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JOSEPH STORY was born at Marblehead, Massachusetts, on the eighteenth of September, 1779. He was educated at Harvard College, and upon leaving Cambridge returned to his native town, and commenced the study of law with Mr. Samuel Sewall, then an advocate of high rank, a member of Congress, and subsequently Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Massachusetts. From some of his letters written about this time it is to be judged, that the profession which young Story had chosen was not entirely in accordance with his inclinations. “I have begun the study of law," he wrote to a friend, “and shall continue it with unremitting diligence; but a sigh of regret often accompanies my solitary moments,—a sigh expressive of my ardent love of literary fame, and the impossibility of devoting all my attention to the object of my wishes. I candidly confess, that the hope of 'immortality' alone buoys me up, and if this hope should be destroyed, even should I remain unaffected by the meanness of mankind, all pleasure will have flown, and this world will appear a 'dreary waste, a wild without a flower.'" But this feeling of regret was of short duration. He soon acquired a love for the intricacies and subtleties of the law, and applied himself closely to study, for many months devoting fourteen hours a day to the office and to his legal books. In the midst of these labors he indulged quite freely in general reading, and composition; and on the occasion of the death of General Washington, he delivered a eulogy at the request of the citizens of Marblehead. During the same period he composed a poem, entitled The Power of Solitude.
Mr. Story left the office of Mr. Sewall in January, 1801, and entered that of Mr. Samuel Putnam, at Salem, where six months after he opened an office and commenced practice. His business seems to have been not very extensive during the first few years of his professional life. At this time he became an active politician, and embraced the cause of the republican or Jeffersonian party. In 1803 the station of naval officer of the port of Salem was tendered him, but he declined the appointment, both from professional considerations and motives of utility. During the following year he re-wrote his poem on the The Power of Solitude, and published it, with several fugitive pieces in verse. On the fourth of July, 1804, he pronounced an oration commemorative of the independence of the United States, and soon after published a Seleotion of Pleadings in Civil Actions. At this time bis practice was daily increasing; "his position at the bar was prominent,” says his son, “and he was engaged in nearly all the cases of importance. Ilis manner to the jury was earnest and spirited; he managed his causes with tact, was ready in attack or defence, and had great eloquence of expression. As an advocate, he showed the same sagacity of perception, which no intricacy of detail could blind and no suddenness of attack confuse, which afterwards so distinguished him as a judge. In the preparation of cases he was cantious and scrupulous, patiently mastering the law and the facts before the trial, and never relying on first views and general knowledge.*
In 1805, Mr. Story was elected to the Massachusetts legislature, and at once took a prominent position in that body. In all the debates he appeared with the greatest readiness, and scarcely &
* Life and Letters of Joseph Story, edited by his son.
committee of consequence was appointed during his term, of which he was not an active and principal member. After remaining in the legislature three sessions, he was elected to Congress, but served in that body for a few months only. On his return to Massachusetts, he was again chosen to the legislature, and continued in that position until January, 1812. During a portion of his legislative career, he occupied the speaker's chair. About this time he edited and published an edition of Chitty on Bills of Exchange and Promissory Notes ; Abbott on Shipping, and Lawes on Assumpsit, in addition to the duties of his profession.
In November, 1811, he was appointed by President Madison an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. At that time he was but thirty-two years of age, the youngest judge on the bench, and, with the single exception of Mr. Justice Buller, of the King's Bench, the youngest that ever had been elevated to a similar position. The spotless integrity of his character, the disinterestedness of his sentiments, and his acquirements as a lawyer, pre-eminently fitted him for the duties he was called upon to perform. Although many of his political opponents viewed his appointment with distrust and condemnation, their doubts were soon dissipated by the uprightness of his judicial course, and their condemnation turned to praise. After eighteen years of important and distinguished services on the bench, he added to the labors of his judgeship the equally onerous duties of a professor of law.
Through the munificence of Nathan Dane, the author of the Abridgment of American Law, a professorship of law was founded in Harvard College, with the express stipulation that Judge Story should be its first professor, and that the duties of the office should be so arranged, that they would not interfere with the performance of his labors as a member of the supreme bench. Judge Story assumed the professorship on the twenty-fifth of August, 1829, and soon after removed from Salem to Cambridge, where he established his permanent residence. From this period his time was spent at Washington during the sessions of the Supreme Court, on the first circuit of the New England States, and at Cambridge in the Law School. This latter institution became his favorite, and he always performed its duties with the greatest interest and zeal. His manner towards the students was affectionate and familiar. He was fond of designating them as “my boys," and without assuming any superiority, or exacting any formal respect, he participated so far as he was able in their success and failure, and extended beyond the narrow period of the school, far into active life, that interest in their behalf which he had contracted as their teacher. His lectures upon what are commonly considered the dry to pics of the law, were delivered with enthusiasm, and illustrated with copious anecdotes from the storehouse of his memory and his experience, and filled with episodes which were suggested to his active mind at almost every step. His influence over the students was unbounded. His zeal was contagious, and awakened similar feelings in his auditors, and the enthusiasm of the speaker and audience acted and reacted upon each other. It is unnecessary, in this place, however, to enlarge upon the merits of his government, or to state the success with which his efforts were attended.
Judge Story's literary labors were very extensive. In addition to the numerous valuable legal works he perfected, which now form no inconsiderable portion of the standard text-books of the profession, he prepared many occasional essays and orations, eulogistic and general, which for conciseness, eloquence, and purity of diction, will always command the admiration of the scholar as well as that of the general reader. He also contributed many articles to the American Jurist, as well as to the Encyclopædia Americana, which was prepared by his friend Dr. Lieber. In the latter work the articles on Common Lar, Congress of the United States, Death Punishment, Evidence, Legislation, National Law, and several others are from his pen, and are written with his characteristic ability, and in his usual comprehensive style.
In reviewing the life of Judge Story, the amount of labor he performed seems almost incredible. "Its mere recapitulation,” says his son, "is sufficient to appal an ordinary mind. The judgments delivered by him on his circuits comprehend thirteen volumes. The reports of the Supreme Court during his judical life occupy thirty-five volumes, of which he wrote a full share. His various treatises on legal subjects, cover thirteen volumes, besides a volume of Pleadings. He edited and annotated three different treatises, with copious notes, and published a volume of poems. He delivered and published eight discources on literary and scientific subjects, before
different societies. He wrote biographical sketches of ten of his contemporaries; six elaborate reviews for the North American; three long and learned memorials to Congress. He delivered many elaborate speeches in the legislature of Massachusetts and the Congress of the United States. He also drew up many other papers of importance, among which are the argument before Harvard College, on the subject of the Fellows of the University; the Reports on Codification, and on the salaries of the Judiciary ; several important Acts of Congress, such as the Crimes Act, the Judiciary Act, the Bankrupt Act, besides many other smaller matters. In quantity, all other authors in the English law, and judges must yield to him the palm. The labors of Coke, Eldon, and Mansfield, among judges, are not to be compared to his in amount And no jurist in the common law, can be measured with him, in extent and variety of labor."
Judge Story was a constant and assiduous student from a very early period of his life until the time of his decease. His habits were extremely regular and systematic. He never ros earlier than seven, and always retired for the night at or about ten. If, on rising, his breakfast was not ready, “he went at once to his library and occupied the interval, whether it was five minutes or fifty, in writing. When the family assembled he was called, and breakfasted with them. After breakfast he sat in the drawing-room, and spent from a half to three quarters of an hour in reading the newspapers of the day. He then returned to his study, and wrote until the bell sounded for his lecture at the Law School. After lecturing for two, and sometimes three, hours, he returned to his study and worked until two o'clock, when he was called to dinner. To his dinner (which, on his part, was always simple) he gave an hour, and then again betook himself to his study, where, in the winter time he worked as long as the daylight lasted, unless called away by a visitor, or obliged to attend a moot-court. Then he came down and joined the family, and work for the day was over. Tea came in about seven o'clock; and how lively and gay was he then, chatting over the most familiar topics of the day, or entering into deeper currents of conversation with equal ease. All of his law he left up stairs in the library; he was here the domestic man in his home.” His evenings were spent socially with his friends and family, or in reading the current literature of the day. Thus his life was passed, and thus it was prolonged. Retaining to the end the undisturbed possession of all his faculties, he died, after a short illness, on the tenth of September, 1845. A full and comprehensive account of his life and services, has been published since his death, from the facile pen of his son, Mr. W. W. Story. His Miscellaneous Works, edited by the same able hand, are now before the public.
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE AGE.
Judge Story pronounced the following dis- | itself over the business of many ages, must course at Cambridge, before the Phi Beta Kappa have a tendency to chill that enthusiasm which Society of Harvard University, on the thirty- to obscure those finer forms of thought which
lends encouragement to every enterprise, and first of August, 1826 :
give to literature its lovelier, I may say, its in
expressible graces. The consciousness of diffi. GENTLEMEN: If I had consulted my own culties of this sort may well be supposed to wishes, I should not have presumed to address press upon every professional mind. They can you on the present occasion. The habits of be overlooked by those only whose youth has professional employment rarely admit of leisure j not been tried in the hard school of experifor the indulgence of literary taste. And in a ence, or whose genius gives no credit to imscience, whose mastery demands a whole life of possibilities. laborious diligence, whose details are inexhaust I have not hesitated, however, to yield to ible, and whose intricacies task the most acute your invitation, trusting to that indulgence intellects, it would be matter of surprise, if which has not hitherto been withheld from every hour withdrawn from its concerns did well-meant efforts, and not unwilling to add not somewhat put at hazard the success of its the testimony of my own example, however votary. Nor can it escape observation, how humble, in favor of the claims of this society to much the technical doctrines of a jurisprudence, the services of all its members. drawn from remote antiquity, and expanding We live in an extraordinary age. It has been
marked by events, which will leave a durable ledges no finer models than those of antiquity. impression upon the pages of history by their The stream of a century has swept by the works own intrinsic importance. But they will be of Locke and Newton; yet they still stand alone read with far deeper emotions in their effects in unapproached, in unapproachable majesty. apon future ages; in their consequences upon Nor may we pronounce that the present age, the happiness of whole communities; in the by its collective splendor in arts and arms, casts direct or silent changes forced by them into into shade all former epochs. The era of Perithe very structure of society; in the establish-cles witnessed a combination of talents and acment of a new and mighty empire, the empire quirements, of celebrated deeds and celebrated of public opinion; in the operation of what works, which the lapse of twenty-two centuries Lord Bacon has characterized almost as su- has left unobscured. Augustus, surveying his preme power, the power of knowledge, working mighty empire, could scarcely contemplate with its way to universality, and interposing checks more satisfaction the triumph of his arms, than upon government and people by means gentle the triumph of the philosophy and literature of and decisive, which have never before been Rome. France yet delights to dwell on the fully felt, and are even now, perhaps, incapable times of Louis the Fourteenth, as the proudest of being perfectly comprehended.
in her annals; and England, with far less proOther ages have been marked by brilliant priety, looks back upon the reign of Queen feats in arms. Wars have been waged for the Anne for the best models of her literary excelbest and for the worst of purposes. The am- lence. bitious conqueror has trodden whole nations But, though we may not arrogate to ourselves under his feet, to satisfy the lust of power; and the possession of the first genius, or the first era the eagles of his victories have stood on either in human history, let it not be imagined that extreme of the civilized world. The barbarian we do not live in an extraordinary age. It is has broken loose from his northern fastnesses, impossible to look around us without alternate and overwhelmed in his progress temples and emotions of exultation and astonishment. What thrones, the adorers of the true God, and the shall we say of one revolution, which created a worshippers of idols. Heroes and patriots have nation out of thirteen feeble colonies, and foundsuccessfully resisted the invaders of their coun- ed the empire of liberty upon the basis of the try, or perished in its defence; and in each perfect equality in rights and representation of way have given immortality to their exploits. all its citizens; which commenced in a struggle Kingdoms have been rent agunder by intestine by enlightened men for principles, and not for broils, or by struggles, for freedom. Bigotry places, and in its progress and conclusion exhas traced out the march of its persecutions in hibited examples of heroism, patriotic sacrifices, footsteps of blood; and superstition employed and disinterested virtue, which have never been its terrors to nerve the arm of the tyrant, or surpassed in the most favored regions? What immolate his victims. There have been ancient shall we say of this nation, which has in fifty leagues for the partition of empires, for the sup- years quadrupled its population, and spread itport of thrones, for the fencing out of human self from the Atlantic to the Rocky mountains, improvement, and for the consolidation of ar- not by the desolations of successful war, but by bitrary power. There have, too, been bright the triumphant march of industry and enterspots on the earth, where the cheering light of prise? What shall we say of another revoluliberty shone in peace; where learning unlocked tion, which shook Europe to its centre, overits stores in various profusion; where the arts turned principalities and thrones, demolished unfolded themselves in every form of beauty oppressions, whose iron had for ages entered and grandeur; where literature loved to linger into the souls of their subjects, and after variin academic shades, or enjoy the public sun ous fortunes of victory and defeat, of military shine; where song lent new inspiration to the despotism and popular commotion, ended at temple; where eloquence alternately conse- last in the planting of free institutions, free crated the hall of legislation, and astonished the tenures, and representative government in the forum with its appeals.
very soil of absolute monarchy? What shall We may not assert that the present age can we say of another revolution, or rather series lay claim to the production of any one of the of revolutions, which has restored to South mightiest efforts of human genius. Homer and America the independence torn from her three Virgil, and Shakspeare and Milton, were of centuries ago, by the force or by the fraud of other days, and yet stand unrivalled in song. those nations whose present visitations beTime has not inscribed upon the sepulchre of speak a Providence, which superintends and the dead any nobler names in eloquence, than measures out, at awful distances, its rewards Demosthenes and Cicero. Who has outdone and its retributions? She has risen, as it were, the chisel of Phidias, or the pencil of Michael from the depths of the ocean, where she had Angelo, and Raffaelle? Where are the monu- been buried for ages. Her shores no longer ments of our day, whose architecture dares to murmur with the hoarse surges of her unnavicontend with the Doric, Ionic or Corinthian of gated waters, or echo the jealous footsteps of Greece, or even wit he Composite or Gothic her armed oppressors. Her forests and her of later times? History yet points to the preg- table lands, her mountains and her valleys, nant though brief text of Tacitus, and acknow- I gladden with the voices of the free. She wel
comes to her ports the whitening sails of com- press. It has been aided also by the system of
She feels that the treasures of her free schools, wherever it has been established; mines, the broad expanse of her rivers, the by that liberal commerce, which connects by beauty of her lakes, the grandeur of her scene- golden chains the interests of mankind; by that ry, the products of her fertile and inexhaustible spirit of inquiry, which Protestantism awakened soil, are no longer the close domain of a distant throughout Christian Europe ; and above all by sovereign, but the free inheritance of her own those necessities which have compelled even children. She sees that these are to bind her absolute monarchs to appeal to the patriotisin to other nations by ties, which outlive all com- and common sentiments of their subjects. Little pacts and all dynasties, by ties of mutual sym- more than a century has elapsed since the press pathy, mutual equality, and mutual interest. in England was under the control of a licenser;
But such events sink into nothing, compared and within our own days only has it ceased to with the great moral, political, and literary be a contempt, punishable by imprisonment, to revolutions, by which they have been accom- print the debates of Parliament. We all know panied. Upon some of these topics I may not how it still is on the continent of Europe. It indulge myself even for a moment. They have either speaks in timid under tones, or echoes been discussed here, and in other places, in a back the prescribed formularies of the governmanner which forbids all hope of more com- ment. The moment publicity is given to affairs prehensive -illustration. They may, indeed, be of state, they excite everywhere an irresistible still followed out; but whoever dares the diffi- interest. If discussion be permitted, it will culties of such a task, will falter with unequal soon be necessary to enlist talents to defend, as footsteps.
well as talents to devise measures. The daily What I propose to myself on the present oc- press first instructed men in their wants, and casion, is of a far more limited and humble soon found, that the eagerness of curiosity outnature. It is to trace out some of the circum- stripped the power of gratifying it. No man stances of our age, which connect themselves can now doubt the fact, that wherever the press closely with the cause of science and letters; is free, it will emancipate the people; wherever to sketch here and there a light and shadow of knowledge circulates unrestrained, it is no longer our days—to look somewhat at our own pros- safe to oppress; wherever public opinion is enpects and attainments--and thus to lay before lightened, it nourishes an independent, mascuyou something for reflection, for encouragement, line, and healthful spirit. If Faustus were now and for admonition.
living, he might exclaim with all the enthusiasın One of the most striking characteristics of of Archimedes, and with a far nearer approach our age, and that, indeed, which has worked to the truth, Give me where I may place a deepest in all the changes of its fortunes and free press, and I will shake the world. pursuits, is the general diffusion of knowledge. One interesting effect, which owes its origin This is emphatically the age of reading. In to this universal love and power of reading, is other times this was the privilege of the few ; felt in the altered condition of authors themin ours, it is the possession of the many. Learn- selves. They no longer depend upon the smiles ing once constituted the accomplishment of of a favored few. The patronage of the great those in the higher orders of society, who had is no longer submissively entreated, or exultingno relish for active employment, and of those ly proclaimed. Their patrons are the public; whose monastic lives and religious profession their readers are the civilized world. They sought to escape from the weariness of their address themselves, not to the present generacommon duties. Its progress may be said to tion alone, but aspire to instruct posterity. No have been gradually downwards from the higher blushing dedications seek an easy passport to to the middle classes of society. It scarcely fame, or flatter the perilous condescension of reached at all, in its joys or its sorrows, in it's pride. No illuminated letters flourish on the instructions or its fantasies, the home of the silky page, asking admission to the courtly peasant and artisan. It now radiates in all di- drawing-room. Authors are no longer the rections; and exerts its central force more in humble companions or dependents of the nothe middle, than in any other class of society. bility ; but they constitute the chosen ornaThe means of education were formerly within ments of society, and are welcomed to the gay the reach of few. It required wealth to accu- circles of fashion and the palaces of princes. mulate knowledge. The possession of a library Theirs is no longer an unthrifty vocation, closely was no ordinary achievement. The learned allied to penury; but an elevated profession, leisure of a fellowship in some university seemed maintaining its thousands in lucrative pursuits. almost indispensable for any successful studies; It is not with them as it was in the days of and the patronage of princes and courtiers was Milton, whose immortal “Paradise Lost" drew the narrow avenue to public favor. I speak of five sterling pounds, with a contingent of five a period at little more than the distance of two more, from the reluctant bookseller. centuries ; pot of particular instances, but of My Lord Coke would hardly find good authe general cast and complexion of life. thority in our day for his provoking commen
The principal cause of this change is to be tary on the memorable statute of the fourth found in the freedom of the press, or rather in Henry, which declares that “none henceforth this co-operating with the cheapness of the shall use to multiply gold or silver, or use the