Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

ministration in the legislature of Virginia, had uniformly declined any situation which might withdraw me from the bar. In 1798 I was very strongly pressed by the Federalists to become a candidate for Congress, and the gentleman of the party who had offered himself to the district, proposed to resign his pretensions in my favor. I had however positively refused to accede to the proposition and believed that I could not be induced to change my determination. In this state of things, in August or September 1798 as well as I recollect, I received an invitation from General Washington to accompany his nephew, the late Judge Washington on a visit to Mount Vernon. I accepted the invitation, and remained at Mount Vernon four or five days. During this time the walk and conversation in the Piazza mentioned by Mr. Lewis took place.

General Washington urged the importance of the crisis, expressed his decided conviction that every man who could contribute to the success of sound opinions was required by the most sacred duty to offer his services to the public, and pressed me to come into the Congress of the ensuing year.

After the very natural declaration of distrust in my ability to do any good, I told him that I had made large pecuniary engagements which required close attention to my profession, and which would distress me should the emoluments derived from it be abandoned. I also mentioned the assurance I had given to the gentleman then a candidate, which I could not honorably violate.

He thought that gentleman would still willingly withdraw in my favor, and that my becoming a member of Congress for the present, would not sacrifice my practice as a lawyer. At any rate the sacrifice might be temporary.

After continuing this conversation for some time, he directed my attention to his own conduct. He had withdrawn from office with a declaration of his determination never again, under any circumstances, to enter public life. No man could be more sincere in making that declaration, nor could any man feel stronger motives for adhering to it. No man could make a stronger sacrifice than he did in breaking a resolution thus publicly made, and which he had believed to be unalterable. Yet, I saw him, in opposition to his public declaration, in opposition to his private feelings, consenting, under a sense of duty, to surrender the sweets of retirement, and again to enter the

most arduous and perilous station which an individual could fill.

My resolution yielded to this presentation. After remarking that the obligation which had controuled his course was essentially different from that which bound me — that no other man could fill the place to which his country had called him, whereas my services could weigh but little in the political balance, I consented to become a candidate, and have continued, ever since my election, in public life.

This letter is intended to be private, and you will readily perceive the unfitness of making it public. It is written because it has been requested in polite and obliging terms, and because I am willing, should your own views induce you to mention the fact derived from Mr. Lewis, to give you the assurance of its truth. With very great respect,

I am, Sir,
Your Obed't Serv't,

J. MARSHALL.

Mr. James K. Paulding was gathering material for a life of Washington when he heard of a story concerning Marshall's candidacy for Congress. He wrote to Marshall about it, and this letter was then written,- a short while before Chief Justice Marshall died.

CHAPTER III

A FEW IMPORTANT LETTERS TO CHIEF JUSTICE MARSHALL

President Washington's letter offering to John Marshall the office of Attorney General, which he declined, because he preferred professional life to public,-- was as follows:

PHILADELPHIA, August 26, 1795. DEAR SIR:

The office of Attorney-General of the United States has become vacant by the death of Mr. Bradford. I take the earliest opportunity of asking if you will accept the appointment? The salary annexed thereto and the prospect of a lucrative practice in this city, the present seat of the government, must be as well known to you as, better perhaps, than they are to me and therefore I shall say nothing concerning them. If your answer is in the affirmative, it will readily occur to you, that no unnecessary time should be lost in repairing to this place. If on the contrary it should be in the negative, which I should be very sorry for, it might be as well to say nothing of this offer. But in either case I pray you give me an answer as promptly as you can. With esteem and regard, I am, etc.,

GEORGE WASHINGTON. A short time after Justice Story completed his three volumes of " Commentaries on the Constitution " he wrote an Abridg

of it, which was prepared as a text-book for the La School and College. This work was dedicated to Chief Justice Marshall in the letter that follows.

TO THE HONORABLE John MARSHALL, LL.D., CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

CAMBRIDGE, January, 1833.

SIR:

I ask the favor of dedicating this work to you. I know

not to whom it could with so much propriety be dedicated, as to one whose youth was engaged in the arduous enterprises of the Revolution; whose manhood assisted in framing and supporting the national Constitution; and whose maturer years have been devoted to the task of unfolding its powers and illustrating its principles. When, indeed, I look back upon your judicial labors, during a period of thirty-two years, it is difficult to suppress astonishment at their extent and variety, and at the exact learning, the profound reasoning, and the solid principles which they everywhere display. Other judges have attained an elevated reputation by similar labors, in a single department of jurisprudence. But in one department, (it need scarcely be said that I allude to that of constitutional law,) the common consent of your countrymen has admitted you to stand without a rival. Posterity will assuredly confirm, by its deliberate award, what the present age has approved, as an act of undisputed justice. Your expositions of constitutional law enjoy a rare and extraordinary authority. They constitute a monument of fame far beyond the ordinary memorials of political and military glory. They are destined to enlighten, instruct, and convince future generations; and can scarcely perish but with the memory of the Constitution itself. They are the victories of a mind accustomed to grapple with difficulties, capable of unfolding the most comprehensive truths with masculine simplicity and severe logic, and prompt to dissipate the illusions of ingenious doubt, and subtle argument, and impassioned eloquence. They remind us of some mighty river of our own country, which, gathering in its course the contributions of many tributary streams, pours at last its own current into the ocean, deep, clear, and irresistible.

But I confess that I dwell with even more pleasure upon the entirety of a life adorned by consistent principles, and filled up in the discharge of virtuous duty; where there is nothing to regret, and nothing to conceal; no friendships broken; no confidence betrayed; no timid surrenders to popular clamor; no eager reaches for popular favor. Who does not listen with conscious pride to the truth, that the disciple, the friend, the biographer of Washington, still lives, the uncompromising advocate of his principles ?

I am but too sensible that, to some minds, the time may not seem yet to have arrived, when language like this, however

true, should meet the eyes of the public. May the period be yet far distant, when praise shall speak out with that fullness of utterance which belongs to the sanctity of the grave.

But I know not that, in the course of Providence, the privilege will be allowed me hereafter to declare, in any suitable form, my deep sense of the obligations which the jurisprudence of my country owes to your labors, of which I have been for twenty-one years a witness, and in some humble measure a companion. And if any apology should be required for my present freedom, may I not say that, at your age, all reserve may well be spared, since all your labors must soon belong exclusively to history?

Allow me to add, that I have a desire (will it be deemed presumptuous ?) to record upon these pages the memory of a friendship, which has for so many years been to me a source of inexpressable satisfaction; and which, I indulge the hope, may continue to accompany and cheer me to the close of life. I am, with the highest respect, Affectionately your servant,

JOSEPH STORY.

LETTER FROM THOMAS JEFFERSON TO JOHN MARSHALL

Chief Justice Marshall went to France as one of the Envoys, with Pinckney and Gerry. Upon his return from France the following note was received from Thomas Jefferson, who was at the time secretly trying to ruin him. In after years the Chief Justice frequently laughed over it, saying, “ Mr. Jefferson came very near writing the truth; the added un to lucky policy alone demanded.” The note, now the property of one of his granddaughters, is as follows:

Thos. Jefferson presents his compliments to General Marshall. He had the honor of calling at his lodgings twice this morning, but was so unlucky as to find that he was out on both occasions. He wished to have expressed in person his regret that a pre-engagement for today, which could not be dispenced with, would prevent him the satisfaction of dining in company with Genl. Marshall, and therefore begs leave to place here the expressions of that respect which in company with his fellow citizens he bears him. GENL. MARSHALL

at Oeller's Hotel, June 23d, 1798.

« ZurückWeiter »