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filing around their annals all that is honorable or elevated in the character of man. Fame passes unheeded by the solitude of virtue, and to blazon the profligacy of despotism, or the worthlesness of legitimacy, it sinks into insignificance the more simple characteristics of private patriotism, or degrades the more elevated distinctions of laborious merit. The history of the bar is known but to the curious student, and though society is, in a great measure, dependent on it for much of its happiness and prosperity, the fame of its sons is heard but in the reminiscences of friendship, or in the rude annals of tradition. The autobiography of Judge Pendleton is the emphatic history of the labors, the difficulties, and the proud though silent triumphs of the bar. It breathes an indomitable spirit, alike of labor and contentment, dignity and humility. His youth was depressed by poverty, and his genius unaided by education, yet the inherent energy of his character taught bim to be the architect of his own fortune. He sought wisdom amid the oppressions of poverty with an earnestness which no difficulty could abate — no asperity subdue. This memoir offers an eloquent commentary on the force of our republican institutions, and holds out an encouraging example to genius, industry and perseverance.
I was born September 9, 1721 : my father died some time before. In February, 1734–5, I was bound apprentice to Col. Benjamin Robinson, Clerk of Caroline Court. In 1737 I was made Clerk of the Vestry of St. Mary's Parish in Caroline ; with the profits I purchased a few books and read them very diligently. In 1740 I was made Clerk of Caroline Court Martial. In April, 1741, with my master's consent, I was licensed to practise law as an attorney, being strictly examined by Mr. Barradall. January 21, 1741, I was married to Betty, the daughter of Mr. Roy, against my friends' consent, as also my master's, who nevertheless still continued his affection to me. My wise died November 17, 1742. I was married a second time, the 20th January, 1745, to Sarah, the daughter of Mr. Joseph Pollard, who was born the 4:h of May, 1725. I practised my profession with great approbation and success, more from my own good fortune and the kind direction of providence, than my own merit; and in October, 1745, my reputation at the County Courts prompted me to make an effort at the General Court, in which I continued till 1774, when the dispute with Great Britain commenced. In November, 1751, ! VOL. IX.-NO. XVII.
was sworn a Justice of the peace for Caroline, and continued to November, 1771. In January, 1752, I was elected a burgess for do. I was continued one of the representatives of Caroline without interruption till 1774, at which time I presided in Caroline Court, and was County Lieutenant. In June of that year news arrived of the inimical designs of Parliament against the town of Boston; on which account the assembly voted a fast, and were dissolved by government. A number of members stayed in Williamsburg to keep the fast, when news arrived of the Boston Port Bill, when they collected and recommended to the people to choose members for Convention to meet in August. I was chosen a member to that Convention, who voted the utility of a General Congress of the States to meet in Philadelphia the first of September. I was chosen and attended that Congress, and a second in May, 1775. In August, 1775, I was appointed president of the committee of safety, and in December following president of the Convention on the death of Mr. Randolph, and re-chosen president of the new one in May, 1776. In October, 1776, I was elected to the chair of the House of Delegates, who sat under the new constitution. In March, 1777, by a fall from my horse, I had my hip dislocated, and have been unable to walk ever since, except on crutches; however the good people of Caroline the next month chose me a delegate in hopes of my recovery; but I could not attend in May session, and another speaker was appointed; in which however I was bighly honored by all the candidates, having promised 10 resign the chair, when I should come. I attended on crutches, in the October session, but meant then to take leave of all public business and return; but the General Court and Court of Chancery being established, I was prevailed on by some worthy members to consent to be nominated as Chancery Judge, in which I was elected to the Presidency; and the whole three by an unanimous vote.
In 1779, when the Court of Appeals was organized, and made to consist of the Judges of the General Court, Chancery and Admiralty, the Chancellors were to have the first rank, and of course I presided in that court. In 1788, when a new arrangement was made of the Superior Courts and that of Appeals to consist of separate judges, I retained my rank in that court, and so may be considered as having now been fifteen years at the head of the judiciary department. In 1788 when a State Convention was to meet to consider of a new proposed plan of federal government, and all the officers of the State made eligible; my good old friends in Caroline again called me to their representation in convention, and that respectable body to preside over them, indulging me with sitting in all my official duties, usually performed standing. Thus without any classical education, without patrimony, without what is called the influence of family connexion, and without solicitation, I have attained the highest offices of my country.
I have often contemplated it as a rare and extraordinary instance, and pathetically exclaimed, “Not unto me, not unto me, O Lord, but unto thy name be the praise.' In his providence be was pleased to bestow on me a docile and unassuming mind, a retentive memory, a fondness for reading, a clear head, an upright beart, with a calm temper, benevolent to all, though particular in friendship but with few. And if I had uncommon merit in public business, it was that of superior diligence and attention. Under the regal government I was a whig in principle, considering it as designed for the good of society, and not for the aggrandizement of its officers, and influenced in my legislative and judicial character by that principle. When the dispute with Great Britain began, a redress of grievances, and not a revolution of government, was my wish. In this I was firm but temperate; and whilst I was endeavoring to raise the spirits of the timid to a general united opposition, by stating to the uninformed the real merits of the dispute, I opposed and endeavored to moderate the violent and fiery, who were for plunging us into rash measures, and had the happiness to find a majority of all the public bodies confirming my sentiments ; which, I believe, was the corner-stone of our success. Although I so long and to so high a degree experienced the favor of my country, I had always some enemies - few indeed; and I had the consolation to believe that their enmity was unprovoked, as I was ever unable to guess the cause, unless it was my refusing to go all lengths with thern as their partisan. July 20, 1793.
EDMUND PENDLETON.' Judge Pendleton died at the advanced age of eighty-two, in
Communicated to the Political Arena,' by the late G. M., Esq., and originally published in that paper in the year 1828.
the full enjoyment of his mental faculties and almost literally in the discharge of his judicial duties.
In his legislative character he acquired the confidence of all parties and generally ensured success alike by his wisdom and address. Mr. Jefferson, who was associated with him in those conventions which framed our government, has left a beautiful and affectionate testimonial to the intelligence and virtue of Mr. Pendleton. "Taken all in all he (Mr. P.) was the ablest man in debate I ever met with. He had not indeed the poetical fancy of Mr. Henry — his sublime imagination, his lofty and overwhelming diction; but he was cool, smooth, and persuasivehis language flowing, chaste, and embellished ; his conceptions quick, acute, and full of resources.
Add to this he was one of the most virtuous and benevolent of men, the kindest friend, the most amiable and pleasant of companions, which ensured a favorable reception to whatever came from him.'1
Mr. Pendleton's profound knowledge and constant study of the law of England had given to his opinions much of bigoted attachment, and, though he lived in an age of reformation, he was opposed to any innovation on that Gothic pile of reason, superstition, and incongruous custom, which received its first attack from the rebellion of the colonies. He opposed the abolition of entails, and earnestly deprecated any change in the equity system. A long life of piety lent a deepened coloring to the zeal and fervor of his attachment to the established church. His devotion blinded him to the necessary policy of its abolition, and he resisted, with a spirited warmth, far beyond the habitual mildness of his life, all attacks either against her interest or character. Though unsuccessful in his opposition to reformalion, none obeyed with more fidelity than Mr. Pendleton the laws which its spirit created.
As one of the acting committee to frame a code of laws for the State, Mr. Pendleton was associated with Mr. Jefferson
Jefferson's Memoirs, vol. 1, 30. 2 In the bill for the organization of the Chancery Court, the trial by jury of all matters of law and fact formed a prominent feature. Mr. Pendleton defeated this provision by the successful introduction of four words — if either party choose. No party dares distrust the tribunal, and juries are but rarely impannelled except at the instance of the chancellor.
and Mr. Wythe, afterwards chancellor. In the debate on the model of the proposed work, Mr. Pendleton advocated the system of Justinian and Bracton, or the more diffuse compilation of Blackstone. It is to be regretted that his colleagues overruled this plan, dreading its great labor and comprehensive research. In the distribution of the several labors of the committee, the Virginia statute law was assigned to Mr. Pendleton, and in digesting its discordant chaos he has evinced his copious erudition, and the inherent benevolence of his character.
The records of the several Virginia conventions are graced by the wisdom, liberality, and intrepidity of his resolutions, and they bear many testimonies to his virtue and patriotism. The convention of 1775 being about to appoint delegates to represent the colony in general congress, Mr. Pendleton expressed' his most grateful acknowledgements for the honor conferred on him in two former appointments to that important trust, and entreated, on account of his declining health, to be excused.
His excuse being accepted, after a vote of thanks, it was unanimously resolved that his future services of a like nature be dispensed with only on account of the infirm state of his health.'
Retiring from legislative life, he was called by the confidence of the people, truly expressed by the unanimous voice of the legislature, to the bench. As President of the Supreme Court of Appeals he was chiefly instrumental in giving a tone of simplicity, dignity, and activity to the proceedings of that body. His opinions on the doctrine of wills, limitation of estates, and most of the more abstruse branches of law, are characterized by an absence of all legal pedantry, and, by their profundity, simplicity, and wisdom, they have to this hour a powerful influence upon the jurisprudence of the State. The rugged mass of precedent, dicta, and statutes, sprung, under the force and originality, the variety and elegance of his intellect, into spirit, beauty, and harmony. A genius bold, vivid, and energetic — a fancy softened into captivating chastity — and a mind lofty in conception and vigorous in action, were some of the characteristics of this wonderful man. Copious, yet logical, sententious, yet lucid, he sought no sparkling metaphor, no meretricious pageantry of style. His mind shuddered at no labor, recoiled at no investi
| Vide Journal of that body, p. 14.