Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 25.djvu/321

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I From the New Orleans, La., Picayune, January 23. 1898.]

HON. THOMAS J. SEMMES.

An Evening with the Venerable Statesman and Jurist.

A Charming Retrospect of a Useful and Eventful Life.

[Perusal of this will justify its preservation in these pages. ED.]

To every one at times there comes a moment of retrospection when the mind, leaving the currents of every day life, turns back t<> the past in loving memory, and thoughts now gay and happy, anon sad and tearful, sweep over the heart chords, and the echoes awak- ened in some dim twilight hour and heard by only a privileged few, make oft-times an important chapter in history of which the great outside world would gladly catch the lingering refrain.

It was the privilege of the writer to share just such a moment as this a few evenings ago in the historic home of the distinguished advocate and jurist, Judge Thomas J. Semmes.

For over half a century a conspicuous figure in the United States, for over forty years a leader of the Louisiana bar, and during that most important epoch of the nineteenth century a part and parcel of that great historic movement which, seemingly ending in defeat in war, still lives as the cardinal principle upon which this American republic is founded, Mr. Semmes stands to-day one of the most important connecting links between the old South and the new, one of the three surviving members of that great Confederate Congress which stood for all that the South held most dear, a living witness of the dear dead days which are forever wreathed in ivy and immortelle in the hearts of our people.

It was one of those rare evenings on which the pencil of a poet or artist might love to dwell. We were seated at dinner in the beauti- ful old mansion on South Rampart street, which has been the scene of Some of the most notable gatherings in the South. There were only five of us Mr. Semmes, his amiable and accomplished wife, she who has stood by his side these many years, in clouds and sun- shine, in triumph and defeat, fulfilling that beautiful picture of Ten- nyson's "Isabel" "a queen of women, a most perfect wife" Father Alexander J. Semmes, who, as physician and surgeon, fol- lowed the fortunes of the 8th Louisiana Regiment from the hour that