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The death of the Hon. Jeremiah Mason, one of the most eminent members of the legal profession in the United States, took place at Boston, on the 14th of October, 1849. At a meeting of the Bar of the County of Suffolk, Mass., held on the 17th instant, appropriate resolutions in honor of the deceased, accompanied with a few eloquent observations, were introduced by Mr. Choate, and unanimously adopted. It was voted by the meeting, that Mr. Webster should be requested to present these resolutions to the Supreme Judicial Court at its next term in Boston.
In compliance with this request, at the opening of the next term of the court, on the 14th of November, 1848, prayer having been offered, Mr. Webster rose and spoke as follows:
May it please your Honors, — JEREMIAH Mason, one of the counsellors of this court, departed this life on the 14th of October, at his residence in this city. The death of one of its members, so highly respected, so much admired and venerated, could not fail to produce a striking impression upon the members of this bar; and a meeting was immediately called, at which a member of this court, just on the eve of leaving the practice of his profession for a seat on the bench,* presided; and resolutions expressive of the sense entertained by the bar of the high character of the deceased, and of sincere condolence with those whom his loss touched more nearly, were moved by one of his distinguished brethren, and adopted with entire unanimity. My brethren have appointed me to the honorable duty of presenting these resolutions to this court; and it is in discharge of that duty that I rise to address you, and pray that the resolutions which I hold in my hand may be read by the clerk.
Mr. Justice Richard Fletcher.
The dea iz: bers of the en on the 14th of Cae of Suffolk, Mass.. honor of the decess were introduced iv E by the meeting, that resolutions d the Son
In compliance w the court on the 145 Mr. Webster rose anc
vasion (continued Mr. Webster) uctance, to refrain from the indul
which arise in my heart, upon the have cultivated a sincere, affection
from the day when I commenced 10) the closing hour of his life. I res which I have derived from his , all that Mr. Fox said of Edmund · say, that of my own professional whatever they may be, I owe much he discharge of my duties which I nine successive years, from day to
and arguments at the same bar. I must have been unintelligent, inmething from the constant displays
much occasion to see and to feel. Inty of the present moment to give character, and the qualities of his
be presented as an example to pursuing the same career. Four "V up a biography of himself,
n to the time of his re. interesting, not only hich the habits of
The clerk of the court then read the resolutions, as follows:
“ Resolved, That the members of this bar have heard with profound emotion of the decease of the Honorable Jeremiah Mason, one of the most eminent and distinguished of the great men who have ever adorned this profession; and, as well in discharge of a public duty, as in obe. dience to the dictates of our private feelings, we think it proper to mark this occasion by some attempt to record our estimate of his preëminent abilities and high character.
“ Resolved, That the public character and services of Mr. Mason demand prominent commemoration ; that, throughout his long life, whether as a private person or in public place, he maintained a wide and various intercourse with public men, and cherished a constant and deep interest in public affairs, and by his vast practical wisdom and sagacity, the fruit of extraordinary intellectual endowments, matured thought, and profound observation, and by the soundness of his opinions and the comprehensiveness and elevated tone of his politics, he exerted at all times a great and most salutary influence upon the sentiments and policy of the community and the country; and that, as a Senator in the Congress of the United States during a period of many years, and in a crisis of affairs which demanded the wisdom of the wisest and the civil virtues of the best, he was distinguished among the most eminent men of his country for ability in debate, for attention to all the duties of his great trust, for moderation, for prudence, for fidelity to the obligations of that party connection to which he was attached, for fidelity still more conspicuous and still more admirable to the higher obligations of a thoughtful and enlarged patriotism.
“ Resolved, That it was the privilege of Mr. Mason to come to the bar, when the jurisprudence of New England was yet in its infancy; that he brought to its cultivation great general ability, and a practical sagacity, logical power, and patient research, - constituting altogether a legal genius, rarely if ever surpassed ; that it was greatly through his influence that the growing wants of a prosperous State were met and satisfied by a system of common law at once flexible and certain, de. duced by the highest human wisdom from the actual wants of the com. munity, logically correct, and practically useful; that in the fact that the State of New Hampshire now possesses such a system of law, whose gladsome light has shone on other States, are seen both the product and the monument of his labors, less conspicuous, but not less real, than if embodied in codes and institutes bearing his name ; yet that, bred as he was to the common law, his great powers, opened and liberalized by its study and practice, enabled him to grasp readily, and wield with entire ease, those systems of equity, applicable to the transactions of the
land or the sea, which, in recent times, have so much meliorated and improved the administration of justice in our country.
“ Resolved, That as respects his practice as a counsellor and advocate at this bar, we would record our sense of his integrity, prudence, fidelity, depth of learning, knowledge of men and affairs, and great powers of persuading kindred minds; and we know well, that, when he died, there was extinguished one of the few great lights of the old common law.
“ Resolved, That Mr. Webster be requested to present these resolutions to the Supreme Judicial Court, at its next term, in Boston ; and the District Attorney of the United States be requested to present them to the Circuit Court of the United States now in session.
“ Resolved, That the Secretary communicate to the family of Mr. Mason a copy of these resolutions, together with the respectful sympathy of the bar.”
The proprieties of this occasion (continued Mr. Webster) compel me, with whatever reluctance, to refrain from the indulgence of the personal feelings which arise in my heart, upon the death of one with whom I have cultivated a sincere, affectionate, and unbroken friendship, from the day when I commenced my own professional career, to the closing hour of his life. I will not say, of the advantages which I have derived from his intercourse and conversation, all that Mr. Fox said of Edmund Burke; but I am bound to say, that of my own professional discipline and attainments, whatever they may be, I owe much to that close attention to the discharge of my duties which I was compelled to pay, for nine successive years, from day to day, by Mr. Mason's efforts and arguments at the same bar. Fas est ab hoste doceri; and I must have been unintelligent, indeed, not to have learned something from the constant displays of that power which I had so much occasion to see and to feel.
It is the more appropriate duty of the present moment to give some short notice of his life, character, and the qualities of his mind and heart, so that he may be presented as an example to those who are entering upon or pursuing the same career. Four or five years ago, Mr. Mason drew up a biography of himself, from the earliest period of his recollection to the time of his removal to Portsmouth, in 1797; which is interesting, not only for the information it gives of the mode in which the habits of his life were formed, but also for the manner of its composition.