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SIR EDMUND SAUNDERS. ALTHOUGH we have hitherto in the few Biographical sketches we have given, confined ourselves to men of our own country, and near our own times, we have thought we might occasionally go back to earlier times and to other countries to furnish materials for this part of our miscellany, without departing from the general principle which we have adopted, to make this an American work. It is always interesting to see genius pressing forward towards the mark, for the prize of its high calling, in whatever age or nation it is witnessed. There is often an obscurity in the early life of many, whom the world itself has admired, that renders any attempt to trace their progress from their birth, and the gradual developement of their powers of mind, altogether fruitless and unsuccessful. The life of a man of genius is often like the path of a mete. or, luminous and splendid, while darkness conceals the mapper and source of its receiving the light that dazzles the eye of the beholder. Although we profess ourselves in the strictest sense of the word republicans in feeling and sentiment, yet we are compelled to acknowledge an aristocracy in the intellectual world. We have not time to give our reasons in full for the opinion we advance of the natural superiority of some minds over others, but since we find this relative superiority in every station and employment of life, we must be led to believe it is not altogether factitious, or the result of education. We have seen a printer's boy
receive the homage of the civilized world, and have listened with unmingled delight to the sweet strains of the Ayresbire Ploughman.
But we need not multiply examples ; the life of the subject of this article forcibly illustrates our remarks, and at the same time shows that even the profession of a lawyer is not incompatible with the developement of the powers of the mind, nor unfit for eliciting genius where it exists.
We perhaps ought to apologise for calling the attention to the life of one, of whom our own knowledge is, from necessity, extremely limited. Had every man his Boswell, the world would hardly contain the lives of the great men” it had produced. Unfortunately, however, the lives of many useful and valuable men are forgotten too early, even if the good of posterity is alone regarded.
If these few sketches of the life of Sir Edmund Saunders can have no other beneticial effect, they may serve to cheer the weary plodder after legal science on his way, who too often finds, that though the law is “ gloriously uncertain," it is far less uncertain than the rewards that await its votaries.
The origin of Sir Edmund Saunders is too obscure to be traced by the aid of any biography or history, with wbich we are acquainted. The time and place of his birth is, therefore, unknown. He was a beggar boy, and supposed to have been a parish foundling, and was ever ignorant who were his parents or relations. Yet from this origin he rose to be the Chief Justice of the King's Bench in England. When a bóy he was employed in Clement's Inn,* and in the language of the Biographer of Lord Guilford, “ found a way to live by obsequiousness, and courting the Attornies' clerks for scraps.” His promptness and diligence attracted the notice of the society of Clement's Inn, who undertook to assist him. They found him extremely anxious to learn to write, and one of the Attornies bad a board fixed at a window, at the top of a stair case, which served him for a desk, at which he wrote after copies with which the clerks furnished him. He soon became an expert writer, and executed for bire such writings as were brought him to do. He borrowed the forms made use of by the Attornies, and very soon became a very correct entering clerk. While thus employed, he embraced every opportunity that offered for improv
* Clement's Inn is one of the Inns of Chancery, and belongs to the Inner Temple. These Inns are places to which students resort to study law in London, and form together an university for the profession of Law, each being under its appropriate officers.
ing his mind, and patiently increasing his scanty stock of knowledge, until be at last became an eminent counsellor, and an excelleat special pleader.
It would be highly interesting to trace all the windings of the paths by which great men become eminent. But we know no more of the early progress of Sir Edmund than what we have related. It was through such embarrassing difficulties that he made his way at last to the bar, where his practice soon became equal to that of any practitioner at the King's Bench.
He was employed by the crown officers in drawing all difficult indictments and informations, and the pleadings upon the same. This was true particularly, in the case of the famous Quo Warranto against the city of London, which was instituted and prosecuted by King Charles II. in which he was encountered by the most distinguished and learned lawyers of the age.
His loyalty, great learning, and integrity, pointed him out as a proper candidate for the office of Chief Justice of King's Bench, to which he was appointed by Charles II. during the troublesome times of the latter part of that Monarch's reign. In this office he acquired a very high reputation, and discharged its duties to the great acceptance of all concerned.
Yet he attained this office without the aid of friends, or the influence of wealth, or personal prepossessions. He was always totally regardless of wealth, and in all his dealings was perfectly honest. He possessed a disposition distinguished for its kindness and generosity, and was truly a philanthropist.
But with all his fine qualities, his general course of life was far from regular or commendable. He used no bodily exercise, and his sottishness, from the use of brandy and beer, rendered him an object of disgust to every one. His person was corpulent, and but little better than a mass of morbid flesh. It is quaintly said of him that “those whose ill fortune it was to stand pear him, were confessors, and, in summer time, were almost martyrs.” He showed as little refinement in the selection of bis lodgings as in his course of life. These were in Butcher's row, at a Tailor's house, where by his profusion of money he became master of the family in more senses than one.
It may seem strange, that with so loathsome a person, and so little delicacy or refinement, he should be able to command so much business in the courts, and bave his society so much sought after. But his great skill in the management of causes, especially his
adroitness in special pleading, by which he often entrapped his superiors, secured to him a very extensive business, although the court often reprimanded bim severely for his irregularities of life, and his disposition to trick even the court itself.
His great charm, and that for which his society and conversation were chiefly sought, was his ever ready wit, and his never tiring good humor and vivacity.
His wit was of a low broad kind, but irresistible in its effect. He never took offence at the complaints with which he was often assailed of the intolerable effluria from his person, but always met the complaint with a jest, and turned the reproof into laughter by his wit. He was a bachelor, “but, by my treggs," said he, “00 one can say that I have no issue, for I have got nine already on my back.” With such low wit he was ever ready, and when in the Temple, he never moved without a number of young men around him, with whom he jested and made himself merry. He was always ready to encourage the students, and younger members of the profession, by his advice and conversation.
" He was,” says the writer before quoted, “a very Silenus to the students of the law. . He would stand, hours together, before the court sai, with an audience of students over against him, putting cases to them, and arguing and debating with each according to his capacity, in order to encourage their industry."
His wit, like a cloak of charity, covered a multitude of his sins in the eyes of his cotemporaries. When pressed upon a subject of politics, with wbich he never seems to have meddled, he met the attack with his ready jest, and overcame all difficulties with the same weapon. Once, when in the employment of the crown officers, he was invited to dine with the Lord Chancellor, and accordingly went. After dinner he sat down to a harpsichord and played several "jigs," to the no small surprise and amusement of the company, both on account of his playing at all, and of his grotesque appearance white seated on a music stool before such an instrument.
After his appointment to the King's Bench, he was obliged to change his irregular course of life somewhat, which, together with the incessant press of business, and a change in his diet and exercise, soon brought on a palsy, and an attack of the apoplexy, from which he never recovered. He survived till after the final judgment in the Quo Warranto case, which was decided in 1683; but the precise period of bis death we have not been able to ascertain. As he lived a bachelor he left no heirs at his death.
He was the author of two volumes of valuable reports, especially as authorities on that part of the law in which he so much excelled-special pleading. They are evidently the work of a very learned, accurate, and withal honest lawyer, and occasionally exbibit that peculiar frankness and good humor that marked his character. In one of the reported cases, he was counsel for one of the parties, and was laboring a point before the court, wben, says he, “ Twysden, Justice, interrupted Saunders, and said to him, what makes yon labor so? the court is of your opinion and the matter is clear." This Twysden seems to have been something of a testy judge: Saunders speaks of his differing from the other judges in opinion on one case, and that he opposed them stotis viribis," (with all his might.) In another case, wherein Saunders was counsel for the Plaintiff, judgment was given against him. There were, however, several strong points in the case wbich he omitted. "These matters," says he in his reports, "were not moved through the forgetfulness of the plaintiff's counsel, which he thought a great fault in himself afterwards”—a confession which few practitioners would wish to put in print against themselves. But we will not multiply these specimens of his manner of telling all about the case. They illustrate that openness of character and freedom from disguise which were so remarkable in his life. We
may be thought to have dwelt too long upon the character of Sir Edmund Saunders. But we cannot think even tbis sketch will be entirely destitute of interest, or without its good effect, since it is the memoir of one, who, from the depths of poverty and want, attained to one of the highest stations of honor under the British crown, and this, by his own force of character, without the aid of wealth or family, or the patronage of the great.
SELECTIONS FROM RARE AND CURIOUS OLD WORKS, From William Wood's “ New England's Prospect : being a true, lively, and experimental description of that part of America, commonly called New England, discovering the state of that country both as it stands to our new come English Planters, and to the old native Inhabitants; and laying down that which may both enrich the knowledge of the mind travelling Reader, or benefit the future Voyager.” London, printed, 1639. Boston, reprinted, 1764. OF THE SEASONS OF THE YEAR, WINTER AND SUMMER, TOGETHER WITH THE
HEAT, COLD, SNOW, RAIN, AND THE EFFECTS OF IT. For that part of the country wherein most of the English have their babitation; it is, for certain, the best ground and sweetest climate in all these parts, bearing the name of New England, agree