THE Annual Meeting was held at the Algonquin Club, No. 217 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, on Monday, 21 November, 1898, at half-past five o’clock in the afternoon, the President, Edward Wheelwright, in the chair.
After the Minutes of the last Stated Meeting had been read and approved, the Corresponding Secretary reported that letters had been received from Mr. James Bradstreet Greenough accepting Resident Membership, and from President Tucker of Dartmouth College, the Hon. Horace Davis, Professor Herbert Baxter Adams, and Mr. Wilberforce Eames, accepting Corresponding Membership.
The President then delivered the following Address:—
Gentlemen of The Colonial Society of Massachusetts,—I am happy to welcome you to the Sixth Annual Meeting of our Society. The Reports of the Council and of the Treasurer, which will presently be read, will give you full information of the doings of the Society during the past year, and of the state of its finances.
The year has been marked by one event of great importance,—the completion of the subscription for the Gould Memorial Fund. At the last Annual Meeting, it was announced that a large part of the amount contemplated ($10,000) had been subscribed. We are now able to say that that amount has not only been subscribed, but actually paid into the treasury. While congratulating the Society on the success of this undertaking, the President would remind the Members that the amount thus raised falls far short of what is needed fully to equip the Society for the work it has to do. It is hoped that the Gould Fund will serve as a nucleus for the gradual accumulation of a much larger endowment to which our Members will from time to time voluntarily contribute.
Among the deaths which have occurred in the Society during the past year, two have taken place since the last Stated Meeting, namely, that of Philip Howes Sears and that of Sigourney Butler. The pressure of routine business to-day will not allow sufficient time for the customary tributes at this Annual Meeting; but it will not be inappropriate, and it may be expected, that the President, in announcing their deaths, should give a brief sketch of these two departed members.
Philip Howes Sears was born in Brewster, Massachusetts, 30 December, 1819, and died in Boston, 1 May, 1898, in the seventy-ninth year of his age. He was thus one of the oldest of our members. He was descended, in the seventh generation, from Richard Sears, who came from England to Plymouth in 1639, and whose original homestead and a portion of the land once belonging to him in the Towns of Dennis and Brewster were still in the possession of our associate at the time of his death. Among his maternal ancestors were Governor Thomas Prence, Elder William Brewster, and Thomas Howes, one of the three original proprietors of the township of Yarmouth. He was thus of pure Old Colony stock, and a representative of the oldest families of the Cape.
Sears was fitted for College at Phillips Andover Academy, and graduated at Harvard in 1844, with the rank of second scholar in his Class, wanting only a few marks of being the first. He was also, before leaving College, elected a member of the Phi Beta Kappa. He received the degree of LL.B. in 1849, and in the same year was admitted to the Bar. He practised his profession, at first in Waltham and afterwards in Boston, until 1880, abandoning, after a few years, the trial of cases in court, and securing a less arduous and more lucrative practice as legal adviser and counsel to several corporations and trusts.
Mr. Sears was a member of the Boston City Council and of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, one of the Trustees of the Boston Public Library, and an Overseer of Harvard College. He delivered public addresses on several occasions, among them one on Classical Studies, at Andover, and an Oration at Yarmouth on the Two Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of the settlement of that town. He was also the author of a Report to the Overseers of Harvard College on the Study of Intellectual and Moral Philosophy, of a number of legal arguments and reviews, which have been published, and of some magazine articles.
Mr. Sears was elected a Resident Member of this Society at its second Stated Meeting, 15 February, 1893, and, on 16 February, 1897, a Member of the Council. He was a frequent and always an interested attendant at our monthly meetings, though the delicate state of his health, especially during the last year of his life, often prevented his being present. He took part in the Memorial Meeting in honor of our late President, Dr. Gould, and paid a touching tribute to the memory of his friend and classmate, interspersed with delightful reminiscences of their College days. His last act in connection with the Society was the payment of his liberal contribution to the Gould Memorial Fund.
There were at one time seven members of the Class of 1844 who were also members of this Society, and five of them, in one capacity or another, have been numbered among its officers. Six of these have died—Gould, Hale, Parkman, Saltonstall, Sears, and Slade, and I am left the sole survivor.
My acquaintance with Sears was not very intimate while in College; but in after years I saw him more frequently, especially after he came to live in the fine old mansion on Mount Vernon Street, built by Charles Bulfinch for the residence of Harrison Gray Otis, which Mr. Sears had enlarged and embellished with a good taste worthy of the original architect. He thus became my near neighbor, and as we had many interests in common, I met him often, especially at the dinners of the Unitarian Club, from which we always went home together, talking over the matters which had been discussed.
Mr. Sears was a man of innate refinement, simple tastes, and unblemished life, with scholarly proclivities and acquirements, and fond of historical research. A careful observer and scrupulously sincere in his judgments, truly genial in disposition, though modest and retiring in manner, he was never wanting in the courtesy which marks the true gentleman.1
Sigourney Butler was born in Boston, 24 October, 1857, and died in the same city, 7 June, 1898, in the forty-first year of his age. He thus belonged to the younger, as Mr. Sears did to the older, element of our Society. He was descended, in the eighth generation in the direct paternal line, from Stephen Butler, who came from England to this country in 1635. He derived his baptismal name from Mary, daughter of Anthony Sigourney, and wife of his great-grandfather, James Butler. He was prepared for college at Hopkinson’s private school in Boston, and graduated at Harvard College in 1877, in the same class with his life-long friend and our late associate, Governor William Eustis Russell.
After three years’ study in the Law School of Harvard University, Mr. Butler received the degree of LL.B. in 1880, and in the same year was admitted to the Bar of Suffolk County. Much of his professional work was done as counsel for the Boston and Maine Railroad,—a position involving great responsibility. From the time of his admission to the Bar until his death, he practised law in Boston, with the exception of about two years (1887–1889), when he was Second Comptroller of the Treasury of the United States by appointment of President Cleveland.
Mr. Butler was twice nominated for the position of Overseer of Harvard College,—first in 1895, when he failed to be elected, and again in 1898, shortly before his death, when the majority of votes of the Alumni favoring his candidacy was so great as to ensure his election had he lived till the next Commencement. He took a lively interest in political affairs, and for several years was President of the Young Men’s Democratic Club. He never sought office for himself, but was an earnest supporter of those who, like our late associates, John Forrester Andrew and William Eustis Russell, were striving to lift politics from the low level of party-zeal to the higher plane of true statesmanship.
Butler was a good citizen, a pure patriot, a devoted son and brother, and had withal an “indescribable element in his character and in his manner which made him a delightful companion to all sorts and kinds of men.” Possessed of gifts and accomplishments which made him a welcome guest on all social occasions, he could tell a good story and sing a good song, preserving always his native refinement. “There lay beneath the charming exterior of his manner,” says his Class Secretary, “as the corner-stone of his character, the soul of honor and the highest of ideals.”2
His friend and classmate, Mr. Lindsay Swift, has been designated by the Council to write Mr. Butler’s Memoir for the Society’s Transactions.
The Annual Report of the Council was presented and read by the Corresponding Secretary.
By a provision of the By-Laws it is made one of the duties of the Council to “make an Annual Report which shall include a detailed statement of the doings of the Society during the preceding year.” In accordance with this requirement the Council now submits its Annual Report. This term “doings” is somewhat flexible. It may include not only actual events, but their causes and consequences; it may have reference not to the past and present merely, but also to the future; it may contain narration and suggestion; it may be part history and part prophecy. The Council proposes, however, in its present Report, to confine itself largely to a résumé of the results of the past year and of the standing of the Society to-day.
The strength of any organization, whatever its nature, lies largely in its finances and their administration. It will be seen from the Treasurer’s Report that there has been an increase of ten thousand dollars in the Permanent Funds of the Society, all of which are safely invested in first mortgages on improved real estate in Boston and Cambridge, yielding five per cent, the principal and interest of which are payable in gold coin. In the first Report of the Council, in 1893, attention was called to the necessity of a Permanent Fund for defraying the cost of the Publications of the Society. However generously contributions came in from members, without solicitation, to meet special exigencies, and to whatever extent hopes and expectations were more than realized, something further was requisite to permanent and assured success.
One of the most important events of the past year has been the completion of The Gould Memorial Fund. At the Annual Meeting in 1896, it was voted that a Committee of five persons be appointed—
“with full powers to consider the subject of increasing the Permanent Funds of the Society, whereby provision may be made for an annual income sufficient to defray the cost of the Society’s Publications, and to take such further action as they may deem expedient.”
This Committee had been decided upon by Dr. Gould, but he died before he had announced his choice. To the names selected by him two were subsequently added, making it a Committee of seven, as follows:—
- Edward Wheelwright,
- Samuel Johnson,
- David R. Whitney,
- Charles F. Choate,
- Robert N. Toppan,
- Nathaniel C. Nash,
- Henry H. Edes.
This Committee made its final report at the April Meeting of this year. Ten thousand dollars, contributed by seventy-three persons, has been paid into the treasury, and safely invested, as already stated. This Fund has been named in honor of the late President of the Society.
A significant and encouraging fact connected with the success of this undertaking is, that the Fund was not the sole gift of a few wealthy men,—though the Society gratefully acknowledges not a few large contributions,—but, in the main, was the gift of a large proportion of our Resident Members,—a striking testimony to the general interest felt by our fellowship in the welfare of the organization.
The importance of this acquisition can scarcely be overestimated. First and foremost, it establishes beyond peradventure the permanence of the Society. This at least is assured. But it may well have another and further value and importance and significance. It reveals wherein the Society needs strengthening; what prospects of usefulness are opened, and what results may be attained; how this organization may establish beyond question its right to existence; how it may supply a much needed want in the community; what it can accomplish, not for the present merely, but for posterity; and how it can make itself a power in the advancement of historical learning, of sociological inquiry, of the study of jurisprudence, and in all those manifold fields where the past must supply the material on which the present is to work for the development of the future.
In the success of this movement lies a pregnant suggestion: what more permanent Memorial of any member who has closed his career of active, personal usefulness, is left to his friends to establish, or what more lasting remembrance can any living member leave behind him, than the creation of a similar Fund for similar or analogous purposes, or how can he better assure himself of an ever-increasing and widening influence which shall outlive him?
A few changes have been made in the By-Laws,—most of them for the purpose of securing greater clearness and precision. One important change has been made in the creation of a limited Roll of Corresponding Members. Eight gentlemen have since been elected as such:—
- Joseph Williamson,
- John Franklin Jameson,
- Simeon Eben Baldwin,
- Edward Singleton Holden,
- Herbert Baxter Adams,
- Horace Davis,
- Wilberforce Eames,
- William Jewett Tucker.
Two names have been added to the List of Honorary Members:—
- James Coolidge Carter,
- Simon Newcomb.
- Jeremiah Smith,
- John Eliot Thayer,
- Augustus Lowell,
- Denison Rogers Slade,
- James Bradstreet Greenough.
While no such startling inroad has been made upon our ranks as occurred in the year preceding, we have to regret the loss of four most valued and accomplished members. It seems unnecessary to add anything here to the delicate and tender tributes which have been paid to their memories, or to the just and discriminating characterization of their qualities which have already been placed upon our Records. The mention of their names—
- Francis Vergnies Balch,
- Joseph Henry Allen,
- Philip Howes Sears,
- Sigourney Butler—
is enough to show the loss which the Society has suffered in their death,—the able, learned lawyer, with his unique personality, which words fail to portray, universally loved and admired; the man of letters, of wide and varied learning, of remarkable intellectual keenness and strength, joined with the most winning qualities and exalted character, in the fulness of years and wisdom; the conservative, judicious, and wise lawyer and man of affairs; and one in the early prime of manhood, full of promise and expectancy, whose brilliant success was but a foreshadowing of what the future would bring, but who had lived long enough to gain the affection of all with whom he had been brought in contact.
The six Stated Meetings of the Society, held monthly, as usual, from November to April, inclusive, have been well attended. In any organization, composed largely, as this is, of exceptionally busy men, a full and constant attendance is, of course, impossible, and presence is not always the sole measure of actual interest-When it is considered, however, how much inspiration there is in numbers, when men are engaged in a work of common interest. and how largely such a manifestation of interest conduces to success, it seems desirable to adopt all proper measures to secure as full an attendance, steadily and regularly, as may be possible. Leisure, opportunity, interest, time, money, are not uniform or universal possessions; but if these are singly utilized and applied, so far as circumstances allow and inclination prompts, the interests and prosperity of any organization will be immeasurably promoted, and its success insured. There is room for all to work, each in his chosen way, and to each the Society is a debtor.
At the Meetings, a wide range of subjects has been presented, which have usually opened up numerous collateral and kindred matters, and given rise to interesting and profitable discussion.
Among the original manuscripts and other valuable materials which have been exhibited or communicated during the year are: (i) the original charter of the Harvard Chapter of the Fraternity of Phi Beta Kappa, restored to it many years after its supposed loss; (ii) letters of Cotton Mather, John Singleton Copley, Elizabeth Montagu, General Knox, Martha Washington, and a love letter of General Washington; (iii) a Mezzotint of Smybert’s portrait of Sir William Pepperrell; (iv) a copy of a Royal Commission to the Bishop of London authorizing his exercise of certain Episcopal functions in America, and the original Commission of General Joseph Dwight as Judge of the Court of Admiralty at Louisburg in 1745; (v) the original third Writ of Quo Warranto against the Connecticut Charter, and an original search-warrant for the apprehension of the regicides Goffe and Whalley; (vi) an original Thanksgiving Proclamation, in 1681, of John Davis, Deputy President of the Province of Maine; (vii) a manuscript sermon of Cotton Mather; (viii) a copy of General Washington’s Military Record, giving Muster Rolls, in 1778, in three Massachusetts counties; (ix) an original manuscript purporting to be the List of Theses of the Commencers at Harvard College in 1663, and a copy, believed to be unique, of Israel Chauncey’s Almanac for the same year; besides a number of original documents connected with events of the American Revolution.
The papers and communications read at the successive Meetings were many and varied, and of much interest. They include (i) an article relating to the Records and Files of our highest Court,—their history and places of deposit; (ii) an account of the visit of Lieutenant-General George Digby Barker, a grandson of a British officer in action at Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill, to the old battle fields and other scenes, and of the Diary of his Grandfather covering that period; (iii) a summary of the sentiments and attitude of some of the leading patriots of the Revolution concerning noted events of that struggle, illustrated by a letter of Dr. Franklin upon the Tea Party, and other papers; (iv) the trial of the British soldiers implicated in the affair of the Fifth of March, 1770; (v) two papers upon the Land Banks; (vi) an account of Henry Pelham, Copley’s half-brother, founded on contemporaneous letters and documents; (vii) a discussion of the Third volume of the Massachusetts Colony Records, based upon an original Fragment of a Record by Secretary Rawson; (viii) the Connecticut Charter and the Story of the Charter Oak; (ix) a paper upon the use of the terms “Hired Man” and “Help,” with exhaustive illustrations; (x) an account of some Massachusetts Tories; (xi) a discussion of the original manuscript List of Theses already referred to,—valuable if a veritable programme, or, if a student’s burlesque, a unique production of no less consequence and interest. Besides these more formal papers, numerous briefer matters were brought up and considered from time to time.
During the year a Memoir of Darwin Erastus Ware was communicated by Professor James Bradley Thayer, and a Memoir of William Eustis Russell by Dr. Charles Carroll Everett.
The issue of our Publications has been delayed by unavoidable circumstances, among them the non-arrival from England of copies of important documents, and the non-completion of certain portrait illustrations. Volume III., devoted to our Transactions, and a serial part or parts of Volume V., of similar character, will very soon be issued. Volume IV., in accordance with the plan adopted by the Council, is reserved for miscellaneous Collections, and will include Mr. Davis’s valuable Calendar of Land Bank Papers in the Massachusetts Archives and the Suffolk Court Files, besides Mr. Griffin’s copy of Massachusetts Muster Rolls, in 1778, from Washington’s Military Record, already mentioned.
In accordance with our practice of keeping track of the various Historical Associations which the growing interest in historical pursuits has called into existence, the organization or incorporation of such bodies has been reported from time to time as they have come to our knowledge, in order that our volumes may contain a full and complete List of these Societies, which may be easily referred to by means of our Indexes.
A great public service has been done by many cities and towns in printing their early records. What has been accomplished by the City of Boston is well known; and to the intelligent interest, the foresight, and the wise liberality of the County of Suffolk is due a work securing the preservation of a large amount of historical material,—the value and importance of which can scarcely be exaggerated,—now, for the first time, and by this means, about to be made available to students of our history and jurisprudence. Cambridge has made a most significant beginning in the publication of the Proprietors’ Records of that ancient municipality, and has now in press, under the supervision of Edward J. Brandon, Esq., City Clerk, the Early Town Proceedings. It is to be hoped that the publication of the Vital Statistics, at least to 1850, is contemplated in the scheme of the authorities of the University City.
The importance of printing the early records of our older towns and cities,—and especially the Vital Statistics,—cannot be too strongly urged. By such a course these Archives are not only made accessible to the ever-increasing number of interested students, scattered all over the United States, who trace their lineage to New England, but they are put beyond the danger of destruction, not merely by fire and flood, but by the constant handling of a multitude of inquirers.
A work which peculiarly deserves attention, and which it is hoped may be undertaken at no distant day, under proper conditions, is the printing of the early Records of Harvard College. What wealth of historical material and what matters of importance and value in manifold directions are therein contained, is revealed in the communication of Mr. William Garrott Brown to the Harvard Graduates’ Magazine for March, 1898, upon the University Archives. This Society would gladly undertake the work if some liberal and interested alumnus of Harvard would guarantee the printer’s bill.
Attention has been called in previous Reports of the Council to one matter of especial importance, and a work which cannot be entered upon too soon,—the printing of the Records of the ancient Churches of the Commonwealth. These priceless volumes contain data of incalculable value to the historian and genealogist which are nowhere else preserved. The time is ripe, and concerted action is desirable. The custody, care, and preservation of the Vital Statistics of Towns, to a certain extent, can be controlled by legislation, but the Records of Churches, being the property of private corporations, cannot. Here, then, is an opportunity for this Society. Every effort should be made to encourage the Churches to print their Records, and no opportunity should be lost by us to co-operate in such undertakings. Individual research is not always possible, neither is it the only or the best way of accomplishing results, nor always the most effective. With ampler funds than it now possesses, a service of inestimable value might be done in this direction by this Society.
During the past year the Society has again been indebted to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences for a renewal of its generous hospitality in affording the use of its Hall for our Stated Meetings; and a vote of the Council, expressing its sense of the obligation thus incurred, and its thanks for the continued courtesy, has been transmitted to the Academy.
The Treasurer submitted his Annual Report, as follows:—
The first Article of Chapter VIII. of the By Laws requires of the Treasurer that at the Annual Meeting he shall make a written or printed Report of all his official doings for the year preceding, of the amount and condition of all the property of the Society intrusted to him, and of the character of the investments. In compliance therewith the following abstract of the Accounts, and a Trial Balance of the books on 17 November, 1898, are now submitted:—
The Funds of the Society are invested as follows:—
$12,200.00 in First Mortgages on improved property in Boston and Cambridge, 848.85 deposited in the Charlestown Five Cents Savings Bank.
Charlestown Five Cents Savings Bank
The Gould Memorial Fund
It thus appears, that all audited claims against the Society have been paid; that there is sufficient Cash on hand to discharge all liabilities incurred for which bills have not as yet been rendered; and that the Society is possessed of Permanent Funds to the amount of Thirteen Thousand Dollars.
Henry H. Edes,
Boston, 21 November, 1898.
The Committee, consisting of Messrs. Moses Williams and George Wigglesworth, appointed to examine the Accounts of the Treasurer for the year ending 17 November, 1898, reported, through Mr. Wigglesworth, that the Accounts had been accurately kept and were properly vouched, that the Cash Balance had been verified, and that the evidences of the Investments had been examined.
The several Reports were accepted and referred to the Committee of Publication.
Mr. Samuel Johnson, on behalf of the Committee to nominate Officers for the ensuing year, presented the following List of Candidates; and, a ballot being taken, these gentlemen were unanimously elected:—
- EDWARD WHEELWRIGHT.
- WILLIAM WATSON GOODWIN.
- JAMES BRADLEY THAYER.
- RECORDING SECRETARY.
- HENRY WINCHESTER CUNNINGHAM.
- CORRESPONDING SECRETARY.
- JOHN NOBLE.
- HENRY HERBERT EDES.
- HENRY ERNEST WOODS.
- MEMBER OF THE COUNCIL FOR THREE YEARS.
- ROBERT NOXON TOPPAN.
Mr. John Noble read a letter from Professor Albert Bushnell Hart, respecting the next Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association; whereupon, on motion of Mr. Andrew McFarland Davis, it was—
Voted, That The Colonial Society of Massachusetts extends a cordial invitation to the American Historical Association to hold its Annual Meeting next after that of 1898 in Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Mr. S. Lothrop Thorndike, on behalf of the Honorable Joseph H. Choate, who was unable to be present, communicated a Memoir of Leverett Saltonstall which he had been appointed to prepare for publication in the Transactions.
After the Meeting had been dissolved, the Annual Dinner was served. Mr. Wheelwright presided, and the Rev. Dr. Charles Carroll Everett invoked the Divine Blessing. On rising to begin the after-dinner speaking, President Wheelwright said:—
The Council of the Society, moved by that family affection which we all feel towards our elder sister, the Massachusetts Historical Society, voted, at a recent meeting, that three distinguished members of that Society should be invited to partake with us of our Annual Dinner. The three gentlemen designated were accordingly invited to honor us with their presence this evening. They were the President of the Society, Mr. Charles Francis Adams, Professor Henry W. Haynes, its Corresponding Secretary, and Mr. Robert C. Winthrop, Jr. Mr. Adams at once accepted our invitation and is here to-night. Messrs. Haynes and Winthrop felt reluctantly compelled to decline,—both, I regret to say, on the ground of ill health and physical infirmities. Before presenting Mr. Adams, who needs no introduction to any gathering of sons of Massachusetts, I wish to offer a sentiment or toast:—
Our elder sister,—the Massachusetts Historical Society. Pioneer in the field of historical research, she has nobly fulfilled her mission during her century of life, and has set an example of scholarship and thoroughness of research which deserves and commands our respect and our emulation. We offer her our congratulations upon her ever widening field of usefulness and upon her abundant resources,—historical and material.
The toast was drunk standing, and was responded to by Mr. Adams, who paid an eloquent tribute for the memory of Dr. Benjamin Apthorp Gould and to that of the Hon. Darwin E. Ware. Mr. Adams then proceeded to point out a sphere of labor to which this Society seems to be called by its very title of “Colonial,” in rescuing from oblivion and threatened destruction important documents relating to our Colonial history, and closed his Remarks by making an eloquent plea for the liberal, endowment of this Society, which, he said, was essential to the attainment of the best results in carrying on its work.
Mr. Henry H. Edes then said:—
A year ago to-night Mr. Rackemann gave us all pleasure by proposing the health of our honored President, thereby affording us an opportunity to testify our personal respect, and our loyalty to him and to his administration. I am sure, gentlemen, that we shall all rejoice to renew, to-night, those pledges of loyalty and respect,—aye, Sir, of affection—and to add to them an expression of our cordial appreciation of Mr. Wheelwright’s constant and untiring devotion to every interest of the Society.
Gentlemen, I give you the health of President Wheelwright.
The toast was drunk standing, after which speeches were made by the President, Mr. William Watson Goodwin, Bishop Lawrence, who paid a tribute to the memory of Sigourney Butler and spoke of the importance of preserving and printing the Records of our older Churches, Mr. Samuel Johnson, who referred to the Prince Library and its history, Mr. Andrew McFarland Davis, who spoke of Mr. Goodell’s eminent services in elucidating the history of our Provincial legislation, Mr. Samuel Swett Green, and Mr. James Bradstreet Greenough.
Mr. John Noble proposed the health of Mr. Abner C. Goodell, who was detained at his home in Salem by illness; and it was drunk standing.
The President said that letters of regret had been received from Sir John G. Bourinot, and from three of our Honorary Members,—the Hon. Edward J. Phelps, the Hon. James C. Carter, and the Hon. Joseph H. Choate, all of whom were prevented by professional engagements from being present.
JOSEPH HODGES CHOATE.
It is with no little diffidence that I undertake the duty assigned me by The Colonial Society of Massachusetts to write something about our late associate Leverett Saltonstall which shall be worthy of record in its annals, because my close acquaintance with him was limited to a single year in our early lives, and for forty years afterwards our meetings were occasional, although our mutual interest never failed. It was, indeed, a great loss to the Society when the Hon. John Lowell, who, with the loving hand of a lifelong neighbor and intimate friend, had entered upon the performance of this duty, was himself removed from us by death.
Mr. Saltonstall was one of the Founders of The Colonial Society of Massachusetts. At its meeting for organization he was elected one of its Vice-Presidents, but he served in this office for one year only, declining a renomination, in 1893, on the score of ill health. At the request of the Society, he prepared the Memoir of the Hon. Frederick Lothrop Ames which is contained in the first volume of its Publications.
The famous saying of Dr. Holmes, in response to the inquiries of an anxious mother, that a child’s education should begin at least a hundred years before he was born, was exemplified with double force in the case of Mr. Saltonstall. His education, the formation of his character, the motive power of his life began more than two hundred years before his birth at Salem on the sixteenth of March, 1825. More signally than any other man whom I have known he was actuated and inspired in his life and conduct by a just and honorable pride of ancestry, which went far to color his thoughts and control his actions both in public and in private life, and always to high and honorable ends.
It was my good fortune to be present at the celebration, in Salem, of the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the landing of Governor Endicott,—at a scene and in a company which Dean Stanley, who was one of the guests, declared could not be found in any town in England with her thousand years of history. There was the orator of the day, our beloved and honored associate Judge Endicott, the worthy representative in blood, features, and character of the first Colonial Governor—that stalwart hero who had ever the courage of his Puritan convictions and ruled the little Colony with the sword in one hand and the Bible in the other. On his right sat Robert C. Winthrop, and on his left Saltonstall, tracing their descent to the two pioneers of the great Puritan immigration to the old Bay State,—fellow passengers in the Arbella which followed Endicott only a year later,—and who were the leading spirits in the transfer of the Charter to American soil and in laying the foundation of the Commonwealth which was to become, at the close of two centuries, the foremost community not of America only but of the world, in education, intelligence, and character, first in all that goes to make up the physical and moral well-being of the race; while gathered about them were the lineal descendants of four of the leading men in the immigration that preceded Endicott who bore their names and had occupied their places in Salem for eight generations.
Saltonstall could trace his pure English blood, mixed with no foreign strain, not merely to Sir Richard Saltonstall, but, in the widely diverging ascending line, to the Cookes, the Wards, and the Phillipses, to Governor John Leverett, and to many other worthy men of power and dignity in the State who, in succeeding generations, had each, according to his measure, helped to make New England what she was and is, and it is no wonder that he delighted to study their lives, to recall their virtues, and, in life and conduct, to be worthy of his distinguished lineage; and so with him a lofty public spirit, a high and delicate sense of honor, the will to live up to his light wherever it might lead him,—whether we regard them as faculties acquired directly by transmission or studied and imitated for the love he bore to his ancestors,—were necessary and constant traits.
His father, whose name he bore, was conspicuous in Salem and throughout the Commonwealth, not merely as an able lawyer and a wise and patriotic Mayor, legislator, and Congressman, but also, and more than for all his other great virtues, for a warmth and largeness of heart, which went out in all its fulness to those with whom he had to do in every relation of life. I well remember that when he died, in Salem, in 1845, the saying went about among the people who had looked up to him as their leading fellow citizen that Leverett Saltonstall had a heart as big as an ox.
Thus descended and sired, it will not be strange if we find this fortunate child of the Commonwealth a man of unsullied virtue, of large patriotism, ambitious to serve his State and his country, according to the ideals of the past, carrying his head high among his fellows, sensitive in a high degree of his own honor, a lover of truth and justice and ardently loyal to his kindred, his friends, and associates; and such in truth he was.
I will not enter upon the vexed question whether heredity or environment has the greater influence upon the formation of a man’s tendencies and character; but assuming that both are largely responsible, we may note with interest his surroundings from infancy to manhood, and if we find that he was bred as well as he was born, as truly as the boy is father of the man, we shall expect the outcome of a lofty and commanding character.
Salem, his native place and his constant residence from 1825, the date of his birth, until 1844, when he graduated at Harvard, was a peculiar and interesting community, and boyhood spent there left strong and indelible marks upon many of her sons. Its inhabitants were of absolutely pure and unmixed English breed, and chiefly of that sturdy Puritan stock which began with the coming of Endicott and Winthrop, of Saltonstall and Higginson, and continued until the outbreak of civil war in England, and settled along the shores and over the farms of Essex County. Salem had been for two centuries the principal and only considerable town in the County, and hither the most energetic and ambitious of the youth of the County migrated as to the nearest Capital, as Joseph Peabody came from Topsfield, Saltonstall’s father from Haverhill, and Rufus Choate from Chebacco. A foreigner was hardly ever seen within the town limits. The days of her commercial supremacy were past. Commerce itself, spreading its sails on larger ships, had already almost abandoned her shallow harbor; but her enterprising merchants and her hardy navigators had, for almost a century, been exploring the confines of the globe, extending commerce into regions unknown before, and bringing home the spoils of the Indies and of Africa to lay them down at her door. Though Salem ships no longer ploughed the seas as of old, a large share of the wealth that resulted from all this enterprise and adventure still remained in the town, and Saltonstall’s ancestors in the maternal line had been among her leading merchants. The whole tone and spirit of the place was still commercial. Her people were justly proud of her history and traditions. Culture and education had grown up to a high standard with the transmitted wealth which was still enjoyed by her chief citizens who constituted a society which was, at least, equal in all that elevates and graces civilized life to that of any city in America. In these respects her resources were quite sufficient for herself in those days when communication with other cities was difficult, and gravel abroad was an almost unknown luxury. In 1837, we went out to Castle Hill with our parents to see the first railroad train come in from Boston.
Manufactures had not yet been thought of, and business having departed the chief industry of the place was education. There were probably more resident Harvard graduates among her citizens in proportion to the population, than in any other city in the country, and among them many of great eminence. The great depths of orthodoxy had been broken up, and the wonderful and far-reaching influence of Dr. Channing had permeated the religious thought of Massachusetts, and nowhere more thoroughly than in Salem, where the great majority of the educated people had adopted the Unitarian faith. It is to Harvard that this mitigation of the terrors of old beliefs is largely due, and it constitutes one of the greatest services she has ever rendered, which may well be acknowledged now that she has thrown off even the weak trammels of that mild denomination, and opened her doors with absolute freedom and equality to all creeds and all sources of light and knowledge.
It is to this same period also that we trace the beginning of the mighty influence of Horace Mann in arousing the public mind
to the importance of more thorough system in the conduct of education in our public schools. His appointment as Secretary of the newly-appointed Board of Education to revise and reorganize the common school system of the State was warmly welcomed by the elder Saltonstall, who was, about this time, elected the first Mayor of Salem, and, in that capacity, took a lively and special interest in her schools. “Rarely have great abilities, unselfish devotion, and brilliant success been so united in a single life” as in this great educational work of Mr. Mann. In such an intellectual community as that of Salem his labors had magical and electric effects; and fortunate were the youth of this epoch who profited by them.
There was another all-pervading influence which operated with peculiar effect upon the youth of this ancient town, and upon none more vividly than upon those who, like the subject of this Memoir, could look back upon a line of ancestors whose lives, in successive generations, were prominently identified with the public life and history of the Colony and the State. Their minds were saturated with the local traditions which Hawthorne was then illustrating by the inimitable charm of his writings; and a passion for local history and illustration—soon afterwards resulting in the foundation of the Essex Institute, which has contributed such valuable results—was everywhere prevalent. To-day every intelligent boy in America takes up the newspaper and makes a morning tour of the globe, learning before breakfast all that is going on “from China to Peru;” but it was not so in the days of which we are speaking. Steam had hardly begun to tell, the telegraph was hardly yet dreamt of, and the telephone, if suggested to the imagination, would have been set down with Salem Witchcraft as an invention of his Satanic Majesty. The semi-weekly Register and Gazette gave us chiefly local news, telling of the events of Boston two days before, of New York a week before, and discussing what had happened in Europe in the previous month. The North American Review was about the only monthly periodical. Thus our attention was concentrated upon home life and home rule, and the past history and current events of Salem and of Essex County were of absorbing importance.
We had our local aristocracy—very marked and commanding and exclusive—in those days, which was naturally led by the Saltonstalls and the Endicotts. Its social life was, for the time, luxurious and splendid; its hospitality unbounded and marked by the charms and graces of wealth and cultivation. Federalism, too, gave the prevailing political tone to the leading members of this wealthy society. The Essex Junto—to which their commercial ancestors had been committed, and which was “the personification of the desire of the local commercial interests for a stronger Federal Union,” led by such men as the Lowells, George Cabot, Theophilus Parsons, Stephen Higginson, and Benjamin Goodhue—had transmitted its extreme Federal ideas to a posterity, which was still keenly alive to the importance of commerce, and to the maintenance of a powerful mercantile marine, as vital to the national prosperity; and the birth of the Whig party, as the natural heir of Federal traditions and doctrines, found here many stalwart champions. The Essex Bar was still powerful by the talents and the number of its leading representatives, of whom Saltonstall’s father was among the foremost.
Reared in such a community, amid such surroundings, and breathing such a social and intellectual atmosphere, we should expect a youth who enjoyed its best influences and associations to give promise of a cultivated, high-toned, and patriotic gentleman.
The Salem Latin School, in which he was prepared for college, was a unique institution. It was maintained by the Town and afterwards by the City at the public expense for the sole purpose of qualifying boys for college, and almost exclusively for Harvard. For generations it sent forth annually to that Mother of Learning a little group of boys who had figured well in the classes to which they were admitted. It had come down under varying names from the early days of the Colony, and was, or had the credit of being, the first Public School established in Massachusetts, even antedating the foundation of Harvard College. “Schola publica prima” was inscribed upon the wall opposite the master’s desk; and the name of George Downing, the second member of the Harvard Class of 1642, and who enjoys, in the Quinquennial Catalogue, these honors—“Knight 1660, Baronet 1663; Ambassador to Netherlands from Cromwell and Charles II.; M. P.,” was also there emblazoned as “the first pupil,” as a historical incentive to our ambition. In the two centuries that followed, the School may have turned out many a worse scholar, but never a more notorious turn-coat, than Downing. Oliver Carlton, a rigid disciplinarian, but a most thorough and faithful teacher, was the Master and the sole instructor in Saltonstall’s time. A single room and a lobby for disciplinary purposes sufficed for all the needs of the School. Here we recited, studied, and suffered. He taught but three things, Latin, Greek, and Mathematics, but he taught them well, and what was not absorbed voluntarily was pounded in. In serious cases of delinquency he spared not the rod,—the real, old-fashioned thing. He was no respecter of persons. His monogram, O. K. O. K. O. K.,—“an awful cut from Oliver Carlton’s awful cowhide,”—was tattooed with equal fidelity upon the aristocratic cuticle of a Saltonstall or an Endicott as upon the hide of more democratic members. His avenging wrath fell upon culprits without the least regard to the homes from which they came, or to the wealth or poverty ruling there. It was impartial as death itself:
——“aequo pulsat pede pauperum tabernas
One of Saltonstall’s most graceful acts was his appreciative Memoir of this faithful, and always honored and beloved, teacher. In 1840, he entered the Freshman class of Harvard well prepared. No Saltonstall in the nineteenth century could think for a moment of entering any College but Harvard. There his father had graduated, in 1802, and each of his ancestors in five successive generations, beginning with Nathaniel, in 1659, was enrolled among the Alumni. Henry, a son of Sir Richard, was in the first class, of 1642, and others of the name among his collateral kindred were Harvard’s sons. An intense filial love of the College, as his true intellectual mother, inspired him from the day he entered as a Freshman until fifty-four years after when, in Memorial Hall, on Commencement Day, he spoke for the lingering remnant of his Class, and in words of deep feeling, which touched the hearts of all hearers, he glorified the record of his classmates, and at the same time testified the grateful recognition by the Alumni of the matchless services of President Eliot who, on the same day, celebrated the Twenty-fifth anniversary of his remarkable Presidency; and it was with no little pride that he boasted that all his sons had added their names to the illustrious roll of graduates.
The period of his college life, which was bringing rapidly to its close the long and honorable presidency of Josiah Quincy, is fondly looked back upon by the elders among our surviving graduates as the halcyon epoch of its history. No very material change in the curriculum had been introduced since his father’s graduation forty-two years before. The size of the classes had not substantially increased above the old average of about sixty members, so that all of a class were necessarily intimate acquaintances, friends for life, brethren by a close tie. The College Faculty, small in numbers, teaching a few things well to all alike, were known through and through by all the students and honored or criticised, applauded or ridiculed, according to their merits. It was still Harvard College only, and the idea of the University had not been conceived.
In view of the varied and multiplied necessities of modern life, the superiority of the new system, as a means of general education for the average of the vast throng of pupils that now crowd her portals, will hardly be disputed by anybody; but as the prestige of any seat of learning must depend, not so much on the number of her graduates, as upon the number and character of great men among her teachers, and especially among her Alumni, it will take another generation yet to determine, whether, for the production of these,—the true jewels in her crown,—the new system surpasses the old in efficiency and strength. Certainly, it will be well for Harvard if she shall develop in her graduates of the present half-century, even with their enlarged numbers, men who, for the honor of the College and the service of the community, shall excel Story, Shaw, Channing, Everett, Prescott, Bancroft, Emerson, Adams, Winthrop, Pierce, Holmes, Motley, Hoar, and Lowell. The discipline and the genius loci which produced such a list of worthies cannot be despised.
Judged by the same standard, the Class of 1844 was a great and famous class. Out of a total of sixty-two members it produced four men who have procured, each for himself, a niche in the Temple of Fame. Dr. John Call Dalton and Professor Benjamin Apthorp Gould, by their contributions to Science, and William Morris Hunt in Art, and Francis Parkman in Historical Literature, bear telling testimony for the nurture of which they were the fruit. Saltonstall’s record and standing in college were highly honorable, though we cannot picture him ever as a very hard student. In the social life of the College, which then, even more than now, was a conspicuous factor in moulding and developing personal character, he must have been always a prominent figure, and have exercised a wholesome influence in the direction of all that was true and pure and lovely and of good report. It was here, especially, that his commanding figure, his courtly presence, his cordial greeting, and his loving sympathy would tell and bear fruit.
Six years intervened between his graduation and his admission to the Bar in Boston, but half of these were spent in foreign travel which enriched his mind with varied stores of reminiscences, and made his company and conversation in after life so animating and delightful.
It was my good fortune, after completing the usual course at the Law School, to spend a year as a student in his office, and I have always recurred to that brief period of association with him with great interest and satisfaction. He was then very young in the profession, but he had already acquired a considerable practice, was particularly fond of Court business, and threw himself into what came to him with great energy and ardor, although he had not yet mastered, what some of us never master,—a certain stage fright, which almost universally overwhelms the young practitioner in Court. His highly-strung, nervous temperament rendered him peculiarly susceptible to this forensic malady. A posing question from Chief Justice Shaw, always a terror to tyros, or a hostile manifestation in the jury box, would send him back to his office at the adjournment of Court, in a state of excitement which, for the time being, was a great strain upon his nerves. But this, it will be remembered, was at the outset of his career and was very transient. His self-command soon asserted itself, and he had the faculties and the qualities which would have surely led him, had he persevered, to a leading place at the Bar and especially among Jury lawyers. Common-sense is the great faculty for dealing with jurors, and of this pre-requisite he had a full supply; and then he was a first-rate speaker, and his commanding figure and genial presence, and his unwavering fidelity to what was just and fair and honest, would have done the rest. Juries dearly love fair play, and no man in Court or out ever played fairer than Salton stall. There is one Incentive that he lacked, without which, I believe, very few men in the world’s history—you can count them all upon your fingers—ever attained to real and lasting eminence at the Bar. I mean the spur of necessity, for which no substitute in our profession has ever been invented. Success at the Bar demands grinding self-denial; a total sacrifice of ease and other enjoyments; an abandonment of all those things which make life charming, until its attainment becomes itself the supreme charm. It is almost impossible for a man surrounded, as Saltonstall was, with all the enticements and distractions of wealth, culture, and social eminence and the rarest domestic happiness, to turn his back upon all delights and submit for a score of years to the hard labor and drudgery of the law. The old prescription for the young lawyer—“If you’ve got any money spend it, if your wife’s got any spend that, and then work like a dog till you’re Lord Chancellor”—had no wisdom or sense for him. There was one other trait that stood in the way of his professional progress. He was too fastidious to submit with patience and equanimity to the associations into which the daily life of the lawyer necessarily brings him. He seemed hardly able to distinguish between personal and professional association, and in the necessary dealing with parties and witnesses, and their too often sordid and mercenary motives and purposes, he felt that he was brought into daily contact with the things he loathed, just as the blood and the pain which shock and distress might drive a sensitive young surgeon from any further prosecution of his profession.
Turning, then, from Mr. Saltonstall’s professional career, which, as I think, was altogether too brief—for the high moral standard and lofty tone upon which he always insisted, and of which, while he continued in the profession, he was a notable example, would have exercised a wide and wholesome influence—we come to his public life, as a welcome and favorite orator; as an eminent private citizen, taking a constant and lively interest in all questions that concerned the Commonwealth; and finally as a public officer, ranking among the best examples of the public servant. I find that this ground has been so well covered by Mr. Codman, in his Memoir, written shortly after his death for the Massachusetts Historical Society, that it is only at the risk of repetition that I can refer to the subject at all.
He was a florid, forcible, and earnest public speaker, and bad that real love of oratory and of handling an audience without which no speaker can hope to satisfy himself or his hearers. The charms of his voice, person, and manner, and his obvious candor and honesty of mind, made his appearance upon any platform most welcome and agreeable, and often aroused genuine enthusiasm. It was, I think, on those special occasions which involved or celebrated subjects or events most dear to his heart, that he appeared to the best advantage. His enthusiasm for Harvard College knew no bounds, and when he spoke for her it was like listening to a son pleading for the mother who bore him. His services to his Alma Mater were of no mean character. I think it was largely due to the influence of his spirit and advice that his uncle, Charles Sanders, bequeathed to the College the funds for the building of Sanders Theatre, which has become so dear to the Alumni as the scene of all their gala days, and we may be sure that when he drew his check as one of the Sanders Trustees for the payment of that beneficent legacy, his heart exulted with pride unspeakable. He served for three terms on the Board of Overseers, with unfailing and intelligent devotion, and his presence at Commencement was itself always an earnest of his pious loyalty. As President of the Alumni, a post which he filled more than once, he always maintained the grace and dignity of the occasion.
A few quotations from these addresses may not be out of place, to show how he threw his whole heart and soul into such a favorite theme.
At that memorable celebration of 1886, when the College celebrated her Two hundred and fiftieth anniversary in the presence of her guests,—the representatives of all the great institutions of learning at home and abroad,—presiding at the Banquet of the Alumni, he said:—
“The growth of the Nation in wealth and population is a miracle, but what sort of a country would it have been to-day, had it not been for the far-seeing wisdom of the fathers in planting this noble College, which has been the mother not only of her graduates, but through them of schools and colleges innumerable all over our land?
“Here was kindled that beacon fire whose burning brands were caught up and carried from hill-top to hill-top to light the way as far as civilization advanced, and America to-day looks up to Harvard and is grateful to the mother of generations of the good and learned for the good work she has done.
“I never enter her walls that my heart is not filled with profound emotion. . . . May the day never dawn when such may cease to be the feeling of her children for our Alma Mater!
“Let us show our sons how we love her, that they, fifty years hence, when we are gathered to our fathers, may repeat the story to their children.”
In 1892, at the Commencement Dinner, he said:—
“Truly, we love to recur, upon these anniversaries, to our small beginnings in the never-ceasing wonder that such men and women should have left comfortable and luxurious homes with deliberate purpose to found a State in the wilderness. May the story never become threadbare! I feel it a great honor to have been called to preside here, especially upon two such interesting anniversaries as those of the foundation of the College and that of the graduation of the first Class. And I hope that as Henry Saltonstall, in 1642, with that first Class of nine, sate at Scholars Ordinary Commons, with the magistrates and elders, and that as all my fathers have in unbroken succession, since, received her benediction, so may my sons’ sons and yours, my brothers, in generations to come, seek her blessing, and when within her walls feel, to the very bottom of their hearts, that they are standing upon sacred ground, with a silent prayer for our dear old Alma Mater.”
Again, in 1894, when he spoke for his Class in what proved, alas! to be his pathetic farewell address to the College, after dwelling in words of touching and loving memory upon the virtues and the honors of so many of his classmates who had answered to the last call before him, he said:—
“Mr. President, I am grateful that my life has been spared till this day. Loving Harvard, as I do, it has been a peculiar privilege to hear the tribute paid to the President of the University for his noble work during the last quarter-century. And on behalf of myself and my veteran Class I desire to thank him. I was Marshal on the occasion of his inauguration, and now stand here, with all Harvard Graduates, to say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant!’ No man, since the foundation of the College, has done so much as you, sir. It is a line of good and worthy men who have presided over this ancient University, but you have been given the opportunity, the courage, and the genius to place it upon this commanding height, and to have opened the gates and pointed the way to the higher education in this country.”
So, too, on all those great commemorative celebrations in the various towns of the Commonwealth which his progenitors had had a large share in founding,—Salem, Ipswich, Haverhill, and Watertown,—where his presence and speech were in themselves an inspiration, his fervid and glowing eloquence was replete with incidents of provincial, colonial, and ancestral times, with which his mind was well stocked. In Colonial history he was deeply versed, and had studied it con amore. He seemed, in spirit, to have followed his progenitors from their luxurious homes beyond the sea, to have dwelt with them in their more humble habitations in the wilderness, and to have witnessed their pious undertakings for the good of the Colony from generation to generation; and, with a heart swelling with gratitude and pride, he poured out his thoughts on such occasions to delighted and admiring hearers whom the hour brought into cordial sympathy with his own emotions.
His religious convictions as a Unitarian, after the order of Channing, he maintained to the end of his life, and in breadth and liberality of view he seems to have emulated the wise example of two of his ancestors who, in this respect, were fairly in advance of their age. When Sir Richard, from across the sea, sent a message of indignant protest to Cotton and Wilson, the ruling ministers of Boston, against their cruel and inhuman oppression for opinions’ sake, telling them how “it grieved his spirit to hear what sad things are reported daily of your tyranny and persecution, in New England, as that you fine, whip and imprison men for their consciences,” and adding, “I hope you do not assume to yourselves infallibility of judgment when the most learned of the Apostles confesseth he knew but in part and saw darkly as through a glass;” and when, in a later generation, another ancestor, who was a judge of the County Court in Salem, refused to sit upon the trial of the alleged Witches, they exhibited a courage and a breadth of mind far in advance of their times. I think we recognize a kindred liberality of spirit and soul in Leverett when we find him, as President of the Unitarian Club, in his address of welcome to the Clergy on behalf of the Laity, in 1884, saying:—
“We may now enter the portals of many other denominations and hear of the love of God for his children where formerly the very roof-tree cracked and the rafters groaned under the terrible threats of the wrath of the avenging Deity. The good work is going on, and, thanks to your noble and untiring efforts, it will not cease until, in course of time, the disciples of Christ shall ask of each other more of works and less of creed.”
There was one subject of a public nature in which Mr. Saltonstall was far in advance of his age, and on which he did not hesitate to declare, in repeated instances and in emphatic tones, his convictions; and these convictions are directly traceable, I think, to the commercial atmosphere of Salem in which he was bred, I mean the importance and necessity to the national welfare of a powerful mercantile marine, as a nursery of commerce and of seamen, and as the only means of securing to America her full share of the carrying trade of the world. He remembered the days before the Civil War, when our flag floated proudly on every sea and in every port. He had heard from the lips of father and grandfather of the time when the carrying trade of America vied even with that of Great Britain. He had seen the whole disappear during the War of the Rebellion, when our ships took refuge under foreign flags. He had witnessed what he deemed the stultification of Congress, in not allowing them to come back after the war, and in not permitting every American who can purchase a ship anywhere to put the flag upon it and to receive the protection of the strong arm of the Nation for it, wherever it sails. He had searched in vain in foreign ports for any trace of the Stars and Stripes where they once floated so proudly to the breeze, and had witnessed the miserable spectacle in the chief port of America, of all her vast foreign exports and imports being brought in and carried out by ships floating every flag but ours.
Perhaps, at this interesting time when our Navy has suddenly grown to be the second in the world, and we are beginning to worship Sea Power as the real source of national strength, a few of his wise and far-seeing utterances on this subject it may be appropriate and timely to recall. In his address to the Boston Chamber of Commerce, in 1888, he said:—
“We are told that this decay of our shipping has been brought about by natural causes: that other communities can build ships cheaper than America; that steamers have taken the place of sailing vessels; and that the development of our great interior by building railroads and bringing its products to the coast is far better and more profitable than carrying them across the ocean. This is, I doubt not, partly true, and following as it did the destruction of our magnificent merchant fleet or its sale to England during the war, and the refusal of Congress to permit former owners to buy back their ships, together with the imposition of a Tariff tax which put a veto upon building others, it proved an irresistible argument.
“But are we never again to attempt the restoration of our shipping? Lying between the two great oceans are we forever to be dependent upon our rivals to carry our surplus products to South America and the East? What then is to be done? We cannot yet build steamers as cheaply as they are built abroad, and have not the skilled officers to command them, nor can we, under our laws, purchase them abroad. The very mention of such a thing frightens some of our political magnates out of their wits, and is declared to be a deadly thrust at our shipbuilding interests. But this seems the very height of absurdity. We import machinery until it can be constructed here as cheaply as the imported article. Ships purchased abroad, placed under our flag, and officered at first, perhaps, by foreigners, would give employment directly and indirectly, to thousands of our people. Our young men would soon learn to command them, our mechanics would repair them, our miners would supply them with coal, and it would not be long before our shipyards would hum with the busy industry of building them. The world has moved on while we have been asleep in the matter of ships. Is it not high time to bestir ourselves to the necessity of overtaking other nations?
“‘Home markets’ are all very well, but this Republic should not be thus limited in its ambition, and should seek to send to other markets its surplus productions. This can be done, it seems to me, only by a judicious reduction of the Tariff, and the repeal of so much of the Navigation Law as prevents our buying ships abroad for the establishment of an American merchant service.”
The traditions of his maternal ancestors, who followed the sea, rose from the forecastle to the quarter-deck, and retired to become great ship-owners, inspired these words. They recall the days when the sails of Salem ships whitened every sea, and our proud flag floated to the sunrise from their peaks on the shores of every continent,—the days of her merchant princes, the Derbys, the Grays, and the Crowninshields, the days of the foundation of the East India Marine Museum, which gathered the curious treasures of the farthest East and West, brought home by its own members, who must, for admission to its ranks, have sailed as masters or supercargoes in an American ship round the Cape of Good Hope or Cape Horn. Alas! there are no such men any longer; the Society has dwindled to a half-dozen octogenarians, the last of whom will soon have slipped his last cable. There are no recruits for its ranks, because there are no American ships to make the required voyages.
In the ten years since these words were uttered, and especially in the three years since his death, the world has indeed “moved on,” as he said. If we are to have a great Navy to protect our commerce, we must have a great commerce to protect. If we are to grasp and hold the share of Sea Power that belongs to us, we must have a great merchant service. The American people will not much longer tolerate laws upon our statute book which prohibit the resurrection of this great source of national life and strength. Such words as these will at last be heard, and all who stand in the way of this rising tide of Americanism will be swept aside.
By good rights, a man so gifted as Mr. Saltonstall, and so admirably adapted, as the event proved, for public office, should have been called into the public service at an early period of life. It is to such men of means, and talents, and public spirit, willing to devote their energies, their leisure, and their patriotic spirit to doing the work of the public, that we may hope hereafter to look for the redemption of our Civil Service. Such men may be kept in the background, so far as office is concerned, by party machines and party despots, but their duty and obligation to study public questions, and to make known their deliberate judgment upon them for the public benefit, is always imperative, and Saltonstall recognized and discharged this duty with unfailing fidelity.
Whether we agree or disagree with his opinions and positions declared in his political speeches,—and I have found but little in them with which I could then or at any time since agree,—no one can question the true ring of his patriotic spirit, or the lofty moral purpose which always actuated him. There is no doubt that he would have made a most useful member of Congress or a distinguished Governor of Massachusetts. His character, his conduct, and his talents would have adorned either station, and we must honor and approve the honorable ambition which made such places attractive to him. It has always seemed to me that from 1860 to 1876 he was unfortunately out of his element in the Democratic party of Massachusetts. He seemed like a gold fish in strange and unaccustomed waters; as he could never feel at home with the constituency of his native, county of Essex, when it preferred to elect General Butler as its representative in Congress, so he could not co-operate with the party in the State which afterwards made the same doughty soldier, year after year, its candidate for Governor, and finally elected him to that exalted office. It is not to be wondered at that he failed to follow the vast majority of his friends and natural associates into the ranks of the Republican party. Like his eminent father, he was a devout disciple of Webster, and the preservation of the Union, by and under the Constitution, and without the risk of any invasion of its provisions, was the fundamental article of his political creed.
The formation of a Territorial party, pledged to prevent the extension of slavery under the Constitution, was in the judgment of that School the first step toward inevitable disunion. Neither Webster nor any of his immediate followers could see that that other watchword of his, “Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable,” could never be realized except by the utter destruction of Slavery. It was the far-seeing mind of Lincoln that clearly discerned and declared that a house divided against itself could not possibly stand. It was this view of the conflict between Freedom and Slavery—so irrepressible that both could not continue permanently to exist under the same sovereignty, but one or the other must go to the wall, Constitution or no Constitution—that repelled men who felt as Saltonstall felt from joining the new party. So he stood aloof and resisted, to the best of his power, its first effort to elect Fremont, which fortunately failed, and could not share in its supreme triumph in the subsequent election of Lincoln. But that he was absolutely sincere and honest in his convictions, and at the same time loyal to the core, appeared by his patriotic conduct when war actually came and the deadly assault on the Union was delivered.
Webster did not live to witness the terrible spectacle which he had eloquently deprecated,—the land divided against itself and drenched in fraternal blood—and Lincoln’s prophecy proved true to the letter. The Union could not be saved except by that violent breach of the Constitution which was made by the Emancipation Proclamation. But the same political party which finished the war on that issue and restored Liberty and Union together, straightway healed that breach by the new Amendments. In the great questions involved in reconstruction, which divided the country for so many years, the opponents of the Administration stoutly maintained their array, and vigorously, and without discrimination, opposed every measure and every proposition of the dominant power. In this long conflict Saltonstall took a prominent, and always a manly part, and his appearance on the platform was always greeted with welcome and applause. It is pleasant to forget these dead issues on which he wasted so much honest and eloquent breath, and to follow him into the active and highly useful public service to which, at last, in his riper years, he was summoned, and in the conduct of which he displayed great merit, fitness and capacity.
When the people of the United States determined to celebrate the Centennial anniversary of their Independence by an Industrial Exhibition at Philadelphia, in which all the States should be invited to participate, such exhibitions were substantially in their infancy in this country; in fact it was with us an entirely new experiment on any such grand and universal scale. It was to be held under the auspices of the Federal Government, which contributed $1,500,000 for the purpose, while the private, State, and municipal subscriptions aggregated several times that amount. The successful Expositions of the same character, in previous decades, in London, Paris, and Vienna challenged America to do its best in this generous rivalry at such a signal epoch in its history. Whether the people of Massachusetts were not alive to the importance and vast extent of the projected enterprise, or were doubtful of its expediency and of its probable success, its Legislature, at the session of 1875, made the wholly inadequate appropriation of $50,000 to enable its citizens to participate in it; and this seems to have indicated a general apathy among the people of the State in regard to it. But as the event proved, it was most fortunate for the Commonwealth that Governor Gaston selected Mr. Saltonstall as Chief Commissioner for Massachusetts. His appointment was somewhat tardy—in September, 1875, only a few weeks before the final assignment of space for exhibits upon the floor—but the Chief Commissioner, impressed with the importance of the undertaking and of the State’s doing herself full justice in such a magnificent competition with her sisters, and convinced that if she did so, her showing would compare well with any other section of the country, put forth all his energies from the receipt of his commission until the close of the Exhibition, and, aided by many public-spirited volunteers, he saved the honor and credit of the State. His personal popularity and wide acquaintance, and his interest in agriculture and education, lent a sanction to the appeals which he made by public addresses and personal influence to enlist popular sympathy and enthusiasm. The result was highly creditable to the State which he represented, and when the Exhibition opened, the fine display of her educational development and of her marine interests and fisheries—always such important elements in her History—attracted great attention. He made a fine Address in Independence Square to the vast multitude which there assembled, on the day before the opening, in response to the call for Massachusetts. His manly presence commanded attention, his magnificent voice reached the outmost circle of the crowd, and the speech was quite worthy of the applause with which it was received. His thought naturally ran in the highly patriotic strain, recalling the great event which was celebrated, and the great men of Massachusetts and Pennsylvania who took part in it together, in Independence Hall, under whose shadow he was speaking.
The thing to be noted in this, his first really public service, is his personal devotion to it as a public trust, and the excellent executive and administrative ability which it called forth. He could not have devoted himself with more zeal, intelligence, and industry to the most lucrative private business than he did to this unaccustomed and gratuitous employment. In a man already past fifty, who had led a life of ample leisure, this was very noticeable. Money-making, I believe, had never any special charms for him, but this opportunity to serve his fellow-citizens in a useful and honorable employment he highly enjoyed and improved.
Hardly had he completed these interesting labors, when he was called upon by the Democratic National Committee to perform a most arduous, and certainly distasteful, public service,—to go to Florida and attend the canvassing of the Presidential vote in that State in the disputed election of 1876. The terrible excitement which then prevailed as to the true result of the election can never be forgotten. Looking back now after the lapse of twenty-one years, in the cool after-light of history, it is impossible to deny that the partisans of Mr. Tilden had some grounds for believing that he was entitled to a majority of the electoral vote. Even those of us who then believed, and still believe, the contrary, must admit that. The practical suppression of the negro vote in the whole intervening period, which is now universally understood and admitted, had not then assumed its present definite form, and it was not unnatural for each side honestly to believe that in the disputed States, in districts where their adversaries had control, such suppression or other fraudulent manipulation of the vote had been practised. At any rate, the belief of unfair play was universal among Democrats, and almost as universal among Republicans. In this predicament an imperative desire arose, among the constituted authorities of both parties, that men of tried and incorruptible integrity, representing both sides, should go down and personally witness the local canvass. To such a call from his party Mr. Saltonstall could not well refuse to respond. He went, and seems to have had a most trying time. He returned absolutely convinced that aggravated frauds had been committed, both at the election and in the official canvass, by which the electoral vote of the State was awarded to General Hayes, and he so reported to the Committee which had sent him. But it is not to be forgotten that Saltonstall was a strong partisan—always confessedly so; that in matters where his feelings were enlisted his mind did not act judicially; and that quite as strong a conviction the other way was formed by honest men equally partisan on the other side. Fortunately for both parties, as I think, the truth as to the original facts will never be known, and History is likely to stand by the conclusion of that noble Republican, General Barlow, who was sent upon the same mission by his party, and who was always as fearless as he was honest,—that it remained doubtful whether the actual vote cast gave a Hayes or a Tilden majority; and this doubt will forever uphold the decision of the Electoral Commission, that both parties and the Nation must abide by the actual return of the State Canvassing Board. It was a most critical period in the history of the United States, when we seemed almost on the verge of civil war again. It was averted by the patriotic and conciliatory spirit of both parties in constituting the tribunal which was to decide the fate of both; but for one, I must admit that the chief meed of praise for magnanimity, both in making up the Commission, and in submitting without question or murmur to its decision, is due to the party to which Saltonstall belonged, which came out the loser of the momentous stake by a strictly party vote of the Commission. At the same time, I believe that the general judgment of the people, which sustained the Republican party in power for the next eight years, was satisfied with the result accomplished.
Mr. Saltonstall’s advocacy of a general Treaty of Arbitration with Great Britain, upon the occasion of the visit of Sir Lyon Playfair and other celebrated Englishmen, as the bearers of an Address, signed by their associates in Parliament, in favor of such a treaty, is worthy of record at this time when rulers and people of both nations are in favor of strengthening and fastening the ties of blood and interest and duty which unite us, and especially at the close of a war which, at the time his words were uttered, seemed an absolute impossibility to our generation. At the Banquet given by the Commercial Club of Boston in honor of this British deputation, in 1887, he said:—
“The mission of these people, representing as they do 232 members of the British Parliament, will, I believe, be referred to in the future as one of the most interesting events in history, for how can we doubt that it will be entirely successful? The only wonder is that in this period of advanced civilization such a Treaty as is by them advocated should be necessary,—that two nations so near akin as Britain and America, professed followers of the Prince of Peace during all these centuries which have elapsed since he preached the gospel of peace and brotherly love, should feel that war could, for any possible cause, arise between them. Nor do I much believe that Great Britain and America would, without such a Treaty, ever declare war against each other.
“The series of negotiations and compromises which settled the great excitement attending the questions of the Steamer Caroline, the North Eastern Boundary, the Oregon Boundary, and, above all, the Arbitration on the Alabama Claims, which set the example to the world of a just and honorable decision by a Court of Arbitration of a great, exciting question which threatened to involve the two nations in war, point to Arbitration as the sole method of solving all difficulties, when diplomacy and negotiations fail.
“A great Nation of sixty millions of people, pointing to her past achievements in arms, need make no further display of prowess to secure its proper renown among the nations of the world. The telegraph, the press, the post office, the railroad, the steamship, and, more than all, the cable laid by our great Anglo Saxon Race, so link the nations together that it would seem that wars must cease and huge armies return to the work of producing food for themselves and their fellow men. All honor, then, to these bearers of good tidings, heralds of ‘Peace on earth, good will toward men.’ We pledge them our most zealous and ardent support, nor will we cease our efforts until they are crowned with success.”
Here, again, he was decidedly in advance of his time. The Arbitration Treaty negotiated between the two nations failed in the Senate, and only three years ago, upon the occasion of the Venezuela incident, Congress, without a dissenting voice, phrenzied by the hostile message of the President, and backed, as it seemed, by the sentiment of a vast majority of our people, was eager to spring to arms even against Great Britain. It was but a momentary phrenzy, and the easy and good-natured forbearance of the British Government made war impossible. But the great armaments of the world have vastly increased, and are still increasing, and great wars still seem inevitable unless heed shall be given to the proposal of the young Czar of Russia—the last monarch in the world from whom it might have been expected, the ruler of the nation which has the least to lose and the most to gain by war—who now calls all the nations to a Conference for general disarmament and peace.
The eight years that elapsed from his return from Florida until the election of President Cleveland, in 1884, were quiet years for Mr. Saltonstall and, doubtless, the happiest of his life. Finding sufficient occupation in the conduct of the many private trusts which the universal knowledge of his steadfast integrity and fidelity imposed upon him, watching and enjoying to the utmost the development and settlement in life of his children, surrounded by all that could enrich life and embellish it, with ample leisure for the indulgence of his choice and cultivated taste for art and literature, he must have been as happy as the lot of humanity ever admits.
But more stirring and active times were in store for him, and his one enduring claim to historical remembrance is the really great record which he made as Collector, for three years, of the Port of Boston, to which office he was appointed by Mr. Cleveland, in November, 1885, where he did brave battle for the cause of Civil Service Reform as a champion in the front rank. Up to the time of his appointment he had been chiefly known as a partisan, but he had, nevertheless, constantly and consistently avowed his faith in the absolute necessity of a radical reform of the Civil Service. There was nothing in this inconsistent with his loyalty to party, for not only his own party, but both parties, by their National Platforms, had declared their devotion to this great cause; but Mr. Saltonstall’s ruling passion and distinguishing characteristic was absolute honesty, and he believed in holding his party to its solemn vows, and, at all events, would abide by them himself. No one knew this better than President Cleveland and his constitutional advisers, one of whom, Judge Endicott, was his lifelong and intimate friend. In July, 1885, the President sent for Mr. Saltonstall and urged upon him the office of Chief Commissioner of the Civil Service in place of Mr. Dorman B. Eaton, who may justly be regarded as the pioneer and founder of this Reform in America. To succeed such a man in such a position might well be regarded, as it was by Mr. Saltonstall and his friends, not only as a deserved recognition but a very great compliment; but the duties of the office would have compelled his absence from Boston, and the abandonment of trusts and duties there that were, at the time, imperative, and he persuaded the President that it was his duty to decline the office. But Mr. Cleveland was not willing to excuse Mr. Saltonstall from the public service, and his appointment as Collector soon followed. He took the position about public office of any kind, that he would not seek it, would not lift a finger to get it, but that if it came to him unsought, and his private circumstances permitted, he must accept; and he did. Men of all parties loudly approved the appointment. In fact, everybody was delighted with it from its manifest fitness, except only the spoilsmen of his own party who knew that, come what might, he would keep his word, and stand fast by the faith which he had professed. The reason for general satisfaction was well stated by the press,—because “Mr. Saltonstall was one of the cleanest men in public life.” The remarks attributed to the new Collector in December, 1885, by the New York Evening Post, the leading advocate of this Reform from the beginning, are worth quoting:—
“After twenty-five years the Democracy is in power with the Civil Service Law in force, and a President the very embodiment of Civil Service Reform principles. Now, I go into office with the Civil Service Law to protect me from the whole Democratic party. Why, they would be upon me from the very hills of Berkshire. Now, I say to the office seekers, ‘Gentlemen, there are only a few offices and here are one thousand of you. In regard to the great mass of clerks I have, and can have, no more control than any of the gentlemen before me. I may find a clerk incompetent or unworthy of his trust and discharge him. Can I fill the vacancy as I choose? Not at all. Up comes a Civil Service Commissioner who may say to me, “Here are four men who have passed the examinations and are certified for appointment. Take your choice.” Here may be men white or black, rich or poor, native or foreign-born, Democrat or Republican, all equal before the law, and into that vacancy the Collector must or should put the man who is best qualified.’ Here is a grand advance. Every citizen who loves his country should support this law, and the party which dares to array itself against it will be lost. Other issues—the Currency or the Tariff—may affect the prosperity of the Nation for a time, but by standing by this law we may do more for the ultimate standard of the Nation among the peoples of the world than in any other and all other ways combined.”
The same high authority pronounced this to be the true gospel of Civil Service Reform, and his great glory was that, in his conduct of the office, he carried out this gospel to the letter. When he took office, there were two hundred and forty places in the Custom House which were within the classified lists. In the first six months of his incumbency he removed only ten, and in every instance the vacancies were filled by competitive examinations, and without any regard to the politics of the candidates; and during the same period, of ninety-seven officers who did not come within the rule of classification, and whose places he had a perfect right to fill at his pleasure, or to make room for his party’s supporters, he had removed only six, and these for cause, retaining all those who were competent and capable, and had faithfully performed their official duties. Such a record was without a precedent in any other Custom House in the land, and drew marked public attention to Mr. Saltonstall, who, on repeated public occasions, had declared that his conduct was not only required by the law, which he must and would obey, but was entirely in harmony with his own personal convictions as to the principles which the public welfare required. Newspapers of the opposite party made the false charge that he was really serving his party, and was filling vacancies with candidates among those equally qualified who had the strongest party backing. This charge he manfully declined to notice or deny, until such denial was demanded of him by a local Civil Service Reform Association of which he was a member and officer, when he reluctantly published a most modest, but emphatic, refutation of it. Soon afterwards the cormorants of his own political party, enraged by what they considered an unprecedented retention of the spoils which were their natural right, made a vicious and savage attack upon him, which resulted in a display of true mettle and courage on his part, to the delight of all true friends of Reform and of the country, and placed him at the very front of the champions of the cause which he had so nobly espoused. “What use to be Democrats at all,” said the spoilsmen, “if principles so abhorrent to our ancient party practices, and to the Jacksonian theory that to the victors belong the spoils, are to be carried out under our very eyes in the chief Federal establishment in the State?”
A test must be made whether the great party machine of the Commonwealth or the Collector was the stronger power. Accordingly, a sub-committee of its Executive Committee, armed and equipped with all the authority which that august body could confer, waited upon him with the impudent demand “to look over his list of subordinates and see how many of them are Republicans and why they are retained in office.” The Collector, with true dignity, but, of course, in his ever courteous and gentlemanly manner, refused to treat with them or grant them the information, if they came as a committee of the Democratic party or of any other political party. He took the ground that for his official conduct he was responsible only to the President and the Secretary of the Treasury, and would recognize no accountability to any one else, not even the great Democratic party, whose creature and subject they erroneously supposed him to be. He took, and held the position that the Civil Service Law was as binding as any other law, and that he was bound by his oath of office to obey it; that if, unfortunately, the law should be repealed, or the Collectorship remitted, by higher authority, to its old status of a party machine, he should feel compelled, by his convictions, to resign the office.
In explanation of his conduct to the public he further said:
“If I can conduct the office for the best interest of the government, and at the same time raise it to the position it should permanently occupy under the Reform Law, I shall consider that I have been of some service to my day and generation. I consider that the very existence of the Republic depends on this or a better law. It has its faults and can be improved, but, on the whole, is efficient, and I have found it so in its workings. With one or two exceptions I have not drawn a single man from the Civil Service Lists that has not proved not only acceptable, but eminently so, for the position to which he was appointed. The party that succeeds in carrying out and making permanent a thorough reform of the Civil Service, and in redeeming the country from the Spoils System should and will, in my estimation, receive the gratitude of posterity.”
The friends of the Reform throughout the country took new hope and courage from this truly magnificent position of the Collector, and it is needless to say that even the managers of his own party were convinced, at least, that it was impregnable, for, when the State Committee reported their grievances to the next State Convention, that body gave them only the cold comfort of renewing the old platitude about Civil Service Reform, with the qualification “that ‘offensive partisans’ should not be permitted to remain in office.”
Mr. Saltonstall continued to discharge his duties as Collector by the same righteous and commanding standard, to the immense satisfaction of the whole country until after the inauguration of President Harrison, who, regarding the office as a political one, and its incumbent as the personal representative of the President in the State, called for his resignation; but Mr. Saltonstall took a different view, and, standing upon the expression in the new President’s letter of acceptance “that fidelity and efficiency should be the essential test of appointment, and that only the interests of the public service should suggest removals from office,” refused to comply. This unfortunate difference of course terminated in the appointment of a new Collector in his place, but his retirement, especially under such circumstances, attracted universal attention, and called forth the most emphatic encomiums upon his spotless and noble personal character and official record, which were worth far more to him than any office, which must have greatly cheered his subsequent years, and which his children must cherish as a proud memorial,—the most signal of all being a letter signed by nearly two hundred of his fellow citizens of all political parties, who embraced all that was best and bravest in the city where his good work had been done, indorsing his conduct, thanking him for the great service he had rendered to his country, and inviting him to a public dinner, which, however, he felt constrained to decline.
After retiring from office, Mr. Saltonstall spent the remaining years of his life at his delightful home at Chestnut Hill, in absolute domestic felicity, surrounded by all that could make home happy. He lost none of his interest in public affairs, but there was no further occasion or opportunity for him to take an active part. He held important positions in many charitable associations, to which he was always devoted, and where he exercised great influence for good. He now resumed and completed a great labor of love which for many years had occupied much of his time and thought,—the preparation, for private distribution among his kindred and friends, of a truly magnificent book—The Ancestry and Descendants of Sir Richard Saltonstall of New England—containing most careful and interesting narratives of the lives and services of the most distinguished members of the family, embellished by their portraits by famous artists, which had been the precious ornaments of his house. It is a valuable contribution to American History as well as to genealogical lore. His design was faithfully executed by his eldest son, after his death, by its publication at the Riverside Press.
My last meeting with him was after his last Commencement Dinner when we shook hands, as he got into his wagon with his sons, all Harvard Alumni, to drive to Chestnut Hill, little thinking that he would no more set foot upon that “sacred ground.” Very soon afterwards he was overtaken by a mortal disorder, which he bore for months with that calm resignation and cheerful hope which we should have expected of him after such a life, and in April following he was gathered to his fathers, leaving nothing in his record to regret.
After we have told all that he said, and all that he did, there is much about him that tongue cannot tell or word describe. There was a strong and fascinating personality in Saltonstall, which attracted all with whom he came in contact in every relation of life. The eye must have seen it, the ear must have heard it, the heart must have felt it, to understand what I mean. Huntington’s portrait of him in the Custom House, painted at the invitation of the same citizens of Boston who had tendered the banquet which he declined, gives only an imperfect impression of the living man, for though a very good painting, there is quite as much of Huntington as of Saltonstall there. The magic touch of a Rembrandt, a Lawrence or a Copley, or the subtle hand that painted Silence Saltonstall—on whose features handed down through seven generations he loved to dwell—might possibly have transferred the real man to canvass. It may be truly said that everybody respected, honored, and loved him, and that he deserved it all. While he was manly to the very core, his heart was tender and sympathetic as a woman’s. Nothing can repair the loss occasioned by his death in the household of which he was the head and the soul. And each of us who were his friends and associates, as his image rises before us, may ever breathe the constant sigh—
“My [pleasant] neighbor gone before
To that unknown and silent shore,
Shall we not meet as heretofore
Some summer morning?”