« ПредишнаНапред »
erroneous idea has frequently consigned nations, after having struggled through innumerable difficulties to achieve their own happiness, into the hands of avarice and ambition. To explode a doctrine which is not made true by being specious, nor harmless by its mischiefs, can only be effected by recording services, often more useful though less famous than those actions which historians seem to have selected, not because they shed upon mankind more happiness, but because they afford to composition more embellishments.
EDWARD RUTLEDGE was born in the city of Charleston, in the month of November, 1749. Of his early years, little more is remembered than the vivacity of his manners, the docility of his disposition, and his filial affection and obedience. His tutor was David Smith of New Jersey, who was said to be an able instructor in the learned languages; and although his pupil does not appear to have been what would now be termed a finished classical scholar, yet as he possessed both industry and capacity, it is probable his attainments were much above mediocrity: indeed, whatever advantage he may have possessed in the abilities of his preceptor, and the quickness of his own understanding, the term of his academic studies was not sufficiently protracted to mature his scholarship. Being destined to the profession of the law, and the numerous family of his mother pointing out the propriety of his making the earliest exertions for self-advancement, he was at an early age placed with his elder brother, who was at that period, or was rapidly becoming, the most distinguished pleader at the Charleston bar. With so brilliant and successful an example constantly before him, and with the prospect of a brother's patronage and assistance in the future prosecution of his profession, he had great incitement to self-improvement, and gave many tokens of his future eminence; but although Coke, Bacon, and other masters of the law were not neglected, a considerable portion of his time was certainly devoted to the cultivation of his fame, and of those graces of elocution for which he was afterwards so conspicuous. To complete his legal education, he was sent to England in the year 1769, and was entered a student at the Temple: his attendance upon the courts of law, and the houses of parliament, was unremitting, and he now had frequent opportunities of witnessing the oratorical exertions of Dunning, Wodderburne, Thurlow, Mansfield, Cambden, and Chatham, (the brilliant characters of the day,) by which his taste was materially improved, and his mind enlarged. His successful representation of the peculiar manner of some of those eminent men, after a lapse of twenty years, proves that he was an attentive observer.
After the requisite number of terms, he was called to the bar before his departure from England, and having returned homo, commenced the practice of law in 1773. Notwithstanding the supposed dryness and certain drudgery of the law, apparently so little suited to his gay and lively genius, he seems to have devoted his time and talents fairly to his profession, to have launched forth with great spirit and confidence, and to have been rewarded with the applause bestowed by his fellow citizens upon his earliest efforts. He could not, at the age of twenty-three years, be a profound jurist, but his mind was naturally sound and logical ; possessing considerable fluency of speech, quickness of apprehension, an exuberant fancy, an expressive countenance, an harmonious voice, and altogether what might be termed a graceful delivery. He never failed to dazzle where he did not convince, and, whatever were the merity of the case, those of the orator were seldom denied. It may prove beneficial to those diflident young lawyers, who are occasionally perplexed with a confusion of ideas at which they have sensi. bility enough to be distressed, to notice the relative opinion of Mr. Rutledge: he often remarked, that in the early period of his career, he had been more than once in the awkward predicament of being oppressed with his own incoherence, but reflecting that few of a large audience could immediately perceive what was sense or the reverse, that those who were - VOL. V.-X
capable of thus discriminating, were probably the most generous and indulgent to youthful orators, and that it was necessary at all events to succeed in his profession, he made it a positive rule never to sit down, or to hesitate, or halt, but to talk on, and brave it out with the best countenance he could assume. His advice was, not in any case whatever to write speeches for the purpose of committing them to memory, observing very justly, that although written speeches may have succeeded in the days of Pericles, in our times more promptness is indispensable to the despatch of forensic business; and that the very encomiums which are attracted by the first written speeches of a lawyer, operate to the discouragement of those future extemporaneous exertions, which will exhibit him as unequal to himself, but without which he cannot conduct an extensive practice.
He was thus advancing with rapidity to professional eminence, when he was summoned by his countrymen to exert his talents on a more splendid theatre, to relinquish his private concerns, and take his seat in the great council of the nation, which assembled at Philadelphia, in 1774. This was the most exalted proof that could be given of the popularity of Mr. Rutledge, and of the general esteem in which he was held. In ordinary times, ordinary men may, and often do, attain the highest honours and employments of the stato ; their political success is generally owing to a certain forwardness in putting forth pretensions, which, in other circumstances, would bewithheld or discountenanced ; but which when pushed with the customary pertinacity, and having reference only to the common routine of legislation, the indulgence, or the good nature, or the indifference, of the community many tolerate and sanction ;-perhaps also, we must in candour confess, that in this, as in every great eommunity,