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stalled on its sublime pedestal."

Among the names suggested as Senator Foot's suc-
cessor were those of John Gregory Smith of St. Albans,
Hiland Hall of Bennington, Levi Underwood of Bur-
lington and Judge Loyal C. Kellogg of Rutland. Gov-
ernor Dillingham determined to act promptly in the
matter of filling the vacancy and, returning from Sena-
tor Foot's funeral at Rutland, he stopped at Burlington,
consulted George F. Edmunds, a leading lawyer of the
State, then thirty-eight years old, and appointed him.

George Franklin Edmunds was born in Richmond,
Vt., February I, 1828. Both his maternal and paternal
grandparents were Rhode Island Quakers. In 1826 his
parents removed from Berkshire, Mass., to Richmond
and purchased a large farm on the Winooski River,
about two miles above the village, where their son George
was born.

The local district school was on the Edmunds farm,
and there he began his education at a very early age.
He grew up a slender boy, lacking the health and strength
of the average country lad. He was taught the various
things that a boy on the farm should know, his parents
carefully guarding his precarious health. His sports
were hunting, trout fishing, riding farm horses and alto-
gether his boyhood was a happy one. About the year
1840 the farm was sold and the family moved to the
village, where, with his sister, George attended a select


school taught by a capable man. A year or two later he
was sent to Burlington to attend an academy in prepara-
tion for college. In a few weeks his health became im-
paired and a long illness followed, necessitating the
abandonment of a college career. He took lessons in
Latin and French from his brother-in-law, A. B. May-
nard, but being threatened with tuberculosis, he spent
the winter of 1845-46 in Washington, for the benefit of
his health. He continued his studies there, and had
access to the law library of the United States Supreme
Court. It was his privilege to hear cases argued by
some of the great leaders of the American bar, a dis-
tinction which he was to win in later years, among them
being arguments by Daniel Webster, Rufus Choate and
John Van Buren in the famous "Passenger Case." In
a letter to the author Mr. Edmunds related the following
incident of this winter in Washington: "On one occa-
sion, while reading in the Law Library, I had what was,
to my youthful imagination, the greatest honor of my
life, in showing to Mr. Webster and Mr. Van Buren,
who came into the library where I was sitting reading
'Stephens' Pleadings,' a passage in the book settling a
point of law they were disputing in their conversation.
With some trepidation, and an apology, I handed the
book to Mr. Webster, who, having read the paragraph,
smiled, rose and said to me in his deep, soft tones,
'Young man, I thank you'."

In the spring of 1846 he returned home and continued
his law studies with Mr. Maynard until 1848, when he
went to Burlington to be a student clerk in the office
rif David A. Smalley and Edward j. I 'helps, both


Born in Westford, November i, 1815. He was the first
attorney admitted to the bar of Lamoille County Court.
He was chosen a member of the Constitutional Convention
of 1843 and was elected to. the Supreme Court bench in
1848. In i860 he was made Chief Judge and served in that
capacity until 1865, when he was appointed United States
Senator to succeed Jacob Collamer, deceased. He served
in the Senate until 1867, when he was transferred to the
House, where he remained eight years. Later he served in
Congress from 1883 to 1885. Judge Poland became one of
the strong men in the House. He was chairman of the
committee that investigated the Credit Mobilier scandal,
chairman of a committee to investigate conditions in Arkansas,
chairman of a committee to investigate a Southern organiza-
tion known as the Ku Klu.x Klan. One of his greatest tasks
was the revision of the laws of the United States. He died
July 2, 1887.


-^^^ iT^ ^Jv^





eminent lawyers. Early in the year 1849 Mr. Edmunds
was admitted to the bar and returned to Richmond to
become a partner of his brother-in-law. The following
year he removed to Burlington and formed a partner-
ship with Charles D. Kasson, who died within a year.
Mr. Edmunds speedily built up a lucrative practice at a
time when the Burlington bar included such eminent men
as David A. Smalley, Edward J. Phelps, Levi Under-
wood and L. E. Chittenden. In 1852 he married Susan
Marsh Lyman, daughter of Wyllys Lyman, and a niece
of George P. Marsh, then United States Minister to Tur-
key. She was a woman of great refinement and intelli-
gence and during their married life of more than sixty
years Mr. Edmunds consulted her in all matters of

Mr. Edmunds' first public service was the performance
of the duties of Moderator of the Burlington town meet-
ing, in March, 1854. Later that year he was elected as
Representative from Burlington to the State Legislature,
being the candidate of the younger element in local
politics. This office, and all that he subsequently held,
came without any seeking on his part, either directly or
indirectly. State elections were then held annually and
Mr. Edmunds was reelected to the House in 1855, 1856,
1857, 1858 and 1859. In 1855 he was made chairman
of the Judiciary Committee and in 1857, 1858 and 1859
he was elected Speaker. In 1861 and 1862 he served in
the State Senate, being chairman of the Judiciary Com-
mittee and President Pro Tem of the Senate. As a
member of the Legislature he won distinction as a pains-


taking and careful legislator, who gave diligent attention
to every detail of business.

For the next few years Mr. Edmunds devoted himself
to his large law practice. Following the St. Albans
Raid he was sent to Montreal by Secretary of State Wil-
liam H. Seward to obtain the extradition of the raiders
on charges of murder and robbery. The Canadian
courts, however, held that these crimes were acts of
war. Mr. Edmunds at once notified the State Depart-
ment of the condition of affairs and recommended a
strict blockade of the Canadian border. This policy was
adopted and was strictly enforced. As a result the
Canadian Government adopted a more reasonable atti-
tude, and partially reimbursed the banks for the money
stolen by the raiders.

When Governor Dillingham stopped at Burlington,
on April 3, he sent a note to Mr. Edmunds asking him
to come to the American House. The two men had
served together in the Legislature and had been fellow
members of the Judiciary Committee. When the mes-
sage came Mr. Edmunds was at his home in consultation
with a Boston client, going over papers and evidence in
an important railroad case. He responded to Ihe sum-
mons, however, and was offered the appointment as
United States Senator. Although Mr. Edmunds knew
that some of his friends might suggest his name, he had
no expectation that he would be appointed. He was re-
luctant to abandon his law practice, w hich was his only
means of support, and his wife and children w^ere in
New York for the winter, where one of his daughters
was receiving medical treat ment. The Governor, how-


ever, was urgent not only that he accept the appointment
but also that he should leave the next day for Washing-
ton. President Johnson had vetoed an important bill
and the votes of both Vermont Senators was needed.
With much solicitude as to how he should succeed, he
accepted, and left the following day for the national
capital. His credentials were presented by Senator
Poland and he took his seat on April 5, 1866, at the age
of thirty-eight years, being, with one exception, the
youngest member of the body. On April 6 the Civil
Rights bill, vetoed by President Johnson, came up in the
Senate and was passed over the veto, with not a vote to
spare. Without the vote of Senator Edmunds it would
have failed. He was assigned, according to custom, to
minor committee places, Pensions and Commerce being
the committees on which he began his work.

One week after he entered the Senate he paid a brief
but beautiful tribute to his predecessor at a memorial
service held in honor of Senator Foot. On April 18, less
than two weeks after he had taken his seat, a bill came
up relating to the habeas corpus act, to which Senator
Edmunds offered several amendments. His argument
showed profound legal knowledge, a thorough mastery
of the subject, and great skill in the running fire of de-
bate which followed. The late Benjamin F. Fifield of
Montpelier informed the author that this speech of the
new Vermont Senator created a profound impression in
the Senate and at once gave him a high standing among
his colleagues.

On April 25, only twenty days after he entered the
Senate, Mr. Edmunds made a powerful and eloquent


speech on a bill providing for the admission of Colorado
as a State. It was with difficulty that a two-thirds
majority was obtained on measures which must be passed
over President Johnson's veto, and the addition of two
Senators to the Republican strength would have been
most welcome. The State Constitution, however, con-
tained a clause granting the right of suffrage only to
white persons. Senator Edmunds opposed the passage
of the bill on account of w^hat he believed to be this unjust
provision, asserting that Vermont from its foundation
tolerated no distinctions of race or color in the granting
of this right. As he concluded this speech Charles Sum-
ner arose and said: "I cannot forbear returning my
thanks to the Senator from Vermont for the noble utter-
ance that we have heard from him. He has reminded
you of the principles on which you are to pass. He
has held up before you the dignity of the occasion, and
has rallied the Senate to its duty. I thank him, sir.
His speech ought to produce an eft'ect on his associates
in this chamber. It ought to remind them that there is
a truth which cannot be put aside for any temporary
expediency. I am grateful to the Senator for the speech
he has made. I think the Senate will do well to sleep
U))nn it tonight, to reflect upon it, and when they come
here tomorrow, to do their duty in maintaining those
principles which he has so clearly advocated." Coming
from such an eminent leader as Mr. Sumner, this was,
indeed, a remarkable tribute to be paid to a young man,
unknown outside his own State, who had served less than
three weeks in that distinguished body.


Probably in all the history of the American Senate
there have been few men who, coming into that chamber
unknown to the country at large, gained a position of in-
fluence as speedily as did George F. Edmunds. James
G. Blaine in his ''Twenty Years of Congress" alludes to
this fact, and Mr. Blaine was by no means an ardent
admirer or close friend of the Vermont Senator. Be-
fore he had served a year in the Senate Mr. Edmunds
was taking such a prominent part in the debates that
James Ford Rhodes, the eminent historian, quotes from
his speeches in describing the period following the Civil
War. In December, 1866, Senator Edmunds had charge
of and explained the features of the Tenure of Office
Bill. In January, 1867, "he felt sure that Negro suf-
frage must come."

Before the Civil War began an organization known as
the Fenian Brotherhood, composed of persons of Irish
extraction, was organized in New York, and circles were
established in many parts of the United States, par-
ticularly in the large cities. As the brotherhood in-
creased in numbers expressions of opinion favoring an
Irish republic became common. Early in May, 1866,
plans were made secretly for a Fenian invasion of
Canada. The command of the expedition was given
to Gen. Thomas W. Sweeney, formerly an officer in the
Union Army.

From May 29 to May 31 parties of Fenians began to
move toward the Canadian border. On Friday morn-
ing, June 1, three hundred Fenians arrived at St. Albans,
most of them coming from Boston and Lowell. Their
leader was Major Spear, a former Union officer. Most


of the recruits left at once on roads leading toward the
Canadian frontier. Other volunteers continued to ar-
rive and on Friday night a camp was established on a
hill north of St. Albans. Some of the Fenians pro-
ceeded to Fairfield, which contained a considerable num-
ber of persons of Irish descent. It was asserted on
June 2 that 1,400 Fenians had arrived at St. Albans, but
the number of recruits generally was overestimated.
United States Marshal Hugh Henry and District Attor-
ney D. C. Denison proceeded to St. Albans. Arms and
ammunition were seized by the United States authorities
at St. Albans and Burlington.

Parties of Fenians encamped at Fairfield, S wanton
and East Highgate. Meanwhile a few companies of
United States soldiers were sent to the Vermont border
and were posted at St. Albans and Swanton. Governor
Dillingham, after a visit to the frontier, decided that it
was unnecessary to call out the State militia.

In the temporary absence of Secretary Seward, Secre-
tary Stanton ordered the seizure of arms designed for
the raiders. Attorney General Speed issued a circular
to all District Attorneys and Marshals, on June 5, in-
structing them to order the arrest of all leaders or con-
spirators called Fenians suspected of violating the
neutrality laws of this country. President Johnson
issued a proclamation of neutrality on June 6, directing
General Meade to employ the land and naval forces of
the United States "to prevent the setting on foot and
carrying on of the (Fenian) expedition and enterprise
aforesaid." This proclamation was distributed along
the frontier.


General Sweeney, the Fenian leader, was arrested
about midnight, June 6, at the Tremont House in St.
Albans, by order of Major Gibson of the United States
army. Colonel Meehan also was arrested. These men
were arraigned before United States Commissioner
Hoyt on June 8. They waived examination and bail was
fixed at twenty thousand dollars for Sweeney and five
thousand dollars for Meehan. Later Sweeney's bail
was reduced to five thousand dollars. These arrests
caused much excitement in New York and elsewhere.

The towns along the frontier, on the Canadian side of
the border, were deserted by the inhabitants, and cattle
and horses were driven away, although some supplies
were confiscated by the invaders. On the evening of
June 5, about seven hundred Fenians, mostly armed,
crossed the line near Cook's Corners across the border
from Franklin, without opposition. Others crossed the
boundary line on June 7, near Frelighsburg, and at
Pigeon Hill, in St. Armand. When the Fenians entered
Slab City they seized a British flag at the Custom house.
General Spear was in command at St. Armand and he
made a short speech to his troops before they crossed
into Canada. There was a slight skirmish soon after
the invaders entered the Dominion, in which one Fenian
was killed, one dangerously Vv'ounded, and fifteen were
taken prisoners.

At two o'clock on Saturday morning, June 9, a council
of war was called and it was decided that the invasion
must be abandoned. Failure to receive ammunition and
the approach of British regulars, made it prudent to re-
tire to the American side of the line. The Fenian


troops thereupon returned to St. Albans, where each man
signed a parole and was furnished transportation to his

General Meade and Lieutenant Porter, son of Admiral
Porter, arrived at St. Albans on Saturday, June 9, with
orders to preserve American neutrality. A ball was
given in that village in honor of the distinguished

The collapse of the Fenian movement was due pri-
marily to lack of organization and failure to assemble a
sufficient number of men to make the movement formid-
able; but the vigilance of the United States authorities
in seizing arms and ammunition and prosecuting the
violators of the neutrality laws, was a powerful factor
in the defeat of the enterprise. The sympathies of the
people generally were with the Fenians. It must be
remembered that less than two years had elapsed since
the St. Albans Raid, and that sympathy openly expressed
in Great Britain and Canada for the Confederate States,
and the use of the Dominion as a base from which hos-
tile expeditions had been conducted against the United
States, had exasperated the people of Vermont and other
Northern States. In his correspondence with the
British Foreign Office, Secretary Seward said in reply
to Lord Stanley's complaint in regard to the Fenian
affair, "In seeking to make the territory of the United
States a base for the organization of a republic in Ire-
land, and of military and naval operations for its estab-
lishment there, they (the Fenians) allege that they have
followed, as an exam])le, precedents of British subjects
in regard to our Civil War, allowed by ller Majesty's


government." The keenness of this diplomatic thrust
was given point by the truth of the allegation.

A second invasion of Canada was planned in 1867,
and St. Albans again was considered as one of the bases
of operations but no hostilities were conducted from Ver-
?nont during that year. Early in the summer of 1870
the Fenians again became active, and on May 23 and 24
nearly two hundred men arrived at St. Albans from the
south, proceeding through Fairfield and Sheldon toward
the frontier. Several pieces of artillery and a quantity
of ammunition were transported in wagons along coun-
try roads. Other companies of Fenians arrived on later
trains. General O'Neil, in command of the expedition,
left the train at Georgia, just south of St. Albans, and
proceeded by night to Franklin. On May 25 the Fenians
advanced from Franklin Center toward Cook's Corners,
on the Canadian side of the international boundary line.
Gen. George P. Foster, United States Marshal, en-
deavored to dissuade the Fenians from advancing, but
they refused to heed his advice or to be governed by
President Grant's proclamation of neutrality. General
Foster then informed the British commander that he had
no troops with which to prevent the Fenians from cross-
ing into Canada. An advance was made, Colonel Brown
leading the skirmish line. One company was com-
manded by Capt. William Cronan of Burlington. Gen-
eral O'Neil was arrested by Marshal Foster, thrust into
a closed carriage and driven to St. Albans.

The Canadian troops occupied a strong position, de-
fended Iw rifle pits. The attack failed, if, indeed, it
could be dignified by such a term. Two men were killed


in the skirmish of Richards' Farm, one of them being
John Rowe of Bnrling-ton, and several were wounded.
A council of war, held on the night of May 25, resulted
in the abandonment of the campaign. It is alleged that
the killed and wounded actually were shot upon United
States territory. Generals Meade and McDowell of the
United States army arrived at St. Albans on May 28 to
prevent further violations of the neutrality laws, and
proceeded to Malone, X. Y. Several Fenians were ar-
rested by the United States authorities and General
O'Neil and Captain Brown, convicted of transgressing
the neutrality laws, w'ere sentenced to terms in the State
Prison. After serving a short time they were ])ardoned
by General Grant.

Governor Dillingham was renominated without oppo-
sition at the Union Republican State Convention, and
again a delegate convention was favored by a substantial
majority. The Democratic ticket was renominated,
headed by Charles N. Davenport for Governor. Justin
S. Morrill declined again to be a candidate for Member
of Congress. A vigorous campaign for Judge Colla-
mer's seat in the Senate was waged by friends of Mr.
Morrill and of Judge Luke P. Poland, appointed by the
Governor to fill the Senatorial vacancy. Governor Dil-
lingham was reelected, the official vote being as follows:
Dillingham, 34,117; Davenport, 11,292; scattering, 3.

John \V. Stewart of Middlebury was reelected
Speaker. In his inaugural message Governor Dilling-
ham gave a review of Xrnnont's war \\(»rk. lie com-
mended a Xornial School projjosilion to the Legislature
and stated thai the N'ermoni Reform School had been


located at Waterbury on a part of the farm once owned
by Governor Butler. The position taken by Congress
in the controversy over Reconstruction was approved.

Among the important laws enacted by the Legislature
of 1866 was an act establishing the Orange County
Grammar School at Randolph Center as a State Normal
School for a period of five years, under the direction
of the Board of Education. The board was authorized
to receive similar proposals from other academies in the
State, but the number was restricted to one in each Con-
gressional district. The board was authorized to ar-
range courses of study for the schools. The secretary
of the board was directed to hold teachers' institutes at
which teachers' examinations were to be given. After
five years no person was to teach without a certificate.
The Governor was authorized to appoint Albert D.
Hager of Proctorsville, State Geologist, commissioner
to represent Vermont at the Paris Exposition.

The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Con-
stitution was ratified in the Senate without opposition,
and in the House by a vote of 196 to 11. Resolutions
were adopted in memory of Senators Collamer and Foot;
favoring a law granting suffrage in the District of
Columbia without respect to color; favoring a higher
tariff rate on wool ; and declaring that in the reconstruc-
tion of the States lately in rebellion, "justice and
humanity imperatively demand that there should be no
compromise with traitors — on the contrary that treason
should be made odious and traitors punished."

The controversy over the Senatorship had been settled
for all practical purposes in midsummer, Mr. Morrill's

2(i llISTOK^' OF X'EimoXT

following being of sufficient strength to make it apparent
that he would be elected. Thereupon the Second Dis-
trict Republican Convention nominated Judge Poland for
the vacant seat in the House. Mr. Poland accepted
rather reluctantly, referring to the changing of places
with Mr. Morrill as follows: "But if it be the pleasure
of the people that we should change places it is not for
me to find fault, and if any disagreeable consequences
ensue it is your fault, not mine. I shall endeavor so far
as I am able to represent you fearlessly and faithfully
and to observe the true principles of Vermont Repub-
licanism, in which I believe. But, gentlemen, if it should
turn out that this swap should be like the one made by
the king when he changed his chaplain and cook and
thereby spoiled both the prayer and the pudding, the
blame will lie with you and not with me." That no dis-
agreeable consequences ensued, and that the swap spoiled
neither the prayer nor the pudding, are statements which
history amply justifies. The efifects of this ill tempered
speech, however, followed Judge Poland, to his disad-
vantage, throughout his public career.

The Legislature was called upon in 1866 to fill three
Senatorial vacancies. For the remainder of Senator
Collamer's unexpired term Judge Poland was chosen,
receiving 212 votes in the House, while 15 votes were
cast for Henry Keyes. For the full term of six years,
Mr. Morrill was elected by a vote of 213. to 16, the
smaller number being cast for T. P. Redfield. Senator
Edmunds was elected to fill the unexpired term of Sena-
tor Foot, receiving 213 votes. Fifteen votes were cast
for H. R. Smith and one for H. O. Smith. In the


Senate, Poland, Edmunds and Morrill each received
twenty-nine votes, all that were cast.

If it had been possible for Vermont to have three
Senators, then Judge Poland might well have been
chosen. He was a man of great ability, greater than a
later generation has realized.

Justin S. Morrill came to this new office, one of the
most honorable and desirable in public life, with the dis-
tinction that belonged to one of the leading members of
the House, who held the chairmanship of the powerful
Ways and Means Committee. He was also a member
of the special Reconstruction Committee, being asso-
ciated with men like Thaddeus Stevens, Elihu B. Wash-
burne, Roscoe Conkling and George S. Boutwell. Of
this committee Mr. Blaine said: "It was foreseen that
in a special degree the fortunes of the Republican party

Online LibraryWalter Hill CrockettVermont, the Green mountain state (Volume 4) → online text (page 2 of 43)