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BEING CRIMINAL CASES DECIDED
The High Court of Errors and Ippeals,
AND IN THE
THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI;
From the June Term 1818 to the First Monday in January 1872, inclusive.
EXPLANATORY NOTES OF ENGLISH AND AMERICAN DECISIONS AND
BY J. S. MORRIS,
ATTORNEY GENERAL OF MISSISSIPPI.
IN TWO VOLUMES.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1872, by
JOSHUA S. MORRIS,
::::: HOSFORD & BONS, STATIONERS AND PRINTERS,
SEARGENT SMITH PRENTISS.
MR. PRENTISS, whose portrait adorns this volume, was born at Portland, Maine, September 30, 1808, and died at Natchez, Missis. sippi, July 1, 1850.
His father, William Prentiss, and his mother, whose maiden name was Mary Lewis, were both descended from pilgrim stock. Their son, of whom we speak, from the effects of a violent fever in his infancy, became an incurable cripple, a circumstance which induced in the minds of his parents and family a special solicitude in his behalf.
His education was commenced at Gorham Academy in his native State, under the tutorage of Rev. Reuben Nason, a ripe scholar and most exemplary gentleman. At the age of fifteen years he entered Bowdoin College, where he graduated and commenced the study of law. And though, throughout his boyhood, he had been delicate as a girl, and rendered apparently still more so by the infirmity we have named, he early ripened into a robust and lion-chested man, than whom the rugged hemlocks of his native shores were scarcely more hardy.
His parents were in comparatively moderate circumstances and he of ambitious and self-reliant character. At the age of nineteen years he left the endearments of home and turned his face toward the Southwest, resolved to seek fortune and fame among this generous and warm-hearted people.
In 1827 he arrived at Natchez, and was soon afterward employed as a private teacher in the family of the Hon. Judge Shields, then recently deceased. In this position he had the advantages of refined and Christian society, and the use of an excellent law and miscellaneous library. To these circumstances of his situation at this period of his life he always attributed much of his success in after years,
and be ever alluded to the noble woman who was thus his early benefactress in terms of the warmest esteem and gratitude.
In the winter of 1828.9 he abandoned the life of a schoolmaster, entered the law office of the celebrated Robert J. Walker at Natchez, and devoted all his energies to the study of law. In the June following, alone, on horseback, he made his way across the country about one hundred miles to Monticello, where the Supreme Court of the State was then in session, and there applied for and obtained an examination as to his qualifications and a license to practice law. Returning to Natchez, he was taken into partnership in practice with General Felix Huston, at that time one of the most distinguished lawyers of the State. And it was then immediately discovered that the few years he had devoted to legal study had been years of noble and splendid achievement. Twenty-one years afterward, when the grave had just closed over his honored remains, his friend and kindred spirit, Joseph J. Brennan, himself a lofty and dazzling genius, alluding to the advent of young Prentiss as an advocate, said: “A weak and debilitated boy, with gentle lisp, and supported by a sustaining cane, was soon seen stealing away the technical hearts of stern judges, or weaving seductive tales in the honest ears of sworn jurymen. Resistless as the penetrating breeze, his juvenile eloquence searched every avenue of thought and feeling. The classic page and the varied mass of modern literature were conveniently stored away in the massive caverns of his broad and fertile intellect. A close train of didactic reasoning on the most abstruse legal topics, was lit up with the pyrotechnic fires of fancy. The most ordinary incidents of life, the merest common places, were caught on the wings of his imagina
and blended and effectively commingled in his illustrative ora tory with the boldest and most gorgeous metaphors."
This was no exaggeration. It rather falls far short of the simple truth. Stepping almost immediately from the log school-house to the arena of the courts, the youthful adventurer, without money, without friends and without influence, forced even the Nestors of the bar to yield to him the highest place in the very front ranks of their noble profession. With him there were no intermediate stages of experience, so memorable in the lives of all other great advocates. He sprang, full armed, like the goddess from the head of Jove, into the conflict and, apparently without a struggle, to victory and the most splendid triumph of his profession.
From the hour of his debut, his fame as an orator, as a logician and