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JUNDANUMUU. i wauu vi agriculturul sau auu wavui a a VOISIVU W au Awus va oyouwauto labor, closed his career as a farmer in two years, when he again commenced and again failed in
mercantile pursuits. Unsuccessful in every thing he had attempted to procure himself and his family subsistence, he, as a last effort, determined to make a trial of the law. To the study of that profession, “which is said to require the lucubrations of twenty years, Mr. Henry devoted not more than six weeks; ” and at the age of twenty-four he was admitted to the bar. His practice for the first three or four years yielded him but a very scanty return, during which time be performed the duties of an assistant to his father-in-law at a country inn.
The celebrated controversy,* in 1763, between the clergy and the legislature of Virginia, touching the stipend of the former, was the occasion on which Mr. Henry's genius first broke forth. “On this first trial of his strength,” says Mr. Wirt, “he rose very awkwardly, and faltered much in his exordium. The people hung their heads at so unpromising a commencement; the clergy were observed to exchange sly looks with each other; and his father is described as having almost sunk with confusion from his seat. But these feelings were of short duration, and soon gave place to others, of a very different character. For, now were these wonderful faculties which he possessed for the first time developed; and now was first witnessed that mysterious and almost supernatural transformation of appearance, which the fire of his own eloquence never failed to work in him. For, as his mind rolled along and began to glow from its own action, all the exuviæ of the clown seemed to shed themselves spontaneously. His attitude, by degrees, became erect and lofty. The spirit of his genius awakened all his features. His countenance shone with a nobleness and grandeur which it had never before exhibited. There was a lightning in his eyes which seemed to rive the spectator. His action became graceful, bold, and commanding; and in the tones of his voice, but more especially in his emphasis, there was a peculiar charm, a magic, of which any one who ever heard him will speak as soon as he is named, but of which no one can give any adequate description. They can only sảy that it struck upon the ear and upon the heart, in a manner which language cannot tell. Add to all these his wonder-working fancy, and the peculiar phraseology in which he clothed its images; for he painted to the heart with a force that almost petrified it. In the language of those who heard him on this occasion, he made their blood run cold, and their hair to rise on end.'
" It will not be difficult for any one who ever heard this most extraordinary man, to believe the whole account of this transaction which is given by his surviving hearers; and from their account, the court-house of Hanover County must have exhibited, on this occasion, a scene as picturesque as has ever been witnessed in real life. They say that the people, whose countenance had fallen as he arose, had heard but a very few sentences before they began to look up; then to look at each other with surprise, as if doubting the evidence of their own senses; then, attracted by some strong gesture, struck by some majestic attitude, fascinated by the spell of his eye, the charm of his emphasis, and the varied and commanding expression of his countenance, they could look away no more. In less than twenty minutes they might be seen in every part of the house, on every bench, in every window, stooping forward from their stands, in deathlike silence; their features fixed in amazement and awe; all their senses listening and riveted upon the speaker, as if to catch the last strain of some heavenly visitant. The mockery of the clergy was soon turned into alarm; their triumph into confusion and despair; and at one burst of his rapid and overwhelming invective, they fled from the bench in precipitation and terror. As for the father, such was his surprise, such his amazement, such his rapture, that, forgetting where he was, and the character which he was filling, tears of ecstasy streamed down his cheeks, without the power or inclination to repress them. The jury seem to have been completely bewildered; for, thoughtless even of the admitted right of the plaintiff, they had scarcely left the bar when they returned with a verdict of one penny damages. A motion was made for a new trial; but the court, too, had now lost the equipoise of their judgment, and overruled the motion by a unanimous vote. The verdict and judgment overruling the motion, were followed by rodoubled acclamations from within and without the house. The people, who had with difficulty kept their hands off their champion, from the moment of closing his harangue, no sooner saw the fate of the cause finally sealed, than they seized him at the bar, and in spite of his own exertions, and the continued cry of 'order' from the sheriffs and the court, they bore him out of
• The points in this controversy are lucidly laid down in Wirt's Life of Henry.