D. Hamilton (Duane Hamilton) Hurd.

History of Plymouth County, Massachusetts : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men (Volume 2) online

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in after-life would seem to render it certain that he
could have been no mean proficient. His part at
commencement was a syllogistic disputation, with
Asaph Churchill, on the thesis, " Gravitas non est
esseutialis materix. proprietas." After leaving col-
lege he read law with John Davis, of Plymouth,
afterwards judge of the United States District Court,
was admitted to the bar in November, 1792, and,
soon alter, opened an office in his native place.

He soon attracted attention in his profession, and
the estimation in which he was held by the public,
and by those who had the appointing power in the
State, appears in the many offices which were from
time to time conferred upon him.

He was nine years a representative in the General
Court, seven from Bridgewater and two from Boston ;
a member of the Eighth Congress of the United
States, senator from Plymouth County from 1813 to
1814, and a member of the Executive Council from
1814 to 1820. On the abolition of the old County
Court of Common Pleas, and the establishment of a
Circuit Court of Common Pleas in 1811, he, though
not of the same political party with the ruling power,
was appointed one of the justices of the new court
for Southern Circuit, comprehending the counties of
Plymouth, Bristol, and Barnstable, and, on the res-
ignation of Thomas B. Adams, succeeded him as
chief justice. In 1822 he was chosen State treas-
urer, and held the office for five consecutive years.
Besides these offices he received appointments under

special commissions. He was appointed, with Ed-
ward H. Robbins, of Miltou, and Nicholas Tilling-
hast, of Taunton, in 1801, to settle a disputed bound-
ary-line between Massachusetts and Rhode Island ;
and in 1823, with Mr. Robbins and George Bliss, of
Springfield, to settle the line between Massachusetts
and Connecticut. His last appointment was chair-
man of the first commission for exploring the country
from Boston to Albany for a railroad. 1

The performance of the various duties of these
high and responsible offices was confided to compe-
tent and safe hands. Judge Mitchell was a man of
great industry, quickness of perception, and caution,
and united to a discriminating judgment the attent-
iveness and precision of the mathematician. His
habits of inquiry were so remarkable that he was
never satisfied with investigation, nor desisted from
it, so long as he had less than all the light he could
obtain on the subject. He was a man that did, and
did well, whatever he undertook.

As a lawyer he was distinguished for sound learn-
ing and fair and honorable practice. The late Chief
Justice Parsons, not long before his death, at an
evening party in Plymouth, one of whom was the
venerable and Rev. Dr. Kendall, when the name of
Nahum Mitchell was mentioned, "spoke of him
freely as a man and lawyer. He said it would be
improper to draw comparisons between him and other
gentlemen of the Old Colony bar. There were some
of them very respectable; but certainly Mr. Mitchell
was among the very best, and that no one was more
accurate and discriminating. He had been in the
way of witnessing his accuracy and discernment,
having been frequently associated with him in the
same cause. He spoke of him for a quarter of an
hour in a strain of high encomium."

His qualifications as a lawyer made him a good
judge; and such he was generally esteemed. It was,
indeed, sometimes said of him that he lacked prompt-
ness and decision. This, however, was only in ap-
pearance : the opinion probably arose from a desire
ou his part to do right, which led him to defer judg-
ment until the scales of justice ceased to vibrate, aud
he could see a clear preponderance.

He was in Congress but for one term. There he
was in a small minority, and did not participate much,
if any, in debate, but gave close attention to the busi-
ness of the House, particularly such as related to
matters of finance, and was active and influential on

The principal measures discussed and acted on

1 Judge Mitchell waa also an active member uf tho Massa-
chusetts Historical Sooioty.




while he was a member were: an amendment of the
Constitution requiring the electors of President to
Dame, od distinct ballots, the persons voted for as
President and Vice-President ; the impeachment of
Judge Chase ; and the purchase of Louisiana from
France. On all these questions he, with a majority
of the Massachusetts delegation, voted in the nega-
tive, against the last because he had a doubt (in
which Mr. Jefferson, the President, participated, but
yielded to the pressure of circumstances) of the right
of the treuty-making power, under the Constitution,
to buy territory to be admitted into the Union as a
State, and also because of an uncertainty as to our
title under the treaty of cession.

After attending to all his official duties and corre-
spondence, he found himself with many leisure hours
on hand. These he employed in reading classic
authors, among them Ovid's " Epistolas Heroidum,"
in the original, — an interesting book, — which " he
found, iu a bookstore in Georgetown, 6towed away
among a heap of second-hand volumes;" in translat-
ing the works of Horace into English verse ; and
writing an interesting and amusing poem, in one
canto, called the " Indian Pudding." He rarely
engaged in any amusement, except an evening game
of chess with Samuel W. Dana, a member of Congress
from Connecticut; " in which," he said in a letter to
a relative, " I am generally couqueror, and have
therefore become more skillful thau my teacher."

He was a great lover of music, and from youth to
old age studied it as a science. More than fifty years
ago he commenced the publication of the " Bridge-
water Collection of Sacred Music," of which he was
the principal editor, although his name never appeared
in the title-page. The work passed through nearly
thirty editions, and rendered essential service in im-
proving the then-existiug style of music, by substitut-
ing for tunes that were neither dignified, solemn, or
decent such as were chaste, classical, and sufficiently
simple to be adapted to the wants of a worshiping
assembly. Many pieces of his composition obtained
a wide-spread circulation, and were generally per-
formed, — among them, an anthem, called " Lord's
Day," and a piece of several quarto pages, beginning
with the words, " Jesus shall reign." He also pub-
lished a series of articles iu the Boston Musical
Gazette on the history of music, and wrote a treatise
on harmony, which a competent judge said, if pub-
lished, " would have done him no discredit."

The success of his efforts for reform were exten-
sively visible, and especially in the church, where he
was a constant worshiper. There he was one of the
choir for more than a quarter of a century ; and as-

sisted by his relative, the late Bartholomew Brown,
who was pre-eminent for the power and excellence of
his voice, and the late Rev. Dr. James Flint, for
fourteen years the minister of the parish, and others,
he trained it to a degree of perfection iu psalmody
rarely equaled, and gave it an impulse in the right
direction that is felt to the present day.

He was much of an antiquarian, as is evinced by
his well-written " History of Bridgewater," which is
a monument to his memory that will endure for cen-
turies, and, it may be hoped, as long as the art of
printing. That was a work of vast labor. Its nu-
merous scattered materials were to be searched for and
gathered up from the State, county, town, church, aud
family records, and other sources, and reduced to a
sy.-tem. This he did with great care, good judgment,
and accuracy, — considering the peculiar liability to
mistakes in a work of the kind ; and has thus fur-
nished the people of the Bridgewaters with a house-
hold book, valuable now aDd hereafter as a repository
of historical and genealogical facts most interesting to
them and their posterity.

His private character is a model for imitation. He
was affable and familiar ; his manners were simple and
easy ; his temper gentle, even, and cheerful ; and his
whole deportment such as to iuspire confidence and
respect. Hospitality reigned iu his house, and cheer-
fulness beamed from his countenance on his happy
family, aud was reflected back by them. He was
eminently a man of peace, and all his life long ex-
erted a peculiarly happy faculty he had to promote it
in his own neighborhood, and elsewhere within the
sphere of his influence.

Hon. Abraham Holmes 1 was born in Rochester,
June 9, 1754. He was admitted to the bar of Plym-
outh County at the April term, 1800. He was then
nearly forty-six years of age. He had previously
been president of the Court of Sessious, aud though
not regularly educated for the profession, the mem-
bers of the bar voted his admissiou iu consideration
of " his respectable official character, learning, and
abilities, on condition that he study three mouths iu
some attorney's office." He might be called, with
great propriety, a self-made lawyer. He coutinued in
practice till August, 1835, when eighty-one years of
age, with a considerable degree of reputation and
success. Even when thus advanced in life he was a
regular attendant upon the sessions of the court, and
was regarded as an acute and learned lawyer. In his
intercourse with the bar he was courteous and famil-
iar, especially toward the younger members.

i By Rev. N. W. Everett.



He was full of anecdote and traditional lore,
abounding in wit and humor. His mind was well
stored with facts relating to the older members of the
bar, and so late as June, 1834, when eighty years
of age, he delivered a very interesting address at New
Bedford to the bar of Bristol County, in which he
discoursed of the rise and progress of the profession
in Massachusetts, with sketches of the early lawyers,
of the necessity of such an order of men, and upon
the duties of the profession.

He was a member of the State Convention to re-
vise the Constitution in 1820, and took a part in the
debates. He was a member of the Executive Council
of Massachusetts for the political year, May, 1821-22,
and May, 1822-23, when Governor Brooks was in

He furnished some items for " Tudor's Life of
James Otis," wrote an essay on the nature and uses
of a " Writ of Right," and he left in manuscript
many interesting reminiscences of the olden times.

His writings show great ability. Rev. Jonathan
Bigelow, who knew him well, said, " If he had only
been favored with a liberal education, it would have
been his own fault if he had not become the chief
justice of Massachusetts."

After his decease, which occurred Sept. 7, 1839,
the members of the bar of the counties of Bristol,
Plymouth, and Barnstable, at a meeting held at
Plymouth, Oct. 25, 1839, paid a most respectful trib-
ute to his talents, learning, and character, and adopted
a resolution expressing a high sense of his profes-
sional worth, as a man " whose mind was enriched
with various learning, whose memory was a reposi-
tory of the most valuable reminiscences, whose legal
attainments gave him high professional eminence,
and whose social qualities were an ornament of the
circle of friendship during a long life of integrity and

Mr. Holmes was one of those grand old characters
whose history it is delightful to contemplate. Inti-
mately associated with the Otises, of Barnstable, and
the Freemans, of Sandwich, — those giants of the
Revolutionary period, — he struck hard blows for the
cause of freedom. In old age he writes, " The retro-
spection of these olden times resuscitated all the feel-
ings, sensations, and animations of 1774, such as
none can feel in the same degree who did not live at
the time and participate in the fears and hopes, toils
and dangers of those times. The contemplation of
those events gives me a satisfaction unknown to the
miser in counting his hoards, the agriculturist, when
his corn and wine increaseth, or the merchant, when
his ships return laden with the riches of the East."

Through life he held a correspondence with the
greatest and best men of our country, and letters still
in existence show that they felt honored by his

Hon. Charles Jarvis Holmes, 1 son of the
preceding, was born at Rochester, May 9, 1790.

He studied law in the office of his father, in Roch-
ester, and was admitted to the Plymouth Couuty bar
in 1812, just before the commencement of the second
war with Great Britain. He practiced his profession
in his native town more than a quarter of a century,
identified with the feeliugs and interests aud eujoy-
ing the confidence of his fellow-citizens. He repre-
sented Rochester in the Legislature of Massachusetts
in the years 1816-17, 1819-20, 1824, 1820-27,
1831-32. He was a senator from Plymouth Couuty
in 1829-30, a member of the Executive Council in
1835, aod an elector of President and Vice-Presi-
dent in 1836. He filled all these offices while re-
siding in Rochester.

In December, 1838, with a view to more extended
professional practice, he removed to Taunton. In
1842 he was appointed by President Tyler collector
of customs for Fall River, to which place he removed
his residence. He remained there till towards the
close of his life. He filled at various periods other
offices of some importance, as master in chancery,
commissioner of bankruptcy, etc. All the duties of
these offices he faithfully discharged. He was a man
of ardent friendship, genial temperament, of a high
sense of honor. His intellectual powers were strong
and well cultivated, although he was not educated at
college. He was a careful reader of the English
classics, and a thorough student of the law. In po-
litical life he was ardent, sanguine, strong in his con-
victions, and indefatigable in maintaining them. lie
wrote his own epitaph, closing with these words :
" By profession a lawyer ; by practice a peacemaker."
He died at Fall River, May 13, 1859, aged sixty-

Thomas Buroess 1 was born in Wareham, Nov.
29, 1778; died in Providence, R. I., May 18, 185G.
He was distinguished through life by scrupulous in-
tegrity, by habits of great industry, and by the con-
scientious discharge of every trust, as well as by emi-
nent sagacity and prudence, merited and acquired the
confidence of his fellow-citizens in a measure which
is accorded only to the most blameless. His counsel
was sought with a peculiar reliance on its value, and
the weightiest affairs and the most delicate duties
were intrusted to him without apprehension. A

1 By Rev. N. W. Everett.



judge of the Municipal Court of Providence, an office
which he held from the organization of the city gov-
ernment till within a few years of his death, he pre-
sided over the distribution of the estates of that large
and wealthy community with more than satisfaction
to those whose interests demanded an exact and
watchful guardian. He was also judge of the Com-
mon Pleas till a new organization of the courts super-
seded that office, which had never been in wiser or
purer hands. His professional practice, with his
other undertakings, secured to him, under the bless-
ing of God, a prosperous position, and he was able
and ready to lend cheerful and considerate assistance
to those who needed his kindness, and to bear his
part in works of public beneficence. The honorable
profession of the law has seldom furnished a worthier
example of the Christian virtues than his character
displayed from youth to age, — uprightness, fidelity,
discretion, diligence, and the fear of God. His son,
Thomas Mackie Burgess, was mayor of the city of
Providence, R. I., for ten successive years, and his
sons, George and Alexauder, became bishops in the
Episcopal Church.

Tuistam Burgess, the " Bald Eagle of the
North," was born in Rochester, Feb. 26, 1770 ; died
Oct. 13, 1853. He graduated at Brown Uuiversity
in 1796, with the first honors of his class. He
studied law in Providence, R. I., and was admitted to
practice there in 1799. Soon after his admission to
the bar, while pleadiug a case in one of the smaller
courts, beiug severe and personal in his remarks, he
was interrupted by the judge, who asked him if he
knew where he was and to whom he was talking.
" Oh, yes," said Mr. Burgess : "I am in an inferior
court, addressing an inferior judge, in the inferior
State of Rhode Island." In 1815 he was made chief
justice of the State. In 1825 he was elected to
Congress. He took his seat in the United States
House of Representatives in December of that year,
and in a few days offered an anti-slavery petitiou
from Salem, in this State. At ouce the sharp,
piercing voice of John Randolph was heard : " Mr.
Speaker, I understand that the petitiou of the gentle-
man is from Salem, and I move that it be referred to
the committee of the whole ou the state of the
Uniou." Mr. Burgess sprang to his feet and cried,
imitating Mr. Randolph's peculiar voice exactly,
" Mr. Speaker, and I move that the gentleman from
Roanoke be referred to the same committee."

"When Greek meets Greek, then comes the tug of war."

Iq a contest with the distinguished representative
from South Carolina, he went on to say that Mr. Mc-

Duffie had not adopted the style of speaking comnini)
to scholars and gentlemen. The following may be taken
as a sample of his language in reply: "It would (and
the geutleman certainly knows it) be very unbecoming
in me to say what might very appropriately be .-said of
him. The gentleman seems to claim the whole right to
himself. Pew men would, I believe, pirate upon his
property. The fee-simple of the honorable gentleman
in his principles, opinions, and thoughts, together
with his own manner of expressing them, will never
be feloniously invaded by any person of souud mind
and having the fear of God before his eyes. He says,
what he is, he is himself. Why, sir, I do not ques-
tion this. He is himself, and neither he nor any other
person will ever mistake him for anybody else. The
honorable gentleman need not fear being lost in the
ordinary samples of existence. His individuality is
secure. It is very probable there is but one specimen
in the whole mass of moral, intellectual, and physical
being. With what other thing can he be confounded ?
Men would as soon mistake the fiery element, or the
angry action and fiery visage of a wildcat, for the
quiet blood and peaceful countenance of the lamb."

The most famous encounter between Mr. Burgess
and Mr. Randolph occurred during a debate on the
tariff. Mr. Burgess having remarked, in the course
of his speech, that there was a disposition among some
gentlemen to support British interests in preference
to American, Mr. Randolph rose and interrupted him,
sayiug, "This hatred of aliens, sir, is the undecayed
spirit which called forth the proposition to enact the
alien and sedition law. I advise the gentleman from
Rhode Island to move a re-enactment of those laws,
to prevent the impudent foreigner from rivalling the
American seller. New England — what is she? Sir,
do you remember that appropriate exclamation, ' Dc-
lenda est Carthago?'" Mr. Burgess replied as fol-
lows : " Docs the gentleman mean to say, sir, New
England must be destroyed? If so, I will remind
him that the fall of Carthage was the precursor of
the fall of Rome. Permit mc to suggest, to him to
carry out the parallel. Further, sir, I wish it to be
distinctly understood that I am not bound by any rule
to argue against Bedlam ; but where I see anything
rational in the hallucinations of the gentleman, I will
answer them." At the command of the Speaker he
took his seat, remarking as he did so, " Perhaps it is
better, sir, that I should not go on." The next day
he resumed his speech on the subject, and referred to
Mr. Randolph as a spirit which exclaims at every
rising sun, " ' Hodie ! hodie ! Carthago delenda !
To-day I to-day let New England be destroyed !'
Sir, Divine Providence takes care of its own universe.



Moral monsters cannot propagate. Impotent of every-
thing but malevolence of purpose, they caunut other-
wise multiply miseries than by blaspheming all that is
pure, prosperous, and happy. Could demon propa-
gate demon, the universe might become a Pandemo-
nium ; but I rejoice that the Father of Lies can never
become the Father of Liars. One adversary of God
and man is enough for one universe. Too much —
oh ! how much too much — for one nation !"

Mr. McDuffie, by the part he took in this discus-
sion, came in also for a large share of Mr. Burgess'
notice, who introduced one of his speeches by saying
that the inhabitants of the sea sport only in foul
weather, and when " the winds and waters begin to
hold controversy" the whole population of the mighty
realm is awake and in motion. " Not merely the
nimble dolphin gives his bright eye and dazzling side
to the sunshine, but the black, uncouth porpoise
breaks above the waters, and flounces aud spouts and
goes down again. The foul cormorant, stretching his
long, lean wings, soars and sinks, piping shrill notes
to the restless waves. The haglet and cutwater spring
into flight, aod, dashing over the white crest of the
lofty billows, scream their half counter to the deep
bass of the mighty ocean." These were personal
references, called out, as he went on to say, by the
" wailing menaces, calumnies, and all the demonstra-
tions of outrageous excitement exhibited on that floor
by the gentleman from Virgiuia (Mr. Randolph), the
gentleman from South Carolina (Mr. McDuffie), and
the gentleman from New York (Mr. Cambreliog)."
He said he would defend New England, though he
would not take part in the contest of the two parties,
each of which had been assailing her ; " for when cat
and cat fly at each other, though the fur and skin may
suffer, yet what prudent boy will risk either hands or
eyes in parting the combatants, in any attempt to in-
terrupt the kitchen-yard melody of their courtship ?"

At the centennial celebration of Brown University,
Sept. 6, 1864, the Hon. John H. Clifford, in the
course of an eloquent address, said, " The brilliant
Burgess, our Professor of Rhetoric and Belles-Let-
tres, whose fame is bounded by no local limits, before
whose scathing retort in the Congress of the Uuited
States the Ishmaelite of Virginia statesmen, Randolph
of Roanoke, for the first time quailed and was for-
ever silenced."

The philippics of Demosthenes muy have produced
a greater effect upon his auditors, but from the time
when Chatham's thunder rolled through the corridors
of the British House of Commons until now, for
scorching invective that, like lightning, burns when it
strikes, Tristam Burgess stands peerless.

His biographer says, " The richness of his classical
and scriptural allusions was beyond that of his com-
peers. The acuteness of his logic was felt and ad-
mitted by all, even his opponents. The brilliancy of
his scholarship, the beauty of his allusions, his ex-
quisite ornamentation of his more finished efforts,
these are points that give him a far higher title to
remembrance than the deadly thrusts of his satire."

Zephaniah Swift 1 was born iu Wareham, Feb-
ruary, 1759, and died in Warren, Ohio, Oct. 27, 1823.
He was a graduate at Yale College iu 1778, and es-
tablished himself in the practice of the law at AVind-
hain, Coun. ; was a member of Congress from 171)3
to 1796 ; was secretary of the mission to France in
1800, and in 1801 he was elected a judge, and from
1806 to 1819 waa chief justice of the State of Con-
necticut. In 181-1 he was a member of the cele-
brated Hartford Convention. He published a " Digest
of the Law of Evideuce" and a " Treatise on Bills
of Exchange" in 1810, aud a " Digeat of the Laws
of Connecticut," 2 vols., 1823. Iu the celebrated
Bishop case, tried a few years ago, iu Norwich, Conn.,
Judge Culver, in quoting an opinion from him, styled
him "Connecticut's ablest jurist sixty years ago."
A master of jurisprudence and busy in the courts,
he had a hand and a heart for every grand moral
enterprise. When that glorious pulpit Titan, Lyman
Beecher, was stationed at Litchfield, Conn., in the
early days of the temperance reform, Judge Swift
was one of his chief supporters, and aided him when
his aid was invaluable. It was about this time that
Dr. Beecher published a volume of temperance ser-
mons that became famous throughout the world.

Seth Miller, Esq. — At the regular meeting of

Online LibraryD. Hamilton (Duane Hamilton) HurdHistory of Plymouth County, Massachusetts : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men (Volume 2) → online text (page 6 of 118)