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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. He 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 destiny" looking down upon the sunny plains of Italy, and then, with a mighty swoop, descending from the clouds and making the grasp of Empire secondary to that of Art.
Of Prentiss's power before a jury too much cannot be said. Innumerable illustrations might be gathered up, showing that he far surpassed any living advocate. "The trial of the Wilkinsons" is often cited, although it was far from being one of his best efforts. Another trial occurs to me, worthy of particular notice, of which little has been said out of the community of those directly interested. On one occasion, two young men, only sons, and deeply attached as friends, quarrelled, and in the mad excitement of the moment, one of them was killed. Upon the trial, the testimony of the mother of the deceased was so direct, that it seemed to render "the clearing of the prisoner" hopeless. Prentiss spoke to the witness in the blandest manner and most courtly style. The mother, arrayed in weeds, and bowed down with sorrow, turned towards Prentiss, and answered hi inquiries with all the dignity of a perfectly accomplished lady; she calmly uttered the truth, and every word she spoke rendered the defense apparently more hopeless.
"Would you punish that young man with death?" said Prentiss, pointing to the prisoner..
The extraordinary inspiration that the presence of ladies gave to Mr. Prentiss when addressing an audience was easily perceptible, and consequently his addresses "to the Court" were always freer from that soft imagery, so peculiar to his vein, than were his speeches delivered before a promiscuous audience. An amusing incident occurred many years ago, that is, perhaps, worth relating. In one of the "new counties" of Mississippi, then just wrested from the aboriginal inhabitants, Mr. Prentiss had an Indian for a client. The logcabin court-house presented little to excite the imagination, and the "etiquette of the bench" almost precluded any thing but a very commonplace speech. Mr. Prentiss took but little interest seemingly in the matter before him, when two or three ladies were noticed peering into the "Hall of Justice," evidently anxious to hear his voice, and see one of whom they had heard so much. Instantly the manner of Prentiss changed, and he was soon indulging in some of his most flowing sentences. The politeness of the sheriff found seats for the fair intruders upon the court-room, and the consequence was, that Mr. Prentiss was soon in the midst of an address in behalf of the "wronged Indian," that, for pathos, for beauty, and for effect, was never excelled.
Here, perhaps, while speaking of the involuntary compliments he paid to the presence 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 rying her gray 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
"No!" said the witness, with all the gushing tenderness of a mother-"No! I would not add a sorrow to her heart, nor that of her son!"
Admissions in the evidence followed, and hopes were uttered for the prisoner's ac
love. From the time that Mr. Prentiss left the paternal roof, almost to the hour of his decease, did he pour out his soul to an absent parent in continued correspondence, which, as now preserved, extends over more than a quarter of a century, growing in quantity 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 Iigable in research, solid in argument, and not had such kind and affectionate sisters, and such a mother as I have, I do most sincerely believe that I should never have been successful in life. But the thought," he continues, "of home, and the loved ones there, has warmed my benumbed feelings, and encouraged me to renewed efforts, by the reflection that there were, though afar off, those whose happiness was in some degree at least connected with mine; and I hold that no person can be entirely miserable while there is in the world a single individual who will rejoice in his prosperity, or feel sorrow for his adversity."
quick and subtle in perception. Like a skilful artist, he studied to disguise his labor, but no man more usefully or more frequently "consumed the midnight oil;" and his memory was so tenacious, that what he once garnered up in his well-ordered mind, could, upon the instant, be called into use. Whatever might have been his quickness of repartee, or his almost instinctive knowledge of whatever subject came before him, yet his opponents in council always discovered that he had entered into the most laborious research, to conquer any difficulties in his path, and that he was never taken by surprise in the vast labyrinths of investigation peculiar to the legal profession.
Prentiss, when young in years and young as a lawyer, appeared before the Supreme Court of the United States, and his pleadings, in spite of his youthful fire and highlywrought fancy, were so happily fortified by deep reading and deep thought, as to instantly attract the notice of Chief Justice Marshall, and called forth from that mastermind involuntary praise.
A remarkably characteristic anecdote, not only illustrative of his filial affection, but also of his ready perception of the fitting thing to be said, is given as follows: When on a visit some years ago to the North, but after his reputation had become wide-spread, a distinguished lady of Portland took pains to obtain an introduction, by visiting the steamboat in which she learned he was to take his departure in a few moments. "I have wished to see you," said she to Mr. Prentiss, "for my heart has often congrat- His 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.
No man perhaps ever lived who received a greater number of personal compliments than Mr. Prentiss, but he always received them with that peculiar grace and dignity so eminent in his reply to the lady of Portland. One day, in New-Orleans, I met him. in the street, leading by the hand his two sons, remarkably beautiful children. I was struck with their evident resemblance to their father, and complimented him upon it. "Ah," said he, with the fondest look of affection, "they have the light hair and blue. eye of the Anglo-Saxon robber; they are American boys.”
that adorns the character of a man. looked upon "the profession" as the true foundation of statesmanship, and the law as the protector and the delineator of the rights of the people, and the noblest field for the cultivation of the intellect.
Of Mr. Prentiss as a politician I need not speak; he was ever an ardent republican in his principles, and battled for what he conceived to be the true intent of our political institutions, with a vigor that showed his sincerity as well as his power.
As we have already stated, his admiration for Mr. Clay was unbounded; for Mr. Webster 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
ciously urged by his political opponents in | the South. No sooner was the alarm given, than he buckled on his armor, and made his last terrific blows in cutting down the slander; that he was efficient, the recorded vote of Louisiana will ever show.
In summing up Mr. Prentiss's public life, I should say that his absorbing sentiment was patriotism. If he loved Clay, Webster, and Crittenden, it was not simply because they were men after his own heart," but because they were men whose principles he believed tended to preserve the peace and prosperity of his country, and whose genius adorned the pages of its history. The pleasantest reminiscences I have of Mr. Prentiss are, when circumstances have thrown me in his company, in some retired place, and I have listened to his hopes and aspirations for the prosperity of his native land.
With the talent of an improvisatore, he drew more vivid pictures of the glory that awaited its destiny in the future, than ever did a Roman child of song call up when speaking of the past. Those great hopes of his, so worthy of a true American heart, so inspiringly expressed, now linger in my memory, as the sweet outpourings of a voice from the "spirit-world."
In the social circle, Mr. Prentiss was always the centre; there was a charm about his society that was ever unrivalled. No man had a more delicate and subtle wit than Prentiss, or a more Falstaffian humor when it suited his purpose. Who will ever forget the spending of a social hour with him, when his health was high and his mind at ease? Who so imaginative? who so refined? What delight was exhibited by sweet ladies who listened to his words. Who could so eloquently discourse of roses and buds, of lilies and pearls, of eyes and graces, of robes and angels, and yet never offend the most sensitive of the sex, or call other than the blush of pleasure and joy to the cheek? Who could, on the "public day," ascend so gracefully from the associations of tariffs, and banks, and cotton, and sugar, to greet the fair ladies that honored him with their presence? How he would lean towards them, as he dwelt upon "the blessed of all God's handiwork," and compared their bright eyes to "day-stars" that lit up the dark recesses of his own clouded imagination; and how he would revel, like another
Puck, among the rays and beams of smiles called forth by his own happy compliments; and how he would change from all this, and in an instant seemingly arm himself with the thunderbolts of Jove, which he would dash with appalling sound among his antagonists, or the principles he opposed, and yet with such a charm, with such a manner, that these very daughters of the sunny South, who had listened to his syren song so admiringly, would now stare, and wonder, and pallor, and yet listen, even as one gazes over the precipice, and is fascinated at the very nearness to destruc
I had the melancholy pleasure of hearing his last, and, it seemed to me, his greatest speech. Towards the close of the last Presidential campaign, I found him in the interior of the State, endeavoring to recruit his declining health. He had been obliged to avoid all public speaking, and had gone far into the country to get away from excitement. But there was a "gathering" near by his temporary home, and he consented to be present. It was late in the evening when he ascended the "stand," which was supported by the trunks of two magnificent forest trees, through which the setting sun poured with picturesque effect. The ravages of ill-health were apparent upon his face, and his high massive forehead was paler and more transparent than usual. His audience, some three or four hundred persons, was composed in a large degree of his old and early friends. He seemed to feel deeply, and as there was nothing to oppose, he assumed the style of the mild and beautiful. He casually alluded to the days of his early coming among his southern friends; to the hours of pleasure he had passed, and to the hopes of the future. In a few moments the bustle and confusion natural to a fatiguing day of political wrangling ceased; one straggler after another suspended his noisy demonstration, and gathered near the speaker. Soon a mass of silent, but heartheaving humanity was crowded compactly before him. Had Prentiss, on that occasion, held the very heart-strings of his auditors in his hand, he could not have had them more in his power. For an hour he continued, rising from one important subject to another, until the breath was fairly suspended in the excitement. An uninterested spectator would have supposed that he had used
rations may know something of the mighty mind of Prentiss ?
The remains of the orator must ever be imperfect; the tone of voice-the flashing eye-the occasion, and the mighty shout of the multitude, how can these be perpetuated? But still Prentiss has left enough in his brilliant career to show posterity that he was every inch a man. Let his fragmentary printed speeches-let the reminiscences of his friends that treat of his power as an orator, be brought together, and unsatisfactory as they may be, there will be found left intrinsic value enough to accomplish the object. There will be in the fluted column, though shattered and defaced, an Ionian beauty that will tell unerringly of the magnificent temple it once adorned.
Baton Rouge, La., July, 1851.
Ir is curious to see how the facilities for rambling around the World of Books have kept pace with the wonderful engineries devised to carry us hither and thither upon the face of the earth. The difference in extent between the ancient and the modern area of reading is as great as the difference in extent between Ptolemy's World and Humboldt's World. Since the first venerable geographer traced the margin of the habitable earth, and left Tritons, Hyperboreans, Anthropophagi, and other salvage outsiders in welcome possession of all lands and waters that might lie beyond the limit which he set to man's heritage, we have had Columbus and his America, De Gama and his India, Magellan and his Pacific Ocean, the polar voyagers and their continents of ice. The wandering hero who was tossed ten years between Troy and Gibraltar could boast that he had seen all cities and all manner of men in his time, besides gods and nondescripts, and held his good name of First among Rovers through many generations, as indisputably as Nelson holds his of First among Admirals. Show Ulysses the
modern Atlas. The startled navigator might well suppose the threescore years and ten of life full short to cross but once the grand ocean that rolls beyond the Pillars of Hercules, to say nothing of attempting to double Cape Horn, and pilot his bewildered galley over the awful deeps beyond. Nevertheless, what adventurous youth is there who cannot now see the two poles, the five oceans, all the continents, and return to his Penelope in half the time the sacker of cities made from Ilium to Ithaca? Divine is the guidance of the world. As fast as new oceans opened before the prows of discoverers, human ingenuity, divinely prompted, devised swifter and stouter ships, for which there was really no necessity before. The galley with its bank of oars and little sails answered every purpose for the merchant whose ocean was the Midland Sea, whose log-book recorded only thunder-storms off Sicily and scuffles with piratical biremes on the Spanish coast, but was entirely barren of those entertaining rencontres with seaserpents and typhoons, which sometimes make the diary of the India trader as exhil
ing geniuses of the different States are noble republican kings, generous and royally hospitable. You may go from one to another at your will. The gates of their cities are open; their frontiers are guarded by no mousing patrols; the baggage of travellers is not rummaged by officials; the police are not hoping to detect in you a Socialist or Red-Republican in disguise. Neither do these princes forbid their own nobles to travel at pleasure, like the Czars of Russia. When the youth, whose studies have been in ancient chronicles and in the annals of ruined kingdoms, takes it into his head to ramble away with the astronomers into the Zodiac, the Genius of History does not set off in a passion to catch his vagrant disciple, and like Apollyon bestride his pathway "with a disdainful countenance," and say, as the fiend said to the Pilgrim, "I perceive that thou art one of my subjects. Why hast thou run away from thy king? Were it not that I hope thou mayest do me more service, I would strike thee now at one blow to the ground."
No so. The varied provinces of Learning are ours. We may travel through them as freely as through Oregon and Nebraska to see the cataracts, the mountains, and the mines. Philosophers, learned men, students-what are these but the governors and garrisons we leave in charge of the pubic domain? It is as preposterous to expect that the various departments of learning are to remain in the sole possession of the learned men who especially delight in, or first investigate them, as to imagine that the New World could stand for ever seized to the sole and only proper use, benefit and behoof of Christopher Columbus and his heirs. It is for these learned men to labor in their own provinces; for us, the people, to visit and possess all.
We sat down to write of Book-Roving, and are likely, unless we abruptly cut short this thread of discourse, to be guilty of penroving, and to wander into ports for which we took out no papers.
arating as the reminiscences of Sinbad. But now, when the Atlantic and the Pacific are our oceans, the Amazon and the Mississippi our rivers, man could not be lord of his heritage with the paltry navies of Tyre. But God has given him the globe to possess it, and it is admirable to observe how, as the bounds of this noble gift have widened, strange and mighty engineries have been suggested to him, so that to-day heroes go forth upon the waters in line-of-battle ships, and adventurers bind down a vaporous giant with iron shackles, shut him in an iron prison, and torture him with fire till he is maddened, and turns huge wheels, and lifts ponderous pistons, and drives steamships through the opposing billows.
Like the habitable earth, the Republic of Letters has enlarged its area by discovery and annexation, till the ancient citizen of that once placid commonwealth might well be as disheartened at the project of visiting its several States as the royal rover of old at the suggestion of a voyage of circumnavigation. During the last two centuries books have multiplied with appalling activity. It would almost seem that the Muses, in disgust *at human dulness, were going to deluge the world with Belles Lettres till the public intellect was fairly swamped, leaving only some great lexicographer afloat on the top of the flood in his unwieldy ark, to preserve samples of former wit for the more ready generation of volumes to re-populate the libraries of a brighter race. But after all we ride the surf nicely, and quite enjoy the shower. It is safe to say that the modern gentleman may gain that mastery of modern learning which is suitable for him, as easily as the ancient gentleman obtained a corresponding mastery of the learning of his day. We assert our sovereignty over the newfound empires of Science quite as successfully as over the new-found oceans and continents of the earth; and how wide soever these acquisitions, the popular mind glances over them, gathers treasures and curiosities from all, and establishes territorial governments. We make 'cheap excursions' through Geology, Astronomy, History; rush in rapid caravans over the deserts of Law and Ethics; explore the oceans of Philosophy, and even find a Northwest passage through the icebergs of Mathematics.
The Commonwealth of Letters is soundly republican in its constitution. The presid
There are some men of books who appear to us as travellers. Here it can hardly be necessary to premise that there are travellers of various dispositions. One will wander over the face of the earth for a score of years, applying trigonometry to the mountains, testing hot springs with thermometers, scrutinizing rocks and craters, and reading in preAdamite histories written in gigantic hicro