Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 25.djvu/200

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196 Southern Historical Society Papers.

her service, and called him because he represented perfectly and fully the best type of Virginia character and principles.

Mr. Hunter was indeed fortunate in those surroundings and early associations which go so far to shape character, and to develop a sure and healthful growth of every faculty. He was extremely for- tunate also in being an alumnus of that grand institution of learning, the University of Virginia the favorite child of the illustrious Jef- ferson, the first university of this country, and very long the only one, and the first as I conceive, to embody in our land, the breadth, wise liberality, thoroughness of culture, and high standards of schol- arship and character, which were needed to equip a young man for a great professional or political career. This scholastic training, the fruits of which pervade all Mr. Hunter's public addresses, was fol- lowed by the study of law at Winchester, under the invaluable direc- tion of Judge Henry St. George Tucker.

His public life began when he was twenty-five ' years of age. He was elected a member of the General Assembly of Virginia. Young as he was, we find him discussing the more serious and difficult questions of finance and banking. The great political questions on which parties were dividing, also came before the Legislature, as they had done often in the old days. Mr. Hunter met these issues upon a consistent theory of constitutional construction and policy, yet one of perfect independence from extremes of party bigotry and dicta- tion. He aimed only to get the truth and to be right. At the very outset and in the very flush and ardor of youth, he displayed the moderation and equipoise which characterized his career to the close.

He was then, as always, an advocate of a strict construction of the Federal Constitution and of States' Rights. He regarded these ideas as the very foundation-stone of political liberty and good gov- ernment. The special friends of that creed first elected him to Con- gress in the year 1837. He took a part in the debates of the House. How well he bore himself may be judged by the fact that at the very next Congress he was chosen Speaker of the House of Repre- sentatives. He was then only thirty years of age. Among his pred- ecessors in this very high office were Nathaniel Macon, Henry Clay, Langdon Cheves, Philip P. Barbour, Andrew Stevenson, John Bell and James K. Polk. Polk was his immediate predecessor as Speaker. To the next Congress Mr. Hunter was again chosen a representative. In this body he had occasion to discuss all the great party questions of the day which preceded the sectional question