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height, there was that in the carriage of his section of the State are to be found an imhead that was astonishingly impressive; it mense number of his warmest personal as gave a wonderful idea of power. I shall well as political friends. The place selected never forget him on one occasion, when he for the gathering was one of the most beautirose at a public meeting (a political discus- ful that could be conceived. The ground rose sion) to reply to an antagonist worthy of his from a centre a perfectly natural amphitheasteel. His whole soul was roused, his high tre. “The stand," of Corinthian architecsmooth forehead fairly coruscated. He re- ture, was adorned by beautiful ladies, who mained silent for some seconds, and only brought to bear the most cultivated taste, looked. The bald eagle never glanced more and the command of every necessary means; fiercely from his eyrie; it seemed as if his the columns were wreathed with myrtle and deep dark-gray eye would distend until it jessamine, the top arched over, entwining swallowed the thousands of his audience. the choicest flowers with the folds of our For an instant the effect was painful; he saw national flag; upon the key-stone rested a it and smiled, when a cheer burst from the truthful bust of the “great statesman of the admiring multitude that fairly shook the West.” At the foot of the steps that led to earth.
the platform were placed magnificent orange His voice was clear and sweet, and could trees, that were connected with the ascent be heard at an immense distance, and yet, above by rows of costly exotic flowers. On to be all like Demosthenes, he had a per- each side of this “stand” towered magnificeptible impediment in his speech. As a cent forest trees, that seemed to embrace in reader he had no superior; his narration was the clouds, to protect the floral pyramid clear and unadorned; proper sentences were beneath. On the ascending ground ranged subduedly humorous, but the impressive comfortable seats for five thousand persons, parts were delivered with an effect that re- above which stretched out, until lost in the minded me of descriptions of the elder distant vernal shade, tables groaning with Kean.
every possible luxury, while costly equipages His imagination was unsurpassed, and in picturesque groups filled up every bit of the rich stores of his mind supplied him shade that could be obtained under the with never-ending material, quoted and ori- scattering trees. The audience was not ginal. The slightest allusion to any thing only remarkable for intelligence, wealth and gave the key to all its peculiarities. If he beauty, but contained a large majority of bad occasion to speak of the diamond, its the earliest friends of Mr. Prentiss. Other bed in the Golconda, its discovery by some orators had been invited to speak, but he poor native, its being associated with com- was the magnet of attraction; for him, and merce, its polish by the lapidary, its adorn- for the sake of Mr. Clay, was all the vast ing the neck of beauty, its rays hrilliant and gathering and costly preparation made. serene, its birth, its life, its history, all flashed Mr. Prentiss rose, as if deeply impressed upon him. So with every idea in the vast with the events of the day. His peroration storehonse of his mind; he seemed to know was a most imaginative appeal to the nymphs all things in mass and in particulars, never of the wood who revelled among the trees, confused, never at a loss; the hearer listened, and a series of compliments to the hundreds wondered, and dreamed. Thoughts of mo- of ladies, who shot at him their bright ment came forth as demanded, but ten thou- glances of greeting when he came forward sand other thoughts, rare and beautiful, con- to speak. From this playful strain, he soon tinued to bubble up, after all effort ceased. entered into the serious part of his labor, and
The Presidential campaign of 1844 prob- in a masterly manner reviewed the great ably called forth some of the best specimens principles involved in the coming Presidenof Mr. Prentiss's eloquence, when in the full tial struggle. To follow him would be immaturity of his mental power. Of the pecu- possible ; but on that day more than usual Liar impression he left on the mind, some he indulged in that terrible sarcasm for which faint idea may be obtained from the follow- he was sometimes so remarkable. That it ing descriptions.
was occasionally ill-timed there cannot be a In 1844, the admirers of Mr. Clay in doubt, but when he mounted upon some Adams county, Miss., gave a great barbecue, lofty principle, and looked down upon the and among the wealthy planters of that grovellers beneath, or when his scorn took
possession for the moment of his reason, he in his eye; he fairly struggled and heaved poured it out like gall and wormwood, re- with emotion. The foam dashed from his gardless of all consequences. He was that lips, and he repeated in defiant notes, “ Who day advocating the cause of his political idol, is the opponent of Mr. Clay?" and he then for there is that in Mr. Clay that filled up hissed the answer, “ A blighted burr, that has the measure that Mr. Prentiss had formed of allen from the mane of the war-horse of the a great man. He seemed never content at Hermitage !" The effect of all this upon the public gatherings, without he had some op- audience, under the circumstances, cannot be portunity of praising Mr. Clay's boldness imagined. Shouts rose, such as come forth and undaunted courage—his eloquence and in victorious battle-fields, but which, save by statesman-like qualities; and in this severely Prentiss, were never heard by the ear of the contested election was the soul of Prentiss American orator. altogether roused. As “ Speaker of the But Prentiss really carried no bitterness House," Mr. Polk had sent him home to in his spirit; he bore down upon his oppoMississippi without his seat in Congress, and nents and poured in his broadsides of irony in the political contest that followed, it would and sarcasm with the power of a man-of-war, seem that he only sowed the wind of his but the moment the action ceased, he was wrath, that was to be reaped in the whirl- ready to muzzle his gun and succor the wind that followed in his mind against Mr. wounded and dying ; and this spirit of ancient Polk, when Mr. P. became a candidate for chivalry is amusingly illustrated in the folthe Presidency. From the moment the cam- lowing anecdote : Gov. Mc- -, who figured paign commenced, he went through the contemporaneously with Prentiss in Missiscountry like another Peter the Hermit, sippi politics, ever afforded him an inexpreaching a crusade; he seemed to defy the haustible subject for every possible kind of very infirmities of humanity in his extraor- opposition. He called the sturdy“ old redinary exertions. It was evident that his pudiator" all the hard names he could find parallel between the candidates for the Pres- ready made in the English language, and idency was to be a masterly effort, and no then invented new terms to suit the occaone was disappointed.
sion. Gov. Mc— possessed a mind of His portrait of Mr. Clay on the occasion, the highest order, and although not as polas we recall it to our mind, was one that ished as Prentiss, could turn on luis torcan never be forgotten by those who heard mentor, and if he accomplished nothing else, it; there was a tangible massiveness and put him to his mettle to make proper replies. grandeur about it, as perceptible as if he In the very heat of his opposition to Mc-, had raised the mighty head of Mount St. he heard some one at a roadside tavern deBernard from out of the alluvial plains nouncing the Governor in no measured terms. of the Mississippi, and bid his enraptured Prentiss listened complacently awhile, until auditory to gaze upon the cloud-capped he heard his political enemy styled a dog : summit. There was also a softness and upon which he sprang to his feet, full of beauty, a perfection and minute complete resentment, and declared, that as Mcness, that strangely harmonized. He opened was his dog, no one else should abuse him the musty archives of antiquity for illustra- with impunity. tions; he drew from all modern quarters Prentiss had originally a constitution of for comparisons; and, still ascending, would iron ; his frame was so perfect in its organizareplume his wings, soaring still upward tion, that, in spite of the most unusual negin untrodden regions of eloquence, until ligence of health, his muscles had all the he piled “Pelion on Ossa," and made compactness, glossiness, and distinctiveness the very reason of his audience tremble on of one who had been specially trained by its throne. Suddenly he paused, and with a diet and exercise. It was this constitution voice as of a trumpet, asked, “Who is the that enabled bim to accomplish so much in opponent of Henry Clay?" His eyes flashed so short a time. He could almost wholly unwonted fire, and you saw him falling discard sleep for weeks, with apparent imheadlong from his dizzy height, but his punity; he could eat or starve; do any very course marked the impetus of a de- thing that would kill ordinary men, yet stroying angel; you saw that there was a never feel a twinge of pain. I saw him once vial of wrath in his hand, a consuming fire amidst a tremendous political excitement ;
he had been talking, arguing, dining, visit- | but his friends pushed him forward. Again ing, and travelling, without rest, for three his name was shouted, bats and caps were whole days. IIis companions would steal thrown in the air, and he was finally comaway at times for sleep, but Prentiss, like pelled to show himself on the portico. With an ever-busy spirit, was here, and there, and remarkable delicacy, he chose a less promevery where. The morning of the fourth inent place than that previously occupied day came, and he was to appear before an by Mr. Clay, although perfectly visible. He audience fainiliar with his fame, but one thanked his friends for their kindness by rethat had never heard him speak; an au- peated bows, and by such smiles as he alone dience critical in the last degree. He de- could give." A speech! a speech !" thunsired to succeed, for more was depending tlan dered a thousand voices. Prentiss lifted his he had ever before had cause to stake upon hand, in an instant every thing was still; such an occasion. Many felt a fear that he then pointing to the group that surrounded would be unprepared. I mingled in the ex- Mr. Clay, he said: " Fellow-citizens, when pecting crowd; I saw ladies who had never the Eagle is soaring in the sky, the owls and honored the stump with their presence the bats retire to their holes.” And long struggling for seats; counsellors, statesmen, before the shout that followed this remark and professional men, the élite of a great had ceased, Prentiss had disappeared amid city, were gathered together. An hour be- the multitude. fore, I had seen Prentiss, still apparently Soon after Mr. Prentiss settled in Newignorant of his engagernent.
Orleans, a meeting was held to raise funds The time of trial came, and the remark- for the erection of a suitable monument to able man presented himself
, the very pic- Franklin. On that occasion the lamented ture of buoyant health, of unbroken rest. Wilde and the accomplished McCaleb deAll this had been done by the unyielding livered ornate and chaste addresses upon resolve of his will. His triumph was com- the value of art, and the policy of enrichplete ; high-wrought expectations were more ing New-Orleans with its exhibition. At than realized, prejudice was demolished, pro- the close of the meeting, as the audience fessional jealousy silenced, and he descend-rose to depart, some one discovered Prentiss, ed from the rostrum, freely accorded his and called bis name. It was echoed from proper place among the orators and states. all sides; he tried to escape, but was litermen of the “ Southern Metropolis." ally carried on the stand.
Mr. Clay visited the South in the spring As a rich specimen of off-hand eloquence, of 1844, and, as he was then a candidate I think the address he delivered on that ocfor the Presidency, he attracted in New-Or- casion was unequalled. Unlike any other leans, if possible, more than usual notice. speech, he had the arts to deal with, and His hotel was the St. Charles; toward noon of course the associations were of surpassing he reached that once magnificent palace. splendor. I knew that he was ignorant of The streets presented a vast ocean of heads, the technicalities of art, and had paid but and every building commanding a view little attention to their study, and my surwas literally covered with human beings. prise was unbounded to see him, thus unexThe great“ Statesman of the West” pre-pectedly called upon, instantly arrange in sented himself to the multitude between the his mind ideas, and expressing facts and iltall columns of the finest portico in the lustrations that would have done honor to world. The scene was beyond description, Burke, when dwelling upon the sublime and and of vast interest. As the crowd swayed beautiful. Had he been bred to the easel, to and fro, a universal shout was raised for or confined to the sculptor's room, he could Mr. Clay to speak; he uttered a sentence or not have been more familiar with the details two, waved his hand in adieu, and escaped of the studio; he painted with all the brilamidst the prevailing confusion. Prentiss liancy of Titian, and with the correctness of meanwhile was at a side window, evidently Raphael, while his images in marble comanconscious of being himself noticed, gazing bined the softness of Praxiteles and the upon what was passing with all the de- nervous energy of Michael Angelo. light of the humblest spectator. Sud- All this with Prentiss was intuition. I denly he heard his name announced. He believe that the whole was the spontaneous attempted to withdraw from public gaze, I thought of the moment, the crude outlines
that floated through his mind being filled | quittal, that changed the whole character of up by the intuitive teachings of his sur- the testimony. What was a few moments passing genius. His conclusion was gor- before so dark, grew light; and without the geous. Tie passed Napoleon to the summit of slightest act that might be construed into the Alps; his hearers saw him and his steel- an unfair advantage, in the hands of Prenclad warriors threading the snows of Mount tiss, the witness for the prosecution pleaded St. Bernard, and having gained the dizzy for the accused. height, Prentiss represented " the man of The extraordinary inspiration that the destiny" looking down upon the sunny plains presence of ladies gave to Mr. Prentiss when of Italy, and then, with a mighty swoop, addressing an audience was easily perceptible, descending from the clouds and making the and consequently his addresses to the Court grasp of Empire secondary to that of Art. were always freer from that soft imagery,
Of Prentiss's power before a jury too so peculiar to his vein, than were his speeches much cannot be said. Innumerable illus- delivered before a promiscuous audience. An trations might be gathered up, showing that amusing incident occurred many years ago, he far surpassed any living advocate. "The that is, perhaps, worth relatingIn one of trial of the Wilkinsons" is often cited, al- the "new counties" of Mississippi, then just though it was far from being one of his best wrested from the aboriginal inhabitants, Mr. efforts. Another trial occurs to me, worthy Prentiss had an Indian for a client. The logof particular notice, of which little has been cabin court-house presented little to excite said out of the community of those directly the imagination, and the "etiquette of the interested. On one occasion, two young bench” almost precluded any thing but a men, only sons, and deeply attached as very commonplace speech. Mr. Prentiss friends, quarrelled, and in the mad excite- took but little interest seemingly in the ment of the moment, one of them was killed. matter before him, when two or three ladies Upon the trial, the testimony of the mother were noticed peering into the “ Hall of Jusof the deceased was so direct, that it seemed tice,” evidently anxious to hear his voice, to render" the clearing of the prisoner” hope- and see one of whom they had heard so less. Prentiss spoke to the witness in the much. Instantly the manner of Prentiss blandest manner and most courtly style. changed, and he was soon indulging in some The mother, arrayed in weeds, and bowed of his most flowing sentences. The politedown with sorrow, turned towards Prentiss, ness of the sheriff found seats for the fair and answered hi : inquiries with all the dig- intruders upon the court-room, and the connity of a perfectly accomplished lady; she sequence was, that Mr. Prentiss was soon in calily uttered the truth, and every word the midst of an address in behalf of the she spoke rendered the defense apparently "wronged Indian," that, for pathos, for more hopeless.
beauty, and for effect, was never excelled. Would you punish that young man Here, perhaps, while speaking of the inwith death ?” said Prentiss, pointing to the voluntary compliments he paid to the presprisoner..
ence of woman, it may not be improper to The questioned looked and answered : say that, toward all connected with him by “He has made me childless ; let the law take ties of blood, he ever felt the most active
} its course."
affection, and more especially did his heart " And would wringing her heart, and hur- through youth and manhood turn toward
hairs with sorrow into the his sisters and mother. Of all the sons of grave, by rendering her childless, assuage New-England who have found a home in the your grief ?"
far South, none have surpassed him in attenAll present were dissolved in tears ; even tion to those outward tokens that tell of an convulsive sobbing was heard in the court- ever-cherished remembrance, an ever-living room.
love. From the time that Mr. Prentiss left “No!" said the witness, with all the gush- the paternal roof, almost to the hour of his ing tenderness of a mother--"No! I would decease, did he pour out bis soul to an absent not add a sorrow to her heart, nor that of parent in continued correspondence, which, her son !"
as now preserved, extends over more than a Admissions in the evidence followed, and quarter of a century, growing in quantity hopes were uttered for the prisoner's ac- 1 and increasing in affection to the day of his
death. Upon the very threshold of his first | ed, but still he would have ranked among success, he writes: “I am proud of my sisters, the first legal luminaries, for he was indefatand I am grateful to them also; for had I igable in research, solid in argument, and not had such kind and affectionate sisters, quick and subtle in perception. Like a skiland such a mother as I have, I do most sin- ful artist, he studied to disguise his labor, cerely believe that I should never have been but no man more usefully or more frequently successful in life. But the thought,” he con-“consumed the midnight oil;" and his memtinues, “ of home, and the loved ones there, ory was so tenacious, that what he once has warmed my benumbed feelings, and en-garnered up in his well-ordered mind, could, couraged me to renewed efforts, by the re- upon the instant, be called into use. Whatflection that there were, though afar off, those ever might have been his quickness of reparwhose happiness was in some degree at least tee, or his almost instinctive knowledge of connected with mine; and I hold that no whatever subject came before him, yet his person can be entirely miserable while there opponents in council always discovered that is in the world a single individual who will he had entered into the most laborious rerejoice in his prosperity, or feel sorrow for search, to conquer any difficulties in his his adversity.”
path, and that he was never taken by surA remarkably characteristic anecdote, not prise in the vast labyrinths of investigation only illustrative of his filial affection, but also peculiar to the legal profession. of his ready perception of the fitting thing Prentiss, when young in years and young to be said, is given as follows: When on a as a lawyer, appeared before the Supreme visit some years ago to the North, but after Court of the United States, and his pleadhis reputation had become wide-spread, a ings, in spite of his youthful fire and highlydistinguished lady of Portland took pains wrought fancy, were so happily fortified by to obtain an introduction, by visiting the deep reading and deep thought, as to insteamboat in which she learned he was to stantly attract the notice of Chief Justice take his departure in a few moments. “I Marshall
, and called forth from that masterhave wished to see you,” said she to Mr. mind involuntary praise. Prentiss, “ for my heart has often congrat- Ilis opinion of the dignity of his calling ulated the mother who has such a son.” he frequently adverted to in his public “* Rather congratulate the son on having speeches. He often sketched the lawyer as such a mother!" was his instant reply; and one who should possess every qualification it was unaffected and heartfelt.
that adorns the character of a man. He No man perhaps ever lived who received looked upon “the profession" as the true a greater number of personal compliments foundation of statesmanship, and the law as than Mr. Prentiss, but he always received the protector and the delineator of the rights them with that peculiar grace and dignity of the people, and the noblest field for the so eminent in his reply to the lady of Port- cultivation of the intellect. land. One day, in New-Orleans, I met him Of Mr. Prentiss as a politician I need not in the street, leading by the hand his two speak; he was ever an ardent republican in sons, remarkably beautiful children. I was his principles, and battled for what he construck with their evident resemblance to their ceived to be the true intent of our political father, and complimented him upon it. institutions, with a vigor that showed his “Ah," said he, with the fondest look of sincerity as well as his power. affection, "they have the light hair and blue As we have already stated, his admiration eye of the Anglo-Saxon robber; they are for Mr. Clay was unbounded; for Mr. WebAmerican bors."
ster he entertained feelings of the most proThe merits of Mr. Prentiss as a lawyer found veneration; and he always spoke of will, perhaps, except by his most intimate Mr. Crittenden with a tone of voice akin to professional associates, never be justly appre- love. With such a trio for his priests, his ciated, because his brilliant oratorical powers political sentiments are easily discerned. caused the majority of persons to lose sight The Whig party should ever cherish his of the solid structure that was buried under memory, not only for his voluntary labors in “the ornament profuse.” Had Mr. Prentiss its behalf, but especially for his promptness been entirely destitute of imagination, his in defending Mr. Fillmore from the false fame would probably have been less extend - charge of abolitionism, at one time so tena