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it? If Milton were alive, to recast certain prominent characters in his great epic, he could embellish them with new traits, without violating probability.— From a Letter to Mr. George Ticknor, 1830.
CHARACTER OF JUDGE STORY.6
YOUR solemn announcement, Mr. Chief Justice, has confirmed the sad intelligence which had already reached us through the public channels of information, and deeply affected us all. JOSEPH STORY, one of the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States, and for many years the presiding judge of this Circuit, died on Wednesday evening last, at his house in Cambridge, wanting only a few days for the completion of the sixty-sixth year of his age. Mr. Chief Justice, one sentiment pervades us all. It is that of the most profound and penetrating grief, mixed, nevertheless, with an assured conviction that the great man whom we deplore is yet with us and in the midst of us. He hath not wholly died. He lives in the affections of friends and kindred, and in the high regard of the community. He lives in our remembrance of his social virtues, his warm and steady friendships, and the vivacity and richness of his conversation. He lives, and will live still more permanently, by his words of written wisdom, by the results of his vast researches and attainments, by his imperishable legal judgments, and by those juridical disquisitions which have stamped his name, all over the civilized world, with the character of a commanding authority. Mr. Chief Justice, there are consolations which arise to mitigate our loss, and shed the influence of resignation over unfeigned and heart-felt sorrow. We are all penetrated with gratitude to God, that the deceased lived so long ; that he did so much for himself, his friends, the country, and the world; that his lamp went out, at last, without unsteadiness or flickering. He continued to exercise every power of his mind without dimness or obscuration, and every affection of his heart with no abatement of energy or warmth, till death drew an impenetrable
6 This eminent jurist and amiable man died on the 10th of September, 1845. On the 12th, the day of his funeral, the Suffolk Bar held a meeting in the Circuit Court Room, Boston, to commemorate the sad event, Chief Justice Shaw, of the Supreme Court of Massachusetts, presiding. I here give the greater part, as much as I can well find space for, of the noble and beautiful eulogium pronounced by Webster on that occasion.
veil between us and him. Indeed, he seems to us now, as in truth he is, not extinguished or ceasing to be, but only withdrawn; as the clear Sun goes down at its setting, not darkened, but only no longer seen. Sir, there is no purer pride of country than that in which we may indulge when we see America paying back the great debt of civilization, learning, and science to Europe. In this high return of light for light and mind for mind, in this august reckoning and accounting between the intellects of nations, Joseph Story was destined by Providence to act, and did act, an important part. Acknowledging, as we all acknowledge, our obligations to the original sources of English law, as well as of civil liberty, we have seen in our generation copious and salutary streams turning and running backward, replenishing their original fountains, and giving a fresher and a brighter green to the fields of English jurisprudence. By a sort of reversed hereditary transmission, the mother, without envy or humiliation, acknowledges that she has received a valuable and cherished inheritance from the daughter. The profession in England admits, with frankness and candour, and with no feeling but that of respect and admiration, that he whose voice we have so recently heard within these walls, but shall now hear no more, was, of all men who have yet appeared, most fitted by the comprehensiveness of his mind, and the vast extent and accuracy of his attainments, to compare the codes of nations, to trace their differences to difference of origin, climate, or religious or political institutions, and to exhibit, nevertheless, their concurrence in those great principles upon which the system of human civilization rests. Justice, Sir, is the great interest of man on Earth. It is the ligament which holds civilized beings and civilized nations together. Wherever her temple stands, and so long as it is duly honoured, there is a foundation for social security, general happiness, and the improvement and progress of our race. And whoever labours on this edifice with usefulness and distinction, whoever clears its foundations, strengthens its pillars, adorns its entablatures, or contributes to raise its august dome still higher in the skies, connects himself, in name and fame and character, with that which is and must be as durable as the frame of human society. This is not the occasion, Sir, nor is it for me to consider and discuss at length the character and merits of Mr. Justice Story, as a writer or a judge. The performance of that duty, with which this Bar will no doubt charge itself, must be deferred to another opportunity, and will be committed to abler hands. But in the homage paid to his memory, one part may come with peculiar propriety and emphasis from ourselves. We have known him in private life. We have seen him descend from the bench, and mingle in our friendly circles. We have known his manner of life, from his youth up. We can bear witness to the strict uprightness and purity of his character, his simplicity and unostentatious habits, the ease and affability of his intercourse, his remarkable vivacity amidst severe labours, the cheerful and animating tones of his conversation, and his fast fidelity to friends. Some of us, also, can testify to his large and liberal charities, not ostentatious or casual, but systematic and silent, —dispensed almost without showing the hand, and falling and distilling comfort and happiness, like the dews of heaven. But we can testify, also, that in all his pursuits and employments, in all his recreations, in all his commerce with the world, and in his intercourse with the circle of his friends, the predominance of his judicial character was manifest. He never forgot the ermine which he wore. The judge, the judge, the useful and distinguished judge, was the great picture which he kept constantly before his eyes, and to a resemblance of which all his efforts, all his thoughts, all his life, were devoted.
Mr. Chief Justice, one may live as a conqueror, a king, or a magistrate; but he must die as a man. The bed of death brings every human being to his pure individuality; to the intense contemplation of that deepest and most solemn of all relations,—the relation between the creature and his Creator. Here it is that fame and renown cannot assist us; that all external things must fail to aid us; that even friends, affection, and human love and devotedness, cannot succour us. This relation, the true foundation of all duty, a relation perceived and felt by conscience, and confirmed by Revelation, our illustrious friend, now deceased, always acknowledged. He reverenced the Scriptures of truth, honoured the pure morality which they teach, and clung to the hopes of future life which they impart. He beheld enough in Nature, in himself, and in all that can be known of things seen, to feel assured that there is a Supreme Power, without whose providence not a sparrow falleth to the ground. To this gracious Being he trusted himself for time and for eternity; and the last words of his lips ever heard by mortal ears were a fervent supplication to his Maker to take him to Himself.
RELIGION As AN ELEMENT OF GREATNESS.
POLITICAL eminence and professional fame fade away and die with all things earthly. Nothing of character is really permanent but virtue and personal worth. These remain. Whatever of excellence is wrought into the soul itself belongs to both worlds. Real goodness does not attach itself merely to this life; it points to another world. Political or professional eminence cannot last for ever; but a conscience void of offence before God and man is an inheritance for eternity. Religion, therefore, is a necessary and indispensable element in any great human character. There is no living without it. Iteligion is the tie that connects man with his Creator, and holds him to His throne. If that tie be all sundered, all broken, he floats away, a worthless atom in the Universe; its proper attractions all gone, its destiny thwarted, and its whole future nothing but darkness, desolation, and death. A man with no sense of religious duty is he whom the Scriptures describe, in such terse but terrific language, as living “without God in the world.” Such a man is out of his proper being, out of the circle of all his duties, out of the circle of all his happiness, and away, far, far away, from the purpose of his creation.
A mind like Mr. Mason's, active, thoughtful, penetrating, sedate, could not but meditate deeply on the condition of man below, and feel its responsibilities. He could not look on this mighty system, “this universal frame, thus wondrous fair,” without feeling that it was created and upheld by an Intelligence to which all other intelligences must be responsible. I am bound to say, that in the course of my life I never met with an individual, in any profession or condition of life, who always spoke, and always thought, with such awful reverence of the power and presence of God. No irreverence, no lightness, even no too familiar allusion to God or His attributes, ever escaped his lips. The very notion of a Supreme Being was, with him, made up of awe and solemnity. It filled the whole of his great mind
7 The Hon. Jeremiah Mason, one of the greatest lawyers in the United States, died at his home in Boston, on the 14th of October, 1849, having reached his eighty-first year. He and Webster had for many years been knit together in a friendship as strong and as pure as two great manly hearts are capable of. On the 14th of November following, at the opening of the Supreme Judicial Court, a series of resolutions, expressing the sense of the Suffolk Bar, was presented, and Webster gave, at considerable length, a review of the life and character of his departed friend. I here reproduce but a small portion of that eloquent and affecting discourse, a passage of which no more need be said than that it is well worthy of the illustrious speaker. *
with the strongest emotions. A man like him, with all his proper sentiments and sensibilities alive in him, must, in this state of existence, have something to believe and something to hope for ; or else, as life is advancing to its close and parting, all is heart-sinking and oppression. Depend upon it, whatever may be the mind of an old man, old age is only really happy when, on feeling the enjoyments of this world pass a way, it begins to lay a stronger hold on those of another.— Mr. Mason’s religious sentiments and feelings were the crowning glories of his character.
FACH TO INTERPRET THE LAW FOR HIMSELF.
IN that important document upon which it seems to be the President's fate to stand or to fall before the American people, the veto message, he holds the following language: “Each public officer who takes an oath to support the Constitution, Swears that he will support it as he understands it, and not as it is understood by others.” The general adoption of the sentiments expressed in this sentence would dissolve our government. It would raise every man’s private opinions into a standard for his own conduct; and there certainly is, there can be, no government, where every man is to judge for himself of his own rights and his own obligations. Where every one is his own arbiter, force, and not law, is the governing power. He who may judge for himself, and decide for himself, must execute his own decisions; and this is the law of force. I confess it strikes me with astonishment, that so wild, so disorganizing a sentiment should be uttered by a President of the United States. I should think it must have escaped from its author through want of reflection, or from the habit of little reflection on such subjects, if I could suppose it possible that, on a question exciting so much public attention, and of so much national importance, any such extraordinary doctrine could find its way, but by inadvertence, into a formal and solemn public act. Standing as it does, it affirms a proposition which would effectually repeal all constitutional and all legal obligations. The Constitution declares that every public officer, in the State governments as well as in the general government, shall take an oath to support the Constitution of the United States. This is all. Would it not have cast an air of ridicule on the whole provision, if the Constitution had gone on to add the words, “as he understands it.” P What could come nearer to a solemn farce, than to bind a man by oath, and still leave him to be his own interpreter of