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PREFATORY NOTE

THE orations and essays of Mr. Phelps contained in this volume have been selected from a large number of his posthumous works. They cover a wide range of subjects, professional, literary, and biographical, all treated with the same free hand and in his customary clear, eloquent, and forceful style. The selections illustrate his style, his intellectual fibre, his unflinching courage, his strength, his mental grasp, his lofty and independent bearing in thought and action, and constitute a fitting memorial of

the man.

J. G. MÖC.

MEMOIR

OF

HONORABLE EDWARD J. PHELPS

BY

HON. JOHN W. STEWART
EX-GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF VERMONT

THE ancestry of a man distinguished among his fellows is always a subject of interest. The law of heredity plays so important a part in the determination of the life and character that, in a sense, every man's history antedates his birth. The quality of the germ is fixed by inheritance, and its development is along prescribed lines, subject to modification under the play of the will in changing conditions.

So it comes to pass that a good ancestry is one's best inheritance, more precious than lands or houses or gold, for these are extraneous, while character is personal and abides as the supreme test of manhood.

Hon. Edward J. Phelps, the subject of this brief sketch, inherited a splendid endowment, both physical and mental. His long and brilliant career is proof that he made wise and diligent use of those natural gifts so generously bestowed.

His American ancestry was of the type of men who found and build new States - brave, clear-headed, liberty-loving, God-fearing men, pioneers and sowers of the seed of New England civilization of which this generation is reaping harvest.

William Phelps emigrated from England to this country in 1630 and founded the historic town of Windsor, Connecticut. His descendants for several generations filled prominent positions in civil life during the colonial period. John Phelps was an officer in the war of the American Revolution. Hon. Samuel S. Phelps, his son, was the father of Edward J. Phelps, and was a native of Litchfield, Connecticut. He graduated from Yale College in 1811, and the year following removed to Middlebury, Vermont, where he resided until his death, in 1855. Soon after his arrival in Middlebury he was admitted to the bar, and entered at once upon a brilliantly successful professional career, which culminated, while yet a young man, in his elevation to the Supreme Court of the State. At the bar he was the acknowledged leader, and his judicial service was not less distinguished. His judicial utterances were models of style in clearness and force of statement. He resigned from the bench to enter the United States Senate, in which he served twelve years by election, and, later, one year by executive appointment. In the roll of the Senate at that period are the names of Webster, Calhoun, Silas Wright, Chase, Benton, Clay, and others eminent if less famous. Chief Justice Chase once told the writer that in power of clear, convincing statement Judge Phelps was not excelled by any Senator of his time.

Judge Phelps was what might be termed regal in person. Of commanding stature, to rare symmetry of form he added a dignity of bearing which always commanded attention and admiration. The writer has been thus particular in describing the mental and physical qualities of the sire, because the same characteristics reappeared in marked degree in his more distinguished son.

Mr. Phelps's mother died in his childhood. None of her contemporaries are living, but the fragrance of her memory survives. In grace and beauty of person and character she was of the type of womanhood which attracts and attaches all who come within the sphere of its influence.

From such stock came Edward John Phelps.

He was born July 11, 1822; entered Middlebury College at the early age of fourteen, and graduated therefrom in 1840. He taught a family school in Virginia for a year. The year following he attended a course of lectures in New Haven Law School. Returning to Middlebury, he studied law in the office of Hon. Horatio Seymour, and was admitted to the bar in 1843. He entered immediately upon the active practice of his profession. His success was instant and complete.

His first appearance in court was marked by the same easy grace, perfect self-possession, self-mastery, clear perception and statement of points in question, and the same play of wit and apt illustration which distinguished his professional efforts in his mature and later life. He seemed to the writer, who was a youthful witness of his earliest efforts, to spring into the arena fully trained and equipped, versatile in gifts, with every faculty alert, and under instant and absolute control.

He was not a case lawyer. He was a great lawyer. He understood law as a science. He was thoroughly

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