NEW ENGLAND MAGAZINE
BAY STATE MONTHLY.
OLD SERIES MARCH, 1886. NEW SERIES VOL. IV. NO. 3 VOL. I. NO. 3.
Copyright, 1886, by Bay State Monthly Company. All rights reserved.
Transcriber's Note: Minor typos have been corrected and footnotes moved to the end of the article.
Along the Kennebec
BY HENRY S. BICKNELL
The first glimpse of the Kennebec, on approaching it from the sea, presents to the stranger a barren and uninviting picture. Hemmed in on either side by low, rocky isles, studded with scraggy pines that have long defied old Atlantic's blasts, it must have been a dreary and disappointing sight, indeed, to the little band of voyagers who were seeking a home in the new world over two centuries ago. Many treacherous sand-bars reach out to the circuitous channel that extends seaward a mile or more, and numerous wrecks along shore bear evidence of their hidden dangers. Before the age of skilful pilots and steam fog-whistles, the mariner must have had a busy time with his lead in threading this watery pathway, unaided by a single sign or sound from shore. A few days' sojourn among the charming bays and inlets dispels all feelings of lonesomeness, and unfolds a scene of continued interest and keen enjoyment. On a pleasant morning, from the summit of any hilltop the view is delightful. Scores of crafts, from the saucy mackerel-catcher to the huge three-master, are leaving their anchorage under the shadows of Sequin, and the lofty white shaft of the lighthouse above looms clear and grand against the sky. At the weirs along the river fishermen are pulling in their nets, which glimmer with their night's catch. The bustling little tugs, with half a dozen "icers" in tow, are struggling nobly against the tide. The merry shouts of bathers on Popham beach mingle with the roar and rush of the incoming tide. The dark pine-clad hills trending northward form a fitting background to the scene. A fine government light on Pond Island guards the entrance to the river. The cliffs on the ocean side are quite precipitous, and rise to a height of sixty feet, over which the spray is dashed in severe storms. Why it was named Pond Island has always been a mystery, for the drinking-water even is caught from the showers that fall upon the light-keeper's roof. From the summit the island slopes to the western shore, where a small cove affords the only landing-place, and in rough weather great skill is required in embarking safely. We were informed that the island furnished pasturage sufficient for one cow, but, from a close observation, it was evident that she must be content with two meals a day, or get an occasional donation from the meadows on the mainland. Twice a year the district inspector makes his rounds, and, during the week previous to his visit, the entire family devote all their energy in scouring and polishing, until everything about the place, from the doorknob to the lenses, fairly sparkles with brilliancy. On these occasions, the light-keeper is seen in his best mood, and is the perfection of politeness and urbanity, for then a hope of reappointment is betrayed in every movement. Across the channel, Stage and Salter's Islands, and the Georgetown shore, forms the eastern boundary of the river, and is the home of numerous camping and fishing parties during the summer. Here the artist may find many rare bits of picturesque scenery that are almost unknown. Further up the river, on the left, Hunnewell's Point with its magnificent beach stretches away for miles to the west. At its northern extremity stands Fort Popham, named after the first English explorer who visited the coast. It was erected some years ago, but has never been completed, and, as proven, the government saved money by neglecting it. Imposing and impregnable as it might have been then, it would now offer but a feeble resistance to the onslaught of modern naval warfare. Numerous pyramids of cannon balls are scattered about within the enclosure, and many old-fashioned guns have been rusting away in peace for the past decade. The interior of the fortress is grass-grown, and two lonesome sentinels in faded regalia guard this useless property, and draw their regular wages from generous Uncle Sam. They are very important in their manner, and allow no intruders on the premises. A few years ago two Harvard students ventured within the sacred walls, and one of them was fatally shot by the over-zealous officer. Popham Beach has become a favorite summer resort within the past few years, and boasts two hotels, and daily mails, and steamers to the outside world.
Fishing forms the chief industry among the natives, although, in years past, when the shipping of ice became extensive on the river, and brought immense numbers of vessels here, piloting at once became a great source of profit. In those days bright visions of wealth suddenly dazzled their eyes, but the bonanza soon faded, for the advent of the tugboats dispelled their dream, and ruined their financial calculations. The fishing-smacks then tossed idly at their moorings for weeks at a time, and the straggling garden patches among the rocks passed unnoticed, while the owners were rowing seaward in search for incoming vessels. Oftentimes they embarked in their wherries soon after midnight, and early morn found them five or six miles from shore. Everybody suddenly developed into an experienced navigator, and curious schemes were originated in the endeavor to outwit each other. This vocation is no longer profitable, and the natives have relapsed into their former monotony. So far away from the sound of a church-bell, it would be no easy matter to tell when the Sabbath morn arrives, were it not for the radical change that comes over these hardy longshoremen. The clatter and jingle of the ponderous family razor, as it flies back and forth on the time-worn strap suspended from the kitchen mantlepiece, is the first signal that ushers in the day. The change is an outward one at least, for then the "biled" shirt with high dickey, the long-tailed black coat, and ancient "stovepipe" take the place of the familiar reefer and sou'wester. The low hum of hymns is heard, and refrains from "I want to be a Daniel" float out on the air. Gradually increasing in volume and earnestness, the voices swell into a quaint and weird melody. From all directions small boats are crossing river and bay to the little red school-house at Popham. Moved, we confess, more by curiosity than by any thirst for religious consolation, we joined the procession. Gathered within the cheerless room, unadorned, save here and there by wretchedly-executed prints of early patriots who would scarcely be recognized by their own friends, old and young alike presented a distressed and penitent appearance.
All thoughts of the beautiful world outside were overshadowed by the feelings of doubt and fear within. In the absence of a regular preacher, each one, beginning with the eldest and grayest of the flock, poured out a pitiful story of sins, and prayed for strength to guide their uncertain steps. The lamentations grew louder and stronger, and the tears flowed fast and free, and the little ones shook with fear at the dismal picture unfolded to their already terrified minds. Finally, overcome by their highly-wrought excitement, they subsided into a prolonged and painful silence, broken only by sobs and moans. Passing out from the dismal service to the green meadows that stretch away to the sea, our little party gave a sigh of relief, and the air seemed purer, and the sky brighter than ever. On our return we passed one of the worst self-accused sinners busily hauling in the cast catch from his weir along the shore. Tears still stood upon his furrowed cheeks, while religiously apologizing for his seeming wickedness. His excuses were lavish with regret, but we could but feel that his sincerity was less than his love of the mighty dollar.
A few years ago the natives were thrown into a state of the greatest excitement by the discovery of valuable deposits of feldspar on one of their rocky farms. The news spread quickly along the river, and the presence of capitalists in their midst lent additional interest to the prospective bonanza. The fishing business again came to a standstill, and the old settlers looked upon each other as bloated bond-holders. Such a drilling and blasting was never seen before in these parts, and soon the whole territory was dotted with huge mounds of imaginary ore. Farms that could scarcely be given away suddenly possessed enormous values in the minds of their lucky owners. Some of the mines were developed extensively, and shipments began which have continued at intervals, but only a few of them furnished the best quality. The spar is shipped to the mills in New Jersey, where it is used for glazing crockery. Rare specimens of beryl are often found by curiosity-seekers among the quartz.
About two miles above Popham the river widens into a considerable bay, which offers safe and spacious anchorage for vessels of all sizes. It bears the unpretentious name of Parker's Flats, but when a fleet of half a hundred unfurl their sails to the morning breeze, the bay becomes a stirring and imposing scene. Upon the left bank is Harrington's Landing, one of the noted landmarks in this region and the point of departure to the outside world. The elder Harrington has been something of an autocrat among the natives, and is one of the famous characters on the river. He was once elected a member of the legislature, but after taking his seat his importance seemed to be unappreciated by his associates, and he obtained leave of absence and quickly returned to this more genial spot. He was short but very portly, and his voice contained many of the elements of a fog-horn. It is related that years ago, while piloting a schooner out to sea, he fell over the stern into the river. His boys put off in a skiff to the rescue, but being so ponderous it was impossible to pull him in without upsetting the boat, so putting a rope around his body they towed him ashore, not much the worse off for his sudden bath. This colony has always been a prolific field for the census collector, and it is doubtful if any authentic figures as to the number of little Harringtons were ever obtained. They swarmed about the place like so many bees. One of them whom we had formerly noticed seemed to be missing, and on inquiring of the old man he appeared bewildered. After reflecting a few moments he exclaimed, "Oh! it seems to me he got 'schronched' last spring 'tween the wharf and schooner!"
A cold nor'easter compelled us to pass the night here, and a long wretched night it was. We encamped in a fireless, cheerless room, and fought a small army of insects and mice, till the first streaks of dawn enabled us to vacate our quarters. The tumult and squabble overhead continued at intervals through the night and rose above the howling of the storm without. Descending the creaky stairway, we found the old lady stripping fish for our breakfast. A number of pigs and fowl were rummaging about the kitchen at will. Piles of garments were stacked up in the four corners of the room, where they were sorted over and over again, as each one of the boys emerged from above. Not wishing to spoil our appetite we kept out of sight till breakfast was ready, and the ceremony of eating was performed as rapidly as possible. We were very hungry, and ate with our eyes nearly closed, and conversation was anything but hilarious. For years the huge flat-bottomed scow plied back and forth to the steamers, and the skipper enjoyed a monopoly of the business, and ruled his motley crew with an iron hand. Gradually old age began to weaken his power, and the sons overthrew his authority and pushed him aside. All hands became captain and crew at once, and amid a medley of commands and crash of baggage, embarking got to be both exciting and perilous.
The river was discovered by the French, under Du Mont, in 1604, and possession taken in the name of the king of France. They had already planted a colony at Quebec, and were led to believe, from meagre accounts of the Indians, which were strengthened by the magnitude of the river and the great force of its current, that they had found another route to their Canadian possessions. They made no extended explorations at this time, on account of the hostilities of the Indians, and resigned all attempt to maintain their claims to a region rich in furs and fisheries. Three years later the English, commanded by Capt. Geo. Popham, landed on this shore and made some attempts to form a settlement, but the extreme severity of the following winter discouraged their ambitions and caused abandonment of the project. The English, however, renewed their efforts in 1614, and sent the celebrated Capt. John Smith, with two ships, to establish a permanent colony here. He made a map of the territory and gave it the name of New England. The trade with the natives became at once of considerable value, and friendly relations were established for some time, which enabled the colonists to obtain a better knowledge of the value of their new discoveries. The powerful tribe of Canibas Indians occupied the lands on both sides of the river for a long distance. It is sometimes spelled Kennebis, from which the stream derives its name. At a point a short distance below the city of Bath, the river makes a sudden turn, which discloses the entrance to the Valley of the Kennebec. At once the scenery changes from the barren and rocky shores to one of broad and fertile acres.
This sharp bend of the river has always been known as "Fiddler's Reach." Tradition says that in early days a band of explorers, who were searching along the river, passed through the "Reach," and came upon the broad valley so unexpectedly that their joy and surprise were unbounded. One of the sailors climbed out upon the bowsprit and began to fiddle a tune in honor of the discovery. Either by the flapping of a sail or by his own carelessness he was knocked overboard and drowned. The oldest inhabitants place implicit confidence in the legend, and the title will always cling to the spot. Now and then a little neglected graveyard comes into view, and the moss-covered shafts bear quaint inscriptions. With considerable difficulty we deciphered the following lines:—
Brothers and sisters, as you pass by: As you are now so once was I. As I am now so you will be. Prepare to die and follow me.
The facts were as cold as the stone on which the words were chiselled, and startling as well; so we turn to pleasanter scenes.
Several little streams flow into the lower Kennebec, on which are situated sleepy fishing villages, that once were the scenes of activity and prosperity. Upon the shores of these winding streams many a noble vessel was reared, and the light of the forge reflected the hopes and ambitions of a busy people. When the ship-building industry received its death-blow, a sudden change took place, and silence has reigned supreme to this day. The event seemed to blast the energies of the population, and a Rip Van Winkle stillness settled down upon these once stirring scenes. Scarred and weather-bronzed sailors idly dream away the passing hours, waiting in vain for a revival of the once happy days.
The light of the forge has died away, The anvil's ringing voice is still, And the bell in the church upon the hill Mournfully tolls for a by-gone day.
Where once numerous fleets discharged their cargoes from the Indies, now only an occasional "smack" is seen. Warehouses and piers alike have gone to decay, and the streets are grass-grown with neglect. As suddenly as this lamentable event occurred, another change was rapidly wrought, when the ice business received such a wonderful start, some fifteen years ago.
Although ice had been shipped abroad to a limited extent years previously, the possibilities of untold wealth had never before dazzled the vision. Rude storehouses began to rise on every hand, which have since given place to extensive and even handsome structures. A perfect furor was created along the river by the brilliant prospect of a gigantic bonanza. Hundreds of storehouses of immense proportions were erected during the summer months, and for several successive winters the river and adjacent streams were the scene of a feverish excitement. Every dollar that could be obtained was invested in a claim, and some farmers upon the shores mortgaged their possessions in the desire to embark in the enterprise. The ice-crop had sustained such a total failure upon the Hudson, for one or two seasons, that the Kennebec furnished the only extensive field for this product. In many cases later on, however, the greed for gain overbalanced prudence in holding the harvest for fancy prices; and as other sections again furnished their share of the article, many small fortunes dwindled away as rapidly as they came. The business has since fallen into the control of large companies, who own their fleets of vessels and tugboats, but reap only a moderate profit on their investment. The scenes are yet lively and picturesque, and add much to the charms of the locality.
Sufficient capital, combined with the highest skill and the widest experience, and the Kennebec would soon become a worthy rival of the famous Clyde. Ship-building has not been altogether abandoned, but it is only a shadow of its former greatness. The river at this point attains its greatest width. The opposite shore is the western boundary of the town of Woolwich, which has always remained under the quiet rule of agriculture, and made no attempts to enter the field of commerce. Capital has been sparingly invested in manufactures; and although her people have the prestige of wealth and brains, Bath will undoubtedly continue for years to come as she is to-day. She is the natural head of the lower Kennebec, which embraces so many charming nooks and corners in its winding way to the sea. The remaining beauties and spots of interest of the river will be treated in a future article, on "The Upper Kennebec."
From the western extremity of Fiddler's Reach the city of Bath stretches northward for several miles, fringing the waterfront with its scores of docks and ship-yards. Years ago nearly the entire city was hidden from view by the lofty frames and hulls of vessels upon the stocks. The air was freighted with the merry music of countless hammers, and
Covering many a rood of ground Lay the timber piled around: Timber of chestnut and elm and oak, And scattered here and there with these The knarred and crooked cedar-trees, Brought from regions far away.
Not a port or sea is there in any clime but the tall and stately ships of Bath have entered. Her name and reputation are worldwide. The onward march of steam has, however, supplanted the slower power of sails, and this, together with the growing industry of iron ship-building, has prostrated the life of the city. The representatives of Maine in the halls of Congress have striven vigorously and persistently in the endeavor to evoke national aid in securing such legislation as will enable these idle yards to compete with other more favored places.
MAPLE-SUGAR MAKING IN VERMONT.
BY J. M. FRENCH, M.D.
The poet Saxe has written of his native State, that Vermont is noted for four staple products; oxen, maple-sugar, girls, and horses:—
"The first are strong, the last are fleet, The second and third exceedingly sweet, And all uncommon hard to beat."
Whatever changes may have taken place in other respects, in maple-sugar, at least, Vermont retains her preeminence, producing each year from eight to ten million pounds, or more than any other single State, and nearly one-third of the entire amount manufactured in the United States.
To the farmer's boy among the Green Mountains the springtime is the sweetest and most welcome of all the seasons. And however far he may wander in later years from the scenes of his boyhood, yet often, in quiet hours or when busied with the cares of life, his thoughts return to the old homestead; and, as he walks again in the old paths, recalls the old memories, and watches the old-time pictures come and go before his mental vision, he enjoys again, and with a freshness ever new, the pleasures of the maple-sugar season.
Midwinter is past. The "January thaw" has come and gone, leaving a smooth, hard crust, just right for coasting. The heavy storms of February have piled the drifts mountain high over road and fence and wall; and the roaring winds of early March have driven the snow in blinding clouds along the hill-sides, through the forests, and down into the valleys. But now the coldest days are over, and the sun, in his returning course, begins to send down-rays of pleasant warmth. The nights are still sharp, and the March winds have not yet ceased to blow; but for a week, the snow has been melting at noon-day on the southern slope of the hills.
One afternoon, when the sun seems a little warmer than usual, the farmer comes in to the house, on his return from a trip to the wood-lot, saying, "Boys, this is good weather for sap. We must get the buckets out, and be ready to tap the trees to-morrow."
The buckets are stored in the loft over the shed, or at the barn or in the sugar-house, where they were carefully laid away after last year's season was over. Now they must be washed and scalded, repaired if necessary, and carried around to the trees.
Twenty-five years ago nearly all the buckets were made of pine or cedar, had wooden hoops, and were without covers. At present many of them are made of tin, and are provided with covers.
By night, with all hands at work, the buckets are washed and distributed. They are left in sets of half-a-dozen at convenient distances through the orchard, or else are turned bottom-upwards on the snow, one at the foot of each tree.
Sometimes it happens at this stage of the proceedings that a storm comes up unexpectedly, a cold spell follows, and operations are delayed accordingly. But, if the weather continues fine, the next day the trees are tapped.
Armed each with a bit-stock and one-half or three-quarter-inch bit, the farmer and his older boys go from tree to tree, and, selecting a favorable spot a few feet from the ground, break off any rough pieces of outer bark, and bore a hole into the tree to the depth of one or two inches. Formerly a larger bit was used, and the bore was rarely more than an inch in depth; but experience has shown that the smaller and deeper bore injures the tree less and secures a larger quantity of sap.
Next the younger boys, acting as assistants, come forward with spouts and nails and buckets. The old style of spout consists of a wooden tube some five or six inches in length, tapered slightly at one end to fit the auger-hole, and with the upper half of the cylinder cut away down to an Inch from the point where it enters the tree. The new style, now largely used, is made of galvanized iron, is of smaller size, and has attached to it a hook on which to hang the bucket. Sometimes, also, spouts of tin are used, being driven into the bark just beneath the auger-hole.
After the spouts have been driven in, the buckets must be put in place and fastened there. If iron spouts are used they are already provided with hooks. If wooden or tin ones are used, instead, the common practice is to drive into the tree, a few inches below the spout, a nail made of wrought-iron, with a tapering point and thin head, and upon this to hang the bucket by means of its upper hoop; or, if the ground is level and the snow nearly gone, it is sometimes set upon the ground.
At length the trees are tapped, the spouts and nails are driven, the buckets are set, and all is ready for the sap.
I remember once to have seen in an illustrated magazine a picture, one of a series intended to represent the process of sugar-making, in which the spouts were several feet in length, and the sap poured out in a rushing stream, as though each spout were a hose-pipe, and every tree a water-main. To carry out the idea, it would have required a man to stand at every tree and empty the rapidly filling buckets into a monster hogshead.
Not thus lavishly is this nectar of the gods poured out on our New England hills; but slowly, filtered through the closely wrought fibres of the acer saccharinum, absorbing new sweetness, and gaining a more delicate flavor at each step of its progress, until at last it falls drop by drop into the bucket. This is rarely filled in less than twenty-four hours, while three or four bucketfuls is an average yield for a season, and six a large one.
Next the sugar-house is put in order, the arch is mended, the kettle or pan washed out, and all necessary preparations are made for boiling. The earliest method of boiling sap of which I have any recollection was in a huge caldron kettle suspended from a heavy pole, which was supported at each end by the limb of a tree or on top of a post. Then a huge log was rolled up to each side of the kettle, and the fire was built between them. This was known simply as the "boiling-place," and could be changed as often as convenient. The kettle which contained the sap was also open for the reception of the dust, and smoke, and falling leaves, and forms of dirt innumerable.
The first advance on this primitive method was made by building a rough arch of stone around the kettle to retain the heat and economize fuel. Next a rectangular pan of sheet-iron was substituted for the kettle, and a shed or rude house was built around the arch. The process of improvement has continued, until to-day in most of the larger orchards can be found neat and convenient sugar-houses, with closely-built arches of brick; while in place of the ancient caldron kettle, or the still much-used sap-pan, it is common to find the modern evaporator.
There are several patterns of evaporators in use. The most common one consists of a pan of from twelve to sixteen feet in length and four or five in width, divided into compartments by a series of partitions which run nearly across the pan, at intervals of six or eight inches, but at alternate ends stop three or four inches short of the side. Thus all the compartments are connected with each other in such a manner as to form one winding passage-way.
Back of the arch, and at one corner, stands a large hogshead containing sap, with a faucet at the bottom, and a small tube opening into the rear compartment of the evaporator. This tube has a self-acting valve, which closes when the sap has reached the proper height in the pan, and opens again when it has been lowered by boiling.
When the sap is first turned on it at once runs through the entire passage-way, and covers the bottom of the pan. Thenceforward it enters slowly, and is heated gradually in the rear compartments, while the boiling is confined to the front portion of the pan.
The density of this boiling portion of the liquid is constantly increased by evaporation; and the fresh sap, instead of mixing intimately with the boiling mass, acts as a pressure in the rear, forcing it steadily towards the front. Soon the different compartments of the evaporator present the saccharine fluid in all its phases, from fresh, cool sap, through warm, hot, and boiling, then partially concentrated, then thin syrup, then thicker, and, if the process be long enough continued, even down to sugar. It is customary, however, to draw it off through another faucet in front when it has reached the consistency of syrup.
In the smaller orchards, the sap is usually gathered in pails and brought directly to the central reservoir. For this purpose a sap-yoke is borne on the shoulders, with a large pail suspended from each end. In larger orchards, where the ground is not too rough, a barrel or hogshead is fastened upon a sled and drawn through the sugar-place by a yoke of oxen; or, if the ground slopes regularly, a system of spouts or pipes is sometimes arranged to bring the sap from convenient stations to the boiling-place.
It is roughly estimated that four gallons of sap will make one pound of sugar. But the sap varies greatly in sweetness, not only in different seasons, but in different parts of the same season, and in different trees at the same time. As a general rule, large and widely-branching trees produce sweeter sap than small and gnarled ones, as well as a much larger quantity. The first sap of the season is always the sweetest, and of the most delicate flavor, while late runs are of poorer quality, and have a "buddy" and bitter taste.
A drink from the buckets is considered a great treat at first, and, though it soon loses the charm of novelty, is always healthy and refreshing, and is the common drink of the sugar-camp during the entire season.
Sometimes, when the buckets are nearly full, there comes a cold snap, and the sap is turned to ice. But, however hard it may have frozen, there is always a central portion, small if the ice is thick, larger if thin, which is liquid still. This is pure, concentrated sweetness, maple honey unalloyed, though it never finds its way into the market.
So far all has been hard work, but now comes the boiling, and here the poetry of sugar-making begins.
In those old days,—the halcyon days of youth,—after the sap was gathered, and the fuel piled high beside the arch, then it was that we sat down by the blazing fire and watched it burn; heaped on the logs, filled up the kettle, and again sat down to muse, or talk, or read. If the wind whistled afar, the boiling-place was in a sheltered nook; if the rain poured down, or the snow-flakes fell without, we were protected by the sugar-house or shed; if the day was cold the fire was warm; and the heart of a youth is never cold.
When the weather was fine, and the sap running fast, it was often necessary to spend a good part of the night in boiling sap. Instead of feeling this a burden, here we found our pleasures but intensified. How the bright blaze chased the dim shadows far back into the woods, and the black smoke rolled up in great clouds to the sky! How sweet and warm and refreshing was the sap as it grew more and more concentrated! And how welcome were the neighbors' boys when they came to share with us the midnight watch! There was many a thrilling story told, many a sprightly joke was cracked, or lively game of euchre played. And when the war-cloud gathered in the Southern horizon, it was there we talked of the latest news, and registered our patriotic vows.
When pans are used for boiling, the last thing before the work of the day is done is "syruping down." When the sap is all boiled in, and the product has attained a sufficient degree of concentration,—nearly equal to that of the "maple syrup" of the markets,—the fire is suffered to go down, the pan is drawn off, the syrup dipped out and strained through a flannel cloth, and stored away in pails or tin cans to await the final process of "sugaring off."
This event takes place after a few days of boiling, when the syrup has accumulated in sufficient quantities; and, as it presents the first fruits of the harvest, is usually made the occasion of a sugar-party. Now, the maple sugar-party is a New England institution, and the great feast of the season. The young people invite their friends, the neighbors' boys and girls, and sometimes a select party of school-mates from the village. The young folks go out through the woods in glee, the boys drawing the girls on sleds over the crust, the young men and maidens walking together,—a merry throng full of life and glee. The older folks are also there, at least sometimes; but their presence is no damper on the spirits of the young.
First, the pan is half filled with syrup, and a gentle fire is started. As the temperature rises, a thick scum appears on the surface, consisting of such impurities as may have passed through the meshes of the strainer. If proper care has been taken to keep out all forms of dirt in gathering and boiling, and if, after being strained, the syrup was allowed to stand and settle for two or three days, until all the nitre,—or "sand," as it is called,—and other heavy impurities, were deposited on the bottom of the pail, then the liquid which is poured off is clear and light-colored. But if these precautions have not been taken, if dust, and leaves, and cinders have been allowed free access, then the liquid is dirty and dark-colored, and the scum is thick and muddy. In such cases it is customary to make use of some device for the purpose of "purifying" it, such as stirring a cup of milk or a beaten egg into the slowly heating mass. These things are supposed to have an affinity for the dirt, and to increase the volume of impurities which rise to the surface. Their real utility is questionable.
When the liquid begins to simmer slightly, and just before it fairly boils, all the scum is removed by means of a long-handled skimmer, and is emptied into the pan with the "settlings," and both these are afterwards utilized in the manufacture of vinegar.
After boiling for a while, the syrup begins to thicken, and the bubbles to rise higher and higher in the pan, like boiling soap. Thenceforward it must be watched with care, to prevent its boiling over, or burning on the bottom of the pan.
As soon as the sugar begins to show signs of graining, all hands pass up their saucers to be filled; and they are refilled an unlimited number of times, until all are thoroughly sweetened. For though sugar is the product of hard labor, and has a cash value, yet in all the sugar-camps it is as free almost as water throughout the season,—until it is grained and in the tubs, when it becomes property, and is held sacred.
Not many, however, can eat more than one, or at most two, saucerfuls of warm sugar. So, when the appetite is sated with this, and the sugar is done a little harder, merry voices call for pans of snow, or if a clean snow-bank is at hand, betake themselves to this instead, and, after having partially cooled the liquid by stirring it in the saucer, pour it slowly out upon the smooth snow-crust, where it quickly hardens and becomes brittle, making a most luscious and toothsome substitute for molasses candy.
If the sugar is to be made into cakes it requires to be boiled longer than if intended for graining in tubs, as is the more common form.
Finally, when frequent trials show that the proper degree of concentration has been reached, the master of the ceremonies pronounces it "done," pulls off the fagots, and lets the fire go down, or else draws the pan off the arch and lets it cool. Then the sugar is stirred vigorously with a huge wooden paddle until it begins to grain, when it is poured out into the tubs, or dipped into tins, if intended for cakes.
But though the sugar is eaten, the party is not over for the young folks. There is still time for an hour or two of coasting—an old-fashioned tournament of "sliding down hill." And so the livelong day is a time for sweet things said and done as well as eaten, of romping and frolicking, of mirth and laughter, of youthful courtships begun and carried on, of joy and gladness everywhere.
EDITORIAL NOTE ON DANIEL WEBSTER.
The extraordinary public services of Daniel Webster, as one of the most eminent statesmen of this or of any other country, cannot be adequately estimated. Hence, whatever illustrates his public life, and especially his private character, will never cease to be invested with a degree of interest which attaches to few other public men. So much of disparaging statements in reference to Mr. Webster has been unjustly and, perhaps, thoughtlessly put in circulation, that we deem it a privilege to publish elsewhere an article presenting trustworthy evidence tending to correct whatever false impressions may still exist. At the Webster Centennial Dinner in Boston, in January, 1882, under the auspices of the Dartmouth College Alumni Association, among other able addresses, one by Hon. Edward S. Tobey was especially remarkable for the evidence produced as to Mr. Webster's religious opinions, which, unsought, had come to his knowledge during a period of forty years. Mr. Tobey, upon request, used the material facts of this address in the preparation of an article for this Magazine. In this connection it is of interest to recall the fact that Mr. Tobey united with President Smith, during the administration of the latter, in efforts for the founding of a Webster Professorship at Dartmouth College, and was the first donor to the fund, contributing $5,000. In the year just ended (1885) the endowment reached the sum of $50,000, and the professorship was established.
THE BOSTON UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL.
BY BENJAMIN R. CURTIS.
A distinguished member of the Boston Bar was recently asked by a younger professional brother what he considered the most valuable acquirement a young man could possess for the successful practice of the law. He at once replied, "To be able to tell your clients what to do." This was the purpose for which the Boston University Law School was founded; this has been the constant aim of its teachings; and the selection of practitioners for instructors, coming fresh from consultations with their clients, and from sharp contests in the court-rooms, has been made from the first with the endeavor to set before the students live men, who could tell them what to do and how to do it.
If students could be more frequently brought face to face with the living heroes of the law, the zeal for careful work and laborious study would be fanned almost into enthusiasm. To follow the complex details of a difficult branch of law, from the lips of an eminent counsellor who has but lately exhausted the subject in an important case at the bar, is a rare and precious pleasure. At our medical schools the students sit at the feet of the leading physicians and surgeons of the day. Why are young lawyers sent forth to practise, acquainted only with the old masters of the law, and ignorant, often, of the very names of the eminent ones of their day and generation? Chief-Justice Shaw said, "A man may be a laborious student, have an inquiring and discriminating mind, and have all the advantage which a library of the best books can afford; and yet, without actual attendance on courts, and the means and facilities which practice affords, he would be little prepared either to try questions of fact or argue questions of law." "I was once asked," said a high legal authority, "to inspect the examination-books of a graduating class in a law school. The student whose work I was shown was the son of a distinguished man, a faithful scholar, and a young man of excellent ability. The subject he had written upon was Equity Jurisprudence,—one of the most difficult branches of the law. He had, indeed, studied his English models carefully, and his book showed the extreme theoretical form of instruction pursued at the school. Among other things, in describing the course of equity procedure in England, he fully and elaborately explained each minute step; to what building in London certain papers were to be taken on a certain day, and at a precise time, and in what room filed; and I certainly expected to be told in what pigeon-hole."
The Boston School of Law was opened, in 1872, under the supervision of the Boston University, of which it is a department. The first instruction was given at No. 18 Beacon street, where the school remained for two years. The school opened with sixty-five students. The late Hon. George S. Hillard was the Dean. The lecturers comprised such well-known names as Edmund H. Bennett, Henry W. Paine, Judge Benjamin F. Thomas, Dr. Francis Wharton, Judge Dwight Foster, Charles T. Russell, Judge Benjamin R. Curtis, William Beach Lawrence, Judge Otis P. Lord, Dr. John Ordronaux, Nicholas St. John Greene, Melville M. Bigelow, and Edward L. Pierce. It is safe to say that no other Law School of that date, anywhere in the country, could have offered to its students a better list of instructors than this. A remarkably varied judicial and professional experience among the corps of lecturers, from first to last, is here set forth. Truly, the law could be learned here from its fountain-heads.
The fall of 1873 saw ninety students on the roll. The corps of lecturers remained about the same as before, while the course of instruction was somewhat enlarged. It was evident that the students had come to work; the list was largely composed of young men who had selected the law for their profession after careful consideration, who understood that they would be obliged to rely upon it for their support in life, and who were therefore determined to make the most of the rich instruction which the distinguished body of lecturers was ready to impart. The students wished to be taught what to do, and they were eager to put their knowledge to good use as soon as the occasion permitted.
The fall term of 1874 opened with one hundred and thirty-four students. The good seed planted two years previously was thus already bearing its fruit. A few changes had been made in the faculty and lecturers. Mr. Nicholas St. John Greene was performing the duties of acting Dean, to enable Mr. Hillard to seek that retirement which his health demanded. Judge John Lowell offered a course of lectures on Bankruptcy, and the well-known lawyers Charles B. Goodrich and Chauncey Smith, of Boston, were prepared to meet the senior class with their specialties, respectively, of Corporation and Patent law. With the opening of this term a change of quarters was necessitated; the school was removed to the Wesleyan building, 36 Bromfield street, which was then considered very commodious. Here it remained till the fall of 1884. Each subsequent year saw a continued increase in the number of pupils. In the fall of 1877 Judge Edmund H. Bennett was appointed Dean. A more fortunate selection could not have been made. A long experience as Probate Judge had given him a wide and practical knowledge of Probate law in all its departments, and his varied legal writings in other departments of the law showed how well qualified he was to undertake the general administration of the school. With all his learning, moreover, Judge Bennett possesses a remarkable power of imparting knowledge, a very clear insight into human nature, and a certain gentle magnetism which attracts and charms young men. The man and the occasion were thus well suited to each other. If the important place of Dean had been filled at that time by an ordinary man, the remarkable progress then made might have gone for nought; but with Judge Bennett at its head, the Boston Law School has continually justified the hopes and wishes of its founders. This result could only have been brought about by the patient supervision, watchful energy, and valuable experience, which are clearly set forth in the rare character of its Dean.
In the fall of 1879 the corps of lecturers was increased by the name of Truman H. Kimpton, lecturer on the Constitution of the United States; and three special instructors were appointed to assist the lecturers,—Messrs. Wayland E. Benjamin, George R. Swasey, and John E. Wetherbee; and in 1880 the list of instructors was further increased by Austin V. Fletcher. In 1881 Benjamin R. Curtis took his father's place as lecturer on the Jurisdiction and Practice of the United States Courts. John Lathrop came to lecture on Corporations, and Francis L. Wellman was added to the corps of instructors. In 1883 Edward J. Phelps began to lecture on Constitutional law, and continued his connection with the school till his departure to England, as United States Minister at the Court of St. James.
The year 1883 also marked the retirement from the school of Hon. Henry W. Paine, who for eleven years had filled the chair of Lecturer on Real Property. "So thoroughly was he master of his subject, difficult and intricate as it confessedly is, that in not a single instance, except during the lectures of the last year, did he take a note or scrap of memoranda into the class-room."[A]
In 1884, owing to the receipt of several large legacies, the University was enabled to provide new quarters for the Law School. A large and well-built house, No. 10 Ashburton place, was purchased by the corporation, and was at once remodelled in accordance with a careful plan which one of the best architects in the city had devised. This house was formerly the residence of the late Mr. Augustus H. Fiske, the well-known lawyer, who died many years ago. Mr. Fiske was a remarkable man. His practice was very extensive throughout Suffolk and Middlesex counties, and he is said to have been in the habit of entering more cases at the terms of the courts than any other lawyer of his day. He made it a point to reach his office before seven o'clock in the morning, and he generally remained there till late in the evening. The consequence was that he broke down rather early in life, and died in his prime. His early death, however, was not expected by the Bar. A short time before his last sickness he appeared as a witness in a certain case in Suffolk County, and at the conclusion of a long cross-examination at the hands of Henry W. Paine, Mr. Fiske inquired if Mr. Paine had any further questions to ask. "No, Brother Fiske," said Mr. Paine, "I think not,—but stay; you have just told us when you began practice; now, what your brethren of the Bar are more concerned in, is, when are you going to leave off?"—"Not till the last nail is driven in my coffin," was the answer. Soon after this Mr. Fiske fell sick, and Mr. Paine called on him at his house. Mr. Fiske was sitting up in bed taking a deposition in his night-gown, with the parties gathered about him. The next day he died.
The alterations at No. 10 Ashburton place were made under the supervision of Mr. William G. Preston, the architect. The front of the basement, about twenty feet square, is a pleasant room, well lighted, and is used by the students, for study, conversation, and general social purposes. Directly back of this is a dressing-room, 25 x 19, containing about one hundred lockers, for the use of the students. Ascending to the first floor, one is struck with the spaciousness of the hall-way, which extends from the entrance to the door of the lecture-hall. It is finished in light wood, and the design of the staircase is particularly tasteful, while the stairs themselves are very easy of ascent. To the left of the entrance is the Dean's room, 19 x 19, finished in cherry; and next on the left is a part of the library, which is finished in white-wood. In the rear is the lecture-hall, where everything has been done to combine light and air with comfort. The hall is something over fifty-two feet long, twenty-six feet wide, and seventeen feet in height. Almost the entire roof, which is in the shape of an immense skylight, is made of glass. The walls are light in color, while the general effect is one of light and airiness. In the lecture-hall, as elsewhere, special regard has been paid to the ventilation. The atmosphere is changed continually, without any perceptible draughts. The seating capacity of the lecture-hall is about two hundred. The second story is devoted wholly to the library, which, with the room on the first floor, affords space for the University's valuable collection of books. Leading from one of the large rooms on this floor is a small one for the librarians, which is fitted up with open fireplace, desks, and other suitable furnishings. The whole floor is finished in white-wood. On the third floor are two recitation rooms, with a seating capacity of eighty and fifty, respectively. Above are three club-rooms, devoted to the use of the several law clubs in the school. With such accommodations the school will receive a new impetus.
The cause of legal education has advanced greatly within the memory of lawyers who are even now hardly of middle age. Twenty years ago law schools in this country were few in number and most of them poor in equipment. No examination, and but little study, was required as a condition for the degree of Bachelor of Laws; one of the oldest schools conferred the degree upon all students registered therein for a certain length of time,—one year. To-day, in most of the schools, students are required to study at least two years, and to pass examinations in some ten or twelve branches of the law before a degree is given. Some schools require three years' study, and of these this school is one. Indeed, it was the first to establish such a course, the trustees including it in the statutes of organization in 1871. Transition from the earlier standards to the present one has been gradual but steady, and to-day the degree is conferred (save in exceptional cases) only upon those who have studied law at least three years.
One or two features of the course of instruction deserve especial mention. The first of these is the prominence given to the system of recitations, and their separation from the lectures. These latter are given by the elder members of the profession; the lecturer himself occupies most of the hour in laying down and explaining propositions of law and citing authorities in support. The lecturer's work is supplemented by the instructors, who conduct recitations upon the topics already reviewed by their elders; in these exercises the students are expected and required to occupy most of the time in asking or answering questions, and in the discussion and argument of points raised or suggested in the previous lecture.
The freedom of debate and liberty of criticism given at the recitations, larger than it is practicable to obtain at the lectures, is found to be a most useful method of fixing principles or correcting errors.
The Moot Courts are another prominent feature of the instruction. These are held regularly every Saturday. Some question of law is argued by students who have been previously assigned as counsel; a member of the faculty sits as Chief-Justice, two students being associated with him as Justices. Upon the decision of the question written opinions are prepared by each of the Associate Justices and read by them at a subsequent session of the court. These opinions are afterwards printed and bound under the title of "Boston University Reports."
In October last (1885) the school opened with one hundred and seventy-one students, and with the following list of lecturers and their topics: Brooks Adams, Chartered Rights; Edmund H. Bennet, Agency, Contracts, Criminal Law, Partnership, Wills; Melville M. Bigelow, Bills and Notes, Insurance, Torts; Uriel H. Crocker, Massachusetts Conveyancing; Samuel S. Curry, Elocution and Oratory; Benjamin R. Curtis, Jurisdiction and Practice of the United States Courts; William G. Hammond, History of the Common Law; John Lathrop, Corporations; James K. Maynadier, Patent Law; Elias Merwin (who succeeded the late Judge Dwight Foster in 1884), Equity Jurisprudence, Equity Pleading; John Ordronaux, Medical Jurisprudence; John E. Wetherbee, Real Property; Edward J. Phelps, Constitutional Law; Charles T. Russell, Admiralty and Shipping, Evidence, Parliamentary Law, Pleading and Practice; Charles T. Russell, Jr., Law of Elections; James Schouler, Bailments, Domestic Relations; George R. Swasey, Sales; Francis Wharton, Conflict of Laws.
In this current school year there are one hundred and seventy-five undergraduate students, among them men from Maine, California, and Florida; while during the fourteen years of its existence the school has had among its members students from nearly every State in the Union, the Territories, and District of Columbia, as well as several from the Empire of Japan.
The graduates now number about six hundred and fifty, and the school is to be congratulated on the success which many of them have attained in professional and public life. In this Commonwealth, during the year just closed, the alumni counted among them members of the Governor's Council, State Senators, Mayors, District Attorneys, Registers of Probate, Representatives, and Clerks of Courts; while in some of the Western States graduates, though still young, wear judicial honors.
The many friends of the school suffered a great loss in the recent sudden death of Mr. John E. Wetherbee. At thirty years of age he had already earned for himself a substantial practice, and his constant application to the study of law, together with an easy and impressive delivery, gave his instruction at the school peculiar power. Some burden too heavy for him to bear brought his work to a sudden close. Those who were accustomed to meet him, and look for him, and listen to him, will find it hard to realize that they will see him no more. His work at the school is now in the hands of Mr. Albers, Mr. Smith, Mr. Jenney, and Mr. J. G. Thorp, Dr.
A course of lectures on Railroad Law is now being given, for the first time, by J. H. Benton, Jr., the counsel for the Old Colony Railroad Company; and the course on Real Property, which was but partially completed by Mr. Wetherbee, has been taken up by Christopher G. Tiedeman, now Professor of Law in the University of Missouri.
It is safe to say that everything that means, intelligence, experience, and hard work can suggest, to continue the school at its present high grade of excellence, will be afforded by those who are, and who will be, intrusted with the charge; and it is proper to add that the school has benefited greatly by the untiring efforts of Mr. Samuel C. Bennett (son of Judge Bennett), who is now Assistant Dean, and also one of the regular instructors, and who faithfully seconds the work of his father in the general direction of affairs.
The school already has a large and valuable library, and an annual appropriation is made by the University for its care and increase. The State Library, Boston Public Library, and Social Law Library, all of which are in the immediate neighborhood of the school, afford every possible facility for extra investigation.
[A] Prof. Wm. Mathews, LL.D., in Bay State Monthly, November, 1885.
HON. EDMUND HATCH BENNETT.
From among the hills of Vermont and New Hampshire have sprung many renowned citizens, whose talents, industry, moral worth, and practical wisdom have been by no means unimportant factors in the prosperity and progress of the nation, and in the due discharge of its legislative, administrative, and judicial functions. The subject of this brief sketch, Hon. Edmund Hatch Bennett, was born in Manchester, Vt., April 6, 1824. He was educated in his native State,—first in the Manchester and Burlington academies, and then in the University of Vermont, at Burlington, where he graduated in the class of 1843. In 1873 his alma mater bestowed upon him the well-merited degree of Doctor of Laws. The profession of the law, in which, by his industry, capacity, and character, he has been so successful, was not adopted without mature consideration. For some short time after graduation he taught a private school in Virginia; but, probably finding, subsequently, that his tastes, quite as much as his talents, might have fuller and fitter scope for their gratification and development in legal than in academical pursuits, he ultimately decided to enter upon a course of legal studies with a view to preparing himself for the discharge of forensic and judicial duties. His first practical knowledge of the law was acquired in the office of his father at Burlington, Vt., his father being at the time, and for many years previous, an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Vermont. He became a member of the Vermont bar in 1847; but early in 1848 he removed to Taunton, where he resided until 1884; and to whose social, educational, and religious advancement he has contributed in no small degree. In June, 1853, he married Sally, the second daughter of Hon. Samuel Crocker, of Taunton.
When the city was incorporated, in 1865, his fellow-citizens showed their high appreciation of his personal character and public spirit in a very pronounced manner by unanimously electing him the first chief magistrate of the newly incorporated community. To this honorable and influential post he was twice elected subsequently, viz., in 1866 and 1867.
Judge Bennett has put much hard and honest work into his profession; in this he is an example to younger men, which it would not be amiss for them to imitate. His first law connection in Taunton was with the late Nathaniel Morton, a brother of the present Chief-Justice of Massachusetts. Subsequently he formed a partnership with Hon. Henry Williams, and afterwards with Henry J. Fuller, Esq., of Taunton.
At the bar of his own county he took almost from the first a prominent place, and he has been able to turn the accumulated and well-digested results of his study and practice to good account in the instruction of others. During the years of 1870, 1871, and 1872 he occupied the position of lecturer at the Dane Law School of Harvard University, Cambridge. With the Law School of Boston University he has stood connected from its commencement in 1872, receiving at that time the honor of being selected as its Dean. He was not at the time able to serve in that capacity, but was a regular lecturer, and in 1876, on being again elected to the position, he accepted it. This relation to the school he sustains at present, having, during the decade which has passed since his assumption of the office, contributed in no small measure to the present efficient organization and very gratifying prosperity of the school. In May, 1858, he was appointed Judge of Probate and Insolvency for Bristol county, holding the office twenty-five years, and resigning in 1883.
In other directions, and by other methods than that of communicating oral instruction, Judge Bennett has exerted himself to develop the science and advance the practice of his profession. His legal works—written and edited alone, or in company with others—number more than a hundred volumes, the chief of which are: "English Law and Equity Reports;" an edition of Mr. Justice Story's works; "Leading Criminal Cases;" "Fire Insurance Cases;" "Digest of Massachusetts Reports;" American editions of the recent English works of "Goddard on Easements;" "Benjamin on Sales;" "Indermann on the Common Law;" and many others. For some considerable time he has been editorially connected with the American Law Register of Philadelphia. His lecture on "Farm Law," delivered at Hingham in December, 1878, before the State Board of Agriculture, attracted very general attention at the time, and was republished in agricultural journals all over New England, as well as in the West.
In religious sympathy and work Judge Bennett is allied with the Protestant Episcopal Church. For some years he acted either in the capacity of warden or vestry-man of St. Thomas parish, Taunton, and several times as delegate represented the parish in the Diocesan Convention. In 1874, 1877, 1880, and 1883 he was appointed delegate from his diocese to the General Triennial Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in this country. He is now senior warden of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, of Boston.
THE LIFE AND CHARACTER OF DANIEL WEBSTER.
BY HON. EDWARD S. TOBEY.
I might well shrink from writing on a topic which has already engaged the pen and thought of the most able of Mr. Webster's contemporaries and biographers, were it not that, by opportunities wholly unsought, so much of reliable testimony, not previously published, has come to me tending to correct false opinions and impressions as to his private character, that a sense of justice which I could not conscientiously resist, led me on the occasion of the centennial anniversary of Mr. Webster's birthday, which was observed in this city (Boston) in 1882, under the auspices of the Alumni of Dartmouth College, to present, substantially, the facts and views which are now by request repeated. I may add, that I realized more fully an obligation and an interest to give currency to them from the fact of my former connection with Mr. Webster's Alma Mater, as one of its Board of Trustees, and also from having made the first contribution to the Webster professorship in that institution, which, through the liberality of others, has since been fully endowed.
While I would not enlarge on the subject of Mr. Webster's public services and extraordinary statesmanship already so well known throughout this and other countries, I may briefly refer to one especially eloquent speech of the many made by him to which it was my privilege to listen. After the death of President Harrison, and the accession to office of Vice-President John Tyler, all the members of the Cabinet, except Mr. Webster, resigned. He remained as Secretary of State, for the purpose of bringing to a successful conclusion a perplexing controversy between Great Britain and the United States as to the trial and release of Alexander McLeod, a British subject, then held as a prisoner in the State of New York for participating in an attack on the steamer "Caroline" within the waters of the United States. The British Government avowed the act as authorized, and imperatively demanded McLeod's release. It tasked to the utmost the extraordinary ability of Mr. Webster, as a mutual friend informed me, to find sufficient ground on which to comply with England's demand, and yet maintain the dignity of the Government of the United States, consistently with the relations between the Federal Government and that of the State of New York. The question seemed at one time to threaten the peaceful relations between England and America, of which the public were not aware. Under Mr. Webster's construction of the duty and obligations of our Government, McLeod was surrendered, and soon after Mr. Webster resigned. Having been unjustly criticised by certain political leaders, and his motives impugned for remaining so long in the Cabinet, he at once sought vindication in a speech delivered in Faneuil Hall, defining his position, in which he poured out a torrent of eloquence seldom equalled, and in which he clearly indicated the chagrin that even a great man may feel when he is made the subject of unjust suspicion and criticism.
While I have no claim whatever to be regarded as one of the great statesman's associates, I was favored with a very limited and casual acquaintance in the latter part of his life, and an opportunity to know something of his private life and his religious character, through his particular friends, of whom a few were also my personal friends. I may perhaps, therefore, properly speak of unquestionable facts which have, by force of circumstances, come to my knowledge at different times through a period of about forty years, tending to disprove the base rumor and slanders which have found an astonishing currency.
To these I never thought it proper to refer publicly, until the pages of one of our most respectable periodicals[B] reproduced the rumors, which were subsequently publicly refuted in the Boston Herald, by Mr. Webster's able biographer, George Ticknor Curtis. The friends of Mr. Webster would have been false to his memory and their own moral obligation had they failed to put forward the evidence in their possession to disprove the charges on which such rumors were fabricated, and which, until a few years ago, had not found a place, so far as I know, in any respectable publication.
The late Dr. John Jeffries, who was the physician of Mr. Webster, was also my family physician for twenty years. Not long after the close of the late civil war, an Episcopal clergyman of Charleston, S.C., became my guest. He being in need of medical advice, I introduced him to Dr. Jeffries. After his case had been disposed of he inquired of Dr. Jeffries: "Pray, sir, were the stories which we hear at the South concerning Mr. Webster's private character true?" The doctor replied: "Do you refer to his alleged drinking habits?"—"Yes, sir," said the clergyman. "No, sir," answered Dr. Jeffries; "they were not true." He added: "I was his physician for many years, and made the post-mortem examination. He died from no such cause." To illustrate to what extent Mr. Webster was misunderstood and consequently maligned, the doctor related the following fact: "On a certain occasion when Mr. Webster was engaged to speak in Faneuil Hall, he had been for several days much reduced by medical treatment. Late in the afternoon I suggested that, in his reduced condition, a glass of wine would be useful. He replied: 'No, doctor, I prefer a plate of soup; and when His Honor the Mayor calls for me, perhaps you will accompany me.' I assented, and did accompany him. That evening, before Mr. Webster had closed his speech, a certain political rival left the hall and was met by a friend, who inquired, 'Is the meeting over?' The envious politician answered, 'No; I have come away disgusted. Webster is intoxicated.'" Who was the most reliable witness in this case,—his honest physician, an eye-witness, who spoke from knowledge, or the political rival, who spoke from false inference? This is but one of several similar instances of misapprehension and consequent cruel injustice which I might relate, did the time and occasion permit.
There is now living in this city a gentleman of the highest respectability, personally well-known to me for thirty-five years, who was for about twenty-five years intimately connected with Mr. Webster, at Marshfield, as the manager of his affairs, and consequently with him under all circumstances during his summer residence there. Mr. Webster regarded him with the affection of a father for a son. This gentleman has said to me more than once, with emotion and evident feelings of indignation: "No one has ever seen Mr. Webster at Marshfield unduly under the influence of stimulants." He adds: "I was with him on festive occasions here and in New Hampshire, when others were indulging in the customary habit of drinking; but I have never seen Mr. Webster, on those occasions, use stimulants to excess."
The late Judge Peleg Sprague, whom from family relationship it was my privilege to know intimately until the very last year of his life, a short time before his death, in conversation with me, refuted the charges of Mr. Webster's alleged excessive drinking habits in Washington. Judge Sprague was ten years in Congress, and was associated with Mr. Webster, under various circumstances, in public and social life.
I have thus offered the evidence of three witnesses, whose opportunity of knowledge and whose credibility, it cannot be denied, are to be accepted against rumors so easily put in circulation by reckless as well as by mistaken men, but which have beyond question been believed by very many good men who had not the opportunity, or perhaps the sense of obligation, to investigate the origin of them.
As to Mr. Webster's religious character and habits of mind, I can hardly express the great satisfaction afforded me by the testimony of his intimate friend, the Rev. Dr. Lothrop, who has in eloquent and unqualified language confirmed, and, indeed, more than confirmed, all that others have known of it.[C] Dr. Lothrop repeated his criticism on a prayer once offered by the chaplain of the United States Senate, in which Mr. Webster concurred, expressing at the same time his view of the nature and true object of prayer. This reminds me of the fact that the last sermon which Mr. Webster ever heard was on the subject of prayer, from the lips of the late Rev. Dr. Kirk, preached in the little Methodist church at Duxbury, about four miles from Marshfield. This was about six weeks before Mr. Webster's death. He was accompanied by Sir John Crampton, the British Minister, who at that time was at Marshfield negotiating a treaty on the fishery question, Mr. Webster then being Secretary of State. Through the mutual friendly relations of my esteemed friend and partner, the Hon. Seth Sprague, I had the privilege, with him and the Rev. Dr. Kirk, of dining with Mr. Webster the next day. It afforded an opportunity to listen to his entertaining and instructive anecdotes, of which I will relate one only. He said: "On a certain occasion, when President Kirkland, of Harvard University, was called upon by one of his familiar friends, a clergyman, he inquired as to the state of affairs in his parish; to which the clergyman replied, 'We are troubled by a good deal of controversy.'—'Ah! and pray what may the subject be?' inquired Dr. Kirkland. 'It is the doctrine of the final perseverance of the saints which agitates the minds of my people,' said the clergyman. 'Well,' said President Kirkland, 'I, too, have a controversy among my people; but the topic is of a very different nature. What troubles me and them most is, the final perseverance of sinners.'"
I am sure, however, that his own statement of his Confession of Faith, written in 1807, and published in the Boston Courier about twenty-two years since, taken together with his extraordinary plea in the famous Girard case, and his address at Plymouth in 1820, on the subject of its settlement by the Pilgrim fathers will be specially appreciated. The confession is as follows:—
I believe in the existence of Almighty God, who created and governs the whole world. I am taught this by the works of Nature and the word of Revelation.
I believe that God exists in three persons: this I learn from Revelation alone. Nor is it any objection to this belief that I cannot comprehend how one can be three, or three one. I hold it my duty to believe, not what I can comprehend or account for, but what my Maker teaches me.
I believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the will and word of God.
I believe Jesus Christ to be the Son of God. The miracles which He wrought establish in my mind His personal authority, and render it proper for me to believe whatever He asserts; I believe, therefore, all His declarations, as well when He declares Himself the Son of God as when He declares any other proposition. And I believe there is no other way of salvation than through the merits of His atonement.
I believe that things past, present, and to come are all equally present in the mind of the Deity; that with Him there is no succession of time nor of ideas; that, therefore, the relative terms past, present, and future, as used among men, cannot, with strict propriety, be applied to Deity. I believe in the doctrines of foreknowledge and predestination, as thus expounded. I do not believe in those doctrines as imposing any fatality or necessity on men's actions, or any way infringing free agency.
I believe in the utter inability of any human being to work out his own salvation without the constant aids of the Spirit of all grace.
I believe in those great peculiarities of the Christian religion,—a resurrection from the dead and a day of judgment.
I believe in the universal providence of God; and leave to Epicurus, and his more unreasonable followers in modern times, the inconsistency of believing that God made a world which He does not take the trouble of governing.
Although I have great respect for some other forms of worship, I believe the Congregational mode, on the whole, to be preferable to any other.
I believe religion to be a matter not of demonstration, but of faith. God requires us to give credit to the truths which He reveals, not because we can prove them, but because He declares them. When the mind is reasonably convinced that the Bible is the word of God, the only remaining duty is to receive its doctrines with full confidence of their truth, and practise them with a pure heart.
I believe that the Bible is to be understood and received in the plain and obvious meaning of its passages, since I cannot persuade myself that a book intended for the instruction and conversion of the whole world should cover its true meaning in such mystery and doubt that none but critics and philosophers can discover it.
I believe that the experiments and subtleties of human wisdom are more likely to obscure than to enlighten the revealed will of God, and that he is the most accomplished Christian scholar who has been educated at the feet of Jesus and in the College of Fishermen.
I believe that all true religion consists in the heart and the affections, and that therefore all creeds and confessions are fallible and uncertain evidences of Evangelical piety.
These views he held at twenty-five, and in the main retained them in his later years, as is shown by his remarks before the Supreme Court of Massachusetts on the occasion of the death of his intimate associate, Jeremiah Mason, of which the following is an extract:—
But, sir, political eminence and professional fame fade away and die with all things earthly. Nothing of character is really permanent but virtue and personal worth. These remain. Whatever of excellence is wrought into the soul itself belongs to both worlds. Real goodness does not attach itself merely to this life: it points to another world. Political or professional reputation cannot last forever, but a conscience void of offence before God and man is an inheritance for eternity. Religion, therefore, is a necessary and indispensable element in any great human character; there is no living without it. Religion is the tie that connects man with his Creator, and holds him to His throne. If that tie be all sundered, all broken, he floats away,—a worthless atom in the universe; its proper attraction all gone, its destiny thwarted, and its whole future nothing but darkness, desolation, and death. A man with no sense of religious duty is he whom the Scriptures describe in such terse but terrific language, "Without God in the world." Such a man is out of his proper being, out of the circle of all his duties, out of the circle of all his happiness, and away, far, far away, from the purposes of his creation. A mind like Mr. Mason's, active, thoughtful, penetrating, could not but meditate deeply on the condition of man below, and feel its responsibilities. He could not look on this mighty system,—
"This universal frame, thus wondrous fair,"—
without feeling that it was created and upheld by an Intelligence to which all other intelligences must be responsible. I am bound to say, that in the course of my life I never met with an individual, in any profession or condition of life, who always spoke and always thought with such awful reverence of the power and presence of God. No irreverence, no lightness, even no too familiar allusion to God and His attributes, ever escaped his lips. The very motion of a Supreme Being was, with him, made up of awe and solemnity, and filled the whole of his great mind with the strongest emotions. A man like him, with all his proper sentiments and sensibilities alive in him, must in this state of existence have something to believe, and something to hope for; or else, as life is advancing to its close and parting, all is heart-sinking and oppression Depend upon it, whatever may be the mind of an old man, old age is only really happy when, on feeling the enjoyments of this world pass away, it begins to lay a stronger hold on those of another.
Mr. Webster then quotes, on the authority of another, the grounds of Mr. Mason's religious faith, thus:—
Mr. Mason was fully aware that his end was near; and in answer to the question, "Can you now rest with firm faith upon the merits of your Divine Redeemer?" he said, "I trust I do. Upon what else can I rest?" At another time, in reply to a similar question, he said, "Of course; I have no other ground of hope."
Mr. Webster adds:—
Such, Mr. Chief-Justice, was the life and such the death of Jeremiah Mason. For one I could pour out my heart like water at the recollection of his virtues and his friendship, and in the feeling of his loss. I would embalm his memory in my best affections.
Again, in the following extract from a letter to his teacher, Mr. James Tappan, about two years before Mr. Webster's death, he writes:—
You have, indeed, lived a checkered life. I hope you have been able to bear prosperity with meekness, and adversity with patience. These things are all ordered for us far better than we could order them for ourselves. We may pray for our daily bread; we may pray for forgiveness of sins; we may pray to be kept from temptation, and that the kingdom of God may come in us, and in all men, and His will everywhere be done. Beyond this we hardly know for what good to supplicate the Divine Mercy. Our Heavenly Father knoweth what we have need of better than we know ourselves, and we are assured that His eye and His loving kindness are upon us and around us every moment.
How entirely in harmony are these religious views of Mr. Webster with similar utterances on several public occasions, to which allusion has already been made; and especially with that extraordinary dramatic scene so vividly described by his biographer, Mr. Harvey, who was an eye-witness and participator in it, when, in the solitary farm-house of John Colby,[D] in New Hampshire, Mr. Webster, at the request of Mr. Colby, led in prayer. Whatever else of unfriendly criticism has been made on the character of Mr. Webster, he has never been charged with hypocrisy, or of parading his religious opinions; least of all in that remote hamlet of John Colby, whither he had gone to visit him for the first time in twenty-five years, because he had heard of Mr. Colby's remarkable conversion late in life. Can there be the remotest suspicion that other than the most pure and noble of all motives could have governed him, as he then sought communion with God in prayer? And, as Mr. Harvey remarked to the writer, "It was indeed a prayer."
About one year before the death of Mr. Webster I casually met Professor Stuart, of Andover, on his return from a visit to Mr. Webster, at Marshfield, when, in the course of conversation relating to his religious habits, the professor remarked, "Mr. Webster has arrived at that period in life when he feels more than ever his moral accountability;" and added, "He has resumed family worship." I inquired, "What evidence have you of this?" He answered, "Clergymen who have recently visited in his family have so informed me." This, of course, implied that family worship had once been his custom, but that it had been temporarily suspended,—perhaps attributable to unusual pressure on his time by reason of his always arduous public duties.
I am glad to have the opportunity, in these columns, of repeating such testimony as I am able to offer, and to which much more might be added, as to the worth and private character of America's greatest statesman, whose record of distinguished public service will adorn the pages of his country's history with unfading lustre long after the unjust aspersions on his character shall have passed into oblivion forever.
[B] The Atlantic Monthly.
[C] Speech at Dartmouth Webster Centennial Dinner, Boston, 1882.
[D] John Colby was the husband of Mr. Webster's eldest sister, who died many years before the visit here referred to. He was known as a great sceptic in religious matters in early life, and hence Mr. Webster's earnest desire to visit him soon after he heard of Mr. Colby's conversion.
FORTY YEARS OF FRONTIER LIFE IN THE POCOMTUCK VALLEY.
BY HON. GEORGE SHELDON.
One result of John Eliot's attempt to civilize the Massachusetts Indians was, that in 1663 the General Court granted to the town of Dedham eight thousand acres of wilderness, as compensation for the territory taken by the apostle for his settlement at Natick. After an examination of various localities, Dedham selected a tract upon the far away lands of the Pocomtucks, bought out the rights of the Indians who claimed it, and in 1665 laid out the grant there. This land was divided into five hundred and twenty-three shares, or rights, called "cow-commons," and held by each freeholder of Dedham, according to his interest in the undivided land in the old township; and it was paid for by a general town tax. Fractions of a cow-common were called sheep-commons, five of which equalled a cow-common. These shares were offered for sale to such men as Dedham should approve. The required standard of character does not appear, but this regulation was no dead letter, as the town records testify; and picked men only were allowed a foothold on this new possession. We may therefore suppose that it was a goodly body of men which gathered, about 1671-5, on the virgin soil in the lower valley of the Pocomtuck River. Here were the headquarters of the Pocomtuck Indians, whose chieftains were at the head of the confederate clans in the Connecticut valley. In 1663, the date of the grant, the Pocomtucks were engaged in a successful campaign against the powerful Mohawks; but, before the compass and chain of the surveyor had been called into requisition to lay out the bounds of the grant, the majority of this tribe had been swept off by a retaliatory invasion of their western enemies. This was doubtless considered a special interposition of Providence in behalf the projected settlement, and a manifestation of Divine indignation against the heathen, who were popularly considered subjects of the devil, seeking to establish his kingdom "in these uttermost parts of the earth." However this may be, the first English settlers here found the power of native rule broken, and a remnant of the Pocomtucks gathered for protection near the centre of a triangle formed by the settlements at Hadley, Hatfield, and Northampton.
The early comers had no fear of the natives, and danger there was none. They were welcomed by the crushed tribe as another bulwark against the Mohawks. There is no hint of any hostile feeling on the part of the red men, or of any anticipation of it on the part of the whites, until the breaking out of Philip's War. The primal cause of this outbreak is not far to seek. Whenever and wherever, on our shifting frontier, our so-called civilization has come in contact with the barbarism of the aborigines, similar results have followed. And nowhere was this effect more certain than when our Puritan ancestors, with their inflexible ideas of duty, confronted the New England savage in his native wilds.
It should have been early apparent to our rulers that these two races, essentially so different, could not live side by side in fellowship and harmony, and subject to the same rules and regulations. Eliot realized this, and planned the isolated community at Natick, which, as we have seen, resulted in the English settlement at Pocomtuck.
The policy of the whites was, by fair means or foul, to induce the natives, as soon as possible, to acknowledge allegiance to the English; this being accomplished, the laws of the Puritans were strictly enforced upon these free children of the forest, and their violation punished by fine, imprisonment, and stripes. It does not appear that any particular effort was made in the Connecticut Valley to teach the savages the precepts of Christ, but they were held accountable to the laws of Moses, as interpreted by the rulers, even to being punished for travelling on Sunday.
Such oppressive acts by narrow-minded good men were supplemented by the knavery of unscrupulous bad men. The Indian trader, in accordance with the teachings of the times, not only looked upon the savages as the offspring of Satan, but also as fair objects of spoil; consequently, the simplicity, moral honesty, and ignorance if these Canaanites and Amalekites were made the most of financially. Ignorant of the benefits of wise restraint, and unused to such wiles as were practised upon them by the traders, the unsophisticated natives had a hard time indeed between the two.
Demoralized by the white man's fire-water, they were cheated while under its influence. Though the sale of rum to the Indians was forbidden by law, and illicit traders were prosecuted, "conviction in liquor cases" was no easier then than now. The word of a heathen had small weight against the oath of a Christian, and fear of the traders often prevented the victims from pressing their complaints.
Before the advent of the whites the natives seem to have been thrifty and provident, laying up stores for contingencies. With English implements and weapons, their facilities for planting and hunting were greatly increased, and their products should have been correspondingly larger. The unlimited demand for furs should have stimulated the chase, and their sale should have added to their comforts in food and shelter. By their contact with the whites, their lives should have been changed for the better. Was this the effect? The contrary is notoriously true. The increased income was squandered in liquors. Like thousands to-day, they would give their most costly possessions to gratify their appetite for strong drink. When the corn crop was short, and gave out in the spring, or had been squandered for rum, they borrowed of the traders, paying two hundred per cent for it at harvest. They became poor, shiftless, and dependent. They even pledged their children as security, to be held as slaves in default of contract. They knew they were debased, and despised by the superior race, and felt their degradation. To this condition had come the remnant of the Pocomtucks; a power which within a generation had humbled the fierce Mohawks, and scattered in battle the armies of Uncas the Mohegan.