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The Life of Gouverneur Morris

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patient in research, he was not discouraged by the technicalities, dry details, and multitude of forms, which block up the entrance to the temple of legal fame, and which appear so formidable to the uninitiated; on the contrary, he set himself resolutely at work to make his way through them by dint of perseverance and labor; and if we may put any faith in tradition, and in such evidences as remain on record, as well as the declaration of some of his living associates, his success was adequate to his determination and industry. He prosecuted his studies of the law under the direction of William Smith, the historian of New York, at that time an eminent lawyer, and afterwards Chief Justice of the province. A close intimacy had subsisted for many years between Mr. Smith and his family, and the effects of this friendship the young student seems fully to have participated.

While yet a novitiate in the studies of his adopted profession, he took his master's degree in the college, and the task again devolved upon him to make a new exhibition of his talents in another oration. The character of this performance is much like that of the first, tinged with youthful extravagance, dealing in superlatives, breathing soft strains of sentiment, and scattering flowers and fragrance with a prodigal liberality, yet there is at bottom a sound basis of thought, and throughout the piece a texture of just conceptions and good sense, which raises it above the ordinary exercises of a youth not yet twenty. His subject was Love,' a very good theme, one might say, for a sonnet, or a few stanzas from a despairing swain, but an odd one for an oration before a grave and learned audience, assembled to witness a literary exhibition in a university.

Let it not be imagined, however, that he confines himself to any narrow technical sense of that magic word. He speaks of love as a principle, which pervades all things, separating the good from the evil, the bond of social union, the soul of friendship, the magnet of sympathy, and the bright and steady polestar of the moral world. Within this compass there is no


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From The Life of Gouverneur Morris: With Selections from His Correspondence and Miscellaneous Papers; Detailing Events in the American Revolution, The French Revolution, and in the Political History of the United States, by Jared Sparks, Volume 1, Boston: Gray & Bowen, 1832, p 11. Some minor edits may have been made, but an attempt has been made to preserve the original spelling. Although some effort has been made to correct the limitations of OCR technology, if you find an error please report it to jvinci@colonialhall.com.

 
 


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Last modified August 20, 2006