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supplied the deficiency, and in a measure done justice to one distinguished lawyer of our country; but with this exception, and a few reports of cases selected on account of some special public interest, the fame of the American lawyer has had no substantial memorial. Detached arguments of Mr. Sergeant, might have been obtained from the volumes of the Federal and State Reports, but on examination they were found to be mere sketches, as noted by the reporter, and without the least revision. The only forensic argument inserted in this volume, is the one delivered by Mr. Sergeant before the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of the Cherokee nation, and those who heard him on that occasion, or who have ever heard him when arguing with his peculiar eloquence a cause in which his feelings were deeply interested, need not be told how inadequate the report is to his merits, nor how strongly it illustrates what has been said of the tran. sitory nature of an advocate's fame. It has been inserted, however, as the only one which has had even a partial revision. Abridged as it is, and divested of all the ornaments of rhetoric, it will be read and admired as a fine specimen of argumentative eloquence, having for its object to enforce by reason the results of honest and deliberate reflection. It is to be regretted that one other argument of Mr. Sergeant, (we refer to the one delivered in the Circuit Court of the United States, at Philadelphia, in the Nichol. son land case,) should not be given to the public in an ela. borate form. It was an effort worthy of the orator and the occasion. He was there in the proud attitude of the representative of a great Commonwealth of whose reputation he was jealous, and whose legislation he was called on to
vindicate. He was placed too in the position of an advocate required to enforce personal rights, and to protect private interests, which had been created and had flourished under the legislation which was assailed. Questions were involved that were matters of appropriate consideration for a statesman, and points of judicial casuistry, on which the professional logician might employ all his subtlety. There were disputed points of municipal regulation, and grave questions of constitutional law. They were all met; and in an argument which occupied three days in delivery, Mr. Sergeant satisfied the expectation of all, who either as friends or clients, watched the progress of the cause, and added one more to the many triumphs of a long, and honourable professional career. This is not an inappropriate place to express the hope that this argument may one day be given to the public in a complete form. It has been referred to here, not merely on account of its peculiar merit, but as being distinctly within the recollection of the profession and the public.
Nothing would be more unjust than to estimate the professional fame or public services of Mr. Sergeant, by the select speeches contained in this volume. The varied occupations of his profession, of a practice that for a long series of years has been most extensive and laborious, must be taken into view, and with them, a constant and active participation in almost every scheme of public enterprise and beneficence that has been designed within the sphere of his influence. His life has been one of constant and unremitting labour, in the course of which the least of his cares seems to have been the acquisition of mere reputation—the greatest, the conscientious performance of duty,
and the honest discharge of the obligation which binds every man to the community. Those who have watched with solicitude the career of a public man thus regardless of personal elevation, and insensible to merely selfish im. pulses, will understand the mingled feelings of regret and veneration which this disinterested and self-disparaging conduct inspires. The reputation of a great man, earned by a life of usefulness, is, however, the property of the nation, and from the press, as the natural guardian of that part of the nation's property, much will be expected and required.
This is neither the place nor the occasion, for an elaborate tribute to Mr. Sergeant's character and services. It is as a public man especially that he is now looked to by the community with deep and increasing interest, and it is with a view to do justice to him in this respect, that this volume has been prepared. It is as little suited to the occasion, and to the ability of the publishers, to attempt to characterise his eloquence, as it has been developed in the legislature of the union. The same masculine intelligence and comprehensive grasp of mind, which originally gained for him professional distinction, enabled him at once on his entrance on a new sphere of action, to reach a high and proud eminence, which, in the course of a public life chequered by alternate triumphs and reverses, he has never abandoned, and which he will occupy so long as rich intellectual endowment, and consistent patriotism can be appreciated.
The American bar has always had, and always deserved, an exalted character; and it is to the public services of such men as John Sergeant and his illustrious predecessors
and contemporaries, mingling from nececessity as well as inclination, political with professional pursuits, that this reputation is to be attributed. The bar has supplied the most efficient defenders of our free institutions, and should the hour ever arrive when civil liberty, as we enjoy it, shall be threatened or endangered, it is to the American lawyer, conversant by habitual reflection with the eternal princiciples of liberty as applied to the rights of social man, that the patriot must look for effectual aid, and by his hand can alone be applied what Sir Edward Coke has called “the golden metwand” by which the right of the citizen is measured, and the authority of the government maintained. The active energies of humanity can never sink into “the easy trance of servitude,” while the beacons of the law burn brightly, and the restless eye of juridical vigilance is unclouded.