Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 25.djvu/327

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//..//. Thomas ./. Semm 323

"In 1850, immediately after my marriage," and here a pleasant light lit up his (nee, as he reverted to his meeting with the beautiful Miss Myra E. Knox, daughter of Mr. William Knox, a prominent ante-bellum planter, and president of the Central Bank, of Mont- gomery, Alabama. Mrs. Semmes' mother was Miss Anna O. Lewis, a member of the distinguished Lewis and Fairfax families, of Vir- ginia, and relatives of the Washingtons. " I was married in January, 1850," said Mr. Semmes, "and came to live in New Orleans. The civil law of Louisiana was very different 'from the common law, and I was obliged to study for three months in order to qualify for ad- mission to the bar of the State. Our jurisprudence was based upon the laws of Spain and on the Napoleon code, which had been adopted by the Louisiana Legislature with such modifications as had been thought advisable. But I was determined to master every branch of my profession, for I loved civil law, and wished to have a profound knowledge of it from the twelve tables of Rome and the institutions of Justinian, to the Napoleon code. Passing a satisfac- tory examination before a committee appointed by the Supreme Court, I was admitted to practice, and in 1853, I fqrmed a partner- ship with Matthew Edwards, who had been my classmate at Harvard. In 1855, when the excitement of the 'Know-nothing Party' ran high, the partnership was severed. I was invited to deliver an ad- dress in defense of the Catholics at Armory Hall, and openly attacked the principles of the Know-nothing party."

Mr. Semmes did not tell, however, how his vigorous utterances on that occasion brought him prominently into notice in political life, and he was at once elected a member of the Democratic State Cen- tral Committee, and afterwards to the House of Representatives of the State, by a large majority.

Reverting to the bar in 1850 in Louisiana, Mr. Semmes told many delightful reminiscences. He enjoyed the intimate friendship of such distinguished men as Alfred Hennen, John R. Grymes, Slidell, Christian Roselius, S. S. Prentiss, Judah P. Benjamin, Mr. Bonford, Charles Gayarre, Judge Walker and other typical representatives of the old Louisiana bench and bar. He also knew, intimately, Dr. Warren Stone, Dr. W. Newton Mercer Dr. Augustas Cenas, and others equally distinguished in scientific, political and commercial fields.

And this led him to speak of the life and aristocracy of the old South. It seemed to be a theme upon which he loved to linger, for his face glowed with a softened light, and at times his voice grew