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The volume before us consists of two parts. The first is an account of the professional and public life of Mr. Pinkney, interspersed with fragments of his spceches, letters, &c. and is, we conceive, the most interesting part of the book. It is written with Mr. Wheaton's usual good sense and elegance, and contains such particulars relating to the subject of the work as the diligence of the author was able to collect. The second part includes a few of the more correctly reported speeches of Mr. Pinkney, some of which were delivered at the bar, and others in congress ; several of his written opinions on legal questions, and his private correspondence with Mr. Madison, while a minister at the British Court, from 1808 to 1810. These papers are all more or less curious and valuable; and the latter, in particular, possess that interest which belongs to all those writings that let us behind the veil of diplomacy; an interest which constitutes the principal value of the celebrated letters of Mazarin.
It was fortunate, perhaps, for Mr. Pinkney, that he had continually presented to bim
one of the strongest of all motives to a generous ambition, that ready confidence of the public which anticipates and outruns merit, and which, while it intoxicates weak minds, inspires those of a better cast with a vehement determination to show that it is not undeserved. Towards ob. taining favour of the public, his personal advantages, undoubt. edly, did much. It was no small recommendation to have possessed the noble countenance of which an engraving is prefixed to the volume before us. A commanding person, a fine voice, and a fluent elocution are taking qualities in a young advocate ; and it is the fault either of his talents or of his industry, if he does not make them the foundation of a great reputation. Mr. Pinkney was called to the bar in the year 1786, when twenty-two years of age: four years after he was elected a representative to the Maryland house of delegates, from the county of Harford. In 1790, he was elected a member of congress, an honour, which on account of his professional pursuits, he declined.
While in the Maryland house of delegates, he delivered a speech on the subject of the laws of that state, prohibiting the voluntary emancipation of slaves, which Mr. Wheaton has preserved in this work. Of this speech he justly said, many years afterwards, that," for a young man, it was well enough." The following passage will show with what vehemence be then declaimed against the existence of slavery in our country.
"But wherefore should we confine the edge of censure to our ances. tors, or those from whom they purchased? Are not we equally guilVor, Jl.
ty? They strewed around the seeds of slavery; we cherish and sustain the growth. They introduced the system ; we enlarge, invigorate, and confirm it. Yes, let it be handed down to posterity, that the people of Maryland, who could fly to arms with the promptitude of Roman citizens, when the hand of oppression was lifted up against themselves—who could behold their country desolated and their citizens slaughtered—who could brave with unshaken firmness every calamity of war before they would submit to the smallest infringement of their rights :—that this very people could yet see thousands of their fellow-creatures, within the liniits of their territory, bending beneath an unnatural yoke ; and, instead of being assiduous to destroy their shackles, anxious to immortalize their duration, so that a nation of slaves might for ever exist in a country where freedom is its boast.
6. Sir, it is really matter of astonishment to me, that the people of Maryland do not blush at the very name of Freedom. I admire that modesty does not keep thein sileiit in her cause.—That they who have, by the deliberate acts of their legislature, treated her most obvious dictates with contemptwho have exhibited, for a long series of years, a spectacle of slavery which they still are solicitous to perpetuate-who, not content with exposing to the world, for near a century, a speaking picture of abominable oppression, are still ingenious to prevent the hand of generosity from robbing it of half its horrors—that they should step forward as the zealous partizans of freedom, cannot but astonish a person who is not casuist enough to reconcile antipathies.
6. For shame, Sir! let us throw off the mask; 'tis a cobweb one at best, and the world will see through it. It will not do thus to talk like philosophers, and act like unrelenting tyrants; to be perpetually sermonizing it with liberty for our text, and actual oppression for our commentary.'
p. 11, 12.
That a man who could talk thus at the age of twenty-five, should, thirty years later, have opposed, with all his influence and all his eloquence, the proposed restriction of slavery in the state of Missouri, is not at all unaccountable, without supposing him insincere, and without even charging him with more than an ordinary want of consistency. It is no more than the usual difference between the opinions of the two periods of life. In the first instance he considered the question with reference to the great principles of natural justice, of philanthropy and of liberty ; in the latter, with reference to its expediency, and its effect on the supposed interests of the slave holding states. The enthusiasm of youth is always impatient to bring things to what they should be; the caution of mature years bustles and labours to keep them as they are.
In 1796, Mr. Pivkney was selected by President Washington, as one of the commissioners on the part of the United States, under the seventh article of Mr. Jay's treaty with Great Britain, and went with his family to London. There is good sense in the following extract from one of the letters to his elder brother, written during his residence in the British metropolis. It furnishes an explanation of many of those crude statements,
and hasty opinions, respecting our own country, with which we have often been annoyed in the works of observing and painstaking travellers
“ I have seen in this country, and continue to see, much that deserves the attention of him that would be wise or happy; but I would prefer making all this the subject of conversation, when Providence shall permit us to meet again, to putting it imperfectly on paper for your perusal when we are separated. There is not, perhaps, a inore dangerous thing for him who aims at consistency, or at least the appearance of it, than to hasten to record impressions as they are made upon his mind by a state of things to which he has not been accustoined, and to give that record out of his own possession. I have made conclusions here, from time to time, which I have afterwards discarded as absurd ; and I could wish that some of these conclusions did not show themselves in more than one of the letters I have occasionally written to my friends. I have made false estimates of men and things, and have corrected them as I have been able; in this there was nothing to blush for, for who is there can say he has not done the same?--But I confess that I do feel some little regret, when I remeinber that I have sent a few (though to say the truth, very few) of those estimates across the Atlantic, as indisputably accurate, and have either deceived those to whom they were sent, or afforded them grounds for thinking me a precipitate or superficial observer. The consciousness of this indisposed me to a repetition of similar conduct; and I have desired so to write in future as to be able to change ill-founded opinions, without the hazard of being convicted of capriciousness or folly.'” p. 29, 30.
His residence in England was of the utmost advantage to him in his profession ; and he seems to have made all the opportunities it afforded him, with a view to that eminence in legal attainments and in eloquence, to which he soon afterwards rose. We are told by Mr. Wheaton, that
“During his long residence in England, he had never laid aside his habits of diligent study, and had availed himself of his opportunities of intercourse with the accomplished lawyers of that country, and of frequenting the courts of justice, to enlarge and improve his legal attainments. He was, by his public station, brought into immediate contact with most of the eminent English civilians, and was much in the society of that accomplished and highly gifted man, Sir William Scott. He had occasion to witness some of the powerful exertions at the bar, of Mr. Erskine, who was then in the meridian of his fame. He was in the constant habit of attending the debates in the two houses of Parliament; a higher standard of literary attainments than had been thought necessary to embellish and adorn the eloquence of the bar in his own country, was held up to his observation. He employed his leisure hours in endeavouring to supply what he now found to be the defects of his early education, by extending his knowledge of English and classical literature. He devoted peculiar attention to the subject of Latin prosody, and English elocution ; aiming, above all, to acquire a critical knowledge of his own language-its pronunciation-its terms and significations-its synonyines; and in short, its whole structure and vocabulary. By these means he added to
his natural facility and fluency, a copiousness and variety of elegant and appropriate diction, which graced even his colloquial intercourse, and imparted new strength and beauty to his forensic style." p.,45, 46.
We do not mean to follow Mr. Pinkney through all the various stages and employments of his active life. We suppose that all our readers will buy Mr. Wheaton's book, and shall, therefore, spare ourselves the trouble of making an abstract of it.
The appointment of Mr. Pinkney to the office of Attorney. General of the United States, by Mr. Madison, in 1811, gives rise to the following judicious remarks by his biographer.
“ It was a rash assertion of an illustrious writer, that there are no discoveries to be made in moral science and in the principles of government. To say nothing of other improvements which the present age has witnessed, mankind are indebted to America for the discovery and practical ap. plication of a federative scheme of government, which combined with the representative system, and avoiding the inherent defects of all preceding confederacies, it is consolatory to believe, may yet diffuse the blessings of liberty over the civilized world, and by the establishment of a new and more perfect social order, promote the happiness of the human race more than any other invention of modern times. The organization of the judicial power is one of the most curious and nicely adapted parts of this admirable scheme of government. Its highest appellate tribunal is invested with an imposing combination of authorities. Besides its extensive powers as an ordinary court of justice, it administers the law of nations to our own citizens and to foreigners; and determines, in the last resort, every question (capable of a judicial determination) arising under our municipal constitution, including the conflicting pretensions of the state and national sovereignties. It is before this more than Amphictyonic council,' that the American lawyer is called to plead, not merely for the private rights of his fellow-citizens, but for their constitutional privileges, and to discuss the conflicting pretensions of these sovereignties. Generally speaking, the practice of the bar in this country is not confined to particular courts. Our lawyers not being restricted to any peculiar department of the profession, their technical learning is usually of a more liberal and expansive cast than in the country from whence we have derived our legal institutions. Their professional habits and studies do not unfit them in any degree for the performance of the higher and more important functions of statesmen and legislators. There can be no doubt that in England, greater skill and nicety of execution are acquired by the minute subdivision of labour which the state of the profession and the condition of society have produced. Hence we find there more perfect matters of the science of equity, of special pleading, or of the civil and canon laws as they are administered in the Admiralty and Consistorial courts. But the peculiar circumstances and condition of this country have roused the latent faculties of the people, and given a greater flexibility and variety to the talents of its public men ; whilst they have enabled our most eminent lawyers, when called into the public service, to perform all the offices of peace and war with as much ability and success as in those countries where youth are prepared for the duties of public life by a peculiar system of education exclusively adapted to that
purpose. They have liberalized their minds by the study of general jurisprudence; and when removed froin the bar into the cabinet or senate, have, generally, been found to sustain the reputation which they had acquired in a more limited walk. The infancy of the country, and the perfect freedom of its political institutions, have contributed to this result. Society is not broken into those marked distinctions and gradations of rank and occupation, which demand a correspondent separation of mere professional employments, from those connected with the business of the state; whilst, at the same time, the bar, as in the ancient republics, is the principal avenue to public honours and employments. These circumstances, combined with the singular nature of the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court as administering the political law, have advanced the science of jurisprudence in the United States far beyond the general condition of literature, and have raised the legal profession to a higher rank in publio estimation than it enjoys in any other nation.” p. 111-114.
It is only to be regretted that a class of men so useful, intelligent and active, should be obliged to apply their acute minds to unnecessary forms, and unprofitable subtleties.
In 1816, Mr. Pinkney went for the third time, in a diplomatic character, to Europe. The following passage from his biographer, speaking of this event of his life, lets us into the secret of his great success in his profession.
“In order to understand the motives which had repeatedly induced him to go abroad in the same service, it is necessary to advert to some of the peculiar circumstances connected with his brilliant success at the bar. This success was as much the effect of extraordinary diligence and labour as of his genius and rare endowments of mind. His continued application to study, writing, and public speaking, which a physical constitution, as powerful as his intellectual, enabled him to keep up with a singular perseverance, was one of the most remarkable features of his character. 'He was never satisfied with investigating his causes, and took infinite paios in exploring their facts and circumstances, and all the technical learning connected with them. He constantly continued the practice of private declamation as a useful exercise, and was in the habit of premeditating his pleadings at the bar, and his other public speeches,--not only as to the general order or method to be observed in treating his subject, the authorities to be relied on, and the leading topics of illustration, but frequently as to the principal passages and rhetorical embellishments. These last he sometimes wrote out beforehand; mot that he was deficient in facility or fuency, but in order to preserve the command of a correct and elegant diction. All those who have heard him address a jury, or a deliberative assembly, know that he was a consummate master of the arts of exteniporaneous debating. But he believed, with the inost celebrated and successful orators of antiquity, that the habit of written coinposition is necessary to acquire and preserve a style at once correct and graceful in public speaking; which without this aid is apt to degenerate into colloquial pegligence, and to become enfeebled by tedious verbosity. His law papers were drawn up with great care; and his written opinions were elaborately composed both as to matter and style ; and frequently exhausted, by a full discussion, the subject submitted for his consideration. If, to all these circumstances, be added the fact that he engaged in the performance of