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ican Republic of this day honors the dem- obstacles in the beginning of life. In the agogue oftener than the statesman. West, especially, life is a battle with na
Yet there is nothing in the proper bus- ture and with circumstances. The careiness of the politician to prevent the purest ful culture of European civilization would and the best from entering upon its duties. unfit men for this fierce strife. The Taken in its largest sense—the Aristotelian plant, nurtured in the green-house by the Tohteia — politics affords, in theory, the careful tending of the gardener, having its noblest study, next to theology, to which roots constantly watered, and its growth the mind of man can turn itself; and it watched by the eye of anxious expectafurnishes, in practice, one of the grandest tion, may reach an earlier maturity, and and worthiest occupations of human life. gain a more delicate beauty ; but the sapTo study the laws of social order, which ling which knows no other tending than are the laws of God, and to apply them in the soil of nature, no other nursing than the government of the state, is a function that of the careless winds, and the free for which the most comprehensive talents showers, and the warm sunshine from and the loftiest virtue are only too inade- heaven, will strike a firmer root, and put quate. It is a sad omen for the state that forth a stronger and more enduring life. these great truths are lost sight of; and By eighteen years of age young M'Lean, that the administration of the government in spite of all difficulties, had gained a of this nation, and of the several states substantial English education, and a tolthat compose it, instead of being in the erable acquaintance with the ancient lanhands of the best men, is too often handed guages. Having determined to prepare over to the worst. On the other hand, himself for the law, he obtained a situation the history of the republic affords bright as writer in the county clerk's office at examples of virtue in high places, in suf- Cincinnati. By working at this clerkship ficient number to vindicate our doctrine part of each day he earned a support, and that the Christian life may be maintained pursued his legal studies in the remaining even by American politicians. Among hours, under the direction of Arthur St. the noblest of these examples is that af- Clair, Esq., an eminent counselor of forded by the life and character of the Cincinnati. subject of this sketch.
In 1807 he was admitted to the bar, and John M'LEAN was born in Morris entered upon the practice of the law at County, New Jersey, on the eleventh of Lebanon, Ohio. In the same year he was March, 1785. In 1789 his father determ- married to Miss Rebecca Edwards, of ined to remove to the Western country, South Carolina, a lady whose excellent and, after short residences in Virginia and qualities both of heart and head secured Kentucky, he finally settled in that part her the esteem of all who knew her, and of the Northwestern Territory now con who guided the affairs of Mr. M'Lean's stituting the State of Ohio.
household with discretion and wisdom for still occupies the farm first taken up by thirty-three years. She died in 1840. Mr his father.
M'Lean's talents and industry soon gained In that new country the means of edu- him a lucrative practice; and had he been cation were limited, nor was Mr. M'Lean, content to remain in private life he would who was rich in children, able to send doubtless have amassed great wealth in them from home to be taught. The young the regular pursuit of his profession. His John aided his father in the duties of the character for integrity was well estabfarm, and to these years of active labor lished, even before his conversion ; and he owes, in great part, the stalwart frame although he was inclined, for a few years and robust health which make him now, after entering the bar, to skeptical views at seventy-two, a model of manly vigor in with regard to religion, he maintained an old age. But his mind was too active, unstained reputation in the community. A even in boy hood, to allow him to go un new law, however, was given to his life by cultivated. His was one of those ener- the grace of God, under the ministry of the getic natures which are not only prompt to
venerable John Collins, whose memory is take opportunities, but to make them. It fragrant throughout the West as one of the is, perhaps, not surprising, that many of most eloquent and faithful of the pioneer the men who have reached the highest preachers of Methodism. The following aceminence in this country have conquered I count of his conversion is from the “Recol
lections of the Rev. G. W. Walker. Mr. years of great public agitation. The elCollins made an appointment to preach in a ements were gathering for the storm of private house in Lebanon. At the time war which burst forth in 1812; and the fixed the rooms were crowded, and many great questions of the time penetrated the persons had to stand about the doors. remotest nooks and corners of the counAmong these was young M’Lean, who try. Every man had to take sides upon stood where he could hear distinctly, the issue of “war with England," for or though, as he thought, unobserved by the against. Mr. M'Lean identified himself, minister, During the discourse, how- in the flush of his youth, with the Demoever, he fell under the notice of Mr. cratic party, and was an ardent supporter Collins's keen eye; and his prepossessing of Mr. Madison's war policy. and intelligent appearance attracted, at the In 1812 he was called upon to stand as first glance, the notice of the preacher.
the Democratic candidate for the repreHe paused a moment, and offered up a sentation of his district in the Congress of short prayer, mentally, for the immediate the United States, and was elected by a conversion of the young man. After Mr. very large majority. An extra session Collins resumed, the first word he uttered was summoned after the declaration of was “eternity.” That word was spoken war, and Mr. M'Lean then made his first with a voice so solemn and impressive appearance in Congress. Before the sesthat its full import was felt by Mr. sion was over he had made his mark. His M'Lean. All things besides seemed to first motion was for a bill to indemnify indibe nothing in comparison to it. He viduals for property lost or taken for the sought an acquaintance with Mr. Collins, public service during the war, and the bill and a short time after this accompanied afterward became a law. In the next sesbim to one of his appointments in the sion he introduced a pension law for the country, and, at the close of the sermon, benefit of the widows and orphans of sol. he remained in class to inquire “ what he diers falling in the service during the pendmust do to be saved.” On their return ing war. These measures of justice and behome, Mr. Collins told his young friend nevolence were characteristic of the man, that he had a request to make of him, and the vigor with which he pursued them which was reasonable, and he hoped added largely to his reputation; as did a would not be rejected. The request was, speech in defense of the conduct of the that he would read the New Testament war, delivered at the session. at least fifteen minutes every day till his Young as he was, he served on the two next visit. The promise was made and chief committees of Congress, Foreign strictly performed. At first, the young Affairs and the Public Lands. In 1814 man laid his watch on the table so as to he was re-elected to Congress by a unanbe exact as to the time, but the interest | imous vote, a thing then, as now, of rare in the Scriptures increased so that the occurrence. In 1815 he was solicited to time of reading was increased dayly. stand for the United States Senatorship After this a covenant was made by the from Ohio, but declined. In 1816 he parties to meet each other at the throne was unanimously elected, by the Legislaof grace at the setting of the sun.
ture of Ohio, to the post of Justice of the not long before Mr. M'Lean was happily Supreme Court of that state. He brought converted to God and united with the to the discharge of the judicial duty the Methodist Episcopal Church.
very highest and aptest qualities, incorFrom that day to this Mr. M'Lean's ruptible integrity, a gentle and patient life and conversation have " adorned the temper, and large professional attaindoctrine of God our Saviour.' His ments. During the six years in which he growth in the Christian graces has ap- held the office his reputation for virtue parently kept pace with his political ad- and talent was not only spread throughvancement. Amid the temptations of out every part of his own state, but very nearly half a century of public life he has widely beyond it. At the end of that never stained his garments ; not one word time he was called into the wider sphere has ever been breathed, even in the stern- of national service, in which, in one caest strife of political warfare, against his pacity or another, he has been ever since moral or religious character.
employed. The years from 1807 to 1812 were In 1822 he was appointed Commissioner
of the General Land Office at Washington During the whole of President Adams's by President Monroe; and in 1823 he administration, Judge M'Lean was well was made Postmaster General. There is known to be in favor of General Jackson, no more arduous or thankless post in the for whom, indeed, he had labored in 1824. government service than this ; and before The contest for the presidency in 1828 M'Lean's time the incumbents of the of- was one of great bitterness and violence fice, almost without exception, had failed of feeling; and then, for the first time, to secure the confidence of the public. was the doctrine openly avowed, that " to On these grounds his friends dissuaded the victors belong the spoils," and that him from accepting it; but, after due con- men should be appointed to public office sideration, he decided to undertake the on purely political grounds. Mr. M'Lean work, and, in accordance with the habit had always made the subordinate appointof his life, “ do his best in it." The re- ments in the post-office in view of the casult showed that he had not miscalculated pacity and integrity of the candidates ; his powers for administrative duty. Ev- and, indeed, it was not then even formerything in the office was out of order; ally a recommendation for such posts that the contracts were, to a large extent, in a man had distinguished himself as a vioinefficient and incompetent hands; the lent partisan; the only qualification which mail service was so irregular that no one now-a-days seems potent in securing place could trust it; in fact, the whole system and power. On General Jackson's acceswas in a state of disorganization. Judge sion in 1829 he requested Judge M'Lean M'Lean soon changed all this; incompe- to retain the office which he had filled tent functionaries were discharged; the with so much honor to himself and to the punctual fulfillment of contracts was de- government. But it was clear that a new manded and enforced ; the service of the view of political duty was to be the prevmails became, as far as the circumstances alent one, and that he could not longer of the country would allow, regular and retain the independence of character and trustworthy. The Postmaster General action that, from long habit, as well as was himself the soul of the organization ; from his moral constitution, had become and his habits of punctuality, order, and part of his nature. Mr. M'Lean had been, promptitude were soon infused into the and continued to be, a Democrat; but he subordinate functionaries. It is too long had never sacrificed his principles to his ago for the younger men of the present party. Here is the great danger of party generation to remember all this; but the spirit in this country; not in the combinasexagenarians will tell you, to this day, tion of men together, for that is essential that the post-office, under M'Lean's guid- to the accomplishment of great ends in a ance, was, for the times, all that could be free government; but in the despotic use demanded, even by an exacting public of the power which combination gives, to opinion. So strong was M'Lean's posi- control the very members of the party tion that President Adams, on his acces- itself, and that, too, in matters beyond the sion in 1825, did not dream of removing proper sphere of party activity. No man him; and, during the four years of that of self-respect and of religious character president's tenure, the Postmaster Gen- can submit to such a despotism as this. eral, though of opposite politics, com- A true man will not swear obedience to manded his entire confidence and esteem. the words or to the thoughts of any master The strongest possible proof of the repu- or of any party; he knows that he is tation of the judge at the time was af- bound, by every obligation of the law of forded by the debates in Congress on a God, by every noble attribute of his own proposition, made in 1827, to increase the moral nature, to exercise for himself the salary. of the Postmaster General from high powers of thought, decision, and selffour thousand to six thousand dollars. determination with which God has in. The bill passed both houses almost unan- vested him. No man capable of reflecimously ; and in the Senate the eccentric moral nature, evade the obligation to
tion at all can, without peril to his own Randolph, of Roanoke, declared “that the salary was intended for the officer, and think for himself; our individual responnot for the office ;" and that he would sibility cannot be shifted upon other men's “ vote for the bill if the salary was limited shoulders upon any plea of ecclesiastical or to M'Lean's tenure."
political necessity whatsoever.
and must, act with parties, both in Church and of nearer acquaintance with the spirit and state ; but every party that deserves and views of the framers of the Constituto exist must have a clear and well-de- tion, there is no man upon the present fined sphere of activity, and definite prin- bench to be compared with M'Lean. He ciples of action within that sphere. If is the sage of the Supreme Court. these principles are ours, we forfeit noth Of
law questions ing of manliness or virtue in acting with we are not competent to speak; but so the party; if they are not, to serve the far as we have learned the opinions of the party is to serve the devil.
legal fraternity, the reports contain no As Judge M'Lean had long abandoned decisions, especially in commercial law, the devil's service, he determined, in that are regarded as superior to his in 1828, to accept no public post that would point of clearness, method, and thorough make a sacrifice of his personal independ- knowledge of the principles of law. On ence in any way probable. After he had questions involving political relations, esrefused to retain the Post-office, General pecially those in which slavery is conJackson pressed him to accept first the cerned, his opinions have commanded the War Department, and then the Navy; public confidence, so far as their harmony but M'Lean was inflexible. It is said with the Constitution and laws of the that the old hero declared to one of his country are concerned, even when the friends, after three repeated refusals from public mind has been unsettled and M'Lean, that it was strange “the most agitated upon the questions themselves. honest man in the Democratic Party Judge M'Lean has always been known as should be the one least willing to serve an anti-slavery man; but his private views him." If the story is not true, it is at have never interfered with his sense of least well invented. But it was not the constitutional obligation in any case where intention of Divine Providence that the the legal rights of slaveholders were inservices of this “ honest man” should be volved. In several cases occurring under lost to the American government and peo- the Fugitive Slave Law his course upon ple. The very place for which he was the bench has been very unsatisfactory to best fitted, and in which his peculiar vir- the stronger class of abolitionists in the tues and talents could find the most con Northern States; but we have never heard, spicuous field, happened then to be open. even from that quarter, the slightest hint or There was a vacancy on the Supreme charge against the uprightness and integriBench, and Judge M’Lean was nominated ty of the judge himself. It is not too much to fill it by General Jackson three days to say that he has contributed, more than after his inauguration in 1829. The nom any of his present associates on the bench, ination was confirmed by the Senate, we to preserve in the public mind of the believe, unanimously.
American people that strong sense of reThe Supreme Court of the United spect for the Supreme Court, and of conStates is the highest judicial tribunal in fidence in the justice and purity of its the land ; and its powers are, perhaps, judges, which has been almost univermore extensive than those of any other sally cherished, throughout the land, up court in the world. Besides the ordinary to the recent decision in the Dred Scott questions of law, whether commercial, If the people have lost that revermarine, or international, that occupy the ence and confidence, it is not the fault of attention of the highest courts in other John M'Lean. lands, this tribunal has the great and per On the relation of slavery, in the states ilous function of deciding upon the con and territories, to the Constitution, Judge stitutionality of the laws of the several M'Lean retains the opinions of Washstates of the Union and of Congress itself, ington, Jefferson, Madison, and the memin any case of conflict between such en- bers generally of the Convention that actments and the Federal Constitution. framed the Constitution. They are emAt the time of Judge M'Lean's elevation bodied in the following extract from his to the Supreme Bench, the court was recent opinion in the “ Dred Scott” case: composed of Chief Justice Marshall and of Justices Story, Washington, Johnson,
“ Now if a slave absconds, he may be re
claimed ; and Duval; and of all these he alone sur
but if he accompany his master into
a state or territory where slavery is prohibited, vives. In point of experience, therefore, such slave cannot be said to have left the serv
ice of his master, where his services were le- tion in express terms recognizes the status galized. And if slavery be limited to the range of slavery as founded on the municipal law : of the territorial laws, how can the slave be “No person held to service or labor in one coerced to serve in a state or territory, not only state, under the laws thereof, escaping into anwithout the authority of law, but against its other, shall,' etc. Now, unless the fugitive express provisions ? What gives the master escape from a place where, by the inunicipal the power to control the will of his slave ? | law, he is held to labor, this provision affords The local law, which exists in some form. But no remedy to the master. What can be more where there is no such law, can the master conclusive than this ? Suppose a slave escape control the will of the slave by force? Where from a territory where slavery is not authorno slavery exists, the presumption, without re- ized by law, can he be reclaimed ? gard to color, is in favor of freedom. Under “ In this case a majority of the court have such a jurisdiction may the colored man be said that a slave may be taken by his master levied on as the property of his master by a into a territory of the United States, the same creditor ? On the decease of the master, does as a horse or any other kind of property. It is the slave descend to his heirs as property ? true this was said by the court, as also many Can the master sell him? Any one or all of other things, which are of no authority. Noththese acts may be done to the where he is ing that has been said by them, which has not legally held to service. But where the law does a direct bearing on the jurisdiction of the not confer this power it cannot be exercised. court, against which they decided, can be con
“Lord Mansfield held that a slave brought sidered as authority. I shall certainly not reinto England was free. Lord Stowell agreed gard it as such. The question of jurisdiction with Lord Mansfield in this respect, and that being before the court, was decided by them, authe slave could not be coerced in England; but thoritatively, but nothing beyond that question." on her voluntary return to Antigua, the place of her slave domicil, her former status attached. These principles are consistent with the The law of England did not prohibit slavery, whole tenor of the decisions and opinions but did not authorize it. The jurisdiction which prohibits slavery is much stronger in of the Supreme Court from its foundation behalf of the slave within it than where it only up to this year of grace 1857. The new does not authorize it.
doctrines broached by Judge Taney in the • By virtue of what law is it that a master Dred Scott case may well cause alarm, may take his slave into free territory and exact from him the duties of a slave ? The law of though they are not yet law, even in the the territory does not sanction it. No author. sense of judge-made law. Thus the ity can be claimed under the Constitution of chief justice remarks that “slaves are the United States or any law of Congress. Will property according to the Constitution,” it be said that the slave is taken as property | but his remark is not law; on this point, the same as other property which the master may own? To this I answer, that colored per
as on all others except the question of sons are made property by the law of the state, jurisdiction, the pro-slavery statements of and no such power has been given to Congress. the court are mere obiter dicta, and, thereDoes the master carry with him the law of the fore, as Judge M’Lean expressly says, state from which he removes into the territory? and does that enable him to coerce his slave in
" of no authority.” That the court, under the territory? Let us test this theory. If this its present inspiration, is likely at some may be done by a master from one slave state, it future day to take a step further, and to may be done by a master from every other slave nationalize slavery entirely, is, perhaps, state. This right is supposed to be connected with the person of the master by virtue of the probable ; but the step has not yet been local law. Is it transferable ? May it be negoti- taken. Should it ever be, the Supreme ated as a promissory note or bill of exchange? Court may learn, and we trust it will, If it be assigned to a man from a free state, that there is still a court of appeals bemay he coerce the slave by virtue of it? What shall this thing be denominated? Is it per- yond its august decisions, the court of the sonal or real property ? Or is it an indefinable people of the United States. It may be fragment of sovereignty which every person that the conservative portion of the Amercarries with him from his late domicil ? One ican nation, North, South, East, and thing is certain, that its origin has been very West, spurning the party demagogues recent, and it is unknown to the laws of any who have thrust sectional issues upon civilized country.
" It is said the territories are common prop them, and following the guidance of men, erty of the states, and that every man has a like Judge M'Lean, clear, honest, unright to go there with his property. This is not controverted. But the court says a slave is purchasable, and yet conservative, may not property beyond the operation of the local decide, before many years, that the govlaw which makes him such. Never was a
ernment shall not be subverted ; that the truth more authoritatively and justly uttered Union shall not be destroyed ; that Amerby man. Suppose a master of a slave in a ica shall not be made a mockery among British island owned a million of property in England, would that authorize him to take his the nations, as pretending to freedom, and slaves with him to England ? The Constitu- / yet nursing slavery.