Reminiscences and Anecdotes of Daniel Webster

By Peter Harvey | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV.
AT THE BAR. -- CONTINUED

MR. WEBSTER, in reflecting upon his qualities as a lawyer, was convinced that they did not lie in the direction of the bench. His talents, he saw, were less judicial than forensic. He wrote to a friend,1 in 1840, as follows: "For my own part, I could never be a judge. There never was a time when I would have taken the office of chief justice of the United States, or any other judicial station. I believe the truth may be that I have mixed so much study of politics with my study of law, that, though I have some respect for myself as an advocate, and some estimate of my knowledge of general principles, yet I am not confident of possessing all the accuracy and precision of knowledge which the bench requires."

His main strength as a lawyer, indeed, rested upon his "knowledge of general principles." He read books in early life, and treasured in his mind the great maxims of the law and the famous decisions which largely control and direct practice at the bar. In later years he seldom consulted authorities. After his judgment had been ma-

____________________
1
Mr. Ketchum.

-79-

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