At the request of my daughter and my son and by the advice of my friends, the Honorable J. C. Bancroft Davis and the Honorable William A. Richardson, I am venturing upon the task of giving a sketch of my experiences in life during three fourths of a century. The wisdom of such an undertaking is not outside the realm of debate. A large part of my manhood has been spent in the politics of my native state, and in the politics of the country. For many years I have had the fortune to be associated with those in whose hands the chief powers were lodged. I have been a witness of, and in some cases an actor in, events that have changed the character of the institutions and affected the fortunes of the country. Those events and their consequences must in time disturb, if they do not change, the institutions of other countries.
In the course of this long period I have had opportunities to know some of the principal actors in those important events. In a few cases I am in possession of knowledge not now in the possession of any other person living. These considerations may in some degree justify my undertaking.
On the other hand I have not kept a record of events, and I have had occasion often, especially in the practice of my profession, to notice the imperfections of the human memory. Much that I shall write must depend upon the fidelity of that faculty, although in some cases my recollections may be verified or corrected by the public records.
The recollections of actors, when those recollections are reported in good faith, constitute quite as safe a basis for an historical judgment as do the diaries in which are noted present impressions. Usually the writer of a diary has only an imperfect knowledge of the subject to which the entries relate. If he is himself an actor in passing events he makes and leaves a record colored and perhaps tainted by the personal and political passions of the times. The teachings of experience and that more moderate view of events, which we sometimes call philosophy and sometimes the wisdom of age, may warrant the student and the historian in giving credence to mere recollections.
The writer of a diary takes little note of the importance of the events to which the entries relate. Persons and events become important or cease to be important by the progress of time, but the life of an individual is an adequate period usually for the formation of a judgment. I cannot assume that it will be my fortune to make a wise selection in all cases. Important events may be omitted, insignificant circumstances may be recorded.
I assume that my family and friends will take an interest in matters that are purely personal: therefore I shall record many incidents and events that do not concern the public.BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH _PRELIMINARY NOTE
In the presence of some misgivings as to the propriety of my course, I have decided to print the article on my Life as a Lawyer, as it appears in the "Memoirs of the Judiciary and the Bar of New England" (for January, 1901), published by the Century Memorial Publishing Company, Boston, Mass....