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carried their point in triumph, and the worthy ally told his brethren, in his plain phrase, that they had best make fair weather with one who promised to be 'a thorn in their side.' This advice was, we dare say, unnecessary. The bar of the county wanted neither talent nor courtesy ; and the champion having vindicated his pretensions to enter the lists, was thenceforward engaged in many a courteous passage at arms."

From this time Mr. Wirt's practice began to increase. After a year or two he extended his circuit into the neighboring county of Albemarle, where he married in 1795, and established his residence. This removal brought him in daily intercourse with many of the most celebrated and worthy citizens of Virginia, among whom were to be numbered Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Monroe and Mr. Madison. The father of his wife was an intimate associate of these gentlemen, and was in the habit of visiting them at their estates and receiving them in return at his own house. The advantages of such associations were not lost upon Mr. Wirt, who, from the frankness of his disposition and strength of intellect soon became a favorite. In the library of his father-in-law, which was well supplied with the standard works of English and classical history, philosophy and the more general literature, he passed the time not devoted to the duties of his profes sion, and thus stored his mind with that fund of learning so well used in later life.

In 1799, after the death of his wife, he removed to Richmond, where, consenting at the earnest solicitation of his friends to become a candidate for the position of clerk of the House of Delegates, he was elected. This office he held two years, at the same time continuing his professional avocations. In 1800 he was counsel for the accused in the trial of Callender, a trial conspicuous in the political annals of the United States, and, on the fourth of July of the same year, he appeared as the orator of the democratic party to pronounce the customary address. On the division of the courts of chancery of Virginia, in 1802, being chosen, by the legislature, Chancellor of the Eastern chancery district, he removed to Williamsburg, where, during a short term, he discharged the duties of his station, with honor to himself and satisfaction to those who came before his court. His second marriage, in the fall of 1802, led to the resignation of his chancellorship, his removal to Norfolk, and to the revival of his general practice. Before he left Williamsburg, however, he wrote the celebrated letters under the title of The British Spy; a work so generally known among the intelligent public as to require but a mere notice here.

At Norfolk he continued, in the midst of an increasing and profitable practice, until 1806, at which time he removed to Richmond, the scene of his greatest triumph. The year following this change of residence, the trial of Aaron Burr took place at Richmond. Under the direction of President Jefferson, Mr. Wirt was retained to assist the United States Attorney in the prosecution, and in the course of the trial displayed a degree of learning and eloquence which drew forth the encomiums of the judges, the press and the people. This success established his reputation; his arguments were read with delight, and his name enrolled among the ablest men of the country.

In 1808, he was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates, to represent the city of Richmond, but, preferring another and more congenial pursuit, his profession, he soon withdrew. The same year he wrote the essays under the signature of One of the People, in which he advocated with his usual warmth and power the pretensions of Mr. Madison to the Presidency. From this time until 1817, he continued to practice law in the courts of Richmond and its vicinity, during the same period devoting his leisure to the cultivation of literature. The series of papers entitled The Old Bachelor, a large portion of which were written by him, appeared in 1812. In conjunction with these various labors, he prepared the Life of Patrick Henry, which was published in the fall of 1817. By many this production is considered the most finished piece of biographical writing that has appeared in any country. Mr. Jefferson says of it, "those who take up the book will find they cannot lay it down, and this will be its best criticism." Mr. Gallatin, in the later years of his life, often recurred to the pleasure he experienced in the perusal of it, saying that it was the "most masterly handling of the pen of biography" he ever had met with.

Mr. Wirt was appointed by Mr. Madison, in 1816, Attorney of the United States, for the t of Virginia, and, in the following year, by Mr. Monroe, Attorney-General of the United

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States. On accepting the latter he removed to Washington, where he continued in the discharge of the duties of his office, through the administrations of Mr. Monroe and Mr. Adams. His services can best be understood by the consultation of his official opinions, which have been left behind him in three large volumes. "At the bar of the Supreme Court," says his biographer, "he found the highest forensic theatre in the country, and perhaps there never was one in any country that presented a more splendid array of learning and talent conjoined. In the causes too, which it is the official duty of the Attorney-General to prosecute or defend, the most conspicuous counsel of that bar are commonly combined against him. In how many conflicts he sustained these odds against him, with a vigor always adequate to the occasion, is very well known to those who are familiar with our judicial history."

In 1826, Mr. Wirt was, without his knowledge, unanimously elected by the Rectors and Visitors of Virginia a professor of law, and president of that institution. This honor he declined. In the fall of the same year he delivered, in the Hall of Representatives at Washington, an address commemorative of the lives and public services of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, and soon after, at the close of John Quincy Adams' administration, removed to Baltimore, and commenced practice at the bar of that city, then numbering among its members many of the most eminent men of the country. His practice in the Supreme Court of the United States was continued with increasing reputation, and with that ability which so signally distinguished his attorneygeneralship. Of his various celebrated forensic efforts at this time, that in the trial of Judge Peck, who was impeached by the House of Representatives, and that in the noted Cherokee case,' excited peculiar commendation.

In January, 1834, he attended the Supreme Court at Washington, in the prosecution of his legal duties, and was present at its sittings until Saturday, the eighth of February, when he returned to his lodgings, "in playful spirits and sanguine of the success of an argument which he was going to make in court on Monday." On Sunday he attended church in the Representatives' Hall at the Capitol. In the evening of that day, he complained of illness, and from that time continued to fail, until his death, which occurred in the forenoon of Tuesday, the eighteenth of February, 1834. Since that period a full and authentic account of his life and services has been published by the Hon. John P. Kennedy, to which the editor expresses his obligations.


The following discourse on the lives and characters of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, was delivered by Mr. Wirt, at the request of the citizens of Washington, in the Hall of Representatives of the United States, on the nineteenth of October, 1826.*

The scenes which have been lately passing in our country, and of which this meeting is a continuance, are full of moral instruction. They hold up to the world a lesson of wisdom by which all may profit, if heaven shall grant them the discretion to turn it to its use. The spectacle, in all its parts, has, indeed, been most solemn and impressive; and, though the first impulse be now past, the time has not yet come, and never will it come, when we can contemplate it without renewed emotion.

In the structure of their characters; in the * See note at page 235, in the first volume of this work.

course of their action; in the striking coincidences which marked their high career; in the lives and in the deaths of the illustrious men whose virtues and services we have met to commemorate-and in that voice of admiration and gratitude which has since burst, with one accord, from the twelve millions of freemen who people these States, there is a moral sublimity which overwhelms the mind, and hushes all its powers into silent amazement !

The European, who should have heard the sound without apprehending the cause, would be apt to inquire, "What is the meaning of all this? what had these men done to elicit this unanimous and splendid acclamation? Why has the whole American nation risen up, as one man, to do them honor, and offer to them this enthusiastic homage of the heart? Were they mighty warriors, and was the peal that we have heard the shout of victory? Were they great commanders, returning from their distant conquests, surrounded with the spoils of war, and

was this the sound of their triumphal procession? Were they covered with martial glory in any form, and was this 'the noisy wave of the multitude rolling back at their approach?" Nothing of all this: No; they were peaceful and aged patriots, who, having served their country together, through their long and useful lives, had now sunk together to the tomb. They had not fought battles; but they had formed and moved the great machinery of which battles were only a small, and, comparatively, trivial consequence. They had not commanded armies; but they had commanded the master springs of the nation, on which all its great political, as well as military movements depended. By the wisdom and energy of their counsels, and by the potent mastery of their spirits, they had contributed pre-eminently to produce a mighty Revolution which has changed the aspect of the world. A revolution which, in one half of that world, has already restored man to his "long lost liberty," and government to its only legitimate object, the happinesss of the people: and on the other hemisphere has thrown a light so strong that even the darkness of despotism is beginning to recede. Compared with the solid glory of an achievement like this, what are battles, and what the pomp of war, but the poor and fleeting pageants of a theatre? What were the selfish and petty strides of Alexander, to conquer a little section of a savage world, compared with this generous, this magnificent advance towards the emancipation of the entire world!

And this, be it remembered, has been the fruit of intellectual exertion! the triumph of mind! What a proud testimony does it bear to the character of our nation, that they are able to make a proper estimate of services like these! That while, in other countries, the senseless mob fall down, in stupid admiration, before the bloody wheels of the conqueroreven of the conqueror by accident-in this, our people rise, with one accord, to pay their homage to intellect and virtue ! What a cheering pledge does it give of the stability of our institutions, that while abroad, the yet benighted multitude are prostrating themselves before the idols which their own hands have fashioned into kings, here, in this land of the free, our people are every where starting up, with one impulse, to follow with their acclamations the ascending spirits of the great fathers of the republic! This is a spectacle of which we may be permitted to be proud. It honors our country no less than the illustrious dead. And could those great patriots speak to us from the tomb, they would tell us that they have more pleasure in the testimony which these honors bear to the character of their country, than in that which they bear to their individual services. They now see as they were seen, while in the body, and know the nature of the feeling from which these honors flow. It is love for love. It is the gratitude of an enlightened nato the noblest order of benefactors. It is

the only glory worth the aspiration of a generous spirit. Who would not prefer this living tomb in the hearts of his countrymen, to the proudest mausoleum that the genius of sculpture could erect!


Man has been said to be the creature of accidental position. The cast of his character has been thought to depend, materially, on the age, the country, and the circumstances, in which he has lived. To a considerable extent, the remark is, no doubt, true. Cromwell, had he been born in a republic, might have been "guiltless of his country's blood;" and, but for those civil commotions which had wrought his great mind into tempest, even Milton might have rested "mute and inglorious." The occasion is, doubtless, necessary to develope the talent, whatsoever it may be; but the talent must exist, in embryo at least, or no occasion can quicken it into life. And it must exist, too, under the check of strong virtues; or the same occasion that quickens it into life, will be extremely apt to urge it on to crime. The hero who finished his career at St. Helena, extraordinary as he was, is a far more common character in the history of the world than he who sleeps in our neighborhood, embalmed in his country's tears-or than those whom we have now met to mourn and to honor.

Jefferson and Adams were great men by nature. Not great and eccentric minds "shot madly from their spheres" to affright the world and scatter pestilence in their course; but minds whose strong and steady light, restrained within their proper orbits by the happy poise of their characters, came to cheer and to gladden a world that had been buried for ages in political night. They were heaven-called avengers of degraded man. They came to lift him to the station for which God had formed him, and to put to flight those idiot superstitions with which tyrants had contrived to enthrall his reason and his liberty. And that Being who had sent them upon this mission, had fitted them, pre-eminently, for his glorious work. He filled their hearts with a love of country, which burned strong within them, even in death. He gave them a power of understanding which no sophistry could baffle, no art elude; and a moral heroism which no dangers could appal. Careless of themselves, reckless of all personal consequences, trampling under foot that petty ambition of office and honor which constitutes the master passion of little minds, they bent all their mighty powers to the task for which they had been delegated-the freedom of their beloved country, and the restoration of fallen man. They felt that they were apostles of human liberty; and well did they fulfil their high commission. They rested not until they had accomplished their work at home, and given such an impulse to the great ocean of mind, that they saw the waves rolling on to the farthest shore, before they were called to their reward. And then left the world, hand in hand, exulting, as they rose, in the success of their labors.

From this glance at the consummation of their lives, it falls within the purpose that has drawn us together, to look back at the incidents by which these great men were prepared and led on to their destiny. The field is wide and tempting; and, in this rich field, there is a double harvest to be gathered. But the occasion is limited in point of time. With all the brevity, therefore, compatible with the subject, let us proceed to recall the more prominent incidents, leaving to their biographers those which we must reluctantly omit. And let me hope that the recapitulation, however devoid of interest in itself, will be endured, if not enjoyed, for the sake of those to whom it relates. The review will unavoidably carry us back to scenes of no pleasant nature, which once occurred between our country and a foreign nation with which we now maintain the happiest relations of peace and amity; towards which, at this day, we cherish no other feelings than those of the sincerest respect and good will; and with whose national glory, indeed, as the land of our forefathers, we feel ourselves, in a great measure, identified. If, therefore, there should be any one within the sound of my voice, to whom the language of this retrospect might otherwise seem harsh,* I trust it will be borne in mind that we are Americans, assembled on a purely American occasion, and that we are speaking of things as they were, not as they are: for, in the language of one of our departed fathers, "though enemies in war, in peace we are friends."

The hand of Heaven was kindly manifested even in the place of birth assigned to our departed fathers. Their lots were cast in two distant States, forming links in the same extended chain of colonies. The one, to borrow the language of Isaiah, was called "from the North" and "the rising of the sun;" the other, from the South, where he shows his glory in the meridian. The colonies, though held together by their allegiance to a common crown, had separate local governments, separate local interests, and a strikingly contrasted cast of character. The intercourse between them had been rare; the sympathies consequently weak; and these sympathies still further weakened by certain rivalries, prejudices, and jealousies, the result of their mutual ignorance of each other, which were extremely unpropitious to that concerted action on which the success of the great work of independence rested. To effect this work, it was necessary that men should arise in the different quarters of the continent, with a reach of mind sufficiently extended to look over and beyond this field of prejudice, and mark the great point in which the interest of the whole united; and, with this reach of mind, that they should combine a moral power of sufficient force to make even the discordant materials around them harmoniously subservient to the great end to be accomplished. It pleased

The British Minister was present.

heaven to give us such men, and so to plant them on the theatre of action, as to ensure the concert that the occasion demanded. And in that constellation of the great and the good, rose the two stars of first magnitude to which our attention is now to be confined.


Adams and Jefferson were born, the first in Massachusetts, on the 19th of October, 1735; the last in Virginia, on the 2d of April, 1743. On the earliest opening of their characters, it was manifest that they were marked for distinction. They both displayed that thirst for knowledge, that restless spirit of inquiry, that fervid sensibility, and that bold, fearless independence of thought, which are among the surest prognostics of exalted talent; and, fortunately for them, as well as for their country and mankind, the universities in their respective neighborhoods opened to their use all the fountains of ancient and modern learning. With what appetite they drank at these fountains, we need no testimony of witnesses to inform us. The living streams which afterwards flowed from their own lips and pens, are the best witnesses that can be called, of their youthful studies. They were, indeed, of that gifted order of minds, to which early instruction is of little other use than to inform them of their own powers, and to indicate the objects of human knowledge. Education was not, with them, as with minor characters, an attempt to plant new talents and new qualities in a strange and reluctant soil. It was the development, merely, of those which already existed. Thus, the pure and disinterested patriotism of Aristides, the firmness of Cato, and the devotion of Curtius, only awakened the principles that were sleeping in their young hearts, and touched the responding chords with which Heaven had attuned them. The statesman-like vigor of Pericles, and the spirit-stirring energy of Demosthenes, only roused their own lion powers, and informed them of their strength. Aristotle, and Bacon, and Sidney, and Locke, could do little more than to disclose to them their native capacity for the profound investigation and ascertainment of truth; and Newton taught their power to range among the stars. In short, every model to which they looked, and every great master to whom they appealed, only moved into life the scarcely dormant energies with which Heaven had endued them; and they came forth from the discipline, not decorated for pomp, but armed for battle.

From this first coincidence in the character of their minds and studies, let us proceed to another. They both turned their attention to the same profession, the profession of the law; and they both took up the study of this profession on the same enlarged scale which was so conspicuous in all their other intellectual operations. They had been taught by Hooker to look with reverence upon the science of the law: for he had told them, that "her seat was the bosom of God, her voice the harmony of the world." Pursued in the spirit, on the extended

plan, and with the noble aim with which they | The robust character of the fathers descended pursued it, may it not be said, without the upon their children, and with it, also, came the hazard of illiberal construction, that there was same invigorating contests. Violations of their no profession in this country to which Heaven charters, unconstitutional restraints upon their could have directed their choice, so well fitted trade, and perpetual collisions with the royal to prepare them for the eventful struggle which governors sent over to bend or to break them, was coming on. had converted that province into an arena, in which the strength of mind had been tried against mind, for a century before the tug of the Revolution came. And these were no puerile sports. They were the stern struggle of an intellectual force, for power on the one hand, and liberty on the other. And from that discipline there came forth such men as such a struggle only seems capable of generating; rot gh, and strong, and bold, and daring; meeting their adversaries, foot to foot, on the field of argument, and beating them off that field by the superior vigor of their blows.

Mr. Adams, we are told, commenced his legal studies, and passed through the initiatory course, under William Putnam, of Worcester: but the crown of preparation was placed on his head by Jeremiah Gridley.* Gridley was a man of first-rate learning and vigor, and as good a judge of character as he was of law. He had been the legal preceptor, also, some years before, of the celebrated James Otis; and, proud of his two pupils, he was wont to say of them at the bar, with playful affection, that "he had raised two young eagles who were one day or other to peck out his eyes." The two young eagles were never known to treat their professional father with irreverence; but how well they fulfilled his prediction of their future eminence, has been already well told by the elegant biographer of one, and remains to furnish a rich theme for that of the other.

It was in the commencement of his legal studies, and when he was yet but a boy, that Mr. Adams wrote that letter from Worcester which has been recently given to the world. Considering the age of the writer, and the point of time at which it was written, that letter may be pronounced, without hyperbole, a mental phenomenon, and far better entitled to the character of a prophecy, than the celebrated passage from the Medea of Seneca, which Bacon has quoted as a prophecy of the discovery of America.

Before I call your attention more particularly to this letter, it is proper to remark that Mr. Adams lived at a time, and among men, well fitted to evoke his youthful powers. Massachusetts had been, from its earliest settlement, a theatre of almost constant political contention. The spirit of liberty, which had prompted the pilgrims to bid adieu to the land and tombs of their fathers, and to brave the horrors of an exile to the wilds of America, accompanied them to the forests which they came to subdue; and questions of political right and power, between the parent country and the colony, were continually arising, to call that spirit into action, and to keep it bright and strong. These were a peculiar people, a stern and hardy race, the children of the storm; inured from the cradle to the most frightful hardships, which they came to regard as their daily pastime, their minds, as well as their bodies, gathered new strength from the fearful elements that were warring around them, and whatever they dared to meditate a right, that they dared and never failed to accomplish.

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His letter from Worcester bears date on the 12th of October, 1755. He was consequently then only in his twentieth year. At that time, remember, that no thought of a separation from the parent country had ever touched these shores. The conversations to which he alludes, were upon the topics of the day, and went no farther than to a discussion of the rights of the colony, considered as a colony of the British empire. These were the hints which set his young mind in motion, and this is the letter which they produced :

"Worcester, October 12th, 1755. "Soon after the Reformation, a few people came over into this New World for conscience' sake. Perhaps this apparently trivial incident may transfer the great seat of empire into America. It looks likely to me, if we can remove the turbulent Gallicks, our people, according to the exactest computations, will, in another century, become more numerous than England herself. Should this be the case, since we have, I may say, all the naval stores of the nation in our hands, it will be easy to obtain

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