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on the 22d of October, 1828, in Hempstead County. This title was transferred by Bowie, in December, 1828, to John Stewart, who was an innocent purchaser for value. By virtue of this transfer, Stewart filed with the registrar of the land-office at Little Rock an application for the land, which was admitted by the registrar on the 13th of December, 1828.
Matters rested thus till the April term of 1830, when the district attorney filed a bill of review against Sampeyreac, setting out that the whole foundation of the title was based upon a fiction, fraud, and perjury. A pro confesso was taken against Sampeyreac for the simple reason that he was non est inventus (because in truth he had never been invented), but before the decree was entered Stewart was allowed to intervene; it was not charged or pretended that he had anything whatever to do with the fraud. The court annulled the former decree, and thus Stewart lost his land, February 7, 1831. From this decree Stewart appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States.
From the above abstract it will be perceived that
“Ways that are dark And tricks that are vain"
are not peculiar to the “heathen Chinee.” Prentiss and White were for the appellants, Fulton and Taney for the United States.
The reader of the legal profession can see a full report of this remarkable case in 7 Peters, 222. He can there read Prentiss's brief, which exhibits profound research and shows how every available point was made to serve his client's cause. Instead of being in a state of trepidation before that august tribunal, he appeared perfectly self-possessed, without being pretentious; he felt conscious of his powers, and was thoroughly prepared on all points as to law and facts; he vivified the skeleton by the matchless powers of his oratory, and for three hours entranced that grave body of men by the witchery of his eloquence. Even the venerable Chief Justice Marshall, who had been accustomed to listen to Pinckney, Wirt, Webster, Clay, and other legal giants of the day, was entranced by Prentiss's unique style of argument,
and expressed his encomiums upon this maiden effort of the young counsellor.
In spite of Prentiss's great effort, however, the law and the facts were too strong against him. It is one of the curses of fraud that, like the breath of the upas, it destroys the innocent as well as the guilty perpetrator. The well-laid scheme of years before, the creation of a fraudulent fiction, had put money into the pockets of the creators, but the putrid bubble finally burst, and the loss fell upon the honest and innocent victim of the fraud.
Although the case was lost, the trip to Washington was of decided advantage to Prentiss,-it enlarged his acquaintance with men, and, like a rara avis in terris, he was one who, once seen, could not easily be forgotten.
It is interesting to read in the “ Memoirs” his opinions of the men and the things he saw in “ the great metropolis”:
“Pyramids to ant-hills dwindled,
And giants down to pigmies."
He was disappointed, — with some shining exceptions,-in a general way, at the mental calibre of the then esteemed great men of the country; this may have been owing to the fact that he was, as yet, unconscious of his own intellectual stature.
It was there that he for the first time met with the three great statesmen who, historically at least, like the three stars in Orion's belt, still glitter the brightest in our political constellation. Prentiss seemed to fall more especially under the personal magnetism of Clay; and, with the fidelity of Bertrand to the Emperor Napoleon, he ever afterward clung to him with an unswerving faith through all his checkered political career.
In some respects Clay and Prentiss were not unlike: both were profound lawyers; both were gifted with a courage that never quailed before mortal man; neither ever
“ Crooked the pregnant hinges of the knee
That thrist might follow fawning ;''
neither ever bowed to the popular breeze when they thought it wrong, but each followed his conviction, though it might lead to martyrdom ; and each bad acquired a wonderful faculty for
extempore debate, and could sway a multitude as the wind sways the sea. They were alike, too, in their faults and foibles; like the British statesman, Charles Fox, each had a passion for the gaming-table, then (I know not how it is now) so venial at the capital. These faults and foibles in both were so hidden by their splendid qualities of heart and head that, like the spots in the sun, they were absorbed in the general brilliancy.
It was then, too, that Prentiss first met with President Andrew Jackson, and, as an illustration of how apt young men are to be mistaken in their estimate of men when prejudiced against them, I give an extract from a letter of his to his sister:
"I visited the White House with one of the Senators from Mississippi, and was introduced by him to the President, with whom we chatted about fifteen minutes. General Jackson is an old-looking man, and answers very well to the prints you see of him in the shops. I think him about as fit to be President as I am; but I ought not to talk so, for, for aught I know to the contrary, you and A. may, both of you, le Jackson men, and then I've got myself into a pretty scrape."
The above shows how wofully he underestimated the powers of that great man ; he afterward modified his opinions about him, but never coincided with him politically.
He left Washington City, and reached home about the last of March, 1833. He continued without a partner till August of that year, when he formed a partnership with John I. Guion, one of the most talented men ever born in the State of Mississippi. Congenial in tastes, and nearly equal in talents and education, the association of their early manhood cemented into a friendship which grew stronger as time wore on. Their names are indissolubly linked together in the causes célèbres of our State.
Those were the days of the rollicking circuit-riders. It will be borne in mind we had then no railroads. While the High Court was, so to speak, a fixed star at the capital, the other courts were held seriatim in the various counties composing the district. The first district at that date was composed of Adams, Jefferson, Claiborne, Warren, and Washington, all river counties; the second, of Hinds, Rankin, Madison, Yazoo, Holmes, and Carroll. Lawyers, therefore, to attend these courts, radiating from Vicksburg, had to travel (always on horseback) hundreds of miles into the interior. They would generally start together, armed with briefs and baggage in their saddle-bags. They were almost all in the heyday of young manhood and brimful of enthusiasm, and, not unfrequently, of ardent spirits.
Although Prentiss, from his physical infirmity, was a poor walker, he was an untiring rider, and fairly revelled in it. It was on these legal raids that he would pour out in profusion his fund of anecdote, wit, poetry, pathos, raillery, badinage, and, sometimes, deep philosophy.
Arrived at their destination, where the accommodations were often primitive and the fare plain, the fraternity would be huddled together by twos, threes, and sometimes half a dozen, in one room. The days were spent in legal combats in court, the nights in jocularity. Notwithstanding that the labors of the circuitrider were heavy, Prentiss always seemed to thrive upon them. Card-playing was the most usual relaxation, sometimes for mere fun and sometimes for deeper stakes.
I have said that the circuit-riders generally went in troops, but on one occasion it so happened that Prentiss got caught, out on a circuit, alone at a little house between two creeks during a freshet, therefore he could neither retreat nor advance, and there were no books or papers with which he could while away the time; he consequently became very restless, but in looking around he noticed that the clock upon the mantel did not run on tick, but was dumb,-here was a chance for something to do. He called the landlady.
“Madame," said he, “is your clock out of order ?”
“Well, how can you expect to repair my clock? No, sir, you mustn't touch it."
“Well, madame, what'll you take for it ?”!
“Well, I suppose it's worth a five; you can have it for that anyhow."
Prentiss closed the bargain at once, paid the money and took down his treasure. He took it all to pieces, cleaned every part and nicely oiled them, then, strange to say, put them together again just as deftly as a clock-maker could have done. The thing started into new life and kept as good time as ever.
The question arose, what was he to do with his property when he left? It was “an elephant”; it could not run in his saddlebags while it was trotting on horseback! He had no idea, however, of transporting his “elephant.” Just as he was leaving, the hostess asked,
“What are you going to do with your clock ?” “I'll make you a present of it,” said Prentiss. “Oh, but you paid me for it.”
“That makes no difference.” He had killed time in starting it, and that was all he wanted.
And so the extempore “Yankee clock-maker,” who years before had tried his 'prentice hand on the watch at“Rokeby,” left, amidst the profuse thanks of the landlady for his kindness and liberality. She little knew what a distinguished man had honored her humble dwelling, nor do I know that she ever discovered the fact; if so, and these pages should ever meet the eye of herself or of any of her descendants, I should very much like to know if that old clock still marks the foot-falls of Time as he steps along our earth.
He was always a most delightful companion and admirable at repartee. He was like an electrified body: whoever touched him in a witty sparring bout received the shock with the spark. When I was a small boy I witnessed an illustration of this at Brandywine Springs, in Claiborne County. Prentiss was playing billiards with a young man of perfect physical form; straight as an Indian, he was tall, graceful, and athletic; just as he had made a lucky hit and was walking around the table to follow up the blow, he remarked, sarcastically, “No man on such a pair of legs as you've got can beat me at billiards.” Without a moment's hesitation Prentiss retorted, as he limped around the table, “ It is a marve! to me, sir, why God Almighty should