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Full text of "A Sketch of the Character and Life-work of Rev. Nathaniel Bouton, D.D., Pastor of the First ..."

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OU*- 



1 1 '//<*.' I '*• 



HARVARD COLLEGE 
LIBRARY 




THE GIFT OF 

LAWRENCE SHAW MAYO 

CLASS OF 1910 



< 



A SKETCH 



CHARACTER AND LIFE-WORK 



Rev. Nathaniel Bouton. D. D., 



FIRST CONGREGATIONAI. CHURCH, 

OaNCOHl), K. II.. 



18aS-ig<e7, 



JOHN BELL BOUTON. 



WSO AT TW> Pv^mpT, ««FffV|»i- f* THfc l+H'I'CH, 



MRS. ARTHUR K. CLARKK. 

•M«liril4 ClMiOT MMmVi IM. IMIItn«* )MMItlVI>ll. I 



r<eVI5bt) BY THE AdIHUR. 



REV. NATHANIEL BOUTON, D. D. 

ISy John Bell Bouton. 



[IIS is a slight sketch, not a 
formal memoir, of Dr. Bou- 
ton, It only gives glimpses 

1 of him. I try to describe him 

from my personal recollections of the 
early part of his ministry. He was 
a many-sided man, sympathetic and 
helpful in all that affected the general 
welfare. I have chiefly dwelt on his 
supreme services as pastor and his- 
torian, alluding briefly to Other mat- 
ters, and leaving much to be inferred. 
It is au attempted portrayal of char- 
acter by some striking examples. His 
special fitness and all-round ability 
appeared in his im[X)rtaiit work on the 
town school committee for fourteen 
years, aud also as president of the 
Concord academy trustees. Later on 
he displayed the same rare qualities on 
A higherlevel, as trustee of Dartmouth 
college between i840-'77. He was a 
warm friend of every philanthropic en- 
terprise. His early and constant inter- 
est in the State Asylum for the Insane 
is a case in point. From 1867-70 he 
was its chaplain. During the Civil 
War his fer\-id patriotism and intense 
energy, in words and acts, were pow- 
erful stimulants of public opinion to 
save the Union and abolish slavery. 
He had a shrewd prescience of ben- 
efits possible to the community from 
new and sound ideas of improvement 
and progress, and aided them as best 
he could. It is merely a question of 
muUiplying illustrations. Only a 
few out of the niauy could be clearly 



shown within the narrow limits of this 
paper. 

In the language of Waverley, " 'tis 
sixty years since." In going back to 
about 1840, as a starting point, I be- 
gin in the middle of my slory ex- 
pressly to make it short, while avail- 
ing myself of a novel and interesting 
background. The scene is the Old 
North Church ; the time Sunday 
morning in early June. The great 
open space in which the church stands 
is covered with grass studded with 
buttercups and daisies, and shadowed 
by giant elms in full leaf. 

The sexton is ringing the heavy 
bell, "setting" it occasionally on its 
head and taking care that the rope 
doesn't pull him off his feet. He 
looks through the doorway and sees a 
little procession rapidly approaching. 
Then he stops his jigs and flourishes 
and begins to toll. The sharp stac- 
cato notes seem to be saying, " time 
is up, now or never." Idlers loung- 
ing in the sunshine take the hint and 
enter the church by a liberal choice 
of three doors — the main one in front 
and two in the rear — a convenient 
arrangement for slipping in and out 
quite unobserved. The little proces- 
sion consists of the minister, his wife, 
and such of his children as are able 
to walk the half mile from their house 
at his own gait, which is lively. He 
is a medium-sized man, spare and 
sinewy, with a clean-shaven face, reg- 



REV. NATHANIEL BOUTON, D. D, 



ular features, piercing gray blue eyes, 
and shaggy eyebrows. Bismarck had 
a pair just like them. If they signify 
strength of will and tenacity of pur- 
pose, then they were not put on either 
face in vain. The minister wears a 
long, flowing, shiny surplice, beneath 
which may be seen a black suit, not 
very new, but neatly kept. His vest 
is cut clerical fashion, and the neck- 
cloth is a thick fold of white with no 
visible tie. 

He springs, rather than walks, up 
the steps leading to the great double 
door which is invitingly wide open. 
He strides along the broad center 
aisle ; and one feels that he would 
skip up the winding stairs which lead 
to his elevated pulpit but for the offi- 
cial dignity imposed on him. Mean- 
while, the family march to the front 
left-hand pew. There they are in the 
full blaze of observation and try to 
look unconscious of it. The occu- 
pant of the pulpit from his high posi- 
tion commands a good view of the 
whole house. He is almost on a level 
with the galleries which slope steeply 
toward the roof. Exactly over his 
head is a huge sounding board, sus- 
pended from the ceiling by a thick 
iron rod. It makes one's flesh creep 
to think what would happen if this 
should fall ! Many windows light up 
the interior so that he can peer into 
all the nooks and corners, which he 
proceeds to do. His swift glance 
takes in every face, old or young, the 
owner of which he can call by name, 
and give his pedigree if required. 
He unerringly detects a stranger. If 
the unknown is a man of intelligent 
appearance and attentive and within 
short range, he will think that a part 
of the sermon is preached at him 
point blank. 



The house holds about 750 people. 
It has already thrown off swarms to 
the South and West Concord 
churches. They are both flourishing 
colonies from the parent hive. But 
there is still a goodly attendance. 
The floor pews are full and the galle- 
ries show few vacancies. 

Now the bell has ceased to toll. 
The latest probable comer ^ has ar- 
rived. The service begins. It differs 
but slightly from the order at present 
observed in many smaller churches of 
the same communion. The heart of 
the pastor shows in his face as he 
utters the short prayer. It is rapt 
and serious as of one who communes 
with God. His voice is tremulous 
and petitioning, but clear and well 
pitched and heard by everybody. He 
knows that a deaf old man is seated 
in the railed space immediately under 
the pulpit, this being a reservation 
for the aged and infirm, and that he 
is making an ear- shell of his right 
hand. 

The hymns sung are from the old 
collection, in which Dodridge, Watts, 
Montgomery, and Cowperare the star 
lyrists. The tunes may be Mear, 
Balerma, Boylston, Greenville, Ge- 
neva, Coronation, and the like. 
Though now out- worn by use, both 
words and music have never been 
surpassed for devotional effect. 

The tuning fork of the leader strikes 
the pitch like the magnified hum of a 
bumble-bee. He says *'do, re, mi, 
sing," and his little band responds. 
The man with the bass viol makes 
wild dabs at the strings. Harvey 
Jewell, or perhaps it is McCutcheon 
conducting the music, lifts up his 
tenor voice. Scattered among the 
audience are scores of persons who 
know the hymns and tunes by heart. 



REV, NATHANIEL BO V TON, D. D, 



They think themselves, and perhaps 
they are, as good singers as those be- 
hind the red baize curtains up there. 
About the second line they strike in 
with great power and are soon re- 
enforced by hundreds more who think 
they can sing, but cannot. 

The result is a ** joyful noise" 
indeed. It is all the same to the min- 
ister. Never mind the discord, or the 
unbalanced parts ! . He hears only 
voices vehemently praising the Lord, 
and he knows they mean well. All 
defects have their compensation, and 
this scanty knowledge of music saves 
him from collisions with the choir. 
For the choir, as everybody knows, 
has the possibilities of a hornet's nest 
when molested by clergymen. A 
happy family indeed ! 

A scriptural reading follows, with 
a word of explanation injected, where 
one is really needed to shed light on 
some obscurity shared by the minister 
with his hearers. He assumes always 
that they know a little more than they 
really do. Then the long prayer ; 
then a second hymn and the event, 
the sermon, is in order. 

Deacon Morrill clears his throat 
and takes a lozenge. Richard Brad- 
ley (if he is not a deacon he ought to 
be) straightens himself in his seat and 
sets a conspicuous example of alert 
attention. There is a rustle all over 
the house as of skirts being adjusted, 
and a little clatter of footstools being 
comfortably fixed. 

When all is quiet, and not till then, 
the minister rises to preach. His 
sermon is written and lies before him, 
spread out on the pages of a great 
open Bible. He gives out the text 
slowly, and in a very distinct voice. 
He repeats it. This is a piece of pure 
kindness for the benefit of young per- 



sons who may be asked when they 
get home what the text was. His 
own children, however young, are 
expected to remember that much. 
But I regret to say that it sometimes 
evaporated on the way home. 

No matter what the sermon is about 
I am not here to repeat it to you. It 
is doctrinal, for sure, after the fashion 
of the period, which was set by the 
pews no less than by the pulpit. The 
people wanted no other kind ; and to 
them no other kind was '*just as 
good." And I am bound to say 
their demand was fully supplied. 
** Sound doctrine is the basis of sound 
piety" is the motto of the preacher 
who is discoursing this fine June 
morning in the Old North Church. 
For himself, he fully believes in it. 
Nobody doubts that. And whatever 
fate may overtake it in later skeptical 
days, it is now, in 1840, accepted 
without question by the audience. 
Evolution is not yet discovered. The 
higher criticism is unknown. The 
pastor and his flock are not plagued 
by problems which are soon to shake 
the foundations of belief. 

The sermon, therefore, is not so 
much an argument to convince, as a 
restatement of points to refresh the 
memory. As currants in a bun, or 
raisins in a pudding, so it is stocked 
with Bible quotations. It rests on 
these and is buttressed and built up 
by them. Grant the plenary inspira- 
tion of the Bible, which had few chal- 
lenges sixty years since, and lo ! the 
doctrine is demonstrated whatever it 
is. And so text is heaped upon text 
and proof upon proof. Deacon Mor- 
rill coughs loudly as if in approval 
and takes another lozenge. Richard 
Bradley looks about him as if he saw 
an imaginary objector where none ex- 



REV. NATHANIEL BOUTON, D, D. 



ists, and seems to say * * that settles it. * ' 
At intervals there is a mitigation of 
logical severity in the shape of fervent 
personal appeals ; and there is much 
reverent dwelling on the abounding 
grace of God. With plenty of strong 
meat for men there is a reasonable 
provision of milk for babes and suck- 
lings. The pastoral and the paternal 
are happily blended. 

Sermons of the day are divided into 
parts, as firstly, secondly, thirdly, etc. 
These cease with *'in conclusion,** 
with perhaps " finally," succeeded 
possibly by "lastly." Till that sig- 
nal is given audiences do n*t know 
where they are. There never is a 
fourteenthly. That is an invention 
of the humorists. And, so far from 
being an hour and a half long, which 
ancient chroniclers say used to be the 
regulation length, this sermon is not 
over thirty-five minutes. It is flexi- 
bly constructed, and can be let out or 
taken in as occasion requires. 

The pastor manages his voice skil- 
fully. It is loud and emphatic in the 
condemnation of sin. But it sinks to 
a whisper when he refers to * * Sheol ' ' 
by the equivalent of the old version. 
He does not conceal the terrors of the 
law, but he never shakes them like a 
stick at his congregation. He ap- 
peals to reason and not to fear, and to 
the heart more than to the conscience. 
And he does all this in plain English 
which everybody understands. There 
is no ** fine writings," so called, and 
never a touch of pedantry. His ges- 
tures are few and simple, but his arm 
cuts the air quickly. Somehow, in 
all he says and does, he gives out the 
impression of fervent piety, trans- 
parent sincerity, and of a great reserve 
of nerve force, carefully bitted and 
curbed, to avoid excess in language 



and action. And this is the true view 
of him — of which more hereafter. 

This is but a rough presentment of 
my honored father. Rev. Nathaniel 
Bouton (he had not then received his 
Doctorate from Dartmouth college), 
as he appeared in the prime of life, 
and about the fifteenth year of his 
ministry. 

The interval for lunch in summer 
on Sunday was an hour and a half. 
Some of the worshipers from a dis- 
tance brought their doughnuts, cook- 
ies, and turnovers with them and re- 
galed themselves in the church, or on 
the doorsteps, or on the grass under 
the elms, or in the graveyard, which 
w^as always a favorite resort. Many 
dropped in on their hospitable friends 
in the neighborhood, sure of welcome 
in those primitive days. But the 
great majority walked to their own 
homes for the midday ** snack," and 
my father and his little troupe among 
them. With everybody it was less 
a meal than an appetizer. For the 
dinner of the day was set for three and 
a half to four o*clock, and that house- 
hold was poor indeed which did not 
make a satisfying repast of it. Even 
now, looking back through an end- 
less vista of table d'hote dinners, in 
clubland and elsewhere, under many 
skies, I do not recall the production 
of any r//<^ comparable for downright 
relish wnth the square Sunday meal 
of my childhood. Attribute all you 
please to youthful appetite and os- 
trich-like digestion. I concede your 
point ; and yet I maintain, against all 
comers, that the old-fashioned Sunday 
dinner was fit for a king — if the king 
was very hungry. 

But in my encomiums on this feast, 
as it lies embalmed in my memory, I 
am losing the sequence of things. 



REV. NATHANIEL BO U TON, D. D. 



poetic license and to treat it as part 
of my father's Sunday work about 
sixty years since. He was fully equal 
to its demands, had they been made 
upon him, for ten or fifteen years after 
that date, so vigorous were his body 
and mind, and so anxious w^as he to 
preach the gospel to every creature. 

*' A busy day,'* you say, *' and how 
tired the poor man must have been !" 
Yet, he went to bed on Sunday less 
fatigued than any week day. It was, 
comparatively speaking, his day of 
rest. For, on Sunday, he snatched a 
respite from the incessant and dis- 
tracting calls upon his time and pa- 
tience from Monday to Saturday, in- 
chtsive. At the outset of his ministry 
he adopted a plan of rising with the 
sun, w^hich means from four and a 
half to five o'clock in summer, and 
then to walk, or exercise in some way, 
for one hour. He also proposed to 
read the classics an hour a day, with 
dips into philosophy and poetry now 
and then. How long these heroic and 
beautiful resolutions remained un- 
broken, I cannot say. There are tra- 
ditions that he used to go down to the 
river in the freshness of the morning 
for a swim ; and it is quite likely that 
he often walked a mile or two before 
breakfast. But the cares of a house- 
hold and his parochial duties soon 
gave him all the exercise he wanted. 
He sawed and split all the fire-wood 
for the house, from choice, wnth neat- 
ness and dispatch. In default of a 
hired man he could, and w^ould, do 
the work of the barn ; and the horse, 
the cow, and the pig never com- 
plained of his neglect. 

The noble intention of rising with 
the sun was practically commuted to 
getting up at six o'clock. At that 
hour his loud rap and cheery voice 



t « o. 



( ( 



were invariably heard at the foot of 
the stairs. It was '* Come children," 
and they came, the house being run 
on patriarchal principles. As for the 
classics in Greek and Latin, which he 
read with ease, they gathered dust on 
the shelves. Calmet's " Biblical An- 
tiquities," *' Cruden's Concordance," 
Scott's Commentaries," and other 
tools of the trade," so to speak, had 
the call with him. He kept up his 
knowledge of Hebrew, and sometimes, 
at morning prayers he would read 
sonorous passages in that tongue from 
the Psalmist or the Piophets. The 
language seemed to have a majestic 
roll as of distant echoes from the 
thunders of Sinai ; and the children 
listened with awe and increased re- 
spect for their parent as he performed 
this feat. For philosophy he drew 
upon himself, and he needed plenty 
of it. He kept no record of engage- 
ments, but carried them all in his 
head, carefully pigeon-holed and la- 
beled, and never forgotten. 

They comprised special evening 
services on w^eek days, district lec- 
tures, Bible classes, inquiry and 
prayer meetings, family conferences, 
and appointments wnth deacons and 
church committees. If one of his 
parishioners fell sick, he called on 
him ; if dying, he stood by his bed- 
side, and officiated at his funeral. As 
president of Concord academy and 
member of the town school board, he 
was active in promoting education. 
In every work of philanthropy and 
rational reform he was called to help 
and never refused. To every man 
and every scheme that promised ben- 
efit to Concord, he was " guide, phi- 
losopher, and friend." At the outset 
of his ministry the Old North was the 
only meeting-house, and so by sen- 



8 



REV, NATHANIEL BOUTON, D, D. 



iority, he was the dean of the clergy, 
and in every associated effort among 
them he was put to the front as 
spokesman. In the dedication of 
Congregational churches far and near, 
or the installation of pastors, he was 
expected to preach the sermon, or 
offer the right hand of fellowship, or 
otherwise assist in launching the en- 
terprise. 

There is a free masonary that 
draws antiquaries together; and it 
was not long before John Farmer 
and Jacob B. Moore, and Philip 
Carrigain and other kindred spirits 
found him out. They often called at 
his house and were glad to enlarge 
their own extensive stock of lore 
from the fund of queer information, 
which he was always picking up in 
his rides and walks about the parish 
and his examination of the oldest in- 
habitants. In return they would tell 
him of anything interesting they had 
seen or heard. It would nowadays 
be called *' swapping stories." His 
thirst for this kind of knowledge was 
insatiable. He could put his finger 
on every old piece of furniture in 
Concord. He would spend hours 
deciphering the crabbed manuscript 
of ancient records. He was particu- 
larly strong in genealogies, and often 
able to supply missing links. He 
had the knack of putting this and 
that together and giving a moral cer- 
tainty to shrewd conjecture. These 
gifts endeared him to the delightful 
** Dryasdusts ' * aforesaid, and quali- 
fied him, in after days, to write the 
*' History of Concord," for which he 
had been unconsciously preparing for 
many years. 

The New Hampshire Historical 
Society elected him a member, and 
he was its president for two years 



and its corresponding secretary for 
thirty-four. A compartment called 
the **Bouton Papers," full of rare 
matter collected and presented by 
him, attests to-day his interest in 
that useful organization. The New 
Hampshire Antiquarian Society 
claimed him as a most serviceable 
friend. He was corresponding mem- 
ber of several historical societies out 
of the state — offices not wholly sine- 
cures. He was trustee of the New 
Hampshire Missionary Society about 
twenty years, and president for »six 
years; president of the Ministers' 
and Widows* Charitable Fund ; di- 
rector of the New Hampshire Bible 
Society, as also of the New Hamp- 
shire Educational Society ; trustee 
for thirty-seven years of Dartmouth 
college, and secretary of the board ; 
vice-president of the American Home 
Missionary Society ; corporate mem- 
ber of the A. B. C. F. M., etc. 

It is not too much to claim for my 
father the germinal thought of the 
Home Missionary Society. It sprang 
out of a conversation between him 
and other Andover Theological stu- 
dents early in 1825. They were talk- 
ing about the supply of missions for 
new settlements in that te^^ra hicog- 
nzta, the West. Like a flash came 
to his mind the idea ** we need a Na- 
tional Missionary Society for this 
great w^ork," and he said so. Pur- 
suing the theme, he literally struck 
the keynote of it by taking a key 
from his pocket, tapping the wall 
with it, and exclaiming with great 
animation, **Why not strike a high 
key at once and say a National Do- 
mestic Missionary Society?" To 
this little seed can be traced the 
mighty tree. 

If his children had known this fact 



REV, NATHANIEL BO U TON, D, D. 



earlier perhaps they would have 
dropped more of their pennies into 
the box for Home Missions rather 
than that for Foreign Missions, 
which appealed to iheir youthful 
imaginations as the more remote and 
romantic of the two ! 

In the temperance reform he was 
a pioneer. As late as 1830, rum, 
brandy, gin, and wines were common 
drinks in every family. They were 
on tap in every store in town, and a 
special counter was provided with 
water, sugar, spoons, and toddy 
sticks, all handy. In private houses 
the decanters were temptingly ar- 
rayed on elegant sideboards. Farm- 
ers carried bottles of rum into the 
fields, and nothing could be planted 
or harvested without it. My father, 
in 1827, learned from personal in- 
quiry that in a single year about 
400 hogsheads, or 46,000 gallons, of 
ardent spirits (exclusive of wines) 
were .sold in the town. Of this 
amount no less than 15,000 gallons 
were for home consumption, or four 
and one half gallons to every man, 
woman, and child in Concord. 

No account was kept of the port 
and muscat wines also disposed of in 
large quantities. But these were 
less in request by heavy drinkers 
and did little harm compared with 
the powerful intoxicants. The same 
is true of home-made cider, of which 
farmers used to lay in anywhere from 
fifteen to sixty (and in one recorded 
instance 150) barrels a year. The 
new cider which used to taste so 
sweet and innocent to me as a bo5^ 
when sucked from the bung- hole 
with a straw, became hard and heady 
with age, and had a trick of fuddling 
those who drank it by the quart. 

In his parochial rounds in those 



earl}'^ days, liquor was always offered 
to him as a matter of common cour- 
tesy, and as politely declined. It 
was the uniform custom at funerals 
to treat the mourners and pall-bearers 
and others before going to the grave 
and after their return. He could 
overlook this, as it was then a recog- 
nized usage in good society. But 
one day he attended the funeral of 
a drunkard who had fallen in the 
street on a sharp axe he was carry- 
ing, and had bled to death. This 
man had, at the time, a bottle of rum 
in his pocket. He was found dead 
by his brother who at once seized 
the bottle and drank up the rum. 
Here was an opening which the 
young pastor did not fail to improve. 
He turned his funeral remarks into 
a little IcQture on intemperance and 
made it hot for the ears of the 
brother and his family and all others 
present who were soaking themselves 
in liquor. 

Temperance reform made slow 
headway in Concord. But in 1836 
it had gained so many friends that 
Dr. George B. Cheever of New York, 
author of the scathing Tract called 
** A Dream ot Deacon Giles's Distil- 
lery," was invited to deliver a tem- 
perance address at the Old North on 
the annual Fast day. The rum inter- 
est turned out to hear the bold man 
who thus bearded the lion in his den, 
and was enraged by his withering ex- 
posure and denunciation. 

That night there was a riotous out- 
break in front of our house where Dr. 
Cheever was staying. A party of 
ruffians, fired up with their own 
liquor, wanted to wreak their ven- 
geance on the doctor. They tried to 
break down the massive front door, 
but failed, though their clubs left 



lO 



REV, NATHANIEL BO U TON, D, D, 



deep dents upon it wliich were visible 
as long as I can remember. Finding 
they could not force an entrance, and 
fearing arrest by the watchmen of the 
town, they retreated to the state house 
yard, where they burned the object 
of their hate in effigy. I do n't know 
what Dr. Cheever would have done 
if they had battered down the door 
and got at him, though, as he was a 
combative man, he probably would 
have shown fight. But, I am sure that 
iny father would never have tamely 
allowed his castle to be stormed and 
his guest injured. He would have 
risked his own life in a desperate re- 
sistance. That meek and polite man 
would have received his assailants 
with the kitchen poker. He would 
have felt a very human thrill of plea- 
sure, for the moment, in giving free 
vent to the high temper he was always 
so carefully keeping in, and in my 
opinion the fort would have been held. 
The various references I have made 
to certain of your old-time pastor's 
temperamental qualities, or glaring 
defects as he penitently called them, 
require some explanation. A bare 
statement of the facts reflects great 
credit on him. " He that ruleth his 
spirit is better than he that takelh a 
city," says the Good Book. He was, 
perhaps, the last person who would 
have been picked out by his Concord 
contemporaries as easily excited, dis- 
putatious, and contentious by nature. 
He was of French descent, six gener- 
ations removed from John Bouton, a 
Huguenot who fled from persecution 
at home and sailed from England in 
the Assurance, arriving in Boston, 
December, 1635. He had the Gallic 
traits of quickness in thought and 
speech, courage verging on rashness, 
pugnacity under slight provocation, 



and a passionate fondness for discus- 
sion. 

A good outfit for a soldier or poli- 
tician ; but it would never do for a 
minister of the gospel. As far back 
as his student life at Andover, he de- 
termined to stifle these tormenting 
propensities, which he feared would 
unfit him for the ministry. He 
adopted a string of resolutions to the 
following effect, in brief : That the 
would not dispute with people. That 
he would carefully guard against pos- 
itiveness of opinion, and also hasty, 
uncharitable, and censorious remarks, 
and never contradict anybody. That 
in his intercourse with others he 
would aim to treat them in the spirit 
of the apostle who said, " Let each 
esteem others better than himself." 
These are different ways of resolving 
the same thing, namely, that he would 
put his native touchiness, his love of 
mastery in argument, and his pride, 
under his feet. It was a lifelong 
struggle, but — I call all who knew 
him to witness — he won the victory. 

But he did not think so. In his 
self-searching eyes he was to the close 
of his life blamable in not effectually 
crushing out this faulty part of him. 
Fifty years after he had framed these 
resolutions, he declared, '*My sin in 
this regard is continually before me ; 
I am not yet cured." But he was 
cured, so far as those who best knew 
him could judge. His own severe 
criticism on himself must be set down 
to his modesty. Rev. Dr. (afterwards 
Professor) Parker, who lived in close 
friendship with him for many years, 
was greatly surprised when these self- 
reproaches were first brought to his 
notice. He said, ** Few would have 
thought this of that man so remarka- 
ble for self-poise and self-control. I 



REV, NATHANIEL BOUTON, D, D. 



II 



never knew him to be otherwise even 
tinder very trying circumstances." 
And all this time my father was sit- 
ting on the safety valve of his own 
explosiveness. If any person, in my 
hearing, is afflicted with quickness of 
temper and is keeping it chained in 
the dungeon of his own heart, he will 
join with me in a tribute of praise to 
Dr. Bouton for this conquest of his 
besetting infirmity. 

At home, with his children, his re- 
quirements were reasonable and he 
expected them to be heeded. He was 
good-humored, affectionate, but not 
gushing, and was just and strict. He 
had a keen sense of the ludicrous, and 
when out of the harness, w^as easily 
amused. The care of one ewe lamb 
is very different from that of a flock 
of thirteen, who were born to him 
first and last. And there was no 
coddling. To compensate for any 
seeming lack of paternal affection, the 
boys were allowed a large outdoor 
freedom subject only to the summons 
of a bell at dark to call them in from 
the street. They could go barefoot 
if they liked, a blessed privilege in 
summer time. They could bathe in 
the Merrimack and take their chance 
of drowning. They could turn som- 
ersaults down the steep sand banks of 
Academy hill at the risk of breaking 
their necks. They could take part 
(though perhaps he did not know of 
this) in the frequent battles with snow- 
balls between the juvenile armies of 
the North End and South End. They 
could hunt and fish, skate and slide, 
and in a general way, rough it to any 
extent without fussy interference from 
the head of the house. He had a 
theory about toughening them which 
was wuse and good, and I thank him 
for it to this day. 



On the whole I will say that we 
got a good deal of fun out of our 
early life in Concord. The minister 
of those days received free tickets to 
all the shows that came to town. If 
my father did not attend them the 
children surely did. I recall cir- 
cuses, menageries, an oxyhydrogen 
microscope which showed eels in 
vinegar three feet long, and mites in 
cheese of peck measure dimensions, 
also the exhibition of a life-size 
manikin of papier mache which Dr. 
Lambert took apart, piece by piece, 
revealing the startling wonders of the 
human anatomy, likewise a balloon 
ascension, which was, for many days, 
the talk of the town, a height of 
11,000 feet having been attained, and 
a landing made in Northfield, 16 
miles distant, and, finally, I remem- 
ber a baby steam engine which ran 
with a miniature train of cars on a 
circular track in the old town hall, 
before any railroad had been built to 
Concord. 

We sometimes got our fun wnthout 
going out of the house. I refer to 
marriages solemnized in the study, to 
which the children were always sum- 
moned, and which they greatly en- 
joyed. The sheepishness and tremb- 
ling voice of the bridegroom, as he 
floundered through the ceremony, 
always amused them, while they 
wondered at the perfect composure 
of the bride. My father used to kiss 
her, "save in exceptional circum- 
stances," as he would say with a 
twinkling eye. For all this he re- 
ceived one or two dollars, sometimes 
more if the groom had any more left 
after buying his wedding clothes and 
new furniture. The children, though 
inwardly much tickled, bore their 
part in these proceedings with great 



12 



REV. NATHANIEL BO U TON, D. D. 



decorum, for mj' father always 
gravely pointed to them when he 
said "in presence of these wit- 
nesses." They were well aware that 
the job could not be legally done 
without them, and they wondered 
why they got no money for their 
share in it. 

In the sixty-seventh year of his 
age, and forty-second of his ministry, 
Dr. Bouton surprised his people by 
resigning. He fancied, what so far 
as I know no one else had discov- 
ered, that he was getting too old- 
fashioned, and that a younger man 
was wanted for his post. This idea 
taking possession of him became a 
duty, and from that he never shrank. 
He was still capable of writing and 
preaching two sermons a week with 
his old fluency and power. No pas- 
tor ever ' ' turned the barrel, " as he 
used to phrase it, less frequently than 
he. Every clergyman has his pet 
sermons, as every poet has his favor- 
ite poems. But it was rare indeed 
that some good old brother or sister, 
at the close of the service, could say 
to him, as he left the pulpit, '* Thank 
you. Doctor, for preaching it again, 
I liked it so much twenty years 
ago!'* As his body and mind were 
sound, so his zeal and enthusiasm 
were unabated.- It was, perhaps, for 
these very reasons that he insisted on 
withdrawing in the full possession of 
his powers, fearing the decline which 
always begins at the zenith. 

And so, on his own notion, he 
stepped down and out, retiring, in the 
language of the church council which 
released him, **with the undimin- 
ished confidence and affection of his 
people and the respect of the whole 
community." It was no bed of roses 
he had occupied. The position he 



had held with such distinguished 
success had been from the beginning 
hard to fill. When, as a fresh gradu- 
ate from Andover, he was invited to 
supply the pulpit seven weeks as a 
candidate, he hesitated, for he had 
heard, and it was true, that Concord 
was a difl&cult place, because it was 
the capital of the state, and there were 
many lawyers and educated men who 
were critical and not easy to suit. 
Several of his fellow students had 
tried for it and failed. But he took 
the risk and for vSeven weeks was 
kept on the anxious seat. With 
true Anglo-Saxon reserve and cau- 
tion the old stagers, who listened 
stoically to his fourteen sermons, for- 
bore to give him the slightest clue 
to their opinion about him. They 
were as non-committal as a bench of 
judges, and he felt that he was on 
trial indeed. When the probation 
w^as over, and he was leaving town. 
Deacon Wilkins was good enough to 
say to him that *' Seven weeks was 
rather a short time for a candidate- 
ship." And Samuel Fletcher, at 
whose house he was a guest during 
these ordeals, only asked for his ad- 
dress **in case the societ}'^ should 
want to write to him." This studied 
coolness must have been a blow to 
the natural pride which any man 
may be pardoned for feeling who had 
been preaching ever since he was 
sixteen years old, while preparing for 
Yale and at the college and the semi- 
nar}^ and had achieved local fame as 
a lay evangelist and exhorter. But 
he had even then learned to beat 
down his pride, and, whatever he 
may have felt till the call came, he 
was outwardly patient and resigned. 
Once installed, he soon gained the 
confidence, affection, and support of 



BEV. NATHANIEL BO U TON, D, D, 



13 



bis flock which continued to the end. 
Happily for my father and for the 
state of New Hampshire he was not 
allowed to rust in retirement. There 
was a colossal work awaiting to be 
done at the state bouse ; and, by 
universal agreement, he was the man 
to do it. This was the licking into 
shape and publication of the entire 
documentary history of New Hamp- 
shire, from the first settlement in 
1623 to the adoption of the constitu- 
tion in 1784. For this great task he 
was peculiarly fitted. In his youth 
he had been apprenticed to the print- 
ing trade and had learned it thor- 
oughly and had never forgotten it. 
He could have made his living at the 
**case" any day. As proof-reader 
and corrector for the press, he was 
an expert ; and used to say he could 
do that better than anything else ; 
and he found a strange pleasure in 
the drudger3\ Proof-sheets of Dr. 
Robinson's Greek and English Lexi- 
con of the New Testament, and also 
some of the output of the American 
Tract Society, passed through his 
hands. He had the detective's eye 
for misplaced commas, and the scent 
ot a sleuth-hound in running down a 
mistake in name or date. He had 
written, or edited, and printed many 
things, notably his ** History of Con- 
cord," a storehouse of original re- 
search ; and he had done much for 
the Historical Society, as compiler 
and editor of its valuable publica- 
tions. Now came the deserved re- 
ward and honor — so unexpectedly 
earned by long 3^ears of voluntary 
toil — in his appointment as state his- 
torian, an office created for him. 

A guiding rule of his life was to do 
one thing. at a time and into that he 
put his whole self. He had never 



allowed his historical hobby to inter- 
fere, in the least, with his duty to 
the parish. Indeed, he made the 
former tributary to the latter by en- 
larging his sphere of knowledge and 
enriching his sermons. In entering 
on his new work he says he was ** at 
first almost appalled by its magni- 
tude " ! Note the characteristic ** al- 
most ' ' ! No toil could really appal 
him ; where he was hitched, there he 
pulled. He would have broken his 
back with pulling before giving up. 
To an easy-going person ** appal- 
ling " exactly describes the task be- 
fore him. All the materials were in 
manuscript, full of that strange spell- 
ing for which our esteemed ancestors 
were celebrated, and only rivaled in 
singularity by their erratic hand- writ- 
ing. 

Their pot-hooks and hangers were 
often made still more illegible by the 
poor ink they used, which had left 
but a sickly trace of itself. The 
paper was much defaced and torn, 
and — not the least of troubles — these 
precious documents were scattered 
about, nobody at first knew exactly 
where. Some of them were finally 
unearthed in the Athenaeum at 
Portsmouth, the court house in 
Exeter, and the Boston state house. 
It was a wilderness,, mostly unex- 
plored, with mountains of rubbish 
which concealed many veins of pure 
gold. My father rolled up his sleeves 
and plunged into this chaos of ele- 
mental history with boyish delight. 
Every paper must be examined, cop- 
ied verbatim et literatim et pitnctua- 
tim, then classified according to 
period or subject, proof-read and 
published in annual volumes. This 
sort of thing lasted nearly eleven 
years, during which the indefatig- 



14 



REV. NATHANIEL BOUTON, D. D. 



able state historian turned out ten 
portly octavos of eight hundred or 
nine hundred pages each. These re- 
quired twenty-two thousand pages of 
manuscript in clear copy., to which 
he had contributed four fifths with 
his own hand. And he had not lost 
a single day by ill health. I have 
been trying to test the quality of this 
gigantic work (the quantity speaks 
for itself) ; and for the purpose I 
have sunk the son in the critic. In- 
specting it, then, with the cold eye 
of a veteran editor, I find it a truly 
remarkable piece of learned, pains- 
taking, and accurate scholarship ; a 
monument of unwearied industry and 
fidelity. 

Once a preacher, always a preach- 
er. His hard work at the state 
house did. not seem to hurt him, at 
least for seven years. For about two 
thirds of the Sundays during that 
period, he preached, morning and 
afternoon, to supply pulpits in this 
vicinity and places more distant. 
Neither pastor nor sermon showed 
any falling off from the old, high 
standard. He still kept his grip on 
the attention of hearers. Young 
ministers have the advantage of their 
youth. But there is something about 
an aged minister, rich in spiritual 
experiences, tried and proved as a 
faithful servant of God for two gen- 
erations, that commands a peculiar 
confidence and an affectionate re- 
spect. These touching marks of ap- 
preciation the venerable doctor never 
failed to receive. 

The completion of the provincial 
records left him without any regular 
pursuit. Leisure was forced upon 
him for the first time in his life, and 
he did not like it. He could not adapt 
himself to the lack of stated occupa- 



tion ; and the inaction soon told on his 
health. The disease that mastered 
him has its learned name, which 
means, in plain language, a general 
decay of the bodily powers, evenly 
and all round. Of this my father 
died near the close of his seventy- 
eighth year. But I cannot help think- 
ing he would have lived into the 
eighties if he had had more hard 
work to do. 

During his illness, praj^ers were of- 
fered for him in churches of all the 
sects, including the Episcopal and 
Catholic. His death was felt as a 
personal loss by every minister in 
Concord, whatever his creed. Al- 
ways liberal in his Orthodoxy, Dr. 
Bouton ripened and mellowed with 
the years. The city with whose 
growth and prosperity he had been 
so long identified and the state he 
had served so well, realized, when he 
was gone, the scarcity of that kind of 
man. 

But it was not only for his sterling 
qualities as clergyman, philanthrop- 
ist, and good citizen, that he was 
missed. For he was, in the literal 
sense of the word, a gentleman. He 
had a courteous bow, a kindly smile, 
a warm handshake, and a civil word, 
for everybody. He did not wait for 
some dire misfortune to overtake a 
friend or neighbor, before showing 
how sympathetic he could be. 
Everybody does that ! He was 
equally ready with his congratula- 
tions on one's good health, or good 
luck, or some piece of work well 
done. That, alas ! is the way of the 
few ! This means that he was free 
from cynicism and envy — that he 
was an optimist and not a pessimist. 
It was his cheerful and hopeful view 
of things, and his charitable judg- 



REV. NATHANIEL BOUTON, D. D. 



tuent of human foibles, and his unaf- 
fected fondness of his fellow creatures, 
that inspired that habitual courtesy 
and kindness which made him so 
beloved as he walked these streets 
for fifty-three years. 

The terras "old-fashioned" and 
"old school" are usually employed 
to uuder-rate new fashions and new 
schools. The French have an adage, 
— ■" The more a fashion changes, 
the more it is the same thing." 
That is as true of the superficial forms 
of Christianity as of a coat. In trifling 
outward aspects it changes. In all 
things essential it is the same fa- 
miliar story — ever fresh. My father 
now seems an old-fashioued minister 
because he belonged to a past genera- 
tion, and his theology was colored by 



it — chameleon-like — but only skin 
deep. He would have laughed at 
the claim that any fashion of reli- 
gious observance was the better for 
being old. 

While reveling in the past as an 
antiquary, he had unlimited faith in 
the future as a Christian, He did 
not doubt that, in the shifting modes 
of creed and ceremony to come, the 
Master's work would still be well 
done by devoted pastors, according 
to their own lights and in their own 
ways. For nothing could shake his 
belief that Christianity is here to 
stay ; and that, by its means, man is 
to be more and more fitted for his im- 
mortal life, and the world we live in 
to be made better and happier until 
the perfect day \ 




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