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The younger Adelphics, however, took a different view, favoring the Philomatheans, on the ground that the secession was factious and sectional. Seward, whose experience at the south, and popularity with all classes in college, served to qualify him for the office, virtually became umpire between the two parties. After an impartial hearing of the question, he decided in favor of the Philomatheans, and against the Delphian Institute—thus siding with the sophomores and freshmen, in opposition to the views of his own classmates. He thereby incurred no small odium. The faction, which he had condemned, caused him to be arraigned, with a view to his expulsion from the Adelphic Society. The members resolved themselves into a court, while a prominent member of his own class acted as public prosecutor. Seward conducted his own defence. After the testimony was completed, he summed up the merits of the case, closing a powerful argument with a thrilling recital of his course throughout the controversy. Declaring that he was indifferent to what might be said of him by the public prosecutor—that he had no wish to know who voted for and who against him--and that he would not embarrass the vote of any member by his presence, or by inquiry about his vote at any time afterward—he abruptly left the chamber in which the trial was held. In half an hour, the rush of students from the hall showed that the case was decided. Soon, his room was crowded with sophomores and freshmen, ardent with victory, and loud in congratulations that the prosecution had been voted down. The cause of law and order was sustained against the seceders, and the integrity of the union in Union College fully vindicated.
There was still another trial in college for the young student. Three commencement orators were to be appointed by the Adelphic Society. This appointment was deemed the highest college honor. Seward was a prominent candidate. His scholarship, his eloquence, and his character presented equally strong claims in his favor. But the hostile faction among the friends of the Delphian Institute, established a vigorous opposition. An earnest canvass was maintained for several weeks. No pains were spared to defeat the election of Seward. The choice was at length made, and he gained a decided triumph. The subject of his oration was, “ The Integrity of the American Union.” This was a chaste and manly performance, replete with vigorous sense
and patriotic feeling. It was listened to with enthusiasm by an intelligent audience, and called forth warm commendations in the public prints.
Seward graduated among the most distinguished scholars in his class. He shared his academic honors with several, who have since arisen to eminence in different walks of literature and public life. Of these, we need only mention the names of Hon. William Kent, who inherits the legal mind and rare attainments of his father, the celebrated chancellor; Rev. Dr. Hickok, now vice-president of Union College, and as an erudite and profound metaphysician, without an equal among American scholars; and Rev. Tayler Lewis, Professor of Greek in Union College, distinguished no less as an adroit and energetic controversialist, than as a classical scholar of consummate accomplishments.
An incident, showing his standing in the college, and his early development of talent, was thus described by a public journal, many years since:
“ The year 1820 was, as our readers will remember, the epoch of the great contest between Tompkins and Clinton. The interest excited by this struggle pervaded all classes and ages of the community, and it was not in the glowing temperament of William H. Seward to remain neutral. He was naturally from his education and early association, on the side of Tompkins, and his zeal was quickened by personal intercourse with this amiable and fascinating man, with whom to have an interview with an individual was to acquire and fix a friend. Seward was appointed to address the vice-presi dent on his visit to Schenectady on behalf of the young republicans of the college. His speech was so much above the common run of political harangues, as to excite general and lasting interest. He lived in the remembrance of Daniel D. Tompkins, until he himself ceased to live; and his friends will recollect the fervent kindness with which he was wont to recur to this eloquent and generous effort of his youthful champion."
The relations of young Seward with Dr. Nott, the venerable and excellent President of Union College, were intimate and cordial, throughout his academic course, and have continued to bo of affectionate confidence to the present time. It is believed that Mr. Seward has seldom acted on any important public question, without availing himself of the experience and sagacity of his venerated friend, whose counsels, we need not say, have always been on the side of nobleness and humanity. Nor, we may add, has Mr. Seward failed to preserve the attachment of his early friends. The companions of his school and college days, as well as those of his professional life, have ever been among his foremost supporters, as a public man. And he never forsakes a friend or a cause, that he has once espoused. No reproach can shake his fidelity to objects, of whose worth he has become persuaded
Soon after taking his degree at Union College, Mr. Seward entered the office of John Anthon, Esq., of the city of New York, as a student at law. He carried the habits of early rising and faithful application, which he had maintained during his college life, into his professional studies. He thoroughly mastered every elementary book which was put into his hands, making a written analysis of its contents. Completing his legal preparation with John Duer and Ogden Hoffman, Esquires, in Goshen, N. Y., he was admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court at Utica in 1822. For six months previous to his admission he had been associated in practice with Mr. Hoffman.
In January, 1823, Mr. Seward took up his residence in Auburn, and formed a connexion in business with the Hon. Elijah Miller, a distinguished member of the legal profession, and at that time first Judge of Cayuga county. Judge Miller, who had acquired a competency in a large and successful practice, was desirous of retiring from active professional pursuits, and discovering signs of great promise in young Seward, took him into his confidence, and proved a devoted and efficient friend.
Mr. Seward in 1824 married his youngest daughter, Frances Adeline Miller. As this lady is still living, we can only say that the connection has been a singularly fortunate one in all respects. Four children compose their family; Augustus, a lieutenant in the U. S. Army, Frederick, a promising young lawyer, and a boy and girl yet in childhood. One daughter, " fondly loved," was therefore, perhaps, “ early lost."
The town of Auburn, which Mr. Seward selected as a residence, is in the heart of one of the most fertile and delightful regions in central New York. Its growth has been rapid and healthful. Within a few years the primeval forest has given place to a populous city. Its inhabitants are distinguished for their intelligence, enterprise and refinement. Free from the pride of wealth and the pretensions of aristocracy, they present an attractive example of genuine republican equality. In some degree these characteristics are no doubt due to the influence of Mr. Seward and his estimable family. During a residence of more than thirty years, he has won the unqualified respect and confidence of his townsmen. Moving in the highest circles of society, he has never avoided friendly intercourse with the most obscure and lowly. The patron of struggling merit—cherishing a deep interest in all social and philanthropic movements-watchful to aid the unfortunate and forsaken -and ever ready to devote his time, his talents, and his pecuniary means to the defence of the wronged and oppressed of every caste and color-he has gained the lasting gratitude and love of the people with whom, for over a quarter of a century, he has lived as a neighbor and fellow-citizen.
Although free from all taint of sectarianism, Mr. Seward cherishes a strong attachment to the Protestant Episcopal Church; of which he became a member in 1837. He has been frequently called to attend ecclesiastical conventions of that body. With his devotion to the cause of public improvement, he has been the patron of churches, schools, and benevolent institutions, liberally contributing his money for their support, and his counsels for their direction.
After establishing himself in Auburn, Mr. Seward became interested in the military affairs of the neighborhood, and was soon honored with various military offices. Accepting the colonelcy of a regiment, he acquired wide distinction and still higher promotion by his zeal and discipline. Without personal military ambition, he was an ardent friend of a well-regulated militia system for the preservation of order and the defence of the country. He was an excellent tactician, and an accomplished commander, while his winning qualities as a man secured the friendship of all around him, who were engaged in the same department of public service.
From the commencement of his practice as a lawyer, Mr. Seward was always in the habit of arguing his own cases, instead of employing older counsellors, as is often done by young advocates. In the management of a case he sparingly refers to the authority of recorded decisions, but stating the general principles of law applicable to the question, and arranging the facts in the simplest order, enforces his arguments by a priori reasonings, and shows the basis of his position in natural equity. As a professional rule, he gives his aid to a weaker party against a stronger, even without compensation, whether his client be right or wrong; but if a stronger party claims his services against a weaker, he does not engage in the suit without a clear conviction of its justice, whatever be the compensation. During the whole course of his practice he has never been known to act for a man against a woman; and was never but once engaged in a cause against the accused; and that was an instance of extreme outrage by a man upon a young woman.
The legal career of Mr. Seward is illustrated with no less justice than vigor in the following sketch of his early professional life, written several years since for one of the periodicals of the day.
“ The practice of the law in the country must not be estimated by the practice is the city. Each has its own advantages and difficulties; it is the peculiarity of the former, that it at once brings to the test, and to the public view, the intrinsic qualities of ihe man.
The crowded bar—the long deferred opportunity—the deference to age and experience—the overshadowing reputation of the seniors of the profession, and the innumerable natural or conventional impediments, which so long keep back, and so often depress the young aspirant with us, are felt in a very mitigated degree in the interior The candidate for distinction is there summoned at once to the arena : 'naked steel is around him ;' he is thrown upon his own talents, energies and resources, and he stands and falls as in his native and unaided strength. To have stood this trial successfully, and after eleven years of arduous labors to have risen to the very foremost rank of his profession, as did Mr. Seward, is in itself an unerring indication of the high character of the object of these remarks. In all our courts, and in causes of every description, his talents have been exercised and admired. He has stood forward and distinguished himself with such men as John C. Spencer, Joshua A. Spencer, Albert H. Tracy, and their contemporaries of the West, for whom competition if not pre-eminence may be challenged with the Athletes of the Bar in any other section of the State, or of the country. Property, liberty and life have been committed to the integrity and ability of this young man of thirty-three,' and he has never faltered in his trust, nor failed in an emergency, nor left unfulfilled an expectation.”
His most formidable competitors at the Auburn Bar during the commencement of his practice, were Hon. John M. Hurlbut and William Brown, Esqs. Both these distinguished men were accom plished scholars, erudite jurists and powerful advocates.
At this time they were in the dazzling flush of professional success. The brilliancy of their fame threw most of their rivals into the shade. Many excellent members of the bar had been deterred by their eminence from attempting to vie with them in the courts. But upon a man like Mr. Seward their influence was of a contrary nature. Their intellectual predominance only aroused his emulalation; nor did he suffer by the comparison. Possessing a native independence of mind, he was early accustomed to original thought. This habit was strengthened by severe discipline. Attaching a due value to the suggestions of others, he still relied upon himself. Connected with this trait of character, was a rigid habit of indus