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mable benefit of association with men of high character and attainments in the profession of his choice. The leaders of the bar at Groton were Timothy Bigelow and Samuel Dana, both lawyers of more than a local reputation. Judge Hall, in later years, recalling some of the incidents of this interesting period of his life, thus wrote of the men who were his youthful professional models: "The offices of Mr. Bigelow and Mr. Dana were nurseries of lawyers. Mr. Bigelow," he writes, "was a man of great ability and elevated moral and religious character. His speaking was rapid—rapid to a fault; but it was earnest, energetic, and full of matter. He filled the circle in which he moved; but on the broad extent of his State and nation he never attained to the eminence that was his due. Personal idolatry, so rife now, was then unknown. Mr. Dana was a good lawyer, a graceful speaker, with a melodious voice, an interesting gentleman. He abounded with anecdote; there could be no more entertaining companion." Mr. Dana filled many high official positions,—was President of the State Senate in 1807 and 1808; a member of the State Constitutional Convention in 1820-21; Representative in Congress in 1814-15; and finally Chief-Justice of the Circuit Court of Common Pleas in Massachusetts from 1811 to 1820.
Of Judge Hall's proficiency in legal study, and his full qualification for the profession of his choice, the sequel affords, perhaps, the most impressive evidence; but it may not be amiss to record the testimony of Judge Dana, in a remark made to his pupil many years afterward. Said he, "When you left my office, I had not a misgiving concerning you. I was as confident of your success as a farmer is of a crop from a well-cultivated field."
After a three-years' course of study in Mr. Dana's office, in March, 1803, he was admitted to the bar of Hillsborough County, New Hampshire.
We reach now, in this rapid sketch, what is the critical period of a young man's career,—his first assumption of the responsibilities of manhood. It is true that the value of good natural parts is great; the advantage of early right culture is hardly to be estimated; but, after all, there is in every man a self-determining will, which makes him the ultimate architect of his own character. To Judge Hall, that juncture in life at which the determinations and purposes are fraught with such weighty issues seemed more than ordinarily perplexing. He was without money,—with no resource for the future other than a profession as yet untried. At his own home the bar had become crowded, and, under the keen competition between the younger members, there had begun to creep into the profession questionable practices, such as he not only would not adopt, but the contact of which he could not endure. He must seek a sphere of professional life more congenial to his nature. But where to find it? The question was perplexing. Writing to his tried friend, Levi Hedge, he says of himself at this juncture,—
"The world is all before me,
words to which he recurred in a letter written at the age of ninety-three years, as he then expressed it, " with a most feeling sense of their truth and verification."
While thus revolving in his mind the uncertain future, there fell under his eye a speech of the elder James A. Bayard, then in Congress. His attention was arrested by some observations of Mr. Bayard, in which he represented the bar of Delaware as of high moral position, and the practice as reasonably remunerative. To use his own expression when relating the circumstance to the writer of these lines, in a casual conversation, years ago, "he slept upon that speech." In the morning his determination was reached, and following his decision with that promptness of action which marked his life, he, the same day, addressed to Mr. Bayard a letter so characteristic of the man, and so expressive of his situation, prospects, and impulses at this interesting crisis, as to warrant its preservation. Under date of October 9, 1802, at Groton, he thus addressed Mr. Bayard,—
"Sir,—Perhaps I intrude upon moments devoted to better purposes. Perhaps to comply with my request would be a waste of your time and attention. If so, pardon the presumption which urges a distant stranger thus to address you, and bestow not upon him that consideration to which he professes no claim.
"I was born in Westford, in the commonwealth of Massachusetts; was educated at Harvard University, in Cambridge, and am now reading law with Samuel Dana, Esq., a gentleman with us eminent in his profession, probably to you unknown. In this part of the country three years'