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Full text of "May Meeting. Instructions to Agents of Massachusetts Colony; Biographical Sketch of Isaac P. Davis"

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84 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [May, 



MAY MEETING. 

A stated meeting of the Society was held this day, Thursday, 
13th May, at eleven o'clock, a.m. ; the President in the chair. 

The Recording Secretary read the record of the last meeting. 

The Cabinet-keeper reported the following gifts to the Cab- 
inet ; namely : — 

A framed photograph of the College of William and Mary, 
at Williamsburg, Va., on the back of which was this inscrip- 
tion : " Designed by Sir Christopher Wren, and finished in 1703, 
destroyed by fire in 1705, rebuilt in 1723, destroyed by fire 
in 1859, rebuilt in 1860, destroyed in 1862 ; rebuilding com- 
menced in 1868 ; presented by Benjamin Stoddert Ewell, now 
President of the College " : 

Also, a copy of a pen-and-ink sketch of General Washington, 
by one of the guests, taken while he sat at a dinner-table : 

Also, a medallion likeness of our Corresponding Member, 
John Gough Nichols, and his wife, Lucy (Lewis) Nichols, 
taken to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of their 
marriage, — presented by Mr. Nichols himself, who sent at the 
same time a number of valuable books for the Library : 

Also, a facsimile of Paul Revere's picture of Boston, taken 
one hundred years ago, — a gift of A. L. Sewell and John E. 
Miller, publishers, Chicago. 

The thanks of the Society were ordered for these valuable 
gifts. 

The President read a letter from M. Jules Marcou, of Paris, 
enclosing a letter from M. Jules Desnoyers, the Secretary of the 
" Soci£t6 de PHistoire de France " ; promising a valuable addi- 
tion to our Library from the Historical Society of France, and 
from their Secretary. 

Dr. Green called attention to the first volume of the manu- 



1869,] REMARKS ON CORNELL UNIVERSITY. 85 

script records of the " New North Church," which had been 
presented to the Society by the Rev. Mr. Alger, and said that 
this volume would be followed by the remaining volumes of the 
records in Mr. Alger's possession. 

Dr. Ellis presented a copy of " The Speeches of His Excel- 
lency Governor Hutchinson, to the General Assembly of the 
Massachusetts Bay," &c, Boston, 1773. 

The President read the following letter : — 

To the President of the Massachusetts Historical Society. 

Sir, — The Medal and Ribbons received by the late Dr. W. T. G. 
Morton from the French Government, &c, together with letters from 
your late associate, my brother, Nathaniel I. Bowditch, urging Dr. 
Morton to place them with the Historical Society, are now in the pos- 
session of the widow of Dr. Morton. She deems them too valuable to be 
kept except by some public institution. A secure case with a glass 
front, so that the chief articles can be seen safely by the public, has 
been prepared. 

Mrs. Morton wishes to deposit them with your Society, provided 
they can be kept for ever as a memorial of the labors of her husband, 
and provided, moreover, they can be placed in such a position in the 
hall of your Society as to be visible to all who examine the various 
objects of historical interest collected there. 

I remain very respectfully yours, 

Henry I. Bowditch. 

May 6th, 1869. 

Whereupon, it was — 

Voted, That the Society will gratefully receive the memorial 
referred to in the letter of Dr. Bowditch, and that the President 
communicate this vote of the Society to him. 

The President called attention to the sketch of Hannah 
Adams, by Chester Harding, the original of the portrait by 
this artist, placed on exhibition in the rooms of the Society 
by its owner. 

Mr. J. 0. Gray submitted the following remarks on the dis- 
cipline and mode of instruction in Cornell University, at Ithaca, 
N.Y., as compared with the same in Harvard University: — 



86 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [May, 

The condition and prospects of the Cornell University at 
Ithaca, N.Y., having lately been the subjects of much 
public comment, and many comparisons having been made 
between this institution and Harvard University, the writer 
submits a few remarks on the question how far it is practicable 
or desirable so to change the system of education and disci- 
pline pursued in the Academic Department of Harvard Univer- 
sity, as to render that institution similar to Cornell University 
at Ithaca, N.Y. In some particulars, such a change would 
be so manifestly impracticable, that it is useless to inquire 
whether it would be desirable or otherwise. 

1. As to the comparative expense of students at the two 
institutions. 

The average expense annually of a student at Cornell Uni- 
versity, may be estimated at $400. In this estimate is in- 
cluded a moderate allowance for clothing, and it is supposed 
that during vacation the student boards and lodges free of 
expense, in his parents' house or elsewhere. The average 
annual expense is estimated in the official circular (Cornell), 
at about $275, exclusive of the items last referred to. 

The whole annual expense of an undergraduate at Cam- 
bridge cannot be estimated at less than $800. The greater 
portion of the difference of $400 must be ascribed to the local 
position of Harvard College, which, of course, must be deemed 
unalterable. It may be therefore affirmed, that to reduce the 
expenses of a student at Harvard to an equality with those of 
one at Cornell University, or to an approximation thereto, must 
be considered absolutely impracticable. 

2. Terms of admission. Higher terms of admission are ex- 
acted for entrance into the Classical Department of Cornell 
University than into any other department, but the classical 
proficiency required at this University is materially lower 
than at Harvard or Yale. It would certainly be in the power 
of the Government at either of those colleges, to reduce the 
terms of admission. But there is no evidence whatever of a 



1869.] REMARKS ON CORNELL UNIVERSITY. 87 

desire on the part of either of those bodies to do so, or of the 
wish of the public that such a retrograde course should be 
adopted. 

3. One of the most important differences between Cornell 
and Harvard Universities is, that in the former the several 
branches of scientific and literary instruction, form one in- 
stitution, under the care of the same officers of instruction 
and government, who, as far as appears, form one body. 
At Cambridge, the Scientific Schools (using the word " scien- 
tific" generally) are in fact separate institutions, and not con- 
nected with the Academic Department, except that the President 
of the College stands at the head of each Faculty. The text- 
books of the Medical and Divinity Colleges are generally, it 
is believed, different from those of the Academic Department. 
Many of the studies of the Lawrence and the Mining School 
are pursued, in some degree, by the undergraduates ; such, for 
instance, as Mathematics and Geometry. It may surprise some 
to hear, that almost every branch of knowledge proposed to be 
taught in Cornell University, is well taught at Cambridge, 
either in the Academic Department or the Scientific School, or, 
in some cases, in both. It is far from certain, in the writer's 
opinion, that such connection as does exist at Cambridge be- 
tween the several Scientific Schools and the College proper, is 
of advantage to either side, and that all parties might not have 
prospered as well if all the schools had been located in Boston, 
leaving the Academic Department by itself at Cambridge. But 
this question is no longer an open one. 

4. In the Cornell University, it is proposed to carry the op- 
tional system to the fullest extent. In Cambridge, a very large 
though not unlimited option is allowed after the Freshman 
year, and the student, more especially, is allowed to relinquish 
both the classics and the mathematics ; this certainly is an im- 
portant concession to the advocates of a voluntary system. It 
is yet to be seen whether the Government of Harvard have not 
gone quite far enough on what may be called the liberal side. 



88 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [May, 

The better way seems to be to subject the present arrangement 
to the test of experiment, for a few years at least, without a 
change in any direction. 

It will appear from the Report on the Organization of Cornell 
University, that the objects for which it is founded are materi- 
ally different from those pursued by undergraduates at Harvard, 
Yale, and the other leading colleges in New England. 

The Faculty at the Cornell University, propose, in the main, 
to educate pupils directly for some one of the occupations of 
practical life. No college in New England professes to do this, 
whatever facilities may be offered at Scientific Schools connected 
with such college. The object of a studious undergraduate at 
Harvard or Yale, for example, is to gain a good general educa- 
tion, which may, perhaps, include some knowledge of many 
sciences of the most practical kind, but which is mainly calcu- 
lated to invigorate, refine, and inform the mind generally, and 
thus prepare a foundation deep and broad, for the special pur- 
suit of any important branch of industry. 

Each description of seminary may be useful in its way. The 
Cornell University is as yet an experiment. If a successful 
one, it by no means follows that the system pursued in our 
college should be abandoned. In that system, the study of the 
classics yet holds a prominent place, but at Cambridge, at least, 
the pursuit of that study is optional after the first year. It is 
certainly possible to exclude it altogether ; but in so doing, to 
say nothing of the opinion of many intelligent men in all parts 
of our country, or of the patronage which our colleges are now 
receiving, we should differ widely in opinion from the Govern- 
ment of Cornell University, who have in decided terms recog- 
nized the high importance of classical studies, and made 
provision for the teaching of them. Abused as our collegiate 
system has been (and probably always will be), the people of 
New England will hardly agree to the assertion lately put forth 
with great seeming confidence, that we find " scholars stepping 
out of the highest scholastic positions in college, into nonentity 



1869.] REMARKS ON CORNELL UNIVERSITY. 89 

in after-life." To speak of Harvard only, as the College best 
known to the writer, we find that H. Gr. Otis, John Quincy 
Adams, W. E. Channing, W. P. Preble, and Edward Everett 
were among the very best scholars of their respective classes ; 
and a large number of names, selected from the living as well 
as the dead, might be added to the list. Why any radical 
changes should be made at once in our system of education at 
Harvard, the writer is at a loss to know, though far from main- 
taining that there is no room for improvement. Still, there are 
some suggestions in the Cornell Report which deserve the 
serious consideration of the Faculty of Harvard and other col- 
leges. This may be said especially of the remarks on Dormi- 
tories. The Report on the Cornell University is decidedly 
against the whole system of dormitories, except as a temporary 
expedient. It states what was once true of some of our largest 
colleges, if not so now, that " no private citizen who lets rooms 
in his own house, to four or six students, would tolerate for an 
hour the anarchy which most tutors in college dormitories are 
compelled to overlook." 

Still it appears that, at Ithaca, large dormitories have been 
erected from obvious considerations of economy &nd conven- 
ience. For the same reasons, those at Cambridge cannot now 
be dispensed with. But the Corporation may well consider the 
expediency, if dormitories must be erected in future, of making 
them of a much smaller size, and more resembling in other 
points respectable private houses. Parietal discipline could 
certainly be much better enforced in such moderately sized 
lodging houses. The dormitory system has been carried out 
fully in English Universities by the construction of large quad- 
rangles, with gates closed at night. What enormities are 
sometimes perpetrated within those quadrangles may be seen 
by referring to Bristed's " Five Years in an English Univer- 
sity." 

The truth is, that if we expect to collect together from five 
hundred to one thousand young men, mostly minors, and to 

12 



90 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [May, 

rely wholly or mainly on their sense of propriety for the pres- 
ervation of good order, we shall soon learn the true value of 
such an expectation. Whatever may be said in favor of the 
character of college students generally (and much may be so 
said), there will always be several in respect to whom a mere 
appeal to their sense of propriety would be unavailing, not to 
say ridiculous. President Walker remarks, in his Inaugural 
Address, that one-fourth of those who enter college, would be 
better anywhere else, and this at any rate is altogether a rea- 
sonable supposition. While we have large numbers collected in 
large dormitories, parietal discipline, and that of a rigid kind, 
must be kept up, however disagreeable both to officers and 
students. 

The writer adds a few remarks on some points presented in 
a late Report to the Overseers of Harvard College. First, as 
to the compensation of instructors. If these officers are to be 
what they should be, or even (generally speaking) what they 
have been, the salaries paid at present are any thing but ex- 
travagant. The report speaks (p. 35) of the last addition to 
the term fees, to be paid by the student, of $45 annually, as 
not exorbitant, and this is within the truth. A further addition 
of 150 would yield from $20,000 to $25,000 annually. Each 
of the undergraduates would thus pay for instruction about $200 
annually, that is, no more than the price paid at several private 
schools in Boston, and not more than six per cent would 
be added to the whole annual expenses of an undergraduate at 
Cambridge, which cannot be fairly stated at less than $800. A 
Faculty composed of instructors of the highest order, would 
form a body, the best calculated of all others, to carry on any 
existing system to the best advantage, or to suggest any 
changes therein. To fill well the offices of our College Govern- 
ment, as opportunity offers, is, indeed, the highest and most 
delicate duty of the Corporation and Overseers, and they ought 
to be enabled to offer every reasonable inducement to compe- 
tent candidates, and all reasonable expenses thus incurred, 



1869.] REMARKS ON CORNELL UNIVERSITY. 91 

should be defrayed by reasonable charges on the students, and 
the addition thus suggested is believed to be clearly of that 
character. 

2. As to Recitations, the Report to the Overseers contains 
some valuable suggestions. Extempore recitations are very 
incomplete tests of proficiency. A good memory, a natural 
fluency, and even a confident and imposing manner, have often 
done much to conceal a want of thoroughness and accuracy. 
Written examinations at stated intervals furnish, of the two, a 
far better means of ascertaining scholarship. Still it is far 
from advisable to dispense altogether with daily recitations, or 
to allow them no weight at all, in determining a scholar's rank. 
Many young students, and some older ones, require a more fre- 
quent stimulus than is furnished by periodical examinations, 
and a perspicuous and accurate recitation by a student is often 
beneficial not only to himself, but to his classmates who listen 
to him. 

But after all, one general consideration, already referred to, 
can be hardly too much borne in mind. The chief source 
whence real improvements should be expected is a faithful and 
competent Faculty. It is, or ought to be, the duty of every in- 
structor, not merely to carry on class after class in a beaten 
track, and sit and hear recitations which prove little as to the 
student's faculties and scholarship, except that he has a good 
memory. Such a course might answer, or at any rate was 
made to answer, in the early part of the present century. But 
New-England teachers, and of course New-England scholarship, 
were very different then from what they now are. For half a 
century previous to 1810, scarcely any change was made in the 
requisites for admission, or the course of study at Cambridge, 
and it may be safely said that many a scholar gained the high- 
est honors with less scholarship, either in science or literature, 
than is now required for admission to the Freshman Class. It 
is now to be expected that the Faculty should perceive and 
suggest all necessary improvements, and it is not to be doubted 



92 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [May, 

that their suggestions will be duly estimated by Corporation 
and Overseers. 

Note. — As the Cornell University is scarcely yet in full operation, there is 
much in its course of instruction and discipline which has not yet been definitely 
arranged. Nothing has yet been said, so far at least as is known to the writer, as 
to the manner in which the classes shall be arranged. It is difficult to conceive 
how public instruction can be carried on without some such arrangement. But 
whether there shall be four classes as in most of our colleges, or three, as in many 
of our scientific schools, or what other arrangement of the kind shall be adopted, 
— these questions as well as others of great importance, are, doubtless, receiving 
a due consideration from the learned Faculty. 



Mr. William Sumner Appleton, of Boston, was elected a Res- 
ident Member ; and M. Jules Marcou, of Paris, France, a Cor- 
responding Member. 

The President presented a sheet of paper, containing, in an 
early hand, a draft of some instructions intended for the agents 
of Massachusetts, selected to represent the Colony in England. 
The paper bears no date, but it was written after the receipt 
of his Majesty's letter of the 24th of July, 1679, to which it 
evidently refers, and for which see Hutchinson's " Collection 
of Papers," pp. 519-522. 

If anything be objected ag! haveing our Pattent here, & that it ought 
to lye in England & the Governm* managed here by Deputation, as it 
hath sometimes been hinted, yo u shall answer : that is wholy inconsistant 
w* the designe of the undertakers in settling these remote pts of the 
world under his Ma tie who intended, as to demonstrate their dependance 
on the Crowne of England, so their ready & constant conformity to 
the Charter graciously granted to them, to wch end they brought it w th 
them w th out any obstruction from his ma ties p e decessors, & we hope may 
be continued here w th out the least offense to his ma ti6 : who hath we 
conceive for the like reason been pleased lately to grant, & send over, 
(or suffered to be brought over) Pattents of the same tenour to other 
Colonyes here. 

As to the delivering up the Province of Maine, purchased of m* 
Gorges, yo u shall humbly beg his ma ties pardon, If anything acted in 
that matter were irregular, or offensive ; it was not att all foreseen or 
thought by our late Agents or our Selves. They did w th all diligence 



1869.] INSTRUCTIONS TO AGENTS OP MASSACHUSETTS COLONY. 93 

enquire of the learned in the Law, who gave their opinion that it might 
lawfully be done, neither had our agents any thoughts of his ma tlM 
intention of takeing of it into his own hand : But m r Mason haveing 
obtained what was formerly belonging unto us, & from whome we had 
necessary supplyes of many things ; we thought some releife might be 
to us by this Purchase. And is of so great importance, that we hope 
his Ma ties favor in continueing the Same to us, w c h hath cost us so deare 
formerly & lately, beside what m r . Gorges had. And we doubt not but 
to give his Ma tie an Acct of our managm* of the Governm* there to 
satisfaction, conformally to the gracious grant to sd m r Gorges. 

We suppose we have in the p 'ceding Articles fully instructed yo u in 
all things intimated by his ma tie , or intended as to regulation of our 
Governm* & managm* of affairs here. But if any other thing be pro- 
pounded w c h we cannott foresee or provide for, yo n shall humbly pray 
yo u may have time to signify his ma tles pleasure to us, & receive our 
direction therein, before yo u give any answer or consent there to. 

Mr. Davis announced the Memoir of the late Isaac P. Davis, 
which he had been appointed to prepare for the Society's " Pro- 
ceedings." 



94 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [May, 



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

OF 

ISAAC P. DAVIS. 

BY GEORGE T. DAVIS. 



Mr. Davis was born in Plymouth, Mass., Oct. 7, 1771. 
His father, Thomas Davis, born in Albany, N.Y., in 1722, 
passed a portion of his earlier life in North Carolina, came to 
Plymouth as early as 1742, and died in 1785, leaving a com- 
petent estate gained in navigation and in mercantile pursuits. 
The father of Thomas Davis is believed to have been born in Eng- 
land. The mother was a Miss Wendell, of Albany. Thomas 
Davis, in 1753, married Mercy Hedge of Plymouth, whose ances- 
try is traced to Elder Brewster, Governor Bradford, and others 
of the earliest Pilgrims. The issue of this marriage was as 
follows : — 

Sarah, born 1754, died 1821. 



Thomas, „ 


1756, 


>j 


1805. 


William, „ 


1758, 


» 


1826. 


John, „ 


1759, 


» 


1847. 


Samuel, „ 


1765, 


j> 


1829. 


Isaac P., „ 


1771, 


» 


1855. 


Wendell, „ 


1776, 


5> 


1830. 



Of these brothers, a writer who knew them well has said, — 

" There were six brothers in the family, all of whom held offices of 
public trust under the State and United-States Governments, with the 







iJ^ 1/ . <} ATirr^f 



1869.] BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF ISAAC P. DAVIS. 95 

exception of one only ; they have all passed away, and their memory 
held in high regard and honor, particularly the late Thomas Davis, a 
former treasurer of this Commonwealth, and the late Judge Davis, so 
well known as the learned and upright Judge of the United States Dis- 
trict Court. 

" William, another of the brothers, was extensively engaged in his 
native town of Plymouth in mercantile pursuits; and was much 
regarded for his general knowledge, intelligence, and probity. He was 
frequently chosen a representative in the State Legislature. Samuel, 
another of the brothers, was a man of retiring habits and a most mod- 
est demeanor, very curious in antiquarian and genealogical research, 
and dealt largely in the chronicles of former times. It was always per- 
fectly safe to quote him in matters of fact. Wendell, the youngest 
brother, a graduate of Cambridge, became a member of the Senate of 
this State at a time when political excitement ran very high ; he was 
esteemed a ready and sharp debater, and distinguished himself by his 
apt rejoinders to his opponents ; he afterwards held the office of sheriff 
of the county of Barnstable." 

The subject of this sketch commenced business in Boston in 
the latter part of the last century as a rope-maker, having a 
considerable manufacturing establishment, and extensive trans- 
actions with the Government and with the leading merchants 
of that time. Some of his largest contracts with the Govern- 
ment were for supplies of cordage to the navy at the time of 
the threatened war with France, in 1798. He had large deal- 
ings with William and Eben Parsons, with J. & T. H. Perkins, 
and other great ship-owners, and retained their cordial friend- 
ship to the last. After some years of prosperous business, he sus- 
tained losses by fire and by adverse legislation, which reduced 
him to comparative poverty, but did not affect the genial and 
loyal qualities and the fine tastes which to the close of his life 
made his friendship desired and prized. 

Mr. Davis married, June 2, 1807, Susan, daughter of Dr. 
David Jackson, a distinguished physician of Philadelphia. This 
lady, who, in addition to great personal beauty, possessed the 
highest qualities of mind and heart, survived him, dying March 
30, 1867, at the age of eighty-two. The children of this mar- 



96 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [May, 

riage were — Thomas Kemper Davis, born June 20, 1808, and 
died Oct. 13, 1853 ; and George Cabot Davis, born Jan. 30, 
1812, and died June 20, 1833. Thomas K. Davis, graduated 
at Harvard College in 1827, first scholar of his class, and was 
also class orator. He had fine scholarship and brilliant powers, 
but long before his death was withdrawn by disease from the 
pursuits of active life. 

Mr. Davis became a member of the Massachusetts Historical 
Society in 1830, was elected its Cabinet-keeper in 1833, and so 
continued till his death. 

In 1841, he received the appointment of Naval Officer for 
the port of Boston, and retained it till 1845. For this appoint- 
ment he was principally indebted to the friendship of Mr. Web- 
ster ; a friendship which found further expression in the 
subjoined dedication of the second volume of Mr. Webster's 
works : — 
To Isaac P. Davis, Esq. 

My dear Sir, — A warm private friendship has subsisted between 
us for half our lives, interrupted by no untoward occurrence, and never 
for a moment cooling into indifference. Of this friendship, the source 
of so much happiness to me, I wish to leave if not an enduring memo- 
rial, at least an affectionate and grateful acknowledgment. 

T inscribe this volume of my speeches to you. 

Daniel Webster. 

At the time of his death, Mr. Davis was one of three surviv- 
ing original members of the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic 
Association, — an institution with which he had been connected 
for sixty years. 

He was a trustee of the Boston Athenaeum from 1830 to 
1845. 

Mr. Davis died after an illness of some weeks' duration, Jan- 
uary 13, 1855. 

The above is merely an outline of the life of a man who for 
nearly two generations filled a large social place, and is still 
remembered with unusual affection by the narrowing circle of 



1869.] BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF ISAAC P. DAVIS. 97 

surviving friends. His personal qualities have been well por- 
trayed by one of his nearest friends * in a sketch written just 
after his death, but not hitherto published, and which I am per- 
mitted to use. 

Mr. Winthrop says, — 

" Few persons will be more missed from the daily walks of life than 
this esteemed and venerated gentleman. Though he had reached the 
advanced age of eighty-three years, he had retained a full measure of 
his characteristic activity of mind and body until a very recent period, 
and but a few weeks had elapsed since he was to be found at his cus- 
tomary haunts on the Exchange. Everybody was glad to meet him 
there, for he had a kind word for everybody. Nor did he confine 
himself to kind words. If an obliging act was within his power, he 
was always sure to do it. One was in danger of forgetting that he was 
no longer young, so ready and eager was he to anticipate the wishes 
of a friend in rendering any service that could be suggested. Indeed, 
he knew little of old age, except from the experience it had brought 
him ; his heart was always young, and his interest in the daily current 
of events lost nothing of its freshness to the end of his life. He was 
eminently a man of ' cheerful yesterdays and confident to-morrows.' 

'A man of hope, and forward-looking mind, 
Even to the last.' 

Yet he did not forget that he had passed the allotted term of human 
life, and was not unmindful of the great account which was soon to be 
rendered. 

" Mr. Davis entered life with slight advantages of fortune, but it would 
be difficult to name a man who had been happier in his social relations. 
Beyond any one of his time he had enjoyed the friendship and intimacy 
ot our most distinguished men. He was on terms of familiar inter- 
course successively with Fisher Ames and George Cabot, with John 
Quincy Adams, Josiah Quincy, Harrison Gray Otis, and Daniel Web- 
ster. Nor was his acquaintance limited to those of our own neighbor- 
hood. Strangers of distinction were rarely without a letter to Mr. 
Davis, and were always sure of receiving from him the kindest atten- 
tion, and of being introduced by him to the most agreeable hospitalities. 
His memory was thus stored with personal anecdotes and pleasant 
reminiscences of many of the most interesting characters in our more 

* Hon. Robert C. Winthrop. 
13 



98 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. TMay, 

recent history, and he was rarely without agreeable occasions of relat- 
ing them. He took an early and active interest in the encouragement 
of American art. He was the friend of Stuart and Allston and Sully, 
of Greenough and Powers and Clevenger; and not a few young art- 
ists of less celebrity have owed to him the earliest opportunities of exer- 
cising their profession. Though not wealthy himself, he knew how to 
bring deserving merit to the notice of those that were, and many an 
order for a bust or a portrait which has brought hope, and perhaps 
bread, to some discouraged and destitute artist, has had its origin in his 
thoughtful and timely suggestions. 

" Mr. Davis, like his venerated brother, the late Mr. Justice Davis, 
had a passion for every thing of an historical or antiquarian character. 
Born in Plymouth, he was never tired of visiting the Rock, and of 
exploring the footsteps of those who first trod it. Indeed, whatever 
related to American History, Colonial or Revolutionary, he was eager 
to hear and see and understand ; and, though neither a student nor a 
writer himself, he often helped those who were writers or students to 
facts, or anecdotes, or papers, or memorials, which might have been 
looked for in vain anywhere else. His service to the Massachusetts 
Historical Society, as one of their most attentive members, and as their 
Cabinet-keeper for a long course of years, will doubtless secure for him 
the customary tribute in their ' Proceedings,' as they have secured for him 
the cordial regard and esteem of all his associates. Mr. Davis was re- 
peatedly one of the representatives of Boston in the State Legislature, 
and for several years he held the post of Naval Officer in the Boston 
Custom House. But he sought no distinction in public life. His dis- 
position was for the social circle, where his tastes and his temper emi- 
nently qualified him to shine. His genial good-nature, his benevolent 
spirit, his peculiar faculty of gathering up whatever was most interest- 
ing or agreeable to those with whom he was associated, his quick 
appreciation of whatever was curious or novel, his kind, cordial, cheer- 
ful manners, — all conspired to make him the selected and solicited guest 
of every company, and the welcome visitor of every household. 

" His long life was not unclouded by afflictions. He was called to 
bear blows which would have broken any less buoyant spirit than his 
own. Two sons — his only children — who had given the best promise 
of success in their respective professions ; one of them second to no 
one of his age in early scholarship — were cut off before him. But 
with the aid of an affectionate and devoted wife, he bore up bravely 
beneath these bitter disappointments, and was soon the same cheerful 



1869.] BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF ISAAC P. DAYIS. 99 

old man; — happy, at least, in making others happy. Sinking at last, 
under no very protracted disease, he has left a memory which will be 
cherished in many hearts, as that of a tried, trusty, affectionate friend, 
whom all would have gladly held back yet longer from the grave, to 
cheer and brighten the pathway of life." 

To the above just and discriminating portraiture, I will only 
add some lines upon the same subject, which appeared in print 
soon after his death, and which are understood to be from the 
pen of Hon. George Lunt. 

I. P. D. 

Ah, kind and good old man ! 

Whose life, a golden chain 

Of links, still brightening, ran 

Through more than fourscore years, 

In long-descending train, — 

Ripened by sun and rain, 

So the full shock should garnered be, and vain 

"Were our superfluous tears. 

Yet, though we may not grieve 

For him, who waited but the Master's call, 

How oft, at morn, and noon, and social eve, 

By genial board, or in the festal hall, 

Shall busy fancy weave 

Sweet, sad memorials of thy decent form, 

Who knew life's sunny hours, and felt its storm, 

Saw human nature's every side, and still 

Who thought and spoke no ill ? 

The cordial grasp of an unsullied hand, 

The cheerful aspect and the beaming eye ; 

Those silvery locks that crowned a forehead bland 

With human sympathy ; 

The feeling heart, quick thought and earnest mind, 

The true, soft accents from thy lips that fell, — 

Where shall we look to find 

In soul so gentle left behind ? 

Dear, kind old man, farewell !