud, hangs over us. South Carolina, though the sorest part of our system, is not the only part that is galled. Georgia cannot, Virginia cannot, stomach the high Federal doctrines which the President has set forth in his proclamation,35 and upon which the stability of the country rests. That is a glorious document, worthy of any President. Our part of the country rejoices in it as a true exposition of the Constitution, and a fervid address to those wayward men who are now plunging us into disgrace abroad and misery at home. Judge Story speaks much of its value; and so striking did its argument appear to him, that he has introduced it into a note to his work on the Constitution, in three volumes; which will be published by the middle of January.36

To change the tone, I hope you have not given up the idea of studying law. I believe that you will be happier in that profession than in any other. By it you will be enabled to gratify that laudable and honest ambition which you possess. You will be interested and fully employed by its study. If one does not wish to follow the profession, I need not tell you that he will still find the law a most profitable study, disciplining the mind and storing it with those everlasting principles which are at the bottom of all society and order. For myself, I become more wedded to the law, as a profession, every day that I study it. Politics I begin to loathe; they are of a day, but the law is of all time. Pray excuse my sermonizing....

From your true friend,

C. S.

to Jonathan F. Stearns, Andover, Mass.37

Cambridge, Jan. 12, 1833.
my dear friend,—I have received and am grateful for your letter. The interest you manifest in my welfare calls for my warmest acknowledgments. I do not know how I can better show myself worthy of your kindness than with all frankness and plainness to expose to you, in a few words, the state of my mind on the important subject upon which you addressed me. [118]

The last time I saw you, you urged upon me the study of the proofs of Christianity, with an earnestness that flowed, I was conscious, from a sincere confidence in them yourself and the consequent wish that all should believe; as in belief was sure salvation. I have had your last words and look often in my mind since. They have been not inconstant prompters to thought and speculation upon the proposed subject. I attended Bishop Hopkins's lectures, and gave to them a severe attention. I remained and still remain unconvinced that Christ was divinely commissioned to preach a revelation to men, and that he was entrusted with the power of working miracles. But when I make this declaration, I do not mean to deny that such a being as Christ lived and went about doing good, or that the body of precepts which have come down to us as delivered by him, were so delivered. I believe that Christ lived when and as the Gospel says; that he was more than man,—namely, above all men who had as yet lived,—and yet less than God; full of the strongest sense and knowledge, and of a virtue superior to any which we call Roman or Grecian or Stoic, and which we best denote when, borrowing his name, we call it Christian. I pray you not to believe that I am insensible to the goodness and greatness of his character. My idea of human nature is exalted, when I think that such a being lived and went as a man amongst men. And here, perhaps, the conscientious unbeliever may find good cause for glorifying his God; not because he sent his Son into the world to partake of its troubles and be the herald of glad tidings, but because he suffered a man to be born, in whom the world should see but one of themselves, endowed with qualities calculated to elevate the standard of attainable excellence.

I do not know that I can say more without betraying you into a controversy, in which I should be loath to engage, and from which I am convinced no good would result to either party. I do not think that I have a basis for faith to build upon. I am without religious feeling. I seldom refer my happiness or acquisitions to the Great Father from whose mercy they are derived. Of the first great commandment, then, upon which so much hangs, I live in perpetual unconsciousness,—I will not say disregard, for that, perhaps, would imply that it was present in my mind. I believe, though, that my love to my neighbor—namely, my anxiety that my fellow-creatures should be happy, and disposition to serve them in their honest endeavors— is pure and strong. Certainly I do feel an affection for every thing that God created; and this feeling is my religion.

He prayeth well, who loveth well
Both man and bird and beast.

He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.

I ask you not to imagine that I am led into the above sentiment by the lines I have just quoted,—the best of Coleridge's ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner,’—but rather that I seize the lines to express and illustrate my feeling. [119]

This communication is made in the fulness of friendship and confidence. To your charity and continued interest in my welfare, suffer me to commend myself as

Your affectionate friend,

P. S.—Browne has left Cambridge, and is for the winter at Salem. Hopkinson has also left, and is with H. H. Fuller in Boston. McBurney has a charge in Boston, which keeps him happy and busy,—the former par consequence from the latter. I feel quite alone. My chief company is the letters of my friends.

Write me.

C. S.

To Charlemagne Tower.

Sunday night, May 5, 1838.
my dear Tower,—. . . Since my last, our junior professor38—as you have seen by the papers and by the eulogy I had the pleasure of sending to you—has died. His death, though for a long time anticipated, yet had a degree of suddenness about it. All deemed his days numbered; but few were prepared to hear that they were cut short when they were. I was with him, and was the only one with him, at his death. It was the first deathbed, not to say sick-bed, I ever stood by. If death comes as it came to him, surely in it there is nothing to fear, except in the thoughts of ‘going we know not where.’ Those thoughts will be oppressive according to the education and religious feeling and mental strength of the sufferer; but the physical pain need make no one dread his ultima dies. Most persons, I believe, have a vague fear of racking pains and torments that attend dissolution; but these are creatures of the brain.

A successor has been appointed to Mr. Ashmun, who will commence his duties here in July, or next September. You have seen him announced in the papers,—Mr. Greenleaf, of Maine; a fine man, learned lawyer, good scholar, ardent student, of high professional character, taking a great interest in his profession: add to this, a gentleman, a man of manners, affability, and enthusiasm, nearly fifty years old; now has a very extensive practice in Maine, which he will wind up before he starts upon his new line of duties. It were worth your coming from New York to study under Judge Story and Greenleaf next term. I shall not be here after this year; not but I should like to be here,—for I could spend my life, I believe, in this, as some call it, monkish seclusion,--but because it is necessary to obtain a knowledge of practice in a lawyer's office, to come down from books and theory to men and writs; and one year, which will alone remain to me after Commencement, is usually considered little enough for that purpose.

How do you progress in law? Write me. How do you like Kent? I owe him much. I have had from him a great deal of elegant instruction. His [120] Commentaries are not wholly appreciated by the student upon a first perusal; they are hardly elementary enough. Ashmun said that they were written as the judgments of a judge. But when one is a little advanced or familiar with them, he sees the comprehensive views they take of the law of which they treat, and the condensed shape into which the law on their several titles is thrown. Kent is one of the glories of your State, whether you look at him as a commentator or a judge. In the latter capacity, his opinions, for learning and ability, stand almost unrivalled. Judges Marshall and Story alone, of any judges in our country, may be compared with him. . . .

Truly and faithfully your friend,

C. S.

To Charlemagne Tower.

Wednesday, June 12, 1833.
my dear Tower,—I send by your brother for your acceptance a couple numbers of Professor Willard's Review, of which you may have heard, containing slight articles of mine; which I flattered myself might be interesting to you, not from any merit of theirs, but on account of our friendship. The article on impeachments was the result of some study of the impeachments under our Constitution, and is the fullest historical survey of that subject that I know of. The article on Blackstone is a meagre thing, written at five minutes notice, to piece out the number for the month. The two numbers may have another interest to you, as reviving some recollections of Cambridge and those who live therein. The whole Review smacks strongly of the place of its publication. The article on Professor Stuart's classics39 is rather a celebrated one; has excited much comment; is thought to be one of the most thorough and searching reviews (strictly reviews, for it is not a talk round ‘about and about’ its subject) that has ever appeared in our country.

Preparations are making to receive General Jackson with the same college ceremonies with which Monroe was received,—namely, an address in English from the President, and a Latin address from the first scholar of the Senior Class,—Bowen.40

Believe me your faithful friend,

C. S.

To Charlemagne Tower.

Dane Law College, Monday, July 15, 1833.
. . . If you want a book which will be a light law-book, and a most instructive work as to the government under which we live, which shall be entertaining and informing, written in a more brilliant and elementary, [121] though less correct, style than Kent's ‘Commentaries,’ read Judge Story's ‘Commentaries on the Constitution.’ They make an invaluable work to every statesman and lawyer; in fact, to every citizen of views raised at all above the ephemeral politics with which we are annoyed.

Wednesday eve.
Since I wrote the above, two whole days have passed. I have heard Webster's performance41 and like it much. He did himself honor with mature men. As for undergraduates, I suppose they were dissatisfied, for they could find no brilliancies or points or attractive allusions. It was characterized by judgment, sense, and great directness and plainness of speech. It had no exaggerated thoughts or expressions, but was full of simple thoughts expressed in the simplest language.

Come on here at Commencement Day; and yet I know no reason why I should wish particularly to be here on that day. Unless Hopkinson or Stearns or you perform the master's part, I doubt whether I shall take the trouble to attend the fatiguing exercises, or take myself from my every-day duties.

Faithfully yours,

C. S.

To John B. Kerr, Easton, Md.

Dane Law College, Wednesday, Aug. 14, 1833.
my dear Kerr,—I am thankful to you for the gratification afforded simply by the sight of that handwriting, of which I was wont to see so much when in the further entry of Holworthy, as it lay scattered over your tables loaded with books, or was thrown into the yard with forgotten things, in the shape of embryo theses or letters or parts. It was last evening that I took from the post-office your friendly favor; and I at once recognized the familiar strokes, as if my eyes had rested upon them but yesterday. . . .

You inquire of many of our class; where they are, and what their present prospects, &c. I can answer some such questions; for, being of Cambridge, I am naturally in the centre of all information obtainable as to the fortunes of graduates. Three years have made many changes; have fixed the characters for life of many whose ages were too young to have fixed characters in college; have scattered widely the whole of our little band, not to be again gathered together except in the great final bourne; have conducted some into the occupations by which, in the words of the subject of our last theme, they are to earn their ‘bread and fame,’ and have left many like myself lingering by the wayside, looking forward to business and its cares, but at present unprepared to meet them. It is interesting to take a view of the present characters and situations of our old associates. One wants the ‘vantage-ground’ of Cambridge to see them all distinctly. . . . [122]

As to the degree of A. M.; few took the degree last year,—but thirteen, I believe. Few will take it this year; not that there is any combination against it, but there appears to be a pervading sense of its utter worthlessness. I have not yet heard of one who will take it. . . .

Your true friend,

To Charlemagne Tower.

Dane Law College, Sept. 1, 1833.
my dear Tower,—This is the last night of Commencement Week, and college has assumed much of its wonted air. New Freshmen are seen in the streets, with new-bought articles of furniture and with youthful cheeks,— two strong signs of the first stage of college life. Our Law School has begun to fill with students. Already is gathered together, I believe, the largest collection of young men that ever met at one place in America for the study of the law. There are now upwards of fifty who have joined the school. So we expect the ensuing term will be a driving one.

Commencement Day passed off without any thing very worthy of note transpiring. There were about twenty of our class who appeared and shook hands with one another; and after services partook of dinner with the graduates,—on that day my first effort being made in the department of Commencement dinners. I doubt whether I shall ever patronize them again; for, first, in the performances of the day I shall no longer have an interest, the time having now gone by in which my own friends will take part in them; and, secondly, if I were ever induced to come to the performances, I hope I shall be able to snatch as good a meal elsewhere, away from the press and turmoil incident to a public dinner. To do the table justice, it was tolerably well served, and we had quite a pleasant time in divesting it of its many dishes.

Of our classmates who were here, few or none had undergone any alteration. They looked and talked the same as when we met one another every day in social and intellectual communion ....

Need I say that Everett did wonders on Phi Beta day?42 Popkin has resigned. Felton will probably be his successor. Thank you for reading my article in the ‘Jurist;’ but I want you to make allowances for the haste in which it was composed, and more for the inaccuracy with which it is printed.

Your faithful friend,

C. S.

1 Sumner was the author of two sketches of the Law School,—one, an article in the ‘American Jurist,’ Jan., 1835. Vol. XIII. pp. 107-130; and the other, ‘A Report of the Committee of Overseers,’ Feb., 1850. Works, Vol. II. pp. 377-392. Another history of the school, by Professor Emory Washburn, may be found in ‘The Harvard Book,’ Vol. I. pp. 223-231.

2 Judge Story's method as a teacher is described in his ‘Life and Letters,’ edited by his son, Vol. II. pp. 35-39.

3 Judge Story's funeral discourse on Professor Ashmun was printed in the ‘American Jurist,’ July, 1833, Vol. X. pp. 40-52. An extract is copied in Story's ‘Life and Letters,’ Vol. II. pp. 143-148. Sumner was ‘the interesting friend’ referred to in the discourse.

4 1783-1853; practised law in Maine, 1806-1833; professor at Cambridge, 1833-1848.

5 Tribute of Friendship, Works, Vol. I. pp. 133-148; ‘The Jurist,’ Works, Vol. I. pp. 258-272.

6 When Dane Hall was removed a few feet, in 1871, to its present site, its portico and columns were taken down and an enclosed brick porch substituted.

7 It now numbers one hundred and eighty-seven.

8 Mr. Paine practised his profession for several years in Hallowell, Me., and removed, in 1854, to Boston, where he is still one of the leaders of the bar.

9 Among other friends in the Law School were Charles C. Converse and George Gibbs. Converse became a judge of the Supreme Court of the State of Ohio. He resided at Zanesville, and died in 1860. Gibbs was a nephew of Rev. Dr. William E. Channing. He was the author of the ‘Memoirs of the Administrations of Washington and John Adams.’ He resided at Washington during our Civil War, and died April 9, 1873. He assisted Sumner in procuring and arranging the materials for his speech on the purchase of Alaska. His manuscripts, containing researches on the Indians of the Northwest, are deposited in the Smithsonian Institution. Sumner, in his ‘Sketch of the Law School,’ referred to Gibbs's ‘Judicial Chronicle,’ prepared when the latter was under the age of majority. ‘American Jurist,’ Jan., 1835, Vol. XIII. p. 120.

10 Mr. Phillips is the author of the sketch of Sumner in Johnson's Encyclopaedia.

11 In his oration on ‘The Scholar, the Jurist, the Artist, the Philanthropist,’ he draws, with illustrations, the distinction between the jurist and the lawyer. Works, Vol I. pp. 263-268.

12 Cases heard Oct. 22, Nov. 22, and Dec. 13, 1832; and Jan. 14, Feb. 18, June 5, July 5, and Oct. 20, 1833.

13 President Quincy wrote him a note, requesting an interview in relation to the dissertation,—with what particular purpose it is not now definitely known, but perhaps with reference to some digressions which are still noted with pencil-marks, made at the time.

14 ‘Reason of Church Government urged against Prelatry.’

15 Story's Life and Letters, Vol. II. pp. 119, 120.

16 Jan., 1834, Vol. XII. pp. 263-268.

17 April and May.

18 Vol. X. pp. 227-237. The English professor died shortly after, too soon to read this notice of his lecture.

19 Vol. I. § 23, note.

20 Hopkinson wrote, Oct. 28, 1831, taking him to task for assuming positions because of their novelty, and for depreciating authority and prescription.

21 Bowdoin prize.

22 The first meeting was held March 6, and the officers were chosen March 14. ‘Mercantile Journal,’ March 16, 1833.

23 Browne wrote, April 18, ‘You speak rapturously of the girl.’ Judge Story's enthusiasm for Miss Kemble quite equalled Sumner's. He was charmed with her acting, and addressed some verses to her:—

Go! lovely woman, go! Enjoy thy fame!
A second Kemble, with a deathless name.

Life and Letters, Vol. II. pp. 114-117.

24 W. W. Story gave Sumner, Jan. 1, 1834, a copy of Milton, inscribed with, ‘From is grateful friend.’

25 Mr. Story contributed an ‘In Memoriam’ tribute to Sumner, in forty-one verses, to Blackwood's Magazine,Zzz Sept., 1874, Vol. CXVI. pp. 342-346.

26 Stearns, not knowing where Sumner was, wrote, Sept. 18, ‘Where art thou? At Cambridge, I presume.’

27 An account of the services at the consecration of the Mt. Auburn Cemetery, with extracts from Judge Story's address, is given in his ‘Life and Letters,’ Vol. II. pp. 61-67.

28 Speech on the ‘Plan for Economical Reform.’

29 The authority of these eminent jurists as to the distribution of the hours of the day is cited in Mr. Sumner's lecture on ‘The Employment of Time.’ delivered in 1846. This lecture may be read with interest in connection with the letters of this period, which emphasize the value of time. Works, Vol. I. pp. 184-213.

30 Virgil, Aeneid I. 199.

31 He thought more highly of Chancellor Kent's Commentaries at a later period, post,p.120.

32 Tower's father had died, March 15, at St. Augustine.

33 Tower, Hopkinson, Stearns, and Converse wrote to Sumner letters of sympathy at the time of his sister Matilda's death.

34 Benjamin R. Curtis.

35 Andrew Jackson's Proclamation of Dec., 1832, upon the occasion of the nullifying ordinance of South Carolina.

36 Story on the Constitution, Vol. I. Appendix.

37 This letter is a reply to one from Stearns, then a student at the Andover Theological Seminary, in which he pressed the Christian faith on Sumner's attention, and began thus: ‘My knowledge of your candid temper, and the terms on which we have been long conversant with each other, encourage the belief that you will suffer me for once to address you with great plainness. The sentiments of friendship I have so long cherished towards you; the high respect I entertain for your character and talents; the extensive influence which I foresee you are to have in the community; and, more than these, the immortality to which we both are destined,—all forbid me to be silent.’

38 Professor Ashmun.

39 By Professor James L. Kingsley, of Yale College.

40 Professor Francis Bowen.

41 The class oration of Fletcher Webster, son of Daniel Webster, at the exhibition is referred to.

42 Mr. Everett repeated on this occasion, Aug. 29, the oration on the ‘Education of Mankind,’ which he had delivered, Aug. 20, at Yale College. ‘Orations and Speeches by Edward Everett,’ Vol. I. pp. 404-441.

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