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ally commended itself to the approbation and confidence
of the people than this act of 1880." He recommended
an increase in the number of weeks of school required,
and favored the town rather than the district system of

The Legislature of 1884 provided for the submission
to the several towns of the State in 1885 and 1886, the
question of the abolition of the district and the adoption
of the town system of schools. The law relating to
savings banks, trust companies and insurance companies
was revised. The sum of thirty-six thousand dollars
was appropriated for an addition to the State House
for the use of the Supreme Court, the State Library and
the Vermont Historical Society. Provision was made
for the examination of banks, and insurance companies


were ordered to make annual reports. The act relating
to the insane was revised. The Governor was author-
ized to appoint two Fish Commissioners. The adultera-
tion of maple sugar, maple syrup and honey was pro-
hibited. A resolution was adopted thanking Congress-
man John W. Stewart for "the earnest and able manner
in which he has urged upon the attention of Congress
the importance of national control of interstate com-
merce." The State Board of Agriculture was directed
to make forestry one of the subjects of instruction at the
meetings held under its auspices. The Soldiers' Home
was incorporated during the session of 1884.

Senator Justin S. Morrill was reelected on October
14, 1884. In the Senate he received twenty-seven votes
and three were cast for Timothy P. Redfield. The vote
in the House was as follows: Morrill, 177; T. P. Red-
field, 26; W. P. Dillingham, 3; J. M. Tyler, 1 ; H. Henry
Powers, 1 ; C. F. Clough, 1 .

The result of the national election was very close and
the result was in doubt for several days, but Cleveland
won, thus returning the Democratic party to power for
the first time since the election of James Buchanan in
1856. The Democrats of Vermont celebrated the
triumph with much enthusiasm. The Presidential vote
of 1884 by counties was as follows:

Green- Scatter-






Addison ....






Bennington . .





. .

Caledonia . . .





. .

Chittenden . .





. .















. .






Essex 898 500 60 3

Franklin .... 2,619 1,396 226 144
Grand Isle . . 407 207 18 16

Lamoille .... 1,567 631 7Z 164

Orange 2,351 ,1,392 117 26

Orleans 2,476 681 126 18

Rutland . . .
Windham . .
Windsor . . .

Total . . . 39,514 17,331 1,753 785 18

Majority for Blaine, 19,627.

Vermont's Presidential Electors were J. D. Hatch of
Burlington, Hiram Harlow of Windsor, George T.
Childs of St. Albans and Edward C. Redington of

The defeat of Mr. Blaine was a keen disappointment
to Republicans generally, including many in Vermont.
That Senator Edmunds would have held the strong inde-
pendent vote which refused to support Mr. Blaine is be-
yond question, and it is probable that had Edmunds
been nominated he would have been elected. He was
handicapped by the fact that he resided in a small State
that was more surely Republican than any other in the
Union. Nature had not endowed him with those quali-
ties of personal magnetism and cordial good fellow-
ship which made Mr. Blaine the most popular of Ameri-
can political leaders, with the exception of Henry Clay
and Theodore Roosevelt. But when intellectual and
legal ability, experience, statesmanship and high char-


acter are considered, it is not too much to say that he
was ideally equipped for the Presidency and excelled in
those qualities many of the men who have held that high
office. Senator Edmunds did not expect to receive the
Republican nomination and his defeat in the convention
probably came as a relief rather than a disappointment.

Senator Edmunds, as President Pro Tem of the Sen-
ate, administered the oath of office to Vice President-
elect Thomas A. Hendricks, who had missed this honor
by the slightest possible margin eight years before.
Resolutions of thanks were adopted, commending the
Vermont Senator for the faithful and efficient manner
in which he had performed the duties of the position, to
which he responded in a brief but felicitous speech.

President Cleveland's Cabinet contained a native of
Vermont, William F. Vilas of Wisconsin, who was ap-
pointed Postmaster General. He was a son of Levi D.
Vilas of Chelsea, who emigrated to the West in 1851.
The younger Vilas had studied law ; enlisted as a soldier
in the Civil War, rising to the rank of Lieutenant
Colonel ; had been a professor of law in the University
of Wisconsin; had served in the State Legislature; and
had been delegate to the Democratic National Conven-
tions of 1876, 1880 and 1884, being permanent chair-
man of the convention which nominated Governor
Cleveland. Early in 1884 President Cleveland trans-
ferred him to the position of Secretary of the Interior.
He served as United States Senator from Wisconsin
from 1891 to 1897. His death occurred August 28,


One of the first of President Cleveland's appointments,
after the nomination of his Cabinet officials, was that
of Edward J. Phelps of Burlington, Vt., as Envoy-
Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of the
United States to Great Britain, made on March 23, 1885,
less than three weeks after the inauguration. None of
the new President's appointments excited greater sur-
prise than that of Mr. Phelps and in none was the wis-
dom of the President's choice more thoroughly justified.
In Vermont he was known as one of the ablest of a bril-
liant group of lawyers. To leading members of the
American bar his name was familiar as that of a man
noted for profound legal learning and eloquent speech.
But his name w^as new to the great mass of the Ameri-
can people, and naturally was unknown to the British
public, although he was well past sixty years old.

Edward John Phelps was born in Middlebury, June
12. 1822, and was a son of Samuel Shethar Phelps, Judge
of the Supreme Court and United States Senator, known
as "one of the intellectual giants of Vermont." The
young man entered Middlebury College at the age of
fourteen and graduated at eighteen, one of his class-
mates being Henry N, Hudson, the well known Shakes-
pearean scholar. After his graduation he taught in
Virginia. In 1842 he entered the Yale Law School, later
completing his studies with Hon. Horatio Seymour of
Middlebury. He was admitted to the bar in 1843, prac-
ticed law in his native town for two years, and in 1845
removed to Burlington, which was his home for the
remainder of his life. Like his father, ho was a Whig,
and in 1851 he was appointed second Compl roller of the


Born in Shoreham, Vt., June 8, 1834. He studied law,
and soon after his admission to the bar enlisted as a soldier
in the Civil War, rising to the rank of Captain. He served
in both branches of the Legislature, was elected Lieutenant
Governor in 1884 and Governor in 1886. He was appointed
Land Commissioner at Samoa, serving from 1891 to 1893.
He resides in Brandon.

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United States Treasury, holding the office during the
remainder of the FiUmore administration. He returned
to Burlington and almost immediately was elected State's
Attorney of Chittenden county. This was the only elect-
ive office he ever held, with the exception of member-
ship in the Constitutional Convention of 1870. Like
many other Silver Gray Whigs, who were not in sym-
pathy with the more radical anti-slavery element, he be-
came a Democrat when the Whig party was disbanded.
He soon won a place among the leading lawyers of the
State. That his ability as a lawyer was recognized far
beyond the boundaries of Vermont is indicated by his
election in 1881 as president of the American Bar Asso-
ciation. In 1879 he had delivered an address before
that association on John Marshall which called forth the
admiration and enthusiasm of the lawyers present.
From 1880 to 1883 he was professor of medical juris-
prudence in the University of Vermont. In 1881 he
was elected Kent professor of law at Yale University.
In 1882 he lectured on constitutional law in Boston Uni-
versity. He was the first president of the Vermont
Bar Association. In 1880 he was nominated as the
Democratic candidate for Governor of Vermont. He
married Mary Haight, a woman of great tact and rare
charm. It was said of Mr. Phelps' father that "he
might be termed regal in person. Of commanding
stature, to rare symmetry of form he added a dignity
of bearing which always commanded attention and ad-
miration." These qualities his distinguished son in-
herited. He was a man at whom one would turn to
look a second time. He carried himself with a certain


natural dignity that indicates the aristocrat in the truest
and best sense of the term.

President Cleveland had met Mr. Phelps several years
before he came to the Presidency and was very favor-
ably impressed by his manner and accomplishments.
After his inauguration the President, in conversation
with B. B. Smaliey, Democratic National Committee-
man, inquired concerning Mr. Phelps. Mr. Smaliey re-
marked that Mr. Phelps would not accept political office,
a statement which led the President to declare this to be
just the type of man he wanted. Later he asserted that
this was a personal appointment. The father of Secre-
tary of State Thomas F. Bayard and the late Senator
Phelps w^ere colleagues in the Senate, and becoming warm
friends, the family intimacy continued to the second
generation. During the preceding summer Secretary,
then Senator, Bayard had visited Mr. Phelps at his Bur-
lington home, and he was known to be an admirer of his
Vermont friend.

The names of John Bigelow of New York, Allen G.
Thurman of Ohio and Gen. George B. McClellan had
been considered in connection with the English mission.
The name of Mr. Phelps had been suggested as a possible
Minister to Italy. He had known that his name was
considered for the appointment only a few days before
it was made. This nomination had met with the cordial
approval of the Vermont Senators.

The appointment of Mr. Phelps was cordially re-
ceived by men of all parties in Vermont. B. B. Smaliey
telegraphed the President, thanking him for the appoint-
ment. The Burlington Free Press said: "It is cer-


tainly an honor to our State that a Vermonter should be
selected for the highest diplomatic appointment in the
gift of the President, and it will be highly gratifying
to our readers, and to Vermonters generally of both par-
ties. In ability, cultivation, courtesy and high breeding,
lie is equal to the place, and will fill it, we are sure, with
dignity, capacity and success, though it has been occupied
by such men as Charles Francis Adams, Hamilton Fish,
John Lothrop Motley and James Russell Lowell. The
Springfield Republican referred to the appointment as
"an unexpected but deserved honor to a man of excep-
tional qualities for diplomatic service." The Nezv York
Times observed that "Mr. Phelps, who joins to sound
and varied learning some of the more graceful and agree-
able attainments proper to a cultivated mind, will credit-
ably fill the place which Mr. James Russell Lowell's
ability, tact and accomplishments have made it so hard
to fill by any successor to himself."

The London Gazette said of the new Minister:
"Mr. Phelps is a Vermont lawyer unknown on this side
of the Atlantic. Doubtless he is a most respectable per-
son." Less could not well have been said, but the point
of view changed as soon as the Phelps family had entered
upon the social duties of the American embassy. Mr.
and Mrs. Phelps, who took the house vacated by Mr.
Lowell, were delightful entertainers, and they soon be-
came exceedingly popular. Mr. Phelps was very happy
in his public addresses and tactful in his diplomatic
duties. His address on "The Law of the Land," deliv-
ered in November, 1886, before the Edinburgh Philo-
sophical Institution, won high praise. During his term


of office he negotiated an extradition treaty and began
preliminary negotiations for a Fisheries Commission.

When a change of administration in the United States
made the retirement of Mr. Phelps a political necessity,
a dinner was given in his honor at the Century Club,
at which Lord Coleridge, Lord Chief Justice of Eng-
land, said: "The great American republic has in times
gone by sent to us great men to represent it. We have
had Everett, Buchanan, Adams, Motley, Lowell, and
other men of eminence and authority to represent the
republic in this country. But I venture to say that no
one of Mr. Phelps' predecessors has ever been the re-
cipient of such unanimous and cordial expressions of
regard, and I am sure that no American Minister has
ever left our shores amid more universal regret. He
has shown us how to keep up the honor and glory of
the great nation which he represents, without forgetting
the courtesy due to the great country to which he is
accredited, and thus he has won the sympathies of Eng-
lish society, charmed many an English home, and has
remained all the while unchanged, the American Min-
ister, a man of letters and of learning and above all, an
American gentleman."

The reply of Mr. Phelps has been described as "a
short, wholly impromptu speech of matchless grace and
elegance." So felicitous was this response that Lord
Rosebery before retiring on the night of the banquet
wrote a note to Mrs. Phelps, saying of her husband's
speech, that it was ''so exquisite, that, on an occasion
which seemed beyond the reach of elofjuence to improve,
it crowned the sensations of the audience."


Mr. Phelps would have adorned any public station to
which he might have been called, but as a result of his
political affiliations, in a State which more steadfastly
than any other had given its adherence to another party,
he had been shut out from the more important official
positions which Vermont had to bestow. But he
missed by a very narrow margin appointment to one
of the greatest and most responsible positions in Amer-
ica, and one for which he was eminently qualified, that
of Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court,
to succeed Hon. Morrison R. Waite, who died March 23,
1888. The name of Edward J. Phelps was prominently
mentioned for this high office. In a letter to the author,
the late Hon. John W. Stewart, then in Washington
as a Member of Congress, an intimate and life-long
friend of Mr. Phelps, said: "At the President's per-
sonal solicitation Senator Edmunds had expressed his
opinion of Mr. Phelps' eminent (qualifications) for the
position then vacant by the death of Judge Waite. The
conference resulted in Mr. Cleveland's expressed deter-
mination to nominate Mr. Phelps. Shortly afterwards
Mr. Edmunds reported to me the interview, assuring
me that Mr. Cleveland would send Mr. Phelps' name to
the Senate for confirmation. Mr. Edmunds was posi-
tive so that I regarded the matter as settled.

"For some reason not then apparent, Mr. Phelps' name
was withheld, but several days later, on my way to the
Capitol, I met a Southern Democrat, a personal friend.
I mentioned the fact that Mr. Phelps would receive the
nomination, and expressed surprise at the delay in send-
ing in his name as determined. My friend said he


wished he would do so, but added that he would not.
I referred to Edmunds' report and its result, and said
that my authority could not be a mistake. He replied
that General (Patrick) Collins of Boston with certain
influential New York Irish Democrats, had made very
strong protests against the proposed appointment, and
had assured the President of the loss of the Irish vote
if he persisted in his choice, and that (with) his then
pending reelection (it) would be disastrous. This
threat thwarted Cleveland's purpose." This account is
corroborated by a letter from the late Senator Edmunds,
and from other authentic sources. The American corre-
spondent of the London Times wrote : "The American-
Irish prevented the appointment of a man who as United
States Minister at London had been on friendly terms
with a coercion government."

George W. Smalley, for many years London corre-
spondent of th.Q New York Tribune, in his "Anglo-Amer-
ican Memories," has said: "It is doubtful whether an
abler man than Mr. Phelps ever came from the United
States to London as Minister. He was hailed at once
as a brother by his brethren of the bar, and they put him
on a level with their best. His simplicity of character,
his humor, his truthfulness, were evident to everybody.
Intellectually he was anybody's equal. As Minister he
had like all his predecessors his trade to learn. But he
soon learned what was essential ; learned diplomacy as if
it were a new cause he had to master for a great trial."
He also mentions the promise of the Chief Justiceship
made to Mr. Phelps, his visit to America, and the opposi-


tion of General Collins. He refers to Mr. Cleveland's
"surrender, no doubt under strong political pressure."

In the "Autobiography" of the late Senator Cullom of
Illinois, he referred to the efforts of Senator Edmunds
to secure the position of Chief Justice for Mr. Phelps.
A copy of a speech antagonistic to President Lincoln,
made by Mr. Phelps during the Civil War, was read
when the Vermont Senator opposed the confirmation of
Melville W. Fuller. There are many who have deeply
sympathized with the desire of the Irish people for a
larger measure of self government, who have regretted
that racial prejudices should have entered into this mat-
ter. Thus America lost the services of a man ideally
equipped for the position of presiding officer of our high-
est court, who would have made, probably, one of the
greatest Chief Justices of the United States Supreme
Court. The irony of fate is apparent when the student
of history recalls the fact that in spite of President
Cleveland's yielding in the Phelps appointment, he was
defeated for reelection in 1888.

In 1893 President Harrison appointed Mr. Phelps
senior counsel for the United States in the international
tribunal at Paris which heard the Behring Sea contro-
versy. With him were associated two of America's
most eminent lawyers, Frederick R. Coudert and James
C. Carter. The closing argument of Mr. Phelps
extended over a period of eleven days and covered three
hundred and twenty-five pages of the official report of
the proceedings. When this able and comprehensive
argument was completed, the president of the tribunal,
M. de Courcelle, speaking in behalf of the court, said of


Mr. Phelps' difficult task: "It has been discharged in
such a manner as fully to deserve our admiration, blend-
ing the deep science of the lawyer with literary refine-
ment and diplomatic dignity. I beg I may be allowed
to consider the laurel you have won at this cosmopolitan
bar as a fair addition to the wreath of honors you have
conquered on difl'erent fields, both in the New and the
Old World."

Mr. Phelps loved all that was beautiful in literature,
music, art and nature. He was a man of rare culture,
who could write admirably both prose and verse. He
had an unusual capacity for friendship, and his friends
were deeply attached to him.

After leaving public life he returned to his duties as
lecturer at Yale. He died at New Haven, Conn., March
9, 1900, after an illness of about two months, and
is buried in a beautiful old cemetery at Burlington,
Vt., near his friend, George F. Edmunds. \^ermont has
contributed to the service of the Nation none greater
than these neighbors who lived and labored together
and now sleep on the same fair hillside which looks out
upon the serene and majestic beauty of the Green Moun-
tains which both loved so well.

Governor Pingree, in the spring of 1885, inaugurated
in Vermont the custom of observing Arlx)r Day, and
his proclamation is said to have been the first issued
by any State east of the Mississippi River.

Vermont Day was observed at the New Orleans Expo-
sition in 1885. John B. Mead, the State Commissioner,
presided. Speeches were made by Hiram Atkins, editor
of the Mont pel icr Ar<jus, (). M. Tinkhani, Parker Earle,


superintendent of the Horticultural Department, and
J. Q. A. Fellows of New Orleans. Both Mr. Earle and
Mr. Fellows were natives of Vermont. A luncheon of
Vermont products was served.

During the summer of 1885, Gen. William Wells was
removed from the office of Collector of Customs for the
Vermont district, and Bradley B. Smalley of Burling-
ton was appointed in his place. There was some con-
troversy over this episode, but it soon subsided.

Following the death of Gen. U. S. Grant, on July 23,
1885, Governor Pingree issued a proclamation setting
aside August 8 as a day on which memorial services
might properly be held. The day was generally observed
throughout the State. The Governor and a portion of
his stafif attended General Grant's funeral, held at River-
side Drive, New York City.

There was an outbreak of smallpox in the Province of
Quebec in the fall of 1885, and Governor Pingree applied
to President Cleveland for aid. As a result the Secre-
tary of the Treasury sent several medical inspectors to
aid local boards of health in preventing the spread of the
epidemic. Quarantine measures were adopted which
proved efficient and there were only a few cases of small-
pox in Vermont.

Gen. George J. Stannard died of pneumonia at Wash-
ington, on June 1, 1886. In 1881, Colonel Hooker, then
Sergeant-at-Arms, had appointed him a doorkeeper in
the National House of Representatives, and he held the
position until his death. The wedding bells announc-
ing the marriage of President Cleveland and Miss
Frances Folsom had hardly ceased ringing when the


body of the gallant old Vermont soldier, hero of Gettys-
burg, left the national capital for the Green Mountain
State. General Stannard's funeral, held at Burlington,
on June 5, was one of the most impressive ever attended
in Vermont. A monument in honor of General Stan-
nard, erected by the State and by the contribution of
friends, was dedicated at Burlington on June 20, 1889.
Addresses were delivered by Gen. W. W. Henry, Col.
George W. Hooker and Col. W. G. Veazey.

The Republican State Convention of 1886 nominated
Ebenezer J. Ormsbee of Brandon for Governor, the vote
being, Ormsbee, 340; J. K. Batchelder of Arlington, 195 ;
Luke P. Poland of St. Johnsbury, 43; Wheelock G.
Veazey of Rutland, 13; scattering, 12. Col. Levi K.
Fuller of Brattleboro was nominated as a candidate for
Lieutenant Governor over Col. Franklin Fairbanks of
St. Johnsbury by a vote of 425 to 145. The Morrison
Tariff Bill was condemned. The policy of prohibition
was commended and the Republican State Committee
was instructed to send delegates to the National Anti-
Saloon Convention. The movement led by Gladstone
and Parnell for the amelioration of conditions in Ire-
land was declared "worthy of the sympathy and endorse-
ment of the civilized world."

The Democratic State Convention nominated Stephen
C. Shurtleft' of Montpelier for Governor and endorsed
the Cleveland administration.

An attempt was made in 1886 to defeat Senator
Edmunds for reelection on account of his inactivity in
the campaign of 1884. At one time the movement
appeared to be rather formidal)le, but as the Rei)ublican


county conventions were held many of them declared for
Edmunds, and the opposition was able to muster only a
few votes in the Legislature. It is true that many
Republicans were disappointed in the attitude of Sena-
tor Edmunds toward Mr. Blaine. It is equally true that
the Senator was entirely honest, and realized that his
course was sure to be unpopular. His constituents were
wise enough, however, to respect the motives of the Sena-
tor, and to appreciate his ability, which they considered
too great to be rejected because of a single difference of

Online LibraryWalter Hill CrockettVermont, the Green mountain state (Volume 4) → online text (page 11 of 43)