Jeremiah Mason.

Memoirs of Jeremiah Mason : reproduction of privately printed edition of 1873 online

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Reproduction of privately printed Edition of 1873
Illustrated and Annotated, with Enlarged Index

G. J. Clark of Kansas City, Mo.


8 Pemberton Sq.

Boston, Mass.

34 Pi






This book is gratefully inscribed by the editor and reviser to the first of the
"Noble Three Hundred" subscribers for the Memoir before publication, thus mak
ing its issue possible.

Among these are the following:

Wells H. Blodgett, St. Louis, and Hon. W. W. Graves, Jefferson City, both of
Mo.; Gardiner Lathrop, Chicago, E. B. Hamilton, Peoria, both of 111.; Harvey D.
Goulder, Cleveland, Mortimer Matthews, Cincinnati, both of 0.; Edgar T.
Brackett, Saratoga Springs, Julien T. Davies, N. Y. C., both of N. Y.; Jas.
Gay Gordon, Philadelphia, S. M. Hazlett, Pittsburg, both of Pa.; Hon. Robt.
F. Raymond, Boston, Wilmore B. Stone, Springfield, both of Mass.; Fred W.
Lawrence, Showhegan, W. R. Roix, Presque Isle, both of Me.; Daniel Davenport,
Bridgeport, Wm. H. Shields, Norwich, both of Conn.; Wm. P. Sheffield, Newport,
R. I.; Waldron M. Ward, Newark, N. J.; Hon. Wm. B. Sawyer, Concord, Irving
W. Drew, Lancaster, both of N. H.; Fred A. Baker, R. A. Parker, both of De
troit, Mich.; Messrs. Bouck, Hilton, Kluwin & Dempsey, Oshkosh, and Burr W.
Jones, Madison, all of Wis.; Wm. D. Mitchell, St. Paul, C. J. Rockwood, Min
neapolis, both of Minn.; A. G. Sampson, Davenport, W. E. Mitchell, Council
Bluffs, both of la.; Sharpless Walker, Miles City, Ransom Cooper, Great Falls,
both of Mont.; Jess Hawley, Boise, J. C. Rogers, Burley, both of Idaho; Geo. A.
Bangs, Grand Forks, S. D.; Clarence M. Beck, Salt Lake City, Utah; L. Ward
Bannister, Denver, Sam l H. Kinsley, Colorado Springs, both of Colo.; Jas. B.
Howe, Seattle, Chas. 0. Bates, Tacoma, both of Wash.; Wm. M. Abbott and S.
H. Derby, both of San Francisco, Calif.; F. Dumont Smith, Hutchinson, Kans.;
Harry Campbell, Tulsa, Okla.; E. J. Smith, Nashville, Marion Griffin, Memphis,
both of Tenn.; Hon. Nelson Phillips, Austin, F. M. Etheridge, Dallas, both of
Texas; David L. Withington, M. B. Henshaw, both of Honolulu, Hawaii Territory;
Herman Lewkowitz, Phoenix, Ariz.; Arthur F. Odlin, Arcadia, Fla.; also New
York Public Library and N. Y. Historical Society, both of N. Y. City; Ky. State
Library, Frankfort, Ky. The Biddle Law Library, Philadelphia, Pa. and Two
Hundred and Fifty more "immortals."



1. Mrs. Jerome Bonaparte, wife of the younger brother of Napoleon I, is
here meant. She was before marriage to Jerome Bonaparte, December, 1803,
Miss Elizabeth Patterson of Baltimore, Md. They were divorced in 1805. Note
"b," p. 68.

2. The same person, Mrs. Jerome Bonaparte, is meant, instead of Mariae
Rose Josephine, wife of Napoleon Bonaparte, at page 73, Note "a."

3. Read "Wirt" instead of "Wist," note "c," 2nd word, p. 187.

4. Read "us" instead of "as," 6th line; and "our" instead of "out," llth
line, p. 198.


I was asked by my friend, Mr. Robert Means Mason, to prepare
from materials furnished by him, a Memoir of his father, Mr. Jeremiah
Mason. He was desirous that such of his father s descendants as had
never seen him should have some more distinct impression of what
manner of man he was than could be gathered from memory and
tradition. I readily complied with his request, as I had known his
father in the last years of his life, and retained a fresh impression of
his peculiar traits of mind and character, as well as a grateful sense
of his kindness to me personally. It will be borne in mind that this
Memoir is privately printed, and intended only for a limited circle of
readers; it thus has more of Mr. Mason s domestic correspondence
than would have been proper in a published work.

I have been assisted in my task by many of Mr. Mason s surviv
ing friends ; among them, Mr. Daniel M. Christie, of Dover, N. H. ;
Mr. Samuel P. Long, formerly of Portsmouth, N. H., now of Boston;
Mr. John P. Lord, of South Berwick, Maine, Mr. Ebenezer Wheel
wright, formerly of Portsmouth, N. H., and Mr. Lory Odell and Mr.
W. H. Y. Hackett, both of Portsmouth, N. H. To the last named
gentleman I am under peculiar obligations, as he has answered my
frequent inquiries, and obtained information for me, with a zeal and
readiness which nothing but a warm interest in the subject could have

My work, as it went on, was submitted to the inspection of Mr.
R. M. Mason, and has throughout profited by his judgment and taste.

G. S. HILLARD. ( a )
BOSTON, June, 1873.

( a ) George Stillman Hillard, an American lawyer and author, was born at
Machias, Maine, on the 22nd of September, 1808; after graduation at Harvard


College, in 1828, he taught in the Round Hill School at Northampton, Massa
chusetts; graduated at the Harvard Law School in 1832, and in 1833 was ad
mitted to the bar in Boston; entered into a partnership with Charles Sumner;
was a member of the State House of Representatives in 1836 ; of the State Senate
in 1850; of the State Constitutional Convention, in 1853; and was United States
Attorney for Massachusetts, 1866-70. He devoted a large portion of his time to
literature, receiving high commendation from C. H. Hill, a compentent critic, for
the literary merit of this Memoir, and as a legislator won warm commendation
from Daniel Webster. In 1833 he edited the Christian Register. Subsequently
he became associated with Mr. Sumner in the publication of the Jurist (1829-43),
a legal journal to which Charles Sumner, Simon Greenleaf and Theron Metcalf
contributed; and from 1856-61, owned an interest in the Boston Courier, of which
he was associate editor until he retired at the beginning of the Civil War. In
1847 he delivered a course of lectures before the Lowell Institute. Trinity gave
him the degree of LL. D., in 1857. His addresses include a 4th of July Oration
(Boston, 1836), Dangers and Duties of the Mercantile Profession, delivered before
the Mercantile Library Association (1850), and an oration before the N. Y. Pil
grim Society (1851), a eulogy on Daniel Webster (1852). He was the author of
the privately printed Memoirs of James Brown, and of Jeremiah Mason, and a
Life of Captain John Smith for Spark s American Biography; published the Prac
tical Works of Edmund Spencer, with a critical introduction (1832) ; a transla
tion of Guizot s Essay* on the Character and Influence of George Washington
(1840); a Memorial of Daniel Webster; and Six Months in Italy (1853); Life
and Campaigns of George Bi. McClellan (Philadelphia, 1856) ; Political Duties of
the Educated Classes, a pamphlet (Boston, 1866), and Life of George Tichnor,
with Mrs. George Tichnor, (Boston, 1873). He also published Selections from the
Writings of Walter Savage Landor (1856) ; besides a series of School readers and
many articles in periodicals and encyclopedias. He died in Boston, January
21, 1879.


This Reproduction of the Memoir of Mr. Mason has been undertaken, for the
reason that it is believed, the delineation of the career of the greatest com
mon-law lawyer this country has produced, cannot but be helpful to the busy
lawyer of today. The edition of 1873, printed by the family, in a limited 200-copy
edition, for private circulation, has become exceedingly scarce, and consequently
very expensive, varying in value from $40 to $60 per copy, one copy, inter
leaved with cuts, and bound in two volumes, selling recently to a leading Mis
souri lawyer for $125.

Mr. Mason s superiority as a lawyer lay in his solid qualities, exact knowl
edge of the law, and great skill in applying it. An expert in examination and
cross-examination, he drew from a witness, just what he desired and no more.
He was enabled to do this as he knew exactly what he wanted. He never went
to trial without talking with his witnesses, beforehand, and, therefore, knew what
they were going to say. He was a profound student of human nature, never
perturbed, of unerring judgment, and possessed rare common sense, an "un
common" endowment. While not an orator, in the common acceptation of that
term, he ranked not with Erskine, Brougham, Pinkney, Webster and Choate, but
rather with the three greatest verdict winners in the history of the profession,
Dunning, Scarlett and Luther Martin.

The author believes that the careful study and appropriation of the knowl
edge and methods of the great masters in the exacting profession of the law,
cannot but be beneficial to the practitioner of today. We know of no better model,
in all the elements that lead to success, than Mr. Mason. A close study of this
Memoir, will lead any careful student, it is believed, to the same conclusion. A
somewhat extended study of the lives of judges and lawyers during the last
twenty-five years, over a period covering five hundred years of time, has pro
foundly impressed us with the fact that nearly all of our masters in the law,
have familiarized themselves with the methods of their predecessors and con
temporaries. Especially is this true of Erskine, Brougham, Romilly, and Scarlett
of England; and Wirt, Pinkney, Webster, Choate and Prentiss, of America.


This edition is limited to 1,500 numbered copies. Fifty-one illustrations have
been added, and ninety-eight annotations to the text (including the Latin trans
lations), which it is believed will enliven and illumine the work. The Arabic
figures in parentheses, throughout the text, indicate the bottom of the page in
the 1873 edition. This double paging makes either edition available for his
torical reference. The author s notes are indicated by lower-case letters of the
alphabet, as distinguished from Mr. Hillard s notes, in the original edition, in
dicated by Arabic figures.

For a cursory view of Mr. Mason s life and work, examine his Autobiography,
pp. 1-36, inclusive. While it covers but twenty-nine of his eighty years of life, it
is first-hand information, modestly told. Study, also, John P. Lord s Recollections,
pp. 43-45, inclusive, for a glimpse of Mr. Mason s office methods; the Dartmouth
College Case, pp. 162-167, inclusive, to observe the grasp of the great principles in
volved in that epochal case; his Eminence as a Lawyer, by Geo. S. Hillard, showing
wherein he excelled others in his legal acumen, pp. 366-384, inclusive; Webster s
Memorial Address, pp. 390-405, inclusive, for a resume of his entire life; and
Rev. J. H. Morison s letter to R. M. Mason, pp. 427-432, inclusive, for a reminiscent
communication of incidents and anecdotes.

Thanks are due Hon. Oliver H. Dean, President of the Kansas City School of
Law, the Nestor of the Kansas City Bar, for the Introduction to the Memoir,
which he was kind enough to prepare, amid the exacting cares of a busy pro
fession; and to Charles M. Ingraham, Esq., not only a leading member of our
local Bar, but a connoisseur in the classics, for translating the many Latin pas
sages abounding in the work. While much labor and time have been expended,
in putting forth this reprint, upon the whole, it has been a work of pleasure and

Kansas City, Mo., Dec. 10, 1917.



When we record the life of a person which has been particularly honorable
and useful, whose influence has exerted itself in a valuable way in many im
portant phases of our history, whose principal features furnish inspiration and
courage to all who may study it, and when in that study is found much to im-
mitate and when also, in that study is discovered a mind that is broad and gen
erous and through which our own is broadened and softened, what better work
can be undertaken than to publish the history and merits of such a life?

The best view that can be obtained of times and conditions is found in the
biographies and autobiographies of the men who prominently figured in their
times. The world would be dark as to many things if it were not for Plutarch s
Lives; and would not much be lost to us if we were not brought, by biography,
in close contact with the work of the men who performed influential parts in the
formative period of the American Republic?

The great experiment, as it may be truly said to have been an experiment,
to launch in the Western world a Republican form of government, in which in
dividual liberty would be combined with safety and order, was fraught with many
difficulties and dangers. The experiment had miserably failed in previous times.
The first forty years of our own history was filled with doubts; and arguments
were frequent, constant, why our form of government could, and ought, to con
tinue to exist. Washington in his Farewell Address recognized this doubt. He said:

"Is there a doubt, whether a common government can embrace so
large a sphere ? Let experience solve it. To listen to mere speculation, in
such a case, were criminal. We are authorized to hope, that a proper or
ganization of the whole, with the auxiliary agency of governments for the
respective subdivisions, will afford a happy issue to the experiment. It
is well worth a fair and full experiment. With such powerful and ob
vious motives to union affecting all parts of our country, while ex
perience shall not have demonstrated its impracticability, there will al
ways be reason to distrust the patriotism of those who, in any quarter,
may endeavor to weaken its bands."


The American people had secured for themselves in 1787 a written con
stitution which was, as Marshall stated, (Marbury v. Madison, 1 Cranch, 137)
"deemed the greatest improvement on political institutions" and in that con
stitution fundamental rights were guaranteed and provisions made against
invasion of those rights. The value of that constitution had not yet come to
be understood by the American people as a whole. It is true that it embodied
the aspirations and highest ideals of the centuries, and yet to what extent it
could be relied on to protect the people themselves from the ever changing and
fluctuating popular passions was not understood. To many the argument was
that the constitution furnished simply suggestions and recommendations for
the conduct of legislative bodies, which might be adopted, observed or ignored;
that the Congress could if it chose so to do, violate the most solemn compacts
and set aside the most sacred guaranties; and that the Legislatures of the
State could do the same thing.

There was then as there always will be, the highest impatience exhibited
when the courts set aside and declare invalid hasty and inconsiderate legisla
tion. The courts themselves were, and will be, brought under criticism. And
sometimes have shown themselves exceedingly weak in such criticisms, and at
other times, they have exhibited the highest courage.

The controlling proposition of all was that each individual was possessed
of the right to the highest liberty for the use of his brain and brawn, that could
be accorded to man, and the only restraints thereon were those that were made
necessary in order to assure to others a like liberty. The whole scheme of gov
ernment rested upon this underlying thought. The guarantee to the individual
to local self government in the states, the guarantees of trials by juries, liberty
of speech and the press, religious freedom, protection of private property from
governmental appropriation without compensation, provisions against discrimina
tory legislation, and provisions for the equality or rights all these and more
were established to make safe and valuable the great underlying purpose. Pro
visions, too, were made for the entry of other co-equal states into the union,
which would be Republican in form and substance. This, as Wilson, one of the
framers of the constitution declared, was a great discovery in political science.
It prepared the way for the great growth by states of the American Republic


and in that growth it found constantly increasing strength, usefulness and power..

We find in the subject of these memoirs the intellectual, intimate and warm
personal friend of Story and Webster, both of whom looked upon him as one
of the wisest, greatest and most unselfish of patriots. They all profoundly
believed in the value of the American Constitution. Story became its great com
mentator, and the other two its great defenders. We find the arguments fur
nished for the sanctity of contracts and their security from invasion by er
ratic, unjust and unfair state legislation, furnished in the first instance by the
other two, each of them generously giving to the other the credit for doing
the superior work; and after the lapse of many years, who can properly appre
ciate the value of Marshall s, Story s and Washington s opinions in the Dart
mouth College case? Who can, in view of their subsequent application to in
numerable cases, Federal and State, estimate the injury that would have probably
resulted to public and private credit had that decision been the reverse of what
it was ?

Out of this case necessarily grew the proposition that the charter of a
private corporation is a three-fold contract protected by our Supreme law: First,
between the State and the corporation; second, between the corporation and its
stockholders; and third, between the State and the stockholders. It is a propo
sition so universally employed that its origin and value as a basic legal principle
are not much considered. If Jeremiah Mason had done naught else but to have
contributed to this legal conclusion he would be entitled to our lasting gratitude.

We find the subject of this life early advocating, with the ability possessed
only by him, the necessity of preserving that division of our political magistracy
created between the Legislative, Judicial and Executive Departments, he con
tending that it was distinctly secured in our form of government and necessary
for its safety. This was not fully understood in Colonial times, and not generally
in our early constitutional history

These men, Story, Webster and Mason each and all born in restricted sur
roundings, illustrated in their lives that when nature had richly endowed men,
the fullest liberty for the exercise of such endowments should be furnished by
our governmental institutions; that society, itself, could not otherwise obtain

what was best for itself.


The philosophy of our governmental institutions necessarily is that no in
dividual can in the affairs of life succeed without benefiting his fellowmen. If
a man is a great artist, poet, writer, educator, surgeon, physician, inventor, or
scientist, his work must result for the benefit of humanity. If a man is a suc
cessful farmer, it is because he cultivates his fields intelligently, for the benefit
of his fellowmen, who will consume what they bring forth. If he is a successful
manufacturer and establishes great industries, he does it only because he man
ufactures something the public highly needs. If a successful merchant, he buys
wisely and sells better goods at a more satisfactory price to his patrons goods
needed to satisfy the wants or tastes of the people. If a railroad is built, a gas
or electric light plant is established, or telephone or telegraph lines are con
structed across the country, or ships are built to navigate our lakes or seas, or
boats, our rivers, all by private enterprise, it is because there is need for them,
and the public is benefited by them. If great financial institutions arise, they
are based upon the prosperity of our country and are a necessary part of its
growth. It follows, that every kind of work, business enterprise, profession and
pursuit, is administered to meet a public want, and if that want does not exist,
in any of these things, there can be no success in it. It follows, then, that in
the final analysis, all that society gets for its own uses and benefit, it gets almost
wholly through the private administration of private affairs for the social good.
It follows, too, that the individual who honestly works with the greatest industry
and who brings to that work the highest intelligence, or even genius in the end,
is performing the highest and best work for society as its chief beneficiary.

When a man by nature has been given great talents, when through those
talents he has overcome the difficulties which poverty threw around his early
career, when he has used those talents in a learned profession, and by them has
ennobled it, when he was so fortunate as to have lived during a constructive
period of American History, and when he could exert upon courts, senates, leg
islatures and the people broad, patriotic and profound views of government, and
when he exhibited, in all that he did and said, a thorough belief in our political
structure, and could defend it and spread its value among every class as only
a few of his day had the ability to do, it is well to turn to his life and hold it up
to public view.


The country owes much to Jeremiah Mason, and a generous and gracious
task is performed by Mr. Clark, when new attention is called by him to his worthy
and useful life.

Kansas City, Mo., Dec. 14, 1917.




Autobiography 1


Remarks on the Autobiography. Mr. Mason s removal to Portsmouth. His
Marriage. His Professional Success. Appointed Attorney General of New
Hampshire. Friendship with Mr. Webster. Mr. Lord s Reminiscences. . 37


Letter to Dr. Jesse Appleton. Politics of New Hampshire. Mr. Mason
chosen United States Senator. Residence in Washington during the First
and Second Sessions of the Thirteenth Congress. Letters to Mrs. Jere
miah Mason and to Dr. Jesse Appleton. ....... 46


Letter from Mr. Christopher Gore. Letter to Mr. Rufus King. Mr. Mason s
Congressional Life till the Close of the Fourteenth Congress. Domestic
Correspondence. Correspondence with Dr. Jesse Appleton, Rufus King,
and Christopher Gore. Mr. Mason declines the Office of Chief Justice of
the Superior Court of New Hampshire. 117


Mr. Mason resigns his Seat in the Senate of the United States. Letters to
Christopher Gore and Rufus King, informing them of the Fact, and their
Replies. Letter to Dr. Jesse Appleton on the same Subject. Portsmouth
in the Early Part of the Century. Mr. Mason s Professional and Domestic


Life. The Dartmouth College Case. Correspondence to the Close of the
Year 1818 with Christopher Gore, Rufus King, David Daggett, and Judge
Joseph Story. 150


Correspondence during the Years 1819 and 1820. Letters to and from Rufus
King, Christopher Gore, Daniel Webster, Dr. Jesse Appleton, and Judge
Joseph Story. Mr. Mason a Member of the New Hampshire House of
Representatives in 1820. Report and Resolutions upon certain Resolutions
of the State of Virginia upon the admission of Missouri, sent to the Gov
ernor of New Hampshire. ....... . 204


Correspondence to the Close of 1824. Letters to and from Rufus King,
Christopher Gore, Judge Joseph Story, and Daniel Webster. Mr. Mason,
in 1824, a Candidate for the United States Senate. Causes of his Defeat. 251


Mr. Mason s Life and Correspondence from the Close of 1824 till his Removal
to Boston in 1832. Death of his son Alfred. Chosen President of the
Branch Bank of the United States, at Portsmouth. His Policy in Manag
ing its Business. Opposition awakened by his Course. Successful De
fense against the Charges brought against him 291


Mr. Mason s Life and Correspondence, from his Removal to Boston in 1832
till his Death. Professional and Social Life in Boston. Death of his son
James. Retirement from Active Professional Labor. Declining Years.
Death and Character. 333


Proceedings in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, on the Death of the
Honorable Jeremiah Mason. 387


Complete Index. Synopsis of Main Events in Jeremiah Mason s Career,
under "M," in Index . 477



Abbott, Lawrence 194

Adams, John Quincy 354

Ames, Fisher 322

Appleton, Rev. Jesse 98

Bartlett, Ichabod 194

Binney, Horace 194

Burr, Aaron 34

Calhoun, John C 194

Choate, Ruf us 354

Clay, Henry 258

Coleman, William 354

Crawford, William H 258

Daggett, David 354

Dennie, Joseph 258

Dexter, Samuel 258

Everett, Edward 194

Gore, Christopher 322

Hamilton, Alexander 258

Hoar, E. Rockwell 354

Jackson, Andrew . 194

Online LibraryJeremiah MasonMemoirs of Jeremiah Mason : reproduction of privately printed edition of 1873 → online text (page 1 of 46)