صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

with the Constitution of the United States. In attempting to rise on that memorable occasion, to address the Senate, his surtout was entangled by his chair, and before he could recover from the embarrassment, the Secretary had begun to call the yeas and nays. Mr. Burrill apologized to the President for not rising sooner, by stating the cause; when Mr. James Barbour, of Virginia, jocosely observed across the Senate Chamber, that the gentleman ought to regard it as an omen of defeat, and yield to it accordingly to which Mr. Burrill instantly replied, "I fear no omen, in my country's cause."

Asher Robbins, formerly the District Attorney of RhodeIsland, and now a Senator in Congress from that State, ranked high as a member of the Bar. Few men could boast of his classical attainments, historical knowledge, and general excellence as a lawyer. No man could speak more logically; no one present questions in a more luminous view; or command greater interest in argument. Whenever he spoke, the

Court, the Bar and the audience were delighted by his clear statements of controverted points. His sentences were so equally poised, his premises so precisely stated, his conclusions so beautifully deduced, and the whole argument so finished, that he was esteemed among the gifted men of that day. In his later years, his mind has lost none of its original vigor. The great models of Grecian eloquence which he admires and has successfully cultivated, impart to his speeches, a rich, chaste, and commanding style of oratory. The history and destiny of Greece he still dwells upon with a scholar's enthusiasm, and a patriot's hope.

The mind of Mr. Robbins may be compared in some respects to that of Mr. Burrill. Both of them possessed a clear and accurate knowledge of the principles and details of a case, before they attempted to argue it. Hence, the jury were made to comprehend important principles first; minor points were suggested as the greater were enforced. This was a chief cause of their success as advocates. They were logical, careful in the use of language, in the construction of sentences, and in their general manner of speaking. Mr. Burrill however, acquired

greater fame as an orator, than Mr. Robbins. He possessed many natural advantages over Mr. Robbins. His voice was stronger, and more melodious; his gestures more graceful, and his figure more commanding. He evinced also greater feeling in his manner. But, next to a lucid arrangement of ideas, they resembled each other most, in their promptitude in debate. Each would meet a question at the moment, without the least apparent effort, strip off its drapery, and present it in terms familiar to the dullest understanding. Blessed with such rare endowments, Mr. Robbins's fame, as a scholar and advocate, is duly appreciated. The description of the Roman orator concerning Herodotus applies to him :-" He flowed on, like a quiet and placid river, without a ripple."

conversant.

His repu

William Hunter was another eminent advocate. tation at the Bar was acquired by slow degrees. But, when his talents were fully developed, few attracted more admiration. He could not compare with Mr. Burrill or Mr. Robbins as a finished lawyer. In the closet, however, he in many respects equalled, and in others excelled them. Mr. Hunter's learning is rare and extensive. With general history, few men are more He is master of the classics and belles lettres studies. He has written many eloquent orations and addresses: His declamation is splendid;-words beautifully arranged, an imagination chastened by study, united with a happy method of illustration, all these give an imposing form to his arguments. He has not as much logic as Mr. Robbins; but a tact at elegant repartee, and often a union of pleasantry and sarcasm. He is an impressive speaker. His figure is commanding in its proportions, his gestures natural and appropriate, and his general manner adapted to the subject and the occasion.

Samuel W. Bridgham was admitted to practise, about the same period with Mr. Burges. By his lofty integrity, untiring application, and patient research into the principles of every cause in which he was concerned, he acquired and sustained the reputation of an efficient counsellor and advocate. His practice was very extensive, and no lawyer was ever more devoted to the interests of his clients. His professional acquirements,

and the amiable qualities of his heart, commanded the respect and esteem of his brethren.'

Another gentleman, Philip Crapo, was equally indefatigable in his professional pursuits, and was acknowledged to be a sound lawyer, and faithful counsellor. He is still in practice.

Benjamin Hazard was another eminent member of the Bar of Rhode-Island. His mind is strong, clear, and acute. He always speaks to the point-never travels out of his chosen path, to cull flowers of rhetoric, or to seek any ornaments of oratory, but plain, downright common sense. For a period of nearly thirty years he has been, and is now, conspicuous in the legislative annals of Rhode-Island. Perhaps no individual can be named, who has acted a more important part in framing statute laws; and few who excel him in the primary qualifications of a legislator.

Nathaniel Searle, also attained a distinguished rank at the Rhode-Island Bar. He loved Law as a science. Few men ever acquired a more perfect knowledge of its diversified branches. His låtest years were eagerly devoted to the study. He read a volume of Reports, or an elementary work, with as much avidity, as an ordinary reader would peruse an interesting novel. It seemed as if he could not gain sufficient knowledge. To this unconquerable love of his profession may be attributed the success which attended him from the beginning to the end of his life. In the argument of a cause, he would go from its great points to its minute divisions, as if by intuition. He could hardly utter words with sufficient rapidity to convey his exuberant ideas. Yet his arrangement was remarkably clear, and so was his manner of illustration. He pursued an unbroken chain of reasoning, from premises to conclusions: and he was eloquent; not by the embellishments of fancy, nor by pathetic appeals, nor by strong and impassioned declamation: in all these he was deficient. His eloquence was characterized by a clear, and powerful style of demonstrative reasoning. He could not reach the classical manner of Mr. Robbins, nor the flowing, elegant

'This gentleman now holds the honorable office of Mayor of the City of Providence.

style of Mr. Hunter. But, in legal learning, the prompt application of principles to particular cases, he was their superior. He was thoroughly versed in technical law, and acquired a reputation honorable as a counsellor and advocate.

These were the ornaments of the Bar of Rhode-Island. With such men Mr. Burges associated; and, side by side, they contended for professional honors.

CHAPTER IV.

Becomes interested in politics.--Delivers an oration on the 4th of July, 1810. Is elected a member of the Legislature of Rhode-Island.-Succeeds Mr. Burrill as Chief Justice of the State. His character as a Judge.-Is appointed a Professor in Brown University.-Party Spirit.-Is elected a Member of Congress.-Account of his first Speech.

The emoluments of the legal profession in Rhode-Island, are not so large as in many of the other States; and hence it requires diligence and economy to obtain a livelihood by the practise of Law. At this period, the profession was there not only distinguished for learning and eloquence, but there were men of excellent business habits, who, by their industry, acquired a larger share of practice, than some of their eminent contemporaries. Mr. Burges, however, was fortunate in his earlier efforts at the Bar, and was enabled to gain enough to meet the ordinary expenditures. Although engaged in most of the important causes that were argued, from the period of his admission, until he abandoned the practice in 1825, yet, he was never compensated in any proportion for services rendered.

At this period, he began to take an active part in political discussions. It was about the time of the enactment of the celebrated Embargo Law; and few men who lived, and participated in the excitement in Rhode-Island, have forgotten the conspicuous position of Mr. Burges. At the public meetings he was generally present, and at several of them, he made enthusiastic and successful addresses. He was usually requested to draw resolutions and memorials, upon the political topics of the day. They were remarkable for racy sentences and spirited appeals. But his attention was not confined to law and politics. The ordinary business of the day finished, he was accustomed to pursue scientific investigations, elegant literature, and the

G

« السابقةمتابعة »