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[TO John Adams]
DEAR SIR :
There are not in the profession many gentlemen inhabit ing this town whose characters are remarkably formidable from their respectability. Mr. Sullivan does more business I suppose than any four others put together. I shall care fully remember the cautions in one of your letters respect ing him ; whatever other qualities he may possess, he may safely be taken as a model for industry and activity. "I believe," said Parson Clarke to [me] the other day "that man has not a particle of indolence in his nature." He treats me civilly, and it is all I wish. I have derived even some instruction from his private conversation as well as from his arguments at the bar, and the other day he gave me a caution, which made a singular impression upon my mind. I was sitting next to him within the bar at Concord. He took from his finger a ring, and pointed to me the motto engraved within the rim. It was "Weigh the Consequences." Fas est et ab hoste doceri. Perhaps the benefit of the ad monition may not be lost in its influence upon my conduct towards the man himself. I have no desire to render my self personally obnoxious to him, and I trust I shall always disdain to court his favor.
Mr. Tudor l is an ingenious, amiable, indolent man, who will always make a respectable figure in society, but who has not activity or application enough ever to arrive to the foremost rank of eminence in his profession. Your personal acquaintance with him has made his character better known to you than it is to me; my opinion of him has been formed from the information of persons more conversant with him, and confirmed in some measure by my own observation.
Mr. Dawes, in addition to a similar indolence of dis position, labors under the disadvantage of ill health ; he is supported by a very considerable weight of paternal influence, but his exertion has been blunted by the expectation of a large patrimonial property he married too young. To avoid an early matrimonial connection, was one of the principles which I think I have heard you say was recommended to you by Mr. Gridley. Happiness in life I am fully persuaded must be derived principally form domestic attachments ; but a foundation must be laid before the superstructure can be erected. I hope I am in no danger from this quarter.
Mr. Gore is one of those men whom Cardinal Richelieu would have employed in public affairs. He is a very fortunate man. In his profession he has been remarkably successful ; from a combination of circumstances, which a man of inferior abilities to those he possesses might per haps have improved as well. The family connections have likewise been extremely serviceable to him ; and it is said that he has made an independent fortune by speculation in the public funds. I have heard it asserted that he is the richest lawyer in the Commonwealth.
Mr. Amory has also been successfully engaged in speculating upon public securities, as well as Mr. Wetmore and Mr. Otis. This employment does not appear to be very intimately connected with the profession. But these gentle men I am told have played at that hazardous game with monies deposited in their hands ; and have been enabled by the temporary possession of property belonging to foreigners, to become masters of sums to an equal amount before they have been called upon for payment. Amory is very attentive to his business, and has recommended him self by the expedition with which he performs that which is entrusted to him. He is a student too ; but I think confines his researches rather too much within the circle of mere professional information.
Otis appears to me to be advancing very rapidly to eminence. There is certainly no man in the town of the profession who unites so many of those qualities which are calculated to attract the popular attention. He has been but four years at the bar, yet excepting Sullivan, I believe there is no one here who has a greater proportion of business. But his ambition has no limits, and I strongly suspect that the honors of a public station have such allurements to his mind that he will catch with ardor at the first opportunity to become a public man. Such an opportunity will perhaps be presented to him before long, and if he should once get entangled in the political web, it may be presumed he will like most others find it inextricable. These are the persons who share among themselves the principal business which is done in this town. Mr. Lowell has a son, who was just sworn into court at the time of his appointment, and to whom he has conveniently left all his unfinished business. The young gentleman has talents, activity and application, with a great degree of confidence in himself; a quality which is not amiable, but which perhaps is very serviceable to him, in helping him forward. His peculiar advantages have given him an unusual share of business, for a person so lately admitted. He is rather disposed to attribute the circumstance to his superior abilities ; and expresses some contempt for persons less successful than himself, because depending solely upon their own characters. . . .
- John Quincy Adams