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crawl under his bed after he was asleep and to slowly raise themselves under him until he would roll out upon the floor. Before he would recover from his surprise, they would be snoring in their pallet.
The beset pedagogue was at a loss to what to ascribe his nocturnal visitations, and quite believed himself haunted by evil spirits. He reported his troubles to Mr. Minor, who immediately suspected the true offenders, and soon detected them. The following morning the lads were aroused from their slumbers by an unusual tread upon the stairway, and soon had reason to tremble at the stern presence of their uncle Peter, accompanied by a negro man, “Pudding, bearing a plentiful supply of birchen rods. The order was given to "horse Walker," and, in a twinkle, he was hoisted upon “Pudding's” back, and the birch uplifted over him. Walker begged a parley, and forth with commenced an extemporaneous plea of apologies, entreaties, and promises of amendment, which arrested the impending rod, and finally prevailed upon his uncle to pardon him. To William, too, who stood by in quaking suspense, mercy was also extended; and long after, in mature years, when the reputation of his fellow delinquent was established as an orator, he would often jocularly recall this early occasion of peril, and say to Gov. Gilmer that he had heard all his great speeches, but never one so powerful and impressive as the pathetic effort from the back of “Pudding.
From “Ridgway,” young Walker Gilmer was sent to school to Dr. Frank Carr, an excellent classical scholar, and a gentleman of extensive learning and much literary taste. The friend and companion of William Wirt, he is reported to have assisted him in the preparation of "The Old Bachelor.” Here young Gilmer's talents were fitly nurtured. He was thoroughly grounded in classic lore, and acquired a thirst for letters which was invaluable to him in his subsequent career. He remained two years under the care of Dr. Carr, and then continued his scholastic course under Mr. John Robertson, a Scotchman, of whom it is said that he “ taught more clever men than any other single teacher ever did in Virginia, and whose classical knowledge was such that he would often hear a recitation in Homer without reference to the book." From the school of Mr. Robertson, young Gilmer was sent to that of a Mr. Stack, in Charlottesville. Whilst here, as a member of a Thespian Society, he exhibited fine histrionic talents. Young Gilmer completed his studies in Staunton, the pecuniary embarrassment of his father bringing them to an abrupt termination. He
now entered the
office of his uncle, Peachy R. Gilmer, at Liberty, Bedford County, Virginia, as a student of law. This gentleman was an eminent lawyer, a fine classical scholar, and possessed extraordinary conversational powers. Some of his letters were pronounced, by his friend and brother-in-law, William Wirt, as “inimitable specimens of epistolary style.” Whilst at Liberty, and, indeed, for some years previously, young Walker Gilmer
was much aided and stimulated in his studies by correspondence with his uncle, Francis W. Gilmer, then a member of the bar of Winchester, Virginia. He was a close and assiduous student, and in less than a year applied for and obtained a license to practice law, and located himself in Scottsville, Albemarle County, within a few miles of “Mt. Air,” the residence of Captain Hudson, his maternal grandfather; but, tempted by the wide field offered in the new western country, he removed in a short time to St. Louis, Missouri. Very flattering prospects of success dawned upon him in that thriving city, but he was induced to abandon them and return to Virginia from a desire to aid his father in the management of his affairs and in the care of a large family. A striking instance of his magnanimity and generosity at this period is given. Always a favorite with his grandfather, Mr. Hudson, the latter had made a will constituting him his sole heir. When Walker Gilmer heard this, he insisted successfully that Mr. Hudson should alter the provisions of the will, and divide the estate equally among his brothers and sisters, after having first secured a competent provision for his father. In his new field of practice in Charlottesville, and the bar of Albemarle and the adjacent counties, Mr. Gilmer met with formidable competition in a host of legal and forensic talent, headed by Philip Pendleton Barbour, subsequently a Judge of the Supreme Court of the United States; but competition only inspired greater exertion, and six years of unflagging devotion to his profession placed him in the front rank of the Albemarle bar. “As a lawyer, he was distinguished for acuteness of mind, adroitness in debate, clear perception of the true issue, skill in the examination of testimony, a fine grasp of the strong points of his cause, and intuitive detection of the weak ones of his opponents.” He was rather an able and skillful advocate than a profound jurist; and wielded more power over the sympathies and instincts of the jury than over the learning of the judge. In the year 1825, the disposition to amend the Constitution of Virginia began to manifest itself among the friends of reform in notable signs of a desire for concerted action. Notices were published for holding a Convention in Staunton, on the 25th of July, of that year, to consider the best means of effecting the common object, and meetings were held in many counties to appoint delegates to this Convention. A meeting of the citizens of Albemarle in favor of a Convention assembled in Charlottesville, in response to a call in the Central Gazette. Thomas Jefferson Randolph, the grandson of Thomas Jefferson, presided; and Thomas W. Gilmer offered a series of resolutions asserting the right of the people to change the existing defective Constitution, and recommending the appointment of delegates from the county to the Convention to be held in Staunton. The resolutions were adopted, and Thomas Mann Randolph, Valentine Wood Southall, and Thomas Walker Gilmer appointed delegates. The Convention met as appointed, and Mr. Gilmer attended. Thirty-eight
counties were represented. Among the delegates were some of the most prominent men of Virginia, among whom were Charles Fenton Mercer, Judge John Scott, John R. Cooke, Callohill Minns, Daniel Sheffey, Lucas P. Thompson, Philip Doddridge, and others of like reputation and influence. The Convention remained in session for several days, and finally recommended, by a very large majority: 1. The white basis of representation; 2. The extension of the right of suffrage; 3. The abolition of the Council of State-a lingering relic of the earliest form of government of Virginia as a colony; 4. The adoption of some practical provision for future amendments; and, 5. T'he adoption of a memorial to the Legislature to submit the question of a Convention to the vote of the people. Mr. Gilmer took an active part in the debates, and offered an important amendment to the resolution of the committee on the extension of suffrage, which was adopted. The speeches in the body were characterized by the Richmond Enquirer as being able and eloquent. It is noteworthy that the third and fourth measures of reform recommended were both rejected by the State Convention of 1829–30. Benjamin Watkins Leigh, by an effective speech, killed the former; and, when the Convention were about to adopt the latter, John Randolph of Roanoke gave it a summary quietus with a senseless sneer and a demonstration with his skinny forefinger. While in attendance upon the Staunton Convention, Mr. Gilner met with Miss Ann E. Baker, the daughter of Hon. John Baker, a member of Congress from Virginia. She became his wife in the month of May following. During the political canvass which resulted in the election of General Andrew Jackson to his first term as President, Mr. Gilmer became one of the editors of the Virginia Advocate, a newspaper published in Charlottesville, and devoted to the success of the party of General Jackson. He had for several years been a constant contributor to the Central Gazette, also published in Charlottesville, by C. P. McKennie, and had acquired some reputation as a writer. His coeditor of the Advocate was John A. G. Davis, professor of law in the University of Virginia, a man of rare modesty, brilliant talents, and profound learning. The Advocate was ably edited, and did good campaign service. During the editorial career of Mr. Gilmer a controversy arose between the Virginia Advocate and the Lynchburg Virginian about the opinion of James Madison on the Bank question, which was carried on for some time with acrimony, and ended in a personal difficulty between Mr. Gilmer and Richard H. Toler, the editor of the Virginian. Mr. Gilmer went to Lynchburg and demanded an apology from Mr. Toler for some offensive language he had used towards him, and, not feeling satisfied with the result of the interview, assaulted Mr. Toler. The parties afterwards became friends, and frequently met in the State Legislature on the most amicable terms. In the spring of 1829, Mr.
Gilmer was returned by the county of Albemarle to the State House of Delegates. This period, which witnessed the birth of the great Whig and Democratic parties, was one of convulsive throe to the Nation; the political cauldron seethed with mad passions of party spirit. Mr. Gilmer was placed on the important committee of Courts of Justice, and, at the end of two weeks, he is recorded as moving to add to the standing committees one on Revolutionary Claims. It was formed with himself as chairman. He studied the subject fully, and by active research established, in his exhaustive report, unsatisfied claims of Virginia on the Federal Government which had been overlooked or neglected in former settlements. He moved resolutions of instruction to the Virginia Senators in Congress in relation to the bounty lands for the Virginia State and Continental Lines, which drew attention to the matter, and resulted in an advantageous change of the former provisions in favor of the officers and men of the Virginia State Line. During the Legislative session an effort was made to renew the charters of the State banks, though it would be three years before they expired. This measure was ably and successfully opposed by Mr. Gilmer. At the spring election of 1830, Mr. Gilmer received the verdict of approval of his course in a re-election to the House of Delegates with an increased majority; and when, after the adoption of the amended constitution, new elections were held, his popularity was further vindicated by a vote nearly double of that of any other candidate for local suffrage of his county. When the General Assembly met in December, 1830, Mr. Gilmer was nominated for Speaker of the House of Delegates by William M. Rives, of Campbell County, who said in his nominating speech: “Mr. Gilmer has left the traces of his genius upon the memory of the members of the last session, and the proofs of his ability on the journal.” The former Speaker, Linn Banks, was, however, elected. This session of the Legislature was one of the most important ever convened in Richmond. Upon it devolved the task of remodeling the Statute Laws in accordance with the amended constitution. The ablest men in the State had been summoned to this duty in the House of Delegates. Among them may be named: Benjamin Watkins Leigh, James Barbour, Richard Morris, Archibald Bryce, Vincent Witcher, Thomas S. Gholson, William H. Brodnax, George W. Summers, George C. Dromgoole, and John Thompson Brown. The debates were marked by great ability, learning, and eloquence. Mr. Gilmer took an active part in all of the leading questions of the session, and won laurels from the ablest champions in this brilliant arena. In the winter of 1830–1, Mr. Gilmei
' was induced, by the solicitations of his friends, to undertake the editorial conduction of a political newspaper to be published at Richmond. He accordingly published a prospectus in the Enquirer of April 12, 1831, proposing to issue, on the 1st of July, a newspaper to be called the Times, but the scheme was abandoned in
consequence of his being appointed, by Governor John Floyd, Commissioner of the State to prosecute the Revolutionary Claims of Virginia on the United States. Governor Floyd, in his annual message, in speaking of this appointment, says of Mr. Gilmer: “If zeal, talent, and assiduity furnish any augury of success, we may confidently indulge the most pleasing anticipations of it." Mr. Gilmer spent the greater part of the summer, autumn, and winter of the year 1831 in Washington City, collecting the materials and preparing the evidence for asserting the claims of Virginia before Congress, and thus escaped the excitement, during the legislative session of 1831-2, on the slavery question. In the spring of 1832 he was again elected a member of the House of Delegates. Mr. Gilmer was also a delegate from Albemarle County to the Convention held in Charlottesville, June 12, 1832, to nominate a candidate for Vice-President on the ticket with General Jackson, and of which James Barbour was the choice; but the previous nomination, by the Baltimore Convention, of Martin Van Buren, negatived their action.
In 1832, Littleton Waller Tazewell having resigned his seat in the United States Senate, William Cabell Rives, who had just returned from his mission to France, was nominated by Mr. Gilmer, in the Virginia Legislature, to fill the vacancy, and was elected without opposition. Though Mr. Gilmer, by his absence as Commissioner at Washington, had fortunately escaped the excitement of the discussion of the slavery question, he had now to bear his part in the fury of the storm which rose about nullification and appalled the hearts of the stoutest patriots with the menacing thunders of civil war. On the 10th of December, 1832, General Jackson issued his proclamation, which, together with the ordinance of nullification and the other proceedings of the Convention of South Carolina, was made the subject of a special message to the General Assembly by Governor Floyd. It was referred to a special committee, of which Mr. Gilmer was a member. General W. H. Brodnax, the chairman of the committee, reported a series of resolutions disapproving the ordinance of nullification as passed by South Carolina, and requesting that State to suspend it until after the adjournment of Congress; but also condemning in strong terms the heresies of the proclamation of General Jackson, and reiterating the right of secession as the proper remedy when all peaceful opposition to unconstitutional legislation by the Federal Government had failed. An interesting debate occurred on this report, in which Mr. Gilmer participated in a speech of great ability. He announced the essence of State Rights to be the right of a State to judge for itself of infractions of the Constitution, and of the modes and measures of redress. The crisis was a fearful one, and Virginia met it nobly. She stood upon the troubled waters and lulled them into peace--sternly rebuking, on the one hand, the evil and mad spirit of arbitrary power which produced the proclamation,