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LIFE OF WILLIAM WIRT.

CHAPTER I.

1817.

ARGUES HIS SECOND CAUSE IN THE SUPREME COURT.-LETTER OF ADVICE TO GILMER. HIS ANXIETY IN THE COMPOSITION OF THE BIOGRAPHY.LETTERS TO CARR.-THE BIOGRAPHY GOES TO PRESS.-IS PUBLISHED.— LETTER FROM MR. MONROE OFFERING HIM THE POST OF ATTORNEY GENERAL.-ACCEPTS, AND REPAIRS TO WASHINGTON.—LETTERS TO MRS. W.

MR. WIRT had, as yet, argued but one cause in the Supreme Court. Early in this year his professional engagements called him to a second trial in that forum. We shall see in the following letters, upon what occasion and how this effort succeeded. The first of these was written at intervals, before and after his visit to Washington. It is addressed to his young friend Gilmer, and contains, what we have always found in the letters written to him, a kind and instructive lesson composed in the spirit of an affectionate preceptor who took the liveliest concern in the advancement and success of his pupil. Like the others to the same correspondent, it pours forth that wholesome counsel which may be read with profit by every professional student. What is given below are but some extracts from this letter. It refers, in part, to the expected publication of the biography, which was now ready for the press, and the opinion of "The honorable Thomas" (a jocular allusion to Mr. Jefferson,) upon the subject; and, in part, to the personal concerns of him to whom it was writThere is, besides, a short reference to the trial in the VOL. 2-2

ten.

Supreme Court, which had taken place before the writer had found sufficient leisure to conclude his epistle. Notwithstanding the brevity of this reference, the reader will not fail to perceive, after the perusal of the two letters which succeed this, that the speech in the great national tribunal was not so cursorily dismissed, from any insensibility to the impression it may have made. There is apparent in all Wirt's professional and literary exhibitions at this period of his life,-and indeed, it may be said to have been characteristic of his temperament throughout his whole career, a nervous impressibility to the opinions of the public in regard to his own merits and the success of his endeavors; which, as it sprang from the eagerness of his desire to satisfy his own high estimate of what he deemed the excellences of his art, manifests not only the strength of his ambition, but, even more conspicuously, the simplicity of his character. He indulges, with the exultation of a boy, in the accomplishment of a feat of intellect; speaks of his triumphs with that glad temper of youth which fears nothing from the censoriousness of the world, which conceals no natural emotion of the heart, and which disarms envy and even challenges admiration by the frank and joyous tone with which it seeks applause for the fortunate issue of an honorable endeavor. There are few men of real merit who do not often feel such impulses; but the instances are rare in which such men have not found, even in a short experience of the rivalries of manhood, motive to school their behaviour to a more discreet and guarded subjection, and to restrain themselves from giving way to the expression of those sentiments most natural to their good fortune, lest the world should misconstrue it as weak self-complacency, or an unbecoming vain-glory. The circumspection, in such cases, which is adopted as a guard against the world at large, often begets an habitual reserve even in the intercourse of intimate friendship, and thus the most private correspondence seldom exhibits the exact portraiture and image of the heart. In the letters between Wirt and his friend Carr, we may find an exception to this remark, and we shall read in them the unguarded utterances of a generous and confiding nature, which, as, on the part of the writer, they were above all dissimulation, so, on our part, they should be considered as beyond the pale of critical

censure.

MY DEAR FRANCIS:

TO FRANCIS W. GILMER.

RICHMOND, January 26, 1817.

I

On my return from Washington about the 10th, after an absence of three weeks, I found, among others, your letter of the 20th ult.; but I found, also, the Court of Appeals and Chancery, both in session, and an accumulation of professional duties which have disabled me from sitting down to answer you until now. was in the less hurry about it; for, just about the time of my leaving the city, it was rumored that you would be there on a visit, in a few days-and but for those duties which were pressing my return to Richmond, I would have waited your arrival.

As I was saying, however, the impression that you were absent from Winchester on this visit, and were kicking up your heels in Washington, put me at ease about answering your letter until your frolic should be over, and you should so far have forgotten the gaiety of the city, the eloquence of Congress, and the wisdom of the Abbé,* as to be able to relish such plain fare as I could spread before you.

By this time, I presume you have got back, cloyed with these delicacies, and with your natural palate so far restored as to enjoy a dish of bacon and greens, or hog and hominy-saving your highness. So here's at you!-As for Patrick —, "By my sowl, says Pat, but you may say that, to the end of the world and after, O!" The public are to be the judges. But I am so far from confident of a favorable sentence, that I am in no hurry for my trial. "On the contrary," (as our President apparent says)— I am pretty much of the humor of the Irish culprit—who being asked by the clerk of arraigns, how he would be tried, answered "not at all, at all." As the trial, however, I suppose, must come, I will take a continuance 'till after next summer. The honorable Thomas has given me some flattering encouragement. I can see, however, that he regards my book, rather as panegyric than history, and has put his veto on almost all my favorite passages, as being too poetical for sober narrative—as calculated, indeed, to gratify the young, but to shake the confidence of the aged in the

The Abbé Correa.

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