The Bay State Monthly, Volume 1, Issue 5, May, 1884 - A Massachusetts Magazine
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A Massachusetts Magazine.


MAY, 1884.

No. V.

Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1884, by John N. McClintock and Company, in the office of the Librarian of Congress at Washington.

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Chester Alan Arthur was born at Fairfield, Vermont, October 5, 1830. His father, the Reverend Doctor William Arthur, was a Baptist clergyman, who emigrated from county Antrim, Ireland, when only eighteen years of age. He had received a thorough classical education, and was graduated from Belfast University, one of the foremost institutions of learning in Ireland. Marrying an American, Miss Malvina Stone, soon after his arrival, he became the father of several children. Chester was the eldest of two sons, having four sisters older and two younger than himself. While fulfilling his clerical duties as the pastor, successively, of a number of Baptist churches in New York State, Dr. Arthur edited for several years The Antiquarian, and wrote a work on Family Names, which is highly prized by genealogists. Of Scotch-Irish descent, he was a man of great force of character, impatient of restraint, at home in a controversy, and frank in the expression of his opinions. He was a pronounced emancipationist, although he never expected to see the overthrow of slavery, which it was his good fortune to witness, as his life was spared until the twenty-seventh of October, 1875, when he died at Newtonville, near Albany. He was a personal friend of Gerrit Smith, and they had participated in the organization of the New York State Anti-Slavery Society, which was dispersed by a mob during its first meeting at Utica, on the twenty-first of October, 1835 (the day on which William Lloyd Garrison was mobbed in Boston, and was lodged in jail for his own protection). A friend of the slave from conscience and from conviction, Dr. Arthur was never backward in expressing his convictions, and his children imbibed his teachings.

When a lad, young Arthur enjoyed at home the tutelage of his father, whose thorough knowledge of the classics enabled him to lay the foundation of his son's future education broad and deep. He entered Union College in 1845, when only fifteen years of age. His collegiate course was full of promise, and every successive year he was declared to be one of those who had taken "maximum honors," although he was compelled to absent himself during two winters, when he taught school to earn the requisite funds for defraying his expenses, without drawing upon his father's means. Yet he kept up with his class, and when he was graduated in 1848, he was one of six out of a class of over one hundred, who were elected members of the Phi Beta Kappa, an honor only conferred on the best scholars.

Following the natural inclination of his mind, young Arthur began the study of law, supporting himself by teaching and by preparing boys for college. It so happened that two years after he was the preceptor of an academy at North Pownal, Vermont, a student from Williams College, named James A. Garfield, came there and taught penmanship in the same academy for several months.

In 1853, young Arthur went to New York City, by the invitation of the Honorable Erastus D. Culver, whose acquaintance he had made when that gentleman represented the Washington County district, and Dr. Arthur was the pastor of the Baptist Church at Greenwich. Mr. Culver had been noted in Congress as an advanced, anti-slavery man, and he was prompted to take an interest in the son of a clergyman-constituent, who did not fear to express anti-slavery sentiments, at a time when the occupants of pulpits were generally so conservative that they were dumb upon this important question. Before the close of the year, young Arthur displayed such legal ability and business tact, that he was admitted into partnership, and became a member of the firm of Culver, Parker, and Arthur. The firm had numerous clients, and the junior partner soon became a successful practitioner, uniting to a thorough knowledge of the law a vigorous understanding and an untiring industry which gained for him an enviable reputation.

Among other cases on the docket of Culver, Parker, and Arthur, was one known as the Lemon slave-case. A Virginian named Jonathan Lemon undertook to take eight slaves to Texas on steamers, by the way of New York. While in that city a writ of habeas corpus was issued, and the slaves were brought into the court before Judge Elijah Paine; Mr. Culver and John Jay appearing for the slaves, while H.D. Lapaugh and Henry L. Clifton were retained by Lemon. Judge Paine, after hearing long arguments, declared that the fugitive slave law did not apply to slaves who were brought by their masters into a free State, and he ordered their release. The Legislature of Virginia directed the attorney-general of that State to employ counsel to appeal from Judge Paine's decision to the Supreme Court of the State of New York. Mr. Arthur, who was the attorney of record in the case for the people, went to Albany, and after earnest efforts procured the passage of a joint resolution, requesting the governor to employ counsel to defend the interests of the State. Attorney-General Hoffman, E.D. Culver, and Joseph Blunt were appointed by the governor as counsel, and Mr. Arthur as the State's attorney. The Supreme Court sustained Judge Paine's decision. The slave-holder, unwilling to lose his "property," then engaged Charles O'Conor to argue the case before the State Court of Appeals. There the counsel for the State were again successful in defending the decision of Judge Paine, and from that day no slave-holder dared to bring his slaves into the city of New York.

Mr. Arthur, who had naturally taken a prominent part in this case, was regarded by the colored people of New York as a champion of their interests, and it was not long before they sought his aid. At that time, colored people were not permitted to ride in the street-cars in New York City, with the exception of a few old and shabby cars set aside for their occupation. The Fourth-avenue line permitted them to ride when no other passenger made objection.

One Sunday, in 1855, Lizzie Jennings, a colored woman, returning from having fulfilled her duties as superintendent of a colored Sunday-school, entered a Fourth-avenue car, and the conductor took her fare. Soon after, a drunken white man objected to her presence, and insisted that she be made to leave the car. The conductor pulled the bell, and when the car stopped, told her that she must get out, offering to return her fare. She refused, and the conductor then offered to put her off by force. She made vigorous resistance, exclaiming: "I have paid my fare, and I have a right to ride." Finally, the conductor called in several policemen, and, by their joint efforts, she was removed from the car, her clothing having nearly all been torn from her in the struggle. When the leading colored people of the city heard of this, they sent a committee to the office of Culver, Parker, and Arthur, and requested them to make it a test case.

Mr. Arthur brought suit against the railroad company for Miss Jennings, in the Supreme Court, at Brooklyn. The case came on for trial before Judge Rockwell, who then sat upon the bench there. He had just decided, in a previous case, that a corporation was not liable for the wrongful acts of its agent or servant, and when Mr. Arthur handed him the pleadings, he said that the railroad company was not liable, and was about to order a nonsuit. Mr. Arthur called his attention, however, to a recently revised section of the Revised Statutes, making certain railroad corporations which carried passengers liable for the acts of their conductors and drivers, whether wilful or negligent, under which the action had been brought. The judge was silenced, the case was tried, and the jury rendered a verdict of five hundred dollars damages in favor of the colored woman. The railroad company paid the money without further contest, and issued orders to its conductors to permit colored people to ride in its cars, an example that was followed by all the other street railroads in New York. The colored people, especially "The Colored People's Legal Rights Association," were very grateful to Mr. Arthur, and for years afterward they celebrated the anniversary of the day on which he won the case that asserted their rights in public conveyances.

When a lad, young Arthur had always taken a great interest in politics, and it is related of him that during the Clay-Polk campaign of 1844, while he and some of his companions were raising an ash pole in honor of Harry Clay, they were attacked by some Democratic boys, when young Arthur, who was the leader of the party, ordered a charge, and drove the young Democrats from the field with sore heads and subdued spirits. His first vote was cast in 1852 for Winfield Scott for President, and he identified himself with the Whigs of his ward when he located in New York City. In those days the best citizens served as inspectors of elections at the polls, and for some years Mr. Arthur served in that capacity at a voting-place in a carpenter's shop, which occupied the site of the present Fifth Avenue Hotel. When, in 1856, the Republican party was formed, Mr. Arthur was a prominent member of the Young Men's Vigilance Committee, which advocated the election of Fremont and Dayton. It was during this campaign that he became acquainted with Edwin D. Morgan, and gained his ardent life-long friendship.

Animated by a military spirit, Mr. Arthur sought recreation by joining the volunteer militia of New York, and he was appointed judge-advocate-general on the staff of Brigadier-General Yates, who commanded the second brigade. The general was a strict disciplinarian, and required his field, line, and staff officers to meet weekly for drill and instruction. Mr. Arthur thus acquired the rudiments of a military education, and became acquainted with many of those who afterwards distinguished themselves as officers in the volunteer army of the Union.

General Arthur was married in 1859 to Ellen Lewis Herndon, of Fredericksburg, Virginia, a daughter of Captain William Lewis Herndon, of the United States Navy, who had gained honorable distinction when in command of the naval expedition sent to explore the river Amazon. His heroic death, in 1857, is recorded in history among those "names which will never be forgotten as long as there is remembrance in the world for fidelity unto death." In command of the steamer Central America, which went down, with a loss of three hundred and sixty lives, he stood at his post on the wheelhouse, and succeeded in having the women and children safely transferred to the boats, remaining himself to perish with his vessel. General Sherman has characterized this grand deed of unselfish devotion as the most heroic incident in our naval history. Mrs. Arthur was a lady of the highest culture, and in the varied relations of life—wife, mother, friend—she illustrated all that gives to womanhood its highest charm, and commands for it the purest homage. She died in 1880, after an illness of but three days, leaving a son and a daughter, with a large number of mourning friends, not only in society, of which she was an ornament, but among the poor and the distressed, whose wants and whose sufferings she had tenderly cared for.

When the Honorable Edward D. Morgan was elected Governor of the State of New York, he appointed Mr. Arthur engineer-in-chief on his staff, and when Fort Sumter was fired upon, the governor telegraphed to him to go to Albany, where he received orders to act as state quartermaster-general in the city of New York. General Arthur at once began to organize regiments,—uniform, arm, and equip them,—and send them to the defence of the capital. His capacity for leadership and organization was soon manifest. There was no lack of men or of money, but it needed organizing powers like his to mould them into disciplined form, to grasp the new issues with a master-hand, and to infuse earnestness and obedience into the citizens, suddenly transformed into soldiers. His accounts were kept in accordance with the army regulations, and their subsequent settlement with the United States, without deduction for unwarranted charges, was an easy task. It was by his exertions, to a great extent, that the Empire State was enabled to send to the front six hundred and ninety thousand men, nearly one fifth of the Grand Army of the Union.

There were, of course, many adventurers who sought commissions, and some of the regiments were recruited from the rough element of city life, who soon refused to obey their officers. General Arthur made short work of these cases, exercising an authority which no one dared to dispute. Neither would he permit the army contractors to ingratiate themselves with him by presents, returning everything thus sent him. Although a comparatively poor man when he entered upon the duties of quartermaster-general at New York, he was far poorer when he gave up the office. A friend describing his course at this period, says: "So jealous was he of his integrity, that I have known instances where he could have made thousands of dollars legitimately, and yet he refused to do it on the ground that he was a public officer and meant to be, like Caesar's wife, above suspicion."

When the rebel ironclad steamer Merrimac had commenced her work of destruction near Fortress Monroe, General Arthur, as engineer-in-chief, took efficient steps for the defence of New York, and made a thorough inspection of all the forts and defences in the State, describing the armament of each one. His report to the Legislature, submitted to that body in a little more than three weeks after his attention was called to the subject by Governor Morgan, was thus noticed editorially in the New York Herald of January 25, 1862:—

"The report of the engineer-in-chief, General Arthur, which appeared in yesterday's Herald, is one of the most important and valuable documents that have been this year presented to our Legislature. It deserves perusal, not only on account of the careful analysis it contains of the condition of the forts, but because the recommendations, with which it closes, coincide precisely with the wishes of the administration with respect to securing a full and complete defence of the entire Northern coast."

Governor Morgan appointed General Arthur state inspector-general in February, 1862, and ordered him to visit and inspect the New York troops in the army of the Potomac. While there, as an advance on Richmond was daily expected, he volunteered for duty on the staff of his friend, Major-General Hunt, commander of the Reserve Artillery. He had previously, when four fine volunteer regiments had been organized under the auspices of the metropolitan police commissioners of of the city of New York, and consolidated into what was known as the "Metropolitan Brigade," been offered the command of it by the colonels of the regiments, but on making formal application, based on a desire to see active service in the field, Governor Morgan was unwilling that he should accept, stating that he could not be spared from the service of the State, and that while he appreciated General Arthur's desire for war-service, he knew that he would render the country more efficient aid for the Union cause by remaining at his State post of duty.

When, in June, 1862, the situation had an unfavorable appearance, and there were apprehensions that a general draft would be necessary, Governor Morgan telegraphed General Arthur, then with the Army of the Potomac, to return to New York. The General did so, and was requested, on his arrival, to act as secretary at a confidential meeting of the governors of loyal States, held at the Astor House, on the twenty-eighth of July, 1862. After a full and frank discussion of the condition of affairs in their respective States, the governors united in a request to the President to call for more troops. President Lincoln, on the first of July, issued a proclamation, thanking the governors for their patriotism, and calling for three hundred thousand three-years volunteers, and three hundred thousand nine-months militia-men. Private intimation that such a call was to be issued would have enabled army contractors to have made millions; but the secret was honorably kept by all until after the issue of the proclamation. The quota of New York was 59,705 volunteers, or sixty regiments, and it was desirable that they should be recruited and sent to the front without delay. General Arthur, by special request of Governor Morgan, resumed his duties as quartermaster-general and established a system of recruiting and officering the new levies, which proved wonderfully successful. In his annual report, made to the governor on the twenty-seventh of January, 1863, he said:—

"In summing up the operations of the department during the last levy of troops, I need only state as the result the fact that through the single office and clothing department of this department in the city of New York, from August 1 to December 1, the space of four months, there were completely clothed, uniformed, and equipped, supplied with camp and garrison equipage, and transported from this State to the seat of war, sixty-eight regiments of infantry, two battalions of cavalry, and four battalions and ten batteries of artillery."

In December, 1863, the incoming of the Democratic state administration deprived General Arthur of his office. His successor, Quartermaster-General Talcott, in a report to Governor Seymour, paid the following just tribute to his predecessor:—

"I found, upon entering on the discharge of my duties, a well-organized system of labor and accountability, for which the State is chiefly indebted to my predecessor, General Chester A. Arthur, who, by his practical good sense and unremitting exertion, at a period when everything was in confusion, reduced the operations of the department to a matured plan by which large amounts of money were saved to the government, and great economy of time secured in carrying out the details of the same."

Resuming his professional duties, at first in partnership with Mr. Gardiner and afterward alone, he became counsel to the city department of taxes and assessments, with an annual salary of ten thousand dollars, but he abruptly resigned the position when the Tammany Hall city officials attempted to coerce the Republicans connected with the municipal departments.

When the next presidential election drew near, General Arthur entered enthusiastically into the support of General Grant, and was made chairman of the Grant Central Club, of New York. He also served as chairman of the executive committee of the Republican State Committee of New York. In 1871, he formed the afterwards well-known firm of Arthur, Phelps, Knevals, and Ransom.

President Grant, without solicitation and unexpectedly, appointed General Arthur collector of the port of New York, on the twentieth of November, 1871. He accepted the position with much hesitation, but it met with the general approval of the business community, many of the merchants having become personally acquainted with his business ability during the war. He instituted many reforms in the management of the custom-house, all calculated to simplify the business and to divest it, to a great extent, of all the details and routine so vexatious to the mercantile classes. The number of his removals during his administration was far less than during the rule of any other collector since 1857, and the expense of collecting the duties was far less than it had been for years. So satisfactory was his management of the custom-house, that, upon the close of his term of service, December, 1875, he was renominated by President Grant. The nomination was unanimously confirmed by the Senate without reference to a committee, a compliment very rarely paid, except to ex-senators. He was the first collector of the port of New York, with one or two exceptions, who in fifty years ever held the office for more than the whole term of four years.

Two years later General Arthur was superseded as collector by General Merritt. The Honorable John Sherman, secretary of the treasury, on being questioned as to the cause of the removal of General Arthur as collector of customs at New York, said:—

"I have never said one word impugning General Arthur's honor or integrity as a man and a gentleman, but he was not in harmony with the views of the administration in the management of the custom-house. I would vote for him for Vice-President a million times before I would vote for W.H. English, with whom I served in Congress."

General Arthur, in a letter written by him to Secretary Sherman, on his administration of the New York custom-house, said:—

"The essential elements of a correct civil service I understand to be: First, permanance in office, which, of course, prevents removals, except for cause. Second, promotion from the lower to the higher grades, based upon good conduct and efficiency. Third, prompt and thorough investigation of all complaints and prompt punishment of all misconduct. In this respect I challenge comparison with any department of the Government, either under the present or under any past national administration. I am prepared to demonstrate the truth of this statement on any fair investigation."

Appended to this letter was a table in which General Arthur showed that during the six years he had managed the office the yearly percentage of removals for all causes had been only two and three-quarters per cent. against an annual average of twenty-eight per cent. under his three immediate predecessors, and an annual average of about twenty-four per cent. since 1857, when Collector Schell took office. Out of nine hundred and twenty-three persons who held office when he became collector on December 1, 1871, there were five hundred and thirty-one still in office on May 1, 1877, having been retained during his entire term. Concerning promotions, the statistics of the office show that during his entire term the uniform practice was to advance men from the lower to the higher grades, and almost without exception on the recommendation of heads of departments. All the appointments, excepting two, to the one hundred positions paying two thousand dollars salary a year, and over, were made on this method.

Senator George K. Edmunds, at a ratification meeting, held in Burlington, Vermont, on the twenty-second of June, 1880, said:—

"I have long known General Arthur. The only serious difficulty I have had with the present administration was when it proposed to remove him from the collectorship of New York. No one questioned his personal honor and integrity. I resisted the attempt to the utmost. Since that time it has turned out that all the reforms suggested had long before been recommended by General Arthur himself, and pigeonholded at Washington."

Meanwhile General Arthur had rendered great services as a member, and subsequently a chairman, of the Republican State Committee, and had united his party from one success to another through all the mazes and intricacies which characterize the politics of New York City. Vice-President Wheeler said of him:—

"It is my good fortune to know well General Arthur, the nominee for Vice-President. In unsullied character and in devotion to the principles of the Republican party no man in the organization surpasses him. No man has contributed more of time and means to advance the just interests of the Republican party."

The National Republican Convention, which assembled at Chicago, in June, 1880, was an exemplification of the popular will. The respective friends of General Grant and of Mr. Blaine, equally confident of success, indulged during a night's session in prolonged demonstrations of applause when the candidates were presented that were unprecedented and that will not probably ever be repeated. Neither side was successful until the thirty-sixth ballot, when the nomination of President was finally bestowed on General Garfield, who had, as a delegate from Ohio, eloquently presented the name of John Sherman as a candidate.

The convention then adjourned for dinner and for consultation. When it reassembled in the evening, the roll of States was called for the nomination for Vice-President. California presented E.B. Washburne; Connecticut, ex-Governor Jewell; Florida, Judge Settle; Tennessee, Horace Maynard. These successive names attracted little attention, but when ex-Lieutenant-Governor Woodford, of New York, rose, and, after a brief reference to the loyal support which New York had given to General Grant, presented the name of General Chester A. Arthur for the second place on the ticket, it was received with applause and enthusiasm. The nomination was seconded by ex-Governor Denison, of Ohio, Emory A. Storrs, of Illinois, and John Cessna, of Pennsylvania. A vote was then taken with the following result: Arthur, 468; Washburne, 19; Maynard, 30; Jewell, 44; Bruce, 8; Davis, 2; and Woodford, 1. The nomination of General Arthur was then made unanimous, and a committee of one from each State, with the presiding officer of the convention, Senator Hoar, as chairman, was appointed to notify General Garfield and General Arthur of their nomination. The convention then adjourned sine die.

Returning to New York, General Arthur was welcomed by a large and influential gathering of Republicans, who greeted him with hearty cheers. That night he was serenaded by a large procession of Republicans, which assembled in Union Square and marched past his residence in Lexington Avenue, with music and fireworks. A few weeks later, a letter was addressed to him, signed by Hamilton Fish, Noah Davis, and upwards of a hundred other prominent Republicans, inviting him to dine with them at the Union League Club, and stating that, in common with all true Republicans, they rejoiced at the happy issue of the earnest struggle in the Chicago convention. They hailed the general approval of its work as an auspicious omen, and looked forward confidently to the labors of the canvass. They felt an especial and personal gratification in the fact that the ticket selected at Chicago bore his name. His faithfulness in public duties, his firmness and sagacity in political affairs, so well understood by his fellow-citizens in New York, had met with national recognition and won for him this well-deserved honor. Their efforts in his support would be prompted, not only by personal zeal and enthusiasm, but by the warmth and zeal of strong personal friendship and esteem. That they might have an opportunity more fully to express to him their sincere congratulations and hearty good wishes, they invited him to meet them at dinner at the Union League Club.

General Arthur, in acknowledging the receipt of this letter, expressed his sense of the kindness which had prompted both the invitation itself and the flattering assurances of confidence and regard by which it was accompanied. If circumstances had permitted, he should have been pleased to have accepted the proffered hospitality, and for that purpose no more congenial spot could have been selected than the headquarters of the Union League Club, an association so widely famed for its patriotic zeal and energy, and so efficient in the support of the principles and policy of the Republican party. He was constrained, however, from considerations of a private nature known to many, to decline the invitation.

On the fifteenth of July, 1880, General Arthur formally accepted the position assigned to him by the Chicago convention, and expressed at length his own personal views on the election laws, public service appointments, the financial problems of the day, common schools, the tariff, national improvements, and a Republican ascendency, saying, in conclusion, that he did not doubt that success awaited the Republican party, and that its triumph would assure a just, economical, and patriotic administration.

The political campaign of 1880 was earnestly contested by the great political parties. The Republicans were victorious, and their ticket bearing the names of Garfield and Arthur was triumphantly elected. On the fourth of March, 1881, General Arthur took the oath of office in the Senate Chamber as Vice-President of the United States, and half an hour later General Garfield was inaugurated on a platform before the east front of the Capitol, in the presence of the imposing military and civil procession which had escorted him with music and banners. When the ceremony was concluded, the distinguished personages around the new President tendered their congratulations, the assembled multitude cheered, and a salute fired by a light battery stationed near by was echoed by the guns at the navy yard, the arsenal, and the forts around the metropolis.

Republicans congratulated each other on the indications of a vigorous administration, governed by a conscientious determination to promote harmony. But a few months had elapsed, however, before President Garfield was cruelly assassinated, in the full vigor of his manhood, and the Republican party was at first stricken with apprehensions. These gloomy doubts, however, soon disappeared as the incidents of Mr. Arthur's patriotic and useful life were recalled, and a generous confidence was soon extended to the new President.

President Arthur took the oath of office in New York immediately after the death of General Garfield, and he repeated it in the Capitol on the twenty-second of September, in the Vice-President's room. The members of General Garfield's cabinet, who had been requested by his successor to continue for the present in charge of their respective departments, were present, with General Sherman in full uniform, ex-Presidents Hayes and Grant, and Chief Justice Waite in his judicial robes, escorted by Associate Justices Harlan and Matthews. There were, also, present Senators Anthony, Sherman, Edmunds, Hale, Blair, Dawes, and Jones, of Nevada, and Representatives Amos Townsend, McCook, Errett, Randall, Hiscock, and Thomas. Ex-Vice-President Hamlin, of Maine, and Speaker Sharpe, of New York, were also present.

When President Arthur entered the room, escorted by General Grant and Senator Jones, he advanced to a small table, on which was a Bible, and behind which stood the Chief Justice, who raised the sacred volume, opened it, and presented it to the President, who placed his right hand upon it. Chief Justice Waite then slowly administered the oath, and at its conclusion the President kissed the book, responding, "I will, so help me God." He then read the following address:—


For the fourth time in the history of the Republic its Chief Magistrate has been removed by death. All hearts are filled with grief and horror at the hideous crime which has darkened our land; and the memory of the murdered President, his protracted sufferings, his unyielding fortitude, the example and achievements of his life and the pathos of his death, will forever illumine the pages of our history. For the fourth time the officer elected by the people and ordained by the Constitution to fill a vacancy so created is called to assume the executive chair. The wisdom of our fathers, foreseeing even the most dire possibilities, made sure that the Government should never be imperiled because of the uncertainty of human life. Men may die, but the fabrics of our free institutions remain unshaken. No higher or more assuring proof could exist of the strength and permanence of popular government than the fact that, though the chosen of the people be struck down, his constitutional successor is peacefully installed without shock or strain except the sorrow which mourns the bereavement. All the noble aspirations of my lamented predecessor which found expression in his life, the measures devised and suggested during his brief administration to correct abuses and enforce economy, to advance prosperity and promote the general welfare, to insure domestic security and maintain friendly and honorable relations with the nations of the earth, will be garnered in the hearts of the people, and it will be my earnest endeavor to profit, and to see that the Nation shall profit, by his example and experience. Prosperity blesses our country; our fiscal policy is fixed by law, is well grounded, and generally approved. No threatening issue mars our foreign intercourse, and the wisdom, integrity, and thrift of our people may be trusted to continue undisturbed the present assured career of peace, tranquillity, and welfare. The gloom and anxiety which have enshrouded the country must make repose especially welcome now. No demand for speedy legislation has been heard. No adequate occasion is apparent for an unusual session of Congress. The Constitution defines the functions and powers of the executive as clearly as those of either of the other two departments of the government, and he must answer for the just exercise of the discretion it permits and the performance of the duties it imposes. Summoned to these high duties and responsibilities, and profoundly conscious of their magnitude and gravity, I assume the trust imposed by the Constitution, relying for aid on Divine guidance and the virtue, patriotism, and intelligence of the American people.

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As President Arthur read his message his voice trembled, but his manner was impressive, and the eyes of many present were moistened with tears. The first one to congratulate him when he had concluded was Chief Justice Waite, and the next was Secretary Blaine. After shaking him by the hand, those present left the room, which was closed to all except the members of the Cabinet, who there held their first conference with the President. At this cabinet meeting the following proclamation was prepared and signed by President Arthur, designating the following Monday as a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer:—

By the President of the United States of America;


Whereas, in his inscrutable wisdom, it has pleased God to remove from us the illustrious head of the Nation, James A. Garfield, late President of the United States; and whereas it is fitting that the deep grief which fills all hearts should manifest itself with one accord toward the throne of infinite grace, and that we should bow before the Almighty and seek from him that consolation in our affliction and that sanctification of our loss which he is able and willing to vouchsafe:

Now, therefore, in obedience to sacred duty, and in accordance with the desire of the people, I, Chester A. Arthur, President of the United States of America, do hereby appoint Monday next, the twenty-sixth day of September, on which day the remains of our honored and beloved dead will be consigned to their last resting-place on earth; to be observed throughout the United States as a day of humiliation and mourning; and I earnestly recommend all the people to assemble on that day in their respective places of divine worship, there to render alike their tribute of sorrowful submission to the will of Almighty God and of reverence and love for the memory and character of our late Chief Magistrate.

In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

[Sidenote: [SEAL.]]

Done at the city of Washington, the twenty-second day of September, in the year of our Lord 1881, and of the independence of the United States the one hundred and sixth.


By the President:

JAMES G. BLAINE. Secretary of State.

President Arthur soon showed his appreciation of the responsibilities of his new office. Knowing principles rather than persons, he subordinated individual preferences and prejudices to a well-defined public policy. While he was, as he always had been, a Republican, he had no sympathy for blind devotion to party; he had "no friends to reward, no enemies to punish;"—and he has been governed by those principles of liberty and equality which he inherited. His messages to Congress have been universally commended, and even unfriendly critics have pronounced them careful and well-matured documents. Their tone is more frank and direct than is customary in such papers, and their recommendations, extensive and varied as they have been, show that he has patiently reviewed the field of labor so sadly and so unexpectedly opened before him, and that he was not inclined to shirk the constitutional duty of aiding Congress by his suggestions and advice. An honest man, who believes in his own principles, who follows his own convictions, and who never hesitates to avow his sentiments, he has given his views in accordance with his deliberate ideas of right.

The foreign relations of the United States have been conducted by Secretary Frelinghuysen, under the President's direction, in a friendly spirit and when practicable with a view to mutual commercial advantages. He has taken a conservative view of the management of the public debt, approving all the important suggestions of the secretary of the treasury, and recognizing the proper protection of American industry. He is in favor of the great interests of labor, and opposed to such tinkering with the tariff as will make vain the toil of the industrious farmer, paralyze the arm of the sturdy mechanic, strike down the hand of the hardy laborer, stop the spindle, hush the loom, extinguish the furnace-fires, and degrade all independent toilers to the level of the poor in other lands. The architect of his own fortune, he has a strong and abiding sympathy for those bread-winners who struggle against poverty.

The reform of the civil service has met with President Arthur's earnest support, and his messages show that every department of the government has received his careful administration. Following the example of Washington, he has personally visited several sections of the United States, and has especially made himself acquainted with the great problem of Indian civilization.

President Arthur's administration has been characterized by an elevated tone at home and abroad. All important questions have been carefully discussed at the council table, at which the President has displayed unusual powers of analysis and comprehension. The conflicting claims of applicants for appointments to offices in his gift, have been carefully weighed, and no action has been taken until all parties interested have had a hearing. The President has a remarkable insight into men, promptly estimating character with an accuracy that makes it a difficult matter to deceive him, or to win his favor either for visionary schemes, corrupt attacks upon the treasury, or incompetent place-hunters. He has shown that he has been guided by a wise experience of the past, and a sagacious foresight of the future, exhibiting sacrifices of individual friendship to a sense of public duty.

Possessing moral firmness and a just self-reliance, President Arthur did not hesitate about vetoing the "Chinese Bill" and the "Bill making appropriations for rivers and harbors" for reasons which he laid before Congress in his veto messages. The wisdom and sagacity which he has displayed in his management of national affairs has been especially acceptable to the business interests of the country. They have tested his administration by business principles, and they feel that, so long as he firmly grasps the helm of the ship of state, she will pursue a course of peace and prosperity.

In dispensing the hospitalities of the White House, President Arthur has exhibited the resources of a naturally generous disposition and a refined taste. His remembrance of persons who call upon him, and whom he may not have seen for years, is remarkable, and his hearty, genial temperament enables him to make his visitors at home. His vigorous vitality of body and mind, his manly figure and expressive face, add to the dignity of his manner. A ready speaker, he at all times rises to the level of an emergency, and he invariably charms those who hear him by his courtesy of expression, which is the outward reflection of a large, kind heart.

President Arthur's numerous friends contemplate the prominent events of his eventful life without regret, and with a sincere belief that they will be sustained by the verdict of impartial history. Utility to the country has been the rule of his political life, and he has arrived at that high standard of official excellence which prevailed in the early days of the Republic, when honesty, firmness, patriotism, and stability of character were the characteristics of public men. Under his lead, the Republican party, disorganized and disheartened after the sad death of General Garfield, has gradually become strengthened and united on the eve of another presidential victory.

* * * * *



Adown the aisles of yesterday What fairy notes are ringing, And strange, sweet odors, rich and rare, The western winds are bringing!

The deeds we counted poor and mean, Now shine with added glory, And like a romance, reads the page Of life's poor, meagre story.

But vanished from our wistful sight, Too late for vain regretting, The joys, that the remorseful heart With sacred gold is setting.

Ah! dearest of all earthly hopes Within the soul abiding, The lost, lost life of yesterday The heart is ever hiding.

* * * * *



The original grant of the township of Groton was made by the General Court, on May 25, 1655, and gave to the proprietors a tract of land eight miles square; though during the next year this was modified so that its shape varied somewhat from the first plan. It comprised all of what is now Groton and Ayer, nearly all of Pepperell and Shirley, large parts of Dunstable and Littleton, smaller parts of Harvard and Westford, Massachusetts, and a portion of Nashua, New Hampshire. The grant was taken out of the very wilderness, relatively far from any other town, and standing like a sentinel on the frontiers. Lancaster, fourteen miles away, was its nearest neighbor in the southwesterly direction on the one side; and Andover and Haverhill, twenty and twenty-five miles distant, more or less, in the northeasterly direction on the other. No settlement on the north stood between it and the settlements in Canada. Chelmsford and Billerica were each incorporated about the same time, though a few days later.

When the grant was made, it was expressly stipulated that Mr. Jonathan Danforth, of Cambridge, with such others as he might desire, should lay it out with all convenient speed in order to encourage the prompt settlement of a minister; and furthermore that the selectmen of the town should pay a fair amount for his services. During the next year a petition, signed by Deane Winthrop and seven others, was presented to the General Court asking for certain changes in the conditions, and among them the privilege to employ another "artist" in the place of Mr. Danforth, as he was overrun with business. The petition was referred to a committee who reported favorably upon it, and the request was duly granted. Formerly a surveyor was called an artist, and in old records the word is often found with that meaning.

Ensign Peter Noyes, of Sudbury, was then engaged by the grantees and he began the survey; but his death, on September 23, 1657, delayed the speedy accomplishment of the work. It is known that there was some trouble in the early settlement of the place, growing out of the question of lands, but its exact character is not recorded; perhaps it was owing to the delay which now occurred. Ensign Noyes was a noted surveyor, but not so famous as Jonathan Danforth, whose name is often mentioned in the General Court records, in connection with the laying out of lands and towns, and many of whose plans are still preserved among the Archives in the State House. Danforth was the man wanted at first for the undertaking; and after Noyes's death he took charge of it, and his elder brother, Thomas, was associated with him. The plat or plan of the land, however, does not appear to have been completed until April, 1668. The survey was made during the preceding year. At a meeting of the selectmen of the town, held on November 23, 1667, it is recorded that a rate should be levied in order to pay "the Artest and the men that attended him and his diet for himself and his horse, and for two sheets of parchment, for him to make two platts for the towne, and for Transportation of his pay all which amounts to about twenty pounds and to pay severall other town debts that appear to us to be due."

A little further on in the records a charge of five shillings is made 'ffor two sheats of Parchment.' These entries seem to show that two plans were made, perhaps one for the town and the other for the Colony; but neither copy is now to be found. An allusion is made to one of them in a petition, presented to the General Court on February 10, 1717, by John Shepley and John Ames. It is there mentioned that "the said Plat tho something defaced is with the Petitioner;" and is further stated "That in the year 1713 M'r Samuel Danforth Surveyor & Son of the aforesaid Jonathan Danforth, at the desire of the said Town of Groton did run the Lines & make an Implatment of the said Township laid out as before & found it agreeable to the former. W'h last Plat the Petitioners do herewith exhibit, And pray that this Hon'ble Court would allow & confirm the same as the Township of Groton."

While the original plan has been lost or destroyed, it is fortunate that many years ago a copy was made, which is still preserved. In June, 1825, the Honorable James Prescott was in the possession of the original, which Caleb Butler, Esq., at that time transcribed into one of the town record-books, and thereby saved it for historical purposes. Even with this clew a special search has been made for the missing document, but without success. If it is ever found it will be by chance, where it is the least looked for. There is no reason to doubt the accuracy of the outlines or the faithfulness of the copy. The relative distances between the streams emptying into the Nashua River, however, are not very exact; and in the engraving for the sake of clearness I have added their names, as well as the name of Forge Pond, formerly called Stony Brook Pond.

Accompanying the copy is a description of the survey, which in connection with the drawing gives a good idea of the general shape of the township. Perhaps in the original these two writings were on the same sheet. In the transcript Mr. Butler has modernized the language and made the punctuation conform to present usage. In the engraved cut I have followed strictly the outlines of the plan, as well as the course of the rivers, but I have omitted some details, such as the distances and directions which are given along the margins. These facts appear in the description, and perhaps were taken from it by the copyist. I have also omitted the acreage of the grant, which is grossly inaccurate.

Whereas the Plantation of Groton, containing by grant the proportion of eight miles Square, was begun to be laid out by Ensign Noyes, and he dying before he had finished his work, it is now finished, whose limits and bounds are as followeth,

It began on the east side of Nashua River a little below Nissitisset hills at the short turning of the River bounded by a pine tree marked with G. and so running two miles in a direct line to buckmeadow which p'rtains to Boston Farms, Billerica land and Edward Cowells farm until you come to Massapoag Pond, which is full of small islands; from thence it is bounded by the aforesaid Pond until you come to Chelmsford line, after that it is bounded by Chelmsford and Nashoboh lines until you come to the most southerly corner of this Plantation, and from thence it runs West-North-West five miles and a half and sixty four poles, which again reacheth to Nashua River, then the former west-north-west line is continued one mile on the west side of the river, and then it runs one third of a point easterly of north & by east nine miles and a quarter, from thence it runneth four miles due east, which closeth the work to the river again to the first pine below Nissitisset hills, where we began: it is bounded by the Farms and plantations as aforesaid and by the wilderness elsewhere; all which lines are run and very sufficiently bounded by marked trees & pillars of stones: the figure or manner of the lying of it is more fully demonstrated by this plot taken of the same.

By JONATHAN DANFORTH, April 1668. Surveyor.

The map of Old Dunstable, between pages 12 and 13 in Fox's History of that town, is very incorrect, so far as it relates to the boundaries of Groton. The Squannacook River is put down as the Nissitissett, and this mistake may have tended to confuse the author's ideas. The southern boundary of Dunstable was by no means a straight line, but was made to conform in part to the northern boundary of Groton, which was somewhat irregular. Groton was incorporated on May 25, 1655, and Dunstable on October 15, 1673, and no part of it came within the limits of this town. The eastern boundary of Groton originally ran northerly through Massapoag Pond and continued into the present limits of Nashua, New Hampshire.

On the southeast of Groton, and adjoining it, was a small township granted, in the spring of 1654, by the General Court to the Nashobah Indians, who had been converted to Christianity under the instruction of the Apostle Eliot and others. They were few in numbers, comprising perhaps ten families, or about fifty persons. During Philip's War this settlement was entirely deserted by the Indians, thus affording a good opportunity for the English to encroach on the reservation, which was not lost. These intruders lived in the neighboring towns, and mostly in Groton. Some of them took possession with no show of right, while others went through the formality of buying the land from the Indians, though such sales did not, as was supposed at the time, bring the territory under the jurisdiction of the towns where the purchasers severally lived. It is evident from the records that these encroachments gave rise to controversy. The following entry, under date of June 20, 1682, is found in the Middlesex County Court records at East Cambridge, and shows at that time to re-establish the boundary lines of Nashobah:—

Cap't Thomas Hinchman, L't. Joseph Wheeler, & L't. Jn'o flynt surveyo'r, or any two of them are nominated & impowred a Comittee to run the ancient bounds of Nashobah Plantation, & remark the lines, as it was returned to the genall Court by said m'r flynt at the charge of the Indians, giving notice to the select men of Grotton of time & place of meeting, w'ch is referred to m'r flint, to appoint, & to make return to next Coun Court at Cambridge in order to a finall settem't

Again, under date of October 3, 1682 ("3. 8. 1682."), it is entered that—

The return of the committee referring to the bounds of Nashobey next to Grotton, was p'rsented to this Court and is on file.


The "return" is as follows:

We Whose names are underwritten being appointed by y'e Hon'rd County Court June: 20'th 1682. To run the Ancient bounds of Nashobey, haue accordingly run the said bounds, and find that the town of Groton by theire Second laying out of theire bounds have taken into theire bounds as we Judge neer halfe Indian Plantation Seuerall of the Select men and other inhabitants of Groton being then with us Did See theire Erro'r therein & Do decline that laying out So far as they haue Inuaded the right of y'e Indians.

Also we find y't the Norwest Corner of Nashobey is run into y'e first bounds of Groton to y'e Quantity of 350 acres according as Groton men did then Show us theire Said line, which they Say was made before Nashobey was laid out, and which bounds they Do Challenge as theire Right. The Indians also haue Declared them Selves willing to forego that Provided they may haue it made up upon theire West Line, And we Judge it may be there added to theire Conveniance.

2: October: 1682. Exhibited in Court 3: 8: 82: & approved T D: R.



A true Coppy of y'e originall on file w'th y'e Records of County Court for Middx.

Ex'd p'r Sam'll: Phipps Cle'r

[Massachusetts Archives, cxii, 331.]

Among the Groton men who had bought land of the Nashobah Indians were Peleg Lawrence and Robert Robbins. Their names appear, with a diagram of the land, on a plan of Nashobah, made in the year 1686, and found among the Massachusetts Archives, in the first volume (page 125) of "Ancient Plans Grants &c." Lawrence and Robbins undoubtedly supposed that the purchase of this land brought it within the jurisdiction of Groton. Lawrence died in the year 1692; and some years later the town made an effort to obtain from his heirs their title to this tract, as well as from Robbins his title. It is recorded at a town meeting, held on June 8, 1702, that the town

did uote that they would giue Peleg larraness Eairs three acers of madow whare thay ust to Improue and tenn acers of upland neare that madow upon the Conditions following that the aboue sd Peleg larrances heirs do deliuer up that Indian titelle which thay now haue to the town

At the same meeting the town voted that

thay would giue to robart robins Sener three acers of madow where he uste to Improue: and ten acers of upland near his madow upon the Conditions forlowing that he aboue sd Robart Robbins doth deliuer: up that Indian titels which he now hath: to the town.

It appears from the records that no other business was done at this meeting, except the consideration of matters growing out of the Nashobah land. It was voted to have an artist lay out the meadow at "Nashobah line," as it was called, as well as the land which the town had granted to Walter and Daniel Powers, probably in the same neighborhood; and also that Captain Jonas Prescott be authorized to engage an artist at an expense not exceeding six shillings a day.

Settlers from the adjacent towns were now making gradual encroachments on the abandoned territory, and among them Groton was well represented. All the documents of this period relating to the subject show an increased interest in these lands, which were too valuable to remain idle for a long time. The following petition, undoubtedly, makes a correct representation of the case:—

To his Excellency Joseph Dudley Esq'r Captain Gen'll & Governour in Chief in & over her Majesties Province of the Massachusets Bay &c: togeither with the honourable Council, & Representatives in Great and Gen'll Court Assembled at Cambridge Octobe'r 14'th. 1702.

The Petition of the Inhabitants of Stow humbly sheweth.

That Whereas the honourable Court did pleas formerly to grant vnto vs the Inhabitants of Stow a certain Tract of Land to make a Village or Township of, environed with Concord, Sudbury, Marlbury, Lancaster, Groton, & Nashoby: And Whereas the said Nashoby being a Tract of Land of four miles square, the which for a long time hath been, and still is deserted and left by the Indians none being now resident there, and those of them who lay claim to it being desireous to sell said land; and some English challenging it to be theirs by virtue of Purchase; and besides the Town of Groton in particular, hath of late extended their Town lyne into it, takeing away a considerable part of it; and Especially of Meadow (as wee are Well informed) Wherefore wee above all o'r Neighbour Towns, stand in the greatest need of Enlargement; having but a pent up smale Tract of Land and very little Meadow.

Whence we humbly Pray the great & Gen'll Court, that if said Nashoby may be sold by the Indians wee may have allowance to buy, or if it be allready, or may be sold to any other Person or Persons, that in the whole of it, it be layed as an Addition to vs the smale Town of Stow, it lying for no other Town but vs for nighness & adjacency, togeither with the great need wee stand of it, & the no want of either or any of the above named Towns. Shall it Pleas the great & Gen'll Court to grant this o'r Petition, wee shall be much more able to defray Publick Charges, both Civil, & Ecclesiasticall, to settle o'r Minister amongst vs in order to o'r Injoyment of the Gospel in the fullness of it. Whence hopeing & believing that the Petition of the Poor, & needy will be granted. Which shall forever oblidge yo'r Petition'rs to Pray &c:

THO: STEEVENS. Cler: In the Towns behalfe

[Massachusetts Archives, cxiii, 330.]

This petition was granted on October 21, 1702, on the part of the House of Representatives, but negatived in the Council, on October 24.

During this period the territory of Nashobah was the subject of considerable dispute among the neighboring towns, and slowly disappearing by their encroachments. Under these circumstances an effort was made to incorporate a township from this tract and to establish its boundaries. The following petition makes a fair statement of the case, though the signatures to it are not autographs:

To His Excel'cy: Joseph Dudley Esq: Cap't: Generall & Gov'r: in Chief in and over Her Maj'ties: Province of Mass'ts: Bay in New-England, Together with y'e Hon'ble: the Council, & Representatives in Gen'll: Court Assembled on the 30'th of May, In the Tenth Year of Her Maj'ties: Reign Annoq Dom'i: 1711,—The Humble Petition of us the Subscribers Inhabitants of Concord, Chelmsford, Lancaster & Stow &c within the County of Midd'x in the Province Afores'd.

Most Humbly Sheweth

That there is a Considerable Tract of Land Lying vacant and unimproved Between the Towns of Chelmsford, Lancaster & Stow & Groton, as s'd Groton was Survey'd & Lay'd out by Mr. Noyce, & the Plantation Call'd Concord Village, which is Commonly known by the Name of Nashoba, in the County of Midd'x: Afores'd. & Sundry Persons having Made Entrys thereupon without Orderly Application to the Government, and as we are Inform'd, & have reason to believe, diverse others are designing so to do.

We Yo'r Hum'ble Petitioners being desirous to Prevent the Inconveniences that may arise from all Irregular Intrusions into any vacant Lands, and also In a Regular manner to Settle a Township on the Land afores'd, by which the frontier on that Side will be more Clos'd & Strengthened & Lands that are at Present in no wise beneficiall or Profitable to the Publick might be rendred Servicable for the Contributing to the Publlick Charge, Most Humbly Address Ourselves to your Excy: And this Honourable Court.

Praying that your Petitioners may have a Grant of Such Lands Scituate as Afores'd. for the Ends & Purposes afores'd. And that a Committee may be appointed by this Hon'ble: Court to View, Survey and Set out to Yo'r. Petitioners the s'd. Lands, that so Yo'r. s'd. Petitioners may be enabled to Settle thereupon with Such others as shall joyn them In an orderly and regular manner: Also Praying that Such Powers and Priviledges may be given and confered upon the same as are granted to other Towns, And Yo'r Petitioners shall be Most ready to attend Such Directions, with respect to Such Part of the s'd. Tract as has been formerly reserv'd for the Indians, but for a Long time has been wholly Left, & is now altogether unimprov'd by them, And all other things which this Hon'ble: Court in their Wisdom & justice Shall See meet to appoint for the Regulation of such Plantation or Town.

And Yo'r: Hum'ble: Petitioners as in Duty Bound Shall Ever Pray &c.

Gershom Procter Sam'll. Procter John Procter Joseph Fletcher John Miles John Parlin Robert Robins John Darby John Barker Sam'l: Stratton Hezekiah Fletcher Josiah Whitcomb John Buttrick Will'm: Powers Jonathan Hubburd W'm Keen John Heald John Bateman John Heywood Thomas Wheeler Sam'll: Hartwell, jun'r: Sam'll: Jones John Miriam

In the House of Representatives June 6: 1711. Read & Comitted. 7 ... Read, &

Ordered that Jo'a. Tyng Esq'r: Thom's: Howe Esq'r: & M'r: John Sternes be a Comittee to view the Land mentioned in the Petition, & Represent the Lines, or Bounds of the severall adjacent Towns bounding on the s'd. Lands and to have Speciall Regard to the Land granted to the Indians, & to make report of the quantity, & circumstances thereof.

Sent up for Concurrence.

JOHN BURRIL Speaker In Council June 7. 1711, Read and Concurr'd. ISA: ADDINGTON, Secry.

[Massachusetts Archives, cxiii, 602, 603.]

The committee, to whom was referred this subject, made a report during the next autumn; but no action in regard to it appears to have been taken by the General Court until two years later.

* * * * *



A Recollection of my boyhood is a large unpainted barnlike building standing at a point where three roads met at about the centre of the town. When all the inhabitants of the town were of one faith religiously, or at least the minority were not strong enough to divide from the majority, and one meeting-house served the purposes of all, this was the meeting-house. To this, the double line of windows all round, broken by the long round-topped window midway on the back side, and the two-storied vestibule on the front, and, more than all, the old pulpit still remaining within, with the sounding-board suspended above it, bore witness. Here assembled every spring, at the March meeting, the voters of the town, to elect their selectmen and other town officers for the ensuing year, to vote what moneys should be raised for the repair of roads, bridges, maintaining the poor, etc., and take any other action their well-being as a community demanded; in the autumn, to cast their votes for state representative, national representative, governor of the State, or President of the United States, one or all together, as the case might be.

Many such town-houses, probably, are standing to-day in the New England States,—I know there are such in Maine,—and they are existing witnesses to what was generally the fact: towns, at the first, when young and small, built the meeting-house for two purposes; first, for use as a house of worship; second, for town meetings; and when in process of time a new church or churches were built for the better accommodation of the people, or because different denominations had come into existence, or because the young people wanted a smarter building with a steeple, white paint, green blinds, and a bell, the old building was sold to the town for purely town purposes.

When the settlements were made, the first public building erected was generally the meeting-house, and this in the case of the earlier settlements was very soon. In Plymouth, the first building was a house twenty feet square for a storehouse and "for common occupation," then their separate dwellings.

The "common" building was used for religious and other meetings until the meeting-house with its platform on top for cannon, on Burial Hill, was built in 1622. "Boston seems to have had no special building for public worship until, during the year 1632, was erected the small thatched-roof, one-story building which stood on State Street, where Brazer's building now stands."[A] This was in the second year, the settlement having been made in the autumn of 1630. In Charlestown, "The Great House," the first building erected that could be called a house, was first used as the official residence of the governor, and the sessions of the Court of Assistants appear to have been held in it until the removal to Boston, but when the church was formed, in 1632, it was used for a meeting-house.

[Footnote A: Memorial History of Boston, vol. i, p. 119.]

Dorchester had the first meeting-house in the Bay, built in 1631, the next year after settlement, and by the famous order passed "mooneday eighth of October, 1633," it appears that it was the regular meeting-place of the inhabitants of the plantation for general purposes. The Lynn church was formed in 1632, and the meeting-house appears to have been built soon after, and was used for town meetings till 1806. It was the same in towns of later settlement. In Brunswick, Maine, which became a township in 1717, the first public building was the meeting-house, and this also was the town-house for almost one hundred years. Belfast, Maine, incorporated in 1773, held its first two town meetings in a private house, afterwards, for eighteen years, "at the Common on the South end of No. 26" (house lot),[A] whether under cover or in open air is not known, after that, in the meeting-house generally, till the town hall was built. In Harpswell, Maine, the old meeting-house, like that described, when abandoned as a house of worship, was sold to the town for one hundred dollars and is still in use as a town-house.

[Footnote A: Williamson's History of Belfast.]

The town-house, therefore, though it cannot strictly be said to have been coeval with the town, was essentially so, the meeting-house being generally the first public building, and used equally for town meetings and public worship.

How early, then, was the town? When the settlement at Plymouth took place, in one sense a town existed at once. It was a collection of families living in neighborhood and united by the bonds of mutual obligation common in similar English communities. But it was a town as yet only in that sense. In fact, it was a state. The words of the compact signed on board the Mayflower were, in part: "We, whose names are underwritten ... do by these presents, solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God and one of another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic, for our better ordering and preservation, ... and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame such just and equal laws, acts, constitutions, and offices, from time to time, as shall be most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience."

These words were the constitution of more than a town government. They erected a democratic state—a commonwealth. It was a general government separate from and above the town governments which were afterwards instituted. It enacted general laws by an assembly of deputies in which the eight plantations in the colony, which afterwards became towns, were represented. These laws were executed by a governor and an assistant, and were of equal binding force in all the plantations after, as well as before, these plantations became towns.

The Massachusetts Colony came over as a corporation with a royal charter which gave power to the freemen of the company to elect a governor, deputy-governor, and assistants, and "make laws and ordinances, not repugnant to the laws of England, for their own benefit and the government of persons inhabiting their territory." The colonists divided themselves into plantations, part at Naumkeag (Salem), at Mishawum (Charlestown), at Dorchester, Boston, Watertown, Roxbury, Mystic, and Saugus (Lynn), and while the General Court, as the governor, deputy-governor, and assistants were called, made general "laws and ordinances" for the whole, the plantations were at liberty to manage their own particular affairs as they pleased. They called meetings and took action by themselves, as at Watertown, when, in 1632, the people assembled and expressed their discontent with a tax laid by the court, and at Dorchester as previously referred to. To Dorchester, however, belongs the honor of leading the way to that form of town government which has prevailed in New England ever since. It came about in this way. The settlement was begun in June, 1630, and for more than three years the people seem to have managed their affairs under the administration of the Court of Assistants by means of meetings. At such a meeting, held October 8, 1633, it was ordered "for the generall good and well ordering of the affaires of the plantation," that there should be a general meeting of the inhabitants at the meeting-house every Monday morning before the court, which was four times a year, or became so the next year, "to settle & sett downe such orders as may tend to the general good as aforesayd, & every man to be bound thereby without gainsaying or resistance." This very interesting order is given entire in the Memorial History of Boston.[A] There were also appointed twelve selectmen, "who were to hold monthly meetings, & whose orders were binding when confirmed by the Plantation."

[Footnote A: Vol. i, p. 427.]

Here was our New England town almost exactly as it is to-day. The inhabitants met at stated times and voted what seemed necessary for their own local order and welfare, and committed the execution of their will to twelve selectmen, who were to meet monthly. Our towns now have an annual meeting for the same purpose, and elect generally three selectmen, who meet at stated times,—sometimes as often as once a week. Watertown followed, about the same time, selecting three men "for the ordering of public affairs." Boston appears to have done the same thing in 1634, and Charlestown in the following year, the latter being the first to give the name Selectmen to the persons so chosen, a name which soon was generally adopted and has since remained.

The reason of this action it is easy to conjecture, but it is fully stated in the order of the inhabitants of Charlestown at the meeting in which the action for the government of the town by selectmen was taken: "In consideration of the great trouble and charge of the inhabitants of Charlestown by reason of the frequent meeting of the townsmen in general, and that, by reason of many men meeting, things were not so easily brought into a joint issue; it is therefore agreed, by the said townsmen, jointly, that these eleven men ... shall entreat of all such business as shall concern the townsmen, the choice of officers excepted; and what they or the greater part of them shall conclude of, the rest of the town willingly to submit unto as their own proper act, and these eleven to continue in this employment for one year next ensuing the date hereof."

Town government, thus instituted, was recognized the next year—1636—by the General Court, and thereafter the towns were corporations lawfully existing and endowed with certain fixed though limited powers.

The plantations of the Plymouth Colony followed the example. In 1637, Duxbury was incorporated, and at the General Court of the colony, in 1639, deputies were in attendance from seven towns.

"Thus," says Judge Parker,[A] "there grew up a system of government embracing two jurisdictions, administered by the same people; the Colonial government, having jurisdiction over the whole colony, administered by the great body of the freemen, through officers elected and appointed by them; and the town governments, having limited local jurisdiction, such as was conceded to them by the Colonial government, administered by the inhabitants, through officers and agents chosen by them."

[Footnote A: Origin, Organization, etc., of the Towns of New England.]

By this change,—the invention of the colonists themselves without copy or pattern,—the colonies were transformed from pure democracies into a congeries of democratic republics; and each town-house, or whatever building was used for such, became the state-house of a little republic. And this is what it is in every New England town to-day.

Was not, then, the New England town-house a thing of inheritance at all? Yes, so far as it was a building for the common meeting of the inhabitants of the town, and so far as it was a place for free discussion and the ordering of purely local affairs. The colonists came from their English homes already familiar with the town-hall and its uses so far. If one will turn to any gazetteer or encyclopaedia which gives a description of Liverpool, England, he will find the town-hall described as one of the noble edifices of that town. The present structure was opened in 1754, but it was the successor of others, the first of which must have dated back somewhere near the time when King John gave the town its charter—1207. Or he may turn to the town of Hythe in the county of Kent. In its corporation records, it is said, is the following entry, bearing date in the year 1399: "Thomas Goodeall came before the jurats in the common hall on the 10th day of October, and covenanted to give for his freedom 20d., and so he was received and sworn to bear fealty to our Lord the King and his successors, and to the commonalty and liberty of the port of Hethe, and to render faithful account of his lots and scots[A] as freeman there are wont." In another entry, in the same year, the building is mentioned again as the "Common House."

[Footnote A: The "lot" was the obligation to perform the public services which might fall to the inhabitants by due rotation. "Scot" means tax.]

We may go further back than this. History tells us that "the boroughs (towns) of England, during the period of oppression, after the Norman invasion, led the way in the silent growth and elevation of the English people; that, unnoticed and despised by prelate and noble, they had alone preserved the full tradition of Teutonic liberty; that, by their traders and shopkeepers, the rights of self-government, of free speech in free meeting, of equal justice by one's equals, were brought safely across the ages of Norman tyranny."[A] The rights of self-government and free speech in free meeting, then, were rights and practices of our Anglo-Saxon ancestry, and we are to go back with them across the English channel to their barbarian German home, and to the people described by Tacitus in his Germania, for the origin, as far as we can trace it, of this part of our inheritance. These people were famed for their spirit of independence and freedom. The mass are described as freemen, voting together in the great assemblies of the tribe, and choosing their own leaders or kings from the class of nobles, who were nobles not as constituting a distinct and privileged caste. "It was their greater estates and the greater consequence which accompanied these that marked their rank." When we first learn of these assemblies, they are out-of-doors, under the broad canopy of heaven alone, but the time came, as the rathhaus of the German town to-day attests, when they built the common hall or town-house; and we, to-day, in this remote and then unknown and unconjectured land of the West, are in this regard their heirs as well as descendants.[B]

[Footnote A: Green's Short History of the English People, chap. ii, sec. 6.]

[Footnote B: The present rathhaus of the quaint old city of Nuremberg, built in 1619, is a notable building, much visited by travelers. Around the wall of the hall within runs the legend: "Eins manns red ist eine halbe red, man soll die teyl verhoeren bed,"—"One man's talk is a half talk; one should hear both sides."]

In what, then, is the New England town-house more than, or different from, the English town-house? In this, that it is the state-house of a little democratic republic which came into existence of and by itself of a natural necessity, and not merely governs itself, making all the laws of local need and executing them—levying taxes, maintaining schools, and taking charge of its own poor, of roads, bridges, and all matters pertaining to the health, peace, and safety of all within its bounds, in a word, all things which it can do for itself,—but also in confederation with other little democratic republics has called into being, and clothed with all the power it has for those matters of common need which the town cannot do, the State. The State of Massachusetts, from the day that the people created the General Court the body it still is, by electing deputies from the towns,—representatives we now call them,—to sit instead of the whole body of freemen, with the governor and council, for the performance of all acts of legislation for the common good, is the outgrowth of and exists only by virtue of the towns. The towns created it, compose it, send up to it its heart-and-life blood. This it is which makes the New England town unique, attracting the attention and interest of intelligent foreigners who visit our shores. Judge Parker says: "I very well recollect the curiosity expressed by some of the gentlemen in the suite of Lafayette, on his visit to this country in 1825, respecting these town organizations and their powers and operations." In the same connection he adds that "a careful examination of the history of the New England towns will show that," instead of being modeled after the town of our Anglo-Saxon ancestors, or the free cities of the continent of the twelfth century, "they were not founded or modeled on precedent" at all. Mr. E.A. Freeman, however, puts it more truthfully in saying: "The circumstances of New England called the primitive assembly (that is, the Homeric agora, Athenian ekklesia, Roman comitia, Swiss landesgemeinde, English folk-moot) again into being, when in the older England it was well-nigh forgotten. What in Switzerland was a survival was in New England rather a revival."[A]

[Footnote A: Introduction to American Institutional History, Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science.]

Our New England town-house, therefore, is a symbol of institutions, partly original with our fathers, partly a priceless inheritance from Old England the land of our fathers, and nearly in the whole, if not quite, a regermination and new growth of old race instincts and practices on a new soil.

The New England town is not an institution of all the States, but its principle has invaded the majority. To the West and Northwest it has been carried by the New Englander himself, and is being carried by him both directly and indirectly into the South and Southwest, and will show there in no great length of time its prevailing and vitalizing power.

It was Jefferson, himself a Virginian, reared in the midst of another system, aristocratical and central in its character, who said: "These wards, called townships in New England, are the vital principle of their governments, and have proved themselves the wisest invention ever devised by the wit of man for the perfect exercise of self-government and for its preservation."

The New England town-house, therefore, is significant of more than its predecessor in England or Germany. While with them it means freedom in the management of local affairs, beyond them it means a relation to the State and the National government which they did not. It means not merely a broad basis for the general government in the people, that the people are the reason and remote source of governing power, but that they are themselves the governors. Every man who enters a New England town-house and casts his vote knows that that expression of his will is a force which reaches, or may reach, the Legislature of his State, the governor in his chair, the National Congress, and the President in the White House at Washington. He feels an interest therefore, and a responsibility which the voter in no other land in the world feels, and the town-house is an education to him in the art of self-government which no other country affords, and because of it the town is an institution teaching how to maintain government, local, state, and general, and so bases that government in self-interest and beneficial experience, that it is a pledge of security and perpetuity as regards socialism, communism, and as it would seem every other revolutionary influence from within. It is in strong contrast with the commune of France. France is divided for the purposes of local government into departments; departments into arrondissements; and arrondissements into communes, the commune being the administrative unit. The department is governed by a prefet and a conseil-general, the prefet being appointed by the central government and directly under its control, and the conseil-general an elective body. The arrondissement is presided over by a sous-prefet and an elective council. The commune is governed by a maire and a conseil-municipal.

The conseil-municipal is an elective body, but its duties "consist in assisting and to some extent controlling the maire, and in the management of the communal affairs," but the maire is appointed by the central government and is liable to suspension by the prefet.

The relation of the citizen to the general government in France is therefore totally different from that of the citizen of the United States to his general government, and the town organization is a school of free citizenship which the commune is not, and so far republican institutions in America have a guaranty which in France they have not.

* * * * *



Author of The Battles of the American Revolution.

[(a) The occupation of Charlestown Heights on the night of June 16, 1775, was of strategic value, however transient, equalizing the relations of the parties opposed, and projecting its force and fire into the entire struggle for American Independence. (Pages 290-302.)

(b)The Siege of Boston, which followed, gave to the freshly organized Continental army that discipline, that instruction in military engineering, and that contact with a well-trained enemy which prepared it for immediate operations at New York and in New Jersey. (Pages 37-44.)

(c) The occupation and defence of New York and Brooklyn, so promptly made, was also an immediate strategic necessity, fully warranted by the existing conditions, although alike temporary. (Pages 34-161.)]

An exhaustless theme may be so outlined that fairly stated data will suggest the possibilities beyond.

Waterloo is incidentally related to the crowning laurels of Wellington; but, primarily, to the downfall of Napoleon, while rarely to the assured growth of genuine popular liberty.

No battle during the American Rebellion of 1861-65 was so really decisive as was the first battle of Bull's Run. As that Federal failure enforced the issue which freed four millions of people from slavery, and had its sequence and culmination, through great struggle, in a perpetuated Union, so did the battle of Bunker Hill open wide the breach between Great Britain and the Colonies, and render American Independence inevitable.

The repulse of Howe at Breed's Hill practically ejected him from Boston, enforced his halt before Brooklyn, delayed him at White Plains, explained his hesitation at Bound Brook, near Somerset Court-House, in 1777, as well as his sluggishness after the battle of Brandywine, and equally induced his inaction at Philadelphia, in 1778.

Just as a similar resistance by Totlben at Sevastapol during the Crimean War prolonged that struggle for twelve months, so did the hastily constructed earthworks on Breed's Hill forewarn the assailants that every ridge might serve as a fortress, and every sand-hill become a cover, for a persistent and earnest foe.

Historical research and military criticism suggest few cases where so much has been realized by the efforts of a few men, in a few hours, during the shelter of one night, and by the light of one day.

The simple narrative has been the subject of much discussion. Its details have been shaped and colored, with supreme regard for the special claims of preferred candidates for distinction, until a plain consideration of the issue then made, from a purely military point of view, as introductory to a detail of the battle itself, cannot be barren of interest to the readers of a Magazine which treats largely of the local history of Massachusetts.

The city of Boston was girdled by rapidly increasing earthworks. These were wholly defensive, to resist assault from the British garrison, and not, at first, as cover for a regular siege approach against the Island Post. They soon became a direct agency to force the garrison to look to the sea alone for supplies or retreat.

Open war against Great Britain began with this environment of Boston. The partially organized militia responded promptly to call.

The vivifying force of the struggle through Concord, Lexington, and West Cambridge (Arlington now), had so quickened the rapidly augmenting body of patriots, that they demanded offensive action and grew impatient for results. Having dropped fear of British troops, as such, they held a strong purpose to achieve that complete deliverance which their earnest resistance foreshadowed.

Lexington and Concord were, therefore, the exponents of that daring which made the occupation and resistance of Breed's Hill possible. The fancied invincibility of British discipline went down before the rifles of farmers; but the quickening sentiment, which gave nerve to the arm, steadiness to the heart, and force to the blow, was one of those historic expressions of human will and faith, which, under deep sense of wrong incurred and rights imperilled, overmasters discipline, and has the method of an inspired madness. The moral force of the energizing passion became overwhelming and supreme. No troops in the world, under similar conditions, could have resisted the movement.

The opposing forces did not alike estimate the issue, or the relations of the parties in interest. The troops sent forth to collect or destroy arms, rightfully in the hands of their countrymen, and not to engage an enemy, were under an involuntary restraint, which stripped them of real fitness to meet armed men, who were already on fire with the conviction that the representatives of national force were employed to destroy national life.

The ostensible theory of the Crown was to reconcile the Colonies. The actual policy, and its physical demonstrations, repelled, and did not conciliate. Military acts, easily done by the force in hand, were needlessly done. Military acts which would be wise upon the basis of anticipated resistance were not done.

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