Daniel began to speak, and soon warmed to his work. He seemed thoroughly master of the case, and as he proceeded the teamster was surprised, and finally absorbed in his words. He drew nearer and drank in every word that fell from the lips of the “little black stable-boy,” as he had recently termed him.
The jury were no less interested, and when the plea closed it was clear how they would render their verdict.
Mr. Payson approached his client, and said with a smile, “Well, Mr. Greenough, what do you think of him now?”
“Think!” exclaimed the teamster. “Why, I think he is an angel sent from heaven to save me from ruin, and my wife and children from misery.”
The case was won, and Greenough returned home happy that his little farm would not be taken from him.
Many lawyers aspire to the judicial office as the crowning professional dignity which they may wear with pride. But some of the greatest lawyers are not fitted for that office. They are born advocates, and the more brilliant they are the less, perhaps, do they possess that fair and even judgment which is requisite in a judge. Daniel Webster understood that his talents were not of a judicial character. At a later day (in 1840) he wrote to a friend as follows: “For my own part, I never could be a judge. There never was a time when I would have taken the office of chief justice of the United States or any other judicial station. I believe the truth may be that I have mixed so much study of politics with my study of law that, though I have some respect for myself as an advocate, and some estimate of my knowledge of general principles, yet I am not confident of possessing all the accuracy and precision of knowledge which the bench requires.”
For nearly nine years Daniel Webster practiced law in Portsmouth. He could not have selected a more prominent place in New Hampshire; but the time came when he felt that for many reasons he should seek a larger field. One reason, which deservedly carried weight, was, that in a small town his income must necessarily be small. During these years of busy activity he never received in fees more than two thousand dollars a year. Fees were small then compared with what they are now, when lawyers by no means distinguished often charge more for their services in a single case than young Webster’s entire yearly income at that time.
When the time came for removal the young lawyer hesitated between Boston, Albany and New York, but finally decided in favor of the first place. Of his removal we shall have occasion to speak further presently. Before doing so it is well to say that these nine years, though they brought Mr. Webster but little money, did a great deal for him in other ways. He was not employed in any great cases, or any memorable trials, though he and Jeremiah Mason were employed in the most important cases which came before the New Hampshire courts. Generally they were opposed to each other, and in his older professional compeer Daniel found a foeman worthy of his steel. He always had to do his best when Mason was engaged on the other side. That he fully appreciated Mr. Mason’s ability is evident from his tribute to him paid in a conversation with another eminent rival, Rufus Choate.