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I extract from a letter written by the Hon. Mark A. Cooper, a United States Senator, and among the ablest and most honored citizen of Georgia, the following:
I am not unmindful of my promise to you, made some time ago, to prepare a sketch of the college days of my old friend, Mr. Memminger, of South Carolina. I have only delayed because at my advanced age I find it by no means as easy to handle a pen as in the days gone byalas, gone by forever! My delay has at least given me the pleasure of reading a letter from you which be assured is highly appreciated. From the first time I met him, a mere boy, when we matriculated at the South Carolina College, to this moment, I have had for C. G. Memminger the utmost respect. I well remember him, a delicately framed boy, who appeared to be too young to be away from home influences, and by several years the youngest of those who entered the Freshman class of 1815. There was in his childish appearance that which to a stranger might have detracted from the dignified personnel of a collegiate, yet there was in his intellectual eye and impressive face the undoubted expression of a mind that would command respect from those who were larger in physical proportion or who were older in years.
At college he was very attentive to his duties, a close and critical student, and in every sense of the term a clever youth. There were others in our class who were thought to possess more brilliant intellects, but none who were more earnest in their labors or more direct in their methods. I can recall several who have never reached a place of note, or became at all distinguished, who were regarded in their college days as being more talented than Memminger; but none who were superior to him in that painstaking labor and thorough analysis so essential to the acquisition of knowledge, and to its judicious application in the affairs of life. We were members of the same debating societythe Clariosophic. I have often listened to him in debate with great satisfaction, and have found him by no means an antagonist to be lightly considered. Mr. Memminger's success in life was all foreshadowed in his college days. That he should have reached the eminent position among our great men that now renders his name distinguished is no matter of surprise to me.
Some of the orations referred to by Mr. Groves are printed in the Appendix to this volume. They plainly indicate the strength of the youth's mind. For these papers I am indebted to Mr. Edward Memminger, of Flat Rock, a worthy son, as I am for others that have been long treasured as family heirlooms
The prescribed college course has been finished, and the time comes when the Freshman has matured into the dignified Senior, who, in the presence of the august guardians of his alma mater and before the assembled populace, is to receive the official certificate of his proficiency and be ushered into the arena of life to meet its duties and to engage in its combats; to go down before these in the ignominy of failure, or to acquire fame and the emoluments of victory, the honors of men, and more than all the approval of his own conscious manhood, and the esteem of his fellow-citizens. The merit and demerit marks have all been counted by the professors, when it is announced that the gray-eyed boy from Charleston has by his proficiency won the second place of distinction in a large and talented class, and has been awarded the honor of delivering the salutatory address at the "Commencement" exercises. The young gentleman who contended with Mr. Memminger for the "First Honor" was Mr. Thomas House Taylor, who won it by so small an advantage that the Faculty were for some time in doubt. A few years later brought about a change in the rules of the college, making the "First Honor" graduate the salutatorian, and awarding to the "Second Honor" the valedictory address, and such is the custom to-day. When young Memminger, proud of his triumph, was presented by the venerable president, there was not before him in that happy audience the beating heart of a father, or was there awaiting him the loving embrace of a mother. The gallant officer of the Prince-Elector's battalion and the patient, proud-spirited mother could only have been near their loved boy in some spirit form, some sweet relation of affinities, that some tell us bring, even from the infinite world, the loves that have left us in this world. Who shall say that it was not so! There was one there, however, to press the hand of his boy, whom he had taken into his own household and to whom he
was not only disposed to express his congratulations, but about whom he was ready to place the strong arm of his protecting care in the future struggles of life. This was Gov. Thomas H. Bennett, the foster-father, in every sense of the word, of the deserving graduate.
I do not consider that it would be just to the spirit of my honored friend, whose history I am writing, should I not present more prominently than I have done the character of Governor Bennett, for whom Mr. Memminger always entertained the greatest respect and a love engendered by the noble nature of his generous friend and benefactor.
Returning to Charleston from his successful college course with his well-earned honor, Mr. Memminger entered the law office of Mr. Joseph Bennett, the brother of the Governor. In those days admission to the privileges and emoluments of the legal profession was only possible in South Carolina after a course of study that would in these latter days of rapid evolution be considered in some sections as amounting to a qualified interdiction. It was well that it was so.
The youth of Mr. Memminger was in his favor, while the training that his superior mind had received the better prepared him to grasp the subtle realities of the logical science he had determined to master. In the year 1820, when he formally began his law course, the Bar of Charleston was, as it has ever been, noted for the number of eminent lawyers who were practising there in the State and Federal courts. There could have been no better standards of professional ethics, as there were no higher expressions of the learning and the eloquence of the lawyer and advocate; no better school in which to absorb by the contact of association, as there was no better forum for the exhibition of the noblest expressions of true manliness. It was then that Stephen D. Miller, Hugh S. Legare, Henry L. Pinckney, James L. Pettigru, Robert Y. Hayne, Henry Bailey, Daniel and Alfred
Huger, B. F. Hunt, Richard Yeadon, W. G. Dessassure, Alexander Mazyck, were among the master spirits of the court-room; when, at the General Sessions, the Court of Common Pleas, or at Chancery, Johnston, Harper, O'Neal, Butler, Dunkin, Richardson, Wardlaw, Earle, and Evans presided with a grace that would have done honor to Westminster or the King's Bench in the palmiest day of English jurisprudence. It was then that Calhoun, McDuffie, Cheves, and Hayne were statesmen expressing thoughts that were to outlive the centuries and "wander through eternity."
Among the young men just then coming to the Bar was Edward McCrady. For him Mr. Memminger formed an attachment, which was warmly reciprocated, and which continued an unbroken friendship during more than the average life of men. It has recently been my pleasure to converse with Mr. McCrady, who, at this writing, is still in life, and at the advanced age of ninety-three retains to a remarkable degree the faculties of his mind and a physical strength which I hope will prolong his useful life far into the "serene and solemn beauty of old age." Mr. McCrady describes his then young friend Memminger as being a man of untiring energy, a close, careful student, who lost no opportunity to acquire an accurate knowledge of the principles and the practice of his chosen profession; sincere in his convictions and devoted in the discharge of duty. "He possessed," said Mr. McCrady, "to an extent I have never known surpassed the ability to state a proposition and lay a case before a judge or a jury as clearly as it possibly could be done. There was nothing superfluous, no redundant expression; but stripped of all extraneous matters the proposition or case would be stated by him so clearly that there could be no mistaking it."
At this time there was an association among the men of letters in Charleston, known as the "Conversational and De
bating Society," to which Mr. Memminger was introduced, and of which he became an active member and regular attendant. The object of the association appears to have been "for the improvement of the mind and the cultivation of the amenities of life." It was in fact a social club, somewhat similar to the "Kit-Kat" and old October Clubs of London in the days of Johnson, Goldsmith, Reynolds, and other worthies of their day. The current topics of the day were informally discussed
ally such subjects as » ssays were read, and occasion
ecial interest were debated
to the great pleasure of those who were present. This institution was ed at an early period in the history of Charleston,. nformed by Judge George S. Bryan, and numbered 3 members those who were prominent in all the pu life-clergymen, lawyers, doctors, men of letters, a engaged in commerce or the business pursuits of the city. The writer can well understand that while Mr. Memminger was preparing himself for the duties of his profession, the associations of this club were of great benefit to him. Among the gifted and accomplished men he met there any young gentleman possessing the natural abilities of Mr. Memminger must have received valuable suggestions, as he must also have been impressed with that imprimatur of manhood that made this era in our State's history one of peculiar attractiveness. This club was in existence for near a century. It was reorganized in 1842, but appears now to have suffered the fate of other institutions of our ante-bellum civilization, and to have gone into that wretched tomb which an unsuccessful revolution prepared, not alone for our material interests, but, alas! for the spirit and, to too great an extent, the æsthetic culture of a gallant people.
I find among the papers of Mr. Memminger the reported proceedings of another club, which I apprehend was formed