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In memoriam: Joseph Hodges Choate (Volume 2) online

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In /Iftemoriam



OF New York City

AU'i 13 \%\1




MAY 23, 1917




MAY 25, 1917

MAY 23rd, 1917

The Board of Managers, desiring to express in permanent
form their deep sense of the great loss which has come to them
hy the death of their late associate and fellow memher of the
Cluh, JOSEPH HODGES CHOATE, of the Class of 1852,
ha/ve, by vote at a regular meeting on the 23rd day of May,
1911, placed this minute on their record.

Amidst tlie universal mourning for the orator, lawyer,
diplomatist, statesman, citizen, we grieve for the loss of the
loyal, loving son of Harvard. It is in that relationship, we feel
sure, he would like to have us remember him. He never forgot
it ; the prizes of life that he won in such full measure were of
higher worth in his eyes because of the glory they reflected upon
his alma mater.

The ties which bound him to Harvard University and to the
Harvard Club he never permitted to be loosened. He was Pres-
ident of the Harvard Club from 1874 to 1878 and from 1906 to
] 908, and President Emeritus from 1913 until his death. Some
of this Board remember him when he was a young man ; none of
us remember him when he was not a distinguished man, for
distinction came to him early. But the recollection which all
of us, old or young, will cherish of him is that of the last ten
years of his life.

In 1907 he returned from the International Peace Conference
at the Hague to which he had been a delegate. He had been the
leader of the American Bar ; he had been President of the Asso-
ciations of the Bar of his city and country, of the Harvard Law

School Association, and of tlie New York Constitutional Con-
vention of 1894. He liad received from Harvard, Oxford,
('ambridge, Edinburgli, St. Andrews, Yale, Aniherst, Williams,
their highest honorary degrees; and he had represented his
country at the Court of St. James. The reputation which had
preceded him to England as an eminent lawyer and a graceful
speaker he had brilliantly sustained; and he had acquired in
addition that of a diplomatist, a publicist and an orator who
upon high and noble themes spoke with dignity and eloquence.

On coming back to New York he had intended to resume the
practice of his profession Avith the second generation of his old
firm, and for a time and to some extent he did; but he had be
come in the minds of the people a great public servant whom
they vv'ere entitled to call upon as if he were the holder of high
public office. He was sought after by members of his profession
to adorn their gatherings; and by those citizens of New York
who lead in movements to better the public and social life of
their city and state, and by men and women all over the United
States who wish their country in its conduct toward other
countries to follow the path of honor and fair dealing, he was
constantly asked to lend to the advancement of the causes they
had at heart, the influence of his name, his pen and his voice.
His interests and sympathies were so broad and far-reaching
that they reinforced these demands upon him, and his life be-
came a passing from one service to another. Among the few of
his countless activities it may be noted that he was the Pres-
ident of the Union League Club, of the New England Society,
of the Light House, an association to help the blind, the Pres-
ident of the State and County Bar Associations, the Vice-
President of the Society for the Judicial Settlement of Inter-
national Disputes, and a Trustee of the Metropolitan Museum
of Art.

It was to this great and commanding figure that our Board
always called on occasions at all out of the ordinary — when
eminent men were our guests, when the Associated Harvard
Clubs met in New York — and frequently in the ordinaiy life of
the Club Avhen fresh enthusiasm was to be aroused or devotion
to Harvard or to country was to be fanned into a brighter flame :
and the call was never in vain. He responded generously, joy-


oiisly and successfully. Everyone went home from a meeting at
wliich lie spoke with a warmer heart, a more courageous spirit
and brighter hopes. Many told him so ; and he knew therefore
that he had accomplished what he wished, for his Avish was
always not that younger men should be awed or dazzled by him,
but that they should like him and get from him something that
would cheer and inspire them. That which made it easy for him
to have his wish was the same thing which made it difficult for
anyone to envy or belittle him. It was his kindness of heart and
goodness of character. "Let his life be kindness, his conduct,
righteousness, then in the fulness of gladness he will make an
end of grief.'' He made an end of grief for himself, for he was
a happy man, and for us too he made an end of grief whenever
he was with us.

Lord Morley begins a chapter on the Last Years of the Life
of Gladstone with these words of Dante :

"* * H= and the noble soul is like a good mariner, for he.
when he draws near the port lowers his sails and enters it softly
and with gentle steerage."

After Mr. Choate had lived fourscore years, such a picture
must have pleased him as it passed now and then before his
eyes. But surely never again after the invasion of Belgium, for
from that moment he was a young man once more, not only in
the amazing vigor but in the immense scope of the labor which
he performed without cessation to the end ; he had work to do
and what might happen to him in the doing of it he did not care.
That work was to help to arouse his count ly to the danger in
which freedom was and her duty to help to save it. In the last
weeks of his life he knew the work was done ; for he saw America
preparing a great army to fight for democracy, which without
her aid he had feared would go down in ruins. He had never
been happier, never more proud of America. She was once more
the Goddess of his youth ; and as he looked into her eyes, open
now to all her dangers and all her duties, shining with the light
of faith in the justice of her cause, she was to him as half a
century ago to Lowell, "O, beautiful, my country."




MAY 25th, 1917

At the Annual Meeting of the Harvard Club of New York
City held on the 2.jth day of May, 1017, Mr. Austen G. Fox, of
the Class of 1860, presented the following memorial prepared
at the request of the Board of Managers, and the Cluh directed
that it he placed in their record.

Joseph Hodges Choate, who died last week, was born at
Salem, Mass., on January 24th, 1832, the son of George and
Margaret Manning (Hodges) Choate. He graduated from
Harvard College in 1852 with the degree of A. B., and from the
Harvard Law School in 1854. He received the Honorary Degree
of A. M. from Harvard in 1860, and the Honorary Degree of
LL. D. in 1888. He also received the Honorary Degree of LL. D.
from Amherst in 1887, Edinburgh, 1900, Cambridge, 1900, Yale,
1901, St. Andrew's, 1902, Glasgow, 1904, Williams, 1905, Uni-
versity of Pennsylvania, 1908, Union, 1909 ; and the degree of
D. C. L. from Oxford in 1902.

He was admitted to the Bar in Massachusetts in 1855, and
New York in 1856.

Mr. Choate was President of our Club from 1874 to 1878
and from 1906 to 1908. He was elected President-Emeritus of
the Club May 17th, 1913, and continued President-Emeritus
until his death. He had been President of the Harvard Alumni
Association and of the Harvard Law School Association.

In the State Constitution Convention of 1894, he w^as its
presiding officer. He was our Ambassador to the Court of St.
James from 1899 to 1905, and represented us at the last Hague
Conference. It is unnecessary to recite his many public services.
Those which he rendered last give the key note of his life.


On Wednesday afternoon, May 9th, in welcoming the French
Commissioners at the City Hall, Mr. Choate said :

"You have been fighting our battle every day * * *.
The sons of France are pouring out their blood like water
that we and the other nations of the earth may enjoy
liberty forever."

On Friday evening at the Waldorf Astoria, the Mayor pre-
sented him in the following words :

"For tlie great citizenship of New York, we have asked
but one to speak, the most respected, the most revered,
the most loved of all New Yorkers, vrho, in liis vigorous
Americanism and fighting spirit, sets an inspiring ex-
ample to the young men of America."

For five consecutive days, he liad been giving brilliant, ex-
hausting service to his country and, apparently, had weathered
the stress. No wonder that he had been advised that he might
kill himself, and, no wonder, either, to those who Imew him,
that he kept on, to the end, "in noble scorn of consequence."

To try to depict in words the traits that made Mr. Choate
what he was is as vain a thing as to try to paint the changing
lights and colors of the Northern sky.

M. Viviani speaking to our Bar of the soldiers of France and
their cause, said :

"It is not for France, it is not for you ; it is not for England ;
"it is not for Kussia. No, it is not for these peoples ; it is for
"the whole world; it is for humanity itself. * * *"

"To what end will it serve to plead private causes before
"courts, if the great cause of humanity is not won by our arms,
"by our soldiers?"

The day before he died Mr. Choate said to Mr. Balfour, who
was leaving for Washington, "Remember we meet again to cele-
brate the victory." Our tears of grief at our own loss in the
death of our dear friend mingle with our tears of joy as we come
together to honor the greatest vic-toi*y of his victorious life — his
final gift to the greatest of all his causes — the cause of humanity
itself — Thus it is that our heart strings sound a note of exulta-

tion, like unto a great organ peal of trimnpli. He knew tlie peril
of. those arduous unflagging days, and nights, hut he listened
only to the "voice without reply

"T'is man's perdition to be safe

"When for the truth he ought to die" —

He belonged not to the "unventurous throng," but was of
that "ethereal mood

"That thanks the fates for their severer tasks

"And, set in Danger's van, has all the boon it asks."

We hold with Lowell that,

"Life may be given in many ways
And Loyalty to Truth be sealed,
As bravely in the closet as the field
So bountiful is Fate."

His w^as "such a dying as a god might envy, and a ELing pay
half his ransom to make certain of."

Here, within the month his burning patriotism spoke to us
in that unfaltering voice which yet "vibrates in our memory"
and stirs us to be true to his audacious trust in our instant and
unstinted seiwice in the grand cause for which he risked and
gave his life.

He has enshrined in the thoughts of men an unwritten
memorial that surpasses all that we can write.

His message to us is told in the words of the dying soldier of
a New York Regiment in the Civil War — "My work is done.
Stand by that old flag. I gave my life for it, and I am glad to
do it."

At a meeting held this week in St, Margaret's Church, West-
minster, the Archbishop of Canterbury said :

"The pure flame of what is straightforward in purpose and
high toned in endeavor burned brightly. By God's help we are
not going to let it flicker or wane."

Let us consecrate this hall to his memory, whom we must
now emulate, and, in the exhortation of Pericles to the Men of
Athens, "remembering that happiness is freedom, and that free-
dom is the high spirit, regard not the dangers of war." Let us
take for our own the great motto of his life Pro Re Puhlica.



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Online LibraryHarvard club of New York cityIn memoriam: Joseph Hodges Choate (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 1)