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Full text of "March Meeting, 1880. Letter from Joseph Dennie, Jr.; Old Map of Boston; Petitions of Roger Conant; Memoir of Hon. Lorenzo Sabine; Memoir of Dr. Jacob Bigelow"

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360 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mab. 



MARCH MEETING, 1880. 

The stated meeting was held at the Society's rooms in 
Boston, on Thursday, the 11th instant, at 3 o'clock P.M. ; 
the President, Mr. Winthrop, in the chair. 

The Recording Secretary read the record of the last meet- 
ing, and it was approved. 

The Librarian read the monthly list of donors to the 
Library. 

The Corresponding Secretary read a letter from Colonel 
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, accepting his election as a 
Resident Member. 

The President then said : — 

Since our last monthly meeting, Gentlemen, two of the 
small remaining number of Honorary and Corresponding 
Members of this Society, elected before the amendment of 
our Charter in 1857, and whose names have a separate place 
in our printed lists, have died : Hon. Samuel Greene Arnold, 
of Rhode Island, and James Lenox, Esq., of New York. 
They were chosen, within a month or two of each other, in 
1855, and their names had thus been for nearly twenty-five 
years on our rolls. 

Mr. Arnold had twice been Lieutenant-Governor, and, for a 
short time, one of the United States Senators, of Rhode Island. 
He had volunteered as an aide-de-camp to Governor Sprague, 
and had taken the field in command of a battery of artillery, 
in 1861. He will be specially remembered by us as the 
author of a valuable History of his native State, and as, for 
some years, the President of the Rhode Island Historical 
Society. He died in the fifty-ninth year of his age, highly 
respected and greatly regretted. 

In the death of Mr. Lenox, in his eightieth year, the City 
of New York has lost one of her largest benefactors, as well 
as one of her most estimable and excellent citizens. 

Inheriting an ample fortune, and having never married, he 
was able to indulge without stint his early taste for books 
and for the fine arts, while he was at the same time a liberal 
contributor to still better things. The noble library and 
charming pictures and marbles, which he had collected from 



1880.] REMAKKS BY THE PBESIDENT. 361 

time to time, at home and abroad, were long the treasures of 
his own dwelling-house. I cannot forget how often I was 
privileged to see them there, and how great a privilege I felt 
it to be. Those wonderful editions of the Bible, which he 
prized himself above all other books ; those rare maps and 
manuscripts connected with the earliest history of our own 
continent and country ; that unique autograph of Washing- 
ton, — the original of the Farewell Address, as it went to the 
printer in September, 1796 ; the grand portraits of Washing- 
ton by Stuart and Peale ; the admirable bust and portrait of 
Dr. Chalmers, for whom he had a special reverence, and with 
whose religious views he had the warmest sympathy ; — these 
and a hundred other things, almost equally choice, made up 
a collection such as could be found in no other private man- 
sion in our land, and such as made a visit to him in New 
York a memory for a lifetime. 

Meantime, he was spending not a little time and money in 
preparing and publishing sumptuous volumes in connection 
with these treasures, — a History of the Editions of King 
James's Bible ; Syllacius, with the Letters of Columbus ; 
the Farewell Address of Washington, with all its original 
additions and erasures ; and many other smaller works. 

But within the last ten years of his life, all this costly 
accumulation of books and manuscripts and works of art had 
been transferred to a spacious marble building, erected at his 
own expense, on the margin of the Central Park of New 
York, and dedicated by him to public use. There, under 
the charge of two of our accomplished Corresponding Mem- 
bers, Dr. George H. Moore and Dr. S. Austin Allibone, 
these precious things are now displayed freely to the public 
eye. It is worth a special journey from Boston to New York, 
if it were only to see the various publications of John Eliot, 
with all the manifold editions of his Indian Bible, so worthily 
arranged within large glass cases, as a memorial of his philan- 
thropy and apostleship. 

I may not dwell longer on the character or career of Mr. 
Lenox. As he was long a Vice-President of the American 
Antiquarian Society, at Worcester, he will doubtless be noticed 
more in detail in their Semi- Annual Report next month. But 
this brief sketch of his life would be without its crowning fea- 
ture, if I did not recall the Protestant Temple which he was 
largely instrumental in having built in Turin, at the earliest 
moment when such an edifice was tolerated in Italy, and the 
noble " Presbyterian Hospital," to which he was the largest 
contributor, not far from the Lenox Library in New York. 

46 



362 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

Religion, charity, literature, history, and the fine arts were 
alike the subjects of his generoiis endowment. His example 
is not the less valuable in these days, in that Religion and 
the Bible stood first in his regard. 

He died on the 17th of February last, at the age of 
seventy-nine years and six months. 

The Recording Secretary stated that he had lately received 
information that Mr. G. B. Faribault, of Quebec, Can., whose 
name was on the same list with those of Messrs. Arnold and 
Lenox, had been dead for some years. The date of his death, 
kindly furnished by the Secretary of the " Literary and His- 
torical Society of Quebec," was Dec. 22, 1866. 

Frederic De Peyster, LL.D., President of the New York 
Historical Society, was elected an Honorary Member. 

The regular day for the Annual Meeting having been 
appointed by the Governor of the Commonwealth as the 
Annual Fast, it was voted to hold the Society's meeting on 
Tuesday, April 6th. 

The following Committees were appointed to prepare for 
this Annual Meeting : to examine the Treasurer's accounts, 
Messrs. A. A. Lawrence and Chase ; to nominate a list of 
officers for the ensuing year, Messrs. Warren, Chamberlain, 
and Upham. 

Mr. R. C. Winthrop, Jr., communicated two letters written 
to Hon. Jeremiah Mason, in 1797, by Joseph Dennie, who was 
perhaps the best-known man of letters of his day in this 
country, and whose essays earned for him the sobriquet of 
" the American Addison." A native of Boston and a gradu- 
ate of Harvard in 1790, he at first practised law in Walpole, 
New Hampshire, where he edited a periodical called the 
" Farmers Museum." Removing to Boston, he, for a short 
time, edited the " Tablet " ; but being tempted to Phila- 
delphia by the offer of a government clerkship, he there, 
for twelve years, conducted the " Portfolio," a magazine 
widely celebrated for scholarship and wit. He was a man 
of convivial habits and a great favorite in society, but died 
in 1812, at the early age of forty-four. An interesting notice 
of him will be found in a paper on " Newspapers and News- 
paper-writers in New England, from 1785 to 1815," resfd by 
our associate member, Mr. D. A. Goddard, before the New 
England Historic-Genealogical Society in February last. 

The letters of Dennie, found among the papers of the late 
Robert M. Mason, here follow: — 



1880.] LETTER FROM JOSEPH DENNIE, JR. 363 

Boston, Aug. 6, 1797. 

From the ennui which you apprehended I should experience in a 
counting-room I was relieved, the day you left town, by the company of 
Jos. Barrell and a Mr. Morewood, a youthful Englishman of some 
promise. But greater things were reserved for me. For at five 
o'clock I found myself, by Barrell's civility, at his chateau and by his 
daughter's side.* Be assured I was very eloquent on this joyful 
occasion. I am not much in the habit of tacking on the epithets, 
angelic and divine, by way of fringe to a petticoat, but am willing to 
allow that Miss B. is a very perfect mortal, and " as pretty a piece of 
flesh as any in all Messina." 

I have arrayed myself in sables and prattled history with Belknap. 
I have spoken softly to Miss Buck and loudly to Miss Knox. I have 
lounged on the sofa of Philenia and have darted federalism at her 
French spouse. But, Jere, I find this mode of wearing away life 
intolerable. Daily noon and evening parties, half festal, half formal, 
begin to tire. With the exception of a few days here, I shall pass 
the rest of the period allotted for amusement at Morton's, Ames's, and 
at home. 

The house of our Lady of Loretto, at Dorchester, is as fantastic as 
a Chinese temple : still very fine and convenient. I doubt not a man 
might be very happy there, both up and abed. She is in highly 
exhilarated spirits and much handsomer than when in the old house. 

When my little printer arrives, which will be in ten days, I shall 
leave the subscription-paper with him and repose and converse two 
days at Portsmouth with you. On Sunday I almost arranged a ride 
to P. the middle of this week. But among the many great little 
events which agitate this puddle called Boston, the arrival of John 
Adams is one. People here tell me it is wise to make my rustic bow 
to the great man, and I must dine with the king to-morrow and drink 
some two dozen of such perplexed toasts as the bungling creatures 
here give. 

The other evening I was an involuntary visitant at Tom Amory's,t 
and found myself embarrassed by more than forty females. Williamson 
was there, and as dissatisfied as myself, so we stole to a corner and 
damned ceremonial. There is great parade of ease in these mixed 
parties, but it is one of the most mawkish affectations in life. Men 
and women in such situations wish each other to the devil. I made 
my escape at eleven from their filberts and their folly, and sat up 
gayly till two with a brace of friends. \Here the letter is torn and a 
part of it missing,'] 

whom I have often mentioned to you, appears to 
combine information and merchandise more gracefully than the ma- 

* Mr. Barrell built in 17.92 an elegant mansion on Cobble Hill, Somerville, 
where the McLean Asylum now stands. The house forms a part of the Asylum 
buildings. — Eds. 

t Mr. Amory built and occupied the large house at the head of Park Street, 
afterward the home of Mr. George Ticknor. — Eds. 



364 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar, 

jority of the Long Wharf men. At Vila's,* with one of them, I found 
liberality, good sense, and taste. 

After moving from the corporation-feast of to-morrow I shall detail 
again these idle hours and make x a remark or two on man in the 
throng. Write, by all means, next post, and inform me of the nature 
of your establishment, the men, and particularly the women, with 
whom you consort. If your New York receipts give leave, you will 
please to comply with my expressed wishes, at any time and in any 
manner you please. 

Joseph Dennie, Junr. 
Jeremiah Mason, Esq., Portsmouth, N. H. 

Boston, 25 August, 1797. 

The witches and magicians of Boston do not wholly enchant me. 
I pass most of my time at M.'s, and visit George Cabot and J. Swan. 
Jews and Gentiles you will say ; true. Men of all 'party colors ; but 
no low people, Jere, no hewers of wood nor drawers of water. 

I have had the honor of making two bows to the President and 
receiving three. Abbut three hundred guests were bidden to the 
feast, and I am sorry to say that the toasts were followed by clamor- 
ous hootings and applause quite in the French style. All this is 
suited to the taste of the Bostonians, who are unquestionably the 
merest boys at all kinds of play. 

I find strong sense, urban manners, and ElswortKs energy in Cabot. 
He amuses me by his political zeal, and instructs me by his worldly 
wisdom. Moreover, he giveth good dinners, and, sinner that I am, I 
think partridge at least as palatable as politics. 

There is here a kind of would-be literary club. It meets each 
Wednesday, and consists of certain lawyers, divines, quacks, and 
merchants. I have seen these people, who are mostly fools ; Minot, 
Clarke, and Kirkland are exceptions. Our historian, Belknap, ap- 
pears to be buried in plethora, and his genius is as much palsied as his 
limbs. They are all lazy : and reversing the ancient rule of the 
symposium, they convene rather to eat, than talk, together. 

In my last I praised the bewitching Barrell, and lo ! another gypsy 
hath arisen, mightier than she. Swan's second daughter, Christiana, 
vulgarly called Kitty, is all charm. 

" Run, run, Orlando, carve on every tree, 
The fair, the chaste, the inexpressive she ! " 

She looks and talks exquisitely, has a strong mind, and some for- 
tune, if her mother please. Now, could I cheat the last and gain the 
first, I think it would be a summary way to be rich and happy.f 

Yesterday I dined with Williamson and Citizen Mustard, the French 



* James Vila was the landlord of the well-known " Concert Hall." See 
" Recollections of Samuel Breck," p. 122 n. — Eds. 

t Col. James Swan lived in Roxbury. See Drake's " Town of Roxbury," 
pp. 135-138. — Eds. 



1880.] OLD MAP OF BOSTON". 365 

barber's boy consul,* at Morton's. Williamson was pleasant, but the 
Frenchman looked and talked so much like an assassin that I verily 
apprehended that, by some cursed Parisian mistake, he would stick 
his fork into my breast, rather than into the chicken on his trencher. 

I am extremely obliged by the cordiality of your invitation. I 
cannot, with precision, state that I will be with you on such a day. 
But within & fortnight I shall certainly meet you. Your wish respect- 
ing St. Loe shall be complied with, if the time will allow. Short 
notice for the long merits of our friend L. 

I am, &c, 

Jos. Dennie. 
Jeremiah Mason, Esq., Portsmouth, N. H. 

Mr. Winsor exhibited a map of Boston, not mentioned, 
he thought, in any of the lists of old maps. It measures 
37x40 inches ; extends from the end of Long Wharf on the 
east to the Cambridge shore on the west ; from the Charles- 
town shore on the north nearly to the Roxbury line on the 
south ; and is entitled, " An Accurate Plan of the Town of 
Boston and its vicinity, exhibiting a ground plan of all the 
streets, lanes, alleys, wharves, and public buildings in Bos- 
ton ; with the Names and Description thereof ; likewise all 
the Flats and Channels between Boston and Charlestown, 
Cambridge, Roxbury, and Dorchester, with the two Bridges 
and Causeway ; and the boundary lines between Boston and 
the above-mentioned Towns, from the actual surveys of the 
Publisher. Also, part of Charlestown and Cambridge, from 
the surveys of Samuel Thompson, Esq., and part of Rox- 
bury and Dorchester from those of Mr. Whitherington (all 
which surveys were taken by order of the General Court). 
By Osgood Carleton, teacher of Mathematics in Boston. 
I. Norman sc." 

It purports to have been " Published as the Act directs, 
May 16, 1797." 

Carleton made the small map for the Directory of 1796, 
used for several years afterward, and he made a larger map 
of the peninsula only, issued in 1800. It would seem that 
this last was simply a portion of the present plate. 

A facsimile of the 1800 map was made in 1878 from a 
copy owned by Mr. George B. Foster, and this facsimile is 
in the Society's Library. 

The President exhibited a contemporary miniature of 
Oliver Cromwell, ascribed to Cooper, and once the property 
of Thomas Jefferson, to whom it was given by Mr. George 

* Theodore Charles Mozard was French Consul at this time. — Eds. 



MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

W. Erving. It descended to the late Mr. Joseph Coolidge, 
who married Mr. Jefferson's granddaughter. His family trans- 
ferred it, a few days after his death, to Mr. Winthrop, with 
the understanding that its final resting-place should be in 
the Cabinet of this Society. 

Mr. Deaste communicated an original petition jof Roger 
Conant, saying : — 

Mr. President, — I have here an old paper, which was 
placed in my hands some weeks ago by the Rev. Robert 
Folger Wallcut, a nephew of one of the founders of this 
Societ} r , to be communicated to its archives. It is a letter or 
petition, to the General Court of Massachusetts, from one of 
the " old planters " so-called, so often spoken of in the early 
records of the State ; those pioneers on our soil, whose claims 
to the consideration of the later comers under the authority of 
the Massachusetts patent were ordered to be acknowledged 
and respected. The special old planter of whom I speak — 
by one enthusiastic writer regarded as the first governor of 
Massachusetts * — is Roger Conant, who wrote the paper to 
which I now call your attention, in 1671, when he was eighty 
years old. As it has never been printed, and is brief, I will 
read it : — 

To the Honored Magistrates and Deputies of the General Court. 

The humble petition and request of Roger Conant, planter in New 
England these forty-eight years and three months ; who was with the 
first (and I think I may safely say the very first) under God, that was 
in this wilderness, an instrument, though a weak one, of founding and 
furthering this colony — whose eyes have seen the first stones laid in 
the foundation thereof, and now again to see the unparalleled growth 
thereof through the great blessing of our great God. 

I did put up a former request concerning the change of the name 
of our town of Beverly, and what your worships' pleasure is therein I 
do not fully know. I had thoughts and purposed to move your 
worships, that you would be pleased to grant me some small portion 
of land in some convenient place, where it may be found without 
prejudice ; and this I thought to do by word of mouth, if I had come 
before your worships, as I hoped I should do, and was bashful to put 
up two requests in one pap.er. Wherefore if I have erred and forgot 
myself in this matter, pardon my indiscretion, who am old and weak ; 
and be pleased now, out of your favorable respect, to grant and give me 
some portion of land as shall seem meet and good in your eyes. God 

* See " The Landing at Cape Anne." By John Wingate Thornton. 
Boston, 1854. 



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1880.] PETITIONS OF ROGER CONANT. 367 

hath given me children and grandchildren, so that although I am old 
and cannot improve land myself, yet my children can, and so both they 
with myself shall be engaged for your loves, and I hope our prayers 
shall be continual for the blessing of God on your persons and 
weighty agitations, and for the prosperity of this whole colony and 
country of New England. Dated this first of the fourth month [June] 
1671. 

Your humble petitioner and servant, 

Roger Con ant. 

In answer to this petition the magistrates judge meet to grant the 
petitioner two hundred acres of land where it is to be found out, free 
from any former grants : their brethren the Deputies hereto consenting. 

Edward Rawson, Secretary. 
2d June, 1671. 

Consented to by the Deputies. 

William Torre y, Cleric* 

Conant here speaks of a former request he had made 
" concerning the change of the name of our town of Bev- 
erly." This was embodied in a well-known document of 
which the original is among the State archives, in his own 
handwriting. It was first published in 1838, in a volume of 
this Society's Collections (3d ser. vol. vii. pp. 252, 253). It 
is an interesting paper, and, taken in connection with the 
eighteenth chapter of Hubbard's History, a large part of 
which must have been written from material furnished by 
Conant himself, contains most valuable information of the 
pioneer settlement on Cape Anne, and of the removal, after 
the breaking up of that settlement, of Conant and his few 
friends to Naumkeag, where they were found by Endicott on 
his arrival there on the 6th of September, 1628. I will read a 
part of this first petition, written only four days before the 
other, as they have a sort of connection : — 

"The humble petition of Roger Conant, of Bass River, alias 
Beverly, who hath been a planter in New England forty-eight years 
and upward, being one of the first, if not the very first, that resolved 
and made good my settlement, under God, in matter of plantation, with 
my family, in this colony of the Massachusetts Bay, and have been 
instrumental both for the founding and carrying on of the same ; and 
when, in the infancy thereof, it was in great hazard of being deserted, 
I was a means, through grace assisting me, to stop the flight of those 

* See Records of Massachusetts, vol. iv., pt. ii., p. 504. The two hundred 
acres of land granted to Conant at this time were afterward surveyed near 
Dunstable. See " Notice of Roger Conant," in Hist. & Geneal. Reg., vol. ii., 
pp. 233, 329. 



368 MASSACHUSETTS HISTOBICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

few that then were here with me, and that by my utter denial to go 
away with them who would have gone either for England, or mostly for 
Virginia, but, thereupon, stayed to the hazard of our lives. 

"Now my humble suit and request is unto this honorable court, only 
that the name of our town or plantation may be altered or changed 
from Beverly, and be called Budleigh. I have two reasons that have 
moved me unto this request. 

" The first is, the great dislike and discontent of many of our people 
for this name of Beverly, because (we being but a small place) it 
hath caused on us a constant nickname of beggarly, being in the 
mouths of many ; and no order was given, or consent by the people here 
to their agent for any name, until they were sure of being a town 
granted in the first place. 

" Secondly, I being the first that had house in Salem (and never 
had any hand in naming either that, or any other town), and myself, 
with those that were then with me, being all from the western part of 
England, desire this western name of Budleigh, a market town in 
Devonshire, and near unto the sea, as we are here in this place, and 
where myself was born." * 

This petition, in which Conant was joined by thirty-four 
others, was not granted by the court, the magistrates and 
deputies (as appears by the writing appended by the secretary 
and the clerk to the petition itself) seeing " no cause to alter 
the name of the place as desired." The petition is not noticed 
in the records, and our only knowledge of it is afforded 
by the existence of the paper itself on file at the State 
House. 

In the petition which I first read it will be noticed that 
the writer says he has been a planter in New England " these 
forty-eight years and three months." This fixes the time of 
his arrival at about the 1st of March, 1623. It was never 
known precisely when Conant came. In the other paper 
he says he has " been a planter in New England forty- eight 
years and upward." We first find him in Plymouth, which 
place he left about the year 1625 and took up his residence 
for a time at Nantasket, in company with Lyford and Oldham, 
who in that year were ignominiously sent away from the sober 
pilgrim community. While residing at Nantasket, it is sup- 
posed that he made use for some purpose of the island in 
Boston harbor early called " Conant's Island," which subse- 
quently was conveyed by the government to Governor Win- 
throp. Conant could not have come over in the " Anne," 
which arrived later in the year, in July, and in which Oldham 

* Massachusetts Archives, Towns, vol. i., p. 217. In printing Conant's peti- 
tions here the spelling has been modernized. 



1880.] PETITIONS OF ROGER CONANT. 

and his people came. The "Jonathan of Plymouth" — the 
" Mayflower " of the Pascataqua, — which brought over David 
Thomson, arrived, as I conjecture, about the time Conant says 
he came. He may have come in that vessel, or in some 
other fishing vessel of whose arrival we have no record. If 
he had come with Thomson, I think Hubbard would have 
mentioned it. 

The story of Conant's removal to Cape Anne, to take 
charge of the fishing station there, belonging to the Dor- 
chester Company, in England, as its governor or overseer, 
and of the subsequent removal of himself and friends to 
Naumkeag, where they formed the nucleus of the settlement 
of that ancient town, is too well known to be repeated here. 

Those of us who listened to the admirable oration of Judge 
Endicott at Salem, on the two hundred and fiftieth anniver- 
sary of the landing there of his distinguished ancestor, may 
remember a passage which he introduced from a speech of Dr. 
Palfrey, made in 1852, at the centennial celebration in Dan- 
vers. Dr. Palfrey related this incident as connected with 
the arrival of Endicott at Salem : — 

" When the vessel which bore the first Governor of Massachusetts 
was entering the harbor of Salem, she was anxiously watched from 
the beach by four individuals, styled in the quaint chronicles of the 
time, as ' Roger Conant and three sober men.' The vessel swung to 
her moorings and flung the red cross of St. George to the breeze, a 
boat put off' for the shore, and, that the Governor might land dry-shod, 
Roger Conant and his ' three sober men ' rolled up their pantaloons, — 
or rather those nether garments which we, in these degenerate days, 
call pantaloons, — waded into the water, and bore him on their 
shoulders to the dry land." * 

* Account of the Cent. Celebration in Danvers, June 16, 1852, p. 130: 
" Roger Conant and his sober men," continues Dr. Palfrey, " had been here 
a long time, but how long it is unnecessary to state, but so long that the 
houses they had built sadly needed repair. Now these three sober men were, 
Balch, Woodbury, and the third bore a surname which I forbear to mention, 
but will only say that it was one which it becomes me not to disgrace." It is 
unnecessary to say that this third name was Peter Palfrey. In Hubbard's 
account of the efforts of the Rev. John White, of Dorchester, England, to 
establish a settlement at Cape Anne, he says that Mr. White had had a favor- 
able account, among others, of Roger Conant, "a religious, sober, and prudent 
gentleman," whom the Dorchester Company selected "to be their governor in 
that place." And that, subsequently, on the breaking up of the Cape Anne 
Colony, and the removal of Conant and his friends to Naumkeag, Mr. White 
" did write to Mr. Conant not so to desert his business ; faithfully promising that, 
if himself, with three others, whom he knew to be honest and prudent men, 
viz., John Woodberry, John Balch, and Peter Palfreys, employed by the 
adventurers, would stay at Naumkeag, and give timely notice thereof, he 
would provide a patent for them," &c. See Hubbard's New England, pp. 106, 
107. 

47 



370 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar 

When Judge Endicott was preparing his oration for the 
occasion referred to, he was very desirous of ascertaining 
whether the pleasant incident related by Dr. Palfrey in his 
speech twenty-six years before, and which Judge Endicott, 
as a young man, had listened to, was really authentic, and 
had been drawn from some chronicle of the early time, or 
was a picture of the imagination. Diligent search could not 
discover it. Dr. Palfrey's subsequent " History of New Eng- 
land " contained no such incident, and he himself was in a 
state of health too feeble to be consulted. But the picture, 
from such a distinguished source, was too good to be omitted. 

At a visit which I made to Dr. Palfrey some months ago, 
finding him more than usually animated, and quite disposed 
to talk on historical subjects, and to indulge in reminiscences, 
I drew his attention finally to the subject of his speech at 
Danvers, in 1852, and to the passage in it to which I have 
referred ; telling him at the same time of Judge Endicott's 
wish to know whether the incident related was genuine his- 
tory, or a pleasant picture of what might have occurred on the 
landing of Endicott. Dr. Palfrey smiled, and said, " If you 
are unable to find the passage, you may safely believe it was 
a picture of the imagination." 

The Rev. E. E. Hale presented a Memoir of the Hon. 
Lorenzo Sabine, which he had been appointed to write. 

Dr. George E. Ellis communicated a Memoir of Dr. 
Jacob Bigelow, which he had prepared agreeably to the wish 
of the Society. 

These Memoirs are here printed. 



1880.] MEMOIR OP HON. LORENZO SABINE. 371 



MEMOIR 

OF THE 

HON. LORENZO SABINE, A.M. 

BY EDWAED E. HALE. 



Lorenzo Sabine was born in the little town of Lisbon, in 
the State of New Hampshire, on the 28th of July, 1803. 
His father, Elijah H. Sabin, was a minister in the Methodist 
Church. He was of Huguenot blood, if the family tradition 
may be relied upon ; but the name appears in our own annals 
as early as 1643, when William Sabin lived in Rehoboth. He 
afterward appeared as an energetic citizen in the conduct of 
Philip's War, and was a representative in the Government 
of the Old Colony. The name also appears on the earliest 
records as Saben. Mr. Lorenzo Sabine seems to have chosen 
the earliest spelling he found in the records. 

Rev. Elijah H. Sabin was the somewhat intimate friend of 
Rev. Lorenzo Dow, well known, before his adventurous life 
closed, as an eccentric preacher. Dow was but twenty-six 
years old when Elijah Sabin's oldest son was born, to whom 
his father gave the name " Lorenzo," in regard for his friend 
in the ministry. Mr. Elijah Sabin was highly respected in 
the Methodist Church and in the communities in which he 
lived. 

He had a literary taste and an ability of expression above 
the average of the preachers of his day. A series of curious 
papers, afterward published in a volume, called the " Travels 
of Charles Observator," will well reward the careful student 
who seeks to recall the forgotten manners and customs of 
New England at the beginning of this century. Several of 
his sermons on public occasions are preserved in print. He 
was at one time stationed in Boston at the Bromfield Street 
church, and was afterward Chaplain to the House of Repre- 
sentatives, — the first chaplain chosen from the Methodist 
pulpit. One of his printed addresses was delivered by request 
before the Legislature of Massachusetts, in February, 1812, 



372 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

on the destruction of the Richmond Theatre, an event so 
tragical that it excited very general attention through the 
whole country. At the time of Lorenzo Sabine's birth, his 
father resided in Lisbon, a poor man, his son says, but as rich 
in wise sayings and precepts as Franklin himself. It is evi- 
dent that the early training he gave to this oldest son had a 
permanent value. He died, comparatively young, at Savan- 
nah,* whither he had gone in the vain hope of arresting pul- 
monary illness. By his death, Lorenzo Sabine was left to 
extreme poverty in early life, and also to the responsibility of 
sharing with his mother the care of a large family of younger 
children. 

In a humorous lecture which he read before the Farmers' 
Club of Framingham, he gave this account of his boyhood in 
Lisbon : — 

" A top, a ball, a hoop, a knife, and a fishing-rod, Weems's 
Life of Washington, — a queer book, — Gulliver's Travels, and 
Robinson Crusoe, comprised every article of property which 
I could call my own. Except that, at long intervals, my 
mother gave me a few cents, I had no spending money from 
one month's end to another. My father at times could hardly 
provide us with bread, and had nothing to give me. Still, 
my playmates, though I could offer no rewards beyond the 
loan of some plaything, or the division of a pound of raisins 
whenever I had the means to purchase, were very kind ; and 
I still look back to the hours made light and merry by their 
help in accomplishing my daily 4 stent,' or task." 

In the same address he says of his father : — 

" My father was a man remarkable for his common sense, 
and was as full of wise sayings and maxims as was Franklin 
himself. He was a poor clergyman with a large family of 
soils, and was painfully impressed with the conviction that he 
could bequeath them nothing beyond his good name. . . . 
As he looked out into the world, he saw that the tillers of the 
soil were the most virtuous, the happiest, and physically the 
most vigorous class in the community." With this view he 
hoped to bring up his oldest son and probably his other sons 
as farmers. But there is more than one reason why farming 
should not appear in a very attractive light to an intelligent 
boy in Lisbon, New Hampshire. There were more reasons in 
the extreme poverty of those days ; and in one or two of the 
allusions of his papers there seems to be reference to the dis- 
astrous famine of 1816, which was quite enough to cure any 

* May 4, 1818. 



1880.] MEMOIR OF HON. LORENZO SABINE. 373 

New Hampshire farmer of undue enthusiasm. Leaving Lis- 
bon, the boy Lorenzo Sabine came again to Boston, and 
found employment as an apprentice with the publishing firm 
of Lincoln & Edmands, — being an inmate of the family of 
the senior partner, in the admirable habit of those simple 
times. His passion for books was here indulged to a certain 
extent, and, in one or two instances, he here made friends 
whom he retained through life. 

From this period of his life we have his own history in a 
sketch so honorable to himself that we present it entire. It 
was written on the evening of his election to Congxess, when 
he did not know the result of the election. It is addressed 
to Mr. Haze well, who had been a candidate of the opposite 
party, but had withdrawn in Mr. Sabine's favor. 

Framing ham, Dec. 11, 1852. 

" A native of New Hampshire and the son of a humble Methodist 
preacher, I was left an orphan at an early age. Without education, 
friends, or decent apparel, and with just ten dollars and fifty-six cents 
in money, I departed from the roof of my mother to push my fortunes 
on the eastern frontier of the Union. I knelt in thankfulness to God, 
and wept the night long, after engaging a clerkship in a wretched 
shop or store at ten dollars the month, to take my meals in a sad 
boarding-house, and to sleep in the unfinished garret of the store among 
old barrels, boxes, and other rubbish. I was so ignorant as to be unfit 
even for this situation. With my first earnings I bought three horse- 
rugs, of which I made a sort of carpet, a pair of ' fire-dogs,' shovel 
and tongs, and some wood, and devoted my evenings to self-education. 
Progress was slow ; for I was embarrassed on every hand, and at 
times was almost ready to despair and drown my anguish in dissipa- 
tion. But I kept on, and in the cheapest clothing, participated in no 
amusements whatever, and expended every thing I could spare in 
books. Meantime, my mother died, and five younger brothers and 
sisters were to be provided for. I commenced trade on my own ac- 
count, and was a bankrupt before the expiration of a single year. Yet 
I was engaged to a lovely girl, who was an orphan and nearly as 
homeless as myself ; and so, with no enviable fortunes before us, we 
united our destiny, and thus gave the younger members of my father's 
family a home. My sisters were educated, my brothers were fitted 
one by one to start in business. Alas! my dear sir, the trials and 
sorrows of an elder brother, who with all the responsibilities of a 
parent is without a parent's authority ! 

" Well, a week did not elapse after the sheriff shut up my store be- 
fore I entered a counting-room as clerk, and engaged besides to keep 
a set of bank-books. With the wreck of my property, with my earn- 
ings, and the kind offices of friends, I was a free man in the course of 
some fourteen months, and engaged in commercial pursuits a second 



374 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

time. I built and owned vessels, fitted out fishermen, and was a 
' petty dealer in codfish and molasses/ as John Randolph said of the 
merchants of North Carolina generally." 

It is much to be regretted that Mr. Sabine did not prepare 
at more length a full account of his whole life, and the 
various matters of public interest in which he was engaged. 

A letter from Dr. Isaac Ray, at one time his fellow-towns- 
man in Eastport, gives to us a valuable picture of the course 
of personal development and of work for the public to which 
that life was given. 

3569 Baking Street, Philadelphia, 
4 March, 1880. 

I first made Mr. Sabine's acquaintance in 1829, in Eastport, 
where he was a small shopkeeper and I a fledgling of a doctor. I 
soon found that he was a great reader, a shrewd observer of men and 
things outside of his business, and with strong intellectual tastes. 
His opportunities for mental improvement had been of the smallest, 
and what he knew he seemed to have picked up by the wayside. 
He was the oldest child of a Methodist minister, who died leaving his 
widow with some half dozen children. . . . His father's means were 
always very straitened, and once he had to detain his people after 
morning service to tell them that when he should get home, he would 
not find a morsel of food in the house. The famous Lorenzo Dow 
was one of his familiar friends, and he showed his regard for the 
eccentric preacher by giving his name to his own first-born son. 
Not long after his death, his widow married again, and Lorenzo 
Sabine went off farther down East, to seek his fortune, stopping finally 
at Eastport. Here he began at the lowest round of the ladder, in 
fact, as the humblest sort of shop boy, under a master whose kicks and 
curses were more plentiful than any softer endearments. However, 
he endured it all quietly, performing his duty in the shop faithfully, 
and at night, in his little garret, earning a quarter by filling out the 
MS. dates, &c, in bank bills, kindly furnished by the cashier. In a 
few years he had a shop of his own, got married, and lived contented 
with moderate gains. All the while, much of his leisure was given 
to books, and he was deeply interested in purely literary matters. 
After a while he began to put his thoughts on paper, and often 
brought the product to me for examination. He was exceedingly 
desirous of excelling in writing, but so distrustful of himself under the 
sense of the deficiencies of his education, that the gentlest friendly 
criticism, solicited by himself, would overwhelm him with dismay, and, 
for mouths, put a stop to any further effort. Many an evening we 
spent together over his pieces, sentence by sentence, scrutinizing the 
grammar, the phraseology, and the construction. At last, after much 
misgiving on his part, and much persuasion on mine, he consented to 
accept the invitation of the authorities to deliver the Fourth of July 



1880.] MEMOIR OF HON. LORENZO SABINE. 375 

oration, which he very creditably accomplished, though the pangs of 
veritable childbirth could hardly be more severe than he endured 
between the first conception and the final expulsion. That was about 
1838 or 1839. Next, he conceived the idea of writing an article for 
the " North American Review," and that, after some years, was accom- 
plished, and from that time forth he contributed frequently to that 
journal. And his articles certainly were a remarkable illustration of 
the reward of patient, persevering endeavor, animated by an honest 
ambition. The nature of his business, and his associations with vari- 
ous people of the Provinces, furnished him the opportunity of becom- 
ing acquainted with our fisheries, — their modes, their history, their 
morale, and material, — and the information thus obtained, more 
extensive, exact, and original than had ever before been obtained by any 
single individual, was given to the public in several articles in the 
" North American Review." While Mr. Webster was Secretary of 
State there occurred one of those fishery flurries on the eastern coast 
which required prompt and intelligent diplomacy, for which Mr. Webster 
was about as well prepared as he would have been to take command 
of an ocean steamer. In this dilemma he was advised to send for 
Sabine, as the man capable above all others of giving him efficient 
help, and he was wise enough to do it. Mr. Webster received him in 
his high and mighty way, and Sabine departed smarting under the 
feeling that he had been snubbed. Mutual friends succeeded in heal- 
ing the sore and establishing amicable relations. 

His favorite reading was in American history, especially of the 
Revolutionary period. His business brought him into intercourse with 
the neighboring provincials, many of whom were descendants of 
American loyalists. From them he learned much of the fortunes of 
their fathers that had been entirely unwritten, and which led him to a 
course of inquiry in a field full of interest to him. He interviewed 
every old man and woman, though it took a journey to do it; searched 
parish records and explored graveyards. Thinking the unique in- 
formation thus obtained was worth preserving in permanent shape, 
and that the public would properly appreciate it, he looked around for 
a publisher. And he might have looked long, had there not been then 
in Boston a firm, who were often influenced by a regard to the intrinsic 
rather than the pecuniary value of the offered book. I need not 
enlarge to you on the merits, historical or literary, of the work. 
You know that it fills a gap in our political and social history, which 
would otherwise, in all probability, have remained open for ever. 
The work was a labor of love to him, — the darling and delight of 
his soul. Few men, indeed, have pursued historical research as a 
passion, so exclusive of other considerations. 

I cannot close these recollections of my friend without adverting to 
his habitual admiration of naval prowess. Surrounded as he was in 
Eastport by a peculiar race of seamen, rough, resolute, and fearless, 
inured by a life-long struggle with the elements to the sharpest use 
of their faculties and the strongest forms of self-reliance, he was led 
to place a high estimate on the value of the mental constitution thus 



376 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

developed. He loved to dwell on the doings of this or that specimen, 
and most emphatically declared that with equal opportunities he would 
have added another to our list of Prebles and Porters. The Life of 
Preble, contributed to Mr. Sparks's Biography, was written, as you 
may suppose, con amore. 

The same spirit of exactness, thoroughness, and fidelity to trust, 
which marked all his business and social relations, was no less dom- 
inant in his writings. Historical inquiries he pursued according to 
the modem methods as rigidly, I dare say, as Bancroft or Motley. 
He spared no pains to reach the original sources, and days, perhaps 
weeks, would be spent in verifying a date or a name. 

As a citizen, a man of business, a friend, a husband, brother, and 
father, he exhibited a remarkable endowment of those qualities of char- 
acter which engage the respect and love of men. But I need not 
dilate on his perfect integrity and uprightness, his honorable and 
generous courses, his painstaking benevolence, his readiness to help 
and relieve, and his attachment to his friends. If you have learned 
any thing of his history, you must have heard of all this. 

I doubt whether you can turn what I have said to much account, 
but you may rely on its implicit correctness. 

Yours truly, 

I. Ray. 

Mr. Sabine himself has left of his early life in Eastport the 
following interesting memorandum. It refers to one of his 
earliest writings which is fortunately preserved : — 

" This is the first paper saved among my early writing, and as it is 
addressed to the ' Quoddy * Forum,' must be one of the very earliest 
written to be read to others. When I went to Eastport in 1821, dis- 
sipation was almost too general to cause remark. 

" The young men employed in stores, with hardly an exception, 
resorted evenings either to ' Carlow's,' in rear of the fort, or to 
4 Traveller's Rest,' further up the island, for drinks and games, and 
used stimulants freely when about their business in the daytime. 

" A few, after talking over the great evils of this sort of life, deter- 
mined to quit it, and meet evenings for mutual improvement. A club 
was accordingly formed, and called the ' Quoddy Forum.' 

" So popular did it become that married persons applied for admis- 
sion ; and, in time, the doors of the club-room were opened to the 
public ; and as soon as the ladies ventured to become auditors, every 
thing like disorder and discourtesy disappeared. 

" This Address, as appears in the opening, was delivered at the first 
meeting of the ' New Forum/ when our discussions were free to all, 
and when we removed to the schoolhouse, corner of Green and 
Boynton Streets." 

* Quoddy, as the expert in New England history knows, is the spelling 
which the unromantic English fishermen of the seventeenth century gave to the 
Indian root which in French lips took the more classical sound of *' Acadie." 



1880.] MEMOIR OF HON. LORENZO SABINE. 377 

This little reference to what may be called his first work 
for the public may be taken as an illustration of the character 
and purpose of the man as it showed itself all through his 
life. He speaks with modesty of his life as a merchant, 
saying once, in the passage which has been cited, in a joking 
way, that he was a petty dealer in codfish and molasses. 
But, as Dr. Ray's letter shows, he soon acquired the con- 
fidence of the people, and in the club he has here described, 
in the foundation of the Lyceum ten years later, as a mem- 
ber of the legislature, as a justice of the peace, and in vari- 
ous public offices he was constantly rendering loyal service 
to the public. For several years he edited the " Eastport 
Sentinel," and the work he did in that charge gave it im- 
portance among the country papers of New England. His 
intimacy with the British provinces of the neighborhood led 
to the inquiries which turned his attention to the lives of the 
loyalists, who had emigrated from the thirteen colonies to 
Nova Scotia in the Revolution. Some newspaper articles 
relating to them showed to historians that at last some of the 
dropped stitches of history were to be picked up and knit to- 
gether. In 1847, the first edition of the "American Loyalists " 
was published. It is amusing now to remember that, at the 
time, he was seriously charged with a lack of national feeling 
because he chose to preserve these memorials of men who had 
suffered every thing in their devotion to what they supposed 
to be their duty. But the real students were delighted. Mr. 
Sabine received such encouragement on every side as induced 
him to continue his collections and studies, and in 1860 he 
published the second edition, which is now a handbook for 
all our students of the Revolutionary history. 

His occupation and the place of his residence gave him 
particular opportunity for studying, both as a naturalist and 
as an historian, those remarkable sea fisheries on our eastern 
coast, which have been said to have drawn the Basque fisher- 
men hither before the days of Cabot, and which have played 
so important a part in our history to the date of the last 
despatch of Mr. Secretary Evarts to our Minister in England. 
On the subjects connected with the fisheries, Mr. Sabine 
came to be regarded as an expert. When Mr. Webster en- 
gaged in the negotiation of the Ashburton treaty he sum- 
moned Mr. Sabine to Washington in a letter which is so 
characteristic in its language, and so honorable to the receiver 
that we preserve it here. It will fix the date of the amusing 
interview, of which Dr. Ray's letter preserves the record. 

48 



378 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 



Boston, August 7, 1852. 
Dear Sir, — I learn from the best sources that you have a very 
thorough acquaintance with the subject of the Eastern Fisheries. We 
need at "Washington, at the present moment, all the information we 
can command on that important branch of the national interest ; and 
the object of this letter is to request that, if your duties and engage- 
ments will allow, you will proceed to Washington immediately that I 
may consult you. . . . 

Mr. Sabine, in his own letter to Mr. Hazewell, describing 
his life in Eastport, says : — 

" For fifteen years I was prospered, and I then retired from busi- 
ness ; but whatever the cares of trade, I never suffered the great work 
of self-education to be suspended for a moment. As I now look back 
at what I accomplished in business hours, and the whole nights 
devoted to study, I wonder that both body and mind did not become 
a perfect wreck. 

" A reading club, mainly for the English and American periodicals, 
was started, and I was admitted a member. This club in time became 
an incorporated institution, and now has a large and valuable library, 
which I used so freely that the common impression was that I knew 
something of every book in it. My ambition soared to write one, just 
one, article for the ' North American Review.' One paper from my 
pen in it, and I promised myself to drop all further plans, in the 
literary way, and repose on my laurels. The design was accomplished 
in 1843, but I became more anxious to write than ever. In fine, 
some dozen articles have appeared in the ' Review ' ; the ' American 
Loyalists' soon followed, and 'A Life of Commodore Preble/ in 
* Sparks's Biography/ The materials for the ' Loyalists ' cost me years 
of labor, and many journeys to Tories' houses and Tories' graves. 
Three or four volumes are now in progress. During the whole of the 
present year [1852] I have been employed on a report on our sea 
fisheries, for our Treasury Department. It will make about five hun- 
dred printed pages. Congress, I suppose, will order its publication, 
and I am anxious to superintend the printing. Thus you have an 
outline of the story of your Whig competitor in the Old Fourth dis- 
trict in the last trial." 

The series of articles in the " North American Review " 
and the "Christian Examiner" relating to the subjects of 
the fisheries and the New England Indians and the Revolu- 
tionary history, appeared at intervals between the years 1843 
and 1857. The subjects are : The Fisheries; Our Commer- 
cial History and Policy ; The Forest Lands and the Timber 
Trade of Maine ; Simcoe's Military Journal ; British Colonial 
Politics ; Chalmers's History of the American Colonies ; The 
American Fisheries; The Past and Present of the American 
People ; British Colonial Politics ; Eaton's Annals of War- 



1880.] MEMOIR OF HON. LORENZO SABINE. 379 

ren ; French Calvinists in North America ; Life and Works 
of John Adams; Indian Tribes of New England, three 
articles. 

Among other papers of value, published in other journals, 
are a prize essay on Banking, in " Hunt's Merchant's Maga- 
zine," and various communications to literary and histori- 
cal societies. The writer of this memoir has to acknowledge, 
not for the first time, Mr. Sabine's kindness and care in 
preserving the scanty memorials of Albert Gallatin's early 
life in Eastport. These may be found in the " Proceedings 
of the American Antiquarian Society," in 1849.* 

The public recognized gratefully such unselfish services. 
Whatever offices he would accept in the public administra- 
tion were conferred upon him. His first commission of Jus- 
tice of the Peace is dated in 1835. The same year he went 
to the legislature for the first time. Under the national 
government he was appointed by the Harrison administration 
inspector of customs and deputy collector in 1841. He had 
steadily opposed the Democratic party under Jackson and 
Van Buren. As has been said, Mr. Webster availed himself of 
his advice in the fisheries in the negotiation of the Ashbur- 
ton treaty. He had been led to study with care the intricate 
questions relating to the north-eastern boundary, — questions 
which began, indeed, half a century before in the determina- 
tion which river was the true Saint Croix. The whole dis- 
cussion began on ground which was his home.f 

After a residence of more than twenty-five years in Eastport, 
Mr. Sabine returned to Massachusetts, and established social 
and public relations here more agreeable than those of the 
lonely apprentice boy. He first established his residence at 
Framingham, but Framingham was already a suburb of the 



* Memoir of Albert Gallatin. By Edward E. Hale. Prepared for the 
American Antiquarian Society, 1859. 

t The final determination of the compromise line in the Ashburton treaty 
had to be agreed upon, before the treaty was concluded, by Lord Ashburton 
and eight American negotiators ; these were Mr. Webster, then Secretary of 
State, four commissioners from Maine, and three from Massachusetts. The 
presence of these commissioners at Washington, and their assent to the treaty, 
were necessary, because lands belonging to Maine and Massachusetts were to 
be ceded. The gentlemen from Maine gave their assent with extreme 
reluctance. The paper in which they gave it was prepared as an argument for 
refusing assent, and the clauses which give an unwilling consent at the close 
were added to the original paper only as an evidence "of the patriotic devotion 
of their State to the Union/' in yielding " to the conviction of their sister 
States." It is a rather curious fact, mentioned by Lord Ashburton to my 
father, that of the nine negotiators thus concerned in the compromise line, the 
Englishman was the only one who had ever visited the territory in dispute. 
Lord Ashburton crossed it when a young man on his first visit to America. 



380 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

city, and here his books were published, and his daily work 
done. He was elected a Resident Member of our Society in 
1854,* his name standing on the record just before Colonel 
AspinwalFs. In the year 1852, he was appointed a confi- 
dential agent of the Treasury to study and report in full on 
the intricate fishery questions. The result of his study is 
embodied in his masterly report on the " Principal Fisheries 
of the American Seas," which was published in Washington 
in the next year. It is an exhaustive examination of the 
whole subject, running back to the very infancy of American 
history, and will long be the leading authority. In the 
autumn of the same year he was nominated by the Whigs, 
and chosen member of Congress, to fill the place left vacant 
by the death of Benjamin Thompson. This district was largely 
a Middlesex district, and, in accepting the nomination, Mr. 
Sabine refers with pride to his pleasure in receiving the votes 
of Lexington and Concord, and the other historic towns : 
" To represent in the councils of the nation, even for a brief 
period, the children of those who commenced the war which 
not only broke the bonds of colonial vassalage in the 4 old 
thirteen,' but which shattered the colonial system of govern- 
ment everywhere in this hemisphere, is a great honor." These 
are his own words in the letter accepting the nomination. 

In the year 1857, Mr. Sabine was appointed secretary of 
the " Board of Trade," an association of the merchants of 
Boston, which was then in its third or fourth year. For 
several years he fulfilled the duties of this office in the com- 
prehensive view of our commercial relations for which all 
his experience prepared him. The principal active work of 
the Board, at that time, was done by the secretary. His 
annual reports became important studies of matters bearing 
on the industry and commerce of Massachusetts. He went, 
however, much further than even a full discharge of official 
duties required. His second report, printed in 1859, contains 
a careful study of the history of the English " Board of 
Trade," from its establishment by Charles I., in 1636. The 
report of 1860 treats the subject of " Weights and Measures." 
The report of 1861 is full of suggestion as to the work and 
duty of merchants in the war ; and, until the series ends in 
1867, every report must be examined by the careful student 
who wishes to understand the real power of the commercial 
and manufacturing interests of New England in the work of 
that extraordinary decade of her history. 

* December 14. 



1880.] MEMOIR OF HON. LORENZO SABINE. 381 

His personal interest in the national struggle is evinced in 
an interesting way by a letter of his to Vice-President Ham- 
lin, which has been preserved. It will be observed that it was 
written on that celebrated 19th of April which for the third 
time distinguished that date in the history of Massachusetts.* 

Boston, April 19, 1861. 

My dear Sir, — In old Whig times, I used to be in confidential 
relations with governors, cabinet ministers at home, and ministers 
abroad, and I wish to be employed in some way now. You know all 
about me, what I am, and what I can do to help the country in this 
awful emergency. You know, too, how intimate my acquaintance 
once with affairs in the British colonies, and with official personages 
there. I venture to hope, also, that you are willing to say to the 
President and to the Secretary of State, that, as far as faithfulness is 
concerned, I may be intrusted with any mission and any secret. I 
have tendered my time to Governor Andrew and Governor Wash- 
burn, and, a stranger to every member of the administration, beg 
now, through you, an old friend, to offer my services to the federal 
government. I want no public employment, no newspaper notoriety, 
no emolument beyond the payment of my expenses. All I seek is to do 
what good I can to my native land in this hour of its great calamity. 

As I have reflected upon passing events, it has seemed almost wicked 
for a man of my years and of my pursuits, to be idle. You yourself 
will allow, that, save in defence of my home, I should not enter the 
military, because I am better fitted for civil duties. 

My Board, at a special meeting yesterday, with one loud acclaim, 
granted my request to be absent whenever any public functionary 
should give me work, and continue my salary. 

Will you do the right thing in this matter? Remember that I 
want neither honor nor money. Surely something must " turn up " for 
just such a man as I am, in the course of affairs. 

Very truly your friend, 
Haknxbal Hamlik, Lorenzo Sabine. 

Vice-President of the United States. 

The government did not, at the moment, avail itself of his 
service. But the next year, when it was hoped that a tri- 
partite commission might be appointed by England, France, 
and America to consider all the entanglements which sur- 
rounded the question of the fisheries, Mr. Seward appointed 
Mr. Sabine the American commissioner, without any solicita- 
tion on the part of himself or his friends. It is a misfortune 
to our modern international code, that the plan of this com- 
mission failed from the refusal of France to enter into the 
agreement. 

* Palfrey's Hist. New England, vol. iii., p. vili. 



382 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

From this period until his death, Mr. Sabine was as busily 
occupied in his literary and historical work as when he was 
most actively engaged in the service of the State. In his 
addresses before public bodies, in his papers prepared for 
our own Society and other learned associations, in constantly 
enlarging his lives of the Loyalists, and in studies, the 
results of which are not yet published, on an interesting 
period of French history, he filled full the hours of the close 
of life. His valuable and beautiful library in Roxbury be- 
came the favorite resort of a small circle of attached friends. 
Its treasures and the unbounded stores of his ready memory 
were always at the command of the fraternity of students of 
history. He died peaceful and happy, on the 14th of April, 
1877, fitly closing a life which had been crowded with service 
to his fellow-men. 

Mr. Sabine was a devout and earnest member of the Uni- 
tarian Church. Among his other public services must not be 
forgotten his personal work in its missions and charities. 

Mr. Sabine was three times married. First, to Matilda F. 
Green at Eastport, Nov. 20, 1825. Second, to Abby R. D. 
Deering at Portland, July 13, 1829 ; and third, to Elizabeth 
M. Deering at Eastport, Sept. 17, 1837. His daughter, Mrs. 
McLarren, of Eastport, the first of five children, survives 
him. 

The following is a list, nearly complete, of Mr. Sabine's 
published works, exclusive of his contributions to Reviews 
and Magazines enumerated on pages 378, 379 : — 

An Address before the New England Historic-Genealogical Society, 
£>ept. 13, 1859. The hundredth anniversary of the death of Major Gen- 
eral James Wolfe, with passages omitted in the delivery, and illustrative 
notes and documents. Boston, 1859. 8vo. 

Address delivered before the Middlesex County Agricultural Society. 
In its Transactions, 1853. 8vo. 

American Loyalists, or Biographical Sketches of Adherents to the Brit- 
ish Crown in the War of the Revolution, with a preliminary historical 
essay. Boston, 1847. 8vo. 

4th-13th Annual Report of the Boston Board of Trade. 1858-1867. 

Biographical Sketches of Loyalists of the American Revolution, with 
an historical essay. 2 vols. Boston, 1864. 12mo.* 

Life of Edward Preble. In Sparks's Library of American Biography. 
1847. l6mo, 2d series, vol. xii., pp. 1-192. 

Notes on Duels and Duelling, with a preliminary historical essay. 
Boston, 1855. 12mo. 

Report on the Principal Fisheries of the American Seas : prepared for 
the Treasury Department of the United States. Washington, 1853. 8vo. 



* A revised and enlarged edition of the American Loyalists. 





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1880.] MEMOIR OP DR. JACOB BIGELOW. 383 



MEMOIR 

OF 

JACOB BIGELOW, M.D., LL.D. 

BY GEORGE E. ELLIS. 



Dr. Bigelow died in this city on Saturday, Jan. 10, 1879, at 
the age of ninety-two years, less about a single month. With 
the exception of his early boyhood, his protracted life, with 
few and brief periods of absence, had been passed here, — 
in the steady performance of all the duties of his chosen pro- 
fession, in a widely extended practice ; winning all its highest 
honors ; rising to the head and Nestorship of it; the wise and 
revered teacher of many pupils. As the leader, guide, and 
promoter of several of the most valuable and beneficent insti- 
tutions and improvements among us ; eminent citizen, philos- 
opher, sage, skilful expert, and universally esteemed and 
revered for his personal and public virtues, his attainments, 
accomplishments, services, and impress of character, — his 
memorial is left by himself where it will always be fresh, 
and the monuments which he has reared for others compose 
his own. 

As an honored member of this Society for more than a 
score of years preceding his decease, — he was elected Feb. 
18, 1858, — he has, by our usage, a claim for a biographical 
and personal Memoir in our Proceedings. And such a con- 
tribution, if only worth and service are to measure its com- 
pass, must needs be regardless of stint of space. 

It was with much misgiving and hesitation that the writer, 
by appointment of the Society and the added request of the 
family of its subject, undertook to prepare the following 
Memoir. The face and form of Dr. Bigelow, as a near neigh- 
bor of my home in the same street in Boston, had been most 
familiar to me from my earliest years. An incident in my 
childhood had associated him in my mind with a sentiment of 
profound wonder and awe, which, though relieved of all 
solemnity as I met him in later years, always invested him 



384 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

with reverence for his benignity and skill. A brother, now 
the minister of the First Church in Boston, then an infant of 
one year, was choked by a plaything deep in his throat, and 
at the most critical moment his life was saved by the inter- 
vention of Dr. Bigelow, called in as he happened to be pass- 
ing along the street. I saw the scene then, and it came back 
to me as I looked upon the reposing form of the venerated 
physician. 

The high privilege of intercourse and an increasing inti- 
macy with him, and many kind offices and favors received 
from him, had often brought me closer to him for nearly the 
latter half of his life. But of that very lengthened term, the 
earlier portion was wholly unknown to me. That was 
the forming period of his honored and eminent career, the 
laborious seed and planting time of his rich fruitage, the sea- 
son of his struggles, toils, and ambition to win his place, to 
train his powers, and to lay the foundation of his full suc- 
cess. The incidents of public and private life and experi- 
ence that have interest for us, and which are always with 
most difficulty brought faithfully before us, are those which 
were occurring during the half century before we ourselves 
became intelligent observers of men and things. They have 
not yet been set down on the pages of biography and history, 
but have to be gleaned and gathered and certified, from a 
variety of scattered sources and fragmentary records. Dr. 
Bigelow's protracted life, and what was substantially his self- 
education, began when the materials and the helps even for 
elementary instruction in the subjects which in his maturer 
years he especially distinguished himself by greatly advanc- 
ing, were most scant and meagre. Many of the interests and 
pursuits, and of the professional, scientific, and philanthropic 
activities, in which he had so conspicuous a share, as an 
original and progressive pupil and teacher, had scarcely been 
recognized in this community. He had to guide and instruct 
his own inquisitiveness of mind, to make his own tools, to 
send abroad for books, to initiate his own experiments, to 
answer his own questions. In most of his acquired knowl- 
edge he had been his own teacher. Keen and curious 
observation and investigation in nature and life manifested 
themselves in his earliest childhood. His subsequent taste 
and skill in botany began in childish wonder at the diversities 
in the things that sprouted from the earth. Such are the 
promptings and methods of men who, being wiser than their 
teachers, become the lights of their own times, and furnish the 
most helpful and quickening inspiration for their successors. 



1880.] MEMOIR OF DR. JACOB BIGELOW. 385 

The benevolent schemes and improvements and the pro- 
fessional and scientific advancements in which the foremost 
leadership of Dr. Bigelow has been recognized, in the fact that 
he held the highest official positions connected with them, 
exhibit the fruits and honors of his career. These were 
awarded by and are familiar to the present generation. 

But how did this career begin, in childhood, youth, and 
early manhood ? Under what circumstances of aid or hin- 
drance, with what surroundings and companionships ? How 
did he obtain and how did he use opportunities ? In several 
pleasant interviews with him, during the period of his physi- 
cal enfeeblement, the writer had put many questions to him 
concerning his early years and his first professional education. 
The answers were often communicative, and generally toned 
in humor and drollery. As, for instance, to the question how, 
in the lack of all our modern means in medical schools, hos- 
pitals, &c, he obtained his first professional training and 
knowledge, he replied, " Oh, from my patients." 

In the brief memorial sketch of his career prepared by his 
admiring friend, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, for the Council 
of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the following 
is the introductory sentence : " It is greatly to be regretted 
that the subject of the following brief notice had not just 
enough of pardonable egotism and serviceable vanity to induce 
him to leave some record of himself in the shape of an autobi- 
ography." Yes, something of that kind was precisely what the 
writer of these pages especially craved, if not as a substitute, 
at least as a most needful help, for his own work. Happily 
for him and for his present readers, after the decease of Dr. 
Bigelow, his family found in one of his repositories what, so 
far as it extends, answers to that title, though they were not 
aware of its existence. It is contained in three common, 
blue-covered, school writing-books. It must have been writ- 
ten after the year 1867. The conciseness and modesty of its 
method and contents require that it be expanded by personal 
and local information to }>e obtained from other sources. It 
will, therefore, be introduced here by sections, with such 
additional matter as may seem needful or suitable to fill out 
the narrative. 



" It appears from Bond's 4 History of Watertown ' and 
Barry's 4 History of Framingham,' that the ancestor of all 
the race who bear my name was John Bigelow, who came to 
this country from England in the early part of the seven- 



49 



386 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

teenth century, and was married in Watertown, in 1642, to 
Mary Warren, this being the earliest marriage found in the 
records of that town. It appears from the will of Richard 
Bigelow, recorded in Wrentham, in the county of Suffolk, 
England, that he bequeathed to his ' brother John, now in 
New England, ten pounds, provided he return within two 
years to take it.' It would seem that John suffered the 
legacy to lapse, that he might become the founder of a race 
in America. 

" John Bigelow lived in the upper part of Waltham, then 
included in Watertown, and appears to have been a respected 
and respectable freeholder in that town, and for several 
years selectman. He died in 1703, aged 86, having had 
twelve children. 

" Samuel Bigelow, fourth son of John, was born in 1653, 
died 1731, aged 78. He was for several jeens selectman of 
Watertown. 

" Thomas Bigelow, third son of Samuel, was born in 1683, 
died 1756, aged 73 ; lived in Waltham and in Marlboro', and 
was a militia officer and selectman of Watertown. 

" Jacob Bigelow, fifth son of Thomas, was born in 1717, and 
died 1800, in New Braintree, aged 83. He was for several 
years selectman of Waltham. 

" Jacob Bigelow, oldest son of Jacob, was born in 1742, 
graduated at Harvard College in 1766, was ordained minister 
of Sudbury in 1772, and died in 1816, aged 74. 

" Jacob Bigelow, second son of Jacob, was born [Feb. 
27] 1787. 

" My father was clergyman of a country parish, which post 
he occupied, without schism or division among his parishion- 
ers, for about forty years. He was liberal, kind, social in 
disposition, and divided his time between the duties of his 
parish and the cultivation of a farm of thirty or forty acres. 
My mother was born in Boston, daughter of Gershom Flagg, 
and was a widow. Her first husband was Henry Wells, 
a sea-captain, and brother-in-law of Governor Samuel Adams 
of Revolutionary fame. Mr. Wells died in a few months 
after marriage. His name descended to my only brother, 
Henry Bigelow, afterward a merchant in Boston, and who 
was killed by an accident in Baltimore in 1815." 



The ancient farmhouse of Jacob, the grandfather of Dr. 
Bigelow, stood, until 1798, on the main road, now Weston 
Street, of that part of Watertown which was set off as 



1880.] MEMOIR OF DR. JACOB BIGELOW. 387 

Waltham. The site of the house is now occupied by another, 
built near the close of the last century. Sudbury was a " new 
plantation " granted in 1637, by extension of territory, to 
Watertown. An object of historic and poetic interest in the 
town of Sudbury is the famous ''Wayside Inn," formerly 
known as the " Red Horse Inn," which has weathered more 
than two centuries, which was spared by the Indians in their 
attack on the town, in King Philip's War, and was kept as a 
hostelry, by members of the Howe family, from 1666, for 
more than a century. The Rev. Jacob Bigelow was ordained 
as the minister of the church and town in 1772, succeeding 
the Rev. Israel Loring, who died in his ninetieth year, and in 
the sixty-sixth of his long ministry. Mr. Bigelow's health 
failed him in 1814, from which time till his death, in 1816, 
he was aided by a colleague. Like all the country ministers 
of the time, his pecuniary reward was very slender, and the 
support of himself and family was largely derived from labors 
on his farm. Occasional visits to Boston on election week 
and at the Convention of the ministers, kept him in connection 
with a part of the world. Having himself received his edu- 
cation at Harvard College, though he does not appear to 
have held any prominent position as a scholar, he would 
desire for his sons such education as he could secure. As a 
general rule, the sons of country ministers at that time began 
to keep school for other pupils as soon as they left off attend- 
ing one for themselves. Only a portion of the year, usually 
less than half of it, — two intervals between the planting and 
the harvesting seasons, — was granted for the privilege. For 
the rest, physical education was abundantly provided for in the 
natural gymnastics of field and barn and forest labor, and 
the athletics of boyhood, while in the close converse with 
scenes and objects out of doors the mind received the activity 
and nutriment to be improved upon within doors. We have 
the testimony of that foremost of teachers, Mr. George B. 
Emerson, that boys educated as was Dr. Bigelow, were favor- 
ably placed for securing from their outward conditions a 
better mental training than is derived from all our modern 
methods and appliances. That young Bigelow appropriated 
and assimilated knowledge from all the sources opened to him 
in a simple, rural life, that he brought to bear all the keen- 
ness of his inquisitive curiosity and all his fertility of inven- 
tiveness in seeking the meaning of things and contriving 
appliances, while it is intimated in his own account of his 
childhood, was abundantly illustrated in his whole subsequent 
career. Lessons in the Latin Grammar, learned as he learned 



388 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

his, are learned for service in life. It does not appear that 
there was any urgent reason for his being sent a few miles 
from home to the charge of a neighbor minister, skilled in 
dealing with "refractory boys." The object doubtless was to 
secure him advantages and companionship. 



" My childhood, until thirteen years old, was spent in attend- 
ing a country school five or six months of the year, perform- 
ing minor duties about the farm, reading in such books as the 
house and village afforded, and wasting my time in roving 
about the woods, puzzling myself with speculations on natural 
objects, and taking intense delight in the construction of 
miniature saw-mills, machinery for entrapping rats and 
squirrels, and rude attempts at drawing and carving. My 
mother, a most excellent and sensible lady, possessing a 
degree of cultivation beyond that of the average of persons 
around her, did her best to preserve me from the contami- 
nating influence of bad boys, and to inspire me with elevated 
expectations in life. Stimulated by the hope of a collegiate 
education, a privilege rendered uncertain by the limited cir- 
cumstances of my parents, I aspired at an early age to make 
myself in some degree proficient in the learned languages. 
My father, whose views of education were more rational and 
methodical, discouraged my precocity of taste, and locked up 
his Latin books, recommending me to perfect my deficient 
chirography and arithmetic, and leave the pursuit of classical 
studies for riper years. This caution, however, did not pre- 
vent me from clandestinely providing myself with a Latin 
Grammar, with which, in the woods and other solitary resorts, 
I made myself a respectable proficient in declensions and con- 
jugations. So true is it that forbidden fruit is sought and 
devoured with avidity, while the same thing, supplied and 
exacted by duty, becomes irksome, if not hateful. 

" At thirteen I was sent from home'for the first time to ' fit 
for college,' under the tuition of the Rev. Samuel Kendall of 
Weston, a man of powerful frame and military antecedents, 
much renowned in his parish as a breaker of unruly horses 
and refractory boys. A few of us, who constituted a domestic 
school under his roof, found him genial, kind, and indulgent. 
He was liberal in his theological views, but not particularly 
relenting toward political adversaries, or heretical poachers on 
his parochial domain." 



1880.] MEMOIR OF DR. JACOB BIGELOW. 389 

Young Bigelow would doubtless have been sent to college 
even had he not exhibited that large measure of the desire 
and aptitude for the privilege which he had so strongly mani- 
fested in his boyhood. That he made such a profitable use 
of his opportunities there is rather to be referred to his own 
fidelity of purpose and his love of study than to any incentives 
or exactions forced upon him by the instruction or the dis- 
cipline of the institution. His academic course fell upon one 
of those occasional intervals in the long history of the college 
when its internal affairs and condition were unsettled and 
unsatisfactory. Professor Sydney Willard, in his delightful 
" Memories of Youth and Manhood," has given a most frank 
relation of his own personal experience and his knowledge of 
affairs during the period between 1802-1806, when Bigelow 
was an undergraduate. The excellent and venerated Presi- 
dent Joseph Willard, then in failing health and energy, died 
in 1804. For the eighteen following months, Professor Eli- 
phalet Pearson, acting as President, and confidently expect- 
ing to fill the office, was the zealous champion of the rigid 
and losing side in the heated religious controversy then 
opened between the Orthodox and the Liberal parties in this 
community ; and in his disappointment he resigned, and went 
to the Andover Seminary. President Webber was inaugu- 
rated four months before Bigelow's class graduated. It was 
regarded by a clergyman of Massachusetts in those days, even 
in the rare case of his not being himself a graduate of Har- 
vard College, as a part of the law of nature that one, at 
least, if not all his sons — except where the labor of the 
others was needed to maintain the favored brother — should 
have what was called a liberal, or college education. Under 
the necessities of the case, in those frugal times, when as yet 
beneficiary funds had hardly been provided, students of 
limited means did what was in their power towards eking out 
their own resources. For this purpose, they were allowed to 
extend their absence from the college beyond the allotment 
for the winter vacation, that they might teach in the country 
schools. President Sparks, who, as a student, followed a 
few years after Bigelow, was absent from Cambridge for this 
purpose more than half of the whole four years' course. The 
institution was but slowly recovering the moderate prosperity 
which it had reached before the Revolutionary War, which 
had dispersed its students, its librarj^, and apparatus, and 
almost wrecked its scanty treasury. The academic staff was 
a slender one in number and in ability. Dr. Bigelow names 
of his class, — which graduated with forty-two members, of 



390 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

whom he left at his decease but one survivor, — two who 
attained much distinction in life ; while there were two 
others, Dr. Daniel Oliver and William Pitt Preble, judge of 
the Supreme Court in Maine and ambassador to Holland, 
who were also eminent in their professions. " The Jingler," 
in which the clever associates exercised their perhaps unfilial 
spirit towards their Alma Mater, not having got beyond a 
circulation in manuscript, is not known to survive to bear 
witness against them. Young Bigelow seems to have shown 
his catholicity of spirit by joining all the societies and clubs 
then existing in college, and doubtless got the good from 
each, with harm from neither. His membership of the Phi 
Beta Kappa marked his superiority in scholarship. His 
self-depreciation as to his constancy or fidelity in college is 
to be referred simply to his lack of self-esteem or self-con- 
fidence. All the evidence of his subsequent attainments, his 
versatile and comprehensive culture, and the range of services 
in which he won the highest honors, would prove that he got 
from the college and its officers all that they could impart, 
appropriated and supplemented by his own powers and efforts. 
The alternative for each graduate, as to his improvement or 
neglect of the opportunities offered to him in his course, is 
generally adjudged as being decided by his subsequent retro- 
spect of the period as pleasant and gratifying, or otherwise. 
Dr. Bigelow enjoyed that retrospect, and though he seems to 
have wondered why others did not, he could probably have 
readily solved the mystery in any case. His Commencement 
honor at graduating was a poem. The offer to him — which 
he declined from a mistrust of his oratorical powers — of the 
English oration, on taking his Master's degree, three years 
afterward, marks him as among the first scholars in his class. 



"In college, I was sometimes idle and sometimes studious. 
The discipline of the college was at that time very lax, and 
absences, misdemeanors, and shortcomings were abundantly 
overlooked. I think I must have ranked among my class- 
mates as either a negative or a very versatile character, for I 
find I was enrolled among the members of different, and somer 
times opposite institutions, — a Theological Society, which was 
very good, and a Porcellian Club, which was. very bad, a 
Phi Beta Kappa Society, intended to be composed of the best 
scholars, and a 6 Navy ' Club, which was above suspicion, 
as containing the worst. In conjunction with my classmates, 
J. G. Cogswell and A. H. Everett, I was instrumental in 



1880.] MEMOIR OF DR. JACOB BIGELOW. 391 

conducting a poetic periodical called 'The Jingler,' which 
was devoted mainly to strictures and facts connected with 
the social and parietal regulation of the college, and which 
enjoyed for a time a limited circulation in manuscript within 
the walls of the institution. Having received from the col- 
lege government what was probably my just share of rewards 
and penalties, I was graduated in 1806, with a poem at Com- 
mencement. Three years afterward I was offered by Presi- 
dent Webber the English oration for the Master's degree, 
which I declined, from mistrust of my oratorical abilities. 

" I have often looked back on my collegiate career as em- 
bracing a very happy portion of my life, and I have often 
wondered at the discontent of many classmates who looked 
forward with impatience to the termination of their college 
life. At an age when care sits light, when social pleasures 
are abundant and cheap, when a good joke is paramount and 
overrides all sublunary considerations, with the despotism of 
the vox populi in the contagious and irrepressible laugh — it 
is not wonderful that the graver pursuits and conflicts of life 
should be postponed and subordinated to the excitements of 
the present hour. 

" In selecting a profession, college graduates of that day were 
mostly limited to the three then called i learned professions,' 
Divinity, Law, and Medicine. Of these, the legal profession 
was considered as affording scope for the highest intellectual 
qualifications, and was most resorted to by those who aspired 
to distinguished social position. On the other hand, the 
duller class of candidates for the future favor of the public, 
were content to limit their ambition to a quiet, though some- 
times precarious tenure in a country parish, where they might, 
in one case, dispense wholesome light from a central pulpit, or 
in another, perhaps, less wholesome advice in the individual 
domiciles of a sparse and agrestic population. 

" Little temptation was at that time offered by the various 
liberal pursuits which have since grown with the increasing 
opulence and cultivation of our community into learned and 
remunerative professions. Few young men would then have 
cast their fortunes on the uncertain chance of finding occupa- 
tion and livelihood in the almost unexplored paths, since suc- 
cessfully pursued by multitudes of educated aspirants, in the 
capacity of engineers, mechanical and chemical manufactur- 
ers, artists, authors, editors, lecturers, and teachers of the 
higher class. Is it not probable that future learned profes- 
sions will spring up from the future wants, luxuries, and per- 
versities of mankind ? Why should not cookery, which 



392 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

caters to the gratification of one sense, take its place as a fine 
art, by the side of music and painting ? And why should not 
a refined and cultivated anaesthesia be so varied in its appli- 
cations and degrees, as to exempt mankind from their griefs 
and grievances, moral and physical, by an artistic application ? 
I believe that my original distaste for the profession of medi- 
cine was removed by the eloquence of Dr. John Warren, the 
oldest of a line of distinguished physicians, who, at that time, 
lectured on anatomy to the senior class of undergraduates. I 
thought I discovered that a physician might be fluent and 
accomplished, and serve his generation in other ways than as 
a mere vehicle of pills and plasters. I began to think that if a 
man could obtain foothold in a city, and diversify his calling 
with the additional function of a lecturer or professor, he 
might find his position agreeable and advantageous. " 



There is much that is suggestive of a state of things here, 
now vanished into the past, in Dr. Bigelow's lively comments 
on the choice of a profession. Looking back in his eightieth 
year, amid the multiplied, the useful, and the rewarding range 
of pursuits to engage the talents, the ambition, and the enthu- 
siasm of young men, — a result which he had done so much 
to secure and advance, — he repeats for us the old-time as- 
sumption, that a Harvard alumnus had then to decide when 
he graduated, having generally made up his mind before, 
whether he would be a lawyer, a minister, or a physician. 
The two latter professions he thinks worthy only of being 
grouped in a single sentence ; both of them being duller than 
that of the law, he courteously declines to decide which is 
the dullest. We consult traditions and facts on this point. 
A country minister's son, on leaving college, having to 
decide under which of those professions — very moderate 
in their demands and standards they all then were — 
he would range himself, it would appear that less than 
half of the sons of country ministers followed the profes- 
sion of their fathers. Others, who had seen the ministry 
under the aspect which Dr. Bigelow intimates that it had for 
him, reasonably thought that they could do better — either 
as regarded those who would have been their flocks, or for 
themselves. The ministry had seen its palmy period in Massa- 
chusetts before young Bigelow grew up in a country par- 
sonage, and though there was just then a quickening of a 
new intellectual activity and spirit, chiefly in the direction of 
contention, the profession did not as of old attract. But if 



1880.] MEMOIR OF DR. JACOB BIGELOW. 393 

Dr. Bigelow had chosen to pause upon the suggestion, he 
might well have reminded us how many of the most eminent, 
prospered, and honored men, as jurists, physicians, scientists, 
and princely merchants, even among his own associates in 
life, had been reared in country parsonages, and having, 
through frugality and sacrifices, received a training at Harvard, 
or won their own unaided way in the world, had made de- 
posits from their wealth and fame to enrich the old wilderness 
college. The youth who was now deciding upon his vocation 
confesses an original distaste for that which he finally chose. 
But that reason for his aversion which he specifies, as dis- 
inclining him to be a " vehicle for pills and plasters," was 
one which he very early in his practice invalidated. Still, 
under no circumstances, would he be a " country doctor." 
He was born for a city practitioner, and beside that, for a 
lecturer and professor, as for much else. 

But whatever he was to be, he was now an impecunious 
youth, who had already in his nineteenth year drawn more 
than he felt was fair from the resources of the rural parson- 
age. He must stand in shoes and garments of his own earn- 
ing, win his bread, and train his wits for learning and 
advancement. The only open treasury to him was from 
teaching pupils. The following, with the humorous episode 
which it relates, bridges a brief interval in his pupilage. 



" My first year after leaving college was spent in Worcester, 
where I began my professional study, having been previously 
invited to superintend the education of a small class of boys, 
by which I was enabled to support myself without embarrass- 
ment. The town of Worcester was at that time an eminently 
gay place. In court weeks it was the common resort, not 
only of gentlemen of the bar, but of many of the prominent 
citizens of the county. The ladies' society was attractive, 
and derived a part of its characteristics from family connec- 
tion with some of the notabilities of Boston. 

" A turnpike from Worcester to Boston was undertaken 
about this time, furnishing employment to a few scores of 
turbulent and disorderly workmen. To the presence of these 
men may be ascribed an example of the enforcement of Lynch 
law, probably the last which has been witnessed in Massa- 
chusetts. An offending couple had been convicted of trans- 
ferring to each other the attentions which legally belonged 
to their respective partners in wedlock. The public morals 
were thought to be in danger, and the vindication of the maj- 

50 



394 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

esty of the law was promptly assumed by a multitudinous 
assembly composed of the lower orders, who were found will- 
ing to institute a holiday in aid of the conservation of the 
decorum of the village, which was deemed to have been 
unjustifiably 'outraged. The offending pair were arrested, and 
induced to mount a sorry-looking hack, with a cow-bell under 
his neck and other appropriate trappings. A long and orderly 
procession formed in front and rear, discoursing appropriate 
music on horns, drums, and tin kettles. The bells of all the 
churches tolled in solemn concert, and even the bell of the 
court-house gave forth its reluctant assent to the irresistible 
decree of the public will. One magistrate was found bold 
enough to threaten to read the Riot Act ; but on due consid- 
eration he came to the prudent conclusion that qui facit per 
alium facit per se, and sent by his servant an order for dis- 
persion to be served upon the mob. The servant, being un- 
able to reach the head of the procession, contented himself 
with falling into the ranks and joining in the cheers. The 
procession marched and counter-marched through the prin- 
cipal streets, stopping at every grog-shop to levy a pitcher 
of refreshment, which in every instance was first presented 
in a deferential manner to the mounted couple in whose 
honor the pageant was understood to come off. Three cheers 
were then given in the same honorary intention, and the 
cortege resumed its as yet unfaltering advance towards the 
next liquor station. 

" After the tormented culprits had been marched under a 
broiling sun for some four or five hours, it was at length voted 
to conclude the ceremonies by a ducking in Long Pond. But 
by this time the more spirited of the rioters had subsided into 
various gutters, the prisoners managed to effect their escape, 
and order once more reigned in Worcester. At the next 
session of the Supreme Court the ringleaders of the mob 
were indicted. They were wittily defended by Francis Blake, 
Esq., and finally were mulcted in nominal damages, as a warn- 
ing to future disturbers of the public peace." 



As will appear farther on, the young man, having decided 
upon the study of medicine, found it desirable to seek some 
of his preparation from a distant city. It was only in the 
spring of 1782 that the authorities of Harvard College first 
entertained the proposition to establish a Medical School as 
a distinct department. A medical library, chemical appar- 
atus, and anatomical preparations were all lacking. There 



1880.] MEMOIR OF DR. JACOB BIGELOW. 395 

was then no American Pharmacopoeia. Ten years before this 
date there had been paid to the college a legacy from Dr. 
Ezekiel Hersey of one thousand pounds, to found a professor- 
ship of Anatomy and Physic. The corporation, in its pov- 
erty, hopeful of what was to come, disposed this foundation 
deposit between two professorships, one of Anatomy, the 
other of the Theory and Practice of Medicine. The emi- 
nent and gifted Dr. John Warren, the brother of the most 
distinguished among the earliest victims of the Revolution- 
ary War, and who had himself found service in the army of 
Washington, began in 1782 to deliver lectures on anatomy 
to the senior class in college, and was next year made Pro- 
fessor of Anatomy. Dr. Bigelow used often through the 
remainder of his life to speak in glowing and delighted lan- 
guage of the power and fluency and eloquence with which 
Dr. Warren lectured, wholly without notes. It seems to 
have been through the charm and sway of this eminent anat- 
omist that our subject was won to his profession. 

Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse had returned to this country in 
1782, after having pursued his medical studies for seven 
years in London, Edinburgh, and Ley den. His gifts and 
abilities were not regarded as commensurate with his oppor- 
tunities. He was made Professor of the Theory and Practice 
of Physic, and was distinguished for introducing here Jen- 
ner's process of vaccination. The lectures on botany de- 
livered by him are reported by tradition to have been more 
vivacious and amusing than scientific. He pleased his lis- 
teners by his anecdotes and humor. 

In 1791, William Erving had given to the college one 
thousand pounds to found a professorship of Chemistry, to 
which Dr. Dexter was appointed. No medical degree was 
conferred by the college till 1788, and then only that of 
Bachelor of Medicine, the receiver of which had to wait 
seven years more for a full degree. The change to a full 
degree for graduates in medicine from Harvard was made in 
1810, because a Medical School in Philadelphia had been 
conferring the full degree where Harvard had given only that 
of Bachelor. In 1811, all who had received this latter title 
were made full Doctors. 

The Boylston Fund of five hundred dollars — the interest 
to be given, as money or in a medal, as a prize for a success- 
ful essay on an assigned medical subject — was founded in 
1803. Such being at the time the public aids offered for a 
student of medicine in Boston, of course an essential part 
of his professional training was to be derived from pupilage 



396 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY.* [Mar. 

in the office of an established physician. The following will 
show how Dr. Bigelow drew from both helps. 



" After leaving Worcester, I attended a course of medical 
lectures then given at Cambridge by Drs. John Warren, 
Dexter, and Waterhouse, who were professors in Harvard 
College, and gave their medical instructions and demonstra- 
tions in Holden Chapel. I was impressed by the eloquence 
and earnestness of the first, Dr. Warren, and came to the con- 
viction that no professional situation could be so desirable 
as that of a successful practitioner in a large city, with a 
collateral professorship to extend and gratify his ambition. 

" In this year, 1808, I for the first time became resident in 
Boston, and entered as a pupil the medical office of Dr. John 
Gorham, then a lecturer on chemistry, and physician of some 
of the city charities. He was a young man of rising reputa- 
tion in medicine and in science, — handsome, genial, and at- 
tractive, — who was destined to rise rapidly in professional 
eminence and occupation, and to die prematurely of acute 
disease, which he did in 1829. 

" It has often been remarked that the mere accident of 
taking one street or meeting one man instead of another may 
have an important influence on our subsequent life. Soon 
after my arrival in Boston I met a physician of some note, 
whose face was known to me, and who was driving rapidly 
through the street. I had contemplated applying to be 
enrolled among his pupils. I therefore attempted in my 
inexperience to interrupt his progress, while I made my 
application. But I failed to attract his attention, and there- 
by was saved from a subsequent inauspicious connection with 
a disreputable party. 

" Finding the expense of living in Boston likely to exceed 
my means, and being unwilling farther to tax the resources 
of my parents, already overburdened by the cost of my pre- 
vious education, I obtained the situation, fortunately vacant, 
of assistant teacher in the public Latin School, where I re- 
mained for a year and a quarter. In the routine of this 
office I could not help but improve in my familiarity with the 
Greek and Latin classics, and to open a fountain of pleasure 
which has not ceased to gratify my taste through many years 
of subsequent life. Like many other specialists, I then re- 
garded classical learning as the paramount object of human 
cultivation. I felt pride and pleasure in the number of Latin 
passages and of Greek and Roman verses which, by a sort 



1880] MEMOIR OF DR. JACOB BIGELOW. 397 

of pre-emptive right, had occupied the wilderness of a sparsely 
cultivated brain. But during half a century which has now 
elapsed, the territory occupied by human knowledge is more 
than doubled. New sciences and arts, new truths and fic- 
tions, new absorbing pursuits of happiness and fame, have 
crowded their irresistible claims into the already overloaded 
curriculum of primary and professional education. Our youth 
can at most obtain a current and convenient knowledge of 
the rudiments, and perhaps the nomenclature of great sys- 
tems of embodied knowledge : but human life is too short for 
an individual to master even the recorded facts of a single 
science. Still less can he follow the hundred creations of 
literary men into their labyrinth of theory and fiction." 



It was the privilege of Dr. Bigelow through his whole 
lengthened life from his earliest youth, following the direc- 
tion of his own refinement, pure tastes, and elevated aims 
in the choice, to have the confidence, the intimate com- 
panionship, and, so far as he needed it, the encouragement of 
friends in the highest social and professional classes around 
him. Indulging his just ambition in this respect, and always 
keeping the esteem and love of every friend whom he won, 
he was still of a thoroughly independent spirit, and might 
well trust, as he did, to his own exertions and conscious 
abilities for the attainment of the successive ends which were 
to him the highest aims of life. To one acquainted by name 
and repute with the social and literary history of Boston 
since this century opened, it will be interesting to note that 
from this time forward in his career, Dr. Bigelow numbered 
among his selectest friends the men and women whose names 
and deeds are held in highest regard among us. He forbear- 
ingly spares the designating the " physician of note," but 
afterwards " disreputable," from a connection with whom he 
was saved by an accident, perhaps his father would have 
called it a providence. His meagre salary as an usher in the 
Boston Latin School met his necessary personal expenses 
while he was a student in the medical office of Dr. Gorham. 
True to his own way of combining with service for others the 
opportunity of self-improvement, he verified the saying that 
the best learning is gained through teaching. So he made 
his ushership in the Latin School a means of further pupilage 
for himself. Advancing upon the imperfect results of his clas- 
sical acquisitions at the college, he used his term of occupation 
as a tutor to secure a more accurate and extended knowledge 



MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

of the Greek and Latin languages and authors, charging his 
memory with passages which ever after came so aptly to his 
service for felicitous quotation. The classical taste which 
he thus cultivated was a refreshment and a solace to him in 
his busy and at last shaded life. It will be observed by and by 
that, in connection with his zeal and labor in the last great pub- 
lic interest which engaged him, — the aiding in inaugurating 
the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, — he was inconsid- 
erately charged with relatively disesteeming classical educa- 
tion. This whole community did not contain an individual 
to whom what there was of censure in the reflection could 
have been less applicable. He could well have vindicated 
himself in a demonstrative oration in Greek or Latin. But 
the same reason which soon led him in his botanical publica- 
tions to simplify the technical terminology of plants, and to do 
the same service afterward in the Pharmacopoeia, -led him to 
subordinate pedantry to utilitarianism. From the accurately 
stored treasures of his memory, when his closed eyes no 
longer helped him to use lexicon or grammar, he found an 
old scholar's plaything in a feat, of which further mention 
will be made in its place. 



u In 1809 1 went to Philadelphia, and became a pupil in the 
University of Pennsylvania, attending the medical lectures 
of Drs. Rush, Wistar, Physick, Barton, Coxe, and others. 
With Dr. Barton, to whom the Eastern students generally 
attached themselves, I became a private pupil, and got from 
him the rudiments of a botanical taste which adhered to me 
for many years afterward. In 1810 I returned home, having 
received the degree of Doctor of Medicine in Philadelphia, 
and having formed many agreeable acquaintances and asso- 
ciations in that city." 



It was exceptional to the lead which Massachusetts has gen- 
erally taken in the interest of academical and professional 
studies and opportunities, that any one of its youth should 
have needed to go to another State of the Union for the 
medical instruction which he could not find here. The helps 
offered at Harvard have already been specified. Of these the 
young student had availed himself. There was no anatom- 
ical school or hospital here till after this period. The corner- 
stone of the Massachusetts General Hospital was laid in 1818, 
the charter and organization having dated from 1811. The 



1880.] MEMOIR OF DR. JACOB BIGELOW. 399 

"University" in Philadelphia was in 1779 superinduced upon 
an earlier academic foundation, and was moved from old to 
new quarters in 1802. The medical department of the in- 
stitution had attained a high character at the time when young 
Bigelow attended it as a student. The social advantages 
of the city were pre-eminent, and in these he shared. Dr. 
Benjamin Smith Barton, whose special instruction he enjoyed, 
while hearing the lectures of the distinguished physicians 
whom he names, had studied in Edinburgh, London, and 
Gottingen. Following the taste of one of nearly the same 
name, the famous John Bartram, the pioneer of the science, he 
was Professor of Botany in the university, and, as it seems, 
communicated its rudiments and a love of it to his pupil. 

The following letter to his parents, after receiving his 
degree, is written in his characteristic vein : — 

" Philadelphia, March 6, 1810. 

" Dear Parents, — As my friends Bemis and Channing leave this 
place to-morrow for Boston, I cannot let the opportunity of writing 
escape. I have been not a little engaged this month or two past 
in preparing for an examination (the last, I trust, to which I shall 
ever be subjected in the medical line) for a degree of M. D., that is 
to say, Doctor in Medicine. The medical lectures being concluded, 
our professors have set their mill a-going for manufacturing doctors. 
Happening to pass by the university to-day, I got one foot entangled 
in the mill, and not being able to disengage myself, was drawn in 
and ground over for about an hour, and then came out Dr. Bigelow. 
I have now to wait only for the Commencement, which takes place the 
last of April, after which I flatter myself with the prospect of seeing 
home speedily. During the rest of the time I shall employ my 
time in attending the practice of the hospital, and looking round the 
city, which as yet I have seen very little of. 

" I can now see no obstacle in the way to my coming and settling with 
Dr. Mosman and laying siege to part of the practice of Cedar Swamp 
and Dungy Hole. As the Doctor's wagon is pretty capacious, I think I 
might, with a little persuasion, induce him to allow me a seat at his left 
hand, besides learning me to make bullets, pills, and sleeve-buttons. 

" Upon looking back for a few years I cannot but consider myself as 
having been peculiarly fortunate thus far. After being three years out 
of college, two and a half of which I had kept school, and two of which, 
properly speaking, I had studied medicine, I found myself in possession 
of a certificate of license from the medical society, and also of two 
dissertations which, I learn, have been so fortunate as to obtain prizes. 
In this place I have obtained a degree after four months' residence, a 
thing very uncommon, as most students spend two or three winters in 
the city before obtaining it. 

" Should I ever be so successful as to obtain a competent establish- 
ment in business, it will afford me no small satisfaction to reward 



400 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

in part the kindness of my friends, and to contribute as far as is in 
my power to support and console the declining age of my parents. 
But as it would be improper to presume on future events, I can only at 
present assure you of my best wishes and unaltered affection. 

6i Jacob Bigelow. 

" Remember me particularly to Betsey and husband and to all friends. 
[Addressed on the outside to] Rev. Jacob Bigblow, Sudbury." 
The autobiography goes on as follows. 



" A few years before this time a foundation had been made 
by the liberality of Ward Nicholas Boylston, Esq., of Rox- 
bury, for the annual adjudication of prizes for the best 
dissertations on medical subjects, to be proposed and the 
awards determined by a committee appointed by the Corpo- 
ration of Harvard College for the purpose. Although a 
medical student in my second year, my presumption was 
excited to become a competitor for one of these premiums. 
Yet so great was my diffidence at the thought of presum- 
ing at a mark far beyond my reach that I concealed my 
purpose from every one, and wrote a long essay on ' Cy- 
nanche maligna ' * in winter time, in a cold chamber, being 
obliged to wear a glove on my right hand to preserve the 
flexibility of my fingers. At length, the work being com- 
pleted, I sallied out in a dark evening, and left it at the 
door of Dr. Lemuel Hayward, Chairman of the Committee. 
Anxiously did I wait for days and weeks, expecting to see 
the success of some person announced in the newspapers. 
But at length appeared a notice from the Committee, an- 
nouncing no award, but simply continuing the same subjects 
for another year. Mortified, but not exactly disappointed, I 
sent to reclaim my unworthy dissertation, and found within, 
on the envelope, ' Received Jan. 2, too late for examina- 
tion.' 

" Thus although my ambitious dream was not realized, yet 
I felt relieved rather than rebuked, for it at once occurred to 
me that I could now devote a whole year to perfecting my 
production, and offer it at the end of that time with a more 
reasonable prospect of success. This vision, however, was 
succeeded by a better one, to wit, that I might again offer the 
same dissertation as it was, and add to it another essay on 
one of the other subjects proposed by the Committee, thus 

* A form of throat disease. 



1880.] MEMOIR OF DR. JACOB BIGELOW. 401 

taking my chance for two premiums instead of one. A 
new dissertation was therefore undertaken on ' Phthisis 
pulmonalis,' and that the two might not appear to be 
written by the same individual, I procured the former essay 
to be copied in a different hand. And this time I took care 
that the manuscripts should both be sent in some months be- 
fore the requisite time. In the following winter I received let- 
ters in Philadelphia informing me that each of my dissertations 
had been successful in carrying off its prize. This little event 
was of unspeakable value to me at the time. Literary prizes, 
which at the present time have become too common to attract 
much notice, were at that day a novelty, and did not fail to 
entail upon the author a degree of eclat which, though small, 
was nevertheless far beyond his desert, and more than 
cancelled any debt which the world might have incurred to 
me on the occasion. I am constrained to add that the small 
remittance of cash which followed this award was of far more 
consequence to me than the optional substitute of a gold 
medal, which I should have been unable to eat." 



He gained a third Boylston prize in the following year, 
1812, his subject being the " Treatment of Injuries occasioned 
by Fire and Heated Substances." This dissertation he pub- 
lished in his essays on "Nature in Disease." His competi- 
tors may have thought, as he thus monopolized the annual 
interest of the prize fund, that it would have saved trouble 
had the trustees of it made over the principal to him on con- 
dition that he would write an annual medical essay. 



" On returning to Boston I had to meet the anxious ques- 
tion which has exercised many a young man before, the alter- 
native of starving in an agreeable city, like Boston, or of 
seeking earlier and more frugal bread in some narrower and 
less attractive sphere. In Boston I had few friends or 
acquaintances, and these were mostly college contemporaries, 
or occasional persons with whom I had accidentally been 
brought in contact. Among the first was Alexander H. 
Everett, who was my most intimate college friend, and after- 
ward a continued correspondent for many years. He was 
a law student in the office of John Quincy Adams, and 
afterward accompanied that eminent statesman as private 
secretary in his diplomatic residence at the court of St. 
Petersburg. Afterward he became ChargS des Affaires of the 

51 



402 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

United States at the Hague, and subsequently United States 
Minister to Spain. Finally, he was appointed by Mr. Polk 
Minister to China, for which place he sailed with his family, 
and died soon after his arrival at Canton. 

" At college, Mr. Everett was the youngest member of his 
class, having entered at the age of twelve, and graduated at 
sixteen. Such, however, was his precocity of talent that he 
became the acknowledged head of his class, and graduated 
with its highest honors. Mr. Everett, as his various produc- 
tions show, was a brilliant and accomplished writer, in breadth 
of acquirement, comprehensiveness of thought, and felicity of 
expression, resembling and equalling his younger brother, 
Edward Everett. But in public speaking he was much the 
inferior, having a certain heaviness in his manner, and a habit, 
consequent upon near-sightedness, of fixing his eyes on va- 
cancy rather than upon his audience. 

" Another prominent classmate was Thomas Martin Jones, 
son of T. K. Jones, an eminent merchant and auctioneer in 
Boston. He was my chum in the senior year at college. He 
was a young man of talents, good appearance, and graceful 
manner, and though not a little addicted to amusements, he 
contrived to study enough to keep up a college standing, 
which enabled him to graduate as the second scholar in his 
class, the requirements of the college government being not 
so exact as they are at the present day as to the virtues of 
diligence and punctuality. Mr. Jones was amiable and genial, 
caressed by society and presumptive heir to a fortune. But 
like many other inheritors of spontaneous wealth and position, 
he became indolent and extravagant, and after living some 
years in an expensive style in Boston and in London, he became 
bankrupt, ruined his father, and died in England in abject 
poverty, leaving a wife and children dependent on the charity 
of friends. 

" Among my earliest Boston friends was George Ticknor, 
since widely known by his ' History of Spanish Literature ' 
and his 4 Biography of Prescott.' Mr. Ticknor at that time 
enjoyed the best literary society in Boston, and afterward 
signally improved the advantages of extensive foreign travel 
and of residence in various universities and cities, voider the 
most favorable introductions. 

"Some half a dozen contemporaries, including Messrs. 
H. D. Sedgwick, Nathan Hale, Edward T. Channing, Wil- 
liam P. Mason, and others, were in the habit of meeting on 
Saturday nights in Mr. Ticknor's study, where we essayed 
a variety of literary exercises, sometimes of translation or of 



1880.] MEMOIR OF DR. JACOB BIGELOW. 403 

composition, but more commonly we contented ourselves in 
reading aloud some of the poetical works of the day, such as 
those of Scott, Byron, Crabbe, and others. A weekly record 
was kept in Latin and regularly read, but severer studies 
were left for more quiet seasons. During one summer Tick- 
nor brought his books to my study, and, as he has since 
reminded me, we dug out Greek together in the hot weather, 
by lying on the floor with a lexicon between us. 

" In those days flourished the Anthology Club, an institu- 
tion whose mission was to support the ' Monthly Anthology,' 
a short-lived periodical summoned into existence to develop 
and sustain the latent literary talent believed to exist in Bos- 
ton. To this club belonged the Revs. J. T. Kirkland, Buck- 
minster, J. S. J. Gardiner, William Emerson, and S. C. 
Thacher, with Messrs. A. M. Walter, J. Savage, W. S. Shaw, 
William Tudor, William Wells, J. Stickney, A. H. Everett, 
Ticknor, and Bigelow. The meetings were held weekly, at 
the house of Mr. Cooper, who was Dr. Gardiner's clerk. 
With the assistance of a small and frugal supper, these gather- 
ings were always agreeable and sometimes hilarious." 



The preceding extract is an artless revelation of the anx- 
ieties and longings with which the young man, furnished 
with such an outfit for the struggle, first for a support, and 
then for professional success, as public helps could afford 
him, turned now to full dependence on himself. He yielded 
as far as he could indulge it to the desire, so strong in the 
hearts of many youths under similar circumstances, that the 
scene of his life's work might be in Boston, with the friends 
whom he had already found there. Doubtless he had a more 
or less clear foresight of the sure development and progress 
which would rapidly increase the population and extend the 
prosperity and mental activity of the then small but thriving 
town. In many volumes published within recent years, as in 
the Life and Letters of Mr. Ticknor, we can trace the early 
tokens of the literary culture which soon resulted in the 
formation of reading clubs and libraries, the publication of 
magazines, and the organization of societies, scientific, humane, 
and educational, engaging the talents and zeal of the few 
who already had the start in those directions. There was 
wealth in the community, but before it could be turned to 
patronage it needed to be engaged in sympathetic relations 
with those who had only generous spirits as their capital 
towards a common progress. Dr. Bigelow pays a fond tribute 



404 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

to the friends of his first fellowship. They were his friends 
as long as they lived, and always headed the list as it length- 
ened. But they could not advance him except as they 
advanced together. The reference which he makes to the mis- 
fortunes of one of his classmates — his chum — has not been 
suppressed because, in connection with it, he is wholly silent 
about a most kindly office with which he charged himself. 
As soon as he was informed of the condition of the family of 
his early friend in a foreign land, when he had reached a 
stage of prosperity himself, he was the medium of transmit- 
ting to them his own bounty and that of many generous 
sympathizers. 

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences had received 
its Charter in 1780. The Massachusetts Historical Society 
was instituted in 1792. The two associations have from the 
first until this time faithfully and zealously pursued their 
appropriate objects. In due time, Dr. Bigelow and some of 
his most intimate friends found their places in, and contributed 
their time and interest to the one or the other, or to both of 
these institutions. But they were too solid, and perhaps too 
exacting, for the aspirants in the first tentative experiments 
in the field of classical scholarship and of belles lettres. " The 
Anthology Club," said to have been first the product of acci- 
dent, and organized in October, 1805, with fourteen mem- 
bers, is generally regarded as the fons et origo of the now 
abundant supply and flow of our local literature, our periodi- 
cal publications, and our general libraries. From that little 
fellowship of congenial and ambitious young men, gathered 
only by an affinity which neutralized many unlike interests 
and pursuits, came the first scholarly periodical, the first read- 
ing-room, and the first, and, saving that which has the patron- 
age of the city's treasury, the best of our libraries, — the 
Boston Athenaeum. Very delightful sketches of the Club, 
its members, and their generous toils, may be found in Pro- 
fessor Sydney Willard's u Memories of Youth and Manhood," 
in President Quincy's " History of the Boston Athenaeum," 
in Mrs. E. B. Lee's Life of (her brother) Rev. J. S. Buck- 
minster, and in the Life of George Ticknor. Dr. Bige- 
low, not one of the original members of the Club, came into 
it by election as soon as he was a resident in the town, and, as 
appears, was a most congenial worker. 



" The expensiveness of living in a city like Boston had 
excited grave doubts in my own mind as to the possibility 



1880.] MEMOIR OF DR. JACOB BIGELOW. 405 

of fixing my professional residence here, and holding my 
breath until something encouraging should turn up. I 
had, in the mean time, made various reconnoissances in 
smaller towns, and had, at one time, nearly made up my 
mind in favor of becoming a fixture in Newburyport. In 
this course I was reasonably sustained by the kind encour- 
agement of my excellent and cultivated kinswoman, Mrs. 
White, wife of Judge D. A. White, of that place. But cir- 
cumstances ruled otherwise. My faithful and devoted brother 
Henry, then a merchant in Boston, had been my friend and 
counsellor in the occasional perplexities of my education. In 
my present indecision he generously offered to guarantee my 
support for one year in Boston, if I should determine to 
make the experiment of the cit}'. This was quite suffi- 
cient to decide my vacillation. After consulting a few friends, 
I proceeded to rent an office at the corner of Washington 
and Harvard streets, and ordered without delay the customary 
tin sign for its designation. My friend Ticknor insisted on 
nailing up the emblem with his own hands, and thereby 
nailed me permanently as a fixture in Boston." 



The one year in which friendly aid was still required by 
the young professional aspirant might possibly have been 
struggled through with his fertility of resource, had not the 
kindness of his only brother been so warmly manifested. 
That brother, with an only sister and the parents in the 
parsonage, was concerned to see him secure his foothold. 
Mr. Henry Bigelow, moderately prosperous as a merchant, 
was killed by the plunge of a horse upon him, in Baltimore. 
His name, united with that of our subject, designates the 
only surviving son of Dr. Bigelow, Henry Jacob Bigelow, 
most eminent among our surgeons. 

The " tin sign," nailed up by Mr. Ticknor, was affixed to 
an apartment in No. 89 Orange Street, then a southerly sec- 
tion of the present Washington Street. Dr. Bigelow's name 
appears in the Boston Directory for 1810 on the list of phy- 
sicians. Of these, thirty-nine are starred as approved by the 
Massachusetts Medical Society, twenty-eight of them being 
members of it, while six more names are given of those not 
so approved. The town did not then furnish one thousand of 
inhabitants for each of these practitioners, but practice was 
then heroic, and druggists were in sympathy. Dr. Bigelow 
had been licensed by the Censors of the Massachusetts Medi- 
cal Society in 1809, before he went to Philadelphia. 



406 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar, 

" So long as a young man is holding on upon a post which 
he feels to be desirable and at the same time precarious, he has 
no time to go to sleep ; nor is he likely, if faithful to himself, 
to overlook any opportunities that may tend to his honorable 
progress. My old friends, the prize questions, continued to 
be repeated, and I had the good fortune to carry off the only 
one awarded in the following year. At the same time, I was 
striving to extend my available acquaintance, and was build- 
ing castles in the air, formed of various publications and 
lectures. 

" I have an unqualified belief, that by far the most happy 
form of life is that which proceeds through difficulties to suc- 
cess, and in which the candidate, after beginning at the bot- 
tom of the ladder, finds himself to be a little raised in position, 
ability, and usefulness, during the successive years of his 
life. In this way only does he appreciate the value of little 
acquisitions and of small advances in the social scale. Diffi- 
culty is the best antidote for satiety, and is needed by mul- 
titudes who begin life in the early possession of things for 
which others must wish and labor and wait. 

"About this time (1811), I was invited by Dr. James Jack- 
son to become connected with him in professional practice. 
This gentleman had then, and long afterward, a very large 
and desirable circle of patients. Being appointed to fill the 
office of Professor of Theory and Practice in Harvard Uni- 
versity, he required some leisure to prepare his course of 
lectures, which leisure he hoped to obtain through the assist- 
ance of a younger partner. An arrangement was proposed 
by which I was to be at hand at all needed times, to attend 
to such cases as he might require, to perform certain practical 
duties, such as keeping books, making out bills, and, in a 
word, render such services as were supposed not to transcend 
the capacity of a novice in medicine. I was not long in 
accepting this proposal, when I reflected that I brought noth- 
ing to the concern except a limited character for industry, 
while I was placed in close relations with one of the most 
amiable and intelligent of men, with whom my intimacy did 
not terminate till his death, more than fifty years afterward. 
It was my fortune not only to succeed, from time to time, to 
a part of the professional business which he had declined, 
but also to be his successor as President of the Massachusetts 
Medical Society, and President of the American Academy of 
Arts and Sciences." 



1880.] MEMOIR OF DR. JACOB BIGELOW. 407 

Dr. Bigelow need hardly have reminded himself, or his 
readers, if he should have them, that he did not go to sleep 
beneath the protection of his " tin sign." Evidence enough 
there is in his own versatility of genius, and in the varied 
experimental knowledge which he soon proved that he had 
acquired, that he had diligent employment for every moment 
of his time. If the truth could be known, it would probably 
appear that there was not then in the town of Boston a youth 
more stirred than was he by the craving of " a meek, inquir- 
ing mind." He was a born artist, artificer, draughtsman, 
mechanician, and inventor. He exhibited the aptitudes and 
faculties of these various accomplishments as soon as he had 
occasion to exercise them in his different professorships and 
productions. It is not known that he ever had any practical 
instruction from others in certain ingenuities, contrivances, 
and mechanical processes in which he afterward became an 
adept and an expert. When occasion came for the illustra- 
tion of his Medical Botany by colored engravings, — before 
our modern methods had been invented, — he knew how to 
be his own artist, as early as the year 1817. When he wished 
for models and drawings to illustrate his lectures as Rumford 
Professor, he knew how to make some of them. When he 
was called upon to lay out and adorn Mount Auburn, to 
designate its avenues and paths, to draft its lodges, gateway, 
and fences, and to plan its tower and chapel, he had, not ex- 
perience, but taste and skill, and knowledge of materials, an 
eye for proportions, and a judgment of construction, quali- 
fying him for the serious trusts committed to him. When he 
presided over the American Academy, he could fitly intro- 
duce and accompany those who, as they read their papers, 
used the technical and special terminology of their various 
arts and sciences. It might be safe to affirm that, following 
up the proclivity which in his boyhood had given him " de- 
light in the construction of miniature saw-mills, machinery 
for entrapping rats and squirrels, and rude attempts at draw- 
ing and carving," he was wont to peer into every work-shop, 
factory, garret, and cellar in Boston, where artist or mechanic 
would allow him entrance and answer his questions. He 
knew what was done and how done, by the black and white 
smith, the glass-blower, the clock-maker, the type-caster, the 
printer, the turner, the moulder, the engraver, and the jacks 
of all trades. 

Among Dr. Bigelow's papers is the agreement of partner- 
ship drawn up between him and Dr. Jackson. The rela- 
tion was a delicate one, requiring considerate and respectful 



408 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

regard from the parties to it ; and it proved a wise and 
good one because its terms were so carefully defined, and 
those whom it brought together were so sensitive of honor. 
Dr. Jackson, whose friendship was a boon, because of the love 
and confidence and reverence in which he was held in this 
community, was Dr. Bigelow's friend and confidant through 
life, always intrusting to him such responsibilities as he had 
to share or transfer. Dr. Bigelow not only succeeded Dr. 
Jackson in the two offices which he names, but also in the 
Nestorship of trust and professional position. 



" Finding, in 1812, that a successful course of popular lec- 
tures on chemistry was being given in Boston by Dr. John 
Gorham, it occurred to me that a similar course on botany 
might find some favor in the same place, and that thus the 
unoccupied portion of my time might be turned to some 
account. I consulted my friends, and among the rest, John 
Lowell, Esq., a very distinguished member of the bar, an 
amateur of botany, and a member of the Corporation of Har- 
vard College. Mr. Lowell informed me that he had proposed 
a similar undertaking to Professor Peck, of the Botanic Garden 
at Cambridge, and he suggested that I should unite with that 
gentleman in a joint course, for the benefit of the funds of 
the Garden, as well as of myself. I joyfully acceded to this 
proposal, and with it began a career of botanical studies 
which, as a collateral pursuit with my professional vocations, 
lasted for more than a dozen years. My acquaintance with 
botanical science began with a love of plants conceived dur- 
ing my earliest education in the country, and afterward 
improved by an attendance on the lectures of Dr. B. S. Bar- 
ton, in Philadelphia, and of Professor Peck at Cambridge. 
The joint course now given by the latter gentleman and my- 
self was fully attended, and a like course was afterward, in 
two subsequent years, repeated by myself alone. Finding 
that a considerable taste had sprung up among my pupils tor 
the study of plants, I began to collect materials for a descrip- 
tion of the native plants of Boston and its vicinity, which I 
published in 1814, under the name of 4 Florula Bostoniensis.' 
This limited volume passed through three editions with 
enlargements, and was for several years the principal book 
employed by herborizers in New England. Dr. John Torrey, 
of New York, then about to commence a Flora of North 
America, generously offered me his collections and assistance 
if I would undertake that task. Fortunately for botanical 



1880.] MEMOIR OF DR. JACOB BIGELOW. 409 

science I shrank from the task, and left him to complete the 
undertaking, which he afterwards did, with the assistance of 
Professor Asa Gray, in a most able and satisfactory manner. 
The subsequent works of Professor Gray have placed the 
botany of the United States on a par with that of the most 
cultivated countries of Europe. 

u Dr. Henry Muhlenberg, of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was 
at this time a most prominent authority on American botany, 
and had contributed largely to the great work of Willdenow 
on the ' Species Plantarum,' then publishing in the capital 
of Prussia. I was happy in forming a correspondence with 
Dr. Muhlenberg, then in his old age, which enabled me to 
send him my interesting or doubtful plants for his solution. 
My last letter from him was received after his final attack of 
paralysis. 

" The Abbe* Correa de Serra, Portuguese or Brazilian Min- 
ister to the United States at that time, visited Boston. He 
was a universal scholar, and had spent most of his life in the 
society of scientific men, in Lisbon, Rome, London, and 
Paris. From the first and last of these cities he had been 
obliged to -flee from religious or political persecution. M. 
Correa, being a great lover of botany, made various excursions 
with me in the environs of Boston, and did me the honor to 
peruse my herbarium, and aid me with his explanations. He 
afterward gave me letters to some of the most eminent 
botanists of Europe, among whom were Sir James Edward 
Smith, Desfontaines, Jussieu, and De Candolle, with all of 
whom I was afterward able to open a correspondence and an 
exchange of specimens. 

" In 1814, having published the ; Florida Bostoniensis,' 
which was extended so as to include plants of all the 
New England States, my botanical correspondence was in- 
creased, and genera of plants were named for me by Sir 
J. E. Smith in the supplement of Rees's Cyclopaedia, by 
Schrader in Germany, and by De Candolle in Paris. Of 
these the last only stands, the two others having been pre- 
viously appropriated to other botanists. 

" In 1815, 1 was appointed Lecturer on Materia Medica and 
Botany in Harvard University, with the duty of delivering 
lectures in the winter time to students of the Medical Class 
in Boston. The medical lectures had just been removed from 
Cambridge to Boston, and a medical college was being erected 
in Mason Street. In a year or two my title was changed to 
Professor, and I became the colleague of Drs. James Jackson, 
J. C. Warren, J. Gorham, and W. Channing. The class was 

52 



410 ' MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

at first small, and I thought myself fortunate in being able to 
command an audience of twenty or thirty students. I contin- 
ued afterward to lecture on Materia Medica and on Clinical 
Medicine at the Massachusetts General Hospital, of which I 
was a physician, until I resigned both offices in — [1855]. " 



Dr. Bigelow delivered the Phi Beta Kappa Poem at 
Cambridge, Aug. 29, 1811, which was published. Its theme 
is " Professional Life." He transfers to its thoughts and 
lines his own experiences of struggle and hopefulness in the 
way to independence and fame, as he describes the ardua et 
difficilia of youth whose needs and aims are their spur. Spurn- 
ing some of the prizes, the methods of obtaining which he 
touches with sharp satire, he takes his place with those of 

" Generous soul, 
Whose high ambition marks a loftier goal; 
Whose settled eye awaits a distant scene, 
Heedless of narrower fields that intervene. 
His sure resolve and firm, unbending soul, 
No luring hopes nor threatening fears control ; 
Fixed in the high but rough ascent to fame 
With ardent step and undivided aim, 
Nor bars nor years his progress can abate, 
Firm to excel, and patient to be great." 

A Botanic Garden, in connection with the college, was es- 
tablished in Cambridge in 1807, and put under the charge of 
William Dandridge Peck, the Professor of Natural History. 
The botany of the United States, rich and inviting as was its 
field, had then found but few to cultivate it. The amiable 
Swede, Peter Kalm, had travelled over the northern portion 
in 1748, and had published some of the fruits of his gather- 
ing. The Bartrams, father and son, Dr. Muhlenberg, and Dr. 
Barton of Pennsylvania, and a few students scattered over the 
South, had espoused the science. The earliest reference 
which I have been able to find to any efforts in it in the 
neighborhood of this city, is in a letter addressed, by that 
somewhat notorious Scotch physician, Dr. William Douglass, 
then resident here, in 1721, to Governor and Dr. Cadwallader 
Colden, of New York, also a Scotchman and a botanist, who 
introduced the Linnsean system into America. Douglass, who 
by the way affirms that there was then no barometer nor 
thermometer in this town, writes, " Last year I made a col- 
lection of about 700 plants within the compass of four or 
five miles front Boston. This year I think of extending ten 



1880.] MEMOIR OF DR. JACOB BIGELOW. 411 

or a dozen miles." * The pioneer of the science here, whose 
guidance alone was then offered to new pupils, also the pio- 
neer to the settlement of Ohio, was the Rev. Manasseh Cutler, 
pastor of Ipswich Hamlet. He published in 1785 a singu- 
larly able and instructive paper, of a hundred quarto pages, 
in the first volume of the transactions of the American Acad- 
emy of Arts and Sciences, as " An Account of some of the 
Vegetable Productions naturally growing in this part of 
America, botanically arranged." In 1791, Dr. Peter John 
Buck, of Hamburg, had opened a correspondence with Presi- 
dent Willard of Harvard, seeking exchanges with a supposed 
botanical professor in the college, where there was none. In 
the repeated delivery of his lectures in Boston, which were 
very popular, Dr. Bigelow excited tastes and inquiries which 
were then without the means of satisfaction. Botanical 
works were hardly known by name in our bookstores, and 
when obtained, with their Latin and unnecessarily compli- 
cated nomenclature, they were not adapted to the use of 
pupils. Such as could be had were also defective in Ameri- 
can plants. These facts induced Dr. Bigelow to prepare and 
publish a book with the following title : " Florula Boston- 
iensis. A Collection of Plants of Boston and its Environs, 
with their Generic and Specific Characters, Synonyms, De- 
scriptions, Places of Growth, and Time of Flowering, and 
Occasional Remarks, — by Jacob Bigelow, M.D., 1814." 8vo., 
268 pages. It was dedicated to the Massachusetts Society 
for Promoting Agriculture. The volume contained only 
plants growing in a wild state, and of these the system and 
nomenclature were simplified. A second edition appeared in 
12mo, in 1824. On the title-page of the third edition, 12mo, 
extended to 468 pages, Dr. Bigelow could add to his titles, 
" Member of the Linnsean Societies of London and Paris," to 
the former of which he was elected in 1819. So attractive had 
he made his lectures, especially to pupils and young persons 
in our advanced schools, that he excited quite an enthusiasm 
for botanical studies. The subject was for the time u the 
rage" in the town, and the pursuit of it greatly advanced 
here refinement of taste, and promoted healthful physical 
exercise in pleasant excursions for study. On the book- 
shelves of many of our excellent matrons who have shared 
family homes for two or three generations here, may be found 
a pleasant reminiscence of their school-days, in the Boston 
Botany. 

* 4 Mass. Hist. Coll. roi. ii. pp. 165. 



412 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

The mention by Dr. Bigelow of the visit made here by the 
Abbe Correa, prompts to a further notice of that highly culti- 
vated and much honored man. He was held in the highest 
regard wherever he was personally known, alike for the vir- 
tues of his character, his vast attainments, and his suffering 
from political disabilities. He was an old and feeble man 
when Dr. Bigelow, in the vigor and vivacity of youth, en- 
joyed the rich privilege of intercourse and excursions with 
him. The elder noticed the zeal and enthusiasm of the 
younger, and frankly told him that he could see what there 
was in him, and what would come of it. Great was the 
privilege of having the instruction of such a companion as 
the Abbe* Correa. The following letter addressed by him to 
Dr. Bigelow may fitly be copied here from the original now 
before me : — 

" Washington, 1 March, 1819. 
" Dear Sir, — I profit of the departure of Mr. d'Artiguenave from 
this to your town, to write to you a few words about botanical negoti- 
ations. Mr. Lamouroux, Professor at Caen, whose noble work on the 
marine plants you have perhaps seen, wishes to have a botanical cor- 
respondence in America. Mr. Lamouroux has advanced that branch 
of science far beyond any present or past botanist. If that is conven- 
ient to you, write me a word at Philadelphia, where I will be in a 
short time, and this affair will be settled. 

" I am sure by this time you have investigated every corner of New 
England. I wish you would do for the Northern States what Mr. 
Elliot is doing for the Southern ones. Nuttall is now exploring the 
Arkansas country at my expense, and of two other friends we shall 
have a good harvest before the end of the year. 

"All those persons of cultivated understandings who are in this town 
have been delighted with Mr. d'Artiguenave's exhibitions. I am very 
glad your countrymen show the good sense and taste they are possessed 
of in knowing how much declamation is useful in a republican form of 
government, and by [inviting ?] him to your University. 

" Pray be so kind to remember me to all those excellent persons that 
formed our societies and whom it is impossible to forget. They are so 
many that I avoid particular mention for fear of omission. Judge 
Davis, in the quality of a brother botanist, the only one among the 
American lawyers, deserves commemoration in a letter to one of the 
brotherhood. Accept the assurance of the esteem and friendly senti- 
ments with which I remain, Sir, your obedient, faithful servant, 

"J. Correa de Serra." 

Among Dr. Bigelow's papers are preserved many interest- 
ing and cordial letters from his botanical correspondents in 
this country and in Europe. Of these the Rev. Dr. Henry 
Muhlenberg, then in declining health, writes to him his last 



1880 ] MEMOIR OF DR. JACOB BIGELOW. 413 

letter from Lancaster, Pa., in 1814, the year before his death. 
De Candolle writes from Geneva in 1817 and 1818 most vo- 
luminous and scientific French letters, full of the information 
most valued by Dr. Bigelow, who is affectionately addressed 
by his correspondent as " Monsieur et cher Collegue." Dr. 
Vincenzo Tineo writes in Italian from Palermo in 1819. A 
series of letters from 1815 to 1823 are addressed from Nor- 
wich, England, to Dr. Bigelow, by Sir J. E. Smith, of the 
Linnssan Society, with whom Dr. Francis Boott, of Boston, 
had been in close intimacy while in England in botanical 
studies. To these correspondents Dr. Bigelow sent speci- 
mens of his own collections, with copies of his " Florula 
Bostoniensis " and "Medical Botany," his account of his 
White Mountain trip, &c, receiving returns in kind. The 
following extract from a letter of the last-named correspon- 
dent, dated Jan. 6, 1818, is a contribution to the history of 
the " Sea Serpent," of which Dr. Bigelow had sent him an 
account, soon to be referred to in these pages : — 

" As to the marine snake, I cannot help having some doubts. We 
hear from Scotland so many stones of mermaids so well vouched, that 
it teaches me great caution. I confess I have no knowledge of any 
snake answering to the plate and description, though the authority of 
these is indubitable. I wait with eagerness for more observations. 
There are animals which might wander into your seas, and give suffi- 
cient grounds for the appearances described. In speaking of your 4 Med- 
ical Botany ' I feel myself on sure ground. I beg leave to offer you 
my most hearty congratulations on its appearance, and my thanks for 
your present of the work. I hope nothing will impede its completion. 
One thing I would request of you is to favor us in every possible in- 
stance with the fruits as well as floioers of your plants, especially of 
American genera, with dissections, by which you will render great ser- 
vice to scientific botany." 

Dr. Bigelow's correspondence with this gentleman had 
been opened by the friendly agencj^ of the Abbe* Correa, as 
appears from these sentences from a letter of Sir J. E. Smith, 
dated Norwich, Jan. 12, 1815: "You could not come to 
me with any recommendation more prepossessing than that 
of my worthy friend, Correa, one of the first of men for un- 
derstanding, heart, and information, as well as for a genuine 
taste for nature and for the works of art. I love and honor 
him more than I can express, and far more than I dare tell 
him." 

Dr. Bigelow, as we have seen, referred his taste for botani- 
cal studies to the prompting of his teacher, Dr. Barton, in 



414 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

Philadelphia. But that it was native to him would appear 
from the account which many of his friends will remember to 
have heard from him of its manifestation in his boyhood. He 
said that from his earliest years he had watched and won- 
dered over the variety in form and tint of the things that 
sprouted from the earth. His first lesson in botany, as he 
once playfully told me, was from " the most learned inhabi- 
tant in Sudbury," to whom he inquiringly carried a stalk of 
what is familiarly known as the Star of Bethlehem. The 
lesson was conveyed in the reply, " Why, you little fool, 
that's grass ! " 

Professor Asa Gray, in his tribute to Dr. Bigelow in the 
American Journal of Science and Arts, says of the " Florula" : 
" What a popular and satisfactory work this Manual of Bot- 
any was, especially to hundreds of amateur botanists, some still 
living may testify. This is the last Flora or Manual of this 
and perhaps any other country, arranged upon the Linnsean 
artificial system." Later in life the author contemplated a 
revision of the work, but other tasks and avocations fully 
occupied him. He brought out an American edition of Sir 
J. E. Smith's Introduction to Botany. Professor Gray adds : 
" More than thirty North American species of Bigelovia, 
besides one of Mexico and two of the Andes of South 
America, now commemorate him." Most of them wer.e in- 
troduced to the genus by Gray himself. 

Reference has been made in the letter of Sir J. E. Smith 
to a certain " Sea Serpent." The matter will find explana- 
tion in what follows. 



u The only publication by which the Linnaean Society es- 
sayed to promote its reputation was an account of a phenome- 
non which at that time excited much interest and inquiry under 
the name of the ' Sea Serpent.' This object appeared in the 
harbor of Gloucester, Cape Ann, and was visible for succes- 
sive days, exhibiting a long row of protuberances, projecting 
above the water and moving with great rapidity. It was seen 
by scores of witnesses, many of whom testified that they saw 
a head and neck projecting eight or ten feet above the water ; 
the whole resembling the figure of a sea serpent figured in 
Pontoppidan's history of Norway. By a singular coincidence, 
a small snake about three feet long was killed by some hay- 
makers in the salt marsh or beach adjacent to the water in 
which the supposed large ophidian had been seen. The small 
serpent was brought to Boston and subjected to anatomical 



1880.] MEMOIR OF DR. JACOB BIGELOW. 415 

examination. In size and general structure it corresponded 
closely with the common black snake, the coluber constrictor 
of Linnseus. But its color was brown, and its back was fur- 
nished with a row of protuberances, each of which projected 
upwards a third part of the diameter of the body at the place 
of each protuberance. The cause of these inequalities was 
not apparent until the body was laid open." 

[Examination was not allowed at the time by the discov- 
erer and exhibitor, but many years afterward this specimen 
was accidentally found by Dr. Bigelow's son in a museum at 
New Haven. One of the protuberances proved to be a dis- 
tortion of the vertebral columns of the black snake. For a 
mass of evidence bearing on the subject of a sea serpent, see 
44 American Cyelopsedia," article " Sea Serpent," also Pam- 
phlet of Linnsean Society.] 

" Several journeys were made to collect plants for the Botany 
of New England. The most interesting of these was a tour 
to the White Mountains of New Hampshire, made in 1815, 
in company with Francis C. Gray, Esq., Dr. Francis Boott, 
Mr. Nathaniel Tucker, and Lemuel Shaw, Esq., afterward 
Chief Justice of Massachusetts. Our party ascended the 
Monadnock in New Hampshire, the Ascutney in Vermont, 
and finally the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The 
ascent of the last-mentioned mountains was at that time an 
arduous undertaking, owing to the rough state of the country 
and the want of roads or paths. We were obliged to walk 
about fifteen miles and to encamp two nights in the brush- 
wood on the side of the mountain. Each man of the party 
having carried up a dry stick for the purpose, we were enabled 
to build a fire on the summit, boil our kettle, and prepare a 
repast from such material as our guides had brought up. It 
being the Fourth day of July, Mr. Gray was invited to ^deliver 
an impromptu address ; and the celebration having terminated 
successfully, we were able to reach our encamping place in 
season for the night, and got back to Conway in the course 
of the day, stopping on the wa}^ for a bath in the Saco River. 
Some account of this journey, and a list of the Alpine plants 
collected, was published in the New England Medical Journal, 
vol. v." 



Some fifteen or twenty years ago, the writer, in conversation 
with Dr. Bigelow, had the prompting to question him as to 
his maturer views about this sea-monster. But a misgiving 
lest there might be some sensitiveness on the subject checked 



416 MASSACHUSETTS HISTOKICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

the prompting. There has been much of banter and marvel 
connected with the almost annual re-appearance ever since, 
of this mysterious visitor, as testified to by the summer resi- 
dents along the shores of our Bay. Never, it is believed, has 
there been a more thorough effort made than that in which 
Dr. Bigelow was a leading actor, to take evidence in the case. 
Before me is an already time-stained pamphlet of fifty-two 
pages, with engravings, with the following title : " Report of 
a Committee of the Linnaean Society of New England, rela- 
tive to a large Marine Animal, supposed to be a Serpent, seen 
near Cape Ann, Massachusetts, in August, 1817." The com- 
mittee charged with this grave responsibility consisted of the 
Hon. John Davis, Jacob Bigelow, and Francis C. Gray. 
They went to their work systematically and with intense 
earnestness. A trustworthy citizen of Gloucester, the Hon. 
Lonson Nash, was furnished with a series of scrutinizing 
questions to be asked as he took under oath the depositions 
of eight witnesses who had seen the monster. Correlative 
information was sought from other places, and anatomical 
science and skill were brought to bear upon it. The follow- 
ing is an extract of a letter, chiefly botanical, addressed to 
Dr. Bigelow from London, in July, 1818, by Sir Joseph 
Banks, President of the Royal Society : — 

" I beg leave to thank you, Sir, for the Report of your committee on 
the appearance of the Great Serpent (Scoliophis), a copy of which I pre- 
sent, in obedience to your directions, to the Royal Society. Of the ap- 
pearance of the parent serpent, no one here, I believe, entertains a doubt. 
My valuable friend, the late Colonel Humphries, was^ indefatigable 
in obtaining and transmitting to me all the information he could meet 
with on the subject of the Great Serpent. I confess, however, that I 
am not so entirely convinced of the little one being its offspring, much 
as I am inclined to be guided by the opinions of the very respectable 
persons who examined the animal, and the accounts of the manner in 
which it was found. The anatomical structure seems to me to bear 
great signs of monstrosity, and the circumstance of only one having 
been found of the hatch of the eggs which the Scoliophis came on there 
to lay, leaves a doubt on my mind which future observation will no 
doubt clear up. The appearances of sea snakes this season do not give 
me any hopes of its being the same serpent returned to its old haunts. 
Before this time, however, the question is most probably set at rest." 

In the same letter, Sir Joseph thanks Dr. Bigelow for a 
copy of his " Florula," and adds, " It proves to us here that 
your proficiency in the science of Botany renders you more 
than able to do justice to your intended work, 4 Flora Novae 



1880.1 MEMOIR OF DR. JACOB BIGELOW. 417 

Anglise,' to the publication of which I shall look forward 
with much hope of gaining additional knowledge of the vege- 
table productions of your country." 



" In 1816 I was clothed with the additional appointment of 
Rumford Professor in the university. Count Ruinford, lately 
resident in Paris, on his decease had bequeathed a legacy to 
Harvard College for the purpose of establishing a professor- 
ship of the application of the Sciences to the Useful Arts. 
Only a part of this legacy was to accrue to the college until 
after the decease of his daughter, who was to be an annuitant 
during life. 

" In 1817, I married Mary Scollay, daughter of the late 
Colonel William Scollay, by whom I have had five children. 
After more than fifty years of uninterrupted domestic hap- 
piness, I regard the most fortunate event of my life to be the 
connection which has given me an earnest, devoted, and 
loving wife." 



The father of Dr. Bigelow died Sept. 12, 1816, at tjie age 
of 74, and his mother followed, Dec. 13, at the age of 
71. The parents had lived to have the assurance of their 
son's distinction. He procured monumental tablets inscribed 
with filial respect and affection, and himself planted them 
over their graves in the village burial-ground. 

On his inauguration as Rumford Professor of the Appli- 
cation of Science to the Useful Arts, at the college, Dec. 11, 
1816, Dr. Bigelow delivered an address on the Life and 
Works of the Count, delineating the character and career of 
that remarkable man, of New England origin and of Euro- 
pean distinction, while of service to the whole civilized 
world. 

In acknowledgment of a copy of his address, which he 
sent to the venerable ex-President, John Adams, then in 
his eighty-third year, Dr. Bigelow received the following 
most characteristic reply, in a chirography as strong as its 
sentiments : — 

" Quincy, Jan. 28, 1817. 

" Sir, — Accept my thanks for your Inaugural Oration. It would 

have been a great pleasure to me to have heard it, but at my age all 

such pleasures are forbidden me. The Edinburgh Reviewers have said 

that ' if the whole of American literature were annihilated, with the 

63 



418 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

exception perhaps of something of Franklin, the world would lose 
nothing of the useful or agreeable ' ! 

" These gentlemen have merited a great reputation : but they ought 
to beware. Their honors and glories and constant good fortune may 
make them giddy, as well as Napoleon. 

" Your inaugural discourse, Mr. Bigelow, is a sufficient refutation of 
that puerile flight of those great men. You may challenge the three 
kingdoms to produce a character, in the last hundred years, more 
useful to his species than the founder of your professorship. 
" With the best wishes for your success, I am, Sir, 

" Your obliged Servant, 

"John Adams." 
"Professor Bigelow." 

It will be noted farther on that Dr. Bigelow's alleged de- 
preciation of classical studies was assumed to be aggravated 
by the fact that he himself, not an outside contemner of the 
old learning, was a privileged lover and disciple of it, attack- 
ing from the inside. It is but proper, therefore, to inscribe 
here from his own manuscript a copy of the brief inaugural 
which he delivered in Latin on this occasion : — 

" Non animo ingrato, dignissime Praeses, sed viribus parum fidenti, 
munera haec nova, vocatus, aggredior. Cum enim has sedes circum- 
spicio, hunc caetum doctissimorum virorum, non me fugit, quantulum 
aut famae aut utilitatis corpori tarn insigni possim afferre. Per multos 
annos floruit haec sedes philosophise, dives opura, ingenii dives, nomini- 
bus praeclaris illustrata, et nunc demum te praesente et praesidente, 
malas supereminet omnes. Liceat mihi, academiae soboli ultimas et 
humillimae tautis auspiciis crescere, et me quoque parvum sub ingenti 
matris subjicere umbra. ; felicem, si quando tarn fausta cultura fructum 
vel exiguum dedero. 

" Vigeat in longe futurum nutrix communis nostra, ossibus medulla 
et uberibus laete repletis. Videat ingenuas artes, doctrinam humanam, 
moresque pios, his sedibus orientes, longe lateque diffundi. In singulis 
annis adaugeantur vires suae, in ultimis patriae oris audiatur fama suo- 
rum, domi circumsurgant filii, et beatam appellent, et dum haec aedes 
domicilium philosophise atque arcem literarum praebebunt, nomina 
illorum qui memores se nostri benefactis suis praestiterunt laudem 
promeritam ferant et memoria grata conserventur." 

The foundation for the Rumford Professorship consisted 
of a bequest by the Count of an annuity of one thousand 
dollars, from an investment in Paris, which has been regu- 
larly received by the college since 1816, and the reversion of 
an annuity to his daughter of four hundred dollars, which 
became available after her decease in 1852, in her seventy- 
ninth year. The objects designated by Rumford were, " For 



:8«0.] MEMOIR OF DR. JACOB BIGELOW. 419 

the purpose of founding a new institution and professorship, 
in order to teach by regular courses of academical and public 
lectures, accompanied with proper experiments, the utility of 
the physical and mathematical sciences, for the improvement 
of the useful arts, and for the extension of the industry, pros- 
perity, happiness, and well-being of society." 

That Dr. Bigelow, not then thirty years old, and at the 
same time discharging arduous duties as a professor in 
the Medical School, and soon, also, one of the physicians of 
the Massachusetts General Hospital, devoted, besides, to the 
demands of a steadily increasing private practice, should have 
been qualified, as he proved himself to be, to assume this new 
trust, is an evidence of what has already been asserted of his 
native ingenuity and versatility of talents, and of the marvel- 
lous inquisitiveness and diligence by which he had accumu- 
lated practical as well as book knowledge. The authorities 
of the college required of him for the first two years only 
four lectures annually, on the history of discoveries and im- 
provements, that he might have time for preparation for his 
full duties. He resigned the office in 1827. Many of the 
models and much of the apparatus for illustrating his lectures 
were constructed by his own hands, ,and, with some of the 
books and drawings needed by him, were provided at his own 
charges. The college purchased the most of them from him 
on his resignation. 

Parts of his course of Rumford Lectures were delivered in 
Boston to large audiences. In 1829 he published an octavo 
volume of five hundred pages, under the following title: 
"Elements of Technology, taken chiefly from a Course of 
Lectures delivered at Cambridge on the Application of the 
Sciences to the Useful Arts, now published for the use of 
Seminaries and Students." Worcester, in his dictionary, 
gives Dr. Bigelow as authority for the word " technology" ; 
but the latter, in the advertisement of his volume, says, " I 
have adopted the general name of technolog}^, a word suf- 
ficiently expressive, which is found in some of the older dic- 
tionaries, and is beginning to be revived in the literature of 
practical men at the present day." Dr. Bigelow was to have 
the privilege, as the last great public service of his life, of 
aiding in inaugurating one of the noblest and most useful in- 
stitutions of our city, under that title. In turning over the 
pages of this volume, — having before us a well-used copy 
belonging to one of Mr. Emerson's school-girls of the time, — 
we recall the remembrance of listening to some of the lec- 
tures as delivered by the earnest and lucid speaker, helped 



420 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

by his ingenious illustrations. They deal with the appli- 
ances, the ingenuities, and contrivances of all practical arts 
as facilitated by the wonderful inventions and resources of 
science. They describe the materials used in the arts, — 
their form, condition, and strength ; the arts of writing, 
printing, designing, and painting ; of engraving and lithog- 
raphy ; of sculpture, modelling, and casting ; of architecture 
and building ; of heating and ventilation ; of illumination 
and locomotion ; the elements of machinery ; the moving 
forces used in the arts ; the arts of conveying water, of divid- 
ing and uniting solid bodies, of combining flexible fibres, of 
horology, of metallurgy, of communicating and modifying 
color, of vitrification, of induration by heat, and of the pres- 
ervation of organic substances. Abstruse and intricate prin- 
ciples and methods, alternating with lessons of the homeliest 
counsel, make the volume almost a scientific encyclopaedia, 
and suggest the thought that the philanthropic philosopher, 
Count Rumford, would have found the man after his own 
heart in his professor. 

Dr. Bigelow was privileged in his marriage connection and 
in the lengthened and happy domestic companionship which 
it gave him. Colonel Scollay was one of the most public- 
spirited and esteemed of the citizens of the town. His 
father had held the place among the Selectmen afterward 
held under the city organization by the Mayor. Colonel Scol- 
lay, like his son-in-law, was zealous for improvements, and 
many of the plans and measures which developed and beau- 
tified this locality were suggested and advanced by him. 
The family name is perpetuated in our Scollay Square. 
After a happy observance of his golden wedding in a mod- 
est way, congenial with the tastes and wishes of both parties, 
Dr. Bigelow left his surviving partner at his decease when 
twelve more years had passed since their union. 



u In 1818, I began to publish a work on American Medical 
Botany, to consist of six half-volumes, with colored engrav- 
ings. My attachment to botany and exaggerated estimate of 
therapeutics led me at that time to attach greater value to 
such an enterprise than I have since done. At any rate, I 
involved myself in the difficult responsibility of investigating 
the whole subject and of furnishing sixty plates and sixty 
thousand colored engravings, which were to be engraved in 
outline and the impressions separately colored by hand. 

" At that time the state of the arts was low and imperfect in 



1880.] MEMOIR OF DR. JACOB BIGELOW. 421 

this country, and I soon found that T had greatly overrated the 
ability of my artists and underrated the time and labor nec- 
essary to oversee the proceeding of the work. I experienced 
a considerable struggle between the pride which forbade the 
abandonment of the undertaking and the apparent impossi- 
bility of carrying it to completion. At that period both 
lithography and photography were unknown. I came to the 
conclusion that the only mode of extricating myself from the 
difficulty was to invent some new mode of printing the im- 
pressions at once in colors from the copperplates. After 
many trials and experiments a tolerably successful mode was 
discovered, which consisted in engraving the plates in aqua 
tinta, thus producing a continuous surface, to the parts of 
which separate colors could be applied, and the surplus wiped 
off in different directions, so as not to interfere with each 
other. In this way the simple plates, or those with few col- 
ors, could be delivered from the press complete, without 
requiring to be retouched. But those which had small or 
insulated spots were obliged to be finished with the pencil. 

" The principal difficulty was found in the surface of green 
leaves, which required a pigment sufficiently viscid to cause 
the constituent points or dots to adhere, or become fused 
together, and at the same time sufficiently transparent to 
admit the requisite shading, which was deepened in the 
proper places by lining or stippling as in common engrav- 
ings. After many trials, a compound of gamboge and Prus- 
sian blue ground in nut oil was found to answer the purpose 
sufficiently well, and a workman could strike off a hundred 
complete copies in a day. Although these copies had a 
respectable appearance, and were sufficient for all scientific 
purposes, yet from the neutralizing effect of this oil they 
wanted the brilliancy of water colors laid on by the pencil. 
The aquatinting of colors, when duly improved, I have no 
doubt would have passed into profitable use, had not the 
invention of lithography soon afterwards superseded its em- 
ployment." 



Dr. Bigelow held his professorship of the Materia Medica 
in the Medical School, from 1815 to 1855. His attention 
was of course engaged to provide something better than 
the then existing manuals of medical botany. In 1817 ap- 
peared the first volume, in 1818 the second, and in 1820 the 
third of the work whose preparation and illustration the 
author so ingeniously describes. It bears the following 



422 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Ma*. 

title : " American Medical Botany, being a Collection of the 
Native Medicinal Plants of the United States, containing 
their Botanical History and Chemical Analysis, and Proper- 
ties and Uses in Medicine, Diet, and the Arts, with colored 
engravings. By Jacob Bigelow, M.D., &c, &c." The work 
is dedicated to Dr. Kirkland, President of Harvard College, 
in recognition of the flourishing state of the institution under 
his charge. Looking through the volumes now before me, 
the impression is strongly made that the style and method of 
their contents, the distinctness, finish, and beauty of their 
illustrations, and the excellence of their mechanical appear- 
ance in paper and typography, would make them creditable 
productions at the present day. The work was greatly 
praised and highly valued on its appearance, and will engage 
an unprofessional reader, because the author always sought 
as much as possible to avoid the verbal technics of his 
themes. Copies of it are now very rare, and draw large 
prices from collectors. 

The following is an extract of a letter to Dr. Bigelow from 
the Earl of Mountnorris, a distinguished English botanist, 
dated Arley Hall, near Bewdley, England, Jan. 20, 1820 : — 

u Sir, — I beg leave to return you my best thanks for the honor you 
have done me in sending me a copy of your work on the Medicinal 
Plants of America, which arrived perfectly safe, and I beg leave to 
assure you that I shall receive the continuation with the greatest pleas- 
ure. In return I have requested Messrs. Bingham and Richards and 
Co., to forward to you a copy of my Travels in the East by the first 
safe hand, which I hope you will do me the honor of placing in your 
library. 

" I shall ever feel obliged to my friend, Mr. Storer, for having 
opened for me a communication with you, and to yourself for the very 
kind manner in which you have offered to assist me in obtaining the 
produce of your country. The plants you have sent me are a proof 
that you do not mean this offer as an empty compliment, and I am 
therefore induced to enter into a more full explanation of my wants 
and wishes," &c. 

The Earl proceeds to act upon this understanding in an 
extended enumeration of his plans and needs, and states 
that he is "forming an American garden of five acres in 
a glen through which a small stream runs, and in which I 
mean ultimately to have the produce of no other country." 

The following extract of a letter to Dr. Bigelow from the 
distinguished botanist, Frangois Andre Michaux, author of 
the " North American Sylva," shows that the latter had been 



1880.] MEMOIR OF DR. JACOB BIGELOW. 423 

consulted about the preparation of engravings. It is dated 
Paris, August 13, 1819 : — 

u Sir, — I learn with a great deal of pleasure of the continued suc- 
cess of your useful work on American Medical Botany. I expect 
to receive in a few days the fourth number, for which be pleased to 
accept my thanks. 

" The different numbers of your interesting work I have communi- 
cated to the redacteurs of our Medical and Pharmaceutical Monthly 
Review, to give an account of the contents. Respecting your wishes 
to be informed of the expenses for to engrave and print," &c. 

After very minute details on this matter, the letter refers 
to one in which Dr. Bigelow, with a view to his Rumford 
Lectures, had asked about models of buildings. Michaux 
writes : " I had not time yet to inquire about the models 
of great edifices, but I believe not such thing is to be had 
in Paris." 

Ex-President Jefferson addressed to Dr. Bigelow the fol- 
lowing letter, dated Monticello, April 11, 1818 : — 

" I thank you, sir, for the comparative statement of the climates of 
the several States, as deduced from observations on the flowering of 
trees in the same year. It presents a valuable view, and one which it 
is much to be desired could be extended through a longer period of 
years, and embrace a greater number of those circumstances which 
indicate climate. I closed the year before last a seven years' course 
of observations intended to characterize the climate of this State, 
which, though very various in its various parts, may be considered as 
reduced to a mean at this place, nearly central to the whole. In 
return for your favor I transcribe the heads of observation which I 
thought requisite, and some of the general results, with the assurance 
of my high respect and esteem. 

" Th. Jefferson." 

Very carefully prepared and extended series of observa- 
tions are then presented, showing the ranges of the thermom- 
eter, the number of freezing nights and days, how long fires 
in apartments were necessary, the appearance of frost and 
ice, the number and quantity of rain-storms, the amount of 
snow-falls, the number of fair days, the direction of the 
wind, the flowering of plants, the ripening of vegetables and 
fruits, &c. These observations indicate the inquisitive and 
pains-taking mind of the distinguished philosopher and states- 
man in his keen study of nature. 



424 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

" In 1820 was published the first edition of the Pharmaco- 
poeia of the United States. It was the result of a convention of 
delegates from the various medical colleges and societies in the 
United States, who agreed upon the general plan and features 
of the work, and assigned its publication to a committee of 
five members, Drs. Spalding of New York, Hewson of Phila- 
delphia, Bigelow of Boston, Ives of New Haven, and De 
Butts, of Baltimore. This committee afterwards met in 
New York, and divided the labor of preparation among 
themselves. The part assigned to myself was the list and 
nomenclature of the Materia Medica. In executing this 
duty I found it expedient to depart from the existing usages 
of the British colleges, and in all possible cases to employ a 
single name for each drug instead of the double or triple 
names then used in the Pharmacopoeias of Edinburgh, London, 
and Dublin. Thus, Gentiana was introduced to express the 
drug Gentian, instead of Gentiana lutea and Gentiana radix 
of the Edinburgh, London, and Dublin Pharmacopoeias. 
This simple and convenient nomenclature continues to be 
used in this country, and seems likely in time to supersede 
all others, at least so long as medicine continues to be made 
a mystery, and pharmacy a trade, and therapeutics almost a 
pseudo-science. 

" In 1825, I called a meeting of about a dozen gentlemen 
at my house in Summer Street to consider the expediency 
of instituting an extra-urban, ornamental cemetery in the 
neighborhood of Boston. This meeting, after several years 
of discussion and delay, eventually resulted in the creation 
of Mount Auburn, the first institution of its kind in the 
United States, and by several j^ears the predecessor, as it was 
the example, of all that have since followed it." 



Professor Asa Gray says of Dr. Bigelow's part in the 
Pharmacopoeia : " His botanical knowledge, along with that 
of the Materia Medica generally, and his classical scholarship, 
placed him at the head, or at the laboring oar, of the com- 
mittee, which, in 1820, formed the American Pharmacopoeia. 
The writer used this volume in his medical-student days, and 
remembers dimly how the account of minor preparations, 
coming down to jams and conserves, ended with the classical 
Jam satis est mihi" 

Dr. O. W. Holmes says : u In performing the task assigned 
to him in the list and nomenclature of the Materia Medica, 
Dr. Bigelow departed from the common usage of the British 



1680.] MEMOIR OF DR. JACOB BIGELOW. 425 

colleges, and in all possible cases employed a single name for 
each drug in place of the double or triple names they had 
always used, — a plan which is still adhered to in our National 
Pharmacopoeia. He followed up this labor by publishing his 
practical treatise, long familiar to the profession, under the 
name of ' Bigelow's Sequel,' a succinct, judicious, and per- 
spicuous commentary on the characters, qualities, and uses of 
the remedies adopted by the national medical representatives." 



" In 1832, the Asiatic cholera broke out extensively in New 
York City. This was considered its first epidemic appearance 
on this continent, except that a few days previously it had 
been found to exist in Montreal. The excitement occasioned 
by the accounts of its devastations in many cities of Europe 
caused a general alarm in all parts of the United States. The 
city council of Boston voted to send a medical delegation to 
New York, to inquire into the character of the epidemic, and 
the preparations to be made in case of its approach to Boston. 
A commission, consisting of Drs. Bigelow, Ware, and Flint, 
was sent to New York to investigate and report on the state 
of the disease in that place. In pursuance of their duty, this 
committee at once proceeded to New York, and spent several 
days in that city, most of the time being occupied in the 
cholera hospitals. The disease was then at its height. Most 
of the cases proved fatal under every variety of treatment, 
insomuch that in making the daily reports none but fatal 
cases were for a time counted as being those of genuine 
cholera. The hospitals were all crowded, the attendance of 
suitable nurses could hardly be obtained, and the dead re- 
mained for a long time unremoved. In the hospital at 
Bellevue, we counted at one time thirty-one unremoved dead 
bodies. They were lying as chance might direct, in beds or 
on the floor, and in several instances a double bed was occu- 
pied by a living and a dead patient. 

" The mortality from cholera in New York that season 
amounted to about 3,000. In some other American cities it 
was 2,000. In Boston, a comparatively healthy place, it was 
less than 100. 

"On our return from New York, in one of the Sound 
steamers, we were stopped a mile below Providence by the 
health officers of that city, and forbidden to land. We learned 
that the whole population was in a state of panic from im- 
agined contagion. After waiting a whole day, and sending 
various remonstrances to the city council, we were at last 

54 



426 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

permitted to land at Seekonk in Massachusetts, from which 
place we made our way in stage-coaches, as we might, to 
Boston. My opinions on the alleged contagiousness of cholera 
have been repeatedly published, and an abstract may be found 
in my ' Modern Inquiries,' published in 1867." 



The three Boston physicians sent on this professional phi- 
lanthropic errand, besides leaving their important and lucra- 
tive practice, cheerfully encountered the risks to which they 
were exposed. In the Board of Commissioners of Health, 
of the City of Boston, July 7, 1832, it was " Ordered, that 
Drs. Jacob Bigelow, John Ware, and Joshua B. Flint, be, 
and they are hereby appointed to visit the City of New York, 
and ascertain the nature of the disease now existing there, 
supposed to be Spasmodic Cholera ; and to ascertain and 
report to this Board any information they can obtain in rela- 
tion thereto, or to the disease as it has prevailed in other 
places." The mayor, Charles Wells, furnished the commis- 
sion with an official letter addressed to Walter Bowne, mayor 
of New York. They received thanks on their return, and 
compensation — as those were economical times, of two hun- 
dred dollars each — on July 13, "for the prompt and very 
satisfactory manner in which they have executed the trust 
reposed in them, by visiting the City of New York, and for 
the full and instructive reports made by them." 

The faithful and discreet manner in which this not wholly 
attractive commission was discharged, and the advice, counsel, 
and directions which these physicians distributed through the 
press, did much to reduce the excitement and the panic which 
had agitated this community. 

This passionless account of the first visit of the dreaded 
cholera to our shores may be read with much calmness in 
these days. But those who may have heard Dr. Bigelow, at 
a later period, refer to his experiences and observations on 
that painful com mission, were made to realize in a degree how 
intense and agonizing were the apprehensions even of our 
own community, much more the pall which was thrown over the 
cities stricken with the pestilence. Dr. Bigelow does not 
reveal the fact that some of his professional brethren, before 
he was selected, had positively refused, on various assigned 
reasons, to perform the service asked of them by the city 
government. During his life, he, with all the worthiest of his 
profession, had affirmed and acted by the rule, that no physi- 
cian, under any circumstances, and in any case, should refuse 



1880.] MEMOIR OF DR. JACOB BIGELOW. 427 

attendance upon a patient, however dangerous and infectious 
his malady — saving only that he should guard himself from 
carrying contagion to other subjects of his care. The heroic 
persuasion of the brotherhood seeming to be, that not only 
the fear, but the risk of taking the disease ministered to, was 
averted by the performance of duty. But this visit to New 
York was doleful in the extreme. A stillness as of death 
hung over the city on their arrival. The streets were free 
not only of public conveyances, but of people on foot. The 
well had in crowds left the city, and the death rate of the vic- 
tims was larger than was disclosed. Dr. Bigelow always rejoiced 
to bear his testimony that the physicians clung faithfully to 
their posts in homes and in hospitals, though most of the 
nurses fled, and care could not be obtained for those who, 
taken down in the morning, died at evening. Nor was it 
strange that on the return of the commission by steamboat 
through the Sound, they should themselves have been regarded 
with dread, as the subjects of quarantine or non-intercourse. 
The boat that put off to them from Providence positively 
forbade their making a landing anywhere in Rhode Island, 
and they might have been left to float at their leisure had not 
the territory of Massachusetts run into the waters of the 
Bay, and afforded them a refuge. Nor does Dr. Bigelow put 
on record the truth which he otherwise communicated, that 
the report made by the committee was so full, and true to 
the facts of the case, that our city authorities would not 
allow it publicity. 



" April 1, 1833, 1 embarked for Europe in a sailing ship from 
New York for London. I was accompanied by my wife and 
an agreeable party of Bostonians, among whom were Messrs. 
Thomas B. Curtis and wife, Sam. Whitwell and wife, Mrs. K. 
Boott and daughter, Dr. O. W. Holmes, Dr. Robert W. 
Hooper, Mr. Thos. G. Appleton, Rev. Alex. Young, Mr. Ed- 
ward Blanchard, Mr. George Barnard, and as many more from 
New York and elsewhere. The tedium of a thirty days' sail- 
ing voyage was relieved by the wit and unceasing good 
humor of the party, most of whom were not so disabled by 
sickness as to be incapable of participating in the expedients 
resorted to to abbreviate the ennui attendant on calms and 
head-winds. Arrived at Portsmouth, we proceeded directly 
to London, mostly by stage-coaches. Here we stopped a 
few days to engage a courier and make preparations for a 
short continental tour. At Paris we delayed only ten days, 



428 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

being anxious to reach Italy before the arrival of warm 
weather. We left Paris, May — , accompanied by our courier 
only." 



The autobiographical paper left by Dr. Bigelow closes at 
this point. He went on this brief visit abroad at the very 
busiest period of his professional life, and when he had fairly 
earned the right to an interval of relaxation. So extended at 
the time was the range of his practice, that, as appears by a 
copy of a printed circular among his papers, he felt bound to 
notify his patients of his intended absence for four or five 
months, recommending to them a choice, if they should have 
need, of either of four physicians to whom he could trust 
them. He was for many years one of the consulting phy- 
sicians of the town and city and was recognized, after the 
mid-period of his life, as the practitioner of highest expe- 
rience, skill, and judgment among us. Nor was it in strictly 
professional directions only that he was thus a prominent ad- 
viser and oracle. In enterprises of general benevolence and 
improvement he was selected as especially qualified in giving 
counsel and devising plans. By brief communications to the 
newspapers, he showed that he was keeping a watchful eye 
on all public interests. He gave warning of dangers threat- 
ening the general health or morals of the community. He 
called attention to the risks attending the free sale and the 
incautious use of arsenic and other poisons. He helped to 
quiet seasons of panic about epidemics, — like the cholera, — 
by drawing the distinctions between them and contagious 
diseases, and suggesting needful measures of public security ; 
and he relieved the fears of the community about the action 
of lead pipes on the Cochituate water. He opposed the re- 
moval from their homes of those suffering under the small- 
pox, at the risk of needless exposures and discomforts. He 
gave his valuable counsel before a legislative committee ex- 
amining a disease among cattle. We find him, also, holding 
a leading position in plans and undertakings connected with 
artistic and monumental adornments and structures requiring 
discretion, taste, and practical skill. He was appointed by the 
directors of the Bunker Hill Monument Association, in 1825, 
on a committee on the plan and design of the monument. 
He held a similar place on the committee for the design and 
execution of the Everett statue. He was chairman of the 
building committee of the Museum of Comparative Zoology 
at Cambridge. The occasion was a very impressive one, 



1880.] MEMOIR OF DE. JACOB BIGELOW. 429 

when, on the day of the dedication of the edifice, Nov. 13, 
1860, he presented the keys, with a felicitous address, to 
Governor Banks, as the representative of the State. In con- 
nection with his graceful performance of this office, it is fitting 
that a note received by him from Professor Agassiz should 
here find a place, as exhibiting the sensitive magnanimity of 
that eminent man, who would not depreciate his unselfish 
devotion to science by any personal profit. It seems that a 
proposition had been made, and had come to his knowledge, 
that he himself should share in the munificent gifts which 
had been contributed to found the institution in which he 
took such pride. He wrote to Dr. Bigelow to avert the 
intention. 

"Cambridge, 12th April, 1859. 
"My dear Sir, — I have just learned from a private source that 
your committee is considering a proposition to make some compen- 
sation to me for what I have thus far done for the Museum. Allow 
me to request you to leave me in the enviable position in which I am 
now placed with reference to that institution by the course followed by 
all parties connected with it. Everybody could hereafter accuse me of 
having been moved by mercenary motives in pressing the wants of the 
Museum, if I were myself to derive any personal advantages from it ; 
while I am conscious of having been actuated solely by the interests of 
science. It is my only pride now to have devoted my whole life to 
the noble cause of knowledge, and it must for ever be a matter of 
anxiety for me to avert any thing that might impeach the purity of my 
course. I ask it, therefore, as a personal favor, that you will prevent 
any appropriation of the subscription to any object that could benefit 
me personally. 

"Ever truly your friend, 

" L. Agassiz." 
" Dr. Jacob Bigelow." 

Besides his prominent agency and influence in such multi- 
plied and varied forms of service for the general improve- 
ment and happiness of the community, Dr. Bigelow has 
assured his claims to perpetual remembrance and gratitude 
for three special contributions made by him to the public 
good in some of its most expansive interests and aims. His 
published writings make and will preserve the records of his 
zeal and success in these noble works, which now require 
somewhat extended notice. 

First. He was the first — we may say, in Christendom — 
to conceive, propose, and earnestly and patiently to guide on 
to a most complete triumph, the plan of an extensive forest- 
garden cemetery, combining the wildness of nature with the 



430 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

finish of culture, with all appropriate arrangements and 
adornments. 

Second. He gave the whole weight of his acquired wis- 
dom, experience, and distinguished reputation and authority, 
to advise and insure a most radical and effective reform in 
the practice of medicine. 

Third. Under the somewhat paradoxical pleading on the 
theme of the Limitation of Education, he stood in the cham- 
pionship for the extension of the means and elements of edu- 
cation, so that its benefits might be enjoyed and its honors 
claimed, not solely by those who had monopolized them as to 
be gained only through ancient and classic lore, but by scien- 
tific studies and modern languages and learning. 

In the exercise of his ever active and vigorous mind, — 
always by its original force and ingenuity turned toward 
advance and beneficent improvements, — it was the high 
privilege of Dr. Bigelow to perform for this community, and 
to prompt by example for countless others, a service of signal 
help for the public health, for humanity, and the culture and 
indulgence of refined sentiment. To him belongs the distin- 
guished and gratefully accorded claim on public gratitude of 
having been the first person in this country — and, so far as 
is known, in any other — to suggest, and by earnest, per- 
sistent, and intelligent persuasion, to lead on to a most 
felicitous success the plan of a suburban garden-cemetery, 
complete in all its essential features, as it has been adopted 
by our cities and very many of our large towns. 

" The invention all admired, and each, 
How he to be the inventor missed ; 
So easy that seemed once found, which still 
Unfound, most would have thought impossible.' ' 

It does, indeed, seem strange that that method for the dis- 
posal of the dead of populous cities, in somewhat remote 
rural sepulchres, among forest trees and with the adornments 
of a garden, should have waited so long for its effective trial, 
and that it should have found its first earnest and successful 
advocate in Dr. Bigelow, at the close of the first quarter of 
this century. One might have supposed that the oft hearing 
and reading of the Gospel sentence — u In the garden there 
was a new sepulchre " — would long before have prompted 
the blending of the two in highly cultivated communities. 
In the nature and necessity of things, the scheme would have 
been soon put on trial. But none the less, as full and minute 
records and dates of time confirm, Dr. Bigelow first sug- 



1880.] MEMOIR OF DR. JACOB BIGELOW. 431 

gested, advocated, pleaded for, engaged a few but earnest 
associates in sympathy with, and sustained against direct 
opposition as well as chilling indifference, and finally carried 
to a most brilliant success, with no abating or qualifying con- 
dition, the plan of a rural garden-cemetery. The plan, as 
designed and carried out in all its features and details, in its 
arrangements, its necessary requisitions, and even in all its 
adornments, was from first to last pre-eminently his. And all 
that he proposed and effected was without aid or guidance 
from any similar device in this country, nor on the scale on 
which it was organized and carried out, had he any previous 
example in Europe to follow. 

We have from his own pen and compilation of records, a 
modest volume with the following title : " A History of the 
Cemetery of Mount Auburn, by Jacob Bigelow, President of 
the Corporation. Boston, 1860." In this memorial of him, 
the high and excellent service which he has performed for, 
we may say, so many millions of his fellows, in suggesting 
and completing his plan of that now beautiful and well- 
peopled place of repose, may fitly find a somewhat detailed 
notice. In that scheme were engaged the most conspicuous 
and admired, qualities of Dr. Bigelow, as a wise and kind- 
hearted physician, a devoted benefactor of his fellow-men, 
and a fond lover of natural scenery, — the woods, shrubs, and 
flowers. Living in a city of very limited area, which was 
rapidly becoming populous and covered with buildings, his 
attention was fixed on the evils and dangers connected with 
the interment of the dead. With the exception of a very 
few cases, in which the bodies of the deceased might have 
been removed to the burial-grounds of their native places, 
the successive generations here had been in their turn com- 
mitted to our ancient and small cemeteries, which had been in 
use from one to two hundred years. Their walls and tombs 
communicated with the cellars of dwelling-houses, and often 
gaped and tottered in decay. Earlier occupants had to make 
way for later comers. Besides these, there were tombs in 
the cellars of four churches and one meeting-house. Well- 
grounded reports there were of abuses practised by under- 
takers and sextons in turning to their own profit neglected 
tombs. Such a state of things, so threatening of risks for the 
public health, and otherwise objectionable, could not have 
been much longer tolerated. Yet no effective protest had 
been raised, no combined or even single plan or effort 
had been suggested for an alleviation. 

After informing himself on the subject and meditating his 



432 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

own plans, with private conferences with a few friends, Dr. 
Bigelow invited some of them to meet at his house, in Sum- 
mer Street, in 1825. Seven gentlemen answered by their 
presence. He submitted to them a plan, which was after- 
wards substantially that realized at Mount Auburn, though 
that site was not at the time in mind. The result of the con- 
ference was the committing to two of the gentlemen the 
seeking out a location for the proposed cemetery. Their 
attention was drawn to a piece of territory in Brookline, 
which, however, could not be purchased for the purpose. 
At that point the whole subject stood in abeyance for the 
next seven years, — not, however, in the thought and purpose 
of Dr. Bigelow, who in public and in private urged attention 
to an object which he was tenaciously resolved should find a 
hearing. Considering how near it was to his heart, he was 
singularly calm, discreet, and patient in its advocacy. Not 
till 1830 could he secure for it a hearing, and then it was 
fortuitously favored. In the previous year the Massachusetts 
Horticultural Society had been instituted, one of whose ob- 
jects was the securing of a large and elegantly adorned gar- 
den, with conservatories. The leading parties in this society 
were cautiously and happily led to combine with others who 
were intent upon a rural cemetery. A generous-minded gen- 
tleman, Mr. George W. Brimmer, whose interest and sympathy 
Dr. Bigelow had engaged, had previously purchased for his 
own investment and use several acres of wild-wood land be- 
tween Cambridge and Watertown, about four miles from 
Boston, known as " Stone's Woods," from its original pro- 
prietor. To college students and the neighbors the spot 
was known as " Sweet Auburn." This the owner consented 
to part with at cost. Opposition and indifference to the pro- 
ject had by no means as yet been overcome. Many persons 
who had been used to interring their dead near to their own 
abodes, where they could see and watch their resting-places, 
were grieved and shocked at the proposal of carrying them 
far away across the river, and burying them in the wild, 
desolate woods, their graves exposed to violation. The num- 
ber of public hacks and other conveyances was then compar- 
atively small. It is instructive to read in Dr. Bigelow's 
modest narrative with what temperate and judicious tolerance 
of what he knew to be prejudice and misapprehension, he 
met and gradually overcame all this opposition, and turned it 
to acquiescence in, and a final patronage of, his scheme. By 
quiet interviews with selected friends of good judgment, of 
public spirit, and of high social influence, he secured a larger 



1880.] MEMOIR OF BR. JACOB BIGELOW. 433 

attendance and a more earnest advocacy of his object at each 
of the many successive public meetings of citizens which he 
summoned. The aid of the newspapers was effectively en- 
listed in the cause. The result was the securing in 1830, for 
the purpose of a cemetery, of about seventy -two acres of land, 
for six thousand dollars, by a subscription of a hundred pro- 
prietors of sixty dollars each. A topographical survey of the 
area was at once made, with a view to a plan for its best dis- 
posal into lots of twenty by fifteen feet. Incident to the 
novelty of the experiment there were some imperfections and 
miscalculations in the original disposal of details, which 
required readjustment so far as they would admit of it. But 
substantially, the plan and all that was incidental to it were 
so intelligently conceived, that what we see to-day is but the 
realization of what was in the mind of the projector. He 
found his full reward and gratification when, under the most 
auspicious influences of a beautiful day of early autumn, as 
the tinted leaves had begun to fall, on Sept. 24, 1831, there 
were public exercises for consecrating the still virgin soil. 
Two thousand persons on rude seats in an amphitheatrical 
valley took part in the tender and impressive ceremonies, 
joining in the prayers and in singing the original hymns for 
the occasion. The address was delivered by Justice Story, 
who had been from the first one of the most constant and 
helpful friends of the enterprise enlisted by Dr. Bigelow. 

It would have been altogether fitting that, even if the pro- 
jector of the cemetery had had but moderate aptitudes and 
qualifications for the responsibility, a prominent privilege and 
authority should have been committed to him, in completing, 
supervising, directing, and perfecting all the still exacting 
conditions for the best disposal of what remained to be done. 
But it was the spontaneous and general sentiment of all in- 
terested parties that there was not an individual in our com- 
munity whose intelligence, discretion, and good taste, with a 
most rare combination of all needed qualities, fitted him so 
admirably, even for autocratical authority in the case, as 
Dr. Bigelow. He was not, however, one to assert any such 
authority, while the full and serious range of trusts and 
duties committed to him hardly fell short of it. Seeing that 
by natural gifts and the most generous culture he was so 
accomplished for the work assigned to him, we may well af- 
firm that, while there are beautiful and deserved monumental 
tributes on those consecrated grounds to very many men and 
women, the whole cemeter} r , with all its arrangements and 
adornments, its avenues, its paths and their names, its ponds 

55 



434 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

and dells, its fences, its gateway, its tower and chapel, con- 
stitute one comprehensive monument to him. His inventive 
and directing mind is inscribed on all of them. Well might 
he reply, as he did, to a friend who asked him why he did 
not provide himself with a summer rural residence as a relief 
from the heats of the city, that he had a large farm, with 
native woods and a beautiful garden, for his almost daily 
visits. 

When a lithographic plan of the area was submitted to him 
that he might suggest the direction of its avenues and paths, 
and give names to them, as well as to the water deposits, the 
ridges, valleys, dells, and the summits of the beautifully undu- 
lating territory, true to his fine appreciation of all natural 
things, he attached to them the names of trees, shrubs, plants, 
and flowers. When the first lots had been laid out, they 
were put up for sale, at a premium for choice, the sum 
realized for the premiums making a considerable addition to 
the treasury. The connection which had from the first united 
the cemetery with the affairs of the Horticultural Society 
was found to be embarrassing. The relations of the two 
were finally amicably adjusted in 1835, and the proprietors of 
Mount Auburn were separately incorporated. The front 
fence, lodges, and gateway, originally of wood, were replaced 
as soon as the funds would admit, by substitutes in iron and 
stone, as at present, from designs and models by Dr. Bigelow ; 
and, as already intimated, the designs of the tower and 
chapel were also his. Successive purchases of adjoining 
lands have enlarged the cemetery to its present area, which is 
nearly three times that of Boston Common. Up to this date 
about twenty-two thousand interments have been made 
there. 

As has been mentioned, Mount Auburn was consecrated in 
1831, seven years after Dr. Bigelow had first invited friends 
to confer with him at his house for the purpose which it 
finally realized. Laurel Hill Cemetery, in Philadelphia, the 
first copy of the original, was consecrated in 1836 ; Green- 
wood Cemetery, on Long Island, N. Y., in 1837. All our 
cities and many large towns have followed the example. But 
there are some natural features and arrangements about 
Mount Auburn, in which, for conditions of beauty, taste, and 
use, it has not been surpassed. Millions of money and 
inventive and designing skill have been lavished upon it. 

Justice Story had been President of the Corporation for 
eleven years, till his decease, in 1845. Dr. Bigelow, who 
had always been one of the Trustees, succeeded him in the 



1880.] MEMOIB OF DR. JACOB BIGELOW. 435 

highest office, which he filled for twenty-six years. He made 
his last report as such for the year 1870, when he resigned, 
though he still served as one of the Trustees. 

The following action was taken on his resignation of the 
Presidency : — 

" At a meeting of the Board held February 23, 1871, the following 
preamble and resolutions were unanimously adopted, and the Trustees 
request that the Proprietors will give them the authority to carry out 
the suggestion contained therein : — 

" Whereas, At the meeting of the Trustees on the 15th of Feb- 
ruary, continued by adjournment to this day, Dr. Jacob Bigelow de- 
clined a re-election as President of the Proprietors of the Cemetery 
of Mount Auburn, the Trustees are unwilling that the occasion should 
pass without an expression of their regard for him, and of their 
appreciation of his long-continued and valuable services ; therefore, 

" Resolved, That on this, the retirement of Dr. Bigelow from the 
office which for twenty-six years he has so worthily filled, and for 
which, by his knowledge and varied acquirements he has shown him- 
self so singularly qualified, the Trustees desire to express their appre- 
ciation of his labors and services so long rendered to the Corporation 
of which he was one of the original projectors and founders, — labors 
and services which have impressed themselves upon the Cemetery, 
where every object, — its entrance gateway, its chapel, its beautiful 
avenues, paths, and fountains, all bear witness to his science, skill, and 
taste, and signally identify him with Mount Auburn. 

" Resolved, That the Trustees tender to Dr. Bigelow the expression 
of their deep personal regard ; and while they may not hereafter meet 
him at their Board as their presiding officer, they are gratified with 
the knowledge that they will still have the benefit of his experience 
and advice as one of their number. 

" Resolved, That the Trustees in their next Annual Report ask of 
the Proprietors that they be authorized to procure a suitable testi- 
monial to be presented to Dr. Bigelow as a token of appreciation of 
his long-continued and faithful services as President and Trustee. 
" For the Trustees, 

"John T. Bradlee, President. 
" Boston, January, 1872." 

The following action was taken by the Trustees and the 
Proprietors, at the annual meeting, January, 1873: — 

" Some weeks since Dr. Bigelow transmitted to the Board a com- 
munication as follows : — 

" ' Boston, Dec. 10, 1872. 
"'John T. Bradlee, Esq. 

44 4 Dear Sir, — I request you to communicate at the next meeting of 
the Trustees of Mount Auburn Cemetery, my resignation, by no means 
premature, of the office of Trustee of that institution. 



436 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mail 

" * On leaving the long familiar meetings of Mount Auburn, with which 
I have been associated for more than forty years, I would not fail to give 
utterance to the satisfaction which we must all feel that an enterprise 
which was new a few years since has become an object of successful imi^ 
tation in all parts of this continent. 

u * With sincere acknowledgments for the uniform courtesy and kind- 
ness which I have received from the Trustees and the Corporation, 

" ' Yours with respect and regard, 
(Signed) "' Jacob Bigelow.' 

"At the unanimous and urgent solicitation of his associates, as 
expressed in a letter of which the following is a copy, he has consented 
to withdraw his resignation, and allow the use of his name for re- 
election at this time. 

«" Boston, Dec. 14, 1872. 
" ' Dr. Jacob Bigelow. 

" 4 Dear Sir, — The undersigned, members of the Board of Trustees of 
Mount Auburn, have received with deep regret your communication to 
the President of the Corporation, announcing your resignation of the 
office of Trustee. 

" * Your name has been identified with the foundation and successful 
development of the Institution, and we are sure we express the wishes of 
every member of the Corporation in asking the withdrawal of this letter. 

" * Believing that your resignation at any time would be premature, 
we sincerely hope you will accede to this request. 

'* * Truly and respectfully yours/ 

(Signed by all the Trustees). 

" The Trustees believe that the wishes of the Proprietors will be in 
full accord with their own, that the originator and founder of Mount 
Auburn, to whom the Cemetery is so largely indebted for its success- 
ful and honorable history, shall continue to benefit the Corporation by 
his experience and counsel as long as his life may be spared. 

" For the Trustees, 

u John T. Bradlee, President." 

But his fond and devoted interest in all that would enhance 
the attractiveness and deepen the moral impressiveness of the 
cemetery, was to be manifested by one more token in a most 
munificent and significant addition made by him to its 
instructive monuments and symbols. The following is 
extracted from the Report of the Trustees to the Proprietors 
in January, 1873: — 

u trustees' report. 

" In August last a monumental statue, imitated from the Sphinx of 
antiquity, and designed to commemorate the great war of American 
conservation, was placed on its pedestal in front of the Chapel at 
Mount Auburn. It is cut from a single block of Hallowell granite, 
fifteen feet long, by about eight feet in height, the face alone measuring 
three feet in length. It is a gift to the Proprietors of the Cemetery 



1880.] MEMOIR OF DR. JACOB BIGELOW. 437 

from the late President, Dr. Jacob Bigelow, and was executed under 
his direction by Martin Milmore, the distinguished sculptor. 

" The pedestal is of a plain oblong form, with emblems and inscrip- 
tions. Its emblems are simple, being on the southern end a figure of 
the Egyptian Lotus, and on the northern the American Water Lily. 
On the two remaining sides are inscriptions, one in Latin, the other in 
English, as follows : — 

AMERICA CONSERVATA 

AFRICA LIBERATA 

POPULO MAGNO ASSURGENTE 

HEROUM SANGUINE FUSO. 

AMERICAN UNION PRESERVED 

AFRICAN SLAVERY DESTROYED 

BY THE UPRISING OF A GREAT PEOPLE 

BY THE BLOOD OF FALLEN HEROES. 

" This beautiful work of art has been formally transferred to the 
Corporation, and the Trustees have caused the following inscription to 
be placed thereon : — 

JACOB BIGELOW STATUIT ET DEDICAVIT. 

" ' At the last Annual Meeting the Trustees were instructed to pro- 
cure a suitable testimonial as a token of appreciation of the long con- 
tinued and faithful services of Dr. Bigelow as President and Trustee. 
After consultation, it was decided that the most desirable method by 
which the Board could execute the wishes of the Proprietors, was to 
cause a marble bust of their distinguished colleague to be placed in the 
Chapel at Mount Auburn/ This plan was assented to by Dr. Bige- 
low, and the celebrated sculptor, Mr. Henry Dexter, was intrusted 
with the execution of the work. His labors have been successfully 
completed, and the bust placed upon a bracket prepared for its recep- 
tion in the Chapel." 

Dr. Bigelow was in the eighty-fourth year of his age, when 
his still vigorous and inventive mind devised the purpose of 
which that beautiful and grand monumental gift is the result. 
While our civil war was in progress, he kept a steadfast 
heart of hope and conviction in the profound significance of 
its stern trial and in the overruling benedictive results of the 
only conclusion to which it could come. He knew that 
slavery was avenging on us its sum of wrongs, and that only 
the energy of a mastering force, intelligently and heroically 
devoted, could crush the evil, and save the nation. As the 
symbolism of the Sphinx has not come to us with any authori- 
tative interpretation, he chose to assign to it a suggestive 
meaning, which would express the method and result of our 
national deliverance. After he had resolved upon his pur- 



438 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

pose, and set his artist at work, he admitted but few to the 
secret of what he had in preparation. The writer of this 
memoir was privileged to share in it, and was taken by Dr. 
Bigelow to view the massive model of the Sphinx in a shed 
upon the southern flats of Boston, while it was under the 
hands of Martin Milmore. When the model was satisfactorily 
finished, it was removed by night to the railroad station, and 
transported to the fine granite quarry in Hallowell, Me., in 
order that the vast bulk in stone might be reduced as much as 
possible, for its return to Charles River by sea, and its carriage 
to its foundations. Dr. Bigelow bore the whole expense at- 
tending its execution and setting up on the ground. Those of 
his friends to whom he gave copies will always cherish a dainty 
little volume, anonymous though it be, in which, with photo- 
graphs of a front and a side view of the Sphinx, is found a 
letterpress description and remarks. Before the monument 
had been planted on its site, Dr. Bigelow had been wholly 
deprived of the power of vision. But he wished as he said 
" to see it by feeling." Those who honored him and revered 
him will always associate the eloquent stone with the scene 
of his visit to it, when, with others' help, he was raised and 
aided slowly, inch by inch, to pass his hands over all its mem- 
bers and features. We copy from this book the " Remarks." 

" REMARKS. 

" It has at various times been proposed to erect at Mount Auburn 
Cemetery some monumental structure commemorative of the great 
events which have taken place in our country during the last ten 
years. It is also desired to express, though imperfectly, the gratitude 
felt to those of our countrymen who have given their lives to achieve 
the greatest moral and social results of modern times. A beautiful 
monument has been already placed in this Cemetery by the Company 
of Independent Cadets, in memory of their comrades fallen in the 
late war ; but no general or comprehensive structure has been made 
to apply, either to the magnitude of these events, or to the greatness 
of their consequences. 

" The wide range of architectural ideas and combinations exhibited 
in pillars, pyramids, obelisks, altars, sarcophagi, and mausoleums, have 
been produced aud reproduced in inexhaustible variety. But the 
more significant creations of expressive sculpture have hitherto been 
less frequently attempted here, because they are more difficult of satis- 
factory execution. Nevertheless, in various instances, groups of mon- 
umental sculpture have been produced among us ; and, in most coun- 
tries of the old world, groups and single objects of heroic size express 
the conceptions of those who have designed to perpetuate the great 
achievements either of peace or of war. On the field of Waterloo, 



1880.] MEMOIB OF DE. JACOB BIGELOW. 439 

the Belgic nation has erected a colossal statue of a lion on the summit 
of a hill or mound raised artificially for the purpose ; and travellers 
in Switzerland visit with admiration the lion of Lucerne, carved from 
the natural rock of the place, in memory of the Swiss Guards who 
were massacred at Paris in 1792. 

" As a partial and local innovation in the same department of art, it 
is now proposed to restore for modern application the image of the 
ancient Sphinx, a form capable of completing, in connection with its 
pedestal and accessories, the required associations of repose, strength, 
beauty, and duration. 

" The Sphinx most known in antiquity was an ideal personification 
of intellect and physical force, expressed by a human head on the 
body of a lion. It was a favorite emblem in Egypt, and was variously 
copied by Greeks, Romans, and other nations of later times. 

" The most stupendous work of sculpture which the world has seen 
is the great Egyptian Sphinx, near the Pyramids at Gizeh, carved 
out of a single rock at some period anterior to authentic history, and 
still standing in its full dimensions, mutilated by time and violence, 
and half buried in the shifting sands of the climate, yet still exhibit- 
ing its enormous length of nearly one hundred and fifty feet, and 
raising its head sixty feet above its foundation. 

" The numerous Sphinxes of which remnants now exist in various 
parts of Egypt, and particularly in Thebes, differ greatly from each 
other in their constituent features and character. They are supposed 
by some of the best authorities to have been emblems and commemo- 
rations of royalty, and as such are represented as of the male sex. 
But the Sphinxes of Greece were more frequently female, and in this 
character their tradition has reached us through their early poets. 

" The fable of the original Sphinx, of her savage nature, and her 
self-destruction after the solving of her riddle by GEdipus, is a clas- 
sical myth dimly handed down by Greek tragedians, and deserving of 
notice only for the place which it holds in the fictions of the ancient 
drama. But the ideal image once created has descended through 
uncounted ages from barbarism to civilization, assuming in its pro- 
gress every variety of physiognomy and expression, from the almost 
Nubian and sometimes brute profile to the most perfect Caucasian 
face. The sculptures of Egypt, though African in their locality, ex- 
hibit many examples of the most perfect intellectual human head. 
In the magnificent work of Lepsius on the antiquities of Egypt may 
be seen some of the finest examples of the Indo-European face ; and 
nothing is more beautiful than r some of the restored Sphinxes in 
Cassas' ' Voyage Pittoresque en Egypte et Syrie.' 

" The imaginary forms which in all ages have carried out the con- 
ceptions of genius and fancy, have very frequently been impossible 
fictions, having no existing prototype in nature. The Elgin mar- 
bles — to which the whole world pays homage, and which, within 
this century, have been transported by British authorities from Athens 
to London — are most of them representations of Centaurs and 
Lapithae, each metope presenting the incongruous combination of a 
man and a horse. 



440 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

" The winged steed Pegasus, on which poets in all ages have sought 
recreation, was an aggregate of members suited to many purposes, 
but not to the avowed one of flying. Even angels, the accepted em- 
bodiments of beauty and loveliness, are human figures with birds' 
wings attached to their shoulders, serving the purpose of ornament, 
but not of possible use. 

" An image of obscure and immemorial antiquity is now reproduced 
to typify, in the present age of social transition, a result of greater 
magnitude in the history of the world than were all the revolutions 
and conquests of the primeval East. It essays to express the pres- 
ent attitude and character of a nation perhaps as far remote in time 
from the building of the Pyramids as was that event from the earliest 
constructions attempted by man. The same ideal form which, as it 
were, on the dividing ridge of time, has looked backward on unmeas- 
ured antiquity, now looks forward to illimitable progress. It stands 
as the landmark of a state of things which the world has not before 
seen, — a great, warlike, and successful nation, in the plenitude and 
full consciousness of its power, suddenly reversing its energies, and 
calling back its military veterans from bloodshed and victory to 
resume its still familiar arts of peace and good- will to man. What 
symbol can better express the attributes of a just, calm, and dignified 
self-reliance than one which combines power with attractiveness, the 
strength of the lion with the beauty and benignity of woman ? " 

It may be held as of general consent and approbation 
that the name which it bears was fitly bestowed on the new 
cemetery. When Dr. Bigelow occupied his own mind with 
the selection of a name, he consulted by word of mouth, or 
by writing, some of his associates, proposing to them the one 
which had already suggested itself to him. The following 
is found among his papers : — 

" Charlestown, 20th June, 1831. 
" Dear Sir, — I think Mount Auburn a good name. Necropolis, 
you know, was a name given to a similar establishment in Egypt, 
The Elysian Fields would be a pretty name, open however, perhaps, 
to the same objection as Sweet Auburn ; which, by the way, does not 
strike me as a powerful objection. Use diminishes surprisingly all 
such associations, as is seen in the case of several of the new towns in 
New York, such as Troy, Utica, &c. 

" Yours with great regard, 

" E. Everett." 

Mr. Everett was on the committee for the cemetery, and 
had written and spoken to further the project. 

The papers of Dr. Bigelow give proof of the deliberation 
which he exercised, while seeking suggestions from proper 
advisers, as to the choice of subjects for the statues which it 



1880.] MEMOIR OF DR. JACOB BIGELOW. 441 

was proposed and decided should be set up in the chapel. 
Funds, which very soon accrued from the sale of lots, were 
set apart for this purpose, but the selection of subjects was 
not easy, and was the more embarrassed when many men of 
many minds gave in their preferences. A few raised objec- 
tions to the proposition, preferring that all the money avail- 
able should be devoted to the general perfection of the 
cemetery, and to accumulation for the future. But statues 
and busts were from the first intended for the chapel. After 
the noble statue of Judge Story, executed by his son, had 
been decided upon, it seems to have been assumed that the 
other three should be of the most distinguished characters in 
our Revolutionary history. President Quincy, in a character- 
istic letter to Dr. Bigelow, avowing that he was guided in his 
selection by exacting in the candidates for the honor the 
three tests of morals, motives, and intellect, of the loftiest 
grade, proposed the names of Jay, Marshall, and Pickering. 
Another adviser preferred the elect commemoration of men 
of an earlier era here, and proposed the names of three Johns, 
Harvard, Cotton, and Eliot. The compromise of opinions 
reached the result which we see in the chapel now, in the 
statues of John Winthrop, James Otis, and John Adams. 
The bust of Dr. Bigelow stands there alone. 

As, in conformity with the earnest wish that he should do 
so, Dr. Bigelow had consented to continue on the Board of 
Trustees of Mount Auburn, he was in office when he died. 
On the day following his decease, his associates took the 
following action, which may fitly close this sketch of one of 
the many and chief of the services rendered to this commu- 
nity by Dr. Bigelow, in designing the resting-place, where 
his mortal remains now repose: — 

" Resolved, That in the death of our associate Trustee, Dr. Jacob Big- 
elow, we recognize the loss of one with whom originated the idea of 
our Cemetery as a place of repose for the departed, far removed from 
city noise and turmoil, amid trees and flowers and the beauties of 
nature ; as the founder, therefore, of the numerous garden-cemeteries 
which have sprung up all over our country in imitation of our 
example. 

u We remember him also as connected with our Board from its first 
inception ; as our President for twenty-six years, under whose fos- 
tering care, wise judgment, and love of nature, our Cemetery has 
been developed to its present beauty and attractiveness ; as one who, 
as Trustee, continued to aid us with his judgment, experience, and 
advice, as long as advancing years allowed him to take any active part 
in the affairs of life. 

66 



442 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

" Resolved, That we tender our respectful sympathy to his afflicted 
wife and family. 

" Resolved^ That the Secretary transmit a copy of these resolutions 
to Mrs. Bigelow and family. 

" Thus terminates a connection which has lasted for an unbroken 
period of nearly fifty years. In the year 1872, when Dr. Bigelow 
retired from active duty, resolutions were passed by the Trustees and 
Proprietors, recognizing his long and valuable services. His marble 
bust, placed by their order in the chapel, will preserve his memory in 
coming years. 

" For the Trustees, 

" Israel M. Spelman, President" 

In the popular opinion, Homoeopathy has the credit of incit- 
ing and furthering that radical change in the methods of 
medical practice which has had prevalence among us for the 
last generation. Quite otherwise is the truth on this matter. 
Dr. O. W. Holmes writes of the delivery and publication of 
Dr. Bigelow's address on " Self-limited Diseases " before the 
Massachusetts Medical Society, in 1835 : u This remarkable 
essay has probably had more influence on medical practice in 
America than any similar brief treatise, we might say than 
any work, ever published in this country. Its suggestions 
were scattered abroad at the exact fertilizing moment when 
public opinion was matured enough for their reception.'' The 
" strangling " of disease by heroic remedies, b}^ blood-letting 
and drugging, had had its day, and was to be abandoned. 
The most impressive professional attitude in which Dr. Bige- 
low presents himself before us is that in which, with all his 
science and experience, he comes with empty hands to his 
patient, and standing calmly and thoughtfully by the bedside, 
witnesses and tries to interpret the action of a power higher 
than his own art, — Nature. Within a stone's throw of the 
home which he occupied the longest, in his full practice, were 
two or three apothecaries' stores, and such were sprinkled 
thickly over the town, where children and servants were sent 
in processions with cabalistic prescriptions written by himself 
and his brethren. A few barrels of alcohol or New England 
rum, for decoctions and tinctures of drugs and herbs, some large 
glass vases of colored water in the windows, bottles on the 
shelves, of various sizes, drawers filled with little phials, mate- 
rials for blisters, plasters, and pills, were the stock in trade in 
these shops, from which the vendors made their fortunes. 
The only toothsome thing in them, on which the errand-boy 
could spend his penny, was "stick liquorice," and that was 



1880.] MEMOIR OF DR. JACOB BIGELOW". 443 

odorized by ill-company. The pills and pellets which came 
from those shops were often little less mischievous than the 
shots from revolvers. The successors to that branch of trade, 
finding their drastic, emetic, and purgative compounds less in 
fashion, always excepting the dealers in quack medicines, 
supplement their business now by the sale of toilet and fancy 
articles, cigars, mineral waters, and comfits. 

Dr. Bigelow was one of the very earliest and the most 
influential of our practitioners to abandon, to discountenance, 
and then to denounce the old methods of reliance upon and 
the use of drugs. As early as 1817, in the preface to his 
" Medical Botany," he indicated his wish to diminish, rather 
than to extend, the number of vegetable products put to 
medicinal uses. 

But his discountenancing of the heroic treatment by drugs 
was but a small and incidental part of the radical change in 
the dealing with disease which is associated with the name 
and the weight of influence of Dr. Bigelow. His printed 
productions, lectures, addresses, and essays, which record his 
progressive views on paramount themes of professional in- 
terest, cover a period of more than fifty years. They are to 
be found in two volumes, bearing the following dates and 
titles: "Nature in Disease, illustrated in Various Discourses 
and Essays ; to which are added Miscellaneous Writings 
chiefly on Medical Subjects, 1854," and " Modern Inquiries; 
"Classical, Professional, and Miscellaneous, 1867." The earlier 
volume contains seventeen papers, nine of which reappear in 
the latter, which has twenty-one articles : so that eight of 
them are left in the former, not reprinted, while there are 
twelve fresh pieces in the latter. Such of these essays as are 
not concerned with medical subjects will be referred to by 
and hy- It is to be observed, however, that while his prize 
essay dates from 1812, the most important and striking paper, 
that on " Self-Limited Diseases," or " Nature in Disease," 
was delivered as a lecture in 1835, and was published here 
nine years before Sir John Forbes, working in the same direc- 
tion of experience and thought, had published, in 1846, in the 
"British and Foreign Medical Review," an article entitled 
" Young Physic," followed afterwards by his volume, " Nature 
and Art in the Cure of Disease." Besides this remarkable, 
and at the time of its delivery, startling production of Dr. 
Bigelow, the other published articles on professional themes 
by him bear the following titles : " On the Treatment of 
Disease " ; " On the Medical Profession and Quackery " ; 
" Brief Expositions of Rational Medicine " ; " The Paradise 



444 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

of Doctors : a Fable " ; " Practical Views on Medical Edu- 
cation," and " Report on Homoeopathy." 

These papers have a singular quality of interest for all in- 
telligent, unprofessional readers. They are lucid and incisive 
in style, free from technics and jargon, crossing all the bounds 
of the mystical and the oracular, into the unfenced territory 
Df common sense. They are vitalized by sagacity, geniality, 
and often by quaint and suggestive humor. Bold and deci- 
sive, if not also positive in tone, when occasion calls for it, 
they are argumentative and conciliatory, while dealing ten- 
derly with prejudices. Running through all the papers is 
matter and a tone which an inconsiderate reader might inter- 
pret as depreciatory of the writer's profession, and as indi- 
cating a radical scepticism as to its basis, authority, functions, 
and value. But it is the scepticism only of an enfranchised 
mind, released from all class narrowness, all superstitions, 
prejudices, and fondly weak traditions, that it might enjoy 
enlargement of view and comprehensiveness of charity. It is 
the scepticism which now distinguishes all the higher class of 
minds in every range of thought and interest. 

Dr. Bigelow had to face the humbling fact that within the 
term of his professional career there had been radical changes 
in the methods of treatment of diseases, and that the methods 
which had the authority and prestige of ages, and their living 
voice in the text-books, had been abandoned for their direct 
opposites. Of course this involved the double confession that 
the profession had had imposed upon it a grievous burden of 
error, and that it might even now be still experimenting in 
the dark. In the mean while, all forms of quackery found 
their license in three opportunities, — the undue expectation 
of what medical treatment might and should effect, dissatis- 
faction with the practice of physicians, and the credulity of 
masses of the people. And even some of the most intelligent 
of the people did not draw the line as sharply as did the 
regulars, between them and the quacks ; at any rate, the line 
was a blurred one. There was but one wise way of meeting 
the distrust, the ridicule, and the reproach thus cast upon a 
learned and close-banded brotherhood. It was by a most 
candid admission, indeed a positive avowal, that medicine is 
an inexact science, — advancing by tentative processes, gather- 
ing wisdom from its own mistakes and errors, sacrificing, or, 
at least, risking one generation of patients for the benefit of 
its successors, and therefore capable of only a progress con- 
ditioned upon the most varied, discreet, and slowly acquired 
practical experience. All these admissions Dr. Bigelow makes 



1880 ] MEMOIR OF DR. JACOB BIGELOW. 445 

frankly and with reiteration. He affirms that the knowledge 
of disease advances far more rapidly than do effective means 
of dealing with it ; that some diseases are limited from their 
own nature and workings, having a course and an event 
which cannot be arrested or averted by art or science. He 
stands baffled by the obscurity and disguises of disease, doubt- 
ing whether his intervention in some cases will be helpful or 
mischievous. The varying methods and practice of different 
professionals introduce mistrust and ill-feeling. Tenacity of 
hold upon discredited theories invalidates confidence. u No 
reasonable man," he says, " can be convinced that any gen- 
eral system of practice can be relied on for the cure of all 
cases." His full conclusion is, that disease is not so controlla- 
ble by medical treatment as is generally supposed. Moreover, 
he takes into account the stern fact, so simply stated, that 
" the progress of all organized beings is towards decay." 

The question still remained open, whether men might not 
more and more effectually protect themselves from harm, by 
umbrellas, lightning-rods, anaesthetics, or drugs, until disease 
and risk should be fully cured or averted. Dr. Bigelow's 
position was, that many diseases were then " self-limited." 
But they may in time be prevented, as small-pox, by inocula- 
tion, or limited by drugs, as is intermittent fever by quinine. 
His essay was directed against the then universally exaggerated 
faith in drugs. 

It is easy to infer that this candid sage was wholly free of 
professional conceit or boasting. And from one of such a 
fair and hopeful spirit as was his, we can also infer the replies 
made by him to the fretting questions, " Is there, then, no use 
for a physician ? Shall he in any case stand by and do 
nothing, prescribe nothing ? " and like queries. The prevent- 
ing of the doing of some things, he says emphatically, is 
often the highest form of service. There is also abundant 
use for a physician, in the discriminating study of a case, 
in careful interpretation of nature, in co-operation with it, 
in soothing and palliating appliances, and in averting inci- 
dental aggravations of disease. Besides which, science has 
really accomplished something. 

The moderation and candor with which Dr. Bigelow dealt 
with his profession, as practised in his own school, appear in 
his references to irregular methods and pretensions. He was 
called upon in 1854 to report to the Counsellors of the Medi- 
cal Society on Homoeopathy, — a theme provocative in the 
profession of strong feeling and language. He deals mildly 
with it. He refers it to that side of medical practice which, 



446 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. ' [Mar. 

without interfering with the processes of nature, waits, 
expectant, on its unassisted course. This, he says, is the real 
reliance of Homoeopathy, though not the avowed one ; and 
its pretence in this respect marks it in his mind as charla- 
tanry, as a visionary system ; playing upon human credulity 
by beguiling its patients as with active treatment through the 
administration of inappreciable quantities of medical sub- 
stances, such as we daily receive in solution in dust and vapor, 
without appreciable consequences. As for the rest, he is 
content to regard Homoeopathy as one of many theoretical 
and conjectural methods, which will, in its turn, be super- 
seded. So, also, in his address to the medical students in 
1844, " On the Medical Profession and Quackery," the stress 
of his advice to young physicians is that they be cautious in 
remarking upon or criticising rivals or intermeddlers in the 
profession. He says : " I doubt if physicians do not some- 
times injure themselves and their cause by showing too great 
a sensitiveness in regard to the temporary inroads of irregular 
practitioners." There is much in the same strain, indicating 
that the writer had not attained such a degree of satisfaction 
as to the certified position of his own profession and the 
demand which it might make with assurance of indorsement 
on the confidence of the community, that it would be wise to 
invite against it antagonism in any form. Besides, there was 
another factor in the success of quackery, — the infatuated 
credulity of dupes. " A certain portion of mankind," he says, 
u are so constituted that they require to be ridden by others ; 
and if you should succeed in unhorsing a particular impostor, 
it is only to prepare the saddle for a fresh and more unflinch- 
ing equestrian." 

The bold and frank spirit, united with a discreet and 
moderate tone, and with a clear argumentative and demon- 
strative method, by which Dr. Bigelow, in these productions, 
disabled the forces of privileged error, and, by his wise cham- 
pionship of innovations, essentially changed the principles 
and course of medical practice among us, cannot now be fully 
appreciated in their present results. Few of those now living, 
in our community at least, have had experience of the old 
methods. So rapidly was a radical change effected, that we 
have only traditions of the old energetic exercisings of the 
heroic treatment. Dr. Bigelow took careful note of the 
reception and criticism which his advanced views met with 
from his brethren and their prospective patients in the com- 
munity. He was ready at any time to supplement them, or, 
if need should be, — which, to any noticeable extent, there 



1880.] MEMOIR OF DR. JACOB BIGELOW. 447 

was not, — to defend them. He carried his cause. He care- 
fully preserved, loosely bundled, a miscellaneous collection of 
extracts and cuttings from magazines and newspapers recog- 
nizing his new views and his innovating doctrines. He might 
well be satisfied with the hearty and grateful tributes paid to 
him and his services from a very large number and variety of 
critics, commentators, and professional brethren. 

Others of his medical essays which offer fresh materials on 
their themes are the following : " On Gout and its Treat- 
ment " ; " Remarks and Experiments on Pneumothorax," com- 
municated to the " American Journal of Medical Sciences," 
1839 : " A Plea for the Improvement of the Pharmacopoeia 
of the United States," (a slight token of antagonism and 
rivalry with co-laborers in this object is found among his 
papers in a note from Edward Everett, then editor of the 
" North American Review " : " Dear Dr., — I hear they bang 
your Pharmacopoeia in Pennsylvania. Should you not like to 
review it defensorily in the fc North American Review ' ? " ) — 
" On the Poisonous Effects of the Partridge, or Ruffled 
Grouse " ; " On Coffee and Tea, and their Medicinal Effects " ; 
and " On the History and Use of Tobacco." He took a great 
interest in the objects of the National Quarantine and Sani- 
tary Convention, attending its sessions at Richmond in 1852, 
and in Philadelphia in 1857, and presiding over it in Boston 
in 1859. He was elected a member of the Medico-Chirurgi- 
cal Society of Edinburgh in 1870. Not the least marked 
among the tokens of the respect and confidence of his profes- 
sional brethren for this innovator and reformer among them, 
as shown especially at successive social meetings of the Medi- 
cal Society, was the fact that, so long as he moved in the 
open world, he was looked to to pay the tribute of respect to 
the worthiest of them as they passed away. His memorial 
offerings to Dr. A. A. Gould, Dr. James Jackson, Dr. John 
Ware, Dr. George C. Shattuck, and others, are warm and dis- 
criminating. In the last named he recognizes a tenacious 
practitioner by the heroic treatment. In the tribute which he 
paid to the nearest and most endeared of all his professional 
friends, — Dr. James Jackson, — there is so much that has a 
full application to his own character and experience that it 
may be introduced here, in anticipation of what would justly 
be said of himself at the close of his life : — 

" Our acquiescence in the just order of Providence alone tempers 
the solemnity and sorrow with which we regard the departure from 
life, even at its latest and maturest period, of one whom we have loved 



448 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

and honored. It is the fate of most men to fall prematurely by the 
wayside of an unfinished career. A few, having reached the goal of 
ordinary old age, sink gradually into the shade of infirmity and seclu- 
sion. The end of the most protracted life is at best labor and sorrow. 
Yet we may esteem as fortunate the lot of one whose physical and 
intellectual strength have been so nearly commensurate with his great 
length of days ; who has associated his own history with the hopes and 
fears, the affections, the joys and sorrows of more than one generation ; 
whose intellect during more than fourscore years was never crossed by 
a cloud ; whose energies during that long period never shrunk from the 
performance of all active duty ; whose presence has been invoked as a 
blessing by the afflicted, and whose words of wisdom and experience 
have been oracles to his professional brethren. 

" When some of us first knew Dr. Jackson, — now gratefully 
remembered as our earliest and longest professional friend, — he had 
been at least ten years engaged in active practice, and was then almost 
at the zenith of his professional reputation. He had rapidly risen to 
this point by the possession of qualities not common at that day, when 
medicine was less a liberal science than it now is ; when the commu- 
nity were, perhaps, more exacting, while they were less discriminating, 
and when the judgment of a man's own peers could not always be 
depended on for impartiality, if, indeed, for competency. The quali- 
ties that distinguished him then, as since, were habits of unsparing 
application, a power of rapid acquirement, and of ready adaptation of 
knowledge to use. To these were superadded the high moral attri- 
butes of an uncompromising Jove of truth, of justice to the claims of 
others, of a deep sense of the responsibilities of his profession, and a 
devotion amounting almost to parental love towards those who had 
become the objects of his professional care. Excelling his contem- 
poraries in the extent of his professional erudition ; vigilant in observ- 
ing the yearly progress of his science, as it tended to good or to evil ; 
studious and retentive of the peculiar features of each succeeding case 
that passed under his observation ; cheerful, hopeful, courageous, and 
buoyant in the presence of the sick, he received during his extended 
life, more than any man among us, the deference of his compeers, and 
the ardent, grateful, and almost filial reliance of those who in sickness 
leaned on him for succor, or in danger looked to him for rescue. 

" The character of Dr. Jackson was naturally impulsive and sanguine. 
Coming in his early life from the schools of European erudition, he 
brought with him a deep respect for the labor and learning, the 
authority and conventional prestige of the then accepted luminaries 
of medical science. His methods of practice during the first half of 
his professional life were in a high degree energetic and decisive. He 
believed, in common with many others at that day, that most diseases 
were susceptible of control, and even of removal, by the active forms 
of medical interference then generally in use. These opinions and 
habits were greatly modified, if not subdued, in the subsequent por- 
tions — perhaps the last half — of his long and observing life ; so that, 
although he never lost his professional fondness for the forms and 



1880.] MEMOIR OF DR. JACOB BTGELOW. 449 

implements of his art, and sometimes carried their use to a scrupulous 
degree of exactness, yet he became more tolerant of nature, more 
humble in his expectations from art, and more distrustful of reckless 
interference whenever certain harm was to be balanced against doubtful 
good. 

u Of his moral and affection al attributes it is difficult fitly to speak. 
Alike in the prosperous and adverse conditions of life, we have never 
seen his kindly heart give way to an unjust or ungenerous impulse. 
Under afflictions which might have prostrated a mind less disciplined 
by Christian energy and faith, we have known him cheerful, self- 
controlling, and unrepining. When, in a momentous period of his 
.life, his parental hope was abruptly blighted, and an idol which he 
had fondly cherished until solicitude was lost in gratification, suddenly 
fell from his grasp, he did not sink nor for a moment forget that 
duty remained to be done. With an endurance exemplary as it was 
exalted, he stepped to the post made vacant by the death of his son, 
and for long succeeding years — reversing the apparent order of 
nature — carried out in his own person the career which had seemed 
destined to another of his race. He became the biographer, and, as it 
were, the continuer of his son. Who could so fitly eulogize the virtues 
which he himself had helped to form ? Who could so well sustain the 
character which was but a reproduction of his own ? 

" It is now a third of a century since this great affliction was thus 
received and thus sustained. He sought for and found consolation in 
his communings with the memory of the dead, and the conscientious 
pursuit of his duty to the living. He resumed his professional activity, 
his interest in life, his relations with society, and his influence in the 
harmonious organizations of his own profession. For many years, 
and even up to a late period, he carried with him the respect, the 
attachment, and the tender regard of the many friends who had culti- 
vated and loved him. Who does not even now remember his quiet 
step, his benignant smile, and his friendly greeting, long familiar in our 
streets, as they were welcome in our dwellings ? 

"At length the light of hisigifted intellect slowly and fitfully faded 
out in the advancing shadows of physical decay. And now the light 
of his earthly presence is for ever withdrawn, leaving his memory alone 
to console and direct us. It is well that he has lived, to complete in 
his character a model of social and professional excellence. It is well 
that he has died, leaving in the history of his life the record of a task 
well finished, and a memory on which there is no stain." 

The last of the great public services performed by Dr. 
Bigelow, having in view the largest and most important bene- 
fit for a vast community, was in the bold position assumed 
by him in the cause of Education, — claiming that the privi- 
leges and honors which it carried with it should no longer 
be restricted to the study of the ancient languages and 
literature, but should comprehend pupils in modern wisdom, 

57 



450 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

spoken tongues, and profitable science, natural and applied. 
In the stand which he took in this high and generous cause, 
and in the two admirable and energetic essays in which he 
advanced and defended his convictions, he came nearer to 
stiffened conflict and provoked opposition than in any other 
effort of his life. It is evident, also, that he threw into his 
plea and his defence of it the whole vigor and intensity of 
his mind, while he lavished upon it the wealth of his learn- 
ing and thought. The foes, likewise, which he had to meet 
were able and worthy. The controversy was on a high 
plane. When he instigated the great reform in the method, 
of disposing of the dead, he had against him only those who 
clung to old city tombs and graves. When he subverted the 
repute of drugs, the only doubt was whether he ought not 
to have given the apothecaries time to work off their stock. 
But when he pleaded that, in these days of expanding and 
precious practical wisdom, knowledge, and science, fresh 
throngs of pupils, ambitious of useful training, and to whom 
the community looked for all help and guidance, might be 
regarded as educated, as belonging to the privileged and 
honored fellowship of scholars, without passing through the 
old classical curriculum, he touched a very tender nerve in 
the academic organism. If the ancient languages were dead, 
they were proved to have living representatives. The Rum- 
ford Professor of 1816 presented himself half of a century 
afterward as all the more sage and earnest an exponent 
of the broadening compass and crowded fields of useful 
knowledge. He had taken a profound interest in the new 
institution incorporated by the State in 1861, as the " Massa- 
chusetts Institute of Technology." As it was about to take 
possession of its noble hall in this city, Dr. Bigelow was 
invited to deliver an address before it, on Nov. 16, 1865. 
His chosen subject was " The Limits of Education." His 
object was to break, or rather to extend those limits, in a 
way to make education " conduce most to the progress, the 
efficiency, the virtue, and the welfare of man." The pre- 
paratory training of a pupil, physical and intellectual, must, 
he said, be as thorough as possible. " But, after this is com- 
pleted, a special or departmental course of studies should be 
selected, such as appears most likely to conduct him to his 
appropriate sphere of usefulness. Collateral studies cf dif- 
ferent kinds may always be allowed ; but they should be 
subordinate and subsidiary, and need not interfere with the 
great objects of his especial education." u A common col- 
lege education now culminates in the student becoming what 



1880.] MEMOIR OF DR. JACOB BIGELOW. 451 

is called a master of arts. But this, in a majority of in- 
stances, means simply a master of nothing." He says a 
college education is a just object of ambition, but this is apt 
to carry with it " a cumbrous burden of dead languages, 
kept alive through the dark ages, and now stereotyped in 
England by the persistent conservatism of a privileged 
order." The value and interest of classical studies are fully 
allowed for by him. He could speak as one who knew and 
enjoyed them. " It is the duty," he says, " of educational 
institutions to adapt themselves to the wants of the place 
and time in which they exist." Dr. Bigelow assumed no 
extreme or one-sided view in this matter. His position was 
taken on grounds of absolute practical necessity and utility. 
It might be regarded, as those who apprehended it should 
choose, either as a rebuke of an established and conservative 
attachment to what was impracticable and useless, or as an 
encouragement of a change demanded by the special activity 
of our time, which the ancient world had never experienced. 
Life is no less short now than it was for the Roman poet ; 
but art is vastly longer. As Dr. Bigelow presided for many 
years over the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he 
had from fifty to a hundred men around him, accomplished, 
erudite, skilled in and conversant with all practical affairs, 
experts and professors, representing, in their several acquire- 
ments and aptitudes, all the varied fields of special culture 
and utilitarian pursuits. It would be safe to say of those 
men that they had had a college education, or what he would 
have regarded as a full equivalent. How much of its classi- 
cal element stood by a majority of them, it might have been 
difficult to estimate. The thought might or might not have 
come to the mind of Dr. Bigelow, that it was in the power 
and resource of each of those men to have risen and commu- 
nicated to all the others of his associates, something of knowl- 
edge or interest which they would welcome as new and of 
value to them. So broad and teeming is the field, so rich the 
products, so varied the culture, so luxuriant the grow T th, so 
dispersed and severely tasked are the laborers with their 
special toils and tools, over it, that it is impossible that any 
one can even survey the whole of it. The demands of our 
own country, in its cities and mining regions, and factories 
and work-shops for skilled labor, for chemists, engineers, 
architects, constructors, overseers, as well as workers with 
the hand alone, are so numerous and exacting, that education 
must extend itself to meet them, and those who are edu- 
cated, broadly and thoroughly to these ends, must not be 



452 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

regarded as excluded from consideration and privilege be- 
cause they lack a classical training, especially as now pur- 
sued into philology. There are those now who have no 
taste or aptitude for classical studies. They must be content 
to lack it as others submit to their lack of the musical sense. 
It would not repay them to seek it invita Minerva. They 
may acquire something at least just as good as a substitute. 
The world needs something else, and what it needs ancient 
languages and wisdom cannot supply. 

As it proved, Dr. Bigelow, by this moderate, and it might 
seem axiomatic, exposition of his own clearly apprehended 
views, aroused a sharp antagonism. The issue, though con- 
tested within a narrow circle, was earnestly tried, and while 
the pleading was dignified, as became the parties to it, it 
engaged the ardor of protest and remonstrance. The posi- 
tion he had assumed was avowedly that of utilitarianism, 
for it was in that direction that we find the aim and range 
and outcome of his whole laborious and effective life. The 
writer has read with an interest animated by the liveliness of 
their contents, a file of letters received by Dr. Bigelow from 
very many correspondents, and also the clippings from the 
journals preserved by him, relating to the reception met by 
what was so absurdly parodied as his " assault upon classical 
education." With but very few exceptions, his correspond- 
ents and his critics are warmly responsive and commendatory 
of his production. But among the exceptions to this strain 
are the notes of two or three, votaries of classical lore and 
culture, who, stout and fervent in their protest, insist that 
their privileged training proves to them that it is the primary 
and indispensable basis and condition of any thing that can 
be called education. One of his correspondents yields him- 
self to the ardor of his zeal and love for the old learning, so 
far as to tell Dr. Bigelow that the world and its inhabitants 
are none the wiser, happier, or better for all the illumination, 
and so-called progress that have followed upon the tk dark 
ages" of mediaeval Europe; that all modern inventions and 
appliances and facilities, steam, telegraphs, gas, apartment 
cars, lucifer matches, technological schools, and scientific 
processes and ingenuities, have simply fretted and harmed 
us, and that the ancient wisdom and classic literature are the 
most precious inheritance of our race to be entered upon by 
all our youth who seek an education. Dr. Bigelow was also 
publicly challenged on the arena of the American Academy. 
He took a year to prepare for the welcome opportunity of 
what he might call his own defence through a renewed 



1880.] MEMOIR OF DR. JACOB BIGELOW. 453 

championship of his plea. Those who were privileged to be 
present on the occasion will keep in memory the scene when, 
at a social meeting of the Academy at his own house, on the 
evening of November 20, 1866 (it is misdated as in Decem- 
ber, in the " Modern Inquiries"), he read his essay " On 
Classical and Utilitarian Studies." The walls and tables of 
his parlors presented their beautiful array of classical and 
artistic adornments, — the arch of Constantine, models of 
ancient columns, temples, and amphitheatres, bas-reliefs and 
bronzes, Apollo and the Muses, the busts of the Cassars, the 
model of York Minster made by his own hands, and all the 
manifold gatherings of his trained and exact taste, — sufficient 
in themselves, had his voice been silent, to show that he was 
no contemner of classicism or aestheticism. He was verging 
upon his eightieth year. The film had begun to impair his 
vision. He stood beneath his central chandelier, his manu- 
script on a rest, a magnifier in his hand, and read what his 
hearers listened to with a rare delight. It seems to be the 
longest, the most elaborate, and the most learned of his 
written productions. The sparkle and brilliancy of its style, 
the exuberance of its playful humor, the keenness of its 
occasional satire, the compass and wealth of its scholarship, 
the cogency of its accumulating argument and demonstrative 
affirmations, may claim for that essay a very high distinction 
among the masses of our recent like productions. He states 
the matter in controversy to be, whether education is to be 
regarded as a privileged boon restricted to the few, or is to 
be offered freely to the many. If it is to be offered to the 
many, then there must be an extension of the terms and 
conditions which have entered into the definition of educa- 
tion, and assigned the means and the honors of it only to 
those who had attained such learning as the mass of pupils 
cannot now acquire, and could not profitably use where 
there is such need of quite other kinds of knowledge and 
skill. Dr. Bigelow lifts his theme out of its treatment, as 
concerned with mere variances of opinion and taste, and 
deals with it in its relations to matters of fact and demands 
of exigent necessity. " The wisdom of the ancients," he 
affirms, " was selfish in its privileges, inwrought with error, 
superstition, and vice, confined to a very few, inoperative 
and useless for the masses ; it did not and could not advance 
any vast public and improving interests, nor conserve social 
prosperity and order." He positively denies the generally 
asserted and popularly accepted notion, that the so-called 
Renaissance in Europe, about four centuries ago, is to be 



454 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

referred to the revival of classical learning, but claims that 
it is wholly attributable to an outgrowing and rejection of 
old conceits and superstitions, and to discoveries made in the 
field of the natural sciences, and inventions in the useful 
arts. 

Referring with complacency to the trite and obviously 
truthful remark that we use our own language more aptly 
when we know the classical derivation of words, he indulged 
in this sportive comment : — 

" The derivation of words is often curious and interesting, but not 
always important. A man who suffers a calamity gets neither con- 
solation nor useful knowledge from the fact that the word 4 calamity ' 
means a heap of corn ; and a lady in a ball-room, who is apprised that 
she is the cynosure of all eyes, would not necessarily be raised in her 
own esteem had she been trained to understand that the word ' cyno- 
sure ' means a dog's tail." 

A more serious passage closes his former address : — 

" Our country, with its vast territory, its inviting regions, its vari- 
ous population, its untrammelled freedom, looks forward now to a future 
which hitherto it has hardly dared to anticipate. Let us hopefully 
await the period when the world shall do homage to our national 
refinement, as it now does to our national strength ; when the column 
shall have received its Corinthian capital, and when the proportions 
of the native oak shall be decorated, but not concealed, by the culti- 
vated luxuriance of vines and flowers." 

Dr. Bigelow, it must be admitted, had singular advantages 
and accomplishments in the championship of the views which 
he so intelligently advocated, and so ably defended. He had 
by natural endowment and genius the apt and facile powers 
of the mind, and the artistic and mechanical tastes and skill 
of paramount use in the directions of industry and service for 
which he was claiming the privileges of education. And 
these native powers seem to have been exercised wholly 
through his self-training. One might suppose that he must 
have re-read his Homer and Virgil and his classical dictionary, 
to furnish him afresh for all that discursive and playful revel 
of his wit and wisdom, about the misbehaving gods and 
goddesses, and the unheroic meannesses of the heroes of 
antiquity.- But there was little variance of sentiment or 
conviction that he held his own ground and exposed the 
entrenched positions of his antagonists. The controversy as 
thus contested has not been publicly reopened. The modifi- 



1880.] MEMOIR OF DR. JACOB BIGELOW. 455 

cations by a wide range of electives in our college curriculum, 
yield much that Dr. Bigelow claimed on his side. 

The following is a copy of a letter addressed to Dr. Bigelow 
by the distinguished historian, William Edward Hartpole 
Lecky : — 

" Rome, Feb. 12, 1866. 
" Sir, — I beg to acknowledge with many thanks the receipt of your 
lecture on ' The Limits of Education/ which I have read with great 
interest. With a great part of it I cordially agree. I believe that 
classical literature is peculiarly valuable as promoting delicacy of 
thought, refinement of expression, and purity of taste, and also on 
account of a certain elevation of thought and sentiment, by which it is 
pre-eminently characterized, and which is especially useful as a correc- 
tion to the material tendencies of the present day. As far as the 
aesthetic side of things goes, I believe it has never been equalled. But 
at the same time, though valuing it a good deal more than you do, I 
quite agree with yo.u that in England we devote a very disproportion- 
ate time to it, making that which ought to be the ornament and culmi- 
nation of education, its basis and its main material. Our Latin and 
Greek verses are, I think, almost or altogether a waste of time. Eng- 
lish schools and universities are, in my opinion, more successful in 
educating than in teaching. They fail to give even approximately the 
amount of useful knowledge that might be expected. But they seldom 
fail to form a type of character which, with all its failings, is, I think, 
not without beauty and greatness. On our side of the Atlantic you 
know we are more or less croakers, and I believe I am a croaker 
among croakers. So you must forgive me if I cannot quite echo your 
glorification of the gospel of machinery. My admiration of express 
trains is much less enthusiastic than yours. I own to an old world 
sympathy with the siege of Troy, and am, I confess, rather doubtful 
about Mr. BrownelFs 'Fight of Mobile* (about which, however, I 
unfortunately speak in complete ignorance), superseding the story of 
that ' blind old man ' which delighted so many generations when the 
greatness of both England and America were unborn, and which may 
still retain its freshness when that greatness may have passed away. 
" Believe me, dear sir, yours truly, 

"W. E. H. Lecky." 

Sir Charles Lyell heartily thanks Dr. Bigelow for the 
" Modern Inquiries," and expresses great interest in the 
Technological Institute ; adding, u Our universities and all ' 
the principal schools are, as you know, in the hands of the 
clergy, and hence we shall have more difficulty than you will 
have in introducing the elements of science and natural his- 
tory.'' " The clergy, Romanist, Anglican, and Dissenting, 
have hitherto proved too strong for us reformers, and Ameri- 
can and Continental rivalry must be brought to bear before 



456 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

we shall succeed. Your book will be very useful at this 
moment in this country." 

The Institute of Technology, by its comprehensive range of 
practical and utilitarian studies, by the number of pupils who 
have availed themselves so diligently of the education and 
training there offered to them, and the varied services in which 
its graduates are engaged, has fully assured the cogency of the 
plea advanced for it by Dr. Bigelow. In its curriculum, instruc- 
tion is provided in the French, German, Spanish, and Italian 
languages, in all the branches of Mathematics, and in all the 
applied sciences, and arts of our complicated modern civilization . 
The two hundred and fifty young men who have, during the 
last twelve years, in steadily increasing numbers in each class, 
graduated from it, have found a demand and a profitable 
remuneration for their talents, knowledge, and skill, both at 
home and abroad. They may be found in our great manu- 
factories, mills, and workshops, superintending vast interests, 
and giving them the benefit of their thorough training as 
experts. They are teachers and professors in many of our edu- 
cational institutions. They are employed in Japan, China, and 
the Hawaiian Islands. They are scattered all over the regions 
between us and the Pacific, opening up the vast resources of 
the West, as engineers of all kinds, miners, metallurgists, 
draughtsmen, chemists, architects, bridge-builders, surveyors, 
electricians, assayers, geologists, astronomers, physicians, and 
lawyers ; nor are all of them, by any means, lacking in classic 
lore. 

Dr. Bigelow was elected a Fellow of the American Acad- 
emy of Arts and Sciences, May 26, 1812, in Section II., 
Botany, of Class II., Natural and Physiological Sciences. He 
was Vice-Treasurer from May 28, 1816, to May 26, 1829. 
Corresponding Secretary from May 26, 1829, to May 24, 1831. 
Member of the Rumford Committee, from Jan. 30, 1833, to 
May 26, 1846 ; Vice-President, from May 28, 1839, to May 26, 
1846, and President from May 26, 1846, to May 26, 1863, 
when he declined re-election. 

His communications to the Memoirs of the Academy were 
as follows : — 

Some Account of the Life and Writings of Benjamin, Count Rum- 
ford. Memoirs, vol. iv. p. 1. 

Facts serving to show the Comparative Forwardness of the Spring 
Season in different parts of the United States. Memoirs, vol. iv. 
p. 77. 

On the Death of Pliny the Elder. Memoirs, N. S. vol. vi. p. 223. 



1880.] MEMOIR OF DK. JACOB BIGELOW. 457 

He presided over the Academy with great dignity and cour- 
tesy of manner. The wide range of his own research, cul- 
ture, and acquisitions, admirably qualified him to be the 
medium at its meetings of introducing the readers and sub- 
jects of the various communications made to the Academy, 
during some interesting years of its history, when fields of 
inquiry on themes appropriate to it had been widely extended 
and were diligently explored, and when the arts and sciences, 
multiplied in number, enriched by inventions and discoveries, 
and made so inviting and exacting in their study as to dis- 
tribute themselves among special pupils, rendered the highest 
official position in the institution most honorable and con- 
spicuous. 

One of the most charming and instructive papers from Dr. 
Bigelow's pen is An Address before the Academy, Oct. 27, 
1852, at the opening of their course of public lectures, sug- 
gested by Mr. Agassiz for a committee, as a means of increas- 
ing the Academy's publication fund. At the date appointed 
for the introduction of the course a heavy gloom hung over 
the community from the death of Daniel Webster, three days 
previous. To this sadness Dr. Bigelow made a touching 
reference. He then proceeded to report to his audience the 
character and condition of the Academy, more than seventy 
years after its incorporation, midway in our Revolutionary 
War. That such an institution should have been suggested 
and initiated at a time when the thoughts and resources of our 
community were engrossed by the distractions of public 
affairs, was a significant token of its claims and uses. The 
speaker traced the origin and development of philosophical 
and learned societies, in various ages and countries. He well 
knew how crude and tentative were the first efforts and con- 
tributions recognized on the early records of the Academy, 
when scientific and accurate investigations were making their 
first ventures, when methods and processes were unskilled, 
when instruments were rude and deficient, and means of 
communication and help from congenial inquirers abroad 
were infrequent and long delayed. He pays a deserved 
tribute to the " constellation of worthies enrolled as the first 
members " of the Academy, who carried it through its day of 
small things, and prepared a more attractive way for their 
successors. From his broad range of reading and study, and 
with his rich fund of most delightful humor, he illustrates the 
early empirical and sometimes ludicrous, methods aud sub- 
jects which first engaged the complaisant fellowships of learned 
and curious inquirers in now famous academies, our own 

58 



458 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

among them. We began with a few papers on mathematics 
and astronomy, but the chief themes were homely and sim- 
ple, — corn culture and the grafting of trees, diseases of 
cattle, caves, earthquakes, volcanoes, water-spouts and light- 
ning, fossil frogs, and swallows hibernating in muddy ponds. 
Dighton rock was the great trophy of the time, though far 
more modestly dealt with then than it has been since. Dr. 
Bigelow plays deliciously with the stately and ambitious 
theory proposed by the much honored Governor Bovvdoin 
when President of the Academy, of "the existence in the 
universe of an all-surrounding orb," as necessary to preserve 
it from the ruin to which gravitation would bring it. Dr. 
Bigelow says, " History is silent in regard to the extent of the 
impression made upon the world by the promulgation of this 
comprehensive theory. The orb is supposed to have been 
standing several years after the announcement of its charac- 
ter and office ; and, when it fell, the Academy, nothing 
daunted, proceeded to prosecute its celestial investigations 
with a zeal and tenacity of purpose, prophetic of its future 
more elevated destiny." But parallel examples are adduced 
by Dr. Bigelow of the same gropings for truth in the early 
efforts of all other learned bodies, such as the transmutation 
of metals, perpetual motion, air-navigation, &c. The Royal 
Society gravely asked residents in foreign countries to certify 
to such matters as these : " Whether diamonds and other pre- 
cious stones grow again after three or four years in the same 
places where they have been digged out?" "Whether the 
Indians can so prepare that stupefying herb Datura, that they 
may make it lie several days, months, years, according as they 
will have it, in a man's body, and at the end kill him, without 
missing half an hour's time ? " " Whether there be a tree in 
Mexico that yields water, wine, vinegar, oil, milk, honey, wax, 
thread, and needles ? " To this last question their corre- 
spondent answers, "The cocos-trees yield all this, and more." 
But Dr. Bigelow, before he closed his address, did not fail to 
give emphatic statement of the high and difficult achieve- 
ments of the Academy in its broad province, by investigation, 
discovery, and application, by its more eminent Fellows, and 
to claim for it the respect, the gratitude, and the patronage of 
our country. On his resignation of the Presidency, the 
Academy, June 25, 1863, " Voted, That the members of the 
American Academy of Arts and Sciences bear in grateful 
remembrance the eminent services of their retiring President, 
who has so long discharged every duty with dignity and 
honor, who has presided over their councils and deliberations 



1880.] MEMOIR OF DR. JACOB BIGELOW. 459 

so courteously and justly, and who has adorned the office and 
the Academy with his varied attainments in literature and 
science." His membership of the Academy extended over a 
period of sixty-seven years. 

His contribution of the paper, " On the Death of Pliny the 
Elder," is an exercise of his classical learning in the interpre- 
tation of a few important words in the accounts of it, and of 
his skill in diagnosis, brought to bear in questioning the com- 
mon opinion that Pliny's death was caused by suffocation 
from sulphureous vapors at the eruption of Vesuvius, in the 
year a.d. 79. Apoplexy might have been, and, as Dr. Bige- 
low thinks, was the agency of his death. 

During our civil war Dr. Bigelow communicated many 
pithy articles to the " Boston Daily Advertiser," full of 
sagacity in their views, practical in advice, and hopeful in 
spirit. 

Many of Dr. Bigelow's associates will recall the impressive 
scene in which, as President of the Academy, at a meeting at 
the house of the venerable Josiah Quincy, Feb. 4, 1861, he 
addressed the honored host on the eve of his entering on his 
ninetieth year. Neither the address nor the reply represents 
extreme old age as especially to be longed for. 

Some of the friends of Dr. Bigelow may have been on the 
occasion a little mystified when they received from him 
copies of an anonymous volume bearing the following title : 
" Eolopoesis, American Rejected Addresses. Now first pub- 
lished from the Original Manuscripts. New York: J. C. 
Derby, 1855." It is dedicated u To the Directors of the 
New York Crystal Palace." A note at the end explains the 
strange word of the title as compounded of the two Greek 
words, aioXos, various, ttoI^gl^ 'poetry. The volume contains 
sixteen humorous poems, professing to be choice productions 
of as many different writers. Attached to them are the ini- 
tials of our best poets, — Bryant, Longfellow, Holmes, Emer- 
son, Lowell, Saxe, Willis, &c. That which bears the initials 
of Lowell is, " The Spirit Rappers to their Mediums." There 
is wit and wisdom in \X\\§ jeu d "esprit, in which such spirits as 
Job, Julius Caesar, Richard III., the Iron Mask, Torquemada, 
Robert Stephenson, John Gilpin, Warren Hastings, Talley- 
rand, Don Quixote, Benedict Arnold, Franklin, and Rip Van 
Winkle, are summoned to give an account of some secret of 
their lives. Perhaps Dr. Bigelow never in direct terms 
avowed the authorship of this amusing fabrication, and his 
friends, noting his preference of reticence, did" not press him 
hard upon the secret, nor ask him to explain how he came to 



460 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mah. 

be the distributor of a volume from a New York publisher. 
But if there was ever any mystery about it, his own papers 
solve it. The droll and spirited rhymed pieces had probably 
been gathering in his drawer for a considerable time as the 
effusions of his exuberant spirits, his jollity, and genial method 
of relief from the severe labors of his literary and professional 
life. His friend, Mr. George B. Emerson, in acknowledging 
the copy of the volume sent to him by Dr. Bigelow, writes, in 
July, 1861, " I beg you to present my respects to the authors 
of the ' American Rejected Addresses,' whenever they meet, 
and thank them for the honor they do me in presenting a 
copy of their valuable works. These authors are unquestion- 
ably right in thinking that they have surpassed their former 
selves in what they have now done. But I can easily under- 
stand why they should be unwilling to have these contribu- 
tions appear among their recognized works. They have risen 
to a standard which it would be quite impossible for them to 
keep. I shall look, however, with some curiosity to O. W. H.'s 
new edition for the 4 Address to a Tadpole.' " 

When Mr. Winthrop, authorized by a committee, sought to 
procure an ode or hymn, in connection with his address at the 
exercises for inaugurating the Franklin Statue, he wrote to 
Dr. Bigelow for the purpose, and besought him to engage the 
pen of one of the authors of " Eolopcesis." 

The sportive quality in the elementary exuberance of his 
make-up would doubtless have been allowed a fuller play had 
it not been for the gravity of his general tastes. It found, 
however, its license in the Latin song which he furnished, 
without his name, and which was sung with such a rollicking 
chorus under the broad tent by the alumni of Harvard, on 
its second centennial at Cambridge, Sept. 8, 1836. The 
direction, — 

" In * Doodle Yankee ' Cantandum," 

opens the strain, — 

44 4 Qui alicujus gradus lau- 
rea donati,' estis," 
&c, &c, &c. 

This song has since been assigned to at least two other 
alleged authors, but it was the production of Dr. Bigelow. 
A sprightly poem of his appeared in April, 1837, anony- 
mously in the " Boston Daily Advertiser," addressed to the 
Jingko Tree, on the occasion of its being transplanted from 
Gardiner Greene's garden to Boston Common, where it yet 



1880.] MEMOIR OF DR. JACOB BIGELOW. 461 

stands. A more elaborate production of his bears the Greek 
title of " XHNnJIA.— Chenodia.— Or the Classical Mother 
Goose." Not published, but privately distributed among his 
friends, as a keepsake, by which he would have them to 
remember him as mirthful in his spirit to the end, this little 
book, printed in 1871, with a preface signed with the initials 
"J. B." contains twenty-three of Mother Goose's ditties for 
childhood in the nursery, turned, with exquisite drollery and 
classic grace, into Greek and Latin, — a marvellous feat for 
old age. 

After the year 1835, Dr. Bigelow allowed himself almost 
annual excursions, near or far over the country, to all the 
places of popular resort and interest, and frequently to the 
successive multiplying cities of the distant West. He made 
a second voyage to Europe in 1848. His friend, Edward 
Everett, was thoughtful to provide him with letters, but he 
needed only his own name abroad. In 1870, when he was 
eighty-three years of age, as the gathering films had already 
begun to impair his vision, resolved to make the best pos- 
sible use of his eyes while they still might serve him, he 
was induced to cross the continent to San Francisco. One 
might well pause here to reflect upon the strides of progress, 
and the marvels of human enterprise and achievement com- 
passed within the span of his term of life. Born before the 
establishment of our national government over a region lying 
between the Atlantic sea-coast and the first great valley 
beyond the first range of mountains, he lived to avail himself 
of the comforts and luxuries of saloon and sleeping cars to 
and from the Pacific shores. He left Boston with his wife, 
on the last day of April, and they were again in " our dear 
home,'' on the 4th of June. In that brief interval, stopping at 
interesting points, going and returning, he had passed through 
Chicago, Council Bluffs, and Omaha. Leaving Omaha on 
May 4th, with a continuous course by night and day, the 
party reached San Francisco on the 9th, having a pleasant 
interview on the way in his parlor vehicle, with General Sher- 
idan, who discoursed of his battles. Mr. George B. Emerson, 
Dr. Beach, and other Boston friends, joined him in excursions. 
He takes note of the Echo Canyon, the Desert and Alkali 
Plains, the tall pines, the oak groves, and the wild flowers, on 
which he continues his botanical studies, while all along the 
way he receives presents of gorgeous bouquets. He visits the 
Chinese quarters and the Joss House at San Francisco, and by 
drives and steamboat trips goes to the Cliff to see the Seals, 
to the Redwood Trees, to Oakland, to Stockton, to Copperop- 



462 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

olis, and to the valley in which the gigantic Sequoia stand in 
their marvellous grandeur. On his way home, he stops at 
Salt Lake, and sees the Mormon Tabernacle, and has an 
interview with the much-married President of the " Latter- 
Day Saints." 

Here, certainly, was gathered a store for thoughts and 
reveries in the shadowed and withdrawn interval of years 
still to be left to him. With his tenacious memory and his 
mental powers of combination, he, more than most of us, 
could spare the light, and yet live. He had still a degree of 
bodily vigor, on his return, sufficient for active exercise for 
three more years. A gathering of cataracts upon his eyes 
was his first disablement ; then a partial dulness of hearing ; 
then a gentle, but sensible dealing from paralysis. He gave 
over the study of the cases of other patients, and applied 
himself to his own, with a view to make the remaining three- 
fifths of his present self represent the former whole. For 
the last five years of his life he was sightless, and confined by 
physical helplessness, painless and patient, to his bed. No 
querulousness or regrets vexed him. He was placid and 
tranquil, occasionally speculating as to what he was or what 
he was waiting for. He reminded a friend that it was our 
human wont, as we lay down at night, to close our eyes 
before we actually fell asleep. He had complied with the 
preliminary, and now waited the result. The news of the 
day, the pamphlets and books which would interest him, 
were daily read to him. In watching the continued fidelity 
and alertness of his mind, one might recall the oft-spoken 
words of his long-time associate and friend, who preceded 
him a few years before, after the same long span — the stern, 
but noble old Roman, Josiah Quincy. When any one said 
any thing to him about the mind's decay preceding that of the 
body, he repelled the notion as if it were a personal reflec- 
tion, insisting that in such cases there was no mind, or that it 
had not been kept in action. Dr. Bigelow was a more placid, 
but an equally positive witness to the same sentiment. Those 
who had come near to him were all familiar with the raciness 
and humor, the sly jocosity, and sometimes the sharpness of 
his tongue, when there was a possibly droll element or side 
for any thing, or when pretence or charlatanry provoked ex- 
posure. His vivacity was the last of these qualities to leave 
him. The writer recalls the incidents of a visit to him on 
the day when he closed his ninetieth year. He spoke in 
short sentences, distinct and emphatic, with deliberate pauses 
between them. Prompted, as the writer was, to pencil tbem 



1880.] MEMOIR OF DR. JACOB BIGELOW*. 463 

down, as the words came from his lips, some of them were 
precisely these : " They tell me I am ninety years old to-day. 

— I can answer for most of them, but not for all of them. — 
Most persons desire a very long life, but nobody enjoys it. 

— But as I look back upon mine, there is nothing I would 
have had different. — I have had all the success I ever aimed 
for. — And vastly more honors than I have deserved. — And 
now, I am not ill. — I have no ache, nor ail, nor pain. — 
But," — extending his hand to the edge of the couch, where 
he knew he should meet that which was dearest to him, he 
thus closed, — " But, my dear, if you should die, I should 
wish to die, too." Many of his latest visitors in his retire- 
ment must have taken from him each a memory, a word, a 
suggestion, characteristic of his thought, his experience, his 
temperament, or tone of being. Some of these, doubtless, 
were grave, earnest, morally, possibly devoutly, impressive. 
But he had no ghostliness of counsel, no anticipations of the 
sombre or the dreary. He knew there was much that he did 
not know or see. He had resources from what he had known 
and seen, and as they occupied the past, they visioned the 
future. 

The professional eminence, the scientific and scholarly 
attainments, the range and fulness of his intellectual powers, 
could not fail of securing to him in his long and useful life 
the most profound respect of this whole community. He 
lacked no honor from it which it could bestow, and he might 
well have felt that he had won its regard, if he had not even 
brought it in debt to him, for his valuable public services. 
Nor could he have been what he was, or done what he did in 
these regards, without being also distinguished for his per- 
sonal qualities and his private virtues. His character was 
a most attractive and lovable manifestation of a thoroughly 
upright, pure, and high-souled man. He certainly was 
favored in temperament, in facility of self-control, in equa- 
bility and affability of nature. None but good passions were 
strong in him. His calm dignity and his old-school courtesy 
and urbanity commended his presence and his speech. He 
was reverent in sentiment and in expression. In him, as so 
markedly in his warm friend Agassiz, one might trace in 
memory and in influence the spell of early home life in the 
parental parsonage. Devoting the morning of Sunday to 
professional duty, he gave the afternoon to regular attend- 
ance in his place for worship. His religion, not for speech, 
discussion, or profession, was that of a serious and thoughtful 
man living very near to the realities and solemnities of exist- 



464 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

ence, silently and profoundly meditating the problems of life, 
— with a calm and trusting attitude of spirit towards its mys- 
teries. He had known the discipline of bereavement. What 
he wrote concerning the frame of spirit in his friend Dr. 
Jackson has been already noted as the expression of his own. 
He was without enemies, for he was gentle, conciliatory, and 
forbearing, though on occasion he was capable of positiveness 
and fixedness. It does not appear that he was ever ruffled 
or bruised by any of the jealousies, rivalries, or antagonisms 
incident to his profession when its ranks are numerous and of 
miscellaneous elements. In his lecture to his pupils on their 
threefold duties to themselves, their competitors, and their 
patients, he told them that " one of the most difficult virtues 
for a physician to cultivate is a just and proper deportment 
towards his professional brethren." His example taught 
them that virtue. Of course, he was a physician whom his 
patients loved, confided in, and held in loyal esteem. The 
more eminent and efficient in his profession any member of it 
may be, — as is naturally the case, — the more frequent and 
earnest are the demands made upon him for advice and atten- 
tion to be gratuitously rendered. No remark is more fre- 
quently dropped by troublesome patients and their friends 
than this, " I have consulted all the doctors." Happily, our 
good physicians are our foremost philanthropists, and their 
free service does not always meet the return even of grateful 
words. Of course, Dr. Bigelow was ever the kind and faith- 
ful ministrant to the poor. But this was not all. His col- 
lector had his special instructions to be indulgent to those 
who might plead the strain of circumstances upon them. He 
assumed no professional air, or garb, or badge. He did not 
pass through the streets fur- wrapped and quilted, as if shrink- 
ing from the free air. He carried no gold-headed cane, — 
manifested no oracular symbols in gravity or speech. Far 
into old age there was an elastic vigor in his slenderly com- 
pact and lightly clad form as he went on foot. As a fancy 
of his own, a circular-plated ornament reappeared on the 
blinders of each successive set of harness on his horse, and it 
shows itself in a gilded ring on the binding of his books. His 
horse moved leisurely on his errands, seeming to know where 
his driver wished to go, and being perfectly willing to stand 
and wait. His professional brethren accredit him with the 
highest qualities of independence, candor, and rectitude of 
mind, and commend him for that singularly difficult achieve- 
ment of acting in the rSle of radical reformer without bitterness 
of spirit. It was, indeed, a noteworthy fact that the author 



1880.] MEMOIR OF DR. JACOB BIGELOW. 465 

of "Nature in Disease" should have been, twenty-five years 
before, the pupil of that magnate of the profession, — the 
patriot-philosopher, Dr. Rush. Of him, Dr. Bigelow said to 
his attached friend, Dr. H. I. Bowditch : " Rush was enthu- 
siastic and eloquent ; a great believer in medicine and drugs. 
He was an ultra practitioner. He often said, ' We can have 
no reliance on nature, gentlemen. We must turn her out of 
doors in our practice, and substitute for her efficient art.' " 
Under this pupilage, Dr. Bigelow told Dr. Bowditch, " When 
I began practice, I myself always felt obliged to give an 
emetic in every case of supposed commencement of fever, or 
I should have been held, and should have considered myself, 
as responsible for the death of the patient, in case he should 
unhappily have died under my charge." 

Dr. Bowditch said of his honored friend, "I have ever 
acknowledged him as facile princeps of the medical pro- 
fession of New England. He was naturally kindly. He 
had, at times, very decided opinions, and usually kept a com- 
plete control of his words in the expression of them. He 
had a great fund of genuine wit. He had always remarkably 
clear perceptions of things, and his opinion carried great 
weight, because his wise judgment prevented him from im- 
prudent speech or action. I have at all times considered him 
one to whom I could appeal, and feel sure of an honest reply. 
Those who were his intimate friends have always loved 
him." 

That last simple and truthful sentence might well lead on 
to a revealing of what such a man as Dr. Bigelow, whom all 
his friends loved, was in his own home to those who were 
dearest to him. Many strong and tender words and sug- 
gestions might be uttered here, were it seemly to enter into 
such privacy. Any one who should infer that a professional 
man, scholar, and philosopher, who was so occupied outside 
his dwelling, and so diligent and studious within it, could not 
have been a family man, companionable, genial, always at 
leisure for home delights and pleasing amenities of love and 
joy, would, in the case of Dr. Bigelow, at least, be wide of 
the truth. He had a most happy, indeed, a charmed home, 
and he was its central delight. His smallest fragments of 
time were festive moments there. With springing feet he 
would mount the stairs by couples, and take up, where he had 
intermitted, the home. He began with making his children's 
toys, and with the best of schools and teachers to train them, 
what they learned from him was more and better for heart, 
mind, and life, than book or academy had to teach them. 

59 



466 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

The artistic and classic adornments of his home have already 
been referred to. One of these, a faithful model in plaster, 
in all its Gothic detail, of York Minster, was the work of his 
own hands, made in the midst of active professional life, in 
the few occasional moments at his disposal. He took deep 
and never-failing delight in poetry and music. Even the cold 
and lonely walks at all hours of the winter night, from which 
he never shrank when his duty called him, were warmed and 
animated by the repetition to himself of some of the many 
sublime or pathetic passages stored in his memory. The same 
preference influenced his choice in music, which was to him an 
inexhaustible pleasure. In his home, all his drollery and spon- 
taneity of spirits, physical, mental, and moral, had full indul- 
gence, nor did age impair or reduce it. Strong and deep was 
the affection which bound him to wife and children, and it re- 
quired all the processes of enfeeblement to reconcile them to 
the conviction that, as a release was blessing to him, sepa- 
ration should be endurable by them. 

Of the five children born to Dr. Bigelow, two survive 
him, — the eminent surgeon, Dr. Henry Jacob Bigelow, and a 
daughter. Another daughter was the wife of Francis Park- 
man, the historian of France in the New World. 

After funeral services in King's Chapel, Jan. 14, 1879, the 
most honored survivors of his life-long fellowship of friends 
attended his remains to their resting-place at Mount Auburn. 
As this record is of one who was a physician, it is but fitting 
that it should close with the tributes paid to his memory by 
his professional brethren. 

At a memorial meeting held by them in Boston, on 
January 13, Dr. Bowditch, in behalf of a committee, offered 
the following resolutions, which were feelingly accepted : — 

" Resolved, That this Society cannot permit this first meeting since 
the death of Dr. Jacob Bigelow to pass without recording its profound 
admiration of him as a man of rich literary and scientific culture, and 
as a physician of the highest rank ; and the Society recognizes in his 
death the departure from among us of the greatest and widest-known 
leader of the medical profession in New England during the past 
century, — and this leadership is owing to his early writings and 
teachings upon the occasional self-limitation of disease, and in his 
reliance upon nature, as well as art, in the practice of our profession. 

" Resolved, That the serenity with which he bore his many afflic- 
tions, for so many years, excites our warmest admiration." 

The following letter was addressed and sent to Dr. Bigelow 
on his eighty-ninth birthday : — 



1880.] MEMOIR OP DR. JACOB BIGELOW. 467 



"Boston, Feb. 27, 1876. 

" Dear Dr. Bigelow, — We, the undersigned, physicians of Boston 
and its vicinity, desire on this anniversary of your birthday to join 
with your more intimate circle of friends, in respectful remembrance 
of the occasion. 

" Though for many years prevented by your infirmities from meeting 
with us, we all remember you with pride as one of the ornaments of 
our profession, and as a leader of medical thought in New England 
for the last half-century. Very many of us recollect you as a teacher 
and able instructor in the Medical School and at the Hospital. 

" Those of us who, in past days, have met with you in professional 
life still hold grateful memories of your unwavering courtesy and 
kindness to us personally, and your honorable deportment as senior 
Consulting Physician. 

" One and all of us, therefore, dear Dr. Bigelow, on this pleasant 
anniversary wish to send to you our congratulations on the fact that, 
although deprived of sight and unable freely to move, you have not 
suffered much pain during your long confinement ; that you still enjoy 
a free communion with friends and that, while looking at past and 
present events with pleasure, you can still judge of them with the 
clear intellect of former days. 

" That the remainder of your life may have the same peaceful accom- 
paniments, so grateful not only to yourself, but to the many friends 
who watch around you in your more immediate family, is the sincere 
hope of Yours very faithfully " — 

Attached are the autograph signatures of sixty-one of the 
leading physicians of Boston and the immediate vicinity, 
beginning with that of Dr. Edward Reynolds, who was next 
in years to Dr. Bigelow.