Samuel A. (Samuel Abbott) Green.

Facts relating to the history of Groton, Massachusetts (Volume 2) online

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What alternative he had prepared in case of a rain, I know not.

As a judge, and at the same time the candidate of the
Democratic Party for Governor for many years, the rank and
file of the party came to regard Judge Morton as a man of fine
abilities and sterling integrity. His abilities were sturdy rather
than attractive. In this respect he was the opposite of Gov-
ernor Everett. In the canvass of 1839 Morton was elected
by one vote in a contest of unusual warmth. This election
removed him from the bench, much to his regret, it was said
as under the circumstances he could hardly hope for a re-
election. The House and Senate were controlled by the
Whigs, and the Governor was surrounded by a council com-
posed of Whigs. The Fifteen-Gallon Law was repealed and
in other respects the government was not different from what
it would have been had Mr. Everett been re-elected.

Governor Morton continued to be the Democratic candi-
date, and though defeated in 1840 and 1841 by John Davis,
he was again elected in 1843 by the Legislature, there having
been no choice by the people, a majority being required.
The Senate was Democratic by a considerable majority. The
House was equally divided at the opening of the session, and


there were four abolitionists who held the balance of power.
After several trials the Whigs succeeded in electing Daniel P.
King, of Danvers, by the help of one or more of the aboli-
tionists. There were several contested seats, and when the
house had been purged, as the process was called, the Demo-
crats were in a majority. The session was a short one. A
few political measures were passed, salaries were reduced, and
much below a reasonable compensation for those days even.
Governor Morton had a Democratic Council, but they were
not agreed in policy and the administration lost strength even
with Democrats. Its defeat, in the autumn was inevitable,
and Gov. Morton ceased to be a candidate for an office that
he had sought in twenty elections and gained in two. With
others I lost confidence in his ability, but that confidence
I afterwards regained.

He was a member of the Massachusetts Constitutional Con-
vention of 1853, and in that body his ability was conspicuous.
His style was clear and logical, and his processes of reason-
ing were legal and judicial in character. In his speeches he
avoided authorities and spurned notes. He prepared himself
by reading and reflection, and the arrangement was dictated
by the logic of the case. His speeches were the speeches of
a strong man, and he was a dangerous antagonist in debate.
His reasoning was faultless and he kept his argument free
from all surplus matter.

In a conversation that I once had with him at his home in
Taunton, he said that the best legal argument to which he
had ever listened was made by Samuel Dexter. As Governor
Morton had heard Pinckney, Wirt, Webster, Mason, Choate,
Curtis and many others, the praise of Dexter was not faint


The Election of 1840.

In the early summer of 1840 the great contest began, which
ended in the defeat of Mr. Van Buren and the election of


Gen. Harrison to the Presidency. The real issues were not
much discussed — certainly not by the Whigs. In reality the
results were due to the general prostration of business and
the utter discredit that had fallen upon General Jackson's pet
bank system. The Independent Treasury System, as it was
termed by Democrats, or the Sub-Treasury System, as it was
called by the Whigs, had not been tested.

The country was tired of experiments and all the evils,
which were many, that then afflicted the people, were attrib-
uted to the experiments of General Jackson in vetoing the
bills for the recharter of the United States Bank and for the
institution of the pet bank system. In truth the country was
wedded to the idea that the funds of the government should
be so placed that they could be used to facilitate business.
That idea and the practice arising from it were full of peril.
In the infancy of a country, when the resources are inade-
quate, a national bank, assuming that it is managed honestly
and wisely, may be an important aid, but time being given, it
will inevitably become a political machine in a country, like
the United States, where the political aspirations of the
people are active and the temptations to seek the aid of the
money power are always great. Even in modern times, with
a surplus of millions in the banks of the city of New York,
for which no proper use can be found, there are indications
of a purpose to return to the pet bank system under another

Gen. Harrison, the nominee of the Whig Party, was then
sixty-seven years of age by the record, but the public opin-
ion credited him with several more years. His mental pow-
ers were not of a superior quality, and his life had not been
of a sort to develop his faculties. He had done good service
in the Indian wars of the frontier and as commander at the
battle of Tippecanoe he had won a reputation as a soldier.
During the war of 1812, he commanded the army of the
Northwest, and with honor. He had had a seat in each
House of Congress, he had represented the government at
the capital of a South American Republic, and all with credit,
and all without distinction. His career had been sufficiently


conspicuous to justify his friends in eulogies in the party
papers and speeches; and neither as good poHcy nor just
treatment should his opponents have been betrayed into criti-
cisms of his military and civil life. The Democrats were un-
wise enough to raise an issue upon his military career, and
the result was greatly to their loss. His frontier life in a log
cabin was also the subject of ridicule at the opening of the
campaign. The Whigs accepted the issue, built log cabins
on wheels and drew them over the country from one mass
meeting to another. The unfortunate remark was made by a
writer or speaker that if Harrison had a log cabin and plenty
of hard cider he would be content. A barrel became the
emblem of the Whig Party. The log cabin was furnished
with a cider barrel at the door, and the emblematic barrel
was seen on cane heads and breast pins.

Mr. Webster struck a fatal blow at the error of the Demo-
cratic Party: — " Let him be the log cabin candidate. W^hat
you say in scorn we will shout with all our lungs. ... It did
not happen to me to be born in a log cabin ; but my elder
brothers and sisters were born in a log cabin raised amid the
snow drifts of New Hampshire, at a period so early that when
the smoke first rose from its rude chimney and curled over
the frozen hills there was no similar evidence of a white man's
habitation between it and the settlements on the rivers of
Canada. ... If ever I am ashamed of it, or if I ever fail in
affectionate remembrance of him who reared it, and defended
it against savage violence and destruction, cherished all the
domestic virtues beneath its roof, and through the fire and
blood of a seven years' Revolutionary war, shrunk from no
danger, no toil, no sacrifice to save his country and to raise
his children to a condition better than his own, may my name
and the name of my posterity be blotted forever from the
memory of mankind."

John Tyler of Virginia, was placed on the Whig ticket as
the candidate for Vice-President. Tyler had been a Demo-
crat and the opinions of the States Rights wing of the Demo-
cratic Party were his opinions, notwithstanding his associations
with the Whig Party. His nomination was due to the dispo-


sition to balance the ticket by selecting one of the candidates
from each v/ing of the party — and there are always two wings
to a party.

Of poetry the Whig writers furnished much more than was
enjoyed by Democrats. An effort was made to stay the tide
in favor of Harrison by poetry as well as by argument. The
effort was fruitless. The contest of 1840 had its origin in the
most distressing financial difficulties that ever rested upon
the country, and it was conducted on the part of the Whigs
by large expenditures of money, for those days, and with a
degree of hilarity and good nature that it is difficult now to
realize. This mav have been due to general confidence, and
to a consequent belief that a change of administration would
be followed by general prosperity.

The Whigs were not under the necessity of submitting ar-
guments to their followers, and the arguments of Democrats
were of no avail. The Whig papers in all parts of the coun-
try contained lists of names of Democrats who were support-
ing General Harrison. Occasionally the Democratic papers
could furnish a short list of Whigs who declared for Van
Buren in preference to Harrison. The most absurd stories
were told of the administration, and apparently they were ac-
cepted as truth. Charles J. Ogle, of Pennsylvania, delivered
a speech in the House of Representatives in which he mar-
shaled all the absurd stories that were afloat. He charged
among other things that Van Buren had sets of gold spoons.
The foundation for the statement was the fact that there were
spoons in the Executive Mansion that were plated or washed
with gold on the inside of the bowls. Those spoons were
there in General Grant's time, but so much like brass or
copper in appearance that one would hesitate about using
them. Another idle story believed by the masses was that
the Navy bought wood in New Orleans at a cost of twenty-
•' four dollars a cord and carried it to Florida for the use of
the troops during the Seminole war of 1837-8. Isaac C.
Morse, of Louisiana, was one of the Congressional bearers or
mourners at the funeral of John Ouincy Adams, in 1848. He
was a Whig member and his district in 1840 was on the Texas


frontier. At one of the evening sessions of mourning, while
the Committee was in Boston, he gave an account of his cam-
paign, and he recited a speech made by a young orator who
went out with him as an aid. The speech opened thus :
" Fellow Citizens; who is Daniel Webster? Daniel Webster
is a man up in Massachusetts making a dictionary. Who is
General Harrison? Everybody knows who General Harrison
is. He is Tippecanoe and Tyler too. But who is Martin
Van Bulen? Martin Van Bulen ! He is the man who bought
the wood in the Orleans, paid twenty-four dollars a cord for
it, carried it round to Florida and had to cut down the trees
to land it." A fellow in the crowd cried out, " Carrying coals
to Newcastle." " Yes," said the speaker, " them coals he
carried to Newcastle. I don't know so much about the coals,
but about the wood I've got the documents."

The general public was not only disposed to accept every
wild statement, but the average intelligence was much below
the present standard, and the means of communication were
poor. If, however, there had been no canvass, the overthrow
of Van Buren would have occurred. The defeat of the United
States Bank, and the failure of the pet bank system, had been
attended by disorders in the finances, the ruin of manu-
factures, a reduction in wages, with all the incident evils.
As these evils were coincident in time with the measures, the
measures were treated as the guilty cause. Beyond question,
Mr. Clay's tariff bill contributed to the troubles.

George Bancroft, the historian, was then collector of the
port of Boston. He took an active part in the canvass in
Massachusetts. On the evening of Saturday previous to the
election in Massachusetts, he spoke at Groton in a building
afterwards known as Liberty Hall.*

* It was then an unfinished building and stood where the Willow Dale road
connects with Hollis Street. The building had been erected by a body of people
who advocated the union of all the churches. They called themselves Unionists.
Their leader was the Rev. Silas Hawley. He was a vigorous thinker, a close
reasoner, and he displayed great knowledge of the Bible. His following
became considerable. The excitement extended to the neighboring towns and
for a time serious inroads were made upon the churches of the village.

The no-creed doctrine was accepted by some who never believed in any


Mr. Bancroft had a full House, but not an enthusiastic one.
Many of his hearers were Whigs, who came from curiosity, but
not to cheer the speaker. Moreover, the news of the New
York election, then held the first three days of the week,
was not encouraging to Democrats. After the meeting Mr.
Bancroft was taken to the tavern, where a supper was served
to him and to a small number of Democrats. Mr. Bancroft
was excited, and walking the room he said : " I do believe
if General Harrison is elected. Divine Providence will inter-
fere and prevent his ever becoming President of the United
States." These words of disappointment seemed prophecy,
when the death of Harrison occurred within thirty days after
his inauguration.

In his address Mr. Bancroft spoke with great confidence of
the vote of New York. There were some conscientious Demo-
crats in his audience, who remembered the remarks, and it was
with great reluctance that they gave him their votes when he
was a candidate for Governor in 1844.

The more considerate members of the Democratic Party
apprehended defeat from the opening of the canvass. As early
as June 17, the Whigs had enormous mass meetings at Boston
and Bunker Hill. The Democrats were not inert. The
Governor of the State was a Democrat and there were those
who had hopes of his re-election. In set-off of the great
meeting of the 17th of June at Charlestown, the Democrats
prepared for a similar meeting on Lexington Green, July 4.
The concourse of people was large. Governor Morton was
present and spoke. I there met William D. Kelley, who
spoke to a portion of the crowd from a wagon. He was then
employed in a jeweller's establishment in Boston.

creed, and by others who had believed in creeds that they then thought were
false. In the year 1838, Hawley convened a " World's Convention" at Liberty
Hall, called by the wicked " Polliwog Chapel," to consider the subject of uniting
all the churches in one church without a creed.

One afternoon early in the week of the session, I saw three men walking on
the street towards Liberty Hall, with knapsacks buckled on their backs. One
of these was Theodore Parker, one George Ripley, and the third, I think, was
Charles A. Dana. In this I may be in error. Parker told me in after years
when he had a wide-spread reputation, that his first public speech was made in
that convention.


Groton sent a company of volunteers for the day numbering
about seventy-five men, under command of Captain William
Shattuck, then a sturdy Democrat and afterwards an equally
sturdy Republican. Shattuck was the grandson of Captain
Job Shattuck, of Shays' Rebellion. Job Shattuck had been a
captain in the War of the Revolution, and he was always an
earnest patriot. He was also a man of wealth, having large
possessions in land, and being wholly exempt from the
pecuniary distresses that harassed the majority of men, from
the close of the war to the close of the century. Job Shat-
tuck's action was due to his sympathy for the sufferers and to
his sense of justice. In every town there were traders and
small capitalists who had supplied the families of soldiers
who were absent in the service.

Either by mortgage or by executions, the creditors had
secured liens upon the homesteads of the soldiers and from
1783 to 1789 the liens were enforced. Petitions went up to
the General Court for a stay act. James Bowdoin was
Governor. The General Court did not listen to the appeal.
Daniel Shays and others organized forces for the suppression
of the Courts. Shattuck was the leader in the county of
Middlesex, and at the head of his force he broke up the
Court at Concord. Finally he was arrested. Major Woods,
who had been an officer in the war, was in command of the
Government forces. Shattuck was secreted at the house of
one Gregg, who lived near where the house of John Gilson
now stands.^ The season was winter. It was believed that
Gregg betrayed Shattuck. When Shattuck discovered his
peril, he fled and made his way towards the Nashua River,
which was then frozen. His pursuers followed, but at unequal
pace. When he had crossed the river, he saw that the three
men in sight were widely separated from each other. Shattuck
turned, and for a time he became the pursuer. The first man
ran, then the second, but finally Shattuck fell on the ice, with

1 [There is a slight inaccuracy in this account of Shattuck's capture which I
will try to correct. He is supposed to have passed the night at the house of
Samuel Gragg, who lived where Daniel Shattuck lived when Mr. Butler's Map
of the town was made in 1828, near the site of the District School-house
No. V. on Common Street. S. A. G.]


sword in hand. His pursuers seized him. Upon his refusal
to surrender his sword, they cut the cords of his hand, and
wounded him in the leg. He was tried, sentenced to be
hanged, and confined in the jail at Concord.

The election of 1786 turned upon the questions at issue,
and especially upon the execution of the persons under sen-
tence. Bowdoin was the candidate of the " Law-and-Order
Party," and John Hancock was nominated by the friends of
the convicts. Hancock was elected by a vote of about nine-
teen thousand against less than six thousand for Bowdoin.
The convicts were pardoned, and a stay law was passed. The
demand of the Shays men was reasonable, and the Govern-
ment was guilty of a criminal error in resisting it.

The Shays Rebellion was beneficial to Massachusetts, and
it contributed to the argument in favor of the Constitution of
the United States.

The town of Groton continued in the control of Shattuck
and his friends for many years after the suppression of the
Rebellion. During that period he was drawn as a juror.
When his name was called the judge repeated it, and said,
" Job Shattuck ! He can't sit on the jury in this Court." As
Shattuck came out of the seat limping he said : " I have
broken up one Court here, and things won't be right, until I
break up another."

Something of the spirit of Job Shattuck has been exhibited
in the larger portion of his numerous descendants. They
have been devoted to liberty and just in their dealings.
These two qualities were conspicuous in his grandson, Captain
William Shattuck.

I took part in the canvass of 1840 and made speeches in
Groton and in several of the towns in the vicinity. I was also
the candidate of the Democratic Party for a seat in the House
of Representatives. There was no opposition for the nomi-
nation, although there were many Democrats who thought
that my defection the preceding year had prevented the elec-
tion of the Democratic candidates. My temperance opinions
were offensive to many, if not to a majority of the party. On
the other hand there were a number of young members of the


Whig Party whose votes I could command. As a final fact,
the political feeling was then so strong that all considerations
yielded to the chances and hopes of success.

My opponent, and the successful candidate, was Mr. John
Boynton, afterward, and for a single year, a member of the
senate. He was a native of the town, a blacksmith by trade,
and the son of a blacksmith. He was a man of quiet ways,
upright, and known to every voter. He had been in the
office of town clerk for many years, he had been kind to
everyone, and he had no enemies. Boynton was elected,
but by a moderate majority. But for the excitement of the
Presidential election, the contest would have been very close.

The death of General Harrison and the elevation of John
Tyler to the Presidency wrought a great change in the for-
tunes of the Whig Party. Soon after the assembling of Con-
gress at the extra session, called by President Harrison, a bill
for a Fiscal Bank was passed by the two Houses, and vetoed
by President Tyler. The veto message was so framed as to
encourage the Whig leaders to pass a second bill in a form
designed to avoid the objections of the President.

In the discussion upon the veto of the first bill, Mr. Clay
assailed the President in such terms that a reconciliation was
impossible. From that moment it was the purpose of the
President to co-operate with the Democratic Party. A second
bill was passed. That was also vetoed by the President.
Early in September all the members of the Cabinet resigned
except Mr. Webster. The outgoing members gave reasons
to the public, and Mr. Webster gave reasons for not going.
Caleb Cushing, Henry A. Wise, and a few other Whigs,
called the Omnibus Party chose their part with Webster and
Tyler. The Whig Party was divided, hopelessly.

Previous to the division, a bill had passed, which had been
approved by the President, for the repeal of the Independent
Treasury System. The ardor of its enemies was such that no
substitute was provided. The expectation was that a Fiscal
Bank, or Fiscal Agent, would be created. The failure of the
bank bills left the Government without any lawful system of
finance. The pet bank system was restored, in fact. The


rupture in the Whig Party contributed to its defeat in Massa-
chusetts at the election in 1842, but the party was so compact
in 1 841 that its triumph was assured. Mr. Webster defended
his course, and with few exceptions his conduct was either
approved or tolerated in Massachusetts.


A LITTLE less than three quarters of a century ago there
lived in Groton a family that has left a fragrant memory
among the older people of the town, but now is nearly for-
gotten by the present generation. I refer to Henry Augustus
Richards 's large family, of which the girls were noted for
their physical beauty. Some years ago I asked my friend,
the late Almon Danforth Hodges (H. C. 1864), who was
intimate with many of the members after they left Groton, to
give me a sketch of the family, which he did in the following
letter :

Dr. Samuel A. Green.

Dear Sir: In answer to your questions concerning the Richards
Family once resident in Groton, Mass., I send you the following infor-
mation which I have gleaned chiefly from members of the family now
living in Boston.

The eldest member of the family to come to Groton was Peter
Richards, a native of New London, Conn., and a descendant of John
Richards senior, who came before 1660 to New London according to
its historian, Miss Caulkins. John Richards senior begat John junior,
who begat George, who begat Guy senior, who begat Guy junior, who
begat Peter, all of New London, where the family was numerous and
prominent. Peter's grandfather, Capt. Guy Richards, was a Revolu-
tionary soldier; his uncle, Capt. Peter Richards, was killed in 1781
at Fort Griswold after the garrison had surrendered to the British
under Benedict Arnold, as commemorated on the monument at
Groton, Conn. Peter's father was Guy Richards junior, the first City
Treasurer of New London, and his mother was Hannah Dolbeare,
and he had twelve brothers and sisters.


Peter Richards was born in 1778, married, on November 25, 1800
Ann Channing Huntington, daughter of Brigadier General Jedediah
Huntington of Revolutionary fame, and raised a family of nine chil-
dren, who all married and made homes of their own in different States.
He was a merchant and resided in his native town until his last child
had married and left him. Then, owing partly to poor health and
partly to parental love, he gave up business and with his wife resided
alternately with those of his children who lived in New England,
chiefly with his eldest son whose family seems to have been especially
attractive. Thus it was that he came to Groton, of which place, how-
ever, I think he was never a legal resident. In time his children
came to feel the need of a central home, where the parents, now fast
aging, could cease from wandering; and they built a house in the
quiet and beautiful village of Washington, Connecticut, adjacent to
the home of the youngest daughter, whose husband. Rev. Ephraim
Lyman, was pastor of the Congregational Church of that place. Here
Peter Richards and his wife spent their last years, tenderly cared for
and cheered by the frequent visits of those dearest to them. And
here they passed quietly away, she on the 9th day of January 1857,

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Online LibrarySamuel A. (Samuel Abbott) GreenFacts relating to the history of Groton, Massachusetts (Volume 2) → online text (page 3 of 18)