Daniel Webster eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 332 pages of information about Daniel Webster.

Thus with his wonderful leonine look and large, dark eyes, and with the growing fame which he had won, Mr. Webster betook himself to Portsmouth.  He had met some of the leading lawyers already, but now he was to be brought into direct and almost daily competition with them.  At that period in New England there was a great rush of men of talent to the bar, then casting off its colonial fetters and emerging to an independent life.  The pulpit had ceased to attract, as of old; medicine was in its infancy; there were none of the other manifold pursuits of to-day, and politics did not offer a career apart.  Outside of mercantile affairs, therefore, the intellectual forces of the old Puritan commonwealths, overflowing with life, and feeling the thrill of youthful independence and the confidence of rapid growth in business, wealth, and population, were concentrated in the law.  Even in a small State like New Hampshire, presenting very limited opportunities, there was, relatively speaking, an extraordinary amount of ability among the members of the bar, notwithstanding the fact that they had but just escaped from the condition of colonists.  Common sense was the divinity of both the courts and the profession.  The learning was not extensive or profound, but practical knowledge, sound principles, and shrewd management were conspicuous.  Jeremiah Smith, the Chief Justice, a man of humor and cultivation, was a well read and able judge; George Sullivan was ready of speech and fertile in expedients; and Parsons and Dexter of Massachusetts, both men of national reputation, appeared from time to time in the New Hampshire courts.  Among the most eminent was William Plumer, then Senator, and afterwards Governor of the State, a well-trained, clear-headed, judicious man.  He was one of Mr. Webster’s early antagonists, and defeated him in their first encounter.  Yet at the same time, although a leader of the bar and a United States Senator, he seems to have been oppressed with a sense of responsibility and even of inequality by this thin, black-eyed young lawyer from the back country.  Mr. Plumer was a man of cool and excellent judgment, and he thought that Mr. Webster on this occasion was too excursive and declamatory.  He also deemed him better fitted by mind and temperament for politics than for the law, an opinion fully justified in the future, despite Mr. Webster’s eminence at the bar.  In another case, where they were opposed, Mr. Plumer quoted a passage from Peake’s “Law of Evidence.”  Mr. Webster criticised the citation as bad law, pronounced the book a miserable two-penny compilation, and then, throwing it down with a fine disdain, said, “So much for Mr. Thomas Peake’s compendium of the ’Law of Evidence.’” Such was his manner that every one present appeared to think the point settled, and felt rather ashamed of ever having heard of Mr. Peake or his unfortunate book.  Thereupon Mr. Plumer produced a volume of reports by which it appeared that the despised passage

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Daniel Webster from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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