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Entered according to the act of Congress, the 12th day of October, 1832, by
E. L. Carey & A. Hart, in the Clerk's office of the District Court of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
The publishers of this volume present it to the public, not merely as a testimonial of their sincere respect for a distinguished fellow citizen, but as an offering which they know will be most acceptable to the community at large. It is an exalted duty to rescue from the precarious tenure of ephemeral publications the reputation of an eminent man, and with this view they have been induced to cause a volume of the public speeches of Mr. Sergeant to be prepared, in order to give them the permanence they deserve to have, and of which, while scattered in detached pamphlets and periodicals, they could not be secure. The responsibility of the attempt is altogether with them. It was determined on, and has been made without consultation with Mr. Sergeant. The materials to which the publishers have had access, were scattered through congressional reports and newspapers, and it has been with some difficulty they have been collected. They are believed however to be in every respect accurate.
It was their hope to be able to publish a number of the forensic arguments of Mr. Sergeant, as well as his congressional speeches. In this, they have been, in great measure disappointed. The fame of an advocate is too often traditionary, and while during his active career his influence
is most sensibly felt and readily acknowledged, as soon as the personal ascendancy is withdrawn, the charm lingers only in memory, and with the life of the last contemporary is forgotten. The physical labours of preparing forensic arguments for the press is altogether incompatible with the unceasing occupation of a professional man in active business, and until the science of reporting “speeches” shall extend to the judicial as well as the legislative halls, the advocate, in a vast majority of instances, must be satisfied with the proud distinction of a life of honour and useful. ness, and be content, as soon as it terminates, to be forgot. ten. The history of the English bar strongly illustrates the truth of this assertion. Of all the master-pieces of eloquence that have been produced by the great Eng. lish lawyers during the last century and an half, but one elaborate collection survives; and no one, especially if he be a lawyer, can peruse the volumes of Lord Erskine's Speeches without regret, deep regret, that a similar memorial of some of his predecessors, of Dunning, of Wedderburne, of Yorke, of Pratt and of Murray, has not been rescued from the grasp of oblivion. It was a remark of Mr. Pitt, that were he allowed to redeem from forgetfulness any one of those works of genius of which in ancient or modern times the fame only has survived, he would select a single speech of Lord Bolingbroke, accurately and faithfully reported, in preference to all the rest. A lawyer might, in the same spirit prefer an argument fresh from the lips, or corrected by the pen of Lord Mansfield, to any of the obliterated records of departed genius.
To the American bar, the same remark will as justly apply, A recent publication has, in a single instance,
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 same 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 cloquence 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 transitory 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 orna. ments 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 Nicholson land case,) should not be given to the public in an elaborate 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 prófessional 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,