A close study of Mr. Webster’s legal career, in the light of contemporary reputation and of the best examples of his work, leads to certain quite obvious conclusions. He had not a strongly original or creative legal mind. This was chiefly due to nature, but in some measure to a dislike to the slow processes of investigation and inquiry which were always distasteful to him, although he was entirely capable of intense and protracted exertion. He cannot, therefore, be ranked with the illustrious few, among whom we count Mansfield and Marshall as the most brilliant examples, who not only declared what the law was, but who made it. Mr. Webster’s powers were not of this class, but, except in these highest and rarest qualities, he stands in the front rank of the lawyers of his country and his age. Without extraordinary profundity of thought or depth of learning, he had a wide, sure, and ready knowledge both of principles and cases. Add to this quick apprehension, unerring sagacity for vital and essential points, a perfect sense of proportion, an almost unequalled power of statement, backed by reasoning at once close and lucid, and we may fairly say that Mr. Webster, who possessed all these qualities, need fear comparison with but very few among the great lawyers of that period either at home or abroad.
THE MASSACHUSETTS CONVENTION AND THE PLYMOUTH ORATION.
The conduct of the Dartmouth College case, and its result, at once raised Mr. Webster to a position at the bar second only to that held by Mr. Pinkney. He was now constantly occupied by most important and lucrative engagements, but in 1820 he was called upon to take a leading part in a great public work which demanded the exertion of all his talents as statesman, lawyer, and debater. The lapse of time and the setting off of the Maine district as a State had made a convention necessary, in order to revise the Constitution of Massachusetts. This involved the direct resort to the people, the source of all power, which is only required to effect a change in the fundamental law of the State. On these rare occasions it has been the honored custom in Massachusetts to lay aside all the qualifications attaching to ordinary legislatures and to choose the best men, without regard to party, public office, or domicile, for the performance of