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His College Life and Admission to Bar, Ete.
ITH the thorough preparation that his academic course in Charleston gave to him, Mr. Memminger was entered as a student in the South Carolina College in the year 1815, before he had reached his thirteenth birthday. He came well equipped for the trials which all must undergo who enter an institution of so high a grade, and desire to enjoy its benefits and to contend for its honors.
His class in the Freshman year was a large one, and embraced through his college course a number of young men who were his seniors in years, and a few who in after life became distinguished citizens of South Carolina and of other States. At this period in its history the South Carolina College took high rank among the institutions of learning in the United States, and was in fact the leading college of the Southern States. Here, young men came from all sections of the South, and from its classic shades and well-appointed halls were sent out men who for near a century have impressed their virtues upon the civilization of all sections of our country. Appreciating fully the importance of a liberal education for her sons, and not yet distracted by the political discords that in after years wasted her resources, and which to some extent appear to have alienated the sympathies of her people, South Carolina made ample provision for the maintenance of this college; and in fact, by the judicious expenditure of these appropriations made it a great fountain of knowledge, whose pure waters were liberally dispensed to make useful men of those who were disposed to
drink deep at its Pierian spring. At the time of which I am writing the college had just undergone a severe trial in the enforcement of such discipline as the Faculty were then authorized to execute. The students appear, from the account given by Professor La Borde, in his history of the Institution, to have resorted to violence in resenting what they were pleased to consider grievances, and for some time after the great riot of 1813 they appear to have remained in a state of more or less disorder, if not in open rebellion against the constituted authorities. Dr. Jonathan Maxey, the philosopher and eminent divine, was the President; Robert Henry was Professor of Moral Philosophy; the great Doctor Cooper, of Chemistry; Thomas Park, of Languages, and George Blackburn of Mathematics and Astronomy. The tutors were Timothy D. Porter, of Languages, and James Camak, of Mathematics.
The classmates of Mr. Memminger were Henry Campbell, John Campbell, Ulrick B. Clark, Wm. R. Clowney, Charles James Colcock, Mark A. Cooper, John M. Deas, Franklin H. Elmore, James A. Fleming, Benjamin Green, Samuel M. Green, Ezra M. Gregg, James A. Groves, John S. Groves, John M. Harris, Samuel J. Hoey, Benjamin F. Linton, Thos. Jefferson Means, Henry G. Nixon, John A. H. Norman Edward G. Palmer, James S. Pope, Wm. Porcher, John M. Ross, Napoleon B. Scriven, Samuel P. Simpson, Joseph Stark Sims, James E. Smith, Thomas House Taylor, Wm. H. Taylor, and Edward Thomas.
From a circular issued by the President in 1819, the following I find to be the requisite in order to enter the Freshman class:
A candidate must be able to sustain a satisfactory examination upon Arithmetic and Elementary Algebra and English Grammar; upon Cornelius Nepos, Cæsar, Sallust, and the whole of Virgil's Eneid in Latin; and in Greek upon the Gospels of Sts. John and Luke, the Acts of the Apostles, and the Greek Grammar. The studies to be pursued
in the Freshman year are Cicero's Orations and the Odes of Horace in Latin, Xenophon's Cyropædia and Memorabilia in Greek, Adam's Roman Antiquities, Vulgar and Decimal Fractions, the Equations and Extraction of Roots, English Grammar and Rhetoric.
What youth of twelve summers, even in this day, would have passed the ordeal of such an examination, and held not only a respectable place in his class, but have led it as did young Memminger.
The writer was privileged to know, in the maturity of their lives, and to an extent was intimate with, the Hon. Mark A. Cooper and Rev. John S. Groves, citizens of Georgia, who entered college with Mr. Memminger, and during the entire course knew him as only class-mates and room-mates can know each other. From these gentlemen I have gathered all that I present of the college life of Mr. Memminger, beyond that he has preserved in the form of essays and orations which appear in the Appendix to this volume. T am especially indebted to my excellent friend, Rev. John S. Groves, of Oxford, Georgia, for the pleasure he has afforded me in going over these happy days of his youth, and for the entertainment he has given me as with that zeal which only a loving nature can manifest he would live over his college life, and with song and with story recount the inci dents that made the college boy then, as he always has been and must ever be, a peculiarly interesting character.
"Memminger," says Mr. Groves in a sketch made by him for me, "was the smallest in stature, as he was the youngest in years, of the boys who entered with me the South Carolina College in 1815. His appearance, when I first saw him, was that of a mere child. In those days boys were not permitted to assume the roll of grown men, and in dress, as well as in behavior, were less precocious than in these later days of Young America. This was especially so with the boys from our seaboard city of Charleston. With his back to you, and dressed as he was in a neat-fitting 'round-about'
or jacket, you would have thought him to have been one of the children of Columbia who had wandered into the campus, so small was he and so childlike in appearance, but let him turn and face you, and then enter into conversation with him, and you would be at once undeceived. His manner was all earnestness, while his facial expression was that of a person far his senior in age. His most attractive feature was his eye-a blueish-gray-and always at perfect rest when he was speaking to you. He seemed to be looking into your mind, and if he was interested or seeking to impress you with his discourse, you would be held as if by a magnetic force. His face was lean, complexion very fair, nose very prominent, chin rather an oval termination of a strong, wellformed maxillary, with a mouth rather large, and thin, cómpressed lips-so much compressed at times that his mouth appeared but as a line. His hair was a dark brown, almost black. Memminger had an expression under all circumstances of earnestness; I cannot say it was an expression of melancholly, but it was more that of care, of serious deliberation. He was the student of our class. We had not been ten days on our course before he was in the lead. His recitations were prepared with the utmost care, and while at times he would enter heartily into the sports of the campus, yet I never knew him charged with an indiscretion that would necessitate an apology to a class-mate or a rebuke from a Professor.
"I soon learned not only to like him, but to have for the 'Charleston boy,' as we called him, a great respect. He was very laborious and never an idler. For some time we were room-mates. Often have I been rebuked by finding him at work with his text-books when I would come in late from. some social entertainment. Mr. Memminger was born for a leader. Young as he was, in years a mere child, yet in the debating society or at our class-meetings, whenever there
was a doubt about a course of procedure, and we were, as all college boys will be, at our council board, Memminger's opinions were very apt to be our rule of action; especially was it so towards the close of our college term. He would wait until all had delivered their wisdom, and then come with a statement of the case that was clear and convincing. I cannot say that he was regarded as having a mind of flashing brilliancy in the sense that General Toombs or Ben Hill are by some regarded; but he had, in my opinion, a more judicial mind than either of them. There was no meteoric light about it, but the clear, steady light of a planet. I was much impressed with his strict adherence to rules and his devotion to principles while he was in college. These rules for the conduct of his life were prepared for him by some sincere friend, and he had them written upon a tablet, and ever before his mind as the inflexible law of his college life which no possible temptation could lead him to forget.
"While he was not a member, as I now remember, of any religious society, yet he always attended upon the services at the chapel, and was scrupulously careful in observing his morning and evening devotions.
"After graduation our lives diverged. He remained in his loved Carolina while I moved elsewhere. I have followed his course in public life with much pleasure, and would only have been surprised if he had not made the record he has among the great men of the country. His orations in the Junior class, and one while he was a Senior in 1819, on the 'Influence of Popular Opinion,' were well received at the time and gave evidences then of a fact, now assured, that nature had cast his mind in no ordinary mould. He possessed to a degree I have never known surpassed the faculty of concentration. I have known him when surrounded by a troup of boisterous college boys to continue his studies amid every kind of interruption."