Albert Stillman Batchellor.

Address before the Grafton and Coös counties bar association at the meeting held at Woodsville online

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Online LibraryAlbert Stillman BatchellorAddress before the Grafton and Coös counties bar association at the meeting held at Woodsville → online text (page 1 of 2)
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Harry Bingham


... Literature ...










Harry Binghaivi,

December 11, 1900.










Mr. PrcsiiJcnt :

It was Mr. Biugluuii's fortune to work out liis career in
an environment tliat set bounds to his reputation in no
wise correspondinq- witli liis talents. He was tlie product
of t\\Q intellectual and moi'al development of the historic
Connecticut stock, which had occupied the Connecticut
river valley and had given ciiaracter to a succession of
generations on that fertile and prosperous domain. Out
of this same region Salmon P. Chase and Thaddeus
Stevens strode to the highest seats of power and prestio-e.
Had it been fated that Harry Bingliam should go out into
a wider sphere of action — into a more central arena — as
they did, he would liave stood with tliem, by universal
consent, as well as in fact, a peer among tlie ablest lawyers
and the most potential statesmen of liis time.

Pie was called to the bar in 1846 with a character well
settled in tlie essential principles whicli dominated his
after life. He kept high ideals always in view for his own
guidance. His character was distinguished by a devout
and patriotic mentality. His integrity was rock-ribbed.
The political doctrines of his fatliers were ingrained in
him. His religious nature was congenital. His devotion
to fundamental principles related to social order and
human conduct was a conspicuous feature of his stalwart
manhood. He was at the same time an intensely practical
man. He wasted no time or effort in pursuit of the unat-
tainable. He was not unconscious of his own intellectual
and moral strength — his al)ility to grapple with any of the
concerns of government, with -Any of the questions of the
learned in science and philosophy, and witli any of the
problems of life. He had the c-ourage to undertake and

the skill to accomplish the reduction of theories in admin-
istration and legislation, — however novel and unpromis-
ing, if actually sound and workable — into the concrete of
actual affairs. In the severe curriculum of his profes-
sional life, however, he never subordinated the legitimate
demands which belonged to an extensive, important, and
exacting clientage to the ulterior demands of interests
or ambitions conflicting with an unalterable purpose to
deserve high distinction as a- jurist. Thus it was inevit-
able that he should compass the largest honors and the
most substantial rewards ; and to this end he devoted the
incessant labors of a professional lifetime covering a period
of more than half a century. In parallel with this profes-
sional duty and labor wliich he bore with steady purpose
in all these years, he assumed large responsibilities in poli-
tics and indulged in extensive diversions in literature.

It is in compliance with suggestions from my brothers
of this association that on this occasion, as my contribu-
tion to the memorials of Mr. Bingham, I attempt to treat
in some measure of his relations to literature.

As a student of literature his individuality w^as notable.
He read with system, with deliberation, witli persistence,
and with well-defined purpose. He used books as means
of recreation as well as instruments in serious business.
At times when he could not advantageously employ him-
self in the duties of liis profession, he almost invariably
restorted to books, choosing from those of a lighter or a
heavier quality accordingly as he was in need of mental
rest and diversion, or in search of material with which to
satisfy the requirements of some line of investigation,
practical or theoretical. All the time that he devoted to
books he divided between the critical perusal of the text
and reflection upon that reading, accompanied by a sj^s-
tematic laying away in the recesses of his memory of all
tliat he regarded as of possible value or use to him in the
future. His domestic relations permitted him to make

his books his closest companions. Whether he mio-ht
be engaged in the study of the literature of the law,
or that of other departments of learning, he was oblivi-
ous to the passage of time, and it was the rule with
him, rather than the exception, to continue thus occu-
pied, without apparent weariness and without apparent
flagging of interest, until he would be well into tlie
small hours of the morning upon some work in philoso-
phy, science, history, government, or tlieology. Tiiis was
no spasmodic or temporary manifestation of interest in
literature. Probably no one who knew him well can
remember wlien these were not the settled characteristics
of his literary life. His knowledge under these habits
became encyclopedic. His attainments were remarkable,
as well in respect to their accuracy as in respect to tlieir
variety and extent. At the conclusion of any prolonged
effort requiring continued and laborious absorption in his
business lie returned to these same sources of rest, recrea-
tion, and mental recuperation. For these uses he did not
despise the productions of the humorists, from Artemus
Ward to Mark Twain, or the lighter grades of current lit-
erature and the novels of ephemeral character. Always
having his acquisitions, gained in these vaiious directions,
well in hand, he was ready with apt quotations and effec-
tive illustrations to give his arguments and addresses a
quality which added largely to their effectiveness before
a court, a jury, or a general audience. He had exannned
to good purpose such a wide range of autliors that audi-
tors and readers liave often been surpi-ised at the fresh-
ness, as well as the aptness, of his illustrations drawn
from unfamiliar sources. Many passages wliich we find
in his writings under quotation marks cannot be located
by the books of familiar abstracts. He drew directly from
the storehouse of his memory and seldom resorted to these
compilations of literary '' ready reckoning."

It was inevitable that a stvle of writing under these


methods and conditions would he developed peculiar to
himself and individualized somewhat in conformity to his
native caste of mind, the methods and directions of his
early education, his social and business environment, the
requirements of liis professional work, and the cliaracter
of his studies in the various departments of the literature
in wliich he delved. He was master of a strong idiomatic
Eno-lish. Not a little character was given to it by his
familiarity with such great English classics as Shakes-
peare and the King James version of the Holy Scripture.
His mind worked on straight lines. The larger part of
his writings are argumentative, and a not infrequent
employment of the argnmentvm ad hominein^ as well as
pointed and well-timed satire and invective, is observable
in his speeches and writings. He was a thorough master
of the principles of logic, and an adept in the most recon-
dite and the most effective methods of the logicians. He
never failed to discover and expose the absence of sound
logical structure a,nd the existence of essential weakness
in the positions of his opponents. It often transpired,
however, that when lie was compelled to a line of argu-
ment in which some sort of sophism was unavoidable, his
skill and method in that form of dialectics were so effec-
tive that only the best equipped and most discerning-
opponents could make headway against liim. He was
strong in controversy. He flinched before no antagonists.
He wielded a heavy battle-axe in every contest in which
he entered. There was never any doubt as to the part
which he had es[)0used or of his determination to win out in
the end and to convince his opponent that whoever threw
down the gauntlet before him must fight to the finish.
A review of his life as a student and a writer would seem
to be fairly susceptible of a division into two parts, — one
being that of controversy, and the other that of philo-
sophical production.

In the first fifteen years of his professional life he was

more conspicuous as a rising practitioner engaged in court
contests and as an active leader in the politics of his sec-
tion of the state than as a devotee of literature.

He was not in youth and early manhood the heneficiary
of adventitious aids from liberal patrimony or social promi-
nence in antecedents or surroundings. In the fifteen years
fi'om the date of his admission to the bar to the beginning
of the Civil War he was constructing the foundation of
personal influence and armoring himself in self-reliance.
He had held no civil office of importance, and had con-
tributed nothing which he regarded as of enduring quality
in constructive literature except as he was impressing his
individuality and genius upon the system of law wliicli
was in process of development in the court reports of
adjudicated cases of the time of Parker, Gilclirist, Woods,
Perley, and Bell.

He delivered a Fourth of July oration in 1853, on an
occasion and under circumstances which were not pi'o[)i-
tious for such an effort as would liave best suited his
methods, temperament, and purpose, which Avere as a rule
direct and serious in public speech.

He contributed controversial articles to the local and
state papers in those years. They were of the offensive
and defensive style and character which were appropriate
to the political conditions under which he wrote. In
these articles he dealt with persons and politics as if he
were more interested in the penetrative efficiency of the
projectiles than in the symmetry of the weapons.

In 1861 he entered upon a legislative career wliich occu-
pied some part of almost every year of two distinct
periods, the last ending in 1891.

It is within bounds to describe the earlier of these
periods as one of intense political antagonism i Mr. Bing-
ham had become an intellectual leader of his party. The
journals of the senate and house, informal reports, resolu-
tions, and protests disclose his attitude towards the far-

reaching issues then passing under fierce debate. In 1861
he reported and supported a protest against legislation
which was proposed to give the governor of the state new
and extraordinary powers not duly restricted and guarded.
This act was chapter 2409 of the Laws of 1861. While
recognizing the urgency of the occasion and the necessity
for adequate measures for the prosecution of the war, Mr.
Bingham saw no reason for ignoring the ordinary precau-
tions in legislation which common prudence dictates in
safeguarding the public treasury, and in requiring every
department of the state government to conform to consti-
tutional limitations in administration and legislation, even
in time of war. With statesmanlike foresight he discerned
the tendency to extravagance and irresponsible exercise of
executive power in this bill which turned the executive
department loose in tlie expenditure of the proceeds of a
state loan practically at its discretion, within the limit of
one million dollars.

Mr. Bingham was returned to the legislature each year
from 1861 to 1865 inclusive.

These years were an epoch for the nation, for political
parties, for the state, and for a vast multitude of individu-
als both in puljlic life and private stations.

Mr. Bingham's record in the legislature in tliis momen-
tous exigency is straightforward, consistent, and coura-
geous. He stood unmoved by popular clamor, upon fixed
principles which he regarded as adaptable and adequate to
all the exigencies of government.

This is not the occasion for a discussion of the merits of
his contention on public issues which were uppermost in
the time of the war for the Union, and it will not be
attempted in this connection.

In addition to the protest which is recorded in the Jour-
nal of the House for 1861, we find in the report of the
minority of the committee on national affairs a series of
resolutions which bear internal evidence of Mr. Binoham's


authorship, although the record does not iudicate that he
was a memher of the committee.

In 1862 the majority of the committee on resolutions,
as usual, presented a report, and a counter statement on
the part of the minorit}^ accompanied it. Later, William
L. Foster submitted his views separately. Mr. Bingham
appears to have endorsed the principal minority report,
and very likely was instrumental in its formulation. Later
tlje majority, nnder the lead of Jas. W. Patterson, offered
amendments to tlieir report and to that of Mr. Foster.
Mr. Bingham's proposition to amend the report submitted
by Mr. Foster further indicated his attitude on tlie ques-
tions presented for discussion by these several submissions
of resolutions for the consideration of the liouse and the
points on which he differed from Mv. Foster.

In 1863 he was, with .John G. Sinclair, Thomas J. Smith,
and William W. Bailey, a. member of the minority com-
mittee on national affairs. Again a minority report was
presented, undoubtedly of Mr. Bingham's construction.

At the Julv session in 1864 the views of the minority
on national affairs were submitted in a preamble and reso-
lutions by ^Ir. liingham, Mr, Sinclair, ^Ir. Smith, aiul Mr.
Asa P. Gate. This was on the eve of the presidential
election of tliat year, and the declaration, besides reiterat-
ing the doctrines set forth in previous years, indicates
clearly the position of the New Haiupsliire Democracy with
regard to the possibility and desirability of negotiations
fo]" peace on the basis of a restored Union under the con-

At the special session which occurred in August follow-
ing, perhaps the most strenuous of all the contests which
were waged between the representatives of the two parties
in the legislature of this state in the war period, was pre-
cipitated by the proposed legislation to enable men who
were in distant sections of the country in the military ser-
vice in the federal army, to vote at the front for electors of
president and vice-president.


Mr. Bingham and his political associ;)tes strenuously
opposed this measure as unconstitutional, as in bad policy,
and as an entering wedge for practices whicli, continued
and re[)eated in the future, would inevitably expose the
civil power to unwarranted domination by ambitious and
unprincipled commanders of the armies of the republic.

The governor of the state came into alignment with the
Democracy in opposition to this measure, but the bouse in
which the measure originated did not })ermit his veto mea-
sure to be received seasonably.

Upon the requisition of both houses the supreme court
returned an opinion sustaining the validity of the law, not-
withstanding the failure of the governor to give it his ap-
proval, and notwithstanding his efforts to interpose a veto
under circumstances wbicb are now a matter of history.

The fiscal affairs of the state and the controversy between
General Harriman and tbe officers of his regiment elicited
formal statements ivom Mr. Bingham and Mr. Sinclair
wliich were entered upon the record and make up a part
of the stor}^ of the stirring events of that memoraljle ses-

■ At the time of the June session, 1865, the war iiad been
concluded. President Lincoln had been assassinated, An-
drew JoliJison had succeeded to the presidency, and the
great questions of reconstruction were taking form in
wbicb they were destined to divide the people in several
succeeding years of bitter controversy.

Tbe committee on national affairs in the house of repre-
sentatives at this early date pronounced for an elective
franchise, based upon loyalty to the constitution and Union,
and recognizing and affirming the equality of all men be-
fore the law, and declared that, in the reorganization of
the rebellious states, both justice and safety required that
ample provision be made for the protection of the freedmen.

In a minority report Mr. Bingham, Mi'. E. A. Hibbard
joining with him, presented a series of resolutions which


again stated Mr. Bingiiam's already well-known views on
the constitutional relations of the federal government and
the states, and clearly foreshadowed the position that his
party would take with reference to the suhject of recon-

Although elected to the legislature in 1808, Mr. Bing-
ham did not take a seat in that body nor qualify as a mem-
ber. His legislative career was not resumed until 1871.

In the ten years that followed the close of the war he
was largely devoted to the demands of a law practice which
w^as rapidly increasing, both in respect to its importance
and volume. The reports of cases in the supreme court
in a meager way indicate the intense lal)or and exliaustive
investigation which he bestowed upon tiie cases with which
he was identified.

He was also at the same time entering into relations
with the national organization of his party as one of its
most reliable coadjutors in management and one of its
soundest authorities on cpiestions of party doctrine and
party principle.

Practically all the published literature that emanated
from him in this decade related to law or politics. He
assisted or was consulted in formulating all, or nearly all,
the declarations of principle and policy in the state con-
ventions of his party in New Hampshire ; and he was in
attendance at the national convention at New York in
1868 as national committee man, and was a member of the
committee on resolutions in the lialtimore convention of
1872. In fact, he was always a member of the committee
on resolutions in the national conventions in which he was
a delegate, the later ones being those of 1880, 1884, and

A diverting incident in the political contentions of
those da3-s w^as Mi'. Bingham's contribution to tlie contro-
versy between Mr. Fogg and Mr. Chandler, which occu-
pied public attention in 1868 and 1869. ]\Ir. Sinclair had


been brought into it by statements to the effect that Mr.
Fogg and Mr. Sinclair had been in secret consultation with
reference to the possible nomination of Chief Justice Chase
by the Democratic national convention of 1868. Mr. liing-
ham came to the defense of Mr. Sinclair in an article
occupying a broadside in the White Mountain Republic of
December 3, 1869. The gentler amenities of polemics do
not characterize this article. It is one of those defenses
Avhich consist principally in carrying the war into the
enemy's camp.

In the following winter his next formal discussion of
current political issues appeared in his address as president
of the Democratic convention wliich enunciated a platform
and presented candidates for the approaching March elec-
tion. This may be regarded as the last chapter of his pub-
lished papers in advocacy of tlie policies for which the
Democracy stood in the reconstruction period.

At this point it may be pertinent to refer to the address
of Mr. Bingham before the Granite State Club of Manches-
ter, June 27, 1888, on " Tlie Life and Democracy of Jolni
H, George." Mr. Bingham and Colonel George had been
intimate political and personal friends in the three periods
which antedated the historic change of front which the
national Democracy executed in 1872. One of these would
be the ante-war period from 1845 to 1860 ; the next, the
war period; and the next, the reconstruction period. In a
review of the political career of Colonel George, which was
contemporary with that of Mr. Bingham, and in an expo-
sition of the political principles entertained and advocated
by the former, Mr. Bingham necessarily pursued a course
in his narrative which was almost equivalent to an autobi-
ography. Eighteen years after the termination of the so-
called reconstruction period, Mr. Bingham was able to
view the events of which he and his co-worker were a part,
and the environment in which they waged their losinsf
battles, from a wider perspective and with a better and


cooler conception of the acts and motives of the contend-
ing parties. Tliis biography of Colonel George must, for
nitUiifest reasons, be regarded as one of the most important
and interesting of J\Ir. Bingham's contributions to contem-
porary biography and political history.

In 1876 he delivered a centennial address on the occa-
sion of the celebration at Littleton of the one hundredth
anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. This
address was to a considerable extent a philosophical treat-
ment of the development of the federal government and a
discussion of some of the present mischiefs apparent in
the conditions which had recently resulted from notable
changes in the organic law and in political methods. He
dwelt with special emphasis upon the dangerous progress
that was observable in the demoralization of the suffrage
by the direct exercise of unhiwful and even corrupt influ-
ences upon the voters.

A few years later he delivered two notable addresses
which were afterwards published in pamphlet form, one in
the spring of 1880, a Memorial Day address before Marshal
Sanders Post, G. A. R., at Littleton, and the other the
annual address in December, 1882, before the Grafton and
Coos Bar Association at Lancaster.

These efforts were widel}' different, both in character
and metliod. The former was a catholic, patriotic, and
philosophical treatment of the results of the war, and an
exposition of the position of high honor and deep respon-
sibility which belonged to the great body of veterans
whose valor had reestablished the Union and placed the
governmental structure upon enduring foundations for the
future. The other address was upon the su1)ject of " Cer-
tain Political Conditions and Tendencies which Imperil
the Integrity and Independence of the Judiciar^^" This
was an arraignment of the court, and a denunciation of its
methods as that tribunal was at that time constituted, and
as its policy was then formulated and directed by its chief


justice. He attrilnited the tlieii existing conditions both
in the federal and state judiciary to the enci'oachnient of
party pohtics within that sphere wliicli belonged exclu-
sively to an independent judiciarj'. He urged as a remedy
that the bar assert itself in aggressive and effective oppo-
sition to tliese demoralizing political conditions and ten-

Mr. Bingham made a number of notable contril)utions
to the literature of legal biography between 1880 and
1892. Among the pi'ominent lawyers and judges as to
whom he prepared extended memorials were Andrew
Salter Woods, 1880, Oilman IVIai-ston and Nathaniel Wait
Westgate, 1887, John Hatch George, 1888, and William
Spencer Ladd, 1892. Mr. Bingham's method in biography
was to subordinate what are conunonly made prominent as
biograpliical dates, statistics, facts, and events in the career
of his subject, and to devote most of his attention to char-
acter analysis and to the relations of his subject with
important events and measures.

He was not an infrequent contributor to periodical lit-
erature. Among liis more carefully prepared political
essays might be mentioned an article in the Manchester
Union^ February 14, 1883, under the title ^ Tlie Political
Situation," and one in the Riverside 3Iagazine of Concord,
in 1890, on "-The Issues at Stake," to wliich Senator
Chandler contributed a reply in the same publication.

In the long contest wliich was maintained between the
rival railroad systems in New Hampshire, occupying the
attention of the legislature and the courts from about
1870 to about 1890, ^Ir. Bingham was a conspicuous and
potent factor. This most important epoch in the indus-
trial, corporate, legislative, judicial, and political history
of the state has its own literature, which is as important
and interesting^ as it is voluminous. Mr. Bing-ham's elabo-
rate and exhaustive argument on the " Hazen " bill and
the "• Atherton " bill, nominally before the railroad com-


mittee of the house in 1887, but realh' before almost the
entire membership of the state government and the aux-
iliary forces, was one of the events of that remarkable ses-
sion. Many of his most carefully prepared, most character-
istic, and most effective arguments on tlie railroad issues
of those yeai'S were not reported for the press, or delivei'ed
by him in form for preservation. Others of his briefs and
arguments in that litigation are printed in papers and
pamphlets, but now buried in court files and the inmost


Online LibraryAlbert Stillman BatchellorAddress before the Grafton and Coös counties bar association at the meeting held at Woodsville → online text (page 1 of 2)