« ZurückWeiter »
In the winter of 1811, the democratic party, to which he was attached, had resolved to change the Attorney-General. of them were dissatisfied with the candidates selected to take his place, and applied to him to consent to be run as a candidate. The federal party, despairing of the election of the old Attorney-General, stated to him that they would vote for him, which would have ensured his election. This offer he refused, thinking himself too young and inexperienced for such an office, and desired the election of the then incumbent, who was a worthy man, and a faithful officer.
About this time, he was appointed Master and Examiner in Chancery --- an office which he holds up to this day, and in which he has performed much service: this office does not interfere with practice, and may be held by any practitioner or other citi
Judges and other officers. While he held this situation, his practice was extensive.
In the winter of 1914, '15, the great steamboat controversy, between New Jersey and New-York and their citizens, assumed an interesting character; and, upon the application of the assignees of Fulton, a hearing, by counsel, of the parties, took place before the Legislature — he was employed as counsel, and the cause was argued by him and Judge Hopkinson, on one side, and by Mr. Emmett, on the other. It attracted great crowds. A report of the case has been printed, in which he is represented as being eminently successful in the competition. Mr. Emmett spoke of his efforts and success, in strong terms. By the active part he took in this case, and the ability with which he managed it, his reputation rapidly spread throughout the State.
In October, 1811, he was elected to the Legislature, by what is believed to be the largest vote ever given in the county of Huntendon. He was of the democratic or republican party. His father was one of the first individuals who espoused that party, in his part of the State, and was always an active and ardent supporter of its principles. His son was of the same school — ardent, zealous, and active. The leading members of the bar were generally federalists; and, while they were attached to him, treated him with personal kindness; they pressed him with severity, and constantly required from him, in conversation, an active defence of his opinions, which he never avoided. In 1812, the peace party prevailed in the State ; he was incessantly engaged, tongue and pen ; and the change, that was effected in the following year, was, in a great measure, attributed to his exertions. During this year, he probably wrote more than any two men in the State. When he took his seat, as a member of the Legislature, the office of Judge of the Supreme Court became vacant, and he was looked to as candidate for the office.
His health had declined ; and it was thought necessary, by his physician, that he should, for a time at least, quit the labors of
He desired to have the office, but his youth and the short time he had been at the bar, made him unwilling to request it. It was the pleasure of the Legislature to select him, and it is believed, that he would have had no opposition, if he had not advocated the re-appointment of one or two officers, in the joint meeting, who were among the best in the State, but who were federalists. He insisted, that a faithful officer, who had skilfully discharged his duty, who did not abuse office for party purposes, should not be abused, for opinion's sake. He was successful in saving them, although the party was in a large majority; but some of them were offended, and therefore changed their purpose of making him Judge. He was not ignorant of the effect, which his course would produce, and that it might be a sacrifice of his wishes, which, though not spoken of at the time, were strong, on account of his bealth. His opponent was an eminent lawyer, of his own party ; but, notwithstanding this, Mr. Southard was chosen, by a large majority. Although his offence had been his refusal to displace a federalist, yet the federal party divided equally between him and his opponent.
Mr. Southard was twenty-eight years old, when he took his seat as a Judge of the Supreme Court, and he had been but a little more than four years at the bar. He was on the bench just five years, during a part of which time, he reported the decisions of the court, under a law of the State, requiring such decisions, as affected the court for the trial of small causes, to be printed. He was confined by the terms of the act, but extended the reports beyond what was done by others. His reports are in two volumes. In 1816, he was appointed, by the Chancellor, a Master to decide upon injunctions, in the absence of the Chancellor from the city of Trenton -- an office, rendered important by the fact, that the Chancellor, who is also Governor, does not usually live at the seat of government. He still holds this appointment, and is often called to perform its duties when he is in Trenton.
His youth and short service at the bar made his political opponents question the propriety of his appointment as Judge ; but, in a very short time, he was found to be an efficient member of the bench. The jurisdiction of the court is extensive, and the Judges hold, twice a year in each county, a Circuit Court, for the trial of issues joined at the bar. The duties of this office, it is well known, are laborious. So much satisfaction did he give, , and such a reputation, for probity, consistency, and ability, did he acquire, that, when he left the bench, the bar gave him a very unusual testimony of their esteem. They all united in a public
dinner, under circumstances which manifested respect and affection. His character as a Judge, is unspotted ; and, though always a politician, he was never even suspected of being influenced, by his feelings or partialities, in any cause.
In October, 1820, he was chosen Senator to Congress. He had previously been much urged, by his political friends, to take this office; but he had refused. Two days, however, before the election, circumstances occurred, which induced him to consent, and he was elected. It was said, that no other than himself could have been successful against Mr. Wilson, who then held the seat. Although he did not expect to take his seat until December, 1921, yet the incumbent resigned, and he was appointed to supply the balance of the term. He took his seat in the Senate, February, 1821, while the Missouri question was yet not fully settled. The great question had been decided in the preceding session ; and the only point remaining, was the acceptance of the Constitution. Against this, but one objection was urged, which was to the provision excluding free blacks from the State. Mr. Southard thought that, under the laws of the last session, the question was decided, as to slavery in Missouri — and that, the law and faith of the government required the admission, if the Constitution was republican. He voted against the admission, until some provision was made for altering the provision referred to, as against the Constitution of the United States. But he voted for the admission, upon the condition that that provision should be altered. His colleague voted against it on any terms. Some of the members of New Jersey, in the House, changed their votes, and the State was admitted upon that condition. This change was attributed to Mr. Southard, and he was strongly censured for it. But it is not, perhaps, known what would have been his vote on the main question, if he had been there at the former session. He considered, that that question was settled by solemn law, and that the faith of the Union was pledged to the admission, on the sole condition that the Constitution of Missouri was republican. He opposed the violation of the law of the former session ; and upon the Constitution of that State being altered, in the particular mentioned, he gave his assent. The joint committee, that prepared the resolutions for the admission which passed, consisted of twenty from the House, and seven from the Senate, all elected by ballot. His father was a member of Congress, of the House, and he of the Senate, and they met in that character on this joint committee. At the close of that session, his father left Congress, declining re-election, having served his constituents, as acceptably as any man ever did for so long a period of time. Mr. Southard was in the Senate sixteen days, at the end of the session of 1820, and his period of six years then com
menced. He continued in the Senate the two succeeding sessions, and belonged to the republican party, then in the majority; and of that party he was always found an active, attentive, and industrious member.
In August, 1823, Mr. Monroe offered Mr. Southard the appointment of Secretary of the Navy, which office he would have declined, if he had not been strongly urged by friends, to whose wishes he yielded. One of his reasons for hesitation, stated at the time, was, that a violent electioneering presidential contest was approaching ; that he was young — but little known to the nation — and it was probable, in the short period of Mr. Monroe's term, that he should not be able to give to the administration of the department such character and weight, as to make it the wish or interest of the successor to retain him; and thus his discharge might operate injuriously to his character. It was thought, at the time of this appointment, that the election was in some degree influenced by Mr. Calhoun ; and on this account, some of the friends of Mr. Calhoun and Mr. Adams felt unfriendly to him. But they were in error, and the election was unsolicited and purely the act of Mr. Monroe. The members of the cabinet, in its then state, were not consulted; nor did any of them know of it, until Mr. Monroe announced to them his determination, provided he was not personally unacceptable to any of them. Thus the selection was made, purely from Mr. Monroe's own knowledge and estimate of his character and ability. They became acquainted when Mr. Southard was but nine years of age, and from that time they had been upon the most friendly and intimate terms, and were even confidential correspondents. Upon the duties of this office, Mr. Southard entered the sixteenth of September, 1823. The registers, therefore, are wrong, in stating it to have been in December of that year.
When Mr. Southard became a member of the cabinet, three of the members of it were spoken of as candidates for the presidency. Their friends were anxious and zealous ; and it was scarcely possible for Mr. Monroe to make an appointment, or to recommend a measure, to which some partizan would not give a character of partiality to one or the other of the candidates. Though holding a position of perfect neutrality, his situation was still very painful, and his acts often misconstrued ; and much hostility of feeling arose against him, from this cause. But, all this was without foundation, only illustrating the evils of having candidates for the presidency in the cabinet, and thus creating dissatisfaction, and rendering the President himself unpopular. Mr. Southard saw the difficulties by which he was surrounded, and at once decided, that it was his duty to refrain from being a partizan of either candidate ; that his first duty was to his country and Mr. Monroe, and to aid in furthering the administration of the
government, upon the principles which he had approved. He was aware, that this was dangerous ground for himself, as he could have no personal claims on any successor, and would probably be discarded, to make room for some more active partizan. But this could not change his course.
He did not express his preference to any ; but, as he was, at the time, very intimate with the most powerful friends of one of the candidates — General Jackson - whenever they spoke to him, as they often did, on the subject, he apprised them distinctly, that he was not in favor of their candidate. Until after Mr. Adams's election, no conversation, even alluding to his election, or the formation of his cabinet, took place between him and Mr. Southard. When Mr. Monroe retired from the presidency, he expressed, in the most affectionate and strong terms, his feeling, in regard to the manner in which, unsolicited, he had performed his duties, and the aid be afforded him on all subjects; and he added, that he had never associated with one, from whom he had received more faithful and efficient aid. Their intercourse was of the most intimate and friendly character, and continued until the death of Mr. Monroe. After Mr. Monroe had been given over by his physicians, Mr. Southard made him a visit ; and when he entered the room, Mr. M. raised his head, and taking his hand, said, with great emotion, . My friend, I am glad to see you ; I love better to see you and Mr. ****, than
other men in the world.' It is impracticable to embrace, in a sketch so short as this must necessarily be, all the points of Mr. Southard's administration of the Navy Department. A few days after he had assumed the duties of the office, information was received of the illness of Commodore Porter, and the distressed situation of the squadron under his command, at Key-West. Mr. Southard promptly dispatched medical and other aid, and sent Commodore Rogers out to relieve, as necessity might require. Such relief was very beneficial. In the Navy, previous to Mr. Southard's administration of the department, there had been an entire cessation of promotions, and the Navy was dispirited, He urged a change, and more promotions were made than have before or since been made. The Navy registers, for the different years, will show that, in this respect, he regarded the just claims of the officers, and the interests of the service. And, in recommending to the President for promotion, he uniformly refused to recommend those whom he thought unfit for the higher office. His example, in this respect, has been useful to the service, though it has not been always followed by his successors. For some time, it had been customary to make appointments in the Navy, without much regard to age, or the States from which the persons came ; and thus, great irregularity existed. Mere children were sometimes appointed. Mr. Southard endeavored to produce equality, as