« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
Emmet assumed a standing, and was able to maintain it, that put all opposition at defiance. It was not long after bis arrival and settlement at New York, that his profession produced him ten thousand dollars a year. During some years, within a more recent period, it has amounted to an annual income of fifteen thousand dollars.
In 1807, Mr. Emmet appeared before the American public in a controversy with Rufus King. Mr. King was the federal candidate for Governor of the State of New York. Mr. Emmet, on political and personal grounds, was opposed to his election. At a meeting of the Hibernian Society, he broke out into an eloquent appeal to his countrymen, and urged them to rally and embody against Mr. King. This roused the temper of Mr. King's friends, and the federal papers, especially the New York Erening Post, poured a torrent of invective on the head of Mr. Emmet. Severe epithets and hard names were applied to him. He had seen political war before, and was not to have his lips sealed this time. He addressed two letters to Mr. King, and the last was long and severe, As this will probably reach posterity, I will barely notice its tenor and allegations. Mr. Emmet always considered Mr. King as instrumental in preventing the emigration of Irish patriots to the United States, previous to their imprisonment in Fort George. Mr. King belonged to the federal school in politics. Among other distinctions in the country, there was what was termed the French party and the British party. The federal party generally sided with the British Government, in all controvercies connected with continental politics. The Irish patriots had sought aid from France, and encountered the general aversion of the federalists of this country. Mr. King naturally set his countenance against the contemplated revolution in Ireland, and was not favourably disposed to the emigration of what were termed Irish rebels by the Court of St. James. How far he enterfered, or how far the British Government feigned his interference, I cannot say, but it was used as a pretext, if not well-founded. It will be recollected, that there was a treaty between the Anglo-Irish Government and Mr. Emmet, Mr. O'Connor, and Dr. Macneven. Among other proffered advantages, was the liberation of the prisoners for a residence in the United States. That liberation was subsequently denied, in violation of the treaty. Mr. Emmet in his letter to
Mr. King, adverts to his interferrence with great feeling and with no small indignation. *
"I express no opinion as to the degree of reproach which should be attached to the character of Mr. King, but I will not omit what is very honourable to himself and to his sons. The former has more than once paid the highest compliment to Mr. Emmet's talents, and in his late argument in the great steamboat cause, left the Senate for two days, to witness and hear his stupendous efforts as an orator. Mr. King's sons have always paid the highest respect to Mr. Emmet, and wherever his family have appeared in private circles, been marked and particular in their civilty. These are small things, but they indicate good feelings.
In August, 1812, the Counsel of Appointment conferred upon Mr. Emmet the office of Attorney-General of the State of New York. This was a post of honour, but could not add to his professional fame or emolument. He held the office but for a short time, and has never since sought or received any public appointment. *
"Helvetius remarks, that the sun of glory shines only on the tomb of greatness. His observation is too often true, but facts and living proofs sometimes contradict it. Mr. Emmet walks on in life, amid the eulogiums, the admiration, and the enthusiastic regard of a great and enlightened community. Without the glare and influence of public office, without titles and diguities, who fills a wider space, who commands more respect, than Thomas Addis Emmet? Like a noble and simple column, he stands among us proudly pre-eminent–destitute of pretensions, destitute of vanity, and destitute of envy. In a letter which I recently received from a friend who resides in the western part of the Union, a lawyer of eminence, he speaks of the New York bar. • Thomas Addis Emmet,' says he, 'is the great luminary, whose light even crosses the western mountains. His name rings down the valley of the Mississippi, and we hail bis efforts with a kind of locale pride.?
“ The mind of Thomas Addis Emmet is of the highest order. His penetration is deep, his views comprehensive, his distinctions remarkably nice. His powers of investigation are vigorous and irresistible. If there be anything in a subject he will go to the bottom. He probes boldly, reaches the lowest depths by his researches, analyses everything, and embraces the whole
ground. He may
be said to have a mind well adapted to profound and powerful investigation. In the next place, he has great comprehension. He sees a subject in all its bearings and relations. He traces out all its various operations. He begins at the centre and diverges, until it becomes necessary again to return to the centre. As a reasoner,—a bare strict reasoner, Mr. Emmet would always be placed in an elevated rank. No matter how dry, how difficult, how repulsive the topic, no matter what may be its intricacies and perplexities, if any man can unfold and amplify it, he is equal to the task.
“The subject of this memoir is not less distinguished for his knowledge of the theory of the bar than he is of the practice. As a special pleader, he has great experience and precision, and whoever looks through the decisions of cases in the New York reports, and those argued in the Supreme Court, at Washington, where he has been concerned, will be convinced of the fact here asserted. It has been said, that while Erskine dazzled, charmed, and astonished all who heard him in Westminster Hall, the hard head and watchful skill of the nisi prius lawyer was always perceptible. Mr. Emmet, while he displays wonderful powers of eloquence, and indulges in bursts of lofty and noble sentiment and appeals to the great moral maxims that must govern men in this world while we have laws, morals and obedience to order, never forgets the landmarks of professional watchfulness; he is still the well-disciplined lawyer, contending for his client.
“I must now mention another advantage that distinguishes Mr. Emmet in his professional career. His historical illustrations are numerous, pertinent and happy. In this he excels any man whom I have ever heard. He was educated in Europe, and was for many years not only a political man, but associated on intimate terms with the first men of the age. He not only read, but has heard and saw. In addition to what we find in the volumes of history, he collected many things which floated in the atmosphere of the times, well calculated to give a clue to the character of men and of transactions lost to the ordinary historian. * * As a classical scholar, but few men can stand before Mr. Emmet in point of attainments. He is familiar with the great writers of antiquity—the master spirits who have infused their genius and their sentiment into the popular feelings of ages which have rolled on long after the
poet and the orator, the statesman and the historian, have ceased to glow, to speak, to guide, or to write. He has closely consulted those oracles of wisdom, those disciples of philosophy, those sons of the muses, whose opinions, sentiments, and effusions, lighten the sorrows of human existence, inspire the mind with noble ideas, and cheer the ardent and persevering devotions of the student. The man of whom I speak was more intimately acquainted with the poets of Greece and Rome, than with the prose-writers; at least such is the fact evinced in his speeches and conversation. Virgil and Horace are always on his tongue, and Juvenal is sometimes called to his aid. There is a reason for this kind of learning in Mr. Emmet.
His early education was in the schools of Europe. He had all the discipline and all the primitive advantages peculiar to those schools. The Latin and the Greek tongues were introduced to his notice while yet a child, and for years they were his daily companions. The writings of the British classics he has also consulted with a delight and advantage which often appear in his arguments. Shakespeare, in particular, he often quotes. One of the greatest chains of Mr. Emmet's eloquence, is the fancy which he continually displays. He possesses an imagination boundless as the world of light, in its grandeur and beauty. Its flights are bold, its pictures soft, magnificent, or awful, as the subject may require. This power is greater in Mr. Emmet than in any other lawyer whom I have ever heard. It enables him to shed a charm over every subject which he touches. To the most dry and meagre topic, he can impart interest and attraction. All his figures indicate taste and propriety. They are often bold and daring, and frequently show very great accuracy and precision of language. It falls to his province to impress on the mind of every hearer, a recollection as lasting as life, No man who ever heard him for an hour can forget his figure, his face, his manner, and a great part of his very language. Some of his peculiar figures of speech would be well remembered.
"I have already spoken of Mr. Emmet's readiness at retort. Whoever rouses his energies by a rude assault or a stroke of satire is sure to hear of it again, and generally has good reason to regret the ill-timed provocation. In 1815, he made his first appearance at the Supreme Court of the United States at Washington. He and Mr. Pinckney were brought in con
tact. The latter closed the argument in a very important cause in which they were both engaged, and with his characteristic arrogance alluded to the fact of Mr. Emmet's migration to the United States. When he bad concluded his argument, Mr. Emmet being for the respondent in error, had no right to reply, but he nevertheless rose, and after correcting a trifling error in some of Mr. Pinckney's statements, he took up the mode and manner in which his opponent had treated him. He said he was Mr. Pinckney's equal in birth, in rank, in his connections, and he was not his enemy. It was true he was an Irishman. It was true that in attempting to rescue an oppressed, brave, and generous-hearted people, he had been drived from the forum in his own land. It was true that he had come to America for refuge, and sought protection beneath her constitution and her laws, and it was also true that his learned antagonist would never gather a fresh wreath of laurel, or add lustre to his well-earned fame, by alluding to those facts in a tone of malicious triumph. He knew not by what name arrogance and presumption might be called on this side of the ocean, but sure he was that Mr. Pinckney never acquired these manners in the polite circles of Europe, which he had long frequented as a public minister. Mr. Pinckney was not ready at retort, and he made no reply ; but a few days afterwards it so happened that he and Mr. Emmet were again opposed to each other in a cause of magnitude, and it fell to Mr. Emmet's part to close the argument, who was determined that his antagonist should be put in mind of his former deportment and expressions. Mr. Pinckney was aware of the thunderbolt in store, and took the opportunity of paying to Mr. Emmet's genius, fame, and private worth, the highest tribute of respect. This respect was never afterwards violated. When Mr. Emmet rose out of his place as before stated, Chief-Justice Marshall indicated great uneasiness, thinking that something unpleasant might be the result. Mr. Justice Livingston reached forward his head, and remarked in a whisper, 'Let him go on ; I'll answer that he says nothing rude or improper.' With this, as well as with the result, the Chief-Justice was satisfied. Mr. Emmet's deportment at the bar is mild, urbane, t dignified, and conciliating. To the junior members of the profession in particular, he is a model of obliging civility-always speaking favourably of their efforts, and kindly of their exer