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ence, affectionate manners, and bestowal of the surplus earnings of the week, large or small. I have often heard him speak of those days, and relate the infinite delight it gave his heart to convey so much pleasure by these visits.
When young Clayton had been but three years at the bar, but after he had acquired enough by the law not only to enable him to take care of those left to him, but of a wife as well, and not until he could offer himself to her with entire pecuniary independence also, he proposed for the hand of a lady and heiress, Miss Sally Ann Fisher, daughter of Dr. James Fisher, who was a physician of distinction and general intelligence, at Camden, in Kent, and whose first wife, the mother of Mrs. Clayton, was a McClymont, of a large Presbyterian family, seated near Dover. On the 12th of September, 1822, the young couple were married at Middletown, in New Castle county, by the Reverend (afterwards Dr.) Samuel Brincklé, now deceased, who was chosen for the ceremony because he was the brother of Joshua G. Brincklé, a fellow-practitioner with young Clayton, and whom he fondly loved. The newly made husband and wife, a few months after their marriage, took the dwelling and office of Henry M. Ridgely, upon the green in Dover (he having retired temporarily to the country); but in the interval, between the marriage and the occupancy of the Ridgely property, they resided in her own house in Camden, to and from which place he walked every day, giving himself six miles exercise, to refresh him after the
labors of one day, and recruit him for those of another. In this Dover residence were born unto them two sons; and there occurred that fatal calamity, the shadow of which never passed from his life, nor was its presence ever entirely unfelt. His love for his wife was the greatest passion that ever influenced him. While to others she was a lovely woman, of most affectionate heart, and with just enough of the Quaker, in the blood she had inherited from her father, to give to all her actions, expressions, and emotions, that delicate softness, so near akin to shyness, which characterizes the daughters of the Society of Friends, she yet possessed for him something more than all this; something that made him, by no means given to emotions, worship her almost as an idol. On the 18th day of February, 1825, she died in his him with two boys, the youngest but a Life, from thenceforth, seemed to attractions; but for the necessity of taking those who had been committed to him before, and the children his wife had given him, he would have sunk, utterly, under the load of his affliction. The duties of life, however, pressed upon the heart of the brave man, and exacted from him that he should not give himself up to grief absolutely, but should devote himself, as he best could, to the service of those dependent upon him. With this spur he started again in the race and work of life; and it was a frequent expression with him, in recurring to that sorrowful time, that nothing but work in his profession saved
few days old.
have, for to have, for him, no
him but the
But, to that
him. And work he did, like a hero, only salvation. There was nothing for abstraction of thought from grief, that engrossing, honorable labor - can give. love for his young wife, he remained perfectly, absolutely true, throughout the whole of his subsequent life; and never, under any circumstances, allowed himself to think of himself otherwise than as her lover. There came a time, whilst he was still young, when he no longer had any of the family of his father about him one of the orphan sisters having married, another died, and then his mother, and finally his brother - and he had every inducement, which ripe manhood and the importunity of friends could offer him, to take a wife; but he repelled, sometimes sternly, and always firmly, all advice to marry again. He would not think of it, though almost absolutely alone, having none about him but his two small children, and one young girl, his niece, and her brother, younger than herself, the children of Walter Douglass. He did the best he could with and for them; he was to them father, mother, and everything else that was loving. Such was the situation of Mr. Clayton (except that his mother outlived that event a few months), when he was elected to the Senate of the United States. Before entering upon a consideration of his career as a public man, or politician and statesman, I will say more of his professional life.
There cannot be any question that John M. Clayton was a lawyer of the very first grade in every branch
of learning, whether legal or equitable, civil or criminal. He came to the bar prepared by a course of unremitting study of all the old authors, and the modern text writers down to his time. In the days of his pupilage for his profession, the requirements for admission to the bar were not only a full course of reading, including always Coke upon Littleton, Plowden, Wood's Institutes, Doctor and Student, and other recondite works relating to matters of civil concern, but also Hale and Hawkins in the criminal list of authors, and such works upon equity as had then been written. Besides, as the custom of creating entails, and strict settlements, was still very much in vogue in Delaware, and had been from her settlement by the English under Penn, it was then essentially requisite that a lawyer should be a master of all the learning of such, and of that large class of interests which then, more than now, arose out of the provisions of the many wills written in conformity with the practice at home which the settlers imported here. Some of this latter was what is called black letter; it was all abstruse, and not to be acquired fully but by one endowed by nature with a strong mind, improved by ample learning, classical and otherwise. I feel that I hazard nothing in saying that Mr Clayton had mastered all this learning; that he was familiar with what is called nisi prius law also; that he had a special aptitude for professional practice; and if there can be a union in any one man of all that is necessary to make a great lawyer, it existed in him.
to all this, he sense. He was
was a conscientious lawyer in every
faithful to the court, whom he enlightened by his learning, and true to his client. All his addresses to the court were conceived in a spirit of respect and confidence; he approached them as those set over him, strong as he was regarding them as the personal representatives of the whole people, or State, in the sovereign duty and prerogative of administering justice. All his engagements for his clients were faithfully and willingly performed; and how successfully, the records of the courts show. Their cause at once became his cause; whatever effort he could make for the most influential of his clients, or for those to whom he was bound by the strong ties of friendship, was put forth for the humblest also who sought his services. If those who applied to him had any case, he quickly saw it, and as it. And what the measure of that can testify who remember him in who served under him as students. his office a year beyond the usual term, from my nonage, I know a good deal of what I am speaking; for although his public, political engagements as a Senator then absorbed most of his time, yet there was some of it given to the law. I have said, before, that he was not, naturally, an industrious man, as that term is understood; but he was a man of tremendous working power, and when required by the necessity of the service he had undertaken, or that of sustaining his reputation or fame, he was the most resolute and inex
ardently espoused ardor was, those court, and some Having been in