Charles E. (Charles Elliott) Fitch.

Encyclopedia of biography of New York, a life record of men and women whose sterling character and energy and industry have made them preëminent in their own and many other states (Volume 5) online

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The fourth constitutional convention,
duly ordered by the people, a large major-
ity of the delegates being Republicans,
met in the Assembly Chamber at the
Capitol in Albany, May 8, 1894, Dr.
Choate, who had been a member of the
Constitutional Commission of 1890, head-
ing the list of the delegates at large. It
was an able body of men, many of them
having previously received honorable
preferment, and was well equipped by
learning and experience for the responsi-
ble duty it was to fulfill. By practically
uanimous acclaim Dr. Choate was select-
ed as president. Although without previ-
ous legislative experience, he at once re-
vealed signal ability as a presiding officer
— firm, dignified, impartial, resourceful—

and commanded the esteem of his asso-
ciates throughout, at times taking the
floor to discuss propositions of exigent
concern. He enlightened the convention
by his speech, enlivened it by his wit, and
charmed it by his courtesy. It framed
an instrument accordant with his address
on assuming the chair, in which, after
prefacing a cordial tribute to the then
existing constitution, he said :

We are not commissioned, as I understand it,
to treat it (the Constitution of '46) with any rude
or sacrilegious hands. To its general features,
the statutes, the judicial decisions, the habits of
this great people have long been accustomed and
adapted, and it seems to me, we should be false
to our trust if we entered upon any attempt to
tear asunder this structure which, for so many
years, has satisfied, in the main, the wants of the
people of the State of New York. And yet, he
proceeded, there are certain great questions which
we are here to consider, which stare us in the face
at the very outset of the proceedings and will
continue to employ our minds until the day of our
final adjournment.

Among these, he specified the reappor-
tionment of the legislative districts, the
government of cities, the relief of the
court of appeals, the suffrage, education,
and the regulation of legislative and
court procedure. His ideas concerning
these all found expression in the Con-
stitution, which was ratified at the polls
by a majority of nearly 100,000.*

*A striking specimen of hi.s subtle wit Is still
fresh in the minds of survivine- members of the
convention. Toward the end of the session, with
bu.siness pressing, the president was desirous of
restricting discussion as much as possiljle. A
resolution being before the convention, the pres-
ident stated that it was not likely to precipitate
dfbate and directed the secretary to call the roll
for a vote. That offtcer had not called more than
two or three names when the courteous and dis-
tinguished leader of the minority, tlie Hon. John
M. Bowers, arose and said: "Mr, President, I
would like to say something on the question,"
The president either unconsciouslj-, or purposely,
it would be difficult to say, paid no attention and
still directed the secretary to proceed with the
call; whereupon Mr. Bowers, with considerable
excitement of manner and waving of hands ex-
claimed, "No, Mr. President. I want to debate the
resolution; we all want to debate it." "That is
precisely the same thing." the president quickly
replied, and the call proceeded amid the laughter
of tlie convention, in wliich Mr. Bowers liimself
cheerfully joined.



In January, 1899. President McKinley
nominated and the Senate promptly con-
firmed him as Envoy Extraordinary and
Minister Plenipotentiary to the Court of
St. James. Retained by President Roose-
velt, his embassy included six years
(1899-1905). In the long and brilliant
line of scholars, orators and statesmen,
who have honored the nation in this lofty
station, none has been more acceptable
to his own country or persona grata,
more pleasing to that to which he was
accredited than Joseph Hodges Choate.
In the amicable relations between the
two peoples, never more pronounced than
during his tenure, there were some deli-
cate and difficult issues to determine ; in-
cluding especially the Alaska boundary,
the Panama canal question, and the main-
tenance of the Open Door in China. He
performed the regular duties of his office
with dignity, fidelity and dispatch, the
embassy was the home of visiting Amer-
icans and the rights and needs of his
countrymen were attended to scrupu-
lously. Entertaining elegantly, but not
ostentatiously, he was a welcome guest
in all circles of rank and refinement, but
it was abroad, as at home, that his speech
conquered. Invitations to speak were
showered upon him for literary and civic
occasions, and to these he responded
cheerfully and freely, never forgetting
that he was an American, but never ofTen-
sively obtruding his nationality, as too
many of our diplomats have been wont
to do. The esteem in which he was held
is clearly shown in the university degrees
bestowed upon him and the exclusive
associations to which he was invited.
Both on the social and official sides his
mission was eminently successful, link-
ing more closely the ties that unite the
great communities of the Anglo-Saxon

A fitting honor paid Mr. Choate was
his a])i)iiintnient as head of the American

delegates selected by President Roose-
velt in 1907 to represent the United
States at the second Peace Conference to
meet at the Hague, June 15, 1907. The
delegates received their instructions from
Secretary of State Elihu Root under date
of May 31, 1907, in these instructions out-
lining the wishes and desires of this gov-
ernment. The service rendered by Mr.
Choate as plenipotentiary ambassador,
representing the United States, was
weighty and exceedingly valuable ; his
addresses and arguments on compulsory
arbitration, on an International Court of
Appeal, and on the Immunity of Private
Property at Sea, especially being worthy
of preservation in government archives.
Had the American project been adopted
the history of the European conflict now
raging would perhaps never need to be

Forty-six States were invited to partici-
pate in the labors of the Hague Confer-
ence and but two failed to send repre-
sentatives, Costa Rica and Ethiopia. In
the official instructions to the delegates
the United States government said, "You
will urge upon the Peace Conference the
formulation of international rules of war
at sea," adding, "No rules should be
adopted for the purpose of mitigating the
evils of war to belligerents which will
tend strongly to destroy the rights of
neutrals, and no rules should be adopted
regarding the rights of neutrals which
will tend strongly to bring about war."
"Special consideration should be given
an agreement upon what shall be deemed
to constitute contraband of war." On
the question of arbitration the United
States delegates were instructed by Sec-
retary Root to secure a general treaty
along the lines of the treaties negotiated
by John Hay when Secretary of State and
"to secure such a treaty you should use
your best and most earnest efforts."

The program for the work of the con-


ference was so elaborate that a division
of the conference into four commissions
was advisable. Mr. Choate was desig-
nated with Horace Porter honorary presi-
dents of the second and third commis-
sions. Mr. Choate, on June 28, 1907, ad-
dressed the conference on the American
proposition, "The Immunity from Cap-
ture of Private Unoffending Property of
the Enemy upon the High Seas."

In the language of the learned reporter,
M. Henri Fromageot, Mr. Choate's argu-
ment was "sustained with an eloquence
and a dialectical force difficult to sur-
pass." But the doctrine proved unaccept-
able to the larger maritime nations. On
July 18 he again addressed the confer-
ence on the American proposition, inter-
national arbitration, presenting most elo-
quently and powerfully the proposition
for a general agreement of arbitration
among the nations. After ten weeks of
discussion in the committee of Examina-
tion A, the Anglo-American draft of a
general treaty of arbitration was pre-
sented to the first commission and was
there debated with great warmth of feel-
ing. On October 5 Mr. Choate again
argued in favor of International Arbitra-
tion and the adoption of the Anglo-
American draft of a general treat}'. On
October 10 he argued at length against
the Austro-Hungarian resolution which
virtually meant postponement of the
Anglo-American proposition of compul-
sory arbitration which had secured a vote
of thirty-two in its favor to nine against ;
the opponents of the measure insisting
upon the unanimity rule of international
assemblies, and the opposition of Ger-
many to a general treaty of arbitration
finally proving fatal to the Anglo-Amer-
ican project, the result of weeks of labor
and discussion. Its partisans, however,
secured the adoption of a resolution ad-
mitting the principle of compulsory arbi-

tration and declaring in favor of so set-
tling "certain disputes." Mr. Choate
voted against the resolution which
seemed a retreat from the advanced posi-
tion the commission had taken in its
votes and on October 11, addressed the
commission in a brief statement in be-
half of the American delegation. At the
closing session of the First Commission,
October 11, 1907, Mr. Choate on behalf
of the American delegation delivered an
eloquent tribute to M. Bourgeois, presi-
dent of the First Commission to which
the question of arbitration had been as-
signed. In closing he said : "During
these four months, Mr. President, we
have lived happily under your benign
dominion, we have worked hard, and have
earned the bread of the conference by
the sweat of our brows, and there have
been moments of trial and suffering, but
in separating, we look back with satisfac-
tion upon our labors, thanks greatly to
your beneficent and harmonizing spirit."

Other addresses made by Mr. Choate at
the conference were on the establishment
of an International Court of Justice (July
1 1 ) and on the American project for a
Permanent Court of Arbitral Justice (Au-
gust i).

Those four months spent in delibera-
tion with chosen minds of all nations
constitute a record that is not only a
source of satisfaction to Mr. Choate and
the entire American delegation, but one
in which the American nation takes great

Dr. Choate's residence for nine months
in the year is at No. 8 East Sixty-third
street, New York. The other three
months he sets apart for comparative re-
laxation and repose at Stockbridge in
the Berkshire hills, where he dispenses
a gracious hospitality. He married, Oc-
tober 16, 1861, Caroline Dutcher, daugh-
ter of Frederick A. Sterling, of Cleve-



land, Ohio, and sister of President Theo-
dore Sterling, late president of Kenyon
College. Mrs. Choate, and two sons,
George and Joseph Hodges, Jr., and one
daughter are living.

HAVEMEYER, John Craig,

Man of Affairs, Philanthropist, Author.

This tribute of respect is dedicated to
a man who has lived long and has lived
well. The story of his life is full of les-
sons, full of interest, full of inspiration.
It covers a period when a great number
of social, civic and religious reforms were
effected with which he was identified.
Now, an octogenarian, Mr. Havemeyer
has stood through this long number of
years for the highest ideals of citizenship,
his voice has always been raised and his
influence unswervingly cast on the side
of right and righteous living, whether a
business man, citizen, philanthropist or
Christian, he has consistently sought to
embody in his life the principle of Him
who said: "I came not to be ministered
unto, but to minister."

The Havemeyers came from the Ger-
man middle class, removed alike from
noble and serf, which preserved through
out the darkness of the Middle Ages the
learning, energy and independence of
character which made Northern and Cen-
tral Germany receptive to Luther and the
Reformation. Bueckeburg, in the prin-
cipality of Schaumburg-Lippe, was the
home city of the Havemeyers and there
Hermann Hoevemeyer (as sometimes
spelled) with nineteen others formed a
Baker's Guild in 1644. Dietrich William
Hoevemeyer, born 1725, was a master
baker, a member of the Common Council
of the City of Bueckeburg and served in
the Seventy Years' War.

The first of the family to come to
America was William Havemeyer, grand-
father of John Craig Havemeyer. Or-

phaned at an early age, he had gone to
England at fifteen, and in London
learned sugar refining, eventually becom-
ing superintendent of a refinery. He
came to New York under contract with
Edmund Seaman & Company to take
charge of their sugar house in Pine street,
bringing with him a bill of exchange for
sixty pounds sterling, dated London,
March 12, 1799, drawn on James J. Roose-
velt, merchant, New York. He com-
pleted the terms of his contract in 1807,
then at once began business for himself,
establishing one of the first sugar refin-
eries in New York City, its location be-
tween Hudson and Greenwich streets, on
Vandam street. He became a naturalized
citizen in 1807 and at his death, August
13, 1851, aged eighty-one years, he left
a comfortable estate to his four children :
Anna, Amelia, Albert and William Fred-

William Frederick Havemeyer, father
of John Craig Havemeyer, was born at
No. 31 Pine street. New York City, Feb-
ruary 12, 1804, died during his third term
as mayor of New York, while in per-
formance of his official duties at the City
Hall, November 30, 1874. After prepara-
tion in private schools he entered Colum-
bia College, whence he was graduated,
class of 1823, having particularly distin-
guished himself in mathematics. He ob-
tained a thorough business training as
clerk in his father's sugar refinery, and
in 1823 formed a partnership with his
cousin, Frederick Christian Havemeyer,
under the firm name of W. F. & F. C.
Havemeyer, sugar refiners. In 1842, after
fourteen years in successful business, he
sold his interests in the firm to his
brother, Albert Havemeyer, and retired
with a competency honorably earned.

His prominent connection with public
affairs began in 1844 and continued until
his death thirty years later. He was a
Democrat, and an enthusiastic supporter


'La^ C^-



of Andrew Jackson during the years "Old
Hickory" was so potent a power in the
land. In 1844 he was chosen to repre-
sent his ward in the Tammany Hall Con-
vention. At the succeeding State Demo-
cratic Convention held at Syracuse, Sep-
tember 4, 1844, he was nominated presi-
dential elector, and in the Electoral Col-
lege cast the vote of New York State for
James K. Polk, of Tennessee, for Presi-
dent and George M. Dallas, of Pennsyl-
vania, for Vice-President.

He became a member of the general
committee of Tammany Hall and dis-
pla}ed so marked a business ability that
he was chosen chairman of the finance
committee. He became very influential
in the party, but was too independent in
his actions to please the politicians who,
to forestall his appointment by President
Polk as collector of the port of New York,
offered him the nomination for the mayor-
alty. This was in the day when national
party power was of greater importance to
Tammany Hall than city control ; the ad-
ministration of the city with its then but
four hundred thousand population being
comparatively simple. The Department
of Charities and Correction was governed
by a single officer ; the police were ap-
pointed, controlled and dismissed by the
mayor ; "Jobs" were unknown and
"rings" had not yet been invented. The
office of mayor, however, was something
more than a civic honor.

Mr. Havemeyer was elected mayor by
a large majority in April, 1845, and at
once directed his special attention to
police affairs, the Common Council pass-
ing at his instance an ordinance provid-
ing for a municipal police force. Under
its terms he nominated George W. Mat-
sell for Chief of Police and he was con-
firmed, great reforms were introduced in
city government, one of the most impor-
tant relating to immigration. Upon his
advice the Legislature passed an act cre-

ating the board of "Commissioners of
Emigration," there having been no offi-
cial supervision of immigration by State ■
or City prior to that board. Mayor
Havemeyer was appointed the first presi-
dent of the board and remained its head
after his term as mayor expired. The
Ward's Island institution for emigrants
was established by Mr. Havemeyer and
his as,sociates. At the expiration of his
first term he was reelected, untiring
energy, ability and devotion characteriz-
ing both administrations. He declined a
third term and for several years retired
from active participation in politics. In
1857, when the metropolitan police com-
missioner and the mayor, Fernando Wood,
were struggling for control of the police
force, Mr. Havemeyer came out of retire-
ment and aided Chief Matsell. In 1859
he was a candidate for mayor in a tri-
angular contest and was defeated.

From 185 1 until 1861 he was president
of the Bank of North America, and from
1857 until 1861 he was president of the
New York Savings Bank, taking the office
at a time of great peril to the bank and
leaving it upon a secure foundation. For
several years he was vice-president of the
Long Island Railroad Company and held
similar relation to the Pennsylvania Coal

During the Civil War he was an un-
wavering and earnest supporter of the
government at Washington. He presided
over one of the four great meetings held
simultaneously in Union Square, April
21, 1 861, to give expression to the patri-
otic sentiments of the people of New
York. In July, 1866, he was selected in
conjunction with Thurlow Weed as arbi-
trator of a long dispute between the
Board of Public Charities and the Board
of Commissioners of Emigration involv-
ing an amount in excess of $100,000. Their
report was satisfactory to both parties
and the controversy ended. Twelve years



were passed in quiet before Mr. Have-
meyer again entered the public arena, to
lead the fight against the Tweed Ring.
Tammany Hall, under the control of Wil-
liam M. Tweed, had become an organiza-
tion of banditti, with the city treasury and
the city's credit at its mercy. Many mil-
lions of dollars were stolen and divided
between Tweed and his confederates,
their methods of plundering so ingenious
and so well marked under a pretence of
legitimate public expenditures, that even
eminent financiers were deceived as to
the real condition of afifairs. So greatly
were they deceived that they signed a
certificate exonerating the "Ring," while
the rank and file of Tammany Hall ac-
claimed the leaders, who scattered with
a free hand a share of the stolen funds
among their followers.

Mr. Havemeyer, however, was one of
the men who were not deceived, and in
the spring of 1870 united with other
patriotic citizens in organizing the New
York City Council of Reform, whose ob-
ject was to rescue the city from its plun-
derers and bring the guilty to the bar of
justice. Mr. Havemeyer was its first
president, and presided at the first great
meeting of citizens held at Cooper Insti-
tute, April 6, 1871, and the still more im-
portant meeting held at the same place,
September 4, 1871, which created the
Committee of Seventy, of which Mr.
Havemeyer was for two months vice-
president and afterwards president.

The story of the final overthrow of the
corrupt "Ring" is a familiar one. After
Mr. Havemeyer and Samuel J. Tilden
gained access to the Broadway Bank in
which the members of the "Ring" kept
their accounts and obtained the legal
proof of the enormous thefts, criminal
prosecution completely broke the power
of the "Ring" whose members fled, died,
or gave themselves up to the law.

The mayoralty campaign of 1872 saw

Tammany Hall with a very respectable
candidate, the Apollo Hall Democracy
with another, but neither candidate had
the endorsement of the Committee of
Seventy which just then was a power in
politics. The Republican party saw their
opportunity and nominated William F.
Havemeyer, whose record as a war Dem-
ocrat was satisfactory to the Republicans
and whose services in behalf of reform
rendered him acceptable to the Commit-
tee of Seventy. He was elected and for
a third time occupied the highest execu-
tive office of the city. His third term was
a stormy one, being a series of contests
with the Board of Aldermen. Party
leaders and private cliques were anxious
to dictate or control appointments. The
discomfited but not annihilated followers
of Tweed were on the alert to discredit
him. An indiscreet word or act, an un-
acceptable nomination, anything in short
which either was or could be construed
into a mistake was certain to be seized
upon by vigilant antagonists and by
selfish interests to which he refused to
be subservient. But he "fought the good
fight," and "kept the faith," breaking
down under the strain, however, and
dying at his desk in the City Hall.

A New York morning journal none too
friendly to him said : "He was a Mayor
whose honesty of purpose had never been
impugned," and that the real fruit of the
Reform party "is to be seen in the puri-
fied Democratic party which has just
now, two years after the election of Mr.
Havemeyer, carried New York by a ma-
jority almost unexampled."

An impartial religious journal said :
"He had been called in a trying time to
fill a difficult position. More was ex-
pected of him than he could perhaps ac-
complish. Unfortunately for him he was
controlled by a partiality for old friends
with which the city had neither sympathy
or patience. He knew the men with



whom he had associated in years long
gone by better than the men of to-day,
and with the tenacity of a strong nature
clung to them."

Mayor Havemeyer was for years a
member of the board of trustees of Cen-
tral Methodist Episcopal Church, was
deeply interested in its property, gave
liberally to its current expenses, to its
benevolences and was a regular attend-
ant on the public Sunday services.

Mayor Havemeyer married Sarah
Agnes Craig, of Scotch ancestry. Her
grandfather, James Craig, came from
Paisley, Scotland, and settled at Bloom-
ing Grove, Orange county. New York,
and was the founder of the manufactur-
ing village of Craigville, formerly known
as Cromeline on Grey Court Creek, a
powder mill said to have been located
there during the Revolution. In 1790
James Craig erected a paper mill, the first
in Orange county. His wife was the
daughter of Captain Hector McNeil, who
commanded the United States ship "Bos-
ton" in 1777 and was third of the twenty-
four naval captains appointed by Con-
gress, October 10, 1776.

Their son. Hector Craig, was born in
Scotland, coming to this country with his
parents. In 1816 he was one of the in-
corporators and secretary of the Bloom-
ing Grove and New Windsor Turnpike
and in 1818 also secretarj^ of the Orange
County Agricultural Society. In 1823-
25 he was a Congressman, again elected
in 1829, but resigned before his term ex-
pired to accept appointment by President
Jackson in 1830 to the post of collector
of the port of New York. He was re-
moved from that office by President Van
Buren for political reasons. In 1832 he
was commissioner of insolvency for the
Southern District of New York. He mar-
ried a daughter of John Chandler, of
Blooming Grove, a large land owner.

storekeeper and miller, also trading with
the West Indies, a man of importance in
Orange county. Their daughter, Sarah
Agnes Craig, was a country bred girl, a
fine horsewoman in her younger days.
She was educated in the famous Emma
Willard School at Troy, New York. Her
marriage to William F. Havemeyer was
a very happy one, and in her affection,
practical intelligence and earnest cooper-
ation her husband found much of inspi-
ration that led him onward in a notable
business and official career. Mrs. Have-
meyer was the mother of ten children,
her heart was centered in her home, and
her husband and children were her joy
and pride. She was very charitable, had
deep religious convictions, was earnest
and sincere, her example and teaching
potent in moulding the lives and charac-
ters of her children. She lived to the age
of eighty-seven and between her and her
third child, John C, there existed the most
intimate fellowship. The family home