History of Columbia County, New York
By Captain Franklin Ellis
Published by Everts & Ensign
Pages 81 to 112
DISTINGUISHED MEN OF COLUMBIA COUNTY.
The county of Columbia has always been remarkable for the very large number, among her natives and residents, of men who have risen to high places of distinction. It is claimed---and, as we believe, without the possibility of successful contradiction---that there is not in the State of New York, nor indeed within the United States, a county of equal size which is able to boast of a roll so brilliant.
This county has produced a President and a Vice-President of the United States; Secretaries of War and of he Treasury; Senators and Secretaries of State, both of the United States and of the Sate of New York; Ministers Plenipotentiary to foreign courts; governors; judges; and many civil officers of scarcely less exalted station, as well as military and naval heroes.
It is our purpose to give, in this chapter, brief personal sketches of some of the distinguished men of Columbia, chiefly of those who have passed away, and including none who are now residents of the county. To include all, of the past and present, who deserve special mention would be impracticable.
MARTIN VAN BUREN
Martin Van Buren, the eighth President of the United States, the son of Abraham Van Buren, a farmer of Kinderhook, was born in that town on the 5th of December, 1782.
His early education, which was rather limited, was acquired at the Kinderhook Academy, which he left at the age of fourteen to engage in the study of the law, which he commenced in the office of Francis Silvester, in his native village, but completed in the city of New York, in the office of William P. Van Ness.
It is said that the first public office held by Mr. Van Buren was nearly, if not quite, the lowest possible, that of fence-viewer, in Kinderhook; but from that he ascended, with a rapidity which is seldom equaled, from one position to another, until he reached the summit of possible ambition,---the presidency.
In November, 1803, he was admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court, and returned to commence practice in Kinderhook.
In 1808 he was appointed surrogate of Columbia county. In 1812 he was elected to the Senate of the State, and in that body voted for electors pledged to support De Witt Clinton for President of the United States. From 1815 to 1819 he was attorney-general of the State, and in 1816 was again a member of the Senate, the two offices being held together. In 1818, Mr. Van Buren set on foot a new organization of the Democratic party in this State, and became the ruling spirit in a coterie of politicians known as the Albany Regency, among whom B. F. Butler, Wm. L. Marcy, and Edwin Croswell were afterwards prominent, who held the political control of the State uninterruptedly for more than twenty years. In 1821 he was elected to the United States Senate, and was also a member of the convention to revise the State constitution. In the latter body he advocated an extension of the elective franchise, but opposed universal suffrage, as also the plan of appointing justices of the peace by popular election.
On the 6th of February, 1827, he was re-elected United States senator, but resigned the office in the following year to accept that of governor of New York, to which he had been elected. One of the first measures recommended by him as governor was the safety fund banking system, which was adopted in 1829. He resigned the office of governor to accept the secretaryship of state, which was tendered him by President Jackson immediately after his inauguration, in 1829.
In April, 1831, Mr. Van Buren resigned the office of secretary, and was appointed minister to England, arriving in the country in September; but his nomination, submitted to the Senate in December, was rejected on the ground that while secretary of state he had instructed the United States minister to England to beg of that country certain concessions in regard to trade with her colonies in the West Indies, which he should have demanded as a right, and that he had carried our domestic party contests and their result into foreign diplomatic negotiations.
This rejection was followed, on May 22, 1832, by the nomination of Mr. Van Buren for the vice-presidency, on the ticket with General Jackson; and in the subsequent election Mr. Van Buren received the electoral votes of all the States which voted for General Jackson, with the exception of Pennsylvania.
On the 20th of May, 1835, the Democratic convention at Baltimore unanimously nominated Mr. Van Buren for the presidency, and in the following November he was elected to the office, receiving one hundred and seventy electoral votes, or twenty-eight more than the number necessary to a choice.
His inauguration in 1837 was immediately followed by the memorable financial panic of that year, and suspension of specie payments by the banks. Commerce and manufactures were prostrate, hundreds of mercantile houses in every part of the country became bankrupt, and during his entire administration the business of the county remained in a very depressed condition as a consequence of that great revulsion.
In the great presidential campaign of 1840, in which Mr. Van Buren was nominated for re-election, these disasters were by his political opponents attributed to the measures of his administration; and such was the effect of these allegations upon the voters of the country, that in the election which followed Mr. Van Buren secured only sixty electoral votes, against two hundred and thirty-four cast for his opponent, General Harrison.
Upon his retirement from the presidency, March 4, 1841, he returned to his residence in Kinderhook, to live once more among the friends and neighbors who delighted to do him honor. In the year 1844 he was again urged as a presidential candidate by northern Democrats, but was rejected by the southern wing of the party on account of his opposition to the annexation of Texas, as expressed by him in a letter to a citizen of Mississippi, who had called for his opinion on that question; and by the two-thirds rule adopted in the convention his nomination was defeated. In 1848, when the Democrats had nominated General Cass, and avowed their readiness to tolerate slavery in the territories lately acquired from Mexico, Mr. Van Buren and his adherents, adopting the name of "Free-Soil Democracy," at once began to discuss in public that new aspect of the slavery question. They held a convention at Utica, June 22, which nominated Mr. Van Buren for President, and Henry Dodge, of Wisconsin for Vice-President. Mr. Dodge declined the nomination, and at a general "Free-Soil" convention in Buffalo on August 9, Charles Francis Adams was substituted. The convention declared that "Congress has no more power to make a slave than to make a king," and that it is the duty of the Federal government to relieve itself of all responsibility for the existence or continuance of slavery wherever the government possesses constitutional power to legislate on the subject, and is thus responsible for its existence. In accepting the nomination of this new party Mr. Van Buren declared his full assent to its anti-slavery principles. The result was that in New York he received the suffrages of more than half of those who had been hitherto attached to the Democratic party, and that General Taylor, the candidate of the Whigs, was elected.
After that time Mr. Van Buren remained in private life on his estate at Kinderhook, with the exception of a prolonged [page 83] tour in Europe in 1853-55. On the outbreak of the civil war, he declared himself warmly and decidedly in favor of maintaining the republic in its integrity. In July, 1862, at a time when all looked gloomy enough for the northern armies and for the cause of the Union, the venerable ex-President lay dying at Lindenwald. "Previous to the wandering of his mind," wrote a correspondent of the Boston Journal from Kinderhook, "and once or twice since, when reason returned, Mr. Van Buren has evinced the most lively and patriotic interest in the affairs of the country. He inquired of Dr. Pruyn how the good work of crushing the rebellion was going on, and was very particular to learn if the public confidence in the President was yet firm and unshaken, as he thought it should be, and appeared much gratified when answered in the affirmative. He has all faith in the ultimate triumph of our arms and case." He died a day or two later,---July 14, 1862.
Mr. Van Buren was an active, laborious, and successful politician, possessing a deep and intuitive knowledge of human nature, and remarkable powers of argument and persuasion. His private character was without a blemish, his manners exceedingly pleasing, and his feelings the most kind and generous, with never a touch of malice or hatred even towards his mos bitter opponents.
On the occasion of the death of his uncompromising political antagonist, De Witt Clinton, in 1828, Mr. Van Buren pronounced a most eloquent eulogy, from which were extract the following admirable passage: "The triumph of his talents and patriotism cannot fail to become monuments of high and enduring fame. We cannot, indeed, but remember that in our public career collisions of opinions and action, at once extensive, earnest, and enduring, have arisen between the deceased and many of us. For myself, it give me a deep-felt though melancholy satisfaction to know, and more so to be conscious, that the deceased also felt and acknowledged that our political differences have been wholly free from that most venomous and corroding of all poisons, personal hatred. But in other respect it is now immaterial what was the character of those collisions. They have been turned to nothing, and less than nothing, by the event we deplore, and I doubt not that we will, with one voice and one heart, yield to his memory the well-deserved tribute of our respect for his name, and our warmest gratitude for his great and signal services. For myself, so strong, so sincere, so engrossing is that feeling, that I, who whilst living never, no never, envied him anything, now that he has fallen, am greatly tempted to envy him his grave with its honors."
Truly, the personal attainments and virtues of Martin Van Buren, as well as the pre-eminent station to which he rose, shed much of lustre on the county that was his birthplace and his home.
"Now and then," says Oliver Wendell Holmes, in his "Poet at the Breakfast Table," "one saves a reminiscence that means a great deal by means of a casual question. I asked the first of these old New Yorkers* the following question, 'Who, on the whole, seemed to you the most considerable person you ever met?' Now it must be remembered that this was a man who had lived in a city called the metropolis; one who had been a member of the State and National Legislatures; who had come in contact with men of letters and men of business, with politicians and members of all the professions, during a long and distinguished public career. I paused for his answer with no little curiosity. Would it be one of the great ex-Presidents whose names were known to all the world? Would it be the silver-tongued orator of Kentucky, or the godlike champion of the constitution, our own New England Jupiter Capitolinus? Who would it be?
"'Take it altogether,' he answered, very deliberately, 'I should say that Colonel Elisha Williams was the most notable personage that I have ever met with.'
"'Colonel Elisha Williams! And who might he be, forsooth?'
"A gentleman of singular distinction, you may be well assured, even though you are not familiar with his name; but, as I am not writing a biographical dictionary, I shall leave it to my reader to find out who and what he was."
He was, for a period embracing more than the first quarter of the present century, the bright particular star in that shining constellation of legal talent which formed the bar of the county of Columbia. He was an orator [page 84] who had few peers; one who by the charm and power of his marvelous eloquence could captivate the minds of his auditors and sway them at his will. He was an advocate who, as such, seldom found an equal and never a superior; whose renown was so great and so widely extended that his services were sought in important cases, not only through this and neighboring counties and in the cities of Albany and New York, but also in the adjoining States; and of whom it was said by so competent a critic and so eminent a barrister as Thomas Addis Emmett, "I have listened to the great men of Europe and America, but never to one who could enchain the attention and captivate the judgment like Elisha Williams."
This brilliant man, the son of Colonel Ebenezer Williams, and grandson of Rev. Ebenezer Williams, of Pomfret, Conn., was born in that town on the 29th of August, 1773, and, losing his father by death while he was yet but a youth, was placed under the guardianship of Captain Seth Grosvenor, of Pomfret, who attended to his early education, which, however, was not very complete.
At a date which we are unable to give, he was placed in the law-office of Judge Reeves, of Litchfield, Conn., where he completed his preparation for the profession in which he afterwards became so eminent. In June, 1793, when less than twenty years of age, he was admitted to the bar, and then started out to seek a location, having with him his entire personal property, consisting of a horse, a portmanteau, and less than twenty dollars in money. He decided on Spencertown, in Columbia county, and there settled, and two years later he was united in marriage with the daughter of his former guardian, Miss Lucia Grosvenor, by whom he had five children.
In 1799 he removed to the city of Hudson, and from that removal may be dated the commencement of his famous career. He first took his seat in the Assembly in 1801, and from that time became one of the principal leaders of the Federal party in the State as well as in Columbia county. He always declined to accept higher office, although frequently importuned to do so, and although himself exerting a controlling influence and almost dictating the nominations so long as his party remained in power.
He was president of the Bank of Columbia at Hudson for a number of years, and a large owner in the institution. Through some of his transactions he became possessed of a tract of land embracing all or a large portion of the present site of the village of Waterloo, in Seneca county. From these lands he realized large returns; so that by this means and through his very lucrative professional business he became what was at that time considered a wealthy man. Some of the last years of his life were passed upon his property in Seneca county. The weary days of his last sickness were spent principally at Hudson, the city of his preference, as it had been the scene of most of his professional triumphs. During a deceptive rally from the prostration of his illness he visited the city of New york for a temporary stay, but while there was stricken with apoplexy, and died at the residence of Mr. Grosvenor, on the 29th of June, 1833.
A few days after the sad event (July 2, 1833), at a meeting of gentlemen of the New York city bar, held at the city hall, for the purpose of giving expression to their grief at the death of the great lawyer, and their respect for his character and talents, Mr. George Griffin, in seconding, the proposal resolutions, gave utterance to the following truthful and appropriate words of eulogium:
"It is not my design to enter upon a detailed panegyric of the deceased; that will form a noble subject for the biographer. It is my purpose simply to allude to a few of the most prominent features that distinguished him. A stranger would scarcely have been in company with Elisha Williams without being aware that he stood in the presence of an extraordinary man. To be convinced of this, he need not have witnessed the flashes of his wit, sparkling from its own intrinsic brilliancy, nor his soul-subduing pathos, nor the displays of his deep knowledge of human nature. There belonged to the deceased an eye, a voice, a majesty of person and mien, that marked him for superiority. With these advantages, it is not surprising that his eloquence should have commanded the universal admiration of his contemporaries. It was peculiar, it was spontaneous, it was variegated, it was overwhelming,---now triumphing over the convinced and subdued understanding, now bearing away in willing captivity the rapt imagination, and now knocking with resistless energy at the doors of the heart.
"I have alluded to his knowledge of human nature. It was indeed more varied and profound than I have ever witnessed in any other advocate. It seemed to have been his by intuition. 'He needed not,' as Dryden said of Shakspeare (sic), 'the spectacle of books to read nature; he looked inward, and found her there.' By a kind of untaught anatomy he was capable of dissecting our intellectual and moral frame. It was this quality which gave him his transcendent power in the examination and cross-examination of witnesses, enabling him to drag forth the truth in triumph from the inmost recesses of its hiding-place. He owed little to early education. Like Shakspeare, (sic) whom he resembled in wit, in imagination, in brilliancy, in knowledge of the human heart, in creative powers, he was the architect of himself. Nor was he, even in after-life, distinguished for laborious study. His communion was with his own mighty mind. Like Prometheus, he borrowed his fire from heaven alone; and without underrating professional attainments, or the profound and patient research necessary for their acquisition, perhaps it may be said that in the peculiar case of Mr. Williams it was well for him and for the public that he poised himself so exclusively on his own resources. If by this means he imparted less of the thoughts of others, he imparted more of his own; if he displayed less of the lore of other times, he displayed more of the treasures of his own rich intellect.
"At the outset of his career he attained distinction, and he remained in the first rank of his profession until near the age of sixty, when ill health induced him to retire with undiminished powers. I was associated with him in his last professional effort in this hall; when, like the clear [page 85] setting sun, he shed upon the horizon that he was about to leave forever the full and gladdening radiance of his matchless eloquence.
"Nor was his heart inferior to his head. He was the most dutiful of sons, the kindest of husbands, the most affectionate of fathers, the best of neighbors, and the most faithful of friends He had ever 'an eye for pity, and a hand open to melting charity,' He was the poor man's gratuitous adviser and liberal benefactor. His charities were more munificent than his means, and the blessings of many a one who was ready to perish have ascended before him to the throne of God."
A meeting of members of the Oneida county bar, held at Utica, July 2, 1833, adopted resolutions in reference to the death of Mr. Williams, from which resolutions we extract as follows:
"The committee of the bar attending the July term of the Supreme Court have received, with most profound grief, the intelligence of the death of their honored and beloved associated, Elisha Williams, Esq. Of the splendid talents, which placed Mr. Williams among the very first of their profession, their testimony can add no new evidence. During a professional career of nearly forty years, every part of our State has had an opportunity of witnessing the wonderful efforts of his intellect, and of feeling the power of his surpassing eloquence. Although distinguished amongst the ablest debaters in our public councils, yet we feel it to be our right and our duty to claim him as one of the most illustrious ornaments of that profession to which his life was devoted, and in which his greatest triumphs were achieved. To us, and to our successors, his example has furnished a lesson of incalculable value. Literally the maker of his own fortune and fame, his path to greatness is everywhere strewed with relics of difficulties overcome and obstacles subdued.
"But great as were his intellectual efforts, and splendid as was his professional course, he is more strongly endeared to his associates and brethren by ties of a different kind, and which even death cannot sever. The frankness and generosity of his noble nature, which so irresistibly won the confidence and esteem of those who knew him, furnished unerring indications of that excellent and full heart which was constantly overflowing in acts of the purest benevolence, and which made him love his friend more than himself."
Elisha Williams was a distant relative of General Otho Holland Williams, who was at one time a member of the staff of General Washington, and of whom the commander-in-chief is reported to have said that he was the most noble-looking officer in the Revolutionary army. Perhaps this physical perfection was a family characteristic, for all accounts, both oral and published, of the great advocate of Hudson, agree that it was possessed by him in an eminent degree. His proportions are said to have been most striking in their stateliness and symmetry. His eye was large, clear, and searching; his countenance open, fearless, and expressive; and all his features, and his general mien, were so distinguished as to enchain the attention even of the casual observer or stranger.
But it was not until his clear, melodious voice was heard that his marvelous powers were revealed. Whenever it was known that he was to be present and engaged in a trial, whether at his home in Hudson or in other places, to which he was so frequently called, the court-house was invariably crowded to the extreme of its capacity; and when he spoke, the court, and the jury, and the auditory gave close and undivided attention to his utterances, and often during the finer passages would seem to hold their breath, lest a single silver word or intonation might be lost to the ear.
Colonel William L. Stone, once a resident of Hudson and afterwards editor of the New York Commercial Advertiser, used, in early years, to report the speeches made by Mr. Williams in the Assembly; and in mentioning that circumstance, the widow of Colonel Stone, in a letter written several years after the death of Mr. Williams, said, in reference to it:
"However, Mr. Stone always said it was impossible for any reporter to do him justice, for unless one could have before him his imposing figure, his beautiful countenance, beaming with high intellectual effort, and resplendent often with flashes of wit, which seemed to light up all the faces around him; unless the inimitable grace of his manners, as unconstrained as those of beautiful infancy, together with all the simplicity and earnestness of a true heart, it would be impossible to convey one-half of the charm by which he seemed to hold all his audience, and sway all the minds before him, as by one mighty impulse, till they saw with his eyes, heard with his ears, and laid their hearts as offerings at his feet."
Such was Elisha Williams; a man of transcendent gifts and powers of mind, who is shown, by a concurrence of all available testimony, to have occupied one of the highest places among the distinguished men of the State of New York. During all the years of his professional life he was a resident of Columbia county. He was her idol and her boast, and his fame is her rightful inheritance.
JUDGE ROBERT R. LIVINGSTON.- offsite
ROBERT R. LIVINGSTON (THE CHANCELLOR). - offsite
Edward Livingston, the youngest son and youngest child of Judge Robert R. Livingston, was born at Clermont, Columbia Co., N. Y., on the 28th of May, 1764. He was at home at the time his mother's house in Clermont was burned, and formed one of the number who retreated at the approach of the troops. In 1781 he graduated at Nassau Hall College, Princeton, N. J., and afterwards studied law in the office of John Lansing, Albany N. Y. Among his fellow-students were James Kent, Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and many other men afterwards distinguished in their country's book of fame. The office of Edward Livingston, in New York, was a basement front room in the house where he resided with his mother, No. 51 Queen street, now Pearl street, near Wall. At this city mansion Lafayette and the French officers used to call and spend pleasant evenings, and as all the members of the family could speak the French language well, it was very agreeable to the French officers.
Edward Livingston was married to Miss McEvers on the 10th of April, 1788. In December, 1795, he took his first seat in Congress, where he distinguished himself as one of the ablest orators and debaters of the House. In 1801 he received from President Jefferson the appointment of attorney of the united States for the district of New York, and was soon after elected mayor of that city, entering upon the duties of his office Aug. 24, 1801. He was the successor of De Witt Clinton and Richard Varick, in the order named.
After the purchase of Louisiana by our government, he resolved to remove to New Orleans and commence a legal career in that city, and accordingly left New York in December, 1803, arriving in the Crescent City, then a settlement of a few French, Spanish, and Creoles, in February, 1804. He possessed a knowledge of French, Spanish, and German, which was of great advantage to him in his new situation. He belonged to the fraternity of Masons, and was Master of the New Orleans lodge. Rising in his profession, he became the greatest statesman of his day. He was one of the chief defenders of New Orleans when it was besieged by the British in 1814. Having, as chairman of the committee of safety, sent forth a stirring address to the people to rouse themselves for the defense of their city, he was the first to meet General Jackson at the head of his committee and lay before him the plans for the defense.
In 1820 he accepted a seat in the lower house of the Louisiana Legislature, and in 1821 was elected by the General Assembly to revise the code of the State. He formed what was afterwards called the Livingston code, which obtained great reputation. He framed and urged the passage of a law for the abolition of capital punishment, but it was not accepted by the State.
The name of Edward Livingston became celebrated throughout the world. Victor Hugo wrote to him, "You will be numbered among the men of this age who have deserved most and best of mankind." He was unanimously elected as a representative to Congress, in July, 1822, and afterwards, again, twice elected, serving six sessions as representative from Louisiana. In 1828 he was elected United States senator, and became a senator on the same day that his friend, General Jackson, became President of the United States. He discharged the duties of senator till March, 1831, and had scarcely removed to his splendid farm and country-seat (Montgomery Place) left him by his widowed sister, Janet, than he was summoned to Washington, and urged to accept the secretaryship of state in the cabinet of President Jackson. His stand taken with Jackson against the nullifiers of South Carolina and his hand in the famous proclamation issued at that time are well known. In April, 1833, the President selected Edward Livingston as minister to France, and his son-in-law, Mr. Barton, as secretary of legation. On his return to the United States, after the able fulfillment of his responsible duties, his receptions by his countrymen were one grand ovation. This was the last service of his remarkably brilliant career. On Saturday, May 21, 1836, he was suddenly taken very ill with an attack of bilious colic, from which he did not recover, but died on Monday, May 23, 1836, in the seventy-second year of his age.
EDWARD P. LIVINGSTON.
Edward P. Livingston was born in the island of Jamaica in 1780, and died November, 1843. He married Elizabeth Stevens, eldest daughter of Chancellor Robert R. Livingston.
Edward P. Livingston was elected lieutenant-governor of New York in 1831, and was several times sent to the State Senate, the last time in 1838. He was chosen presidential elector, was aid to Governor Tompkins, and private secretary to the chancellor during the latter portion of his ministry to France.
He was a grandson of Philip Livingston, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. He resided at the lower manor-house, or Clermont manor, from 1802 till the time of his death. He was a graduate of Columbia College, which institution he entered at the age of sixteen years, and was a man of liberal culture and unusual fondness for reading, taking a great interest also in agriculture.
In early life he went to England to engage in commercial pursuits, but finding no desirable opening, he soon returned. He was proposed in 1831 for governor of the State, but his right was questioned on the ground of his having been born in the island of Jamaica. It did not invalidate his claim, but was used to defeat his nomination, and he was elected lieutenant-governor instead.
Mr. Clarkson, in describing the old manor-house of Chancellor Livingston and the reception given there to Lafayette, remarks, "At the time of the grand reception it was occupied by Robert L. Livingston, who married one of Chancellor Livingston's two daughters, and Edward P. Livingston married the other, and occupied at this time the old manor-house adjoining."
This house is now occupied by a grandson of the chancellor, Mr. Clermont Livingston, a most worthy representative of that noble old family. He is the son and successor in the estate of Edward P. Livingston, whose portrait appears above.
WILLIAM W. VAN NESS. - offsite
JACOB RUTSEN VAN RENSSELAER. - offsite
AMBROSE SPENCER. -offsite
PETER VAN SCHAACK§
was one of the great men and eminent lawyers of Columbia county. He was born at Kinderhook, in March, 1747, and was educated at King's (now Columbia) College. It was while a member of this institution that he formed those rare and interesting friendships with his fellow-students, John Jay, Egbert Benson, Gouverneur Morris, Chancellor Livingston, and others, whose names afterwards became famous in the annuals of the country.
In January, 1769, he was admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court, and immediately thereafter opened a law-office in the city of New York. At the age of twenty-five he was appointed sole reviser of the laws of the colony. His revision embraced the statutes enacted during a period of eighty-two years,---1691 to 1773. The work was published in the latter year, in two large folio volumes. He had but just risen from the performance of this labor, contemplating the stability of existing institutions, when the turmoils of the Revolution commenced. He was a member of the first committee of correspondence chosen in New York, in May, 1774, and of the subsequent committee of one hundred; and, as a further peaceful remedy, he forbore to drink tea in his family, urging a similar course upon his friends. But, upon the initiation of warlike measure, he retired with his family to Kinderhook.
Although he disapproved of the acts of Great Britain, he did not think them of a character to justify extreme [page 92] measures of resistance. Conservative in his views and principles, and sensitive by nature, he shrank from an encounter with the acerbities and horrors of a civil war. He consequently assumed the position of neutrality, which he inviolably maintained. His political separation, at this period, from many of his most intimate friends who became prominent actors in the Revolution, rendered this the most trying period of his life. Severe domestic afflictions also, in the deaths, in quick succession, of three of his children, followed soon after by the death of his wife, added their pangs to those occasioned by political affairs; and physical suffering also was joined, in his person, to the unhappiness of exile. The sight of one of his eyes had become seriously impaired, probably from their too steady and severe use in his revision of the statutes, and he obtained Governor Clinton's written permission, in the early part of 1778, to visit England, to have an operation performed on it, as soon as the state of the country should admit it. In ignorance of this permission, the commissioners of conspiracies ordered his banishment from the country, on the ground of his being an influential citizen observing a neutrality in the public troubles, considered by them to be of dangerous tendency. Accordingly, in October, 1778, Mr. Van Schaack took ship at New York for England, where he remained nearly seven years. Henry Cruger, whose sister Mr. Van Schaack had married in 1768, was at this time a member of Parliament, having been chosen, in 1774, a co-representative with Edmund Burke, for the city of Bristol, in the English House of Commons. Mr. Van Schaack, while in England, spent most of his time in London, frequently attending the debates in Parliament, and enjoying rare opportunities for becoming acquainted with the public characters and political affairs, a circumstance which imparted to his subsequent history a peculiar interest. He was in London during Lord George Gordon's riots, and through the memorable changes of the ministry. He witnessed the downfall of one set of cabinet ministers for their hostility to America; the abrupt secession of another; the dissolution of a third; the grand coalition which formed the fourth, and which was itself soon after dismissed by royal interposition, making shipwreck of the political reputations of some of the greatest statesmen in the empire; and he participated in the interesting discussions to which these extraordinary political revolutions gave rise. Among those political papers was a caustic letter, written by him to Charles James Fox, exposing the inconsistencies of that minister.
It is an interesting fact that, after a year's residence in England, Mr. Van Schaack's early political views underwent considerable change, and he came to the conclusion, from what he there saw, that the British government was not entitled to that credit for honesty of purpose in regard to American affairs for which he had given it credit.
In August, 1785, Mr. Van Schaack returned to the United States. On his arrival in the city of New York he was received with open arms by his countrymen, all classes vying in their attentions irrespective of former differences of political sentiment. By an act of the Legislature, passed in January, 1786, he, with a number of other individuals of high character and known integrity, who were in the same situation, were restored to the rights of citizenship. He was soon after re-admitted to the bar, and resumed the practice of his profession in his native village. For about twenty-five years he attended the courts and was active in his profession, when, by the gradual impairment of the sight of his remaining eye, he became totally blind. He then gave his principal attention to the instruction of young gentlemen in the study of the law, a large number of whom have received more or less of their legal education at his hands. Among those students were Cadwallader D. Colden, John Suydam, John C. Spencer, Joseph D. Monell, James I. Roosevelt, and William Kent.
Mr. Van Schaack was distinguished for classical scholarship, for purity and elegance of taste, and for profound knowledge of the English common law. The highest contemporaneous authority¦¦ pronounced him "the model of a scholar, a lawyer, and a gentleman." His classical scholarship, in connection with his profound knowledge of law, procured for him from Columbia College, his Alma Mater, the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws.
Afflicted for the last twenty years of his life with total blindness, he lived in retirement at his seat in Kinderhook, devoting his time to classical and legal instruction, and supporting himself, under his severe privation, in unabated cheerfulness, upon the resources of a memory enriched with ancient and modern literature, and thoroughly familiar with the sublimity of Milton and the blind Mζonides. He died on the 17th of September, 1832, in the eighty-sixth year of his age. His life, prepared by his son, Henry C. Van Schaack, was published by D. Appleton & Co., in 1842, in an octavo volume of five hundred pages, and it has been favorably criticised in the North American Review by Charles Francis Adams and Lorenzo Sabine, as well as by other eminent critics.
JOHN VAN BUREN.
John, the second son of Martin Van Buren, was born at Hudson, February 18, 1810. He graduated at Yale College in the year 1828, and commenced the study of the law in the office of Benjamin F. Butler, the former law-partner of his father. His legal course was completed with Aaron Vanderpoel, at Kinderhook, and he was admitted to the bar in July, 1831. Soon after this time his father was appointed minister to England, and John Accompanied him as secretary of legation. Upon his father's rejection by the Senate, both returned to the United States.
"From the date of his return with his father, Mr. Van Buren went back to his desk and his law-books, and for several yeas pursued the practice of his profession with assiduity and success.
"During this interval he visited England, in 1838, on professional business. His position, not more than his personal accomplishments, gave him at once the entrιe into the most exclusive circle in the world. The young republican was the lion of a whole London winter. The proud men and women of a proud aristocracy were disarmed in spite of themselves by a manner and breading as perfect as their own. His success at court was regarded as a sort of [page 93] social phenomenon, and furnished more additions to the city gossip of the papers in London and this country than an event of state importance. Democracy, his nursing mother, might have feared for her child when she saw him the object of such blandishments and graces, the centre of the favors and honors of the first court in Europe. But he was of higher mould than that. He was reserved for greater things.
"Before his return he spent a considerable time in Ireland. The generous hospitalities of a warm-hearted people were lavished on the son of a Democratic President of the United States, and in more than one city he was constrained to decline the honor of a public entertainment.
"Considerations of obvious propriety connected with his father's public relations to the Democratic party, and subsequently an irreparable domestic affliction (the death of his wife), kept him in comparative retirement until about 1845."₯
In that year he was nominated by the "Barnburners," and elected by the Legislature to the office of attorney-general of the State, and in that position was distinguished by a skill and ability which few, even of his friends, expected to find in him, and which gave him at once a very high position a the bar of New York. One of the most noted prosecutions conducted by him was that of Smith W. Boughton, or "Big Thunder," the anti-rent chief, in 1845.
We copy from the Bench and Bar an account of a personal collision which occurred during that trial, between the attorney-general and Ambrose L. Jordan, Esq., in the court-house at Hudson, as follows:
"The trial of the anti-renters forms an interesting epoch in the legal history of the State of New York. Their defense before the courts was as determined, skillful, and bold as their revolt had been outrageous and obstinate. Every point that legal skill and learning could devise was interposed to save them from punishment. When defeated in one court they appealed to another, until their conviction was finally affirmed in the court of last resort.
"The leading counsel for the defense was Ambrose L. Jordan, of the Columbia bar, one of the ablest lawyers of his day. His learning and abilities are evinced by a long and brilliant professional career.
"Several of the leading anti-renters, including 'Big Thunder,' were brought to trial at the Columbia oyer and terminer, which held its sittings at Hudson, N. Y., in September, 1845. John Van Buren was then attorney-general of the State, and of course to him was committed the duty of assisting James Storm, then district attorney of Columbia county, in the prosecution of the offenders. There was much in the circumstances connected with the case to excite and exasperate counsel, and as the trial proceeded their acerbity towards each other increased until a personal collision became imminent.
"John W. Edmonds, then one of the circuit judges, presided. He discharge his judicial duties inflexibly and yet courteously. Perhaps a more independent and pure judge than he never sat on the bench of the Supreme Court of the State. But the position he occupied on this occasion was trying in the extreme. Before him were two of the most renowned counselors in the State glaring at each other with the ferocity of opposing gladiators, ready to rend each other in brutal conflict. For a long time the forbearance, dignity, and firmness of the judge restrained them, keeping them within the pale of respectful deference to the place they occupied. But as the fourth day of the trial was drawing to a close, a scene occurred rarely witnessed in a court of justice. The vindictive passions of the counsel passed beyond judicial control, and a personal encounter ensued. Both lawyers had for some time indulged in personalities which the judge could not suppress. Retort followed retort, and denunciation was met by bitter taunts.
"At length Mr. Jordan, while addressing the court as to the admissibility of certain evidence offered by Mr. Van Buren, indulged in language the most bitter and insulting. In the course of his remarks he said, 'The attorney-general does not care for the condition of these men. He has not contended for right or justice, but to make an exhibition of himself,---to pander to the miserable ambition which was the curse of his father. Though his father had brains to temper his wild ambition in some degree, the son has none to temper his, and it breaks out everywhere in puerility and slush.'
"Van Buren answered the legal objections raised by Jordan with great calmness, force, and dignity. Having concluded his argument, he said, with contempt curling his lips, 'The counsel opposed has informed your honor the cause of my presence here. I shall not stoop to deny his coarse assertions; but allow me to add that it is quite out of place for a man who stands here in this court with the contributions of murder and arson in his pockets to criticise me for any cause whatever.'
"A dark, withering frown mounted the menacing features of Jordan; his nostrils expanded; vivid gleams of anger flashed form his large, expressive eyes, and in the twinkling of an eye he planted a heavy blow upon the face of Van Buren. It was returned with the rapidity of lightning and with staggering effect; then, grappling with each other, a terrible struggle ensued. Rage and fury rendered these great lawyers forgetful of their positions as ministers of justice, deaf to the voice of the judge, to everything but their desire for vengeance. But Sheriff Waldo with his assistants rushed into the bar and separated the infuriated combatants before the contest proceeded to any extremity.
"As soon as order was restored Judge Edmonds addressed them with great calmness, dignity, and eloquence. He alluded to the high standing of the counsel, not only before the State but before the nation; to the baleful example they had set before the world; to their desecration of the temple of justice; to the great insult which they had given the court. 'Should I neglect,' he continued, 'to promptly punish you for the great wrong you have done I should myself be unworthy to occupy the bench. The court regrets that it did not punish your first infraction of the rules of decency; but as that is passed, it will now, by a proper interposition of the strong arm of the law, inflict such a punishment upon you as will preserve its dignity, and, we trust, prevent a recurrence of the disgraceful scene [page 94] we have just witnessed. The court therefore sentences both of you to solitary confinement in the county jail for twenty-four hours.'
"When the judge concluded, Mr. Van Buren arose and with impressive dignity made an apology, couched in words of touching eloquence, concluding as follows:
" 'What could I do, your honor, what could I do under the coarse insults I have been subjected to during this trial? I acknowledge I have violated the decorum of this court, and should be punished. But I pray your honor not do degrade me by punishment in the common jail, for I feel that I cannot endure that. I beg you honor to so far modify the sentence of the court as to inflict a fine upon me, ---I care not how large the amount may be. The example of such a fine would be sufficient, and I am sure justice would be vindicated.'
"But the judge was firm and inexorable, ---the very personification of justice in the act of inflicting due punishment upon its ministers. 'The court,' said the judge, 'can see no reason for modifying its sentence; the supremacy of he law must be maintained. It is no respecter of person; it looks only to their acts, and measures out its punishment according to those acts, without regard to the standing of the actors. Sheriff, you will now conduct these persons to the jail of the county, and keep them and each of them in solitary confinement for the term of twenty-four hours, during which time this court will adjourn.'
"Amid the profound, almost stifling silence, the sheriff obeyed, and in his custody two of the most eminent lawyers of the State of New York passed out of the court-house, and were soon incarcerated within the walls of Columbia county jail.
"Before the opening of the court on the morning of the altercation described, Judge Edmonds had received an invitation to spend an evening with ex-President Van Buren at Lindenwald. John was to be his companion in the visit, but before the appointed time arrived he was committed to jail.
"The term for which Van Buren and Jordan had been imprisoned having expired, they entered the court-room with a nonchalance that was really amusing, and the trial was resumed. An hour or two elapsed, when a short recess took place, during which Van Buren approached the bench, laid his arm carelessly but easily upon it, and, in his peculiar manner, remarked,---
" 'I hope your honor slept well last night.'
" 'As there was nothing to disturb my slumber, I most certainly did,' was the reply.
" 'I thought perhaps it might be possible that your conscience, your sympathy, or the thoughts of our unenviable position, might disturb your slumbers,' said Van Buren, with a characteristic smile. 'But,' he continued, 'the law is now vindicated; my offense, at least, is atoned. I suppose Judge, our arrangement to visit the old man is still in force. He will be delighted to see me under the circumstances, and, judge, I think his respect for you, on the whole, will not be diminished on account of the lodgings you assigned me last night. I know him of old.'
" 'I think, Mr. Van Buren, the time we have lost in this trial will render the visit to ex-President Van Buren impossible.' And the visit to the old man did not take place.
"The trial continued several days after the release of the distinguished prisoners. It finally resulted in the conviction of 'Big Thunder' and several anti-rent leaders, and they were sentenced to imprisonment for life in the State-prison.
"The manner in which Van Buren conducted this prosecution gave him great popularity. among other evidences of popular favor, he was, with the anti-rent leader, made the subject of the following conundrum:
" 'Why is John Van Buren a greater man then Dr. Franklin?'
" 'Because Franklin bottled lightning, but Van Buren bottled thunder.' "
After the close of his term he became a prominent member of the legal profession in the city of New York. In the presidential canvass of 1848 he greatly distinguished himself as a popular advocate of the principles of the free Democratic party, and of the exclusion of slavery from the territories. Afterwards he returned to the Democratic party.
In 1866 he made an extended tour in Europe, and died on the homeward passage.
JOHN C. SPENCER.
John C., son of Judge Ambrose Spencer, as born in the city of Hudson, Jan. 8, 1788. He entered Williams College in 1803, but graduated at Union college, Schenectady, in 1806. He studied law in Albany, and was admitted to the bar in May, 1809.
Although a native of, he was never long a resident in Columbia county. In February, 1815, he was appointed district attorney for the five extreme western counties of the State, and held that office for about three years. In 1816 he was elected to Congress for the Twenty-first district, but declined a re-election. In 1820 he was chosen to the Assembly, and elected speaker upon its organization. Afterwards he served several terms in the Assembly. He was elected senator in 1824, taking his seat in 1825. In April, 1827, he was appointed, with B. F. Butler and John Duer, to revise the statutes of the State.
In February, 1839, he was appointed secretary of state of New York, and in 1840 a regent of the university. In 1841 (October) he was appointed secretary of war under President Tyler, and in March, 1843, secretary of the treasury, which latter office he resigned May 1, 1844, in consequence of his disagreeing with the President on the question of the annexation of Texas.
AMBROSE L. JORDAN.€
On the 19th day of July, 1865, I united, with others, in depositing in the tomb in the cemetery of Hudson the mortal remains of Ambrose L. Jordan. He departed this life on the 16th day of July, at his residence in New York, and appropriate funeral services had been held on the 18th at the Church of the Transfiguration in that city. He died at the mature age of seventy-six years, having been born [page 95] in Hillsdale, in the county of Columbia, on the 5th day of May, 1789.
As he was a native and long a resident of our county, as he reached high distinction in his profession, and as he was one of the remaining links between the present and a past generation, it seems not unbecoming that here in the county of his birth some slight record should be preserved of the principal incidents of his career.
Mr. Jordan, it is believed, received a fair, though not a collegiate, education, and improved in the best manner the advantages which were thrown in his way. At the early age of twenty-three (in 1812) he is found in the practice of his profession at Cooperstown, in the county of Otsego, where his abilities were not unappreciated, for during his brief residence of seven or eight years in that county, in addition to a leading practice at the bar, he filled the responsible offices of surrogate and district attorney.
About the year 1820 he was recalled to his native county of Columbia, and it is no small compliment to his growing reputation that, as common fame affirms, he was invited here by his friends to be the rival and antagonist of Elisha Williams, then in the full maturity of his great powers and at the very zenith of his fame.
Perhaps the Augustan age of the law in this county had already passed, an age in which, under the old constitution, Spencer and Kent and Thompson and Van Ness presided at the circuits, and Williams and Van Buren and Oakley and Grosvenor flourished at the bar. Those were grand old times; and although, doubtless, distance lends a somewhat factitious magnitude and enchantment to the view, it cannot be questioned that the judges and lawyers just named, with others of equal or nearly equal eminence, were splendid luminaries of the legal profession.
But the period which immediately followed, under the constitution of 1821, was one of no small consideration in the annals of the profession in Columbia county. Most of the names just referred to had disappeared from the public view. The judges lost their office by the passage of the new constitution. Spencer renewed the practice of his profession, but scarcely sustained the fame which had marked his judicial career. Kent was soon appointed to be professor of law in Columbia College, and gave to the world those inestimable Commentaries which will forever honorably associate his name with the history of American law.
Thompson, having previously been appointed secretary of the navy, was transferred to the bench of the Supreme Court of the United States, which he long adorned by his great abilities. Van Ness fell a victim to an insidious disease, and in 1823, at the early age of forty-eight years, closed a professional and judicial career of uncommon brilliancy. Grosvenor was also dead. Oakley was soon appointed to the bench of the Superior Court in the city of New York. Van Buren had already, to a great extent, withdrawn from the practice of his profession, which he never again resumed to any marked degree, having entered the Senate of the United States in 1821, where he remained for many years. Of those just referred to by name, Williams alone remained on the theatre of his former labors to claim or dispute pre-eminence with old or new competitors.
But Columbia county was not undistinguished in the next decade in the walks of the legal profession. There were (not to name others) Williams and Jordan and the [page 96] Vanderpoels (James and Aaron), Monell, Tallmadge, Bushnell, Killian Miller, and Robert H. Morris. Of these, it is no disparagement to the others to say that in the forensic department of the law Williams and Jordan took the lead. They were both, though widely different, highly accomplished advocates. Williams was probably the greater genius, Jordan the more accomplished scholar; Williams was rapid, ready, and impetuous, Jordan was more cautious, deliberate, and reflecting; Williams would rush into the forensic battle relying upon the resources of his genius, Jordan would give to every cause the most careful preparation. The latter was not so much distinguished for quickness of perception in the rapid change of tactics, yet no living speaker had a finer vocabulary at his command, was keener at repartee, or knew better how to put the right word in the right place. Jordan was a man of fine person, of dignified and commanding presence, and easy and graceful elocution, of impressive manner, of musical voice, and of great fluency of speech. Though not indifferent to political advancement, he wisely confined himself for the most part to the appropriate duties of his profession, where, more than in any other sphere, he was adapted to shine; he was, nevertheless, in several instances the recipient of political and official honors,----those already alluded to,----he having been surrogate and district attorney of Otsego county while resident therein. In 1821, soon after his removal to Hudson, he was appointed recorder of that city, which office he held for several years. In 1824 he was elected to the Assembly. In 1825, for a period of four years, to the Senate of this State, which office, after three years' service, he resigned. In 1846, though then a resident of the city of New York, he was elected to the constitutional convention from the county of Columbia, and in 1847 he was made the first attorney-general of the State under the new constitution.
But, as I have said, his tastes as well as his mental endowments inclined him to the practice of his profession. He continued to reside in Hudson until the year 1838, and was largely in demand as counsel in the neighboring circuits. Williams had died in 1833; but, in addition to those of his own county, Jordan found able antagonists in various portions of the State, prominent among them being Samuel Stevens, Marcus T. Reynolds, Henry G. Wheaton, Henry R. Storrs, and Samuel Sherwood.
In 1834 he removed to the city of New York, and there for a period of twenty years he was laboriously engaged in the practice of his profession, taking high rank therein, especially in the department of advocacy, among the distinguished lawyers of the metropolis. He never failed to serve his clients with devoted zeal and uncompromising fidelity; and if in the heat of forensic contest he, like others of his profession, sometimes indulged in a vein of ridicule, of sarcasm, or of severe denunciation, for which he was well qualified by the copiousness and force of this vocabulary, no one who knew him will ever deny to him the possession of an honest, manly heart, or believed him to be insensible to the instincts of generosity and friendship.
But the burden of his professional cares was ultimately too weighty for even his vigorous constitution, and----somewhere I think about the year 1859---he was stricken down with paralysis, and this calamity necessitated his withdrawal from active pursuits. Since that time he lived for the most part in the privacy, serenity, and happiness of domestic life, and has at last yielded to that summons which all must ultimately obey.
His talents and his virtues entitle him to a more extended and formal notice, but I have thought this brief tribute would not be altogether unacceptable to his friends from one who knew him will.
AMBROSE L. JORDAN.
The death of one so distinguished as Ambrose L. Jordan is an event which emphatically calls forth from those who have been associated with him in professional life tokens of respect and manifestations of personal regard.
The name of Mr. Jordan is associated with my earliest recollections of the bar of this county. I well remember the part he took in the trial of Taylor, for murder, and in the case of Poucher vs. Livingston, two of the most celebrated cases in the annals of the law in this county.
While I was a student, Mr. Jordan occupied a most commanding position at the bar. He was engaged in most of the cases which were tried, and he brought to the trial ability, eloquence, and wit which made him a most formidable antagonist and a most successful advocate. The trial of a cause in those days was an intellectual contest, a gladiatorial combat of mind against mind, which elicited all the powers and capacities of the man, and all the learning and genius of the advocate. Those may perhaps be characterized as the brilliant days of the profession, when eloquence, learning, and debate were permitted free scope, without the restraints which increasing business and modern rules have imposed.
In those days the courts were the great forum for the exhibition of clashing intellects striving for the mastery. When Williams and Jordan, and their compeers, Miller, Monell, Bushnell, Edmonds, and others, entered the arena, it was a struggle of giants.
Mr. Jordan was distinguished for his manly beauty. With an erect, commanding form, an expressive face, and an eye which, in moments of excitement, flashed like the eagle's, his appearance never failed to attract attention and to create a most favorable impression. I have often thought that, in the prime of his life, he was the perfection of physical and intellectual manhood.
His style of oratory was of the highest order of forensic eloquence, his voice as soft and musical as the tones of the flute, his manner dignified and commanding, his elocution most fluent and graceful, and his diction in the highest degree terse, vigorous, and elegant.
Although cool and deliberate in the trial of causes, he was quick at repartee and keen and unsparing in invective. He was the possessor of rare wit and a bitter sarcasm, qualities which were often displayed in his addresses to juries as well as in the cross-examination of witnesses. Unfortunate indeed was he who became the subject of his scathing rebuke. No speaker had greater power of scornful expression than he possessed.
Mr. Jordan was a man of great industry. His cases were always prepared with the utmost thoroughness. The large amount of business which claimed his attention made his life one of incessant labor. Gifted as he was, self-reliant as he was, yet he never, until near the close of his life, relaxed his habits of study and labor.
Mr. Jordan removed from this city to the city of New York about the time I was admitted to the bar. There a larger field opened to him, and compensation more commensurate with his great abilities rewarded his efforts.
No Lawyer could be more devoted and faithful to his clients, or more earnest and effective in his advocacy of their rights.
In private life Mr. Jordan enjoyed the esteem of all who knew him. He was a man of generous sentiments, he had a high sense of honor, and was just and upright in all his dealings.
He occupied during portions of his life places of political distinction, and it may be said that he enjoyed a full share of public honors, yet he never sought position or honors save those which belonged to his profession. His heart was in the profession to which he devoted himself. He loved its learning, its principles, its contests, and its victories with the enthusiasm of the true lawyer.
The name of Ambrose L. Jordan will occupy a place not only with those who have conferred distinction on this county, but with the most distinguished and honored men of the State.
He has gone to his last rest full of years and crowned with the triumphs of a brilliant career. He left the field of his labors with a character unblemished, and with a professional renown which will make his bright example an encouragement to those who are traveling the same rugged path of professional labor.
THOMAS P. GROSVENOR.
Mr. Grosvenor was born December, 1780, in the town of Pomfret, in the State of Connecticut. He spent about two years at Williams College, and then entered Yale College, at the age of sixteen, and received the honors of that institution in the summer of 1800. Having finished his collegiate course with distinguished reputation, he immediately commenced the study of the law, under the instruction of his brother-in-law Elisha Williams, of Hudson, and in 1803 was admitted an attorney of the Supreme Court of the State of New York. Before his death he had successively become an active member of the courts of law and equity of this State and of the United States. Soon after his admission as an attorney he opened an office in the village of Catskill, and entered upon the duties of his profession. Naturally possessing a clear head, a warm heart, and a giant intellect, a few efforts at the bar acquired for him the character of an able and successful advocate. Early in the summer of 1807 he removed from Catskill to Hudson. Here, having a wide field for the display of his legal acquirements and forensic talents, his professional avocations were followed with brighter and more alluring prospects of distinction and usefulness. The electors of the county of Columbia, in April, 1809, nominated him as one of their representatives in the State Legislature. No means which could blight the character or wound the feelings of an honorable and conscientious man were deemed unwarrantable or left untried by his political adversaries to defeat his election. Passion and party prejudice transcended the bounds of moral rectitude, and the contest was severe but fruitless; he was returned a member of the Legislative Assembly of the State. The ability and integrity with which he discharged the duties of a legislator, during the session of the succeeding winter, eminently entitled him to the love and confidence of his constituents. He was accordingly re-elected in 1810, and again in 1811. During part of this period he executed the office of district attorney, having received a commission for that purpose in the spring of 1810. In the fall of 1812 he was elected a representative to the Thirteenth Congress of the United States, and at the same time to supply a vacancy in the Twelfth Congress, occasioned by the resignation of Colonel Robert Le Roy Livingston. After his re-election to the Fourteenth Congress, in the spring of 1814, he chiefly resided in the city of Baltimore. He died at Belmont, near Baltimore, on the 22d of April, 1817, in the thirty-seventh year of his age.
We extract from an obituary notice of Mr. Grosvenor, published in the Alexandria, Va., Gazette, soon after his death, as follows:
"His eloquence may be said to have amongst us constituted a species. What is true of him would not be true of any other orator,---at least on this side of the Atlantic; nor do we know of one by a comparison with whom an adequate conception of Grosvenor's eloquence would be conveyed. Its kind was the same as that of the illustrious Charles James Fox; in degree alone its essential difference consisted. The same ardent feeling, earnestness, and animation; the same overflowing fullness of conception and tumult of thoughts, which seemed as if they would burst the bosom that contained them in their struggles for precedence; the same apparent artlessness of arrangement, which diffused the glowing tint of nature through the complexion of every speech, and imparted to it a beauty and effect beyond the skill of wrought-up rhetoricians; the same disdain of factitious, vulgar logic, and useless, gaudy drapery; the same constant intermixture of matter of fact and plain common sense with the most acute, refined, subtle reasoning, which distinguished Mr. Fox from all other orators, constituted the pre-eminent characteristics of Mr. Grosvenor's eloquence, and gave it that singular, felicitous advantage so seldom possessed by that which amongst us courtesy calls eloquence, namely the stamp of sincerity and feeling.
"It is certain that no man of discernment could have seen much of the great British orator and of Mr. Grosvenor, when figuring in their respective senates, without pronouncing the latter to be the Charles Fox of the new world. . . . We have been told that a very able and acute speaker,** the representative in Congress from one of the new States, who had experienced the effect of these powers, once said, that for readiness and strength on any and every topic that arose in debate, or, as he emphatically called it, [page 98] 'rough and tumble' in argument, Grosvenor had not an equal in Congress."
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN BUTLER. - offsite
JAMES VANDERPOEL. - offsite
AARON VANDERPOEL. - offsite
JOHN P. VAN NESS. - offsite
WILLIAM P. VAN NESS. - offsite
CORNELIUS P. VAN NESS. - offsite
WILLIAM J. WORTH. - offsite
HENRY VAN SCHAAK. - offsite
WILLIAM HOWARD ALLEN.
DAVID S. COWLES. - offsite
DANIEL CADY. - offsite
JAMES WATSON WEBB. - offsite
SAMUEL JONES TILDEN.
JOHN VAN NESS PHILIP
Lieutenant-Commander John Van Ness Philip was the son of the late Colonel Henry G. Philip and Catharine D. Hoffman, and was born in the town of Claverack, Columbia Co., N. Y., on March 14, 1823. He received in early life a classical education, attending the academies at Claverack and Lenox, Mass., and graduating with high honors at the Van Rensselaer Institute, in Troy, then under the care of Professor Eaton.
With his education thus attained, and standing on the threshold of young manhood, he looked around with youthful eagerness for some useful and honorable occupation in which to spend the manly energies which he felt growing within him. Nor did he look in vain. On a visit to his uncle, the late General John P. Van Ness, he was offered a midshipman's warrant in the United States navy. The offer being congenial to his own spirit of courage, enterprise, and patriotism, he accepted it with alacrity, and thus devoted his life specifically to the service of his country. As an officer in the navy he served faithfully and with honor in various parts of the world, both in peace and in war.
During the Mexican war he was stationed on the coast of California, and for gallant conduct in the action of San Gabriel was specially mentioned, not only in the report of Commodore Stockton, but also in that of General Kearney, commander of the forces on land.
After his return from the Pacific coast, Mr. Philip sailed as lieutenant on board the steam frigate "Mississippi," which was sent to Turkey by our government for the purpose of conveying to the United States the exiled patriot, Louis Kossuth. While Kossuth was still guarded by Turkish soldiers, and was in imminent peril of being given up to the Austrian authorities, Lieutenant Philip, in connection with some English officers, devised a plan for his rescue; which, however, was delayed in its execution, and finally abandoned when the Turkish government voluntarily allowed Kossuth and his companions to place themselves under the protection of the American flag.
On his return from the cruise in the "Mississippi," Lieutenant Philip was withdrawn from sea service and appointed to the honorable post of assistant professor of mathematics in the naval school at Annapolis. While there he was united in marriage with the daughter of the late Chancellor Johnson, of Maryland. He performed the duties of his professorship for five years; but, meanwhile, his thoughts and desires were reverting to the beautiful scenes of his childhood. The country, too, was at peace with itself and with all other nations, and did not imperatively demand his continuance in the service. He therefore resigned his commission in the navy, returned to his native town, and made it his home thenceforward till the time of his decease.
Here old friendships were revived and new ones formed. With characteristic earnestness, yet with becoming modesty, he applied himself to every good work which his hands found to do. The circle of his popularity and influence widened and continued to extend until there was no one in the community more widely or highly esteemed than John Van Ness Philip. This esteem and affection he highly prized, but more precious to him were the delights of his home.
For such a man to tear himself away from such a home was a sacrifice indeed; but at the call of duty the sacrifice was made when his country again needed his services. Keenly alive to her honor, an ardent lover of her free and noble institutions, chivalric in his admiration and love for the flag of his country, his heart leaped with indignation when the news first broke upon the land of the unjustifiable revolt of the southern States; and, although by marriage connected with the best blood of the south, he was among the very first to fly to the standard of his country when it was insulted by the wanton attack upon Fort Sumter. His offer was accepted and during the latter part of May, 1861, he left the navy-yard at Brooklyn as the lieutenant and executive officer of the steamship "R. R. Cuyler," connected with the blockading squadron in the Gulf of Mexico. How honorably and faithfully he discharged the duties of that position the records of the navy department and the history of the times fully attest. He returned in the month of June, 1862, making a brief visit at home, and was again off to join his squadron. The steamer had been ordered to touch at Key West for coal, and, although the officers were aware that the terrible scourge of that climate, yellow fever, was prevailing at that port, the order was obeyed. The ship became infected with the deadly disease; the captain soon died; the surgeon and Lieutenant Philip were taken sick; the latter, on his sick bed, took command of the steamer, and directed her return to New York. They reached Sandy Hook and were placed [page 106] in lower quarantine, where Lieutenant Philip died on the hospital ship on the night of Sept. 2, 1862, but not until he had looked once more upon the faces of his wife and brother, who had hastened to meet him.
As an officer, Lieutenant Philip was brave, vigilant, and self-sacrificing; as a citizen, patriotic and public-spirited; as a man, he was both just and generous; as a friend, warm-hearted and faithful. At his death the military committee of Columbia county, through their chairman, the late Judge Henry Hogeboom, presented a series of suitable resolutions of high appreciation of his character, respect for his public services, and sincere grief at his loss. The Agricultural and Horticultural Association, of which he had been unanimously elected the first president, and to which he had devoted his untiring energy and zeal as an executive officer, also passed resolutions of respect and condolence.
We cannot better close this brief sketch than by quoting a few of the heart-felt words of his friend, the late Stephen Burrell, in an obituary notice contributed to the New York Journal of Commerce:
"The respect of the aged, the honor of the good and wise, the love of the purest and best, shall hallow his grave. It shall be wet with the tears of the poor and lowly, and his memory in the hearts of us all shall blossom all the year and keep green forever."
JOHN W. EDMONDS
John Worth Edmonds, son of General Samuel Edmonds, was born March 13, 1799, in the city of Hudson. His early education was obtained at private schools and at the academy at Hudson, where he prepared for college. In October, 1814, he entered the sophomore class of Williams College, Massachusetts, but in 1815 he solicited his dismissal from that institution, and entered Union College, at Schenectady, where he graduated in July, 1816. On leaving college he began the study of the law at Cooperstown with George Monell, Esq., afterwards chief-justice of Michigan. After remaining at the place about six months he returned to Hudson, where he studied two years in the office of Monell & Van Buren.
In the fall of 1819 he entered the office of Martin Van Buren, in Albany. He continued with the ex-President, residing in his family, until May, 1820, when he returned to Hudson and entered upon the practice of the law. He continued at Hudson until his removal to New York, in November, 1837.
At the age of nineteen he was appointed a lieutenant in the militia, which commission he held for about fifteen years, when he obtained the command of his regiment. This office he resigned in 1828, on being appointed, by De Witt Clinton, recorder of Hudson.
At an early age he took an active part in politics as a Democrat, and the first vote he ever gave was for Daniel D. Tompkins, who ran for governor against De Witt Clinton.
In 1830 he was elected by the Democrats of Columbia to the Assembly, in which body he soon became a leading and influential member.
In the fall of 1831 he was elected to the State Senate, receiving in his district the large majority of over seven thousand five hundred votes.
In the Senate he served four years, during the whole of which time, in addition to other duties, he was a member of the judiciary committee, and for the last three years was chairman of the bank committee.
It was also during his senatorial term that the subject of nullification, arising out of the forcible resistance of South Carolina to the tariff laws, occupied the public mind. A joint committee of the two houses was raised on the matter, and Mr. Edmonds was a member on the part of the Senate. An elaborate report, drawn up by Mr. Van Buren, then Vice-President of the United States, was made by Nathaniel P. Tallmadge, the chairman of the committee. About that time Mr. Tallmadge was elected to the United States Senate, and opposition to his report on nullification unexpectedly arising, the defense of it fell upon Mr. Edmonds. The debate lasted more than a week, during which time the judge stood alone against six of the most prominent senators on the other side. The result was the adoption of the report by an overwhelming majority.
In the summer of 1836 he was appointed by General Jackson to carry into effect the treaty with the Ottawa and Chippewa tribes of Indians. This business took him during the summer to Michilimackinac, where for nearly two months he was encamped with over six hundred natives. In the ensuing year he received appointments in relation to other tribes; but in the fall of 1837 he relinquished them, and removed from Hudson to New York, where he resumed the practice of law, and almost immediately found himself in an extensive and profitable business.
In April, 1843, without any solicitation on his part, he was appointed by Governor Bouck an inspector of the State prison at Sing Sing. It was with much hesitation that he accepted this unthankful task. The labor was indeed Herculean, as scarcely any discipline was maintained in the prison, and the earnings fell short of the expenses by over $40,000. But within eighteen months a great change was effected; strict discipline was introduced and maintained among the prisoners, and the annual deficiency in the revenue was reduced to less than a tenth part of the former sum.
This task, however, was easy in comparison with a reform of a different character which he sought to introduce. He found that for more than fifteen years the system of government which had prevailed in our State prisons was one purely of force, and where no sentiment was sought to be awakened in the breast of the prisoner but that of fear, and no duty exacted from him but that of implicit obedience. No instrument of punishment was used but the whip, which had the effect of arousing only the worst passions of both convicts and officers,---a practice of abominable cruelty, long engrafted upon our penitentiary system, revolting to humanity, and destructive to all hope of reforming the prisoner. So thoroughly had it become engrafted that the most experienced officers insisted that there was no other mode by which order could be kept.
Passion, prejudice, and selfishness all combined to place obstacle in the way of this proposed reform, and its progress was very slow. Yet it steadily advanced, and when, in 1845, Mr. Edmonds resigned the office of inspector, his system was in the full tide of success, and has been continued by his successors to the present time.
On the 18th of February, 1845, Mr. Edmonds received the appointment of circuit judge of the first circuit, in the place of Judge Kent, who had resigned. That office he held until June, 1847, when he was elected a judge of the Supreme Court.
Upon the organization of the judiciary, under the new State constitution, Judge Edmonds was nominated for justice of the Supreme Court by the bar of New York and by the Tammany party, and was elected by a majority exceeding any of his colleagues. This result was gratifying, not only to him, but to the public, inasmuch as during his judgeship he had made several decisions that warred upon popular prejudice, and immediately before his election he had, with others of the Democratic party, protested against the admission of Texas into the Union, as eminently calculated to lead to a war with Mexico, and to perpetuate the extension of slavery. His course was justified by his triumphant election by the public, who honored him for his independence of character. In the discharge of his judicial duties Judge Edmonds was always fearless and independent, in which particular he was often compared to the celebrated Sir Matthew Hale. He was especially gifted in the art of communicating to others what he himself knew or felt; and, altogether, he was a man of rare though somewhat eccentric talents.
WILLIAM A PORTER
was born at Catskill, N. Y., in the year 1827. He was grandson to the late Rev. David Porter, of that place. He was nephew also on his maternal side to Judge Henry Hogeboom, of the Supreme Court of New York, lately deceased. Both he and his brother were distinguished in their respective callings in life, his brother John A. Porter, now deceased, having become a leading professor at Yale College, his brother Henry C. Porter, also now deceased, an influential merchant at Sheffield, Ill., and his brother Charles H. Porter a prominent physician at Albany, N. Y. In his youth he lost both parents, and was thus thrown early in life upon his own personal efforts and resources. He began the study of law in the office of Judge Hogeboom, at Hudson, Columbia Co, N. Y., and in 1846 was admitted to the bar. At the age of twenty-seven he was advanced to the position of district attorney of Columbia county, and won the respect of all for inflexible integrity and marked ability in office. In 1856 he established himself in Chicago, which was thenceforward his home, where, after some years' practice of law in that city, he was elevated to the bench of the Superior Court of Cook Co., Ill., and continued judge of that court the remainder of his life, being at the time of his death its chief-justice. In 1859 he married the youngest daughter of Justus Boies, Esq., of Northampton, Mass., by whom he had one son, who survives them both, Mrs. Porter having died in 1871. Judge Porter's death, which occurred Oct. 27, 1873, was very sudden. In the prime of life, without previous sickness, he was stricken down by an apoplectic attack, and died in his bed-chamber while a court-room thronged with suitors and counsel awaited his coming.
A friend who had known him from boyhood intimately, himself a distinguished member of the New York bar, and who followed him a little more than a year thereafter, wrote the following:
"He has fallen instantly, and unwarned, in fullness of his vigor and his ripe manhood, with harness on, his record well made up, unbowed by sickness or disease, unbroken in mind or body, honored by his profession, lamented by this peers, loved by this friends, respected by all."
EDWARD PITKIN COWLES. - offsite
JOSEPH GILBERT PALEN - offsite
JOSEPH D. MONELL
This distinguished lawyer was born in Claverack in the year 1781, and was the son of Dr. George Monell, a very eminent physician of his day. He commenced the study of the law in the office of Jacob Rutsen Van Rensselaer, and afterwards entered the office of Peter Van Schaack. By his early associations, the adaptability of his mind, and his close application to studies, he attained the first rank in his profession.
Mr. Monell always occupied a prominent position in the political affairs of the county, although he would never accept a prominent office. He was recorder of the city of Hudson from 1811 to 1813, and from 1815 to 1821; was presidential elector at the first election of President Monroe, in 1816; was district attorney in 1818; was member of the Assembly from this county in 1824; was for two consecutive terms elected county clerk, ---in 1828 and 1831; was three years supervisor of the city, and for many years a commissioner of loans of this county.
He died in the city of Hudson on the 17th of September, 1861. At a meeting of members of the Columbia county bar, held at the court-house on the following day, Judge Theodore Miller said, "The decease of Joseph D. Monell is an event which has caused a pang of sorrow to vibrate throughout the whole community. He has for many years occupied a high position as a lawyer and a citizen, and in his death the profession and the circle of his numerous friends have sustained an irreparable loss.
"A native of this county, he has been identified with its early history, and associated in his professional career with the great men who have conferred high honor upon it. He was the compeer of Van Buren, Van Ness, Williams, Spencer, and others, most of whom have long since passed away to their final account, leaving behind them an enduring fame. Amidst such an array of genius he commenced his professional life, which was lengthened out to an unusual period. For upwards of half a century Mr. Monell was engaged in a large and lucrative practice, and during that time filled high places of public trust conferred on him by his fellow-citizens. He filled these offices with credit to himself and to the entire satisfaction of the public.
"It was his own choice that he attained no higher position. Naturally diffident, he shrank intuitively from the high places of distinction outside his native county, and which I have reason to believe would have been conferred on him if desired, but which he refused to accept when tendered. He appeared to feel that his place of usefulness was in an humbler sphere. With talents and ability to fill the highest offices of honor and trust in the land, he generously declined them, and was content to confine his labors to his own immediate neighborhood. It was for others and not for himself that he toiled. How many are now living who owe their success and elevation to his indefatigable labors? How many has he pushed forward to eminence and distinction with a disinterestedness and self-sacrifice rarely witnessed? The field of his labors was in the more quiet walks of the profession, as he purposely avoided those of a public character, yet they were marked by striking characteristics which have never been surpassed."
was descended from Holland ancestry, and was born in the town of Claverack, July 30, 1785. He received his education at the select academy in Claverack taught by Andrew Mayfield Carshore, an accomplished and successful teacher of that period. He studied law in the office of Jacob Rutsen Van Rensselaer, at Claverack, and was admitted to the bar about the year 1807, soon after which he established himself in business at the village of Johnstown, town of Livingston, in this county. He remained there until the year 1833, when he removed to the city of Hudson, where he died, Jan. 9, 1859.
He, in conjunction with Ambrose L. Jordan and Joseph Lord, represented this county in the Assembly of 1825-26; again in 1828-29. He represented the county in the Assembly with Elisha Williams and Abel S. Peters. He was elected county clerk in 1837, and in 1855 was elected to Congress from this district, proving himself an influential and able member during the two years of his term.
Mr. Miller was a man of mark in his day. He was greatly distinguished as a lawyer, and won a solid reputation and a prominent place among the many talented and brilliant men who adorned the bar of Columbia county, and made it celebrated throughout the State.
As a lawyer he was noted for his persevering industry, his tact and discrimination in the trial of his causes, his profound knowledge of men as well as of legal principles, his loyalty to his client, and the great success which, in a long practice in this and adjoining counties, crowned his efforts as an advocate. He was never eloquent, in the ordinary sense of the term, but there was a vigor and earnestness and pungency in his thought and language, and a quickness and directness in his conceptions and theories, and a stern logic in all his views, which made him a most dangerous antagonist. The mind that would venture in collision with his must be daring as well as able. He had those broad and far-reaching powers of mind which enable the possessor to command the elements of legal philosophy and to create a jurisprudence of his own.
He was well known throughout the State, and was thoroughly identified with the people of his own section. Of popular manners and irreproachable integrity, governed by generous and manly impulses, able and ingenuous, no one who knew Killian Miller in his prime would deny him the possession of any of the qualities which illustrate the learned and honorable lawyer of the old school.
ELIAS W. LEAVENWORTH.
Elias Warren Leavenworth, son of Dr. David Leavenworth, was born in Canaan, in this county, Dec. 20, 1803. At the age of sixteen he entered the Hudson Academy, then in charge of Rev. Dr. Parker, and in the following year he entered the sophomore class at Williams College, and, after spending a year there, entered the same class at Yale. In 1824 he was graduated with the degree of Bachelor of Arts, and in due time received that of A. M. He commenced the study of law with William Cullen Bryant, at Great Barrington, Mass., and after a short time entered the law school at Litchfield, Conn., where he remained till 1827 In the fall of that year he removed to Syracuse, N. Y., and was soon admitted to practice in the court of common pleas and the Supreme Court of the State. In 1829 he formed a law partnership with the late B. Davis Noxon, which continued till 1850, the firm becoming one of the most prominent in that portion of the State. He was compelled to relinquish practice in the last-named year on account of ill health. From 1838 to 1841 inclusive he held the office of president of the village of Syracuse, and in 1849 was elected as its mayor, it having been incorporated a city in the preceding year. In 1850 he was elected to the Assembly, and during his term was chairman of the committee on salt manufacture. He was named for the office of comptroller by Governor Fish in 1850, but, being ineligible by reason of membership in the Assembly, his name was withdrawn. In 1851 he was tendered the nomination for attorney-general or judge of the court of appeals, but declined these honors. In 1853 he was elected secretary of state. In 1856 he was again elected to the Assembly, and served as chairman of the committee on canals, and a member of that on banks, as well as chairman of the select committee on the equalization of the State tax. In 1859 he was again mayor of Syracuse, and in the same year was defeated as a candidate for the office of secretary of state. In 1860 he was appointed a member of the board of quarantine commissioners, and in 1861 became one of the regents of the university, and was nominated and confirmed as commissioner on the part of the United States government under the convention with the government of New Granada, and served until the dissolution of the commission, in 1862. In 1865 he was made president of the board of commissioners appointed by the governor to locate the State Asylum for the Blind, and the same year a trustee of the State Asylum for Idiots, and in 1867 a trustee of Hamilton College. In 1872 he was one of the board of commissioners to amend the State constitution, and in the same year received the honorary degree of LL.D. from Hamilton College.
He was elected to the Forty-fourth Congress on the Republican ticket, to represent the district comprising the counties of Onondaga and Cortland, but declined to accept a renomination, though urged to do so.
In his earlier life he interested himself much in military matters, and, being commissioned a lieutenant of artillery in 1832, he passed rapidly through the intervening grades to that of brigadier-general, to which rank he was appointed in 1836, and assigned to the command of the Seventh Brigade of Artillery. He resigned his commission in 1841. He is at present one of the most prominent and distinguished citizens of the city of Syracuse.
DR. S. OAKLEY VANDERPOEL,
the son of a physician of considerable celebrity, was born at Kinderhook, Feb. 22, 1824. At an early age he completed his preparatory training in the Kinderhook Academy, and entered upon his collegiate course in the University of New York. He returned with its diploma to begin the study of medicine with his father, and after a thorough course he graduated at Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, 1845. In 1847 he went to Paris to pursue his studies, remaining [page 11] abroad till 1850; then returned and settled in Albany, where he soon became noted as a physician. In 1857 Governor King appointed him surgeon-general of the State, and three years later he was chosen president of the Albany County Medical Society, and re-elected the following year. In 1861 he was again appointed surgeon-general of the State; this time by Governor Morgan. The opening of the War of the Rebellion made this position a most arduous one. The magnitude of the responsibility may be judged from the fact that there were between six and seven hundred positions upon the medical staff to be kept filled with capable officers. A still more significant testimony is embodied in the statement that at one time the surgeon-general was called upon to make over five hundred appointments in the space of six weeks. His successful administration of this office elicited the official approval of both the secretary of war and the governor of the State, and constitutes an important chapter in the record of the part taken by New York in the great conflict.
In 1867 he was appointed to the chair of General Pathology and Clinical Medicine in the Albany Medical College, which he held for three years, and then resigned. At about the same time he was appointed a manager of the State Lunatic Asylum at Utica, and in February, 1870, was elected president of the Medical Society of the State of New York, the highest recognition in the power of his professional brethren to bestow.
In 1872 he was called by Governor Hoffman to take charge of the quarantine department of the port of New York as health-officer of the port. It is a position of great power and responsibility, but in the discharge of its duties Dr. Vanderpoel has given the highest satisfaction to merchants and others connected with the commerce of the city In January, 1876, he was elected to the chair of Theory and Practice of Medicine in the Albany Medical College, ---a position which, with his duties as health-officer, he has since earnestly sustained.
WILLIAM H. TOBEY
was born in the city of Hudson, in this county, on the 1st day of January, in the year 1799. He received an academic and collegiate education, decided upon the profession of the law as his pursuit, studied in the office of Judge James Vanderpoel, and after his admission to the bar practiced for a short time in Rochester and in New Lebanon, but finally settled in Kinderhook, which was his home for nearly half a century. Early in his professional career he formed a partnership with Hon. Aaron Vanderpoel, and in 1843 became associated in business with John H. Reynolds, late commissioner of appeals. This lasted until 1851, and in 1856 the law firm of Tobey & Silvester was formed by his partnership with the Hon. Francis Silvester. This continued until his death, which occurred June 16, 1878. In 1837 he was elected a member of Assembly, and from the commencement of the session, on the 2d of January, 1838, till its close, on the 18th day of April in that year, diligently devoted himself to the performance of his legislative duties. In the list of members of that body appear such names as Luther Bradish, John A. King, George W. Patterson, David B. Ogden, and Preston King, ---all well and favorably known in the history of the State of New York. But no man among them was more attentive to the interests of his constituents or more influential than William H. Tobey.
In the year 1841 he was appointed by Governor Seward surrogate of this county, and discharged the duties of that office for four years to the perfect satisfaction not only of all suitors in that court, but of the public at large, and in such a manner as to offer a sure protection to the important interests which were constantly submitted for his consideration.
In 1853 the Union Bank of Kinderhook was organized. Mr. Tobey was at once elected its president, and continued in that position till his death. The peculiarly successful career of that institution, the harmony which has pervaded all its management, and the uniformly high credit which it has maintained must be attributed, in no small degree, to the wise counsels and judicious management of its presiding officer. In November, 1861, after an exciting contest, Mr. Tobey was elected senator from the counties of Columbia and Dutchess, by the flattering majority of nine hundred votes.
The judiciary committee was then, as it is now, one of the most important Senate committees, and upon that committee he was placed, in conjunction with Judges Folger and Willard and Mr. Ganson, ---men distinguished at the bar, on the bench, and in political life. Questions of the gravest interest not only to the State, but to the nation, were constantly discussed, and decided during the whole of his official term. The country was then passing through the crisis of its existence; its very life was at stake; and the means of preserving that life were to be furnished, to a great extent, by the Empire State. No Man among his brother senators could be found, in those trying days, more continually at his post of duty, or more earnest in the determination to vindicate the authority of the law and sustain the government, than the senator from Columbia and Dutchess. He comprehended as fully and clearly as did any one of his compeers all the delicate questions that were daily arising, brought to their consideration and solution all the powers of his vigorous mind, and ripe and mature studies and experience, and never failed to shed light upon any subject which he discussed. Of his career in the Senate it can be truthfully said, in his own words, which he applied to his lamented friend, Judge Willard, '"e threw all his influence on the side of the government, the constitution, and the laws, and cheerfully lent his voice and his vote on all occasions to sustain the sovereignty of the Union and to crush out the rebellion."
Deeply interested from early manhood in all questions affecting national and State politics, he was clear, decided, and unwavering in his views. While the Whig party remained in existence he was one of its most ardent and energetic supporters, one of its most valued and trusted leaders in this section of the State, and a warm and active advocate of its policy and candidates.
When the Republican party was organized, he became one of its earliest and most efficient members, and continued true to its principles till death.
The cause of education found a warm advocate in him. [page 112] He was, at the time of his death, and had been for many years, president of the board of trustees of Kinderhook Academy; he was deeply interested in all that pertained to its welfare, and constantly ready to labor and contribute for its advancement.
As a lawyer Mr. Tobey was well read, thoroughly grounded in the principles of the law, devoted to the interests of his clients, sparing no study in the investigation of the cases committed to his charge, and entering upon the preparation and trial of every cause with which he was intrusted, with energetic zeal and keen discrimination. During his long years of practice, the roll of members of the bar of Columbia county contained many distinguished names. But it is doing no injustice to those now numbered with himself among the departed, or those who still remain to bear the heat and burden of the day, to claim that he has been surpassed by none of his compeers and associates in all the various qualifications and essentials necessary to constitute the useful, trustworthy, honor, and distinguished lawyer and counselor.
*The gentleman of whom Dr. Holmes made this inquiry was the Hon. Gulian C. Verplanck.
These facts are taken form "The Genealogy and History of the Williams Family," by S. W. Williams.
The letter was written to Mr. McKinstry, of Hudson, and the extract is from the "Genealogy and History of the Williams Family."
§ Furnished by H. C. Van Schaack, Esq., of Manlius, N. Y.
¦¦ Chancellor Kent.
₯ From the New York Atlas of May 14, 1848.
€ From the pen of Hon. Henry Hogeboom.
Written by Hon. Theodore Miller soon after Mr. Jordan's death.
** Mr. Grundy, of Tennessee.
Complied from a notice of Judge Edmonds in the "American Biographical Sketch-Book."