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SKETCH OF THE LIFE
LA TE IRVING SPENCE, ESQ.
On perusing a book, the reader, as if not fully satisfied with the knowledge of what is written, almost instinctively inquires, “ who writes ?" To gratify this reasonable curiosity in the reader, as well as to profit him by the example of one, who, although dead, yet speaketh, is the object of this brief sketch.
Irving SPENCE, Esq., was born November 19th, 1799, near Snowhill, on the Eastern shore of Maryland, of pious and highly respectable parents. His great-grandfather, Adam Spence, of whom he speaks in the tenth letter of the present volume, as having probably affixed his name to the solemn league and covenant, emigrated from Scotland, some time about the year 1680, and settled at, or near the place, where Snowhill now stands. He was a merchant, and became a ruling elder in the church at Snowhill, perhaps immediately on its organization by the Rev. Francis Mackensie, some time between 1680 and 1690. He was married soon after his arrival in this country. He reared a family of five children, one son and four daughters. The son's name was Adam, who also became a merchant, and a member of the Presbyterian church. He was twice married. His second marriage was with a Miss Irving, whose maiden name was made the christian name of her grandson, the subject of this sketch. By this marriage he had eight children, Adam, John and George, Margaret, Elizabeth, Anna, Mary, and Sarah. George, the father of Mr. Irving Spence, was twice married. His first wife was Andasia Robins, an aunt of the late Judge Robins of Worcester county, Maryland. His second wife was Nancy Purnell. The children by his first marriage were, Adam, deceased. Thomas, the present Dr. Thomas R. P. Spence of Snowhill. Elizabeth and Andasia, both deceased. The children by the second marriage were, Lemuel, the present Register of the county of Worcester; John, one of the present Senators in Congress from the State of Maryland ; James, deceased ; Ara, now Chief Justice of the Fourth Judicial District of Maryland; William and George, both deceased; and Irving, the subject of this brief notice, also deceased. The latter, was the youngest of the family, and was born just before his father's death, and after his will had been executed, which precluded him from any portion in his father's estate. During his childhood he was sickly. This confined him at home, and together with the remote situation
of his mother, who resided near the sea shore, east of Snowhill, deprived him of the advantages of a school, during his early childhood. Yet, unpropitious as were his circumstances, with a little occasional attention from his mother, he learned to read cor. rectly, at the early age of five or six years. Being the youngest child, and doomed by his very delicate health, to the fire-side, so soon as he learned to read he made books the principal amusement of his childhood, until the love of reading became his ruling passion. With as little attention from his mother, he also acquired the art of penmanship, so as to write not only a legible, but an elegant hand. Subsequently he was put to school, under the tuition of Mr. Purnell F. Smith, now the Rev. Purnell F. Smith, of Georgetown Cross Roads, Kent county, Maryland; by whose instructions Mr. Spence considered himself much benefited, and for whom, throughout life, he cultivated the sentiments of gratitude and esteem. At about twelve years of age, he was sent to Buckingham Academy, under the guardianship of his brother John, where he remained for some time under the tuition of a Mr. Hopkins. Here he prosecuted with ardour and almost unprecedented success, the study of the Latin and Greek languages. He was then removed to the academy at Snowhill, where he terminated his academical studies at the age of seventeen years. Immediately afterwards, he commenced the study of the law, under the late Judge Robins, of his native county, and continued under the legal instructions of that eminent gentleman,
until duly qualified for the practice of the profession. In 1820 he was admitted to the bar, at Snowhill, and subsequently at Princess Anne, the seat of justice for Somerset county in the same State. In 1822, he was married to Miss Margaret, second daughter of the honourable gentleman under whose superintendence we have just said he prosecuted his legal studies. In the same year, and for some years subsequent, he was elected a delegate to the Legislature of the State. In 1826, he was appointed by the electoral college to the Senate, for six years. In this honourable body, he took his seat, and soon became, and continued to be, throughout the whole term, one of its most useful and influential members. For his talents, fairness, candour, and general excellence of character, he was so highly esteemed, that not unfrequently his opinions were consulted, and his counsels followed, by the party opposed to him in general politics. His political friends would gladly have continued him in public life, and the people would have elevated him to the highest office within their gift, but his attachment to books, his habits of sedentary life, and domestic retirement, and especially those high motives of religion, which none but the christian can duly appreciate, rendered him altogether averse to public life, and to the acceptance of any offices of honour farther than a regard to the wishes of his friends, and sense of duty to the people who loved and respected him, rendered it in his judgment indispensable.
He continued throughout life, to pursue the prac
tice of the law, although it was a profession in which he never delighted. From the commencement of his professional career, he had a fair share of practice, although at that time, there were several men of eminence at the same bar. In the course of a few years afterwards, when two of these gentlemen had been elevated to the bench, and the place of one of them vacated by death, he became the senior practitioner in the county where he lived, and with all his aversion to the business, and the difficulty with which his services could be obtained, he was much sought after, especially in all important cases. He not only stood first in the county courts where he ordinarily practised, but was also eminent in the highest courts in the State, to which he was almost always called, when appeals were taken on important cases, in the counties where he practised.
As a practical and experimental agriculturist, he was successful, not only in the culture of his own lands, but also in diffusing the spirit of agricultural improvement in his immediate neighbourhood, and throughout his own, and some of the neighbouring counties.
Mr. Spence was of a middle stature; his hair black; his eyes dark and penetrating; and when warm in debate, his countenance highly animated. His natural capabilities were of a very high order To a sound and discriminating judgment, he united strong conception and glowing imagination, chastened by a fine taste. And, what is rarely possessed by a mind endowed with a large portion of these qua