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Choate walked up and down his library several RUFUS CHOATE.
times, and then, pausing before Mr. Dexter, who VIII.
was keenly observing him, said, “Brother Dexter, T is well known that when Professor Webster was how do you answer this question, and this ?' I can
charged with the murder of Dr. Parkman, Mr. not state the points thus presented, but my general Choate declined to act as his counsel. The case recollection is that those questions presented inheattracted universal attention, and every development
rent difficulties underlying the defense. Mr. Dexter, in it was watched with eagerness. Mr. Choate's
as if transfixed, sat musing deeply, his head bent refusal to defend excited profound surprise, and
upon his hand, for several minutes, and, finally, as even disappointment in professional circles, and if hopeless of finding an answer, and seeking relief, much conjecture was indulged in as to the reasons he rose suddenly and said, Brother Choate, have which withheld him from participation in a trial for you read — —'s book? If not, do so, and you which he was peculiarly fitted, and which was re- will find it charming. Mr. Choate accepted his garded as one of his best opportunities for distinc- changed mood, parted from him soon after with a tion. But nothing has been done hitherto to bring kindly expression of interest, and the subject was to light his motives. All that Professor Brown never alluded to afterward between them. says in his Life, is that he, "for reasons which he “I had these details partly from Mrs. Choate and judged satisfactory, declined.” This excited rather partly from Mr. Dexter. The time which has elapsed than satisfied curiosity.
since then is so long, nearly thirty years, that I Whatever reasons may have existed for silence on can only give this general statement." the subject having passed away, it seems now proper,
Judge Lord says: as due to Mr. Choate's memory, that all doubt
“I bad a conversation with Mr. Choate on this should, if possible, be removed. Entertaining this subject. It was more than twenty years ago, and, view, Mr. Edward Ellerton Pratt, Mr. Choate's son- of course, it is impossible to reproduce precisely his in-law, and the Hon. Otis P. Lord, Judge of the language, but the interview was substantially this: Supreme Court of Massachusetts, an intimate per- I said to Mr. Choate: 'Is it true that you refused sonal and professional friend of Mr. Choate, have to defend Professor Webster?' to which his reply kindly furnished the following statements for this was, not in direct terms, but by implication, that he
did not absolutely refuse, but that they did not Mr. Pratt says: “Mr. Franklin Dexter, one of the want him. Pausing for a while, he added: There leaders of the bar of New England, was greatly
was but one way to try that case. When the atinterested in Professor Webster's case, believed that torney-general was opening hris case to the jury, and he was innocent, and was persistently earnest that came to the discussion of the identity of the reMr. Choate should defend him on that ground. The
mains found in the furnace with those of Dr. ParkHon. Charles Sumner, also holding that view, urged man, the prisoner's counsel should have arisen, and, Mr. Choate to undertake the defense, as he expressed begging pardon for the interruption, should have it, 'in the interest of humanity,' and was quite said, substantially, that in a case of this importance, angry with him for refusing. At that time the of course, counsel had no right to concede any point, testimony taken before the coroner was known; that or make any admission, or fail to require proof,' and taken by the grand jury by whom the indictment
then have added: “But we desire the attorneyhad been found, was not publicly known. The general to understand, upon the question of these question of the Professor's guilt or innocence was remains, that the struggle will not be there! But, asthe absorbing topic, and the excitement in all classes summing that Dr. Parkman came to his death within of society was intense.
the laboratory on that day, we desire the govern"Mr. Dexter was determined to secure Mr. Choate's ment to show whether it was by visitation of God, services, and, after much study of the case, called or whether, in an attack made by the deceased upon upon him by appointment, one evening, to lay before the prisoner, the act was done in self-defense, or him what he called its merits. Mr. Choate listened whether it was the result of a violent altercation. to him, as a juror might have done, for nearly three Possibly the idea of murder may be suggested, but hours, and, as he afterward told me, it was one of not with more reason than apoplexy, or other form the most vigorous and persuasive arguments he had of sudden death. As the prisoner himself cannot ever heard. That estimate may well be accepted, speak, the real controversy will probably be narrowed when we remember Mr. Dexter's admitted ability, to the alternatives of justifiable homicide, in selfhis friendship for Professor Webster, and his belief defense, and manslaughter by reason of sudden althat if Mr. Choate could be secured as counsel, the tercation.' accused man might be saved.
"Having said this, he added: “But Professor “The argument, which had been listened to with- Webster would not listen to any such defense as out question or interruption, having closed, Mr. that,' accompanying the statement with language
Mayor'S OFFICES ANJU. Z 24, 1877. }
tending to show that the proposed defense was re
, ., jected both by the accused and his friends and advisers.
DEAR SIR – Your favor of the 26th of July brings “He then said that the only difficulty in that de
vividly to my mind's eye fense was to explain the subsequent conduct of Dr. Webster, and proceeded with a remarkable and sub- The face, the form, the man so true,
That the heart leaps enraptured at the view, tle analysis of the motives of men, and the influences which govern their conduct, to show that the of my valued-above-price, and beloved college friend, whole course of the accused after the death could
the late Rufus Choate, whose marvelous mental enbe explained by a single mistake as to the ex- dowments and intellectual power of grasp and repediency of disclosing what had happened in- tention were the wonder and admiration of us all at stantly; that hesitation, or irresolution, or the de- Dartmouth. Your note so quickened my mind's cision : ‘I will not disclose this,' adhered to for a eye that it again sees his manly and attractive figure brief half hour, might, by the closing in of circum- and strangely winning face,-and my mind's ear, that stances around him, have compelled all that fol- it again hears his deeply-resonant, sweet-toned and lowed. Having concealed the occurrence, he was impressive voice, wakening many a reminiscence of obliged to dispose of the remains, and would do so
his gentleness of temper and disposition, his warm in the manner suggested, and with the facilities sympathies, his innate sense of right, his refined afforded by his professional position. He concluded: courtesy, his completeness as a gentleman, his love 'It would have been impossible to convict Dr. of all that was beautiful in life, in nature and in Webster of murder with that admission.'
art, his attraction in person, voice and manner, his " I suggested to him that the possession of his note wonderful montal gifts, his marvelous memory, his by Dr. Webster, as paid, was an awkward fact. He thoroughness and exactness as a scholar, and the said: “Yes, but it might seem to become a necessity symmetrical finish of him in all that makes a good after his first false step of concealment.' He added: and great man. 'Dr. Parkman was known to have been at the hos
My first acquaintance with him dates from the pital. When, how soon, and under what circum- | month of August, 1816, when – he then being at stances, and to explain what statements made by the beginning of his Sophomore year – I joined the him, he thought it expedient to say he had paid | Junior class at Dartmouth College. I had passed the note, or to obtain the possession of it would
my first two years at Harvard, entering in 1814, a never appear. It was simply an incident, whose youngling of not quite fourteen years of age. My force could be parried, if he could obtain credit father, Rev. Daniel Oliver (D. C. 1785), then of for the position that the concealment was a sudden Boston, intended me for a clergyman of his own and impulsive afterthought which took possession denomination, a Calvinist of the severer type, but of and controlled him in all his subsequent con- becoming uneasy at the alleged tendency of Harvard duct.'»
toward Unitarianism, and probably feeling the presWe have in these statements the desired testimony sure of the greater expense thereat, transferred me to touching Mr. Choate's attitude in respect to that Hanover. I relinquished my old associations at most important case. It is apparent from them that, Harvard with deepest regret, having formed many while accepting the theory that a lawyer is not at strong attachments to both officers and classmates, liberty to withhold his services absolutely in a crim- and many close friendships with lads of my own age. inal case, he yet did not think him bound to go These were all sundered, and I confess that, when into court contrary to his own conscientious convic
removed so great a distance from home, (a stagetions to assert what he does not believe to be true, journey then of two days, though now accomplished or to take a line of defense which he conceives to
in five hours), and thrown among entire strangers, be futile or unjust. His refusal to appear, as ex- the most intense and depressing nostalgia possessed plained by these gentlemen, is consistent with the and tormented me. But the transplanted roots after practice which, as a humane man and self-sacrificing awhile found genial soil, and, under kindnesses counselor, he exemplified throughout life, and is in
without number, began to feed from the new earth. keeping with the doctrine of an advocate's duty as A few weeks domiciled me among my new assoasserted by Erskine and others.
ciates, while efforts at creating favorable impres
sions, both personal and scholarly, and the exciteAfter this lapse of time, we think ourselves for- ment attending the fact of the existence at Hanotunate in being able to present the recollections of ver, at one and the same time (1816-17), of a “Darttwo venerable men who were classmates of Mr. mouth College” with its corps of teachers and over Choate at Dartmouth — the Hon. H. K. Oliver, Mayor a hundred students, and a “Dartmouth University," of Salem, and Dr. W. C. Boyden, of Beverly, Mass. with its duct of teachers and its corporal's guard of
J. N. students, helped me to think less of home and more
of surroundings and duty, and I gradually became pensiveness of tone, in marked contrast, not seldom self-reliant and settled down to my work.
with many a sudden playful or witty utterance (he, Of those whose sympathy and active kindness all the while, gentle and in quiet repose), which helped to lift me out of my slough of despond, I flashed out in surcharge of unharming humor, with recall many a now departed friend, but none with no effervescence of laughter, nor uproar of boisterous more earnest gratitude than him of whom I write, merriment. at whose room, in the house of Prof. Ebenezer There was a custom in our day, of assignment, by Adams, I was a frequent visitor.
the president, on each alternate Wednesday evenHe was a member of the class (1819), next below ing, in chapel, after prayers, of subject-themes to my own (1818), and about a year older than myself, two or three members of the senior and junior but of an almost incredible maturity of mind. classes alternately, the essays thereon to be read in Being from my own State, and from the county in chapel on the next Wednesday fortnight. These which I was born (though reared in Boston), he en- readings were open to the general public, and ordicouraged me by considerate and timely sympathies, narily there was plenty of room. But when it was and stimulated me, as he did all of us, by his un- Choate's turn, the chapel was crowded to repletion, yielding pertinacity at study, his success in work, the gentlemen and ladies and even the youth of the his richness of attainment and his brilliancy of village, flocking to hear the brilliant essayist, led scholarship. Yet such was the simplicity of his captive by his grasp of the subject, his eloquent diccharacter, his manifest unconsciousness of supe- tion, his beautiful imagery and the charm of his riority, his freedom of intercourse with us all, his profuse illustration, all set forth with a fertility of exuberance of friendly grasp, his genial outflow in language that showed his ready command of an companionship, -- "medicines that he gave us to unsurpassed range of words, and of unsurpassed skill make us love him,”. that each of us, delighted by in their usance. At times, and always at the approhis finish as a man, charmed by his consummateness priate and fitting time, his sense of humor unconas a scholar, and drawn to him by the loveliness of sciously operative, perhaps even to himself, yet none his disposition, the purity and strength of his moral the less animate, (quiet and gentle it always was), influence, was at all times ready to exclaim, like the lighted up his features with an infectious smile as shepherd in Virgil's Eclogue:
he set forth some absurdity in a manner so luminous
and palpable, that the air of the chapel, usually still “ Non equidem invideo, miror magis !"
and solemn, seemed to undulate with the soft murA passage describing Cicero has often come to my muring of a restrained merriment. And yet no man memory when I have thought of Choate: “Quum whom I ever knew was more tender in feeling, or eus artes disceret, quibus ætas puerilis solet ad humani- bad in him less of the assailant spirit of ridicule, or tatem informari, ingenium ejus ita illuxit, ut eum more of affluent charity and good will to all manæquales e scholå redeuntes, medium, tanquam regem cir- kind, he seeming to delight in making men happy, cumstantes, domum deducereat ; imo, eorum parentes, and so keeping them. If the phrase be permissible, pueri famâ commoti, in ludum literarium ventitabant, his humor was characterized by a sort of stately digut eum viserent.” Him we looked upon as “ facile nity, which, while it fitted the occasion and the obprinceps inter principes," no man in either of the
ject, most felicitously illustrated his intent, yet had classes then in college, being even named with him nothing in it of harshness. It lacerated no one's in rate of scholarship. In fact, we did not count feelings, nor provoked fretful retort or acrimonious him in at all in rating scholarship, but set him apart, repartee. and above us all, as on a pedestal by himself, "him- Wholly free was he also from any self-complacent self his only parallel.”
ostentation of conscious superiority in talent or acHis persistent method of study seemed to the rest quirement over his college mates, so free that I of us to have crystallized into an abiding habit, defi- doubt whether he himself thought that any such nite in manner and form, and determinate in pur- superiority existed, manifest though it was to all pose and result. I have often seen him, when I the rest of us, and we so often ourselves manifesting called at his room, in the act of delving at his our sense of it, that one would suppose that he himbooks, His large and well-shaped head usually self could not have failed to find it out. But neither rested upon his hands, his elbows upon the table, he in college nor in the after-life, so far as I know, did often passing the fingers of both hands through the he give token of any such cognition. To us his profuse growth of his dark, curly hair.
companionship was a benediction of constant influwere also dark, with a mild, yet penetrating look, ence, illustrated by both act and word; and we always, as I remember, having a suggestion of sad sought his society as we would seek for a haven of ness, as did, at all times, the dark features of his
agreeable repose, of comfort and relief, no one feelexpressive face, giving out a peculiar look, whieh ing dwarfed by either his bearing, his demeanor, his enchained one's attention and interest by its very acts or his words, but, on the contrary, encouraged
and incited to individual better trying and better building, the members of the Fraternity, then in doing
session, hearing the crash of axes and crowbars As I said, I was not of his class, that more inti- calde ego memini, nam eorum fui pars – rushed to mate association blessing the class of 1819; yet his the rescue and made prisoners of the whole crowd, influence, both personal and as a scholar, was opera-sending home the “ignobile vulgus,” but imprisoning tive with every member of the seven classes that Dean and Carter until they pledged their honor to enjoyed a college life with him — an influence that, us captors that they would “never do so again." seeming but small in his earlier college life, assumed, They were then escorted to their homes, each by a before the end of the first year, a power and reach
trio of collegians, I, small chap as I was, being one, far beyond that of any other member of college. so honored, I suppose, because, having first rushed His preparation had been a little imperfect, and he to the library from the Fraternity room, I had andid not, therefore, give then the real impress of nounced the cause of the disturbing noise. Neither what he was, of what he was to be, and what he the names of those two professors, nor that of Allen, soon became. Having once taken root, and feeling president of the new university, will be found in the the power and strength of the wider instruction Triennial Government Catalogue of Dartmouth, they under which his own power and strength were being being unrecognized interlopers. In fact, the whole evoked, he grew with marvelous rapidity. His facil- creation of the university was a political trick and unity at concentrating his mind upon any given sub
substantial fraud, “a thing of shreds and patches,' ject, and acquiring all that was to be acquired about which, at the bidding of the Supreme Court of the such subject, fairly exhausted it, being something United States, after Webster's great argument, like which to the rest of us was without parallel, and in the ghost of poor lost Creusa, every department of study rapidly putting him far in
tenues recessit in auras, advance of his fellows. The general standard by
nec post oculis est reddita nostris,which scholarship among us was to be measured, the “unsubstantial pageant faded,” and “not a received from him a positive and most noticeable rack behind." elevation by what he achieved, excellence rising to But it was a disturbing element for a couple of a higher grade, and mediocrity becoming less es- years, and could not but occupy our thoughts and teemed. This influence was felt among both officials conversation, and unfavorably affect our studyings and undergraduates, and it began to be realized that and the methods and thoroughness of our instructthe old rule of the arithmetics, that “more required ings. I remember well the poverty of our illustramore," was making men work harder and with more
tive apparatus, and the ingenious devices to which of a will, and that a decided new departure had Prof. Adams was compelled to resort, to supplement been taken, never thereafter to be ignored, and from its incompleteness. Not seldom was he constrained which there was to be no retrogression. And yet to leave to our imaginations the practical demonthe hindrances that, in our time, impeded both stration of some principle in natural philosophy. teachers and taught, were of the most perplexing, So, too, were we without the college library, which, aggravating and discouraging nature. President though then small, had nevertheless many valuable Wheelock and the board of trustees had got to- books of reference, which would greatly have helped gether by the ears, the issue of their contest bring- us over and through many a difficult passage in our ing him to grief and to deposition from his office. classics. As for recitation rooms and a chapel, we A new president, Rev. Francis Brown, was elected, got them in the village wherever we could. The and time was required for him to get well into har- whole situation was a tangle of embarrassments; ness, and to make the college feel the power and and if there ever was an actual “pursuit of knowlpush of that healthful influence which he afterward edge under difficulties," it was at Dartmouth Colso admirably and efficiently exerted. Never was lege at the period 1815–1818, when Choate was an college official more beloved and revered. The new undergraduate. rival institution created by the State legislature, had But the extraordinary state of affairs itself, the been duly inaugurated, had been put into possession sympathy of the college instructors toward the of the college seal, the college library, its only build- struggling and loyal students, and the sympathy of ing and its only chapel. We lads had looked out the students toward faithful, zealous and self-sacrifor the two libraries of the college societies, the Fra- ficing teachers, generated a spirit of the most earnternity and the Social Friends, and quickly and est, and therefore successful, industry, and I have safely removed them from the college buildings to always believed that the good order, the persistent private quarters; and when Professors Dean and obedience, the thoughtful fidelity to work, and the Carter, of the university, with a horde of village unbroken friendship which characterized the interroughs, knowing nothing of such removal, broke course of teachers and taught, supplemented by the into the library room of the Social Friends, in the strong religious influence which then pervaded the second story of the southern end of the college institution, were all ministrations which helped to
turn our then evil into great good for us all. Our having been interrupted by seasons of work on his successors at the college can never realize the weight father's farm. He had spent a short time at Hampof the troubles that embarrassed and impeded us, ton Academy just before coming to Dartmouth. nor the joy when those troubles passed away. May Several students, fresh from Andover, entered at the they, in her prosperity, be as faithful to her, as were same time. They were more fully prepared than we in her deepest adversity.
he, and, at the start, showed to better advantage in Salve Dartmuthensis mater!
their recitations. But, by and by, some of these Salve quoque quisque frater!
began to fall from their first estate, and it was reAlma mater quam amamus –
marked about the same time, that “that young Cujus nomen celebramus. Cujus gloria cordi cuique,
Choate in the corner, recited remarkably well.' BeCujus laudes sunt ubique.
fore the end of the first term he was the acknowlBut to return: Graduating in 1818, I left Choate edged leader of the class, and he maintained that behind me as Senior, he graduating in 1819, with position until graduation, without apparent difficulty. the valedictory, an address which verified to the No one pretented to rival him, nor did he invite comfull his pre-eminent power of scholarship, the parison. He paid little attention to the proficiency breadth and extent of his fields of reading and of of his fellow students. His talk was of eminent thought, his comprehensive grasp of fact and power scholars of other countries and of former times, of statement, and the magnetism of his oratory, and they seemed the objects of his emulation. One passages in it not only eliciting the most demonstra- European scholar being mentioned as having comtive applause, but moving hearts in sympathy and mitted to memory the Greek primitives, Choate many an eye to tears.
seems to have accepted the suggestion as a valuable He served afterward, though I think but single A few weeks afterward I was in his room, year, as tutor, and then commenced a course of study and he asked me to hear him recite. I took a book at the Law School at Cambridge, continuing it in and listened to him, page after page, in the Greek the office at Washington of Mr. Wirt, Attorney- primitives, repeated without ostentation, but merely, General of the United States. His fidelity in study to all appearance, to test himself. and his purity of life when an undergraduate, charac
“He did not limit his studies to the curriculum. terized him while preparing for his life profession.
After the first year he read a great deal beyond the I lost sight of him mainly during these years, hav- prescribed course, especially in Cicero, of whose ing myself elected and entered upon the work of a
works he thus went over several, and took up besides teacher in the Public Latin School of this city. He,
some of the Greck authors. however, reappeared in our neighborhood, opening He neglected athletic exercises almost entirely. his office in Danvers, that portion of the town now His chief relaxations from study were of a social called Peabody, it being practically a suburb of character.
character. He would get half a dozen of the stuSalem. Here, though under the discouragements dents in his room, and, refreshments being obtained, that always attend early professional life, he laid the would give himself up with them to having a foundation of his future success, by a fidelity in good time.' small things, which proved his fitness to be en
“In the public exercises of the college he attracted trusted with the conduct of greater. Our avoca- much attention. If he had an oration to deliver, tions lying in different fields, I met him but occa- the audience was always eager to hear it, and gensionally, yet there was always beaming forth from erally was rewarded by a masterly effort. him the same genial and friendly recognition that
“As we adopted different professions, he the law and had so often made me happy in college, and I always I medicine, I had few opportunities of witnessing have considered it, and shall always continue to con
the displays of his maturer powers, much to my sider it, as one of the highest happinesses and privi- regret. But our personal intimacy was very great, leges of a not short life, that I was permitted, for so
and continued through life. many years, to enjoy the good will and the friend
“I had, from the first, no doubt that he would ship of so good, so pure, so noble a man as Rufus
strive for and attain the foremost rank in his profesChoate. Very truly yours,
sion. When he commenced practice in Salem, we HENRY K. OLIVER,
had two or three old lawyers, of whom Mr. ThornD. C. et H. C., 1818.
dyke was one. I said to him, “Mr. Choate is not Dr. Boyden says of Mr. Choate:
in the Superior Court yet? (his time not having “We entered college together in 1815. He was expired in the Common Pleas), “but I know him between fifteen and sixteen years of age, very youth- very well, and he will be at the head of the Essex ful and engaging in appearance, modest and unpre- bar as soon as he can get there. The old lawyer tentious in manner. He had been fitted for college looked at me with surprise and incredulity, but I in a rather desultory way, his preliminary studies had the pleasure of hearing him, before many years with the minister, the doctor and the schoolmaster, had elapsed, admit the fulfillment of my prophecy.