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in the transmission of property; without it there could be no administration of the law.
So let us turn to one of the necessary men of society, and consider some of his virtues and give a summary of what he was in his day and generation at the American bar. Rufus Choate stood, by common consent, at the head of the New England bar at the time of his demise, and was its most accomplished advocate. Such position he held for the last few years of his life; and it was won by thirty-five years of constant struggle in that forum, and mainly at Boston, the great metropolis of New England. He encountered Mason and Webster in that struggle, after his removal to Boston; and these jurists never went to sleep when they encountered Choate, though he was many years their junior. Choate always sustained himself, and he rose to the first rank of lawyers, in spite of such antagonism; and, finally, he held the position, after the death of Webster, of being the great New England advocate. We now proceed to give a brief sketch of what he was as a lawyer and advocate; we shall glance at his attainments and the character of his achievements.
Mr. Choate graduated at Dartmouth with the honors of his class, in 1819, at the age of twenty, and became tutor in the college; then entered the Cambridge Law School, and finally became a student with Mr. Wirt, then attorney-general of the United States, and who was one of the leaders of the law at Washington. While he resided there, he saw and heard Pinkney and Webster in their last struggle, when the former fell mortally ill by over-exertion to meet his younger antagonist, who was then one of the few who could dispute his supremacy at the American bar. Soon after this the great advocate, Thomas Addis Emmet, at the New York bar, was stricken down and fell in a like encounter with Webster. He and Wirt and O'Conor then became in a short time the most conspicuous advocates in the American forum. But Choate also heard Pinkney's great speech in the Senate on the Missouri question; and he said that Webster made a grand opening in that last cause, but that he was bold and dry as compared with Pinkney. Thus Choate was enchanted with the Maryland lawyer, and greatly dazzled with his worth and his forensic display. Choate became an imitator of all the vices as well as the virtues of this great advocate, and gave more particular study to Pinkney's arguments than any of the young advocates of a succeeding age. Mr. Choate, in consequence of a long illness of Wirt, did not then hear him in any great cause.
So we have no stated comparison on the part of Choate as to these two famous lawyers. However, Wirt gave his pupil a high testimonial, in which he predicted Mr. Choate's eminence in the profession; and thus provided with a certificate of good conduct and correct deportment, Mr. Choate returned home to mourn the early death of a younger brother of great promise, then in the course of graduation at Dartmouth. After some further study, he was admitted to the bar, and entered upon its practice in his native county of Essex. He hung out his sign-board for one night at Salem, and then moved to Danvers for the next three years, then returned to Salem, and was, at the age of thirty-two, elected to Congress, after having served two terms in the State legislatnre. He was reëlected to Congress, and finally, in 1834, resigned and removed to Boston.
It is said that Choate, during his first three years at the bar, seriously thought of giving up his profession. A little pushing, and fortune smiled upon him, and he gradually grew to great eminence, as he at once exhibited the same brilliant parts which became so conspicuous at the bar of Boston. His growing fame enabled him to establish himself securely at the Boston bar—that greater forum, where he continued to live, and where he died, in 1859, in the sixtieth year of his age. His struggle for the first years after his removal to Boston was severe, but success, with some delay, attended him, though he met the ablest lawyers in all New England daily in his practice. These were Mason and Webster of the older lawyers, and Curtis, Bartlett, Dexter and Dana of the succeeding bar, and who attested the consummate ability and resources of Rufus Choate in every department of law. Choate had to sustain himself against such adversaries ; but he proved adequate to the exigency,
and triumphed in the end. Like the still living and still powerful O'Conor, he was almost irresistible with a jury and could win the most desperate causes.
This was owing to his skill in managing the cause quite as much as to his powers as an advocate. His law knowledge was the most thorough and exact. He never tired in preparing a case, and he never finished it until it was tried. He always comported himself at the bar most respectfully to judge, jury, and opposing counsel. He never put a witness in the attitude of defence, except on exceptional occa. sions; then he came down on him with crushing effect.
Mr. Choate had the greatest judgment and skill in the examination of witnesses. He seldom gave opposing witnesses an opportunity to damage his side. Once he pressed a witness to state what the accused said when they robbed the vessel, and got the response that one of the parties remarked that Choate could clear them though they were caught with the stolen money in their boots. Choate went on with the laugh against him. Above all, he went to the jury with the most effective logic, and had the skill to know when he had the jury with him. He, like Scarlett, wheedled, and, like Erskine, rushed the jury over weak places in a cause. He could argue a cause before a full bench as well as before a jury. This is a rare combination of power in any man-all knowledge and words, as he called it; and no man could surpass him in making known just what he thought in any case. He had great logical and analytical powers.
Choate stood high as a jurist, but his mind was really that of the great advocate. There his powers had free play, and in advocacy he achieved his preëminence and standing at the bar. This combination of talents is not usually found in one man. Some have great logical power and vast learning, but no great power of clothing their ideas and giving the best expression to them. Others, with no particular attainments, are fluent and voluble in words, but have no considerable power to generalize, and little breadth or compass of thought. Choate was clear and strong in statement as well as convincing and persuasive. He was a greater master of the law than Erskine, equalled him in the force of the advocate, though, with all his consummate study, he fell below him as a model of forensic style. Erskine, like Choate, was a master of Shakespeare, and this mastery is felt in every line of his advocacy. This is not so felt in the style of Choate. So, while Choate was a greater legist in his profession, yet he had not the correct forensic speech of Erskine. But Choate is not reported like Erskine at the bar, and not one of his hundred efforts is embraced in his works lately published, because it was said to be impossible to report chain-lightning. Still, had Choate possessed such opportunities as Erskine, his speeches of nine hours' length would have appeared in the press, as did that in the Dalton case, though filling sixteen columns of the Boston papers. Surely, he wanted a great occasion for speech at the bar, and so we cannot judge what he might have done in causes like Erskine's. Suffice it that his forensic speeches are not collected, but lost, like those of Emmet and Ogden Hoffman. His family, in publishing the life and writings of Mr. Choate, have left his fame to rest upon his public addresses and speeches. It would seem that the great speech in the Dalton case might have been included in the works of Rufus Choate, that it might remain to after times to prove that he was the Hortensius of the New England bar. It would seem as altogether proper that his great argument in the Goodyear case, where he encountered Webster for the last time and displayed his wonderful genius to that high court, might have been embraced.
Since not one of Choate's forensic arguments have, it seems, been thought worthy of preservation, we must study Choate as a statesman and a scholar in his life and writings, which embrace nothing more. Choate's style was rich and luminous as he approached the meridian of life. His latest speeches showed a greater simplicity. Age usually simplifies rather than embellishes, and Choate's last of the collected speeches proves that he had composed himself in style and delivery since the great Webster eulogy. His manner of expression is more natural and his thought is rich and philosophic: There was less accumulation and ornateness in style in this last effort. His speeches upon the hustings and in Faneuil Hall show also that he could express himself with concise strength. His speech in 1844, made in opposition to the annexation of Texas, possesses those qualities in a marked degree.
Many of his speeches contain none of those interminable sentences which once or twice marred the great Dartmouth eulogy. One sentence of thirteen hundred words is a reflection on Choate's judgment and taste. It is clear, but such an enumeration of particulars wearies the mind and is a reflection on all true rules of composition. Indeed, we have the theory that Choate's written productions were less faultless than his extemporary eloquence, and his bar speeches showed this quite clearly. He went beyond all precedent in some of his sentences, and outstripped the prose of Milton and Jeremy Taylor. Choate avoided this excess of construction in many of his speeches ; and his translations show that he conld at once compose with the brevity of Tacitus or with the length of Thucydides. It. thus appears that his sentences could bend to his needs. His speech was always full and unbroken. He could use the short sentence with the greatest force, like the great French writers; but he naturally fell into the rounded period. He stood at the antipodes of Macaulay in this. Choate was nervous, strong, and his writing not natural and easy; yet it was flowing, rich and brilliant. Macanlay is rich, but broken into the simple sentence. He who takes the pains to analyze these two writers will see that Choate has strength, while Macaulay has ease, naturalness and one of the best styles in the language. Macaulay, like the writers of the age of Anne, follows the simplicity of the French, while Choate followed those who lived in the time of Elizabeth. Choate studied Burke daily, but he caught not much of his taste or style. He admired Webster, but never felt the full force of his simplicity. Rather, he really imitated no orator, and his style bore the marks of a genius, somewhat wanting in true taste and judgment in his writings, if not in his forensic efforts. He was unsurpassed in the range
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