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PROFESSOR LANGDELL-HIS STUDENT
, May 22, 1826. His lineage was in part Scotch-Irish, and Scottish traits were prominent throughout his career.
He attended for a short time an academy in Hancock, N. H.; worked in a factory at Manchester; and then entered the Phillips Exeter Academy in the spring of 1845 as a candidate for one of the scholarships to be awarded in July of that year. Slow of speech and with a hesitating manner, he was not at first appreciated at his real worth. In the recitation of Latin declensions and conjugations younger students, quick in movement and glib of tongue, impressed the authorities more favorably. When the award of scholarships was made at the close of the term, Langdell was not one of the successful candidates. This was undoubtedly the greatest disappointment of his life, and with many men would have ended all effort to obtain an education. He would have to wait a year before another award of scholarships. His earnings at the Manchester factory, if retained by him, would have carried him through the year, but he had already used part of those earnings in assisting his father. With much misgiving he concluded to remain in the Academy. The authorities gave him some work to do about the building; and by the end of the year the teachers and trustees had come to recognize his ability, and he was awarded a scholarship.
In 1848 Langdell entered the sophomore class at Harvard. Here there was no delay in recognizing his merits. At the end of the year he ranked second in the class. But in those days the college furnished very little in the way of scholarships or other aid, and long before the end of the junior year Langdell left college. The reason was understood to be want of pecuniary support. To-day no student of his promise would be permitted to leave any prominent college for such a reason.
Later in life, when Professor Langdell and his colleagues in the law faculty
1 This account of Professor Langdell's early years is part of a sketch of his life printed in the September number of the Bulletin of Phillips Exeter Academy. A few alterations have been made.
were awarding scholarships, he said with much feeling that he did not wish any deserving young man to be compelled to leave the school for lack of financial assistance.
Leaving Cambridge, he returned to Exeter, doing in that vicinity whatever would help support him. After some manual labor and a little teaching, he began the study of law in the office of Messrs. Stickney and Tuck. In November, 1851, he entered the Harvard Law School. The faculty soon found him out; and he was made librarian, an office held at that time by students. Professor Parsons, then preparing an edition of his work on contracts, had a keen scent for able young assistants, and employed Langdell as one of his helpers. Without disparaging the distinguished author, it may truly be said that the collection and analysis of authorities, which make the notes of Parsons on Contracts so important a feature of that work, are due largely to his young assistants, and to no one more than to Langdell. Langdell's reputation in the law school may be judged from the fact that in 1854, when his former classmates were receiving the degree of A.M. in regular course, the college conferred upon him the honorary degree of A.M. Later the degree of A.B. was conferred upon him as of the year 1851, and his name now appears with his old class in the quinquennial catalogue. The compliment of election as an honorary member of the Phi Beta Kappa society was received by him in 1853, while he was yet a student in the law school.
In 1854 Langdell left Cambridge to engage in the practice of law in New York.
PROFESSOR LANGDELL - HIS PERSONAL
were of you, our great teacher, our wise and patient friend ! You directed our undirected steps. You took us to the original sources of the law and kept us there. You taught us that in law, no less than in any other science, there is no substitute for accurate, painstaking original research.
Your coming to Cambridge, early in 1870, was unheralded and at first almost unknown to the school at large. As we look back upon those days before your regular teaching had begun, when, by some happy chance, it was borne in upon a very few that a great teacher had come among us and we were led to seek you out, our hearts are glad and we are grateful.
We were drawn to you at first by no display of learning, — for you were ever incorrigibly modest, – but by your simple, unaffected friendliness when we sought your aid. You filled us with faith in yourself and with courage to tread the true path, no matter what the effort. So close was our friendship and so personal your leadership that we are inclined to wonder whether, after all, the question is not so much what we study as with whom we study. You taught us something more than to study law at the sources of the law. Like every great investigator who follows a path where "one walks abreast in a century,” your daily work led us to “ plant patience in the garden of the soul.” It seems sometimes as if that were your greatest gift to those who in the early days worked with you, without much encouragement from any, and with much good-natured ridicule from many who could see nothing in your teaching beyond what they called the study of isolated cases.
Your whole nature led you to an unremitting quest after the governing principle in every new set of facts. You drew us with you in this daily search, and taught us not to rest content until we had found for ourselves the governing principles of the law. Who can estimate how much we owe, not merely to your instruction, which never suggested the pedagogue, but to that gentle influence which came to us as an emanation?
We were with you when you were laying the foundations of a great temple in which your memory is enshrined. If, as we believe, those foundations are to endure, it is not only because you who laid them were a great master and brought a great intellect to the teaching to which you devoted your life, but because over and above all you were one of the wise-hearted men of your time. .
Austen G. Fox.
PROFESSOR LANGDELL - HIS LATER
the generation of students which knew Mr. Langdell only
after the school was settled in Austin Hall his most characteristic quality was patience. Whether in working slowly and carefully to a conclusion or in defending that conclusion against all assaults, he never allowed himself the luxury of assuming a point, however axiomatic it may have seemed to him. If he had occasion to examine a decision, he would study it for hours or for days, lest some feature of it might be overlooked; if he used a case in class, he would state the facts with careful fullness, and he would draw from it not only the lesson that seemed of immediate interest, but every other lesson that could possibly be of value to a lawyer. His scholarship was exhaustive and sound rather than brilliant; his teaching was thorough and profound, but we did not get in his lecture-room that intellectual exhilaration which we never failed to feel when we sat under his greatest disciple. He himself was accustomed to speak of his mind as a slow mind; but now and then a flash showed that the slowness was the result of a determination to come to no conclusion without the fullest and most careful consideration.
When we entered his lecture-room, we were struck by the massive intelligence of his brow, we admired his serene and almost impassive face, and we seemed to find the quiet intellectual atmosphere of the cloister. In our time, as a result of his failing sight, he never used the Socratic method in his teaching. He simply talked, slowly and quietly, stating, explaining, enforcing, and reinforcing the principles which he found in the case under discussion. Our note-books read like his articles on Equity Jurisdiction; quiet, forceful, full of thought, and requiring close study to follow them. His manner was usually as quiet as his words. Only now and then, when some subtle point was raised by Judge Mack or Professor Williston (not then judge and professor), his face would light up, and he would begin to think aloud, to the vast delight of those members of his class who could follow him. Those were halcyon days. And once in a great while something would amuse him, and then he would throw back his great head