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Reproduction of the Privatelij Printed Edition of 187-3, Limited 

to Fifteen Hundred Numbered Copies, Illustrated 

mid Annotated, zvith Enlarged and Revised 

Index, Bij G. J. Clark, Esq., 

of Kansas City, Mo. 

With an Introduction by Hon. Oliver H. Dean, 
of the Kansas City, Missouri Bar. 


Published by 


This reproduction of the Privately Printed Edition of The 
Memoir, Autobiography and Correspondence of Jeremiah 
Mason, is Limited to|^.]grEEN HUNDRED Copies, of 
which this is Number frf-.O-.^.. \ 

Entered according to Act of Congress, in the Year, 1917, by 

G. J. Clark, Esq., 

In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington, 

District of Columbia, 




This book is gratefully inscribed by the editor and reviser to the first of the 
"Noble Three Hundred" subscribers for the Memoir before publication, thus mak- 
ing its issue possible. 

Among these are the following: 

Wells H. Blodgett, St. Louis, and Hon. W. W. Graves, Jefferson City, both of 
Mo.; Gardiner Lathrop, Chicago, E. B. Hamilton, Peoria, both of 111.; Harvey D. 
Goulder, Cleveland, Mortimer Matthews, Cincinnati, both of O.; Edgar T. 
Brackett, Saratoga Springs, Julien T. Davies, N. Y. C, both of N. Y.; Jas. 
Gay Gordon, Philadelphia, S. M. Hazlett, Pittsburg, both of Pa.; Hon. Robt. 
F. iRaymond, Boston, Wilmore B. Stone, Springfield, both of Mass.; Fred W. 
Lawrence, Showhegan, W. R. Roix, Presque Isle, both of Me.; Daniel Davenport, 
Bridgeport, Wm. H. Shields, Norwich, both of Conn.; Wm. P. Sheflaeld, Newport, 
R. I.; Waldron M. Ward, Newark, N. J.; Hon. Wm. B. Sawyer, Concord, Irving 
W. Drew, Lancaster, both of N. H.; Fred A. Baker, R. A. Parker, both of De- 
troit, Mich.; Messrs. Bouck, Hilton, Kluwin & Dempsey, Oshkosh, and Burr W. 
Jones, Madison, all of Wis.; Wm. D. Mitchell, St, Paul, C. J. Rockwood, Min- 
neapolis, both of Minn.; A. G. Sampson, Davenport, W. E. Mitchell, Council 
Bluffs, both of la.; Sharpless Walker, Miles City, Ransom Cooper, Great Falls, 
both of Mont.; Jess Hawley, Boise, J. C. Rogers, Burley, both of Idaho; Geo, A. 
Bangs, Grand Forks, S. D.; Clarence M. Beck, Salt Lake City, Utah; L. Ward 
Bannister, Denver, Sam'l H. Kinsley, Colorado Springs, both of Colo.; Jas. B. 
Howe, Seattle, Chas. O. Bates, Tacoma, both of Wash.; Wm. M. Abbott and S. 
H. Derby, both of San Francisco, Calif.; F. Dumont Smith, Hutchinson, Kans.; 
Harry Campbell, Tulsa, Okla.; E. J. Smith, Nashville, Marion Griffin, Memphis, 
both of Tenn.; Hon. Nelson Phillips, Austin, F. M. Etheridge, Dallas, both of 
Texas; David L. Withington, M. B. Henshaw, both of Honolulu, Hawaii territory; 
Herman Lewkowitz, Phoenix, Ariz.; Arthur F. Odlin, Arcadia, Fla. ; also New 
York Public Library and N. Y. Historical Society, both of N. Y. City; Ky. State 
Library, Frankfort, Ky.- The Biddle Law Library, Philadelphia, Pa. and Two 
Hundred and Fifty more "immortals." 


1. Mrs. Jerome Bonaparte, wife of the younger brother of Napoleon I, is 
here meant. She was before marriage to Jerome Bonaparte, December, 1803, 
Miss Elizabeth Patterson of Baltimore, Md. They were divorced in 1805. Note 
"b," p. 68. 

2. The same person, Mrs. Jerome Bonaparte, is meant, instead of Mariae 
Rose Josephine, wife of Napoleon Bonaparte, at page 73, Note "a." 

3. Read "Wirt" instead of "Wist," note "c," 2nd word, p. 187. 

4. Read "us" instead of "as," — 6th line; and "our" instead of "out," — 11th 
line, p. 198. 


I was asked by my friend, Mr. Robert Means Mason, to prepare 
from materials furnished by him, a Memoir of his father, Mr. Jeremiah 
Mason. He was desirous that such of his father's descendants as had 
never seen him should have some more distinct impression of what 
manner of man he was than could be gathered from memory and 
tradition. I readily comphed with his request, as I had known his 
father in the last years of his life, and retained a fresh impression of 
his peculiar traits of mind and character, as well as a grateful sense 
of his kindness to me personally. It will be borne in mind that this 
Memoir is privately printed, and intended only for a limited circle of 
readers; it thus has more of Mr. Mason's domestic correspondence 
than would have been proper in a published work, 

I have been assisted in my task by many of Mr. Mason's surviv- 
ing friends ; among them, Mr. Daniel M. Christie, of Dover, N. H. ; 
Mr. Samuel P. Long, formerly of Portsmouth, N. H., now of Boston; 
Mr. John P. Lord, of South Berwick, Maine, Mr. Ebenezer Wheel- 
wright, formerly of Portsmouth, N. H., and -Mr. Lory Odell and Mr. 
W. H. Y. Hackett, both of Portsmouth, N. H. To the last named 
gentleman I am under peculiar obligations, as he has anSwered my 
frequent inquiries, and obtained information for me, with a zeal and 
readiness which nothing but a warm interest in the subject could have 

My work, as it went on, was submitted to the inspection of Mr. 
R. M. Mason, and has throughout profited by his judgment and taste. 

G. S. HILLARD. (') 
Boston, June, 1873. 

(^) George Stillman Hillard, an American lawyer and author, was born at 
Machias, Maine, on the 22nd of September, 1808; after graduation at Harvard 


College, in 1828, he taught in the Round Hill School at Northampton, Massa- 
chusetts; graduated at the Harvard Law School in 1832, and in 1833 was ad- 
mitted to the bar in Boston; entered into a partnership with Charles Sumner; 
was a member of the State House of Representatives in 1836 ; of the State Senate 
in 1850; of the State Constitutional Convention, in 1853; and was United States 
Attorney for Massachusetts, 1866-70. He devoted a large portion of his time to 
literature, receiving high commendation from C. H. Hill, a compentent critic, for 
the literary merit of this Memoir, and as a legislator won warm commendation 
from Daniel Webster. In 1833 he edited the Chnstian Register. Subsequently 
he became associated with Mr. Sumner in the publication of the Jurist (1829-43), 
a legal journal to which Charles Sumner, Simon Greenleaf and Theron Metcalf 
contributed; and from 1856-61, owned an interest in the Boston Courier, of which 
he was associate editor until he retired at the beginning of the Civil War. In 
1847 he delivered a course of lectures before the Lowell Institute. Trinity gave 
him the degree of LL. D., in 1857. His addresses include a 4th of July Oration 
(Boston, 1836), Dangers and Duties of the Mercantile Profession, delivered before 
the Mercantile Library Association (1850), and an oration before the N. Y. Pil- 
grim Society (1851), a eulogy on Daniel Webster (1852). He was the author of 
the privately printed Memoirs of James Brown, and of Jeremiah Mason, and a 
Life of Captain John Smith for Spark's Avtencan Biography; published the Prac- 
tical Works of Edmund Spencer, with a critical introduction (1832) ; a transla- 
tion of Guizot's Essay on the Character and Influence of George Washington 
(1840); a Memorial of Daniel Webster; &nd Six Months in Italy (1853); Life 
and Campaigns of George Bi. McClellan (Philadelphia, 1856) ; Political Duties of 
the Educated Classes, a pamphlet (Boston, 1866), and Life of George Tichnor, 
with Mrs. George Tichnor, (Boston, 1873). He also published Selections from the 
Writings of Walter Savage Landor (1856) ; besides a series of School readers and 
many articles in periodicals and encyclopedias. He died in Boston, January 
21, 1879. 


This Reproduction of the Memoir of Mr. Mason has been undertaken, for the 
reason that it is believed, the delineation of the career of the greatest com- 
mon-law lawyer this country has produced, cannot but be helpful to the busy 
lawyer of today. The edition of 1873, printed by the family, in a limited 200-copy 
edition, for private circulation, has become exceedingly scarce, and consequently 
very expensive, varying in value from $40 to $60 per copy, — one copy, inter- 
leaved with cuts, and bound in two volumes, selling recently to a leading Mis- 
souri lawyer for $125. 

Mr. Mason's superiority as a lawyer lay in his solid qualities, exact knowl- 
edge of the law, and great skill in applying it. An expert in examination and 
cross-examination, he drew from a witness, just what he desired and no more. 
He was enabled to do this as he knew exactly what he wanted. He never went 
to trial without talking with his witnesses, beforehand, and, therefore, knew what 
they were going to say. He was a profound student of human nature, never 
perturbed, of unerring judgment, and possessed rare common sense, — an "un- 
common" endowment. While not an orator, in the common acceptation of that 
term, he ranked not with Erskine, Brougham, Pinkney, Webster and Choate, but 
rather with the three greatest verdict winners in the history of the profession, — 
Dunning, Scarlett and Luther Martin. 

The author believes that the careful study and appropriation of the knowl- 
edge and methods of the great masters in the exacting profession of the law, 
cannot but be beneficial to the practitioner of today. We know of no better model, 
in all the elements that lead to success, than Mr. Mason. A close study of this 
Memoir, will lead any careful student, it is believed, to the same conclusion. A 
somewhat extended study of the lives of judges and lawyers during the last 
twenty-five years, over a period covering five hundred years of time, has pro- 
foundly impressed us with the fact that nearly all of our masters in the law, 
have familiarized themselves with the methods of their predecessors and con- 
temporaries. Especially is this true of Erskine, Brougham, Romilly, and Scarlett 
of England; and Wirt, Pinkney, Webster, Choate and Prentiss, of America. 


This edition is limited to 1,500 numbered copies. Fifty-one illustrations have 
been added, and ninety-eight annotations to the text (including the Latin trans- 
lations), which it is believed will enliven and illumine the work. The Arabic 
figures in parentheses, throughout the text, indicate the bottom of the page in 
the 1873 edition. This double paging makes either edition available for his- 
torical reference. The author's notes are indicated by lower-case letters of the 
alphabet, as distinguished from Mr. Hillard's notes, in the original edition, in- 
dicated by Arabic figures. 

For a cursory view of Mr. Mason's life and work, examine his Autobiography, 
pp. 1-36, inclusive. While it covers but twenty-nine of his eighty years of life, it 
is first-hand information, modestly told. Study, also, John P. Lord's Recollections, 
pp. 43-45, inclusive, for a glimpse of Mr. Mason's office methods; the Dartmouth 
College Case, pp. 162-167, inclusive, to observe the grasp of the great principles in- 
volved in that epochal case; his Eminence as a Lawyer, by Geo. S. Hillard, showing 
wherein he excelled others in his legal acumen, pp. 366-384, inclusive; Webster's 
Memorial Address, pp. 390-405, inclusive, — for a resume of his entire life; and 
Rev. J-. H. Morison's letter to R. M. Mason, pp. 427-432, inclusive, for a reminiscent 
communication of incidents and anecdotes. 

Thanks are due Hon. Oliver H. Dean, President of the Kansas City School of 
Law, the Nestor of the Kansas City Bar, for the Introduction to the Memoir, 
which he was kind enough to prepare, amid the exacting cares of a busy pro- 
fession; and to Charles M. Ingraham, Esq., not only a leading member of our 
local Bar, but a connoisseur in the classics, for translating the many Latin pas- 
sages abounding in the work. While much labor and time have been expended, 
in putting forth this reprint, upon the whole, it has been a work of pleasure and 

Kansas City, Mo., Dec. 10, 1917. 


'('■mi I 

i '^•wJiiCXIhf 

"^^**=TNTRODUCTION ..., 

When we record the life of a person which has been particularly honorable 
and useful, whose influence has exerted itself in a valuable way in many im- 
portant phases of our history, whose principal features furnish inspiration and 
courage to all who may study it, and when in that study is found much to im- 
mitate and when also, in that study is discovered a mind that is broad and gen- 
erous and through which our own is broadened and softened, what better work 
can be undertaken than to publish the history and merits of such a life? 

The best view that can be obtained of times and conditions is found in the 
biographies and autobiographies of the men who prominently figured in their 
times. The world would be dark as to many things if it were not for Plutarch's 
Lives; and would not much be lost to us if we were not brought, by biography, 
in close contact with the work of the men who performed influential parts in the 
formative period of the American Republic? 

The great experiment, as it may be truly said to have been an experiment, 
to launch in the Western world a Republican form of government, in which in- 
dividual liberty would be combined with safety and order, was fraught with many 
difficulties and dangers. The experiment had miserably failed in previous times. 
The first forty years of our own history was filled with doubts; and arguments 
were frequent, constant, why our form of government could, and ought, to con- 
tinue to exist. Washington in his Farewell Address recognized this doubt. He said: 
"Is there a doubt, whether a common government can embrace so 
large a sphere? Let experience solve it. To listen to mere speculation, in 
such a case, were criminal. We are authorized to hope, that a proper or- 
ganization of the whole, with the auxiliary agency of governments for the 
respective subdivisions, will afford a happy issue to the experiment. It 
is well worth a fair and full experiment. With such powerful and ob- 
vious motives to union affecting all parts of our country, while ex- 
perience shall not have demonstrated its impracticability, there will al- 
ways be reason to distrust the patriotism of those who, in any quarter, 
may endeavor to weaken its bands." 


The American people had secured for themselves in 1787 a written con- 
stitution which was, as Marshall stated, (Marbury v. Madison, 1 Cranch, 137) 
"deemed the greatest improvement on political institutions" and in that con- 
stitution fundamental rights were guaranteed and provisions made against 
invasion of those rights. The value of that constitution had not yet come to 
be understood by the American people as a whole. It is true that it embodied 
the aspirations and highest ideals of the centuries, and yet to what extent it 
could be relied on to protect the people themselves from the ever changing and 
fluctuating popular passions was not understood. To many the argument was 
that the constitution furnished simply suggestions and recommendations for 
the conduct of legislative bodies, which might be adopted, observed or ignored; 
that the Congress could if it chose so to do, violate the most solemn compacts 
and set aside the most sacred guaranties; and that the Legislatures of the 
State could do the same thing. 

There was then as there always will be, the highest impatience exhibited 
when the courts set aside and declare invalid hasty and inconsiderate legisla- 
tion. The courts themselves were, and will be, brought under criticism. And 
sometimes have shown themselves exceedingly weak in such criticisms, and at 
other times, they have exhibited the highest courage. 

The controlling proposition of all was that each individual was possessed 
of the right to the highest liberty for the use of his brain and brawn, that could 
be accorded to man, and the only restraints thereon were those that were made 
necessary in order to assure to others a like liberty. The whole scheme of gov- 
ernment rested upon this underlying thought. The guarantee to the individual 
to local self government in the states, the guarantees of trials by juries, liberty 
of speech and the press, religious freedom, protection of private property from 
governmental appropriation without compensation, provisions against discrimina- 
tory legislation, and provisions for the equality or rights — all these and more 
were established to make safe and valuable the great underlying purpose. Pro- 
visions, too, were made for the entry of other co-equal states into the union, 
which would be Republican in form and substance. This, as Wilson, one of the 
framers of the constitution declared, was a great discovery in political science. 
It pi*epared »the way for the great growth by states of the American Republic 


and in that growth it found constantly increasing strength, usefulness and power. 

We find in the subject of these memoirs the intellectual, intimate and warm 
personal friend of Story and Webster, both of whom looked upon him as one 
of the wisest, greatest and most unselfish of patriots. They all profoundly 
believed in the value of the American Constitution. Story became its great com- 
mentator, and the other two its great defenders. We find the arguments fur- 
nished for the sanctity of contracts and their security from invasion by er- 
ratic, unjust and unfair state legislation, furnished in the first instance by the 
other two, each of them generously giving to the other the credit for doing 
the superior work; and after the lapse of many years, who can properly appre- 
ciate the value of Marshall's, Story's and Washington's opinions in the Dart- 
mouth College case? Who can, in view of their subsequent application to in- 
numerable cases. Federal and State, estimate the injury that would have probably 
resulted to public and private credit had that decision been the reverse of what 
it was? 

Out of this case necessarily grew the proposition that the charter of a 
private corporation is a three-fold contract protected by our Supreme law: First, 
between the State and the corporation; second, between the corporation and its 
stockholders; and third, between the State and the stockholders. It is a propo- 
sition so universally employed that its origin and value as a basic legal principle 
are not much considered. If Jeremiah Mason had done naught else but to have 
contributed to this legal conclusion he would be entitled to our lasting gratitude. 

We find the subject of this life early advocating, with the ability possessed 
only by him, the necessity of preserving that division of our political magistracy 
created between the Legislative, Judicial and Executive Departments, he con- 
tending that it was distinctly secured in our form of government and necessary 
for its safety. This was not fully understood in Colonial times, and not generally 
in our early constitutional history 

These men. Story, Webster and Mason each and all born in restricted sur- 
roundings, illustrated in their lives that when nature had richly endowed men, 
the fullest liberty for the exercise of such endowments should be furnished by 
our governmental institutions; that society, itself, could not otherwise obtain 

what was best for itself. 


The philosophy of our governmental institutions necessarily is that no in- 
dividual can in the affairs of life succeed without benefiting his fellowmen. If 
a man is a great artist, poet, writer, educator, surgeon, physician, inventor, or 
scientist, his work must result for the benefit of humanity. If a man is a suc- 
cessful farmer, it is because he cultivates his fields intelligently, for the benefit 
of his fellowmen, who will consume what they bring forth. If he is a successful 
manufacturer and establishes great industries, he does it only because he man- 
ufactures something the public highly needs. If a successful merchant, he buys 
wisely and sells better goods at a more satisfactory price to his patrons — goods 
needed to satisfy the wants or tastes of the people. If a railroad is built, a gas 
or electric light plant is established, or telephone or telegraph lines are con- 
structed across the country, or ships are built to navigate our lakes or seas, or 
boats, our rivers, all by private enterprise, it is because there is need for them, 
and the public is benefited by them. If great financial institutions arise, they 
are based upon the prosperity of our country and are a necessary part of its 
growth. It follows, that every kind of work, business enterprise, profession and 
pursuit, is administered to meet a public want, and if that want does not exist, 
in any of these things, there can be no success in it. It follows, then, that in 
the final analysis, all that society gets for its own uses and benefit, it gets almost 
wholly through the private administration of private affairs for the social good. 
It follows, too, that the individual who honestly works with the greatest industry 
and who brings to that work the highest intelligence, or even genius in the end, 
is performing the highest and best work for society as its chief beneficiary. 

When a man by nature has been given great talents, when through those 
talents he has overcome the difficulties which poverty threw around his early 
career, when he has used those talents in a learned profession, and by them has 
ennobled it, when he was so fortunate as to have lived during a constructive 
period of American History, and when he could exert upon courts, senates, leg- 
islatures and the people broad, patriotic and profound views of government, and 
when he exhibited, in all that he did and said, a thorough belief in our political 
structure, and could defend it and spread its value among every class as only 
a few of his day had the al)ility to do. it is well to turn to his life and hold it up 
to public view. 


The country owes much to Jeremiah Mason, and a generous and gracious 
task is performed by Mr. Clark, when new attention is called by him to his worthy 
and useful life. 

Kansas City, Mo., Dec. 14, 1917. 




Autobiography 1 


Remarks on the Autobiography. — Mr. Mason's removal to Portsmouth. — His 
Marriage. — His Professional Success. — Appointed Attorney General of New 
Hampshire. — Friendship with Mr. Webster. — Mr. Lord's Reminiscences. . 37 


Letter to Dr. Jesse Appleton. — Politics of New Hampshire. — Mr. Mason 
chosen United States Senator. — Residence in Washington during the First 
and Second Sessions of the Thirteenth Congress. — Letters to Mrs. Jere- 
miah Mason and to Dr. Jesse Appleton 46 


Letter from Mr. Christopher Gore. — Letter to Mr. Rufus King. — Mr. Mason's 
Congressional Life till the Close of the Fourteenth Congress. — Domestic 
Correspondence. — Correspondence with Dr. Jesse Appleton, Rufus King, 
and Christopher Gore. — Mr. Mason declines the Office of Chief Justice of 
the Superior Court of New Hampshire. 117 


Mr. Mason resigns his Seat in the Senate of the United States. — Letters to 
Christopher Gore and Rufus King, informing them of the Fact, and their 
Replie.s. — Letter to Dr. Jesse Appleton on the same Subject. — Portsmouth 
in the Early Part of the Century. — Mr. Mason's Professional and Domestic 


Life. — The Dartmouth College Case. — Correspondence to the Close of the 
Year 1818 with Christopher Gore, Rufus King, David Daggett, and Judge 
Joseph Story. 150 


Correspondence during the Years 1819 and 1820. — Letters to and from Rufus 
King, Christopher Gore, Daniel Webster, Dr. Jesse Appleton, and Judge 
Joseph Story. — Mr. Mason a Member of the New Hampshire House of 
Representatives in 1820. — Report and Resolutions upon certain Resolutions 
of the State of Virginia upon the admission of Missouri, sent to the Gov- 
ernor of New Hampshire 204 


Correspondence to the Close of 1824. — Letters to and from Rufus King, 
Christopher Gore, Judge Joseph Story, and Daniel Webster. — Mr. Mason, 
in 1824, a Candidate for the United States Senate. — Causes of his Defeat. 251 


Mr. Mason's Life and Correspondence from the Close of 1824 till his Removal 
to Boston in 1832. — Death of his son Alfred. — Chosen President of the 
Branch Bank of the United States, at Portsmouth. — His Policy in Manag- 
ing its Business. — Opposition awakened by his Course. — Successful De- 
fense against the Charges brought against him 291 


Mr. Mason's Life and Correspondence, from his Removal to Boston in 1832 
till his Death. — Professional and Social Life in Boston. — Death of his son 
James. — Retirement from Active Professional Labor. — Declining Years. — 
Death and Character. 333 


Proceedings in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, on the Death of the 
Honorable Jeremiah Mason. 387 


Complete Index. — Synopsis of Main Events in Jeremiah Mason's Career, — 
under "M," in Index 477 



Abbott, Lawrence 194 

Adams, John Quincy 354 

Ames, Fisher 322 

Appleton, Rev. Jesse 98 

Bartlett, Ichabod 194 

Binney, Horace 194 

Burr, Aaron 34 

Calhoun, John C 194 

Choate, Ruf us 354 

Clay, Henry 258 

Coleman, William 354 

Crawford, William H 258 

Daggett, David 354 

Dennie, Joseph 258 

Dexter, Samuel 258 

Everett, Edward 194 

Gore, Christopher 322 

Hamilton, Alexander 258 

Hoar, E. Rockwell 354 

Jackson, Andrew 194 

Jefferson, Thomas 306 

Kent, James 322 

King, Ruf us 306 

Lee, Henry 322 

Livingston, Robt. R 146 

Madison, Dolly 210 

Madison, James 194 


Marshall, John 114 

Mason, Jeremiah (aged) . . . 


Mason, Jeremiah, (young) . 274 

Mason, Mrs. Jeremiah 290 

Parsons, Theophilus 258 

Peabody, George 306 

Pickering, Timothy 258 

Pinckney, Charles Cotes- 
worth 242 

Pinkney, William 306 

Randolph, John 194 

Shaw, Lemuel 18 

Sherman, Roger 306 

Smith, Jeremiah 322 

Story, Joseph 258 

Sumner, Charles 306 

Ticknor, George 354 

Tompkins, Daniel D 322 

Trumbull, Jonathan 322 

Van Buren, Martin 354 

Washington, Bushrod 322 

Washington, George ...... 354 

Webster, Daniel 66 

Wirt, William 306 

Woodbury, Levi 306 




ON this twenty-seventh day of April, 1844, being my seventy-sixth 
birthday, I sit down to call to recollection and narrate some of 
the incidents of my life. I am fully aware that I can state nothing in 
any degree useful or interesting to the public. My life has been spent 
almost wholly in the labors and duties of my profession, and like that 
of most other lawyers, furnishes little or nothing of public interest. 
Why then do I make these idle notes ? I do it in compliance with the 
urgent and reiterated request of my children. To them the most or- 
dinary events relating to me may seem to be interesting ; and although 
I have myself acted no important part, I have lived during one of the 
most extraordinary periods of the world. I have been sometimes 
brought in contact with some of the most celebrated men of our coun- 
try ; of some of these I may occasionally speak. 

I have always supposed that I was descended from John Mason, 
a captain in Oliver Cromwell's army, who came out from England 
to Dorchester in Massachusetts, and soon removed to Windsor, in 
Connecticut, with the first settlers in that colony, and was greatly 
distinguished in the early wars with the Pequod and Narragansett 
Indians. But I am not able to trace my pedigree up to him. My great- 
grandfather lived in the town of Haddam, in Connecticut, and died 
young, leaving two children, Jeremiah, my grandfather, (1) and a 


daughter. His relation to John Mason I have not been able to as- 

My grandfather was born in the year 1705, and died in 1779. I 
well remember being at his funeral.^ He lived in that part of the 
town of Norwich which now constitutes the town of Franklin, on 
the farm which my father by his will gave me. He was much 
respected, and somewhat distinguished by his strict observance of 
religious duties. He was a deacon of the Congregational Church. 

My maternal grandfather was James Fitch, a grandson of James 
Fitch, a learned divine, who came from England and was settled as 
a minister at Saybrook, in Connecticut, and afterwards in Norwich, 
and died at Lebanon; in the burying ground of which place I have 
seen his epitaph in Latin, which represents him as having been a 
man celebrated for his learning and piety. My grandfather was 
born in 1703', and died in 1789. His father also died while young. 
He inherited from his grandfather a large tract of land in the 
parish of Goshen, in the town of Lebanon, which he obtained by a 
grant from the Indians. He had two children, my mother, Eliza- 
beth, and Ann. He built a dwelling-house on the aforesaid tract of 
land while in a wild state, and brought a large farm under cultiva- 
tion. This, when they were married, he divided between his 
daughters, and retired himself on to a small farm which my father 
purchased for him. With a quite ordinary education he had a 
sound and vigorous understanding. For many years he was asso- 
ciated with the elder Governor Trumbull in representing the town 
of Lebanon in the General Court in the colony of Connecticut, 

My father, Jeremiah Mason, was born in the year 1730, and died 
in 1813; my mother was born in 1732, and died in 1809. 

The aggregate of the ages of my six immediate ancestors 
amounts to four hundred and ninety-nine years five months and 
five days, averaging more than eighty-three years to each. 

My father, soon after his marriage, removed on to the large farm 
given to my mother by her father, where I and all his other children 
were born. The title to this farm, derived by grant to my mother's 


" Mason was then 11 years old. 


great-grandfather from Uncas, the Indian sachem of that region, has 
never been alienated out of the family, and is now owned by my 
nephew, Jeremiah Mason, son of my eldest brother James. 

My father had nine children, of whom I was the sixth. One died 
in infancy, the rest lived to mature age, were married, and had fam- 
ilies. In my old family Bible I have stated their births, marriages, 
children, etc. Two sisters only survive, both older than myself. 

My father was of a good figure, a little above six feet in height, 
rather slender, with a pleasant countenance and ardent tempera- 
ment. He was easily irritated and as easily appeased. He had a 
quick apprehension with a sound judgment, was exceedingly active, 
industrious, and persevering in matters of business, whereby he 
acquired a large property for a man in his situation. He had a 
good common-school education ; acted as a magistrate for a long 
period, and was much resorted to by the people of his neighbor- 
hood for drawing deeds and other legal instruments. 

At the commencement of the Revolutionary War, being a 
staunch Whig, he raised and commanded a company of minute 
men (as they were called), with which he performed a tour of duty 
at the siege of Boston, and was with the party that was sent out in 
the early part of the night to fortify Dorchester Heights. I have 
often heard him say that he never worked himself, nor saw men 
work with such ardor and effect for so many hours in succession as 
on that occasion. 

The next autumn (1776), having been promoted to a colonelcy, 
he went out in command of a militia regiment and joined the army 
in the vicinity of New York. At the end of this harassing and un- 
fortunate campaign, he came home sick. He continued in the com- 
mand of the regiment till after the close of the war. When General 
Arnold assaulted and burnt New London, he rallied and brought out 
his regiment with very commendable speed, which, although no im- 
portant service was rendered, gained him credit, and was said to be 
the cause of his being appointed to the command of Fort Trumbull, at 
the mouth of New London harbor. This he (3) retained for a few 
months only, till the excitement occasioned by the attack passed away. 
He had, or thought he had, a taste for military life. I have heard him 


express his regret that he had not early in the war entered the Con- 
tinental army. 

He was a good man, affectionate to his family, kind and obliging 
to his neighbors, and faithful and strict in the observance of all moral 
and religious duties. 

My mother was a woman of fine natural understanding ; of good 
appearance, but plain in manners and discreet in conduct. Her 
reading was confined mostly to books of devotion, and she had little 
concern with artificial accomplishments. Her great value consisted 
in the purity of her heart and affections under the guidance of 
native discretion. Kindness and benevolence were instinctive with 
her; she seemed never to fall under the influence of any angry or 
malevolent passions; she was kind to all who approached her, or 
came within the sphere of her influence, and this was followed by 
its natural consequence. I doubt if there was a person in the world 
that owed her ill-Mall, or felt an inclination to do her injury. With all 
this superabundant kindness she was very efficient in the manage- 
ment of her large household, and in the performance of all her 
duties. I think she must have had a considerable degree of fancy 
and natural taste, as she used always to draw the patterns on sam- 
plers for my sisters' ornamental needle-work, in which they became 
somewhat accomplished. She \^s anxiously desirous to give all 
her children the best education in her power, and it was owing 
much to her influence with my father, that I was enabled to obtain 
a collegiate education. She was ardently pious, and much devoted 
to the duties of religion. In my recollection she is a personifica- 
tion of love, kindness, and benevolence. I venerate and love her 

The earliest distinct recollection of my childhood is the alarm of 
the Battle of Lexington in the spring of 1775, when T was seven 
years old. In the early part of the evening a horseman called at 
the door and left a written notice of the alarming intelligence, and (4) 
hastily passed on his way. The whole family was instantly in com- 


motion. Messages were instantly dispatched to the minute men to 
meet as quick as possible at their company rendezvous equipped 
and ready to start for the battle. My father soon departed, after 
taking a most affectionate leave of my mother and the children, 
leaving us all in an agony of tears. For as he was going to fight 
the regulars (as the British troops were called) , we naturally supposed 
the matter was to be fought out at once, and that there was an even 
chance that he might never return. After two days of extreme 
distress, news came that the British had retreated into Boston and 
that our minute men were met on their way and turned back; we 
were consoled by the knowledge that our dear father was safe, and 
also by the belief that the war was over. 

Latterly in my old age the events of my childhood seem to 
recur to my memory more freshly than they did in the middle 
period of my life. The reason may be that I am now more in the 
habit of trying to recall them. 

My father lived in a retired situation with no near neighbors, 
and only a few within two miles, and those of an ordinary cast, with 
whom our family kept up but little intimacy. For amusements we 
were left mostly to our own resources. The most serious incon- 
venience attending this seclusion, was the want of a good school. 
There was no school-house within the district, and when a school 
was kept at all, which was during a small portion of the time, it 
was in an apartment of some dwelling-house. Till after the age of 
fourteen, I think, I never attended school but three winters, and not 
longer than three months each winter ; both the instructors and 
pupils must, of course, have been very ordinary. Considerable 
pains were taken in the family to instruct the children in the rudi- 
ments of reading, spelling, and writing, by having the elder instruct 
the younger. Most, if not all, the children were sent from home 
for short periods to better schools; by this means the elder children 
became, in some degree, competent to instruct the younger. No set 
times for study and instruction were fixed on, but the instruction (5) 


was given when it might happen to be convenient, and, of course, 
was of little value. My mother was careful to have us well drilled in 
the Westminster Catechism, which was faithfully committed to 
memory, and Mr, Stowe, our parish minister, came regularly once a 
year and examined us. 

As soon as I had sufficient strength I was kept industriously at 
work on the farm, like other farmers' boys, till I had advanced half 
way through my fourteenth year, I had no special liking for hard 
work, and often importuned my father to let me go off to school. 
He always replied that he intended I should go, and that I should 
go soon. My elder brother, James Fitch, at the urgent request of 
my mother's father, whose name he bore, had been sent to school 
with intent that he should prepare for college, but on attempting 
the study of the dead languages he took a strong dislike to it and 
abandoned it. At length my father, tired with my reiterated im- 
portunity which was always enforced by the advice of my mother, 
consented that I should go to school; accordingly, late in the fall 
of 1782, my father applied to Master Tisdale to receive me in his 
school in the old parish of Lebanon, about six miles from our 
house, which I entered. I boarded with my sister, Mrs. Fitch, who 
lived near a mile from the school ; but that was considered to be no 
objection, and it truly was not. Many of the scholars lived at 
greater distances. Master Tisdale's school had acquired a good 
deal of celebrity, and was attended by scholars from a distance. 
He graduated at Cambridge, was a good scholar, and had kept the 
school, I believe, forty years, and had become quite aged, and was, 
probably, less efficient than he had been. He was, however, still a 
very competent instructor and worthy man, and I have always 
retained a grateful regard for his memory. The school-house was 
a capacious brick building, planned and erected under the auspices 
of the elder Governor Trumbull, and furnished excellent accommo- 
dations. When there lately I was both grieved and mortified to see 
that the modern degenerate proprietors had torn down the venerable 
old building and substituted in its place a flimsy wooden erection. (6) 


I recollect with gratitude the kindness and affectionate treatment 
of my sister Fitch while I lived with her. She was a woman of 
excellent understanding, in temperament and disposition much like 
my mother, and gave me much good advice. 

I was very backward for my age in all school learning-. I read 
but poorly. and spelt worse; my handwriting was bad, and in arith- 
metic I knew very little. I have always regretted the loss of the 
time spent at work on the farm at home. Had I been placed at 
school six or eight years earlier, it would probably have been of 
advantage to me. I was aware of my deficiency and went to study- 
ing with good resolution and diligence. In the course of a few 
months I commenced the study of the Latin, and soon after that of 
the Greek language. In less than two years I was declared by 
Master Tisdale to be fitted for college.^ 

In the autumn of 1784, I was examined and admitted to the 
Freshman class in Yale College. The requirements for admission 
to that college were then very low. In Latin the examination was 
confined to a part of Virgil and a part of Cicero's Select Orations; 

1 The First Parish in Lebanon, as that was called in which Mr. Tisdale's 
school was located, was greatly distinguished by a strict and rigid observance of 
the prescribed religious duties. They were of the Calvinistic Puritan school, of 
the highest order. The elder Governor Trumbull, then governor of the State, was 
the chief ruler of the synagogue. He was a venerable man, with the reputation 
of much learning. He had for assistants his son-in-law. Colonel William Wil- 
liams, one of the signers of the declaration of Independence, his son, the late 
governor, and three or four others who claimed pre-eminence from their collegiate 
educations. The parish had been subjected for a long period to a rigid theocratic 
government. The Sabbath commenced at the setting of the sun on Saturday and 
ended at sunset on Sunday. The Sabbath was a day of solemn gravity, on which 
the children were strictly forbidden to laugh. Much difficulty had been expei'- 
ienced in finding a suitable successor to their late minister. Dr. Williams, who 
had occupied their pulpit nearly fifty years. They had numerous candidates on 
trial; but the whole parish, men and women, had become critically learned 
theologians, and none could pass the scrutiny, till at length a Mr. Ely (the late 
Dr. Ely) was adroit enough to unite all their suffrages. Great preparations 
were made for his ordination. Some dozen of us school-boys planned a dance for 
the evening, engaged a negro fiddler and an equal number of pretty girls to join 
us. We were in high spirits, anticipating the pleasure of a fine frolic, when to 
our consternation, at the close of the ordination service, up rose Colonel Wil- 
liams, and, after proclamation for silence, with a loud voice read an order of the 
civil authority of the town forbidding all fiddling, dancing, and other like carnal 
recreations on that day, and enjoining all persons to keep the day with the re- 
ligious observances proper for the Sabbath. This at once put an end to all our 
notions of frolicking. Nobody doubted or thought of questioning the right of the 
civil authorities to make the order. 



in Greek, to the Evangelists. My attainments, though slender, were 
equal or superior to that of a majority of my class. At that time 
the instruction of each of the three junior classes in all branches, 
was confided exclusively to its own tutor. The Sophomore class 
being very large, was divided and had two tutors. The president 
had charge of the Senior class. There was a professor of divinity 
whose duty was confined to preaching on Sundays, and who had 
nothing to do with class instruction. The tutors were usually young 
men who had been out of college only one or two years, and re- 
tained their places for short periods only. The college was almost en- 
tirely destitute of funds and unable to employ competent professors. 
The whole income from the endowment was no more than sufficient to 
pay the small salaries of the president and professor of divinity. The 
tutors' salaries and all other expenses, were to be indemnified by tui- 
tion fees and the rent of rooms in a small college building. Yet with 
such slender means of instruction, a good degree of hard study was en- 
forced. President Stiles had excellent talents for government; was 
both loved and respected, and maintained a sound discipline; a boy 
that would not study had an uncomfortable time of it. 

As usual I had been examined and was admitted at the time of 
Commencement, and at the end of the ensuing vacation I returned to 
New Haven to join my class. I arrived the afternoon of the first day 
of the term, and having put up my horse and engaged lodgings for the 
night, I, towards evening, went up to the college to see the splendor of 
my future residence. While standing in the college yard (as the in- 
closure was called), a man booted and with a horsewhip in hand, ap- 
proached me and asked if I was a Freshman. I answered, "Yes, sir." 
"Take off your hat, then, when in the presence of one of the govern- 
ment of the college." He added, "Go and ring the bell for prayers," 
and passed into the college building. I was confused by this harshness 
and went immediately to what I supposed to be the chapel. The door 
of the belfry was open, but on entering I could find no bell rope. I 
looked into the chapel, (8) nobody was there; after looking again for 
the bell rope and finding none, and feeling a little indignant at the rude 


treatment I had received, I left the chapel and returned to my inn. 
There I found several of my classmates, with whom I soon became ac- 
quainted. I told them the story of the treatment I had received and of 
my apprehension of trouble from my disobedience of orders ; this led to 
an ardent discussion of the demerits of the fagging servitude to which, 
by the ancient college regulations, the Freshmen were subjected. By 
the college laws the Freshmen were placed in what was deemed an 
improper subjection to the members of the other classes. The su- 
periors had the right of requiring of the Freshmen certain menial 
services, such as sending them on errands to any parts of the town, 
bringing water from the pump at all times, except during study 
hours and college exercises. They had also the right of requiring 
the attendance of the Freshmen at their rooms to be there instructed 
in the rules and practice of good manners. Whatever might have 
been the original object and effect of this practice, it had now fallen 
under much odium, and was exercised mostly by the young Sopho- 
mores for the purpose of vexation. We were unanimous in its con- 
demnation as tyrannical and degrading. 

The next morning I attended prayers at the chapel, after which all 
my classmates that were present were directed to repair to a certain 
room in college, where we were met by Mr. Perkins, our tutor, who ex- 
plained to us the college regulations, and assigned rooms in the lower 
story of the college building to such as desired them. On passing 
through the yard I was met by the same person I had seen the day be- 
fore, who immediately recognized me and ordered me to come to his 
room, which he pointed out. I had before found out that he was Mr. 
Tutor Channing. He, in a harsh manner, took me to task for dis- 
obedience of his orders in not ringing the bell. I plead inability by rea- 
son of there being no bell-rope. He disallowed my excuse, saying that 
the rope was drawn up into the second story of the belfry ; that I could 
have found it easily enough if I had tried. After giving me a severe 
reprimand, he (9) excused me from further punishment in considera- 
tion of my ignorance of his dignity and of college laws, and dismissed 
me with a strong caution to look out for the future. Alarmed by 
having fallen so soon under ill opinion by the Government I went im- 
mediately to my father, who was then in New Haven attending a ses- 
sion of the Legislature, of which he was a member, and explained to 


him my grievances and apprehensions. He was acquainted with Mr. 
Talcott Russell, the senior tutor, and arranged with him to receive 
me into his room as his Freshman. This exempted me from the lia- 
bility of being fagged by the members of the higher classes. For the 
privilege, I was at the expense of partly furnishing the tutor's room, 
and did such errands and services as he required. He allowed me a 
closet for my study. He was a gentlemanly and kind man, and I lived 
with him the year pleasantly. Mr. Tutor Channing always seemed to 
look on me with an evil eye, but I had no further difficulty with him. 
At the end of the year he left, with which I was well pleased. 

During my college life I was regular in my conduct, getting into 
no scrapes and tolerably diligent in my studies, especially in my 
Junior year, when I studied rather severely — quite as much so as my 
health would bear. I had a good standing with the president and 
tutors. In my Senior year I was one of the monitors in the chapel. 
My chum for the second and third year was Daniel Waldo, my senior 
by several years. He was a hard student ; and without great faculty 
for acquisition, by dint of study became a good scholar. He was a 
very correct and worthy man, and I have always deemed myself 
fortunate in having him for a chum. He afterwards became a Con- 
gregational clergyman, and is, I believe, still living. 

I passed through college with good success; my standing in my 
class was among the first. In Latin and mathematics I was inferior 
to none, and deeply regret my subsequent neglect of those studies. 
In Greek I pretty thoroughly mastered the Greek Testament, the only 
book required to be studied, and in which we were examined. My real 
knowledge in that language was slender, and is now almost (10) 
entirely lost. I excelled in forensic disputations, of which considera- 
ble account was then made in the college. My greatest deficiency 
was in the English language which I impute to the neglect of my 
early school education. Almost no pains were taken in English at 
the college at that time. 

My class was under the instruction of Mr. Perkins the two first* 
years. He was a good scholar and rigid disciplinarian, and kept u^ 

" "The two first" is a sample of Mr. Mason's defective English, alluded to in 
the preceding paragraph. Should be "the first two," as there cannot be "two 
firsts," as the one must be "first," and the other "second;" but there can be a 
"first two," i. e. the first and second. 


diligently at work. The third year Mr. Fitch, afterwards President 
of Williamstown College, was our tutor. He was a very amiable man, 
but less efficient as an instructor than Mr. Perkins. 

During our Senior year the President took the whole charge of our 
instruction. Ethics constituted our chief class study, and Locke's 
treatise our only text-book. Some attention was paid to a general re- 
view of our previous college studies and the President insisted that 
the whole class should undertake the study of Hebrew. We learned the 
alphabet, and worried through two or three Psalms, after a fashion ; 
with most of us it was mere pretense. The President had the reputa- 
tion of being very learned in Hebrew, as well as several other Eastern 
dialects. For the Hebrew he professed a high veneration. He said one 
of the Psalms he tried to teach us would be the first we should hear 
sung in heaven, and that he should be ashamed that any of his pupils 
should be entirely ignorant of that holy language. 

We had but one recitation a day, and the prescribed studies took 
up but a small portion of our time. Those inclined to study were 
mostly directed by their own inclinations. I unwisely spent a con- 
siderable portion of my time in the elementary books of the law, on 
which profession I had determined.'' 

President Stiles' chief value consisted in his admirable powers of 
government. His time must have been so taken up with other duties 
that he could have had little for the instruction of his class. Indeed, 
the whole ability of the college for instruction was, at that time, sad- 
ly defective. The college Faculty, however, did the best they could. 
They made regulations requiring diligent study, which (11) they en- 
forced by faithful and rather severe examinations. This occasioned a 
violent rebellion among the students, which was quelled by the expul- 
sion of some and the dismissal of others. The result was the more 
firm establishment of the authority of the Government. 

My college life, on the whole, passed pleasantly and with tolerable 
profit. At the Commencement, when I was graduated (1788),'' in the 
public exercises a part in the forensic disputation was assigned to me. 

'' Mr. Madison, it seems, believed in studying along the line of his life-work, 
even M^hile in college, a theory frowned upon by many educators and even by 
Mr. Mason as he here says. 

" In 1788, when Mason graduated at Yale, he was 20 years of age, having 
entered college at the age of 16. 


My classmate, the Rev. Dr. Chapin, was my opponent. Our question 
was, whether capital punishment was, in any case, lawful. I held the 
negative. I stole the most of my argument from the treatise of the 
Marquis Beccaria, then little known in this country. It was new, and 
consequently well received by the audience ; indeed, its novelty excited 
considerable notice. I was flattered and much gratified by being told 
that my performance was the best of the day. In the course of a long 
and active life I recollect no occasion when I have experienced such 
elevation of feelings. 

During my college life I had been in the habit of frequently at- 
tending the law trials in New Haven. The bar contained several 
talented lawyers and popular speakers, of whom Pierpont Edwards 
was the most celebrated. He had the reputation of great learning, 
which, from what I have since heard, I doubt whether he deserved. 
But he was certainly very fluent, and, I thought, eloquent. The trials 
were all conducted in a manner loose and highly popular. The admira- 
tion excited there led me to choose the law for my profession. 

Immediately after Commencement I explained to my father my 
inclination for studying law. He had attended the Commencement, 
and I knew that he was gratifled with my supposed proficiency, and I 
expected no objection to my proposal; but he did object, assigning as 
the reason the great expense that would be incurred, and suggested 
that I had better keep school for a time or go to studying divinity 
under the direction of Dr. Stone, the clergyman of our parish. I did 
not believe that he really wished me to study divinity, (12) for which 
he knew I had no inclination, but supposed he made this objection to 
punish me for spending more money during my Senior year in college 
than he deemed necessary. That was occasioned mostly by my pur- 
chasing that year more expensive articles of dress than in former 
years. My clothes had before been furnished almost wholly from the 
domestic manufactory of the family, which my kind mother had, 
with great pains, provided for me, and which, though good and sub- 
stantial, I thought not smart enough. If my father's inclination to 
enforce rigid economy needed any apology, it might be found in the 
excessive scarcity of money and the extreme poverty of the whole 
country at that period. 

Sanguinely confident in my ability to take care of myself, I im- 


mediately determined not to importune my father for further sup- 
plies, but to attempt to get my law education by my own exertions. 

From what I had heard at New Haven I got the notion that the 
State of New York was the best place within my reach for lawyers. 
My good grandfather Fitch, who then lived with my father, had 
given me a small sum of money ; with this and the loan of his horse 
I started on a journey to Albany, literally to seek my fortune. I went 
by way of Litchfield," in Connecticut, where I met with several of my 
college acquaintance in Judge Reeve's Law School. I should have 
been delighted to have joined them, but being unable to do so I pro- 
fessed a decided preference for the State of New York, to which I 
told them I was bound. At Great Harrington I tarried a few days 
with my Aunt Whiting and her interesting family. I soon contracted 
an intimacy with Samuel, the eldest son, a well informed and worthy 
man, who died many years ago ; with him I consulted, and explained 
my projects. My plan was to support myself while studying law at 
Albany, by instructing a small school or class of boys preparing for 
college. If I failed in making such arrangements, I thought of apply- 
ing to Judge Sedgwick of Stockbridge, then in the height of his reputa- 
tion as a lawyer, who had married another of my aunts that died soon 
after her marriage. My cousin told me that a violent feud had long 
existed between his (13) father, Judge Whiting, then lately deceased, 
and Mr. Sedgwick, and that the Whitings would be grievously pained 
by my making any acquaintance with Mr. Sedgwick. I mention this 
trivial matter, as it was the real cause that in after times induced me 
unwisely to neglect opportunities of making the acquaintance of Judge 
Sedgwick, which I might easily have done. 

When I got to Albany I put up at the Eagle Tavern, in Main 
Street, where there was a large number of lawyers attending the Su- 

■■i Litchfield, Conn., now has a population of 5971, is nearly 30 miles west of 
Hartford, about 45 miles from New Haven. Great Harrington, in the Berkshire 
Hills, nearly 90 miles from New Haven, a town of about 6000 people,, a well- 
known and popular summer-resort, was for a long time the residence of Wm. C. 
Bryant; Stockbridge, 15 miles north of Great Barrington, is a place of less than 
2000 inhabitants, contains the monument of Jonathan Edwards, and near is Lake 
Mahkeenac, where Hawthorne wrote "The House of Seven Gables." It was also 
the summer-home of Henry Ward Beecher, and later of Joseph H. Choate. Albany, 
N. Y., is some 45 miles from Stockbridge; hence Mr. Mason's horse-back journey 
was about 150 miles. MacMaster gives the population of Albany, as 3800 in 

. i 


preme Court then in session. There, for the first time, I saw General 
Hamilton and Aaron Burr. I immediately inquired out my classmate 
Woodworth, who had commenced the study of law in the office of Mr. 
Lansing, a Dutchman, and afterwards Chancellor of the State, the im- 
mediate predecessor of Judge Kent; from him I got information of 
the general lay of the land. After looking round for two or three days 
I applied to Major Scill, a lawyer of good, though not of brilliant 
reputation, and frankly and fully explained to him my true condition 
and strong desire to enter his office as a student in some way, if I 
could. He received me with great courtesy and expressed a kind 
sympathy for my situation, saying that he had at my age found him- 
self in a similar condition. He disapproved of my project of school- 
keeping; said that Mr. Dickson, whom I had known in Yale College, 
and who had been in his office three years, was then just leaving it; 
that he had much writing and other business in his office which I 
could advantageously employ myself in doing, and that, if I felt 
willing to go to work industriously, he would receive me into his oflftce 
and furnish all the means necessary for my support during my three 
years' term of study, and in case I performed my duties faithfull>, 
would, at the termination, claim no remuneration. I gladly acceded 
to his offer, and, engaging to return in a short time, left him. 

When at Albany, hearing of the new city of Troy, then just 
planned, I went to see it. I found a great number of streets staked out 
and named, with only three or four buildings of any kind, where (14) 
now stands a well built city, with, I suppose, twenty-five or thirty 
thousand inhabitants. 

When I got home and told my father what I had done he was 
decidedly opposed to the whole of my project. His chief objection 
was a strong dislike to my settling in the State of New York. The 
people of Connecticut had, from ancient time, entertained strong 
prejudices against the people of New York. In the early Indian wars 
they accused them of aiding the Indians by supplying them with 

178(T, and says it was then over 100 years old, next to New York City in import- 
ance in the state, the sixth in rank in the United States. It was expected that 
Albany would rival Boston and Philadelphia in magnificence, and become the 
emporium of Northern trade. It must be remembered that New York City's 
population in 1786' was but 24,500, and surpassed by Boston alone in commerce, 
though the latter had but 15,000 souls, and Philadelphia, 32,205. 


muskets and ammunition. Besides, the Connecticut folks hated the 
Yorkers because they were Dutchmen and knew nothing of the Say- 
brook Platform. My father partook a good deal of the prejudices of 
his neighbors, and felt an extreme reluctance that I should go and 
settle for life among the Yorkers. He said if I was resolved on study- 
ing law I might return to New Haven and study with Mr. Baldwin, 
and that he would pay my expenses. Mr. Baldwin is the father of 
the present governor of Connecticut. He was then a young man of 
much respectability, had been a tutor in college two or three years, 
and in the practice of law about one year. I felt a decided prefer- 
ence for returning to Albany, but being unable to overcome my fath- 
er's reluctance I gave it up, and wrote to Major Scill, excusing my 
neglect to perform my contract on the ground of my father's refusing 
his consent ; to which I received an answer, approving of my conduct. 
I soon went to New Haven, entered Mr. Baldwin's office, and 
lived in his family. Then, as at the present time, very little instruc- 
tion in the course of study was given in a private office. I spent a 
year in Mr. Baldwin's office reading pretty diligently. My time 
passed pleasantly ; I had access to very good society. He married a 
daughter of the celebrated Roger Sherman and lived near him. He 
had a family of children, — some near my age. I was often at the 
house, and very frequently saw Mr. Sherman. His reputation was 
then at the zenith. His manners, without apparent arrogance, were 
excessively reserved and aristocratic. His habit was, in his own house, 
when tea was served to company, to walk down from (15) his study 
into the room, take a seat, and sip his tea, of which he seemed fond, 
and then rise and walk out without speaking a word or taking any 
manner of notice of any individual. In the street he saw nobody, but 
wore his broad beaver pointing steadily to the horizon, and giving no 
idle nods. Still, I fancy Roger Sherman was capable of the most 
adroit address when his occasion required it. Several years after 
this, being in New Haven, I met Mr. Sherman in the street, expect- 
ing to pass by him unseen, as usual ; I was surprised by his stopping 
and kindly greeting me, requesting me to call at his house before I left 
the city. When I called, he received me most courteously and in a 
flattering manner congratulated me on my success in my profession, 
of which he said he had been informed. He then told me that, being 


a member of the old Congress of the Confederation during the time 
Vermont (in which State he erroneously supposed I was settled) was 
asserting against New York its claim to independence, believing the 
claim just, he had been an earnest advocate for it; that during the 
pendency of the claim, the agents of Vermont often urged him to ac- 
cept grants of land from that State, which he refused, lest it should 
lessen his power to serve them. Now, as their claim was established, 
and the State admitted into the Union, if the people of Vermont con- 
tinued to feel disposed to make him a grant of some of their ungranted 
lands, as his family was large and his property small, he had no ob- 
jection to accepting it. I was sorry to be obliged to tell him that I 
belonged to New Hampshire and not to Vermont, but that living on 
the borders of that State and being much acquainted with many of 
the inhabitants, I would do what I could to have his wishes complied 
with. This I afterwards did by stating the circumstances to several 
influential men of Vermont. They readily recognized the merits of 
Mr. Sherman's services, and said he ought to have a liberal grant. 
But I never heard that anything was done in the matter, and presume 
his case made another item in the history of the ingratitude of 
republics. The time the Vermonters needed his services was passed. 

As I have before stated, the time when I commenced the study 

of law was a period of extreme depression and poverty throughout 
the country. The war of the Revolution had exhausted all the 
resources of the country. For the want of an efficient National Gov- 
ernment, trade and all other kinds of business remained stagnant. 
The profession of law felt this depression severely. The State of 
Connecticut was overstocked with lawyers; most of them had but 
little business, with fees and compensation miserably small. The 
professional income of Pierpont Edwards,'' supposed to be the largest 

« Pierpont Edwards (1750-1826), was born in Northampton, Mass., the 
youngest son of Jonathan Edwards, the celebrated divine. He was a noted law- 
yer and politician; was graduated at Princeton in 1768, and began the practice 
of the law at New Haven in 1771. Was frequently elected to the State Legisla- 
ture, and early advocated colonial independence; served in the army; was admin- 
istrator of Arnold's Estate after his treason; was a member of the Confederation 
Congress, 1787-8; and at the time of his death, Judge of U. S. District Court. 
Aroused much feeling among the Connecticut Calvanists by founvling a Toleration 
Party. His income, supposedly the largest in the State, "was less than $2,000 a 


in the State, was said not to amount to two thousand dollars a year. 
Very few obtained half that sum ; my master Baldwin, with his utmost 
diligence, was scarcely able to maintain his small family, living in 
the most simple manner. Seeing the host of needy young lawyers, 
some with clever talents, seeking business with little or no success, 
I soon became satisfied that my prospect was exceedingly unpromis- 
ing. The common opinion was that the prospect for success was 
much better in the neighboring States. In most of the States at that 
time, to entitle a person to admission to the bar, a term of study 
within the State was required. After maturely balancing the pros 
and C071S, I came to the conclusion, in the fall of 1789, that it was 
best for me to quit Connecticut. My inclination was strong for New 
York, and I wished to renew my application to Major Scill, but I found 
my father still averse to it. I then proposed Vermont. To this he 
made no objection.^ I took a journey of exploration into that State. 
I there became acquainted with my Uncle Marsh and his family. He 
was Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas in Windsor County, 
had been Lieutenant Governor of the State, and was a man of much 
respectability. He was decidedly in favor of my coming to Vermont. 
His son, my cousin Charles Marsh, had then just commenced the prac- 
tice of law at Woodstock, and seemed to have a good prospect for 
business. The country was new and rough, with the life and bustle 
peculiar to new countries. There were, at that time, few lawyers, 
comparatively, in the State, and still fewer of any eminence. There 
was an ample supply of law-suits involving land titles of considerable 
importance. I concluded, on the whole, that I should stand a better 
chance for success in Vermont than in Connecticut. I entered myself 
as a student in the office of Stephen Rowe Bradley, at Westminster^' ; 
returned home; visited New Haven, and took up my connections 
there and went back to Westminster the first part of the ensuing 
winter. I found General Bradley (that was his usual designation) 
an extraordinary character. He inherited from nature an ardent 

' Many of the settlers of Vermont, especially of the region of the Connecti- 
cut river, emigrated from Connecticut, and were known to my father. He had 
always been strongly in favor of the independence of Vermont, influenced, per- 
haps, somewhat by his dislike of New York. 

3 (17) 

^ Westminster is now a village of but 850 people. 


and sanguine temperament, with vigorous, natural powers of mind, 
and strong passions. He was graduated at Yale College in 1775, but 
his attainments from study were slender. His studies were irregular, 
as his capricious humors and inclinations directed; without much 
refinement of any kind, he had an unconquerable love for broad humor 
and practical jokes, which he freely indulged on all occasions. He 
was an admirable story-teller, and was never more delighted than 
when he had an opportunity to set the rabble of a court-house or bar- 
room on a roar by one of his overwhelming droll stories. With all 
this apparent lightness and indulgence in drolleries, he was persever- 
ing and efficient in action, rather deriving aid than suffering impedi- 
ment from them. Many years after the time of which I am speaking, 
I heard the celebrated Mr. Giles of Virginia, in the Senate of the 
United States, when expressing his regret for the failure of a certain 
measure that had been attempted, attribute the failure entirely to 
General Bradley, who had then been a member of that body, saying 
that of all the men he ever knew. General Bradley possessed the most 
extraordinary powers in a deliberative assembly to defeat any measure 
he assailed. Among his other queer fancies he built a pulpit in his 
office, which was ample, adjoined his house, and opened directly into 
a parlor, and also into a long piazza, so that a large audience might 
be accommodated. He occasionally notified meetings and had preach- 
ing in his pulpit. (18) On one occasion he gave out that Mr. Murray, 
the celebrated Universalist, was to preach in his pulpit. This gathered 
a crowded assembly, when instead of Mr. Murray, an ordinary travel- 
ing Universalist preacher whom he picked up, entered the pulpit. He 
was fluent, and delivered a flaming discourse on his favorite doctrine. 
Mr. Sage, the minister of the parish, an ardent young Calvinistic 
divine of the Orthodox sect, who had attended to protect the purity 
of the faith, on the close of the discourse immediately challenged the 
Universalist to a combat of polemic discussion. The Universalist 
promptly accepted the challenge; General Bradley immediately ar- 
ranged the combatants at two tables, and assumed a seat for himself 
as moderator to rule the debate and keep order. Sage assumed the 
part of assailant and the Universalist that of defender, and the battle 
began. For two long hours the moderator sat with imperturbable 
gravity, ruling the questions of order raised by the combatants, and 


of Massachusetts. 


sometimes suggesting questions himself. This furnished him with 
an ample fund of amusement for a long time. 

He was extravagantly fond of narrating the fooleries he had 
practiced. He often told with great zest a hoax he had practiced on 
a poor man, by imparting to him, under solemn injunctions of secrecy, 
a recipe for making the fish called bass out of bass-wood. He had a 
vast stock of stories of such like feats. His manners were popular, 
and such light conduct did not seem much to injure his respectability 
in the rude state of society then prevailing in that region. 

He professed to attach much importance to the Orthodox relig- 
ious faith; and with a strong love for money, he suffered but little 
inconvenience from rigid principle of any kind. A short time before 
I entered his office, he had married his second wife, an amiable wom- 
an of lady-like accomplishments, who exerted a very favorable influ- 
ence over him. I lived in the family, where all things were pleasant, 
and occasionally enlivened by agreeable company. There was little 
or no good society in the place, nor was it (19) much better at 
Walpole,'' the village on the opposite bank of the river. 

There was then living in Westminister a lawyer of the name of 
Lot Hall (afterwards a judge of the Supreme Court of Vermont), a 
man of ordinary natural talents, little learning, and much industry. 
With him Bradley had long been at feud. As is usual with village 
feuds, where there can be but few objects to excite the feelings and 
passions, the mutual enmity had become so violent as to prevent 
all social intercourse. Justices of the peace had a large civil juris- 
diction which was final when under a certain amount of damages. 
Before these Justices' Courts a great deal of petty litigation was 
carried on. At these courts Messrs. Bradley and Hall often met, 
and held discussions not well calculated to soften or sweeten their 
tempers. Soon after I entered his office, Mr. Bradley, being obliged 
to be absent at the time of one of these courts, requested me to attend 
in his stead. I rather reluctantly consented, fearing that I should 
not be equal to the occasion; but Mr. Bradley encouraged me by 
professing to hold his adversary in great contempt.- I attended, and 
there argued my first cause, and won it; with which both my client 
and I were well satisfied. Mr. Bradley was much gratified that I had 

" Walpole now has a population of 800. 
— 3 


beat Hall, as he termed it. He said his engagements were such as 
rendered it inconvenient for him to attend to these petty cases, and 
offered to give me the whole charge and management of all the 
business before the Justices' Courts, with all the fees in litigated 
cases, and one half the income (being the taxed costs) in the cases 
not litigated. The offer was grossly improper for him to make and 
for me to accept; my time ought to have been exclusively devoted 
to study. But I needed money, which I knew my father furnished 
rather reluctantly, felt pleased with the offer, which flattered my 
vanity, and immediately acceded to it and launched out into a sea 
of pettifogging. I continued in Mr. Bradley's office nearly a year 
and a half, during which I did a very considerable business under 
this agreement. I commenced a multitude of suits for the collec- 
tion of small debts, and often appeared as counsel in the petty liti- 

gation in the Justices' Courts in Westminster and the adjoining 
towns. I certainly knew very little law, but that was the less 
necessary as most of my opponents knew not much more, and the 
judges I addressed none at all. Being tolerably fluent I got along 
pretty well. Whenever it was my fortune to meet Mr. Hall, I was 
careful to treat him with marked courtesy, to show that with his 
business I had not adopted Mr. Bradley's quarrel. I often studied 
my little causes with sufficient diligence, and this premature at- 
tempt to argue causes helped me to gain confidence in myself ; which 
was highly beneficial to me, for I was exceedingly diffident. 

The withdrawing so much of my time and attention from regular, 
systematic study was doubtless injurious. But it put me early in the 
habit of relying on my own resources, and I am inclined to think 
that it was on the whole advantageous to me. It was, however, a dan- 
gerous course, and I would not advise any law student to follow it, 
if he had the opportunity. The money part of the arrangement 
did well enough during the eighteen months I pursued it. I had 
no occasion to call on my father for supplies ; my part of the emolu- 
ments of the business was more than sufficient to pay all my ex- 
penses, including my tuition-fee and the purchase of clothes, and also 
the purchase of a saddle-horse, which I kept nearly all the time. 
But this was in reality of no great importance to me, for my father 


had consented to pay my expenses and was well able to do it without 
any inconvenience. 

At the Court of Common Pleas held at New Fane^ in the county 
of Windham in June, 1791, I was admitted to the bar. By a statute 
of Vermont the term of study requisite for admission was two years 
within that State. I had studied more than two years in the whole, 
but only eighteen months within the State of Vermont. The prac- 
tice of the Court was to refer to the members of the bar all applica- 
tions for admission to it. The bar of that county consisting mostly 
of young men friendly to me, construed the statutes by equity in 
my case and recommended me for admission. The Chief Justice, at 


the private suggestion of Mr. Bradley,^ as I had reason to believe, 
opposed my admission on the ground of non-compliance with the 
statute, which he said the court was bound to inquire into; but 
his two associates overruled him, and I was admitted. My object 
now was to fix on a place for commencing the practice of my pro- 
fession. The reputation of the State of Vermont was at that time 
low. A few years before the war of the Revolution an ancient con- 
test between the colonies of New York and New Hampshire, for 
the jurisdiction of the territory which now constitutes the State of 
Vermont, had been decided by the Royal Government of England 
in favor of New York. Most of the lands had been granted by New 
Hampshire, and nearly all the settlements had been made under 
those grants. The inhabitants were almost universally opposed to 
coming under the government of New York, and boldly deter- 
mined to resist that government by force. To effect this they as- 
sociated and organized a government by no authority other than 
their own. Although they successfully resisted New York, estab- 
lished their independence, and were admitted into the Union as a 
State, yet they labored under the reproach of having originated a 
rebellion which they sustained by a course of measures of a mob- 
bish character, tending to the destruction of all elevated and noble 

=" New Fane is now a village of 136 people. 

1 My reason for believing that Mr. Bradley made this suggestion, was that 
when I requested him to propose me for admission, he advised against it, and 
recommended to me to remain six months longer in his office. He said he would 
propose me if I persisted in requesting it, but that I should in all probability be 
refused. I told him the bar would recommend me to the court. He answered 


principles. Their courts were badly organized and usually filled 
with incompetent men.- Most of the members of the bar were 
poorly educated, and some of vulgar manners and indifferent 
morals. Besides, a large portion of the inhabitants were new set- 
tlers and poor, and of course not desirable clients. Casting these 

circumstances over, I began to doubt whether I had best pitch my 
domicil in Vermont, and entertained serious thoughts of transferring 
my allegiance to the State of New Hampshire. This latter State 
had age in its favor, with an apparently more stable and better or- 
ganized government, more property, and was in all respects in higher 
repute than Vermont. The courts of the two States were nearly on an 
equality as to learning and talent, but those of New Hampshire had 
greatly the advantage in point of purity and integrity. The bar 
of New Hampshire also were more orderly, better educated, and of 
better manners. I had become acquainted with several members 
of the bar in the county of Cheshire in New Hampshire, who assured 
me that if I was disposed to come into that county, there would be 
no objection to my admission. 

It happened at that time that a Colonel Moore, who had been 
for several years in the practice in the town of Westmoreland," where 
he owned a small farm on which he lived, had become desirous of 
removing into the District of Maine. Hearing of my inclination 
to come into the State of New Hampshire, he applied to me and 
offered to sell me his farm, and with it to resign to me his busi- 
ness. On inquiry, I found he had a considerable run of business, 
and his stand was thought to be a good one, there being no other 
lawyer near it. I agreed to accept his offer on condition that I 

that the court would not comply with such recommendation. I felt confident that 
he had no doubt that the court would comply with the recommendation of the 
bar if I had the aid of his influence. Besides, this sinistrous course was congenial 
to the man. 

- To this observation the now venerable Nathaniel Chipman forms an illus- 
trious exception. He had lately been appointed Chief Justice to the Supreme 
Couit. He was a sound lawyer and able judjre, and althoutrh he held the place 
for but a short period he did much to reform the courts of the State. He is 
still living;, and may be justly styled the patriarch of the Vermont bar.* 
* Judp:e Chipman died in 184:3. 

•' Westmoreland, N. H., has now about 380 people. 


should be admitted to the bar in New Hampshire. Admission in 
that State was regulated by the rules adopted by the bar. They 
required three years' study within the State; but they were con- 
strued liberally, and the studying within the State had sometimes 
been dispensed with. At the Court of Common Pleas at Charles- 
town, 1791, I applied and was admitted without any difficulty. For 
this I was indebted to the good offices of Mr. West, -who was pre- 
eminently at the head of the bar of that county. Thinking myself 
very kindly treated by the bar, I in return gave them a brave sup- 
per at which no small quantity of wine and some wit were ex- 
pended. At my request the venerable Judge Champney of New 
Ipswich presided, and at a late hour, when we had become suffi- 


ciently inspired, he called on me to stand forth, and delivered me 
a charge, accompanied with the right hand of fellowship. All passed 
in due form according to the taste of the day, and much to the amuse- 
ment of the company. 

I immediately made a journey home, and obtained from my 
father what money he had on hand, amounting to several hundred 
dollars, — which he readily gave me, as it was to be laid out in land, 
which he always deemed the best use for money, — and came back 
and completed my bargain with Colonel Moore. My purchase con- 
sisted of about one hundred acres of land, with a plain and simple 
cottage on it, standing on the bank of Connecticut river. The price 
was about $1,500. I gave him what I received of my father, and 
for the rest assumed a mortgage that he had given on the land. 
There was a family in the house, which furnished me with simple 
lodging and boarding. I kept my office in a small room of the house 
for a short time, and then removed it into an adjoining building, that 
had been occupied for a trader's store, which I purchased. The 
situation was very retired but rather pleasant; no neighbors near 
and nothing like a village in the town. 

Thus, on the 30th of September, 1791, when twenty-three years 
of age, I found myself settled down for the practice of my profes- 
sion. I knew my stock of law learning was small. That I firmly 
resolved to increase to the utmost of my power. I had supplied 
myself with law books sufficient for present use, and went earnestly 
to work with them. The determination to do this was what rec- 


onciled me to the solitariness of my situation. The inhabitants 
of the town, with the exception of the clergyman, consisted of 
rough, uncultivated farmers. They, or rather a select number of 
them, were in the habit of meeting together at each other's houses 
and having carouses. Of these high-goes my predecessor, Colonel 
Moore, was extravagantly fond, and indulged in them to great ex- 
cess. He had been educated at Cambridge College, was of the 
class of 1782, at which time that institution was more distinguished 


for producing good fellows than good scholars. He had procured 
the establishment of a lodge of Freemasons in the town, of which 
he was the Master. With much benevolence of disposition, he was 
very dissipated and very popular. He earnestly advised me to join 
the lodge, and associate freely with the inhabitants. I went to sev- 
eral of their parties, and, fortunately for me, was disgusted with 
their course wit and rude manners. To get out of the scrape, I gave 
them as good a treat as I could at my cottage, and had no more to do 
with them, assigning for my excuse, that my time was so entirely 
occupied with my business and my studies, that I had none to spare. 
From the Masonic lodge I kept free. 

Small professional business flowed in upon me in great abun- 
dance. There were four courts of Common Pleas held in the county 
each year. I see by my old dockets that during the first year of my 
practice, I commenced two hundred and two suits at the Common 
Pleas, and in the second year two hundred and forty-seven, and in 
the third year two hundred and fifty-seven. Besides these, a vast 
many writs were issued, returnable before justices of the peace. 

Before the end of the first year, I admitted into my office two 
young collegians,^ as students at law. I was aware of my incompe- 
tency to direct their studies, and frankly told them so; but they 
persisted in their request, and I assented. My law library, though 
small, was, I believe, as good as any in the county. They were 
soon able to assist me much in the formal writings in the office. 
During the three years I continued in Westmoreland, although a 
considerable portion of my time was necessarily taken up with the 
multiplicity of small business in my office, I studied with more dili- 

1 Erasmus Butterfield and William Thurston. 


gence than I ever did at any other period of my life, I was duly 
sensible of the necessity of it, and what increased my conviction 
of it was inability to answer, to my own satisfaction, the inquiries 
sometimes put to me by the young men under my direction. 

Having acquired some little knowledge of the way of managing 

4 (25) 

causes while a student in Vermont, with a good deal of conceit I 
determined to begin immediately to argue all the causes I com- 
menced, and others in which I might be engaged, both in the Com- 
mon Pleas and Superior courts. Fortunately for my hazardous un- 
dertaking, law learning was, at that time, in a very low state in the 
New Hampshire courts. My first cause was an appeal from the 
judgment of a justice of the peace in the Common Pleas. Judge 
Newcomb, an old practicing lawyer, had then lately been appointed 
Chief Justice. I was for the plaintiff and on introducing my evi- 
dence, the Chief Justice ruled against me on my own evidence. I 
insisted on arguing the case to the jury. Mr. West, who was for 
the defendant, declined to argue it after so decided an opinion in 
his favor. I went on with my argument; the Chief Justice charged 
strongly against me, but the jury gave a verdict in my favor. This 
was final and conclusive, the court then having no power to set 
aside verdicts of juries. This was, of course, highly gratifying to 
me, and tended much to confirm me in my adventurous resolution. 
At this time the Legislature was in the practice of frequently in- 
terfering with the business of the courts, by granting new trials and 
prescribing special rules for the trial of a particular action. A ludi- 
crous instance of the exercise of this sovereign power occurred early 
in my practice at Westmoreland. A poor man was accused of hav- 
ing stolen two small pigs of a neighbor, who applied at my office 
for a prosecution for larceny. Doubting whether the taking of the 
pigs under the circumstances amounted to stealing, one of my stu- 
dents, to whom in my absence the application was made, advised to 
an action of trover; this was commenced, in which the two pigs 
were alleged to be of the value of one dollar. The deputy sheriff, 
in serving the writ, finding nobody at the defendant's cottage, left 
the summons safely placed between the door and the sill, which the 
plaintiff, living near, saw done. As soon as the sheriff was out of 
sight, the plaintiff went and stole away the summons. Unluckily 


for him, this was seen by a person at a distance. The action was of 
course defaulted, and the first news the defendant had of it was an 


execution. He made a great outcry, and soon ascertained that the 
summons had been stolen. He came to me with his complaint, and 
I offered him to have the judgment and execution canceled, and to 
let him have a trial for the pigs. This he rejected with contempt, 
and forthwith applied to the Legislature, then in session, for a rem- 
edy for his grievance. The Legislature, without notice to the op- 
posite party, immediately passed an act directing the magistrate to 
cite the plaintiff before him, set aside the default and try the action, 
and to allow to either party an appeal. The plaintiff was cited, and 
I appeared for him, and denied the power of the Legislature to pass 
the act, and went into an argument on the constitutional restraints 
of the legislative power. This was answered by the opposing coun- 
sel, by portraying the audaciousness of the attempt of an inferior 
magistrate to question the power of the supreme Legislature. But 
the justice, having been an officer in the Revolutionary army, and 
being desirous of sustaining his reputation for courage, which stood 
high, promptly pronounced the act utterly void, and refused to obey 
it. An appeal was claimed and disallowed, the justice saying that, 
as the whole proceeding was void, he had no rightful power to re- 
cord a judgment or grant an appeal. Thus ended the first act of the 
farcical drama. The defendant, nothing discouraged by his ill luck, 
obtained from the sovereign Legislature, at its next session, an act 
directing the Court of Common Pleas to try the defaulted action. 
There the parties again met, and, after due argumentation and de- 
liberation had, that court determined they would do nothing with it. 
By this time the pig action had gained extensive notoriety, and 
tended much to bring such special acts of the Legislature interfer- 
ing with the regular course of the courts of law, into ridicule and 
deserved contempt. 

Having no intention of remaining long at Westmoreland, I did 
but little in improving my farm. I made a small garden, and 
planted out a few trees for fruit and shade. I took no oversight of 
my farm, which was left entirely to the farmer who had charge of it. 
I had no time for it, had I been inclined, I was so fully occupied by 



my studies and my business. My income from my business, though 
not large, yet far exceeded my expectation, and, in that particular, 
I felt tolerably well satisfied. But I became tired with the solitari- 
ness of my situation, and, late in the fall of the year 1794, I re- 
moved to Walpole, six miles higher up the river. This was a brisk, 
active village, with several traders, and many industrious mechanics, 
and two or three taverns, in one of which I took lodging for a short 
time, when I engaged a clever house, and small family to keep it, in 
which I lodged and kept my office. Walpole was, at that time, a 
place of more business than any in that vicinity, and was much 
resorted to by the people of the neighboring towns. There was also 
a considerable travel from a distance, passing on what was called 
the great river road, so that my situation, here seemed quite a con- 
trast to my former solitude. The inhabitants of that part of the 
valley of the Connecticut river were then just passing from the 
rude and boisterous manners of first settlers to a more civilized, 
orderly, and composed state. There was more motion, life, and 
bustle than in the older parts of the country. 

A set of young men, mostly of the legal profession, extending 
from Greenfield, in Massachusetts, to Windsor, in Vermont, a dis- 
tance of fifty or sixty miles, were much in the habit of familiar 
intercourse for the sake of amusement and recreation. They occa- 
sionally met at village taverns, but more commonly at the sessions 
of the courts, and freely indulged in gambling, excessive drinking, 
and such like dissipation. The most of them were gentlemanly in 
manners, and some talented. I rejoice that I am able to say with 
truth that I did not belong to them, and never associated with them 
in their dissipations ; my poor friend. Colonel Moore, who had been 
a leader among them and was already ruined, served me as a warn- 
ing beacon, — added to this was the friendly advice of Mr. West, for 
whom I early entertained the most reverential esteem and respect. 

Mr. West was by far the first, best lawyer, and, in all respects, 
the most respectable man in that region of country. He was edu- 
cated, I believe, at Princeton College, New Jersey, and commenced 


the practice of law at Charlestown^' before the close of the Revolu- 
tionary War. He had good natural powers of mind, a quick ana 

* Charlestown, N. H., now has about 1000 people. 


clear perception, a delicate taste, highly refined, a sound judgment, 
and lively imagination. His style of speaking was simple, natural, 
smooth, and mild; always pure and neat, and sometimes elegant, 
with a good person, clear and pleasant voice, much earnestness and 
apparent sincerity, — he was, altogether, a most persuasive speaker, 
In arguing cases of complicated and doubtful evidence before a 
jury, I have seldom, if ever, heard his superior. In the discussions 
of questions of law, and in argumentation of mere abstract proposi- 
tions, he was less powerful; indeed, for the discussion of questions 
of law, he was deficient in law learning. This he was fully sensible 
of, and attributed it to his having quitted the study when he began 
the practice of the law. He said the elder Judge Livermore, who 
had been Attorney General of the province before the Revolution, 
was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court; that, having no law learn- 
ing himself, he did not like to be pestered with it at his courts ; that 
when he (Mr. West) attempted to read law books in a law argu- 
ment, the Chief Justice asked him why he read them; if he thought 
that he and his brethren did not know as much as those musty old 
worm-eaten books? Mr. West answered, "These books contain the 
wisdom of the ancient sages of the law." The reply was, "Well, 
do you think we do not understand the principles of justice as well 
as the old wigged lawyers of the dark ages did?" and thus his law 
books were laughed out of court. This was surely but poor encour- 
agement for the dry study of law books. 

Mr. West was remarkable for his modesty and diffidence; he 
never rose to speak, on any important occasion, without such excite- 
ment as caused a nervous tremor. I have heard him say that his 
feelings, arising from diffidence, were so distressingly oppressive, 
that he never rose, on such occasions, when he would not willingly 
have given three times the amount of his fees to have been excused. 
He was a member of the Convention of New Hampshire for adopt- 
ing the Constitution of the United States, where, from his known 

talents, much was expected from him. There was much discussion, 

and the result, about which he was very anxious, was a long time 
held in doubtful suspense; yet, though strongly urged, such was 
his diffidence that he could not be induced to speak. 

In social intercourse his manners were simple, but always cour- 


teous and urbane. He had a delicate and refined wit, and was fond 
of it in others; his manner of living was simple, exceedingly neat, 
and approaching to elegance; he indulged in a liberal hospitality, 
entirely free from all ostentation. In short, he was a gentleman in 
the true and best sense of the term. 

Soon after I removed to Walpole, Joseph Dennie, who had 
studied law in Mr. West's office, and had just been admitted to the 
courts, came to reside in that village under the pretense of practic- 
ing law. His legal knowledge consisted wholly in a choice selection 
of quaint, obsolete, and queer phrases from "Plowden's Commenta- 
ries," the only law book he had ever read with any attention, and 
this was read for the sole purpose of treasuring up in his memory 
these quaint phrases. These he often repeated in ridicule of the 
law, to the great amusement of his auditors. He was the most 
aerial, refined, and highly sublimated spirit it has ever been my hap 
to meet with.^ He was graduated at Cambridge University, and 
was of the class of 1790, and, against his own inclination, by the 
urgent advice of his friends, he undertook to study lav^. With a 
good share of native genius, he had a delicate and accurate taste, 
much cultivated by an ardent study of the English classics, with 
which he was thoroughly imbued. His language in common con- 
versation, without any appearance of stiffness or pedantry, was 
always pure and classical. He early determined on the life of an 
author, and he deemed it necessary to avoid the use of low or 
vulgar language in conversation, in order to be secure against it in 
writing. Highly excited by reading Gibbon's "Decline and Fall of 
the Roman Empire," he determined (to use his own language) 
"to essay" the history of his own country. His powers of conver- 
sation were of the highest order. He had a slender and feeble 

frame, and was often depressed by bad health; but when in good 

health and spirits, I think I have never known a more eloquent and 

^ "He was the most aerial, refined, and hig-hly sublimated spirit it has ever 
been my hap to meet with." This is probably plagiarized from Lawrence Sterne's 
description of Shakespeare's Yorick, of whom Sterne says: "He was as mercurial 
and sublimated a composition; as heteroclite a creature in all his declensions; 
with as much life and whim, and gaite clc coeur about him, as the kindliest cli- 
mate could have engendered and put together." (From Tristram Shandy.) 


delightful talker. 

Shortly after he came to Walpole, he commenced writing in a 
village newspaper, published there under the title of the "Farmer's 
Museum," I think. His articles attracted attention, and soon 
gained for the paper an extensive circulation.^ Colonel Pickering, 
when Secretary of State, appointed him to a clerkship in that depart- 
ment, the duties of which (as I understood) were to superintend and 
correct any inaccuracies he might find in language and style of the 
correspondence of the oflSce. With this appointment, which was 
made on the recommendation of his friends, he was highly gratified. 
But his miserable habit of procrastination prevented his going on to 
the seat of government till Colonel Pickering, on account of his 
misunderstanding with President Adams, had quit the office. He 
was succeeded by Chief Justice Marshall, who, finding this clerkship 
vacant, and being informed that Mr. Dennie had been appointed to 
it, wrote to him inquiring whether he intended to accept it. He 
answered in the affirmative, and promised to come on in a few days. 
But he still procrastinated, till Judge Marshall, under the influence 
of kindly feelings toward him, wrote again, saying, if he did not 
make his appearance by a certain day named, the place must be 
filled by a new appointment. Poor Dennie's evil genius still pre- 
dominated ; the day passed without his going on, and the place was 
lost. A few years afterward he removed to Philadelphia, where he 
established a periodical under the title of the "Portfolio," which 
was sustained mainly by his pen. This publication had a broad 
circulation, and his "writings in it were highly esteemed by the 
most competent judges, for their pure, classical taste. He found 
little congeniality among the Philadelphians ; and, with the excep- 
tion of a few accomplished women, to whom he allowed great deli- 

cacy of taste, he utterly denied all their claim to any kind of literary 


After suffering severely from ill-health, he died in 1811 or 1812. 

Royal Tyler, afterwards Chief Justice of Vermont, at the time of 

' His politics weie in the highest tone of the Washington Federal school. 
His articles came out under the signature of "The Lay Preacher." At one time 
he had a fanciful notion of taking orders in the Episcopal Church. He officiated 
a few times as a lay reader in the church at Claremont. 


which I am speaking attracted much attention in that part of the 
country. He was graduated in Harvard in 1776, and entered at 
once, with great zeal and zest, into the dissipated habits and man- 
ners which at that time characterized the young men of Boston. 
Having suffered both in character and fortune, he removed to Guil- 
ford, adjoining Brattleborough,-' in Vermont. With respectable 
natural talents, he had a brilliant wit and great powers for amusing 
conversation. He moved freely in the society of young men. 

Another extraordinary character of that time and region was 
John W. Blake of Brattleborough. His manners were easy, grace- 
ful, and most agreeable. He was fluent; had an inexhaustible fund 
of anecdote, which made him an enticing and pleasant companion. 
But he was ruined by dissipated habits. 

Another of the extraordinary men who then ranged that country, 
was William Coleman,' afterwards so greatly distinguished as the 
editor of the "New York Evening Post," under the patronage of 
General Hamilton," that his opponents gave him the title of Field 
Marshal of Federal Editors. He was of very humble origin, having 
been born in the Boston poor-house. By great industry and perse- 
vering diligence, he acquired a good education. As a lawyer he was 
respectable, but his chief excellence consisted in a critical knowl- 
edge of the English language, and the adroit management of polit- 
ical discussions. His paper for several years gave the leading tone 
to the press of the Federal party. His acquaintances were often 
surprised by the ability of some of his editorial articles, which were 
supposed to be beyond his depth. Having a convenient oppor- 
tunity, I asked him who wrote, or aided in writing those articles. 
He frankly answered that he made no secret of it; that his paper 
was set up under the auspicies of General" Hamilton, and that he 
assisted him. I then asked, "Does he write in your paper?" "Never 
a word." — "Hoav, then, does he assist?" His answer was, "When- 

'■• Brattleborough, a city of about 6500. Guilford has now 870 people. 

'' Alexander Hamilton, the great Secretary of the Treasury under Washing- 
ton, was but 5 feet 6 inches in height Aaron Burr said of his power with the 
pen: "Anyone who puts himself on paper with Hamilton is lost." 

'• Greenfield now has about 9910 people. 

1 He lived at Greenfield''. 



ever anything occurs on which I. feel the want of information, I state 
the matter to him, sometimes in a note. He appoints a time when I 
may see him, usually a late hour of the evening. He always keeps 
himself minutely informed on all political matters. As soon as I see 
him, he begins in a deliberate manner to dictate, and I to note down 
in short-hand" (he was a good stenographer) ; "when he stops my 
article is completed." At that time the first and ablest men in the 
country directed the course of the political press. They have now 
withdrawn from it, and left it with the editors, whose chief object is 
pecuniary profits. This accounts for the difference between what it 
was then and is now. 

In the autumn of 1795, being in Boston, I was applied to by 
Oliver Phelps, the great land speculator, and others to go to Vir- 
ginia, to examine into the circumstances attending a contract for a 
large tract of Virginia land, that had been conditionally entered 
into, with power to ratify it, if I deemed expedient, or else to set it 
aside and substitute another contract in its stead. The passion for 
land speculation at that time ran high. I had had no previous 
knowledge or acquaintance with such business, and did not feel 
competent for it. A liberal compensation was promised me, and I 
undertook the agency and set out on my journey. When I got to 
Philadelphia, the session of Congress had just commenced, and I 
heard President Washington deliver his speech. He was in full 
dress, with hair in bag, and side arms on, and seemed to me better 
to represent dignity and majesty than any one I had ever seen. 

At Richmond I soon ascertained that no manner of reliance 
could be placed on the performance of the contract I was to inves- 
tigate. The contractors were found to be entirely irresponsible. 
Of course I declined to have anything to do with them. My in- 
structions were, if that contract failed, to make another with some 
responsible person, that might be substituted in its place. For this 
purpose I entered into a negotiation with the celebrated General 
5 (33) 

Henry Lee, then Governor of Virginia, and made with him a con- 
ditional contract. This made me much acquainted with him. 
This was soon after he had commanded, under the appointment of 
General Washington, the troops called out for the suppression of the 
Pennsylvania Whiskey Insurrection, when he was at the height of 


his reputation. He was re'markable for his fine manners and great 
address ; was a gallant soldier, and a great favorite of General Wash- 
ington, The General Assembly of Virginia was then in session. 
The country was much excited on the subject of Jay's treaty with 
Great Britain, and the debates in the House of Burgesses, as they 
called their representatives, were exceedingly ardent. Washington, 
with the advice of the Senate, had ratified the treaty. Virginia 
was opposed to it. An address had been moved complimentary to 
General Washington, who was about to retire from the presidency. 
Among other things, it mentioned "the wisdom of his administra- 
tion." This was assailed with great virulence; the truth of the 
assertion that his administration had been wise was denied. There 
was a great display of metaphysical hair-splitting ingenuity of rea- 
soning. During the debate I dined with the Governor, with a large 
company, consisting of the leading men of the Legislature. Know- 
ing, from previous conversation, what my answer would be, he in- 
quired of me in an emphatic manner, that brought the attention of 
the company upon me, what was the popular opinion in New Eng- 
land relating to the treaty. I answered that the first impression had 
been unfavorable, but that there had been a great change in public 
opinion, and that I thought a majority of the people were in favor 
of it. The vote of the Boston town meeting, almost unanimous^ 
against the treaty, which had been sent to General Washington, 
was cited against me. I had no answer satisfactory to the company. 
I could only assert that the Boston town meeting was no better 
than a mob, and that the country would not follow it. That even- 
ing I received by the mail a New Hampshire newspaper, containing 

Governor Gilman's speech to the Legislature, and their answer 

approving of the treaty and its ratification in strong terms. I was 
engaged to dine the next day at another place, where I knew I 
should meet most of the same company. I put the paper in my 
pocket, and took the first opportunity to read it, and told them they 
might look out for a similar declaration from the Governor and 
Legislature of Massachusetts in a few days. I felt sustained in my 

^ Joseph Hall, since Judpre of Probate, was the only person that dared speak 
in favor of the treaty, and I have heard him say that he did it at the peril of his 
life. The meeting vi^as in Faneuil Hall, and a loud cry was raised to throw him 
out of the window. 


opinion of the previous day, and the friends of the treaty seemed 
much gratified. I saw a good deal of the great men of Virginia, 
and, among others, became somewhat acquainted with Bushrod 
Washington, afterwards a judge of the Supreme Court of the 
United States. He was then a practicing lawyer in Richmond. 
When about to leave Richmond, I was requested to receive a 
package addressed to General Washington, and deliver it to him 
personally. At Philadelphia, I called with the package at the 
President's house, and inquired for Mr. Dandridge, his private 
secretary, who showed me into a room, saying he would inform the 
President, In a few minutes General Washington entered the 
room. I immediately presented the package, saying I had received 
it at Richmond with directions to deliver it to him. He pointed 
me to a seat, sat down himself, and opened the package and began 
reading. He soon turned to'wards me and inquired when I left Rich- 
mond, and when it was expected the Virginia Legislature would 
rise. He then said something about New Hampshire, by which I 
saw he had learned from the package that I was a Yankee. As I 
rose to leave, he rose and asked me when I should leave the city. 
I answered immediately, and made my best bow. As I rose I saw 
he measured my height with his eye. I stood erect to give him the 
whole of it. It obviously exceeded his. This was the only time I 
ever saw General Washington, except when addressing Congress. 
His dress was quite plain; I supposed it to be his riding dress. 
Long boots, corduroy smalls, speckled red jacket, and blue coat 
with yellow buttons. I am thus minute, because I deem the most 
trifling circumstance relating to him interesting. I have never 

doubted that he was by far the best and greatest man that I have 
ever seen ; as a public man he approached as near perfection as it 
is possible for human nature to do. With me it constitutes one of 
the strongest illustrations of the innate depravity of our nature, 
that a large portion of his countrymen, who, without his aid, would 
probably never have had an independent country, reviled him when 
living, and, after his death, when the unanimous voice of the whole 
civilized world compelled them to acknowledge his virtues and his 
wisdom, have churlishly and foolishly refused to follow his example 
or his precepts. 

(From an engraved portrait by St. Memin.) 


I was in the House of Representatives when Mr. Ames made 
his great speech on the British treaty negotiated by Mr. Jay. It 
was a most masterly display of the highest kind of eloquence. Af- 
ter the House had been fagged and tired almost to death with dis- 
cussions by the most talented men in the nation, and nauseated with 
the subject, he revived and excited the highest state of feeling and 
was heard with the most profound interest. Such was the obvious 
effect on the feelings of the House, that on his sitting dojwn and 
nobody rising to answer, and the question being about to be put, 
one of the opposition (I think Mr. Giles) moved an adjournment, 
saying that under such feelings, the House was incompetent to act 
wisely or safely. I afterward had the good fortune of seeing and 
hearing Mr. Ames converse several times. All who knew him al- 
lowed him to be the most delightful man in the world. With much 
genius, he had the purest moral and critical taste. As is commonly 
the case with men of high powers of imagination, he dealt little with 
logical reasoning, but leapt to his conclusions, as it would seem, 
by intuition. 

My agency in Virginia was thought by those interested in it, 
to have been judiciously executed. It made me acquainted with 
many of the land jobbers, who were then numerous. I was offered 
other agencies, and urged to enter extensively into the business. 
At first I thought favorably of it, and agreed to undertake several 


agencies in land sales. But I soon saw enough to satisfy me that it 
was a fallacious, moonshine business, and withdrew entirely from it. 

I had, as I then supposed, acquired considerable profit from it, 
but in the end it mostly failed. I had a connection with Ephraim 
Kirby of Connecticut, which involved me in a troublesome and 
expensive litigation, in settlement of which I became surety for 
Kirby ; he died soon after insolvent, and I was obliged to pay sev- 
eral thousand dollars to get rid of my liability, for which his estate 
only partially indemnified me. This drawback nearly balanced my 
account of profits in land agencies. 

By this time I had become dissatisfied with my situation on 
Connecticut river. The inhabitants were comparatively poor. I 
had business enough, but the most of it was of a small kind. I 
wanted a broader field of action, and to be nearer the great world. 


I felt a strong liking for Boston, but considering the high reputa- 
tion and crowded state of the Boston bar, I dared not attempt to 
intrude myself on them. I thought very seriously of going to New 
York. Having been introduced to Colonel Burr, then at the height 
of his reputation, and favorably noticed by him, I explained my inten- 
tion to him. He, with much apparent sincerity, strongly advised my 
coming to Neiw York; said he had no doubt of my success, and 
promised me his patronage. He advised me at all events to quit the 
State of New Hampshire, which he said could never come to any- 
thing; that New York would soon supplant Virginia and govern 
the Union. I knew that he was in the habit of drawing young men 
round him, taking them under his patronage, and converting them 
into political partisans. This greatly lessened the influence of his 

I thought favorably of Portsmouth,'' and went there in the spring 
of 1797 on a visit of exploration. Edward St. Loe Livermore, who 
had been at the head of the Rockingham bar, had just accepted a 
seat on the bench of the Supreme Court. This made a fair opening. 
The other professional men in that town were not very efficient, Ports- 
mouth was at that time a place of vastly (37) greater comparative 
importance than at present. It contained many highly respectable 
families, and good society was an important object with me. I had 
acquired a little reputation in the courts of New Halmpshire, and 
thought I could take a share of business at Portsmouth, and seriously 
doubted how that might be at New York. I knew that Judge Smith 
was about resigning his place in Congress, with the determination 
of settling himself in the practice at Exeter. I did not consider that 
any objection to my plan, and after mature consideration I removed 
to Portsmouth the ensuing summer. 

I attended the autumn courts of the two large counties of Rock- 
ingham and Stafford in 1797, then containing nearly a hundred 
thousand inhabitants, and was pretty extensively retained. 


^ Mason moved to Portsmouth rather than Boston, in 1707, believing: it would 
eventually be the larpcer city (see p. 165, this work.) Daniel Webster joined him 
there, ten years later, in 1807, movinj? to Boston in ISIG, and Mason joined Web- 
ster in Boston, in 1832. 



Remarks on the Autobiography. — Mr. Mason's removal to Portsmouth. — His 
Marriage. — His Professional Success. — Appointed Attorney General of New 
Hampshire. — Friendship with Mr. Webster. — Mr. Lord's Reminiscences. 

MR. MASON'S simple and characteristic autobiography, bring- 
ing the record of his life down to 1797, leaves little to be said 
by his biographer, either in addition or illustration. He was correct 
in his belief that he was descended from Major John Mason, one of 
the early settlers of Connecticut, distinguished for his gallantry and 
success in the Pequot War in 1637. His third and youngest son, 
Daniel, was the grandfather of Mr. Mason's grandfather.^ 

The town of Lebanon," Mr. Mason's 'birthplace, has changed but 
little since he was born. Its inhabitants were and are mostly far- 
mers, neither rich nor poor, and owning the land which they till. 
It is a good specimen of the agricultural towns in New England. 
On this point I atn able to speak from personal observation, for in 
my early childhood it was my fortune to pass nearly two years there, 
in the family, and under the charge of the Rev. Zebulon Ely, of 
whom Mr. Mason speaks. I well remember the brick school-house 
there, for I have sat many hours on its benches, attending school by 
day and religious meetings by night; and I heartily agree with Mr. 

'' A city of 5,000 in 1900. 

' 1 There was a missing link in the genealogy of the Mason family, arising 
from the fact that Daniel Mason, son of Major John Mason, in the Indian troubles 
of 1676, sent his wife, for her expected confinement, to her friends in Roxbury, 
where her son Daniel was born in February of that year, and baptized by the 
Indian apostle Eliot. This was discovered by the researches of the Rev. G. E. 
Ellis, D. D., which service Mr. Mason acknowledged by a handsome copy of an 
English edition of the Bible in quarto. 

The farm on which Mr. Mason was born was given to his ancestor by Uncas, 
chief of the Mohegan tribe, and remained in the possession of the family till 1851. 



Mason in condemning the bad taste which destroyed this substan- 
tial and serviceable structure, and supplied its place with a fabric 
of wood. 

Mr. Ely, my teacher, was one of those old school New England 
clergymen of whom few are now to be found, and those only in 
secluded villages. He was a rigid Calvinist in doctrine, but his 
natural temper was kindly, and I felt for him the love which cast- 
eth out fear, I suppose his attainments to have been moderate. 
He could have had but small Latin and less Greek. His whole 
library, as I recall it, might have been transported in a wheelbarrow. 
I had but little of teaching or training under his charge ; but he gave 
me a knowledge of the Bible for which I shall ever hold his memory 
in grateful reverence. The good old man was mighty in the Scrip- 
tures. To his simple faith the events and the characters of the 
Bible were as real and distinct as the scenes of his own life and the 
men and women of his own parish. There was no cloud of doubt 
in his sky. The word of God was the object of his daily and rever- 
ent study, and not only his sermons but his letters and his common 
speech had a large infusion of the language of the Bible. 

Upon a salary of less than five hundred dollars a year,'' aided by 
a small farm and the tuition fees of a few pupils, he reared a family 
of twelve children, and left a comfortable property at his death. 
One of his sons, Rev. Ezra Stiles Ely, a graduate of Yale Col- 
lege, and a clergyman in Philadelphia, was a man of some note in 
his day, and has been saved from oblivion by a few lines in Alli- 
bones "Dictionary." 

The people of Lebanon retained in my time the traits which Mr. 
Mason has recorded as belonging to them a half a century before. 
They were earnest theologians, cherishing the creed of the early 
fathers of New England, with lives as strict as their doctrine was 
austere. Owing to the influence of the Trumbull family, which had 
long been settled there, the standard of cultivation and manners 

■'' In this connection, Theophilus Parsons, son of .Judge Theophilus Parsons 
(1750-1813), says that the father of .Judge Parsons, Sr., was a preacher in a small 
place, Byfield, Essex Co., Mass., where he died at (i7, in 1783; brought up a fam- 
ily of seven, upon a salary of $280 a year, educated three sons at Harvard, and 
always maintained a comfortable and hospitable household. (Memoir of Chief 
Justice Parsons, p. 14.) 


was, I apprehend, somewhat higher than in other towns of the same 


class in that region. The common conversation of the people had 
a strong theological flavor ; and many a discussion on "fixed fate, 
free-will, foreknowledge absolute," by me imperfectly understood, 
have I heard on Mr. Ely's porch, and around his frugal board. 

The Sabbath, beginning at sunset on Saturday and closing at the 
same hour on Sunday, was kept with Jewish or Puritan strictness. 
I remember being reproved one Sunday, just at the close of day, by 
one of Mr. Ely's daughters for throwing a stone, and reminded that 
the sun was not set; and that, child as I was, I puzzled myself with 
the inquiry why an act that was wrong before set of sun was right 
after it. 

Mr. Mason was in his thirtieth year, and had been six years at 
the bar when he removed to Portsmouth. He had found sufficient 
professional employment from the start. As he has stated in his 
autobiography, in the first year after his admission to the bar he 
had entered two hundred and two suits at the Court of Common 
Pleas, two hundred and forty-seven in the second, and two hundred 
and fifty-seven in the third; besides a large number returnable be- 
fore justices of the peace. Most of these were probably suits for 
the collection of money, which took care of themselves after being 
once entered upon the docket. This was the usual course of busi- 
ness in those days, as money was scarce, and debtors were willing 
to pay a bill of costs for the privilege of postponing payment a term 
or two. 

But during all these years Mr. Mason had been a diligent stu- 
dent of the law. Neither the allurements of pleasure, nor the 
attractions of society, nor the charms of literature had had power 
to draw him away from his law books in the hours not devoted to 
the business of his clients." Thus he was not only familiar with the 
practice of the law, but he had laid up a good stock of sound legal 

■' It seems that Mr. Mason was unlike Daniel Webster, who was a deep 
reader of general literature, and that the "charm of literature," of which William 
Wirt speaks of being deprived, never lured Mr. Mason from the dry study of the 
law. Note Wirt's lament and longing, in the following: "To be buried in law 
for eight or ten years, without the power of opening a book of taste for a single 
day! O, horrible! horrible! most horrible! O, for that wealth that would enable 
me to wander at large through the fields of general literature, as whim or 


learning, all which was at the instant command of a mind at once 
powerful and ready. He was abundantly able to cope with any of 
the resident lawyers of Portsmouth and its vicinity; nor had he 
occasion to shun an encounter with such formidable antagonists 
as Jeremiah Smith of Exeter, or Samuel Dexter, Theophilus Par- 

sons, and Joseph Story of Massachusetts, each of whom was some- 
times retained against him in important cases. 

On the 9th day of November, 1799, Mr. Mason was married to 
Miss Mary Means,'' daughter of Col. Robert Means of Amherst, 
New Hampshire. This proved a union of rare happiness, securing 
to him what a hard-working lawyer so much needs, the life-long 
blessing of a happy home. Mrs. Mason was a woman of excellent 
understanding, of much gentleness of character, and winning man- 
ners. As a wife and mother she could not be surpassed. Her hus- 
band was nowhere so happy as under his own roof. Often obliged 
to leave home in obedience to the calls of public or professional 
duty, he always had an assurance that during his absence his house- 
hold would be watched over with the most judicious and affectionate 
care. He was given to hospitality, and Mrs. Mason received and 
entertained his guests with a simple and graceful welcome which 
was the natural expression of a kind heart and an amiable temper. 

Mr. Mason was fully employed in professional business from the 
moment of his removal to Portsmouth; and after the elevation to 
the bench of his friend Jeremiah Smith, he stood confessedly at 
the head of the bar in New Hampshire, and soon came to wield a 
power over courts and juries such as no one had had before him, 
and to which no one has since succeeded. 

In 1802 he was appointed Attorney General of the State. It is 
hardly necessary to add that the duties of the office were discharged 

feeling might direct for days and weeks and months together, and thus to raise, 
enlighten and refine my mind and heart, until I become a fit inhabitant for those 
brighter fields of light that lie above us." (From letter to Dabney Carr, Dec. 
17, 1810,— Wirt was then 38—1 Kennedy's Life of Wirt, 262.) 

» Mary Means' marriage to Mr. Mason, when he was thirty-one, gave con- 
trast, as he was 6 feet 6 inches in height, while she was so short that when 
walking together, she tied a handkerchief around his wrist so that she could 
reach it. She survived him ten years, dying in 1858. (See Art. by John Chip- 
man Gray, 3 Great American Lawyers, 3(5.) Mr. Mason used to say of his wife, 


by him, during his term of service, with marked ability, and a con- 
scientious regard to the claims alike of justice and humanity. But 
he doubtless found that the claims of a public trust interfered too 
much with the demands of a rapidly increasing private practice ; for 
at the end of three or four years he resigned the post, to the great 
regret of the bench, the bar, and the public. 

In 1807 Mr. Webster removed from Boscawen to Portsmouth, 
and for the next nine years divided with Mr. Mason the leading 
business of the State. Their acquaintance had begun before Mr. 
Webster came to Portsmouth. I remember distinctly Mr. Mason's 


telling me of his first meeting with his eminent friend. The for- 
mer had been retained in defense of a man of some social position, 
charged with the offense of passing counterfeit money, if I remem- 
ber right, or, perhaps, forgery. He was expecting to meet the At- 
torney General, whose capacity he had measured and knew; but 
when the case was reached, a young man, unknown to him, rose, 
and with modest self-possession, asked permission to conduct the 
prosecution on behalf of the government, in place of the Attorney 
General, unavoidably absent. This proved to be Mr. Webster, then 
recently admitted to the bar. "I soon found," continued Mr. Ma- 
son, "that I had a more wary and formidable antagonist to deal 
with than the official representative of the State, and never did Mr. 
Webster show more judgment and ability in the trial of a case than 
in this." He did not prevail, however, for Mr. Mason's client was 
acquitted. But from that moment Mr. Mason watched with inter- 
est the progress of his young friend, and was not unprepared for 
his future efforts and triumphs. 

As a general rule, Mr. Mason and Mr. Webster were retained 
on opposite sides in every important case that arose in the region 
where they lived ; and it is a fact honorable to both of them that 
this constant antagonism did not prevent their being intimate friends, 
and this, too, though both were earnest men, and would hit hard 

that she was the only witness from whom he could not elicit, by cross-examina- 
tion, a thing she did not wish to tell. (This anecdote was furnished the reviser 
of this edition, by Prof. J. M. Crafts, of Boston, a grandson' of Mr. Mason. The 
porti-aits of Mr. and Mrs. Mason, during their early married life, are from 
paintings owned by Prof. Crafts, and were reproduced from the same, especially 
for this work.) Pi'of. Crafts died in June, 1917. 


when the interests of the clients so required. And this fact is 
honorable to the profession of the law itself, the aim and purpose of 
which are to present the conflicting claims of men to the reason and 
conscience of a disinterested arbiter, purged from the blinding and 
misleading passions of the parties themselves. Mr. Webster has left 
on record acknowledgments of the intellectual advantage he derived 
from thus being brought early in life into such close relations with 
a mind so powerful as Mr. Mason's, and so admirably disciplined by 
the study and practice of the law. 

Mr. Mason was fourteen years older than his friend, and on this 
account, as well as from the former's commanding position at the 
bar, the younger man naturally looked up with deference to the 


elder. And from the intellectual characteristics of the two men, 
Mr. Mason was fitted to exercise a valuable influence over his younger 
friend. Mr. Webster had more various power than Mr. Mason, but 
the latter was his equal, at least, in logical force, and his superior 
in legal learning. Mr. Mason's whole mind and time were given 
to the law ; not so Mr. Webster's. The difference betw^een them may 
be stated thus: Mr. Mason was a great lawyer, but Mr. Webster 
was a great man practicing the law. Nor had the latter Mr. Mason's 
love of labor and patience in legal research; indeed, Mr. Webster's 
natural temperament was rather inclined to ease and averse to ex- 
ertion. It required a strong force to rouse his great powers into 
full activity. 

Thus it was of much service to him to be for so many years con- 
stantly opposed to Mr. Mason in professional contests, for it com- 
pelled him to work hard, to be ever vigilant, to take nothing for 
granted, to be always prepared. He once said that dig as deep as 
one might in the study and preparation of a case, he would find 
that Mr. Mason had gone deeper stills No one opposed to the latter 
could afi"ord to be indolent or negligent or superficial, for such course 
would make shipwreck of his client's cause. Mr. Webster's powers, 
especially his skill and ability as a lawyer, were greatly strengthened 

•■' The testimony of Mr. Webster is everywhere abundant of his indebtedness 
to Mr. Mason, and his opinion of Mason's superiority to any hiwyer he had ever 
known. He also attributes to Mason the reformation of his grandiloquent style, 
in his younger days. 


by the robust and athletic training which his struggles with Mr. 
Mason gave him. 

From the beginning of his residence in Portsmouth to the date 
of his removal to Boston in 1832, Mr. Mason's life flowed on in a 
uniform current, varied only by his four years' service in the Senate 
of the United States from 1813 to 1817, and an occasional term in 
the Legislature of New Hampshire. It was a life of arduous and 
monotonous professional toil, relieved and refreshed by the cordial 
influence of a happy home, and the exercise of a wide and generous 
hospitality. The ca-reer of a hard-working lawyer leaves little for a 
biographer to record, and most lawyers are themselves quite willing 
to forget their professional experiences and struggles as soon as the 

heat and dust of the fight are over. 

Mr. John P. Lord, who was a student in Mr. Mason's office for 
three years, at a time when it was full of business, has put on record 
his recollections of his teacher, and of his manner of life, a liberal 
extract from which may be here appropriately introduced : — " 

"I entered the law office of the late Hon. Jeremiah Mason of Portsmouth, 
N. H., as a pupil, in September, 1805, and continued there until my. admission to 

the bar, in 1808 His office was overrun with clients, coming to him 

to write special contracts, conveyances, wills, and all other documents which 
required the finishing touch of a lawyer, as well as for all sorts of legal advice, 
to commence and defend suits of law, and for other purposes in the line of his pro- 
fession. His charges were moderate, even for that day and place, and his office 
business would have been very lucrative under the circumstances. I think almost 
with incredulity, upon the office labor he performed, for he never had a clerk, 
to my knowledge, whom he would trust to do such work. The number of original 
entries he made at every session of court, was usually more than that of all 
the other attorneys in Portsmouth and more than three times as many as any 
other lawyer in the county; and he was employed in the defense of every im- 
portant suit. During my clerkship, Mr. Mason was found at his office in business 
hours, morning, afternoon, and evening, unless otherwise prevented. Between 
his office and house, there was no half-way place for gossip. I know he was 

•■• There is nowhere else to be found a more succinct account of Mr. Mason's 
methods of conducting his office than the one here given by Mr. Lord, who had 
an abundance of knowledge upon that subject, as the three years in Mr. Mason's 
office were calculated to give him. 


sometimes accosted in the street by certain persons for a legal opinion, gratis, 
but he used to request them politely to call at his office, and he would hear their 
case. When he came into his office, mornings, after breakfast, we were careful 
to have it swept and purified from the smoke of cigars, for young men, even 
in those days, had bad habits. He used every morning to look over his accounts 
and books, to see that all charges for the day preceding had been entered. He 
kept a day-book and ledger, and his only cash-book, to my knowledge, was that 
with the bank, which he kept in a private place. Mr. Mason usually spent a 
short time to converse with his students, about their studies, to ask them ques- 
tions in reference thereto, and to direct them to the propgr books and authorities; 
and at all other times, he was free to converse with them, and occasionally to 
entertain them with anecdotes about persons and things, of which he had an 
exhaustless stock. He required us to hunt up authorities, and prepare briefs 
of special cases. But the office was usually a dull place to all callers, except 
those who came to see the head of it. It never was a place for outside retailers 
of news or gossip. Mr. Mason was particular in small things, especially in paying 
over all moneys collected by him for others. No client had to call the second 
time for his money. All his private bills were paid at sight. He was never 
short. It was not his practice to loan money to individuals or to lend his name 
as surety or indorser. He abhorred the custom, then familiar with attorneys, 
to advance money on notes, accounts, or personal property lodged as collateral 
security, deeming it disreputable to the profession, for a lawyer to act as (45) 
broker or banker. Mr. Mason magnified his position by exerting all his influence 
to prevent petty litigation, or commencement of suits upon mere quibbles, or 
for the purpose of procrastination, or to gratify personal vindictiveness, or 
retaliation. He was eminently a peace-maker, and was instrumental in healing 
many wounds, and in preventing the useless expenditure of money, by a set of 
litigants, who were in the habit of annoying lawyers, to aid them in schemes 
of malice or revenge. Disputes, disagreements, and differences of opinion in 
contracts and insurance, were often settled at that time by arbitration. Mr. 
Mason was employed in most of such cases which occurred as counsel for one 
of the parties, and I have known him to be called to distant towns in that capacity. 
He was eminently successful in this field of professional labor. So much confi- 
dence was placed in his skill and ingenuity by referees, that their awards in such 
cases were complimentary to 'him, and as far as right and justice availed, Mr. 
Mason never lost a case. I had occasion to consult him in a case commenced 
shortly after my admission to the bar, which was submitted to reference. He 


told me how to proceed, and to manage it myself. But I had not the courage, as 
it involved a large sum of money. Mr. Mason was called to my aid, and after 
one of the ablest arguments by the opposing counsel, he put his adversary to 
shame, and recovered an a'ward in favor of my client, which was deemed a victory, 
as the issues were doubtful. The sum awarded my client exceeded $3,500, and 
for that most valuable and successful effort he declined to take a fee, out of friend- 
ship to me. The renown of Mr. Mason as a lawyer was earned in open court. 
This was the field of his glory. He had great power with the Court; for he was 
respectful, lucid, and always panoplied with a well prepared legal argument. 
When he addressed the jury of trials, he was felicitous in presenting the strong 
points of his case, as it were, in a nut-shell, and in hiding out of sight, as much 
as possible, the strong points of his opponent's case, and commenting with severi- 
ty upon his weak points. No matter what the case was, he was ready for trial, 
with his vdtnesses, his brief, and his authorities at hand. He seemed to have an 
intuitive knowledge of character, especally jurors, and when he addressed them, 
adapted his speech to their comprehension, their judgment, and their consciences. 
He aimed to be brief, clear, and argumentative, and not prosy, florid, and declama- 
tory. His words told. Mr. Mason was learned in criminal law. He was the first 
Attorney General in the State who comprehended the responsibilities of the of- 
fice. His predecessors, as I heard, lacked knowledge. There was confusion in 
that department at his appointment. He purified it. His labors in that office 
were herculean. The Supreme Court was holden in every county of the State; 
and his official duties required him to be present at each session of the Court, 
when the Grand Jury was also in session. His punctuality was proverbial. As 
the legal adviser and organ of the grand inquest of the county, it was told me 
that he frowned upon all vexatious combinations to procure indictments, as had 
been the custom, and in all cases brought before them, counseled the jury of in- 
quest never to agree upon indictments unless the (46) evidence of guilt would lead 
to conviction by the jury of trial. Hence it was the common remark of the lawyers, 
that prisoners, under the administration of the Attorney General, had a small 
chance of escape from the verdict of the jury of trial. It was said the vigilant 
Attorney for the State never lost a case; that conviction followed indictment, and 
that punishment was the consequence of guilt. 




Letter to Dr. Appleton. — Politics of New Hampshire. — Mr. Mason chosen United 
States Senator. — Residence in Washington during the First and Second 
Sessions of the Thirteenth Congress. — Letters to Mrs. Mason and to Dr. 

THE Reverend Jesse Appleton, D. D., was an early friend and 
correspondent of Mr. Mason's. They were connections as well 
as friends, Mrs. Appleton and Mrs. Mason being sisters. Dr. Apple- 
ton was chosen President of Bowdoin College in 1807 and died in 
1819, at the age of forty-seven. His death was regarded throughout 
New England as a heavy blow to the interests of religion, education, 
and literature. Mr. Mason was warmly attached to him, and had 
the highest respect for his character and capacity. 

Dr. Appleton had probably in his course of instruction had occa- 
sion to consider the question of usury and usury laws, and had 
written to his friend for his views on the subject. Mr. Mason re- 
plies in a letter which is the earliest on date of any I find among his 


Portsmouth, Augntit 12, 1811. 

Dear Sir, — I know I ought long ago to have answered your 
letter of 20 June: not well knowing how to do it is the reason 
of the delay. I think it probable when you have read this you will 
be convinced of the sufficiency of the reason. 

Theorists have often doubted the policy of laws against usury. 
The fact, however, that such laws have been adopted by most civ- 
ilized nations, as well ancient as modern, is of itself strong evidence 
of their practical utility. 


The protection of the poor from oppression (which you mention) 


is doubtless one, but I think not the principal object of these laws. 
Such laws have been in use in many countries where the rights of 
the poor were little respected. 

The principal object has been said to be to induce the rich cap- 
italist to use his own stock and be industrious. It is more advan- 
tageous to society that the rich capitalist should use his own indus- 
try in the employment of his stock, than that he should sit idle 
and take the benefit of the industry of others. The loan of money 
therefore at a high rate of interest, which would encourage the 
capitalist to be idle, has always been discouraged. 

A nation has only a limited quantity of capital stock on which 
to employ the labor of all its citizens; without lands for the hus- 
bandman, or materials for the mechanic, there would be no labor. 
This capital stock, whether consisting in lands or personal chattels, 
will for obvious reasons be possessed by individuals in very unequal 
portions. The object to be attained is such a distribution of it as 
will afford the greatest incitement to productive labor, and thereby 
give the greatest increase of the capital stock. The increase is the 
joint product of the stock and the labor bestowed on it. The bor- 
rower wants to obtain stock on which he can bestow his labor with 
profit. The monejj received in the loan is merely the instrument 
which conveys a right to a certain portion of capital stock. A me- 
chanic who hires money to purchase the materials he wants, finds the 
money to be only an efficient order for the materials. He might as 
well hire the materials of the money-lender, if he had them. The 
rate of interest of money therefore regulates the rate of hire of all 
other property. A prohibition to take any interest would generally 
prevent loans. Were benevolence to form the only motive, the fear 
of loss would prevent, or too much restrict lending. This prohibi- 
tion, which was taken from the Mosaic code, and adopted in times 
of monkish superstition in England and most other countries of 
Europe, is now universally exploded. Under certain circumstances 
lending is beneficial to both the parties concerned and also to the pub- 
lic. When (49) the capitalist has more stock than he can manage to 
profit by his own industry, he ought to lend that part which he can- 


not employ to advantage, and that part only. If he lends the whole 
he must become idle himself. 

Idleness in the rich is as detrimental to society as idleness in 
the poor. When the rich capitalist can by lending his stock 
obtain as much profit as he can by retaining it, and bestowing his 
own industry on it, he will lend the whole and become an idle 
drone living on the industry of others. The man who lives on 
the interest paid for his loans, is, as it respects the increase of 
national wealth, a dead tax on society. Hence good policy requires 
that the rate of interest should be such as will induce the capitalist 
to lend the surplus only of his stock which he cannot himself employ 
to profit, and the industrious laborer to hire it and thereby make 
profit by his labor. A moderate rate of interest will induce the 
capitalist to lend his surplus, which if retained by him will give 
no profit. The danger is that the rate of interest, unless restrained 
by law, will be too high, more especially in poor countries where 
there is more ability to labor than stock to employ it. If the rate 
of interest is so high as to take the whole or nearly the whole of 
the product of the stock hired and labor bestowed on it, there will 
be no inducement to hire, and the laborer will become indolent. In 
rich countries there being a superabundance of stock, and conse- 
quently less profit from the employment of it, the rate of interest 
usually is, and ought to be low, and in poor countries it ought to be 
higher; other\vise there will be no loans. 

The laws against usury limit the highest rate of interest for which 
loans may be made. These doubtless tend to keep down the rate 
of interest, unless the legal rate is fixed greatly below the market 
rate. If the difference is very great it will induce the lender to 
attempt evasions of the la'w, and to seek indemnity for the risk he 
runs by the enhanced rate stipulated for. The legal rate ought to 
be nearly the same with the market rate, or the rate it would fix 
at if not regulated by law. This market rate must be gathered 

from the average given by prudeiit persons, on good security, with 
ordinary prospects of profits. And the law, by fixing this rate, pre- 
vents loans on had security, which is commonly injurious to the 
public as well as to the lender; for if the rate of interest is the 
same, the good security will be preferred. The persons who are 


willing to hire at an extravagant rate of interest are sometimes the 
poor and distressed, but more often the prodigal and the sanguine 
projector, forming wild projects of gain which are generally injuri- 
ous to society. If they were permitted to hire at what rate they 
pleased, they would greatly enhance the market rate, and thus pre- 
vent others more prudent from obtaining loans on moderate terms. 

The market rate in many countries has often been below the 
legal rate. In Holland, before the late revolution there, the rate 
fixed by law was four per cent. Yet loans were effected there on 
governmental security at two per cent., and on private security at 
three per cent. In England, where the legal rate was formerly fif- 
teen and afterwards ten per cent., and is now five per cent., loans 
have been had by Government at three per cent., and by individuals 
at four per cent. In those countries there was a great abundance 
of capital. 

In some of the United States — New York and South Carolina 
— the legal rate is seven per cent. Loans have often been made in 
New York at six per cent. I am inclined to believe that in the 
large towns of the United States generally, the market rate is not 
over six per cent. The three per cent, stock of the United States 
has usually sold for more than sixty per cent. This is our most 
permanent stock and consequently is best esteemed. Our Govern- 
ment have generally hired what they wanted at six per cent., re- 
deemable at a short period; and I am told they had one loan of the 
Bank of the United States at five per cent. 

In remote and poor parts of the country the market rate is prob- 
ably above six per cent ; but this is owing in a great measure to the 
insufficiency of the security given. Moneyed men in such parts of 

the country who are in the habit of lending always complain of their 

frequent losses. 

We have agreed with Dr. Coflfin to take the charge of our Acad- 
emy. I hope and believe it will prove fortunate for us. 

Last Sunday Dr. Griffin preached a charity sermon here for the 
benefit of the Female Asylum. The sermon was very long, and yet 
by most of the hearers said to be very eloquent. 

We expect to see you after your Commencement, in which I hope 


we shall not be disappointed. I am sincerely yours, 

Jere. Mason. 

Down to the year 1805, New Hampshire was a Federal State: 
but in that year, after an exciting contest, the Republican party 
prevailed, choosing a governor, and carrying every branch of the 
State government by a majority of nearly four thousand. At the 
beginning of the year, the Senators in Congress were William 
Plumer and Simon Olcott; but the latter's term of service expired 
in March, and Nicholas Oilman, a Republican, was chosen in his 
place. As he was the first Republican who had represented New 
Hampshire in either House of Congress, his election was naturally 
hailed with much triumph by his party. 

In August, 1806, five Republican members of Congress were 
chosen, and a few months later, Nahum Parker, a Republican, was 
chosen Senator to succeed William Plumer, whose term of service 
had expired. 

In the spring election in 1808 for State oflflcers, the Republican 
party retained their ascendancy, choosing a Legislature which sus- 
tained the policy of President Jefferson, adopting an address to 
that effect; but in the national election in the autumn, the tide of 
politics turned, and the Federal party prevailed ; choosing five mem- 
bers of Congress, and presidential electors who gave the vote of the 
State to Charles Cotesworth Pinckney,' the unsuccessful rival of 
Madison in the contest for the presidency. 

In the State election of the spring of 1809, the Federal party tri- 


umphed, but by a very small majority; but the next year restored 

"Charles Cotesworth Pinckney (1746-1825). American statesman, born at 
Charleston, S. C. He was educated at Oxford, England, studied for the bar 
at the Middle Temple, London, and afterward at the Royal Military Academy in 
Caen, France, returning to practice law in Chai-leston, in 1769. Became Attor- 
ney-General of the Province and was a member of the Provincial Congress, in 
1775. Was a brigadier-general in the Revolution; member of the Convention 
that framed the Federal Constitution; minister with Marshall and Gerry in 
France, in 1797, and, when Talleyrand demanded $240,000 as a condition before 
beginning negotiations, uttered those immortal words, — "Millions for defense, 
but not one cent for tribute." He was candidate for President against Jeffer- 
son in 1804, and against Madison in 1808. 


the Republican party to power; and Nahum Parker having re- 
signed his seat in the Senate, Charles Cutts, a Republican, was 
chosen in his place. Of the five members chosen to Congress in 
the autumn of 1810, four were Republicans. 

Thus it was evident that in New Hampshire parties were pretty 
equally divided, and neither could afford to be careless or indolent. 
Each was obliged to select good candidates, and to work hard in 
their behalf. The result being doubtful, elections were watched 
with lively interest, and the full strength of each party was brought 
out. But of wealth, influence, social position, and education the 
Federal party had a larger share than its rival. The clergy had 
more power over public opinion then than now, and the clergymen 
of New Hampshire, as of all New England, were generally Feder- 
alists, not only disliking the politics of Jefferson, but hating him 
personally, on account of his heterodoxy in religion, with all the ran- 
cor of theological hatred. 

The State election of 1811 was favorable to the Republicans, as 
was that of 1812; but the latter after a close contest, and by a very 
small majority. 

War against Great Britain was declared in 1812, and this too 
was the year for the choice of presidential electors. The autumn 
election for national officers was from these causes contested with 
peculiar earnestness. Each party put forth all its strength, and 
after a hot conflict the Federal party prevailed, choosing the elec- 
tors of president and the members for the Thirteenth Congress. 
Among these latter was Mr. Webster, who had become widely and 
favorably known by "The Rockingham Memorial," in opposition 
to the war, published in August, 1812.^ ^ 

" Webster was but thirty, years of age, at this time, had been but seven 
years at the bar, and a resident of Portsmouth five years, having removed 
there from Boscawen, in Sept., 1807. 

1 Mr. George Bristow, in his History of Neiv Hampshire, published in 1842, 
with a strong Republican bias, attributes the success of the Federalists in the 
election after the war had begun, to the fact that so many Republicans were 
away from home, serving in the army or navy. See Barstow's History of Neiv 
Hampshire, page 363. This may be true in part, but much was also due to the 
influence of the embargo and non-intercourse acts of the administration of Jef- 
ferson and Madison, which bore hard upon the maritime population of New 


The spring election of 1813 for State officers was contested with 
great earnestness, for the Legislature to be chosen would be called 
upon to elect a United States Senator in the place of Mr. Cutts, 
whose term of service expired. The Federal- party carried the State, 
and of course a Federal Legislature was chosen, and the election of 
a Federal Senator was secured. 

The first choice of the Legislature fell upon Dr. John Goddard, 
a merchant of Portsmouth, originally a physician, a man of ability 
and high character; but having no taste for public life, he declined 
the honor. This incident curiously illustrates the difference be- 
tween that time and the present. It is doubtless possible today 
to find men to whom so brilliant a position as a seat in the United 
States Senate presents no attractions, but it may be pronounced a 
moral impossibility that a man should be chosen to the Senate with- 
out its previously being known whether he would accept the trust. ^ 

The Legislature next made choice of Mr. Mason. He has left 
nothing on record upon the subject, but we presume that in accept- 
ing the trust he acted from a sense of duty, feeling that the office 
was neither to be sought nor declined. He was no politician, in 
the ordinary acceptation of the term, and no aspirant for political 
distinction; but he took a keen interest in public affairs, and was 
a patriot in the best sense of the word. He was a strong Federal- 
ist, alike from conviction and feeling. He had the highest rever- 
ence for the character and principles of Washington, and an equal 
gratitude for the inestimable services he had rendered to the coun- 
try. His political opinions, though never obtruded, were always ex- 
pressed, when the occasion required it, with a frankness and fullness 
which left no doubt in the hearer's mind as to his position and views. 

In selecting Mr. Mason, the Legislature of New Hampshire acted 
wisely. In general ability he had no equal in the State, except Mr. 
England, and threw many out of employment. A man can hardly be expected 
to vote for a party which takes the bread out of his mouth. 

1 Since wi-iting the above I have been told that some at least of those who 
voted for Dr. Goddard knew that he would not accept, and that his election was 
a feint to secure that of Mr. Mason. There were political manap,ers and wire 
pullers in those days as there are now. Dr. Goddard had been a leading Repub- 
lican, but being an opponent of the war he had joined the Federalists, or at least 
acted with them. 



Webster, who, as before stated, was already a member of the House 
of Representatives by popular election. Mr. Mason was also from 
his judgment and prudence peculiarly fitted for public ofRce in times 
when party spirit ran high, as it did then. There was nothing impas- 
sioned in his temperament or fanatical in his understanding. His 
mind was judicial in its tone, and he had no taste for extreme prop- 
ositions or extreme measures. His self-control was perfect, and he 
was not one of those unlucky speakers who say things in haste and 
repent of them at leisure. There were some Federalists in New 
England whose vehement opposition to the war carried them be- 
yond the bounds alike of prudence and patriotism, but Mr. Mason 
was not one of these ; nor was his friend Mr. Webster. Their course 
illustrated the proper functions of an opposition in time of war, 
under a constitutional government. 

The Thirteenth Congress, in conformity with a law passed at the 
previous session, assembled on the 24th of May, 1813. Mr. Oilman 
and Mr. Cutts appeared as Senators from New Hampshire, the latter 
whose term of service had expired on the 4th of March, having been 
appointed by the Governor of New Hampshire to fill the seat until 
a choice by the Legislature. 

Mr. Mason was elected on the 10th of June, and immediately set 
out for Washington. Two of his letters to his wife, written on the 
road, will enable the reader to measure the delays and discomforts of 
travelling in those days. 


Hartford, Sunday Afternoon, June 13, 1813. 

My Dear Mary, — I have got on thus far prosperously, though 
with considerable fatigue. I suppose Mr. Fales told you that at 
North Hampton, I hired an honest sea-captain to give me his seat 
in the stage, and to accept for himself a seat with the coachman. 
We arrived at Boston about ten o'clock. On inquiry at the stage 
house, respecting the stages which were to start for the South next 
morning, I could get no information. No stages started from that 


house for the South. The bar-tender, who was half asleep, told me 
of three houses — from one of which he said the Southern stage 


would start the next morning. I tried to make him go and inquire 
for me, but this he flatly refused. I went myself, and at the first 
house, after knocking at the door at least five minutes, was told 
from a window in the third story that I was at the wrong house. I 
then went a considerable distance to the next house I was directed 
to, and after a long knocking, got in and was told I might have a 
seat in the mail stage, if I would be there exactly at four o'clock — 
that I could have no bed, but might lie on the floor if I pleased. 
Not liking that, I went back to the first stage house, and there pro- 
cured a bed about as wide as I am, but not much more than half as 
long. There were four more in the same small chamber, with a lusty 
snorer in each. Having bribed the bar-tender to call me before "ihe 
appointed time, and extended my bed with the addition of a chair I 
took possession of it a little after two o'clock. I was about getting 
asleep, when I was called up, and after waiting in the street nearly 
an hour, got into the stage and arrived at Springfield, a little after 
one o'clock last night. There I stopped and went to bed. The stage 
went on and will make no stop till it arrives at New York. This 
forenoon I came in a chaise from Springfield to this place. Tomor- 
row morning at four o'clock, I shall set out in a new line of stages 
which runs from here to Mount Pleasant on the Hudson River thirty 
miles above New York. Frotm Mount Pleasant I shall go down to 
New York in a packet-boat. This is better than the usual route, in 
which I should have to ride all one night, or again leave the stage and 
get on by a private conveyance. How I shall go on from New York I 
have not determined, but I think I shall take the steamboat to Bruns- 
wick. This much for the beginning of the journey of honor. Though 
somewhat tried, my constitution seems to bear it pretty well. I 
have as yet experienced no trouble, except what arises from my own 
petulance, which is somewhat subject to be excited by the unlucky 
incidents of rapid travelling. . . . Yours affectionately, 

Jeremiah Mason. 




Baltimore^, Saturday, 19th June, 1813. 

My Dear Mary, — I wrote you from Philadelphia on Wednes- 
day evening. The next morning I continued my journey in the 
mail stage to Havre de Grace, seventy miles, where I left it, and 
came here yesterday in another stage. The thunder-storm, which 
was very severe, had no effect in cooling the air, as I expected. 
The weather since has been more intensely warm than before. 
The storm was exceedingly violent, and extended forty miles this 
side Philadelphia. I noticed in the road many large forest trees 
torn up. I heard of two stages which were out through the storm, 
full of passengers. One, in the midst of a wood, was in imminent 
danger from the falling trees, and was detained several hours after 
the storm was over before the trees could be cleared away, which 
fell across the road. Last evening there was a very violent gust of 
wind in this place, nearly equal to that in Philadelphia, but attended 
with little rain. I hope these storms are not ominous of other storms 
in the voyage I have set out on; and if storms of another kind do 
arrive I hope I shall be equally fortunate in avoiding them. I have 
been considerably oppressed with the heat, and tarry home today 
to recruit. I now feel pretty well, and do not fear any injury from 
the heat or fatigue. I am at Gadsby's inn, which seems to be the 
most extensive and perfect establishment of the kind I have ever 
seen. On inquiring for a bath I found a most excellent one in the 
house. It is quite necessary after the violent exercise of travelling 
in this warm, sultry weather; I have used it twice. I could well 
enough have gone on to Washington today if it had been in any 
way necessary. But I thought it best to take a day's rest, which 
affords me an opportunity of getting a few articles of thin dress 
which I have wanted. There is, doubtless; much difference in the 
degree of heat here and at Portsmouth. I eat green peas at New 
York, where they had been more than a week. At Philadelphia 
the cherries and strawberries were in perfection; all the way this 

^ It will be observed that Mr. Mason was six days journeying from Hart- 
ford, Conn., to Baltimore, Md. 


side of Philadelphia I have seen cherries in great abundance. 1 
shall go on to Washington tomorrow morning in a private carriage, 
if one can be had on reasonable terms. A Mr. Bowers, a member 
of the House of Representatives from New York, this forenoon ap- 
plied to me to take a carriage with him, saying he would find two 
other persons to join in same. I consented, if he can effect it. It 
does not much increase the expense, and will prevent being crowded, 
which is very unpleasant in this weather. The distance is only forty 
miles. I consider the journey past. I am told they talk at Wash- 
ington of having a longer session than was expected. I do not 
believe it will last through July. Mr. Webster has brought forward 
in the House of Representatives a motion calling on the President 
for information respecting our relations with France (which you 
have or will see in the newspapers), on which there has been some 
warm debating. 

I have come on just as I told you I intended, without inquiring 
for, looking for, or seeing anybody. *What is a little singular, ex- 
cept at Newburyport, I have not on my whole journey seen a single 
person I knew. I have seen several who knew me. I have till 
yesterday been at no place where I could see anybody. I arrived 
here just before dinner time, and dined at an ordinary with perhaps 
sixty or eighty strangers. This afternoon I intend to go out and 
see the town, of the form of which at present I have a very imper- 
fect idea. At Washington I expect letters from you. 

Yours, J. Mason. 

He took his seat on the 21st of June. Two days after he thus 
wrote to his wife : — 


Washington, June 23, 1813. 

I wrote you a few lines the day before yesterday, just after I had 
taken my seat in the Senate. Though there would seem to be 

nothing in a person's walking into a room, taking an oath which 
he has taken half a dozen times before, calculated to disturb or 
discompose him; yet, I assure you, I felt a little awlnvard, and 


when I wrote to you, which was a few minutes after, I scarcely knew 
what I wrote. I have since received your letter of the 16th instant, 
inclosing the letters of the children. I am very glad to hear you 
are all well. You mention having received from the post-office three 
letters, one from Mr. Wild of Hallowell, one from Mr. Hale. The 
other you do not mention. Keep the two and inform me of the 
third, if of any importance. I have got settled in pretty good lodg- 
ings, though at too great a distance from the Capitol, — about two 
miles. The society is good. Mr. Oilman, General Smith of Balti- 
more, Messrs. Goldsborough of Maryland, Mr. Eppes, etc., also sev- 
eral ladies. We have carriages to carry us to the Capitol when neces- 
sary. I should have preferred lodgings nearer the Capitol, if I could 
have got such as I liked, but could not. 

I can form no opinion of the length of the session. It is now 
said the session will not terminate before the 20th of July. Things 
here look quite as well as I expected. I am pretty well recovered 
from the fatigue of my journey. Tell the children I will answer 
their letters soon. Give my love to them. 

Yours in haste, J. Mason. 

The United States Senate at that time consisted of thirty-six 
members, of whom twenty-seven were Republicans and nine were 
Federalists. Mr. Giles of Virginia was the ablest debator and the 
leading mind on the Democratic side, but having become disaffected 
to the administration of Mr. Madison, neither his voice nor his vote 
was to be depended upon. He spoke and acted, as Harry Wynd 
fought, for his own hand. Mr. Campbell of Tennessee was the 
administration leader. Mr. Gore of Massachusetts and Mr. King^' 
of New York were the leading members on the Federal side. With 
both of these distinguished men Mr. Mason formed a close and 
enduring friendship. 

» This was Christopher Gore, the cultured, commercial lawyer, with whom 
Daniel Webster read law in 1804-5, and who advised young Webster, when 
offered a $1500 clerkship in his father's N. H. Court, to decline the place, and 
stick to the law, which he had the good sense to do, though it was a struggle 
for him to do so. (See 1 Geo. T. Curtis's Life of Webster, 69-72.) 

^ Rufus King, whom Mason thought the most able man and the greatest 
orator he had ever known. Webster relates, that while in Mr, Gore's office, in 


The House of Representatives consisted of one hundred and 
eighty-two members, of whom one hundred and fourteen were Re- 
publicans, and sixty-eight were Federalists. The leading Republi- 
cans were Mr. Clay of Kentucky and Mr. Calhoun of South Carolina ; 
and conspicuous on the same side were John McLean of Ohio, John 
Forsyth and George M. Troup of Georgia, Charles J. Ingersoll of Penn- 
sylvania, Felix Grundy of Tennessee, and Langdon Cheves and Wil- 
liam Lowndes, of South Carolina. 

Mr. Gaston, of North Carolina, Mr. Grosvenor of New York, 
and Mr. Webster, all new members, soon rose to the place of lead- 
ers on the Federal side. 

Two of the ablest men in the Twelfth Congress were no longer 
members. Mr. Quincy of Massachusetts had declined a re-election, 
and Mr. Randolph of Virginia, whose brilliant and erratic genius had 
already given him a national reputation, had, on account of his oppo- 
sition to the war, been defeated by Mr. Eppes, son-in-law of Mr. 

Congress remained in session till the second day of August, but 
Mr. Mason left Washington a day or two before, on leave of absence. 
In so short a period of service, and belonging to a hopeless minority, 
he could do little more than look about him, and learn to feel at 
home in his new position. 

Two letters to his wife give us a glimpse of his Washington 
life :— 


Washington, July 3, 1813. 

My dear Mary, — . . . .You inquire if I attend church. The 
Church does not in any respect make a conspicious figure here. 

Boston, a gentleman came in, and asked to see Mr. Gore, who was not in. He 
sat down to wait for him» He was dressed in plain gray clothes. Webster 
was reading a work on the Law of Nations, which had much to say of ships 
and freight, etc. The stranger, coming up to the table said: "Well, I read 
that book, too, when I was a boy" (Mr. King, for this was the stranger's name, 
was then 50) and says Webster, proceeded to talk not only about "ships and 
freights," but insurance, prize, and other matters of maritime law, in a man- 
ner, "to put me up to all I knew," and a good deal more. (See Wehste^-'s Auto^ 
biography, p. 19.) 


I have as yet been here but one Sunday, on which I did not go out. 
Public worship is held at the capitol ; but from what I have seen of 
the chaplains I presume the preaching is ordinary. I shall go there 
tomorrow. There is a church in Georgetown where I am told there is 
a good preacher. Mr. Madison is on the recovery, (60) which will re- 
lieve your apprehension of the government devolving on Mr. Gerry.'' 
The old gentleman is usually characterized here by the same epithet 
which you mention I used to bestow on him. The weather continues 
very warm ; it is said, unusually so, for the climate ; but I do not per^ 
ceive it has affected my health in any degree. I am doing here as well 
as I expected as far as relates to myself personally; that is, I have 
tolerable lodgings and pretty good company. Have made my first 
speech in the Senate.^ It was concise, and no great thing, but seemed 
to be pretty well received. Without the spirit of prophecy it is im- 
possible to tell when the session will end. I intend to come home by 
the first part of August. 

Virginia is in great alarm with the invasion. No great damage 
has yet been done. My respects to Mr. Fales and love to yourself 
and children. J. Mason. 


Washington, July 11, 1813. 

My dear Mary, — I was invited this morning to go to the Quaker 
meeting but declined, to afford me an opportunity of performing 
my promise in my note of yesterday, of writing today. Although I 
do not seem to have much to do, yet by reason of calls and various 
interruptions I have not much leisure. I have seen many new faces 
and new things. As yet I have not derived much instruction or 
amusement from the view. I have, however, seen people from whom 
I expect considerable of both. The people in the house where I lodge 

1 This speech is not reported, and there is nothing in the printed records of 
the Senate to show on what subject it was made. 


^ Elbridge Gerry (1744-1814), at this time 69, was Vice-President under 
Madison, and held that office when he died. He was born at Marblehead, Mass., 
graduated at Harvard; was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independ- 
ence, and a member of the Convention which adopted the Constitution, but re- 


are of various sorts. Some very fashionable, some both fashionable 
and well-informed, and some not superlative in anything. Having 
already tarried here nearly as long as I expected, I begin to wish to 
set my face homeward. While experiencing the bad attendance of 
servants and the numerous wants in little matters of accommoda- 
tion, I cannot help sometimes contrasting my situation here with 
home. But in another point of view, my situation here will still 
less bear comparison with that at home. I am here constantly sur- 
rounded by people for whom I do not care a biscuit ; at home I am in 
the midst of all those I hold most dear. Here, nothing concerns or 
interests me; there, everything. I am much inclined to think the 
glitter of the Southern folks consists more in tinsel than gold. I 
fear this will apply to their characters in all respects. They make 
a great show of equipage and servants, while they live in lodgings, 
and with accommodations, which to us would be absolutely uncom- 
fortable. Their conversation is generally easy and specious, but 
affords little instruction. I am yet in doubt how I shall like continu- 
ing here. Public affairs are certainly very gloomy. This I expect- 
ed. The prospect of change and amendment is quite as promising 
as I expected. My situation personally is, on the whole, as good as 
I could expect. The people whom I most respect seem to be dis- 
posed to treat me well enough. Were it not for this ugly absence 
from all I value, I should probably be pretty well satisfied. I travel 
home twenty times a day to see what you are about, and always find 
that much more interesting than anything doing here. Our Senate 
yesterday, refused to ratify the appointment of a minster to Sweden, 
which was a favorite measure with the administration.^ It is consid- 
ered here, as being the most important point which has been car- 
fused to sign on the ground that the rights of the people were not sufficiently 
protected. (See Austin's Life of Gerry (1828-9.). 

His family died in penury, Congress having refused to pay the destitute 
family (he having died in November, 1814, during the session), on the ground 
that a pension was intended, as they had just appropriated $30,000 to purchase 
Jefferson's 7,000-volumed library. (See Schouler's History of U. S., Vol. 2, 
p. 508.) 

1 On the 9th of July the Senate voted, twenty-two yeas to fourteen nays, 
that it was inexpedient to send a minister to Sweden. Mr. Jonathan Russell 
had been nominated. 



ried against the administration for ten years. It was not expected, 
and has created considerable sensation. There are other questions 
of still more importance to be determined. The administration will 
probably carry their main question, but I trust they will learn to be 
more cautious and prudent in future. The Federalists, as far as 
party feelings are concerned, are in better spirits than for several 
years past. But I hope and trust that the violence of party feelings 
is subsiding. There is considerable prospect of it in the Senate 

Affectionately yours, J. Mason. 

He writes, on public affairs, to his friend Dr. Appleton, like him- 
self, a decided Federalist: — 


Washington, July 20, 1813. 

My DEAR Sir, — Ever since I have been here I have intended to 
write you. But although I have personally not much of importance 
to do, yet there have been so many matters to hear and think of 
that I have had very little leisure. To me most things here are new, 
and not a few appear strange. I expected to find some dissatisfac- 
tion among the old friends of the administration. But I was not 
prepared to expect the violent jealousies among them which I find. 
They have no confidence in each other. It is believed here that there 
exists no confidence among the heads of the departments. The Sec- 
retary of State and of War' are each some distance down the river, 
at the head of separate bodies of troops, preparing to oppose the 
enemy. They are both ambitious of military command, and envious 
of each other. The influence of the President is much less than I 
supposed. There seems to be little plan or concert in the manage- 
ment of public affairs. The party in power feel mortified and de- 

The Senate have in several instances acted with great apparent 
independence. The refusal to assent to the appointment of Russell 

^ James Monroe was Secretary of State, and John Armstrong, of New 
York, Secretary of War. 


minister to Sweden, and of Gallatin'^ as one of the commissioners 
under the Russian mediation, was the rudest shock the President 
has ever experienced. It was wholly unexpected. In those cases 
peculiar reasons operated with several individuals, and induced them 
to act against the President. I fear similar reasons will not con- 
tinue to operate in other cases. Gallatin was suspected of am- 
bition. He aspired to the Presidency, and had rivals who wished 
to impede his way. Some of the old friends of the President acted 
from other and better motives. They deemed the affairs of Secre- 
tary of the Treasury and minister to a foreign court incompatible. 

The President is highly offended, and there will be some difficulty 
in forming a new league. If there was more honor or honesty among 
them the difficulty would be increased. But they have been so long 
in the habit of making jobbing bargains that I expect some expedi- 
ent will be hit on to restore their ancient amity. 

I can give you no information respecting the probability of the 
enemy's coming to this place. They are now about forty miles down 
the river. Reports respecting their force and probable intention 
are various. I believe they intend to come here, but they have been 
so dilatory in their movements that they will not be able to effect 
their object. The people here have been greatly alarmed. 

Congress expect to end the present session in about one week 
after your Commencement. I hope to see you at Portsmouth. Make 
my affectionate respects to Mrs. Appleton. 

I am sincerely yours, J. Mason. 

The second session of the Thirteenth Congress began on the 
sixth day of December, 1813, and closed on the eighteenth day of 
April, 1814. Mr. Mason was present in his seat at the opening of 
the session, and remained in Washington till its close. He was 
constant in his attendance, and took an active part in the proceed- 
ings of the Senate. Not having been a member of that body at the 

'^ Speaking of Albert Gallatin, one of the greatest compliments ever given 
him, was the sarcastic retort J. J. Ingalls made to a Pennsylvania Senator, who 
had spoken disparagingly of Kansas. "Mr. President," said Ingalls, "Pennsyl- 
vania has produced but two great men: Benjamin Franklin, of Massachusetts, 
and Albert Gallatin, of Switzerland." 


opening of the first session, May 24th, 1813, he 'was not placed on 
any of the standing committees, but he served on several specially 
appointed during the course of the winter. He was chairman of one 
which reported a bill for the purchase of a library for the use of the 
Supreme Court, which passed the Senate, but never ripened into a 
law. He v^as a member of another which seems to have done a good 
deal of w^ork, which had under consideration certain questions be- 
tween the State of Georgia and the Mississippi Territory ; and finally 
reported a bill which became a law, under the title of "An Act pro- 
viding for the indemnification of certain claimants of public lands 
in the Mississippi Territory. Approved March 31, 1814." 

He served upon a joint committee on the library, and upon a 

Senate committee to inquire whether the acts of Congress relative 

to the general promulgation of the laws required any amendment. 

As is well known to all who are familiar with the past history of 
the country, the almost exclusive business of Congress during this 
session was the providing of men and money for carrying on a war 
into which the country had been plunged with little of forethought 
and less of preparation. The party opposed to the war, though weak 
in numbers, was powerful in ability and influence; but the force of 
the opposition was not so great a difficulty in carrying on the war as 
was the cold and languid support of its friends. It was, in truth, a 
politicians' war, and the popular heart never was for it or in it. That 
intense public spirit which during our recent civil contest, made all 
efforts easy and all sacrifices light, was wholly wanting. Federalists 
and Democrats abused each other with equal virulence, but the ener- 
gies of both went no farther: the two nerves of war, iron and gold, 
men and money, were hard to come at. The brilliant successes of our 
navy had not been enough to counteract the depressing influence of 
the disasters and misfortunes which had attended our arms on land ; 
and when Congress met in December, 1813, a general feeling of de- 
spondency and anxiety hung over the country, and made the task 
of carrying on the government and keeping up the war one of no 
small difficulty. 

Mr. Mason wrote constantly to his wife, and occasionally to his 
friend Dr. Appleton; and his letters reveal at once the embarrass- 


ments of the administration, and that languid beat of the public 
pulse which was the chief cause of them. 


Boston, November 23, 1813. 

Dear Mary, — I arrived here last evening. At Newburyport"^ 
the stage being crowded, the stage proprietors, of their own accord, 
offered me a horse and chaise, with which I came on here very con- 
9 (65) 

veniently. I shall set out early tomorrow morning in the Albany 
stage. I am told that the roads on the direct road to New York 
are exceedingly bad, and the roads to Albany pretty good. From 
the state of the weather, I have no fear that there can be any ice 
to prevent the steamboats passing down to New York. Should 
there be any change in the weather, which would make it doubtful 
whether the steamboats can run, when I get to Connecticut river, I 

shall change my course and go by Hartford This is the 

first time, my dear Mary, I have ever left you expecting to be long 
absent. Had I not seen that the contemplation of it affected your 
spirit more than I wished, I should have more fully explained to 
you my own unpleasant feelings. Be assured no light consideration 
would induce me to make the sacrifice. Under all circumstances, 
I do think it my duty, and it gives me much satisfaction to know 
this is also your opinion. We must therefore bear the unpleasant 
separation with fortitude. Do not permit yourself to entertain any 
painful forebodings. 

I am, as always, sincerely and affectionately yours, 

J. Mason. 

^ Newburyport, near the mouth of the Merrimac River, is a port of entry, 
33 miles northeast of Boston, a town of 14,949 people in 1910. It was the birth- 
place of William Lloyd Garrison, and the remains of George Whitfield, the 
evangelist, lie in the Old South Church. Judge Theophilus Parsons, and Caleb 
Gushing were born here and spent most of their legal careers in this city. 


Jersey City opposite New York, Simdaij afternoon, 28th November, 1813. 

My dear Mary, — I arrived at Albany after a fatiguing journey, 
late on Friday night; the next morning went on board the steam- 
boat, and was brought to New York this morning. Having deter- 
mined to make no tarry in New York, for fear the weather, which 
is now temperate, will become inclement, I immediately crossed the 
ferry to this place, and set out at five o'clock this afternoon for 
Philadelphia. I go twenty miles in the evening, and arrive at Phil- 
adelphia tomorrow evening. My journey from Boston to Albany 
was tedious, but I think not so much so as it would have been the 
other way. My passage on the steamboat was rapid, going one 
hundred and sixty-five miles in twenty-two hours, and attended with 
no labor or fatigue. The company was numerous and promiscuous, 


the Secretary of War, General Harrison, and other mighty men of 
war among them. In the promiscuous crowd was Bishop Hobart, 
with whom I became somewhat acquainted. I should have liked to 
have tarried a day or two in New York, but on consideration deemed 
it best to improve the present moderate weather. From Boston to 
Albany I had a very pleasant companion, a Mr. Bleecker of Albany. 
I shall go on to Philadelphia with a Mr. Lovett, an agreeable, well- 
informed man. At Philadelphia I intend to stop and rest a spell. 
There I expect to receive a letter from you and hope not to be dis- 
appointed. I feel at present as if I should never submit to take 
many more of these journeys to Washingtoin. However it may 
consist with my duty and honor, I am certain it will never agree 
with my feelings or increase my happiness. My thoughts are con- 
stantly travelling towards home, and I wish with all my soul I was 
going with them. I feel constantly anxious about you and the 
children, although I know no particular cause for my anxiety. Let 
me often hear fp:-om you, and know me eyer sincerely yours, 
I : 


J. Mason. 



Philadelphia, Wednesday, 1st December, 1813. 

My dear Mary, — . . . . Yesterday I was not out of my lodg- 
ings. Today I dined with Mr. Chauncey, who married the Miss 
Chester who was said to be so exceedingly beautiful. She has the 
appearance of a fine woman, but has very bad health, which I 
presume has made severe inroads; for she, at present, certainly 
would not pass for a beautiful woman. The dinner was merely a 
family party, and I tarried but a short time. By the way, I believe 
I forgot to mention to you that I dined with George Blake the day 
I tarried in Boston. I met him accidentally, and he urged me very 
earnestly to a family dinner. I went and found a very large party, 
consisting of General Gushing, a number of young navy officers, 
and others, all strangers to me. I did not very highly enjoy the 
feast; the guests were not congenial, and I left them as soon as I 


could with decency. Mrs. Blake talked a great deal about you with 
a very strong emphasis ; says she must and will come and see you 
soon — she thinks by sleighing this winter. I urged her to it and 
hope she will, as it would at least make a break in what I fear will 
be your dull monotony of a long winter. I could fill many sheets 
with the melancholy reflections I have had on this journey, but it 
would do no good; if they continue, these journeys shall not be often 
repeated. I still think there were sufficient reasons why I should 
accept the appointment ; if after a fair trial it does not answer my 
expectations, I will get rid of it and return to my former quiet situa- 
tion. Should this be the case of which I think there is much proba- 
bility, I still shall not regret having tried the experiment. It will 
in that event at least satisfy me of what otherwise I might never 
have known, that public employment cannot tend to increase my 
happiness. I have no fear of being able at pleasure to resume my 
practice,^ and do as much business as shall sufficiently occupy my 
time and answer my occasions. I hope the children will continue 

'^ Mason's longing, like that of Ruf us Choate, was for the practice of his 
profession, in which he was at home and a master. Politics were not to the 
liking of either of these great lawyers. 


From the celebrated daguerreotype by Hawes, of Boston, Mass., taken from life, 
in 1848, four years before Mr. Webster's death. No other portrait makes 
so prominent the dome-like forehead, the beetling brows, the cavern- 
ous eyes, the high cheek bones, and the mastiff mouth, — the 
marked features of him whom the late Sir Charles Russell pro- 
nounced "perhaps the greatest figure the world has seen." 



to do well. Tell them any evil report of them would give me ex- 
ceeding pain. 

I remain sincerely yours, J. Mason. 


Washington, Sunday, 5th December, 1813. 

My DEAR Mary, — I arrived here last evening from Baltimore. 
On the whole, my journey has been very tiresome, but by taking it 
moderately and stopping two or three times by the way to rest, I 
have got through without any injury to my health. I have been 
much more fatigued than I intended or expected to have been. 
Travelling in the stage wagons such a distance is almost intolerable. 
They are vastly more inconvenient this way, than at Portsmouth 
and Boston. I am at O'Neal's, my old lodgings. The chamber I 
engaged was not prepared for me, as I had expected. I am told I 
shall still have it. I think it probable I shall tarry here, but am 

not fully determined on it. I find no letters from you, for which I 
am sorry, as I am anxious to hear from you. I think it probable 
the mail has been delayed by the badness of the travelling. I hope 
for letters tomorrow. Things here at present appear very dull. I 
am told that the members are crowding in, and that the ciUj" will 
be full in a few days. The prospect before me is not very promis- 
ing. I fear the winter will be long and tedious to me. I intend to 
engage as soon as I can in study and reading, and perhaps a little 
in the business of the Senate. I really fear that I shall not be able 
to find employment tolerably interesting to occupy my time. All the 
hours I used to devote to domestic duties and pleasures are to be 
otherwise disposed of. I shall often think of you, my dear Mary, 
and our children, around the parlor fireside. May the Author of 
good protect you and them, and grant that we may again meet in 
health and happiness. 

Affectionately yours, J. Mason. 

'^ "the city," refers to Washington, whose population in July 1, 1813, was but 



Washington, December 12, 1813. 

My dear Mary, — I have become a little acquainted with Madame 
Bonaparte,"^ who has a house in the neighborhood of my lodgings. 
She invited me to come and see her as often as I please. I think it 
probable I shall avail myself of her invitation. She appears to be 
very lively and facetious, accomplished of course, and I think very 
handsome. Yesterday I dined at the President's. The party was 
mixed, and composed mostly of strangers to me. There appeared 
the affectation of ease without the reality. There was more state 
than elegance, and more elegance than good cheer. The President at 
his own table appears to little advantage. Mrs. Madison'^ appears, 
I think, to more advantage, yet she by no means answers my ideas 
of a high-bred, courtly woman. She affects affability and good-humor, 
and is said to be pretty generally popular. From appearances I do 
not wish to expect much from the palace. (69) The appearance of 
political affairs is less promising than I had hoped. There is no 
prospect of speedy peace, and not much chance of successful warfare. 

Sincerely yours, J. Mason. 

^ Josephine, Marie Rose (1763-1814), wife of Napoleon I, and E>mpress of 
France, was born in Martinique, her maiden name being Tascher de la Pagerie. 
She first married Vicomte Alexandre Beauharnais (1779), who was guillotined 
during the reign of terror, then Bonaparte (1796). She exercised a profound 
influence over the emperor. Her union with Napoleon proving without issue, 
was dissolved in 1809, to enable him to marry Marie Louise, of Austria. Jose- 
phine died at Malmaison, which is a chateau, on the banks of the Seine, five 
miles west of Paris, France. It was purchased by her in 1789. After her 
divorce from Napoleon, she lived and died there. 

'■ Mrs. Madison, — "Dolly Madison" — born in 1772, was the rich and beauti- 
ful young widow of John Todd, of Philadelphia. Her husband was taken off by the 
epidemic of yellow fever, in his home city, in 1793, — three years after their mar- 
riage. In less than a year after his demise, at the age of twenty-two, she mar- 
ried James Madison, in 1794, a confirmed old bachelor of forty-three. She 
presided over the White House, under Jefferson eight years, and eight years 
as the wife of Madison. 



Washington, December 21, 1813. 

My dear Sir, — After a fatiguing journey, I arrived here at the 
opening of Congress. I am glad that I came on the first of the 
session, as business of much importance has been acted on. An 
Embargo Act, containing the provisions of the former acts with 
additions and alterations has passed. The vote in the Senate was 
twenty against fourteen. I inclose you the President's confidential 
message now made public, by which you will perceive that a pro- 
hibition of importations to a great extent is intended. This meas- 
ure has excited much sensibility here, as I expect it will in the 
Northern and Eastern States. I gave it all the opposition in my 
po*wer. All the Federalists of course voted against it, but perhaps 
some of them find consolation in the belief that it will tend to 
destroy an administration which, if continued, they fear will destroy 
the country. Important results are certainly to be expected from 
this violent measure. I wish it was equally certain those results 
would be favorable to the true interests of the country. Such ex- 
pectations in similar cases have been so often disappointed, that I 
cannot readily give in to them. The merchants on whom these 
restrictions will in the first instance operate the most grievously, are 
of all classes of society the least apt to make a manly opposition. 
They have never acted with any concert, and have always in the end 
quietly submitted. Gain is their great object. They will never enter 
into a contest with the Government in which no money can be made. 
Last year they very valiantly determined to have nothing to do with 
the government loans. The event has shown that, with few excep- 
tions, they were unable to resist the prospect of (70) profit. If this 
act should be rigidly enacted, and continued long enough in operation 
to bear with its full weight on the yeomanry of the country (as in time 
it must), an opposition may be expected which will put down the ad- 
ministration. This act has not been carried through the Senate by 
the personal influence of the President. He has not much influence. 
The administration party support him to gratify themselves, not him. 
The clamor excited among the people of the Southern and Western 
States effected it. Messrs. Giles, Stone, and Anderson, who voted 


against the act last summer, fearing they should not be able to stem 
the torrent, now voted for it. Mr. Giles frankly avowed this motive. 
He and others say they expect much evil from it and no good except 
convincing the people the attempt is idle, a most humiliating con- 
fession. Giles and Stone have gone home under pretense of private 
business, but I suppose for the real purpose of taking care of the 
Legislatures of their respective States now in session. This is cer- 
tainly a very humble employment for a proud man of high talents as 
Mr. Giles confessedly is. 

The apparently submissive acquiescence of the Senate to this 
measure for the pitiful reasons assigned, must doubtless tend to de- 
grade that body in the public estimation. It must not, however, be 
herein inferred that we are in future to act in entire submission to 
the executive will. Although our malcontent allies have failed us in 
this instance, they have not gone back to their ancient allegiance. 
The Senate contains some truly great men, and some others. Nearly 
all the talents are against the present course of public measures. I 
trust this will in the end operate favorably. 

Should the administration party immediately press their now im- 
portant project, they will, I think, carry it. It is most probable they 
will delay the attempt till they see how the embargo is relished by the 

The attempt made last winter to authorize the occupation by 
force of arms of the Floridas, it is expected will be renewed. It is 
pretended, you know, that a small portion on the western side is 


included in the purchase of Louisiana. The pretense for the residue 
is a fear that the English will take it if we do not; and also to prevent 
the English and Spaniards holding any intercourse with our Southern 

The army is to be arranged on a new plan. Many of the officers 
are to be deranged; Wilkinson and Hampton, if they survive their 
present sickness, must folloiw Dearborn. I do not mean into mat- 
rimony, but into disgrace. Harrison, who is now here, is to be 
brought forward, and if an army can be had, sufficient to conquer 
Canada, Armstrong will try to obtain the command. A project is 
to be brought forward to fill the army by a requisition on the militia. 
The plan is not matured. Some talk of an absolute conscription, others 


would admit of a fine in lieu of personal service. Something of the 
latter sort may be expected. This plan I think will fail by the refusal 
of the militia to march out of the limits of the United States. 

The Canada War will in all probability progress slowly. 

It is whispered that Bonaparte has taken offense at our sending 
ministers to make peace under the mediation of Russia, and that our 
minister in France has not been admitted to an audience by the Em- 
press, and further that Serrurier, the French Minister here, has 
written a very impertinent letter to the administration like Turreau's.^ 

Mr. Madison seems determined to consider Gallatin as legal Sec- 
retary of the Treasury, be he absent ever so long. 

Many think that office now absolutely vacant. If Gallatin does 
not soon return, there will be a noise on the subject, but I cannot 
say what it will end in. Everything must give way to what may 

affect the next presidential election. This is the mainspring that puts 
everything into motion. 

A silly story is now circulated by the administration people, that 
Governor Tompkins of New York is to be the candidate for the next 
Presidency. This is to gull the good Democrats of New York. Tomp- 
kins is said to be a good-tempered, inoffensive man of moderate tal- 
ents. The party cannot yet determine on their man. Any determina- 
tion would disgust many. It must therefore be postponed as long as 
it can be. 

I am personally as well situated here as I could expect to be, and 
on pretty good terms with those whose good opinion I think most val- 
uable. I however, feel severely the privation of domestic society and 
all its comforts and pleasures. 

I am glad to learn that Mrs. Appleton continues so well. Please 
to give my affectionate regards to her. 

I intend to write to you often and long. As my letters will be 

1 On the fourteenth of June, 1809, a letter was addressed by M. Turreau, 
the French Minister, to Mr. Robert Smith, then Secretary of State, which was 
deemed offensive in tone, and subsequently withdrawn. A translation of the 
letter appeared in the Federal Republican, a paper published in Georgetown. 
See Niles's Register, vol. v. p. 37, where the translation, and a history of the 
letter, may be found. This matter came up before the House of Representatives, 
in January 1814, upon a resolution asking the President for information. See 
Niles's Register, vol. v. p. 355; Benton's Abridgment, vol. v. pp. 125, 157. 


neither very legible nor logical, I will not insist on your reading them, 
when you have anything better to do. But according to the course 
here, I wish you to consider them confidential. 

I am sincerely yours, J. Mason. 


Washington, Monday Evening, 20th December, 1813. 

My DEAR Mary, — .... The newspapers will have informed 
you before this reaches you that all the old embargo laws have been 
re-enacted, and that the President has recommended a more rigid 
enforcement of the non-importation laws against English goods. It 
has caused much excitement here, as it will through the Northern 
and Eastern States. The Southern and Western States are said to 
be clamorous for the measure. This subject was several days be- 
fore the Senate in secret session, and finally carried as it was ex- 
pected it would be from the beginning. Three, who voted against 
it last summer, now voted for it. The measure is violent, and im- 
10 , ,(73) 

portant consequences may be expected. I gave it all the opposition 
in my power. In the secret session, I made a speech which was well 
received, and I am told has been a good deal praised.^ I have been 
urged to write it out and print it, but think I shall not. You will con- 
sider this, as you must everything I write, confidential. It is the 
more natural for me to write to you confidentially, as we are in Con- 
gress dealing much in that way. Personally, I am doing pretty well 
here. I have the prospect of being on good terms with those of whose 
good opinion I am ambitious Adieu, 

J. Mason. 


Washington, December 25, 1813. 

My DEAR Mary, — .... As I intended I am much by myself. 
I go to the Senate chamber usually about eleven o'clock, sometimes 

1 Mr. Mason's speech on the embargo bill, was made December 16, 1813, 
and is to be found in Benton's Abridgment, vol. v. p. 79. It is a brief discussion 
of the merits of the bill; simple in langua{i:e, plain and forcible in statement, 
and unimpassioned in tone. 


later; if no uncommon business occur, return by three P. M. and 
dine about four ; the evenings I generally spend in my own cham- 
ber in reading. This I intend to pursue more uniformly. I am so 
far from the lodgings of most of the members of Congress, that I 
am seldom interrupted by their calls in the evening. This I deem 
fortunate. There are so few people here who have both the ability 
and inclination to entertain company, that I do not expect to be 
much interrupted with invitations. I shall not court it nor avoid it. 
I have had the honor of eating a formal dinner with the President, 
and have been once at Mrs. Madison's drawing-room. The room 
was very full of people who wanted to see and be seen; I do not 
care much about either. I shall be seldom there. I shall eat my 
Christmas dinner to-day with Messrs. King and Gore, who lodge in 
Georgetown, about half a mile farther from the Capitol than I am. 
They are the best people here or anywhere else. A Mr, Living- 
ston of New York, with his wife and family, has taken a part of the 


house in which I lodge, and live by themselves. Mrs. Livingston 
is the daughter of the late Chancellor Livingston, who was minister 
to France. They are very rich, and have a splendid equipage. Mrs. 
Livingston is an accomplished fine woman. I do not remember 
whether I have mentioned to you that I have become a little acquainted 
with Madame Bonaparte ; I have seen her several times. To me she 
is a new character; she has all the quickness and volatility which is 
said to belong to the French, moves quick and talks fast and thinks 
little. She laughs much, but says she is unhappy, and I believe her; 
she has nothing to do but seek amusement. I fear she has nothing 
to expect which can afford her peace and happiness.^ Her companion, 
a Miss Spear (an elderly maiden lady), has a shrewd masculine 
understanding, has read much and thought more. They are opposites 
but rivals in nothing. Adieu, 

J. Mason. 


Washington, December 29, 1813. 

My dear Mary, — I yesterday received your letter of the 22d 

"^ Madame Bona,parte was now fifty years old, and died a year later, near 
Paris, France. 


inst., giving the distressing intelligence of the fire, I most sincerely 
sympathize with the sufferers; the distress must be extreme. We 
surely have ample cause for gratitude to Almighty God, that in the 
three great conflagrations which have surrounded us, we have been 
spared. The view of the ravage must have been horrible, and your 
distress great. Mr, Webster has just arrived here and is consider- 
ably agitated. He knows Mrs, Webster is with you; I have told 
him she had best tarry there till his return, and that I was confident 
it would be both convenient and agreeable to you. I see no incon- 
venience in it, and know you will do all in your power to render 
her situation as pleasant as you can. Poor Colonel Walbach is in 
much distress ; I hope you have invited her to take shelter with you, 
I think with you, that there are none of the sufferers who can have 
stronger claims on you than Mrs, Webster and Mrs. Walbach. You will 
of course do whatever is in your power for any and all of (75) them. 
Some of them must be reduced to great distress and be in need of 
everything. I wish you to inform me of such particulars relative to 
our friends, as I probably may not be informed of by the public papers. 
I hope you have not and will not permit this distressing event to work 
so much on your feelings as to injure your health. 

Sincerely yours, J. Mason. 


Washington, Sunday, January 16, 1814. 

My DEAR Mary, — I have your letters of 7th and 8th instants. I 
am glad to hear you are all so well and happy in a visit from your 
father and mother. I will write to your father and send you the 
newspapers you desire. I write little political intelligence to any- 
body. In truth, there are few secrets of a political sort to be com- 
municated. Most things known here immediately find their way 
into newspapers; and I do not like to indulge much in conjectures. 
It is difficult to form a very satisfactory opinion respecting the prob- 
ability of peace. I am rather inclined to the opinion that peace 
will take place, some time next summer or fall. But I am by no 
means sanguine in this opinion ; some things look likely for peace, 
and some things have the opposite aspect. I dined yesterday at 


General Mason's. He claims to belong to the old-fashioned nobility 
of Virginia. He has a very charming situation on an island, in the 
river Potomac, near Georgetown. The rage of the day seems to 
be domestic manufactures. General Mason is a great merino man." 
The second table-cloth, which was a very fine damask, was of home 
manufacture, and the thread all spun in the house. Mrs. Mason, who 
appears and is said to be a very fine woman, is also a notable house- 
wife. This union, contrary to our opinion of them, is said to be 
common in this part of the country. The prospect at present is, 
that the session will not end early in the spring. I shall be anxious 
to have it terminate as soon as the travelling becomes good. I 


want much to be at home, out of this turmoil. The weather here 
has been unusually cold. The snow has been half a foot deep a fort- 
night. Last night a rain carried off the most of it, and the weather, 
which is now mild, will, I hope, soon finish the rest. 

Affectionately yours, etc., J. Mason. 


Washington, January 23, 1814. 

My DEAR Mary, — . . . . You say some of my letters are 
short, and you want me to write you some politics. I doubt whether 
the subject would be entertaining to you. I have such subjects so 
constantly dinned in my ears, that I am almost tired with them. 
On the prospect of peace, about which there is such public interest 
excited, it is not easy to form a very satisfactory opinion. The de- 
feat of the French, and ill-success of our army on the Canada frontier, 
have greatly depressed the expectations of our government. At the 
present moment they doubtless wish for peace. But any trivial 
change of fortune or increase of their popularity, would change their 
wishes. The two governments have adopted such opposite prin- 
ciples respecting the right of impressing seamen, that it will be found 
no easy task to make peace. I have been at church today, and heard 

^ Webster had 700 choice sheep on his Marshfield, Mass., farm and Clay 
had 50 Merino sheep driven over the mountains from Pennsylvania, to "Ash- 
land," his Lexin^on, Kentucky farm. 


a Mr. Mead preach who is much celebrated here. He is a young 
man, very simple and unaffected in his manner, earnest and impres- 
sive, with no show of learning, very zealous, and I think a little 
Methodistical. I was, on the whole, a good deal pleased with him. 
The most of the preachers here are very ordinary. I live a very reg- 
ular and somewhat monotonous life, amid all the noise and bustle of 
this place. My evenings I spend mostly in my chamber attending 
sometimes to business and sometimes to reading. I am tolerably 
supplied with books. I have been two or three times to Mrs. Madi- 
son's drawing-room, which I believe will answer for the winter. I 
think I mentioned to you I had made an (77) acquaintance with Ma- 
dame Bonaparte, and her companion. Miss Spear, and think it proba- 
ble, added, that I intended to pursue it. That was my intention. Her 
house is near my lodgings. She gave me an apparently very frank 
invitation to come and see her often, etc. I have sipped her tea 
several times, and have generally found her surrounded by fashion- 
able old and young men. She and her visitors are made up mostly 
of fashion. The conversation is, of course, of that tinsel kind, which 
is not even very interesting or instructing, and will not wear long. 
I am about concluding that I shall not derive much benefit from it, 
and do not intend to have much more to do with it. Messrs. King 
and Gore and their wives are the best people I have found here. I see 
them pretty frequently, and the more I see of them the better I like 
them. Mr. King is a very great man r' Mr. Gore great enough. The 
women both have bad health, and not disposed to be much in com- 
pany. I begin to think of the end of the session, for I cannot express 
how ardently I wish to be with you. As yet no opinion can be formed 
when it will end, but I shall be very impatient as soon as the roads are 
settled in the spring. Adieu, J. MASON. 

" "Mr. King is a remarkably well informed man, a very judicious one, a man 
of address, a man of fortune and economy, whose situation affords just ground 
of confidence; a man of unimpeachable probity, where he is best known, a firm 
friend of the Government, a supporter of the measures of the President; a man 
who cannot but feel that he has strong pretentions to confidence and trust." — 
Gen. Alexander Hamilton, in letter to Washington to promote Mr. King's ap- 
pointment as Minister to Great Britain, 1796, to which he was appointed by 
Washington, and confirmed by the Senate. — 6 King's Life and Correspondence, 
p. 680. 



Washington, January 29, 1814. 

My dear Mary, — I have your letter containing your criticisms 
on my speech against the embargo law. Whatever I may think 
respecting your impartiality on this subject, be assured the world 
does not contain a person whose favorable opinion on this or any 
other subject, interesting me, I so highly appreciate. That speech 
when delivered was thought well enough of by those few who heard 
it, and who were predisposed to think well of it. Like occasional 
sermons, it was published at the special request of such of the 
hearers as liked it. Should it attract any notice (about which, 
although not anxious, I am not entirely indifferent) , it will, with the 
public, experience a similar fate. Such as are disposed to think 


favorably of its author and objects, may probably incline to receive it 
favorably, while those otherwise disposed will treat it with contempt. 
From your letter, I fancy you have rather more sensibility respect- 
ing this bantling than I have. I advise you to moderate it. I have 
no intention of suffering my happiness to depend on popular breath. 
The foundation is too unstable. Subjects of high importance are 
almost constantly agitated here, and my mind has become much 
engrossed by them. Of the objects and intentions of the adminis- 
tration, I think worse than I formerly did. You expressed a wish 
I should write to you sometimes on political matters, and particu- 
larly to give you my opinion respecting the prospects of peace, which 
you may tell to those who so often inquire of you. The wish is 
natural and reasonable, and yet I cannot often comply with it. Un- 
less I write with great precision and attention, which I cannot well 
take the labor of doing, there would be danger of misapprehension 
which might be inconvenient. With you I have no secrets on this or 
any other subject, but you must keep them to yourself. You may tell 
anybody who inquires, that my opinion respecting the probability of 
peace seems to be very doubtful. This is the real fact. The rea- 
sons are many, and would be tedious in detail. I am gratified by 
knowing the children are doing well. Of all things this is the most 
important to us. The more I see and reflect, the more highly I 


estimate the importance of the early education of children. The 
instances of profligacy which I often see here, may generally be 
traced to the want of a good moral and religious education in early 
life. If habits of morality and religion are neglected in early life, 
they will usually never be acquired, and even if acquired at a later 
period, they will set but loosely. I know it to be unnecessary for 
me to impress on you the importance of this subject, but I assure 
you that from my observation here, it has acquired in my eyes addi- 
tional importance. Religion is the best if not the only foundation 
of morality. Without morality a man, whatever be his situation, 
either high or low, is good for nothing, and a woman worse than 
nothing. Give my love to the elder children and kiss the little ones 

for me, and return my respects to Miss Pickering and such other of 

your friends as have sent me any. 

Affectionately yours, J. Mason. 


Washington, January 29, 1814. 

My DEAR Sir, — I have your letter of the 14th of January, for 
which I thank you. 

When the peace overture (as the administration people call it) 
was first received and accepted by our government, strong expecta- 
tions were entertained that the negotiation must end in peace. But 
after more deliberate reflection, much doubt is expressed of the 

In their present depressed and disturbed condition the adminis- 
tration party doubtless wish for peace. They would at the present 
time accept of a peace on any terms which would afford them a 
good prospect of retaining their power. I am of the opinion they are 
much more anxious to perpetuate their own power than to secure 
the nation from disgrace, distress, or even ruin. This ought not to 
be believed of all of them, but I do believe it justly applies to a ma- 
jority of them. 

The total failure of our and the French arms has alarmed them. 
Any trifling success of either would change both their feelings and 


wishes. But even if they should continue to wish for peace, as it is 
probable they will, it is doubtful whether they can obtain such terms 
as they will dare accept. After destroying the commerce of the 
country and incurring an immense debt, they must obtain from 
Great Britain the appearance of some concession, or hazard the 
loss of their own power. 

Of what she calls her commercial rights, Great Britain will in 
reality concede nothing. 

I have seen a letter of recent date from a character of very high 
standing in England, saying that though desirous of peace the 

government and people are on this subject united and determined. 
The same may be inferred from the Prince Regent's speech to Par- 
liaiment from Lord Castlereagh's dispatch to our government, and 
from the former negotiations. It is believed Great Britain will at 
the present time be extremely cautious on this point. She knov/s 
all the nations of Europe are jealous of her naval power, and justly 
fears that when freed from the French tyranny on land, they will 
endeavor to fix limits to this naval power. She will therefore be 
cautious how she concedes anything which she claims as a right, 
through fear that it may induce those nations to press her on other 
points, and that such concession may in some measure be urged as 
a precedent. For the same reason there will be a difficulty in ob- 
taining the mere semblance of a concession to enable our government 
to gull the people. Perhaps some device may be hit on to answer 
this purpose. On the great point of difference, the right of Great 
Britain to take her seamen from our merchant vessels, it is sup- 
posed by some she will agree to forbear the exercise of the right 
for a short period (by way of experiment to see what would be the 
effect) on condition we totally forbear to employ her seamen in the 
mean time. I think it probable some such expedient may be agreed 
on. But many believe our government have no intention for peace 
on any terms; that this negotiation is opened for no other purpose 
but to obtain loans, fill the army, and gain popularity. The char- 
acter of the envoys lately appointed, and some other circumstances, 
tend to support such an opinion. 

You express a wish that Mr. King might be the envoy. There 
was some talk among his friends here of the sa^me kind. But no- 


body who knew the President and his supporters believed there was 
the least chance for it. Mr, Bayard, you know, was a federalist of 
pretty fair character. He is, however, very ambitious, and had a 
strong desire to visit Europe. Fears are entertained that he and 
Mr. Madison have a more intimate understanding than the public 
know of. I do not believe that Mr. Bayard, when he left this coun- 

try, expected to make a treaty under the Russian mediation. They 
could have no hopes of managing Mr. King. 

If you were not aided by certain theological opinions somewhat 
unfavorable to human nature, you would find it difficult to conceive 
the degree of wickedness and total depravity to which our great 
men here have arrived. They have drunk deeply at the French 
fountain. Wickedness and corruption constitute the only bond 
which unites them. They entertain the most violent jealousy and 
hatred towards each other. I have lately received from a source 
not to be doubted, a budget of stories and projects which were in- 
tended to be put off for great secrets. Some of the particulars 
were new, but in the result not calculated to work any change of 

The individuals composing the administration and their imme- 
diate supporters, are often contriving plans to destroy each other. 
Fear of destroying themselves restrains them. How long such a 
bond of union will protect them I cannot say. There has been an 
intention to turn Armstrong out of office, which would have made a 
great explosion. 

Old General Dearborn was to have been again placed at the head 
of the army. But I believe A. has bullied them out of it. He in- 
tends to run down all the old generals who I really believe are good 
for nothing. He wants to be at the head of the army himself, but 
it is very doubtful whether he will succeed. He has more reputa- 
tion for talents than any man in the administration. 

There have been some very animated debates in both houses on 
the bill increasing the bounty for enlistments. No effect was pro- 
duced in Congress, and probably will not be anywhere else. 

A few days ago I moved a resolution in the Senate declaring the 
Treasury vacant by reason of Gallatin's absence. It is ordered to 
be taken into consideration a week from next Monday. There is 


good prospect of carrying it at this time, but I fear some who it is 
expected will vote for it will fail us. If carried it will be severely 
felt by the President. 


The doings of the Massachusetts Legislature excite considerable 
attention.; I fear they will go too far, and that the people will not 
support them. I think they ought to follow and not lead public 
opinion. I have not much information on the subject, but I do not 
believe the people of New England are prepared to support the 
strong declarations made by your Legislature. Indeed I do not sup- 
pose that anything more than mere*declaration is intended at the 

I rejoice that Mrs. Appleton continues so well. Please to make 
my respects to her, and believe me to be sincerely yours, 

J. Mason. 

The intention of invading Florida has subsided with the defeat 
of Bonaparte. 


Sunday Evening, Fehfuary 6, 1814. 

My DEAR Mary, — I have not been at church today, but have 
been pretty much employed in my chamber in examining the merits 
of certain resolutions I moved a few days ago respecting a vacancy 
in the Treasury Department, by reason of the absence of Mr. Gal- 
latin. They have excited some attention, and are assigned to be 
debated tomorrow. I expect the administration party will post- 
pone them and not suffer the debate to be gone into, or the resolu- 
tions to be in any way acted on at present. This however is doubt- 
ful. There is solne prospect we can get a majority in favor of the 

1 The Legislature of Massachusetts, in the winter session of 1814, took 
very strong ground against the war and the policy of the administration, and 
more thon once went to the extreme bounds, alike of prudence and patriotism, 
if not beyond them. Mr. Mason had too much wisdom and too calm a tempera- 
ment to approve their course. He here is doubtless alluding to the answer of 
the House of Representatives to the Governor's speech, drawn up by Mr. Otis, 
and adopted by a large majority, January 21, 1814. See Columbian Centiriel for 
January 26, 1814. 


resolutions in the Senate. If so, the President will be in trouble, 
and what is better will be obliged to appoint a new Secretary of the 
Treasury.- I believe I should have been better employed at church, 

but the truth is I cannot well go for want of a seat. There is no 

place of public worship I like, except the church at Georgetown. I 
have an invitation into two pews, but when I have gone I generally 
find them full, and have to turn somebody out, which is unpleasant. 
The church is not larger than a New England school-house. I 
dined last week at a Mr. Peters' whose wife was a Miss Custis, grand- 
daughter of Mrs. Washington, with a very pleasant party of Kings, 
Gores, etc. Mrs. Peters is a fine woman, and reputed sensible. 

At the invitation of Messrs. King and Gore, and to help make up 
their party, I have been foolish enough to go again to Mrs. Madison's 
drawing-room. I trust I have no^w done for this season. I think 

- On the 24th day of January, 1814, Mr. Mason submitted the following 
resolutions: — 

"Resolved, That the Department of the Treasury is a principal and indis- 
pensable office in the Administration of the Government of the United States; 

"That the duties of this office are at all times inaportant; that at the pres- 
ent time, when plans of finance are to be devised, taxes to be imposed, loans to 
be obtained, and large sums of money to be expended and accounted for, these 
duties have become more arduous; and that the talents, integrity, and diligence 
of a competent and responsible officer are alone sufficient to discharge them; 

"That, by his message of the 7th of June last, the President of the United 
States informed the Senate that he had commissioned Albert Gallatin, then Sec- 
retary of the Department of the Treasury, to proceed to Russia, and there, with 
others, to negotiate treaties of peace and commerce with Great Britian, and a 
treaty of commerce with Russia; 

"That, pursuant to such commission, Albert Gallatin departed from the 
United States in the month of May last, and hath ever since been, and still re- 
mains, without the limits of the United States; 

"That, by reason of the said commissioning, departure, and absence from the 
United States of the said Albert Gallatin, the office of Secretary of the Treas- 
ury became vacant, and is now vacant; 

"That such vacancy, in the office of the Secretary of the Treasury, affects 
the public credit, retards the current service, endangers the general welfare, and 
ought no longer to exist." 

These resolutions came up for consideration on Monday, February 7th, and 
after a brief discussion between Mr. Mason and Mr. Bibb, of Georgia, were 
postponed to the succeeding Friday, but on that day Mr. Campbell, of Tennessee, 
announced his resignation of his seat in the Senate, and was immediately after 


less favorably of peace than when I wrote you last about it. . . 
I am, as always, affectionately yours, J. Mason. 


Washington, February 10, 1814. 

My dear Mary, — I have been gratified with your letter of 31st 
January, I am glad Miss Marsh is with you. I trust from your 
account of her you will be pleased with her society. I believe I 
mentioned to you in one of my letters that I had moved a resolu- 
tion in relation to the vacancy of the Treasury Department. The 
object was to compel the President to appoint a new Secretary of 
the Treasury. When the resolution was called up last Monday, I 
was prepared, with others, to go into a discussion of some length. 
One of the administration people moved to postpone it, assigning 
for reason, that the President would in a day or two nominate a new 
Secretary of the Treasury. To this I assented. It was considered 
here as somewhat of a triumph to compel the President to appoint 
a Secretary, as it is believed contrary to his previous intentions. 
He has since nominated G. W. Campbell, a Senator from Tennessee, 
who has been approved by the Senate. He has few of the neces- 
sary qualifications for the office. 

The Goldsboroughs who I mentioned to you, have come here. The 

nominated and confirmed as Secretary of the Treasury. 

The object proposed by the resolutions having been accomplished, Mr. Mason, 
on the 14th of February, moved the indefinite postponement of his motion, and 
submitted the following resolution: — 

"Resolved, That a committee be appointed to inquire in what cases the 
President of the United States may, consistently with the Constitution, be au- 
thorized by law to appoint persons, without the advice and consent of the Senate, 
to perform the duties of the Secretary of State, of the Secretary of the Treas- 
ury, of the Secretary of War, and of the Secretary of the Navy. And also to 
inquire whether it is necessary or expedient to repeal or amend the act of the 
8th of May, 1792, entitled, 'An Act making alterations in the Treasury and War 
Departments,' and the Act of the 13th of February, 1795, amending the afore- 
said act; and that said committee report by bill or otherwise." 

Mr. Mason, Mr. Giles, and Mr. King, were appointed the committee on the 
above resolution, but no report was made by them, and the subject appears to 
have been dropped. 



youngest daughter was lately married. Last evening they went to 
the Queen's drawing-room. I was much urged to accompany them 
but declined. It is rather a stupid place to frequent often. I have as 
much society here as I wish for. Perhaps one reason is that I do not 
wish for a great deal Sincerely and affectionately yours, 

J. Mason. 


Washington, 13f/i February, 1814. 

My DEAR Mary, — I have received your very excellent letter of 
6th inst. I have expressed my wishes to have particular attention 
paid to the education and morals of the children. But I have no 
fear that you will omit anything in your power, and I hope that my 
absence will not be any special inconvenience to them. Be assured, 
however, my desire to return home is not exceeded by yours to have 
me return. The weather has been for some time very unpleasant. 
There has been but one clear, sun-shining day for a fortnight. It is 
warm but cloudy and wet. My health, however, continues good. 
Were it not for the deprivation of all domestic society and enjoy- 
ment, I should like my situation here pretty well. This loss I feel 
very grievously. I am in company not a great deal, but as much as 
I wish to be. I am so far from the Capitol as not to be exposed to 
very frequent calls and interruptions of Congress people. By this 
means I have more leisure and better command of my time than I 
otherwise should have. I dine out not very often. Indeed there is 
not great danger of it. Invitations are not very pressing. In 
mixed tea-drinking parties I find not much amusement and still less 
instruction. I shall have little to do with them. I wish you to tell 
me what is said of the prospect of success at the approaching election. 
Affectionately yours, J. Mason. 


Washington, February 23, 1814. 

My DEAR Mary, — . . . . My resolutions which you mention an- 
swered all the purpose intended. To avoid a discussion, the Presi- 
dent, contrary to everybody's expectation, appointed a new Secretary 


of the Treasury. Our people considered it a triumph. I shall in 
a few days have the subject up in a new form, which will afford an 
opportunity to review the President's conduct, and provide against 

it in future. The new Secretary is good for nothing, but that is not 
our fault. I perceive by your letters you have an inclination to 
become a politician. As my taste is inclining that way, I do not 
dislike be-ing joined by you. I fear the journey may not prove very 
pleasant. I intend to retain the power of stopping and turning back 
when tired. When that shall happen, I have no doubt you also will 
be enough tired of the pursuit to join me in quitting it. 

As always, sincerely yours, J. Mason. 


Washington, February 27, 1814. 

My DEAR Mary, — It is almost a week since I received any let- 
ters from you or the children. You must write often. If you do 
not find time to write long letters, write short letters. I want to 
hear from you often. Affairs here go on much in the usual style. 
The government conduct badly, and the opposition complain griev- 
ously. I see little pro'spect of things mending for the better. The 
government is often perplexed and embarrassed, but they have no 
intention of changing their course, and will not do it till compelled. 
I do not see much chance of things getting into a better channel. 
Mr. Francis Blake, who has been here several days, says he expects 
his brother George and wife here in a few days. Richard Derby 
and his celebrated wife arrived here two days ago. Master Richard 
called on me yesterday. I think it probable I shall see his wife, as 
I suppose she has come here to show herself. I was invited to spend 
this evening at Mrs. King and Gore's, where she was to be, but I 
was detained by engagements at home. I take little interest in the 
generality of the company I see here. Mr. Granger, the Postmaster- 
general, has just been turned out of office. It makes considerable 
noise, but will soon blow over. I believe all the children owe me let- 
ters. I hope the dear little souls are well. Give my love to them all. 

With sincere affection, yours, J. Mason. 




Washington, March 20, 1814. 

My DEAR Mary, — . ... I continue to enjoy good health, and 
except when vexed by the recollection of the situation of public 
affairs, in pretty good spirits. I entertain very unfavorable opinions 
of the conduct and characters of the persons in government. With 
few exceptions their object is personal aggrandizement, which they 
pursue without much regard to the public good. The means they 
use to effect their purposes are sometimes mean and base, and wholly 
unfit for honorable men. Entertaining such opinions of thewi, you 
may be sure I court no personal intercourse with them. The little 
intercourse I have with them is formal and ceremonious. My second 
invitation to dine at the palace (which is a matter of course) I de- 
clined for indisposition. Among those who generally support the 
administration, there certainly are some honest, honorable, and lofty- 
minded men. They sometimes find themselves embarrassed in sup- 
porting the measures of the government. In the opposition may 
doubtless be found many ambitious men, but with few exceptions I 
think their objects are honorable, and if attained would prove bene- 
ficial to their country. The Mr. Blakes have Feturned home. I saw 
but little of them. Ogilvie has been here delivering his orations and 
recitations some time. I have not yet been to hear him, but intend 
to. He inquired after you and his Portsmouth friends with appar- 
ent interest. I intend to write to the children if I have time. Make 
my respects to Mr. Fales and Miss Marsh. 

I am, truly yours, J. Mason. 

P. S. — The news we have of the New Hampshire election is not 
very gratifying. We suppose it carried by a very slim majority. 



Washington, March 27, 1814. 

My DEAR Sir, — I did not intend to have neglected so long to 
answer your letter. Some engagements and much habitual indolence 
must be my excuse. 


I agree with you in opinion that the Legislature of Massachu- 
setts, in their late measures of opposition, went quite as far as duty 
or prudence would permit. The situation of the nation is in many 
respects truly deplorable, and the prospect of a change for the bet- 
ter almost hopeless. I cannot, however, think it prudent to excite 
among the people an inclination to look to a dissolution of the Union 
for relief. I do not believe any considerable number have even thought 
of attempting it. I am confident the people in no section of the 
Union are prepared to think favorably of such an attempt. I am 
pretty well informed of the extent of the projects in Massachusetts. 
They went far enough; but a dissolution of the Union was not in- 
tended. All the advice from this place dissuaded from violent meas-^^ 
ures. It is not easy to point out the means of relieving the country 
from its present distress ; but surely a dissolution of the govern- 
ment should be the last resort. It is a sort of suicide. If effected 
it would ruin the country. The attempt without success would ruin 
the party making it. Suppose the present government destroyed, 
is it certain the Northern and Eastern States could again agree to 
associate under any form of government? If they did, would they 
get a better government than the present, or would it not probably 
be as badly administered. ,Where is the security of being more free 
from internal faction and the corrupt influence of wicked demagogues? 
We should certainly be more exposed to foreign influence, and be in 
constant danger of collision with the States not associated with us. 

Indeed I see no probable way in which a dissolution of the Union 
would take place without a civil war. Such a war might terminate 

12 (89) 

in the establishment of separate governments, but I think more 
probably in an arbitrary government over the whole. At present 
there is in this country little fear of jealousy of the exercise of arbi- 
trary power. The people never having suff"ered to any considerable 
degree from such power know not its evil effects. They love the 
theory of a free government because they have always heard it 
praised, and they love the practice of it because they have long 
lived happy under it. They also hate both the principles and prac- 
tice of an arbitrary government, but they do not fear them. They 
seem to think there is no possibility of the establishment of an 
arbitrary government in this country. I cannot help thinking some- 


times that this extreme confidence in our supposed safety is danger- 
ous. After witnessing the wonderful revolutions of the govern- 
ments and conditions of the nations of the world within the last 
twenty years, brought about also by the consent or culpable apathy 
of the people, we ought not too readily to believe it impossible that 
something of a similar nature may happen in our own country. 

Our political institutions are new and not very well understood 
by the people. Our government is weak, and has been for the last 
thirteen years carried on by courting their prejudices and Avorst 
passions. I am not certain that our people are so much more en- 
lightened and virtuous than the rest of mankind, as their dema- 
gogues are constantly telling them. We are not without ambitious 
spirits ready to take advantage of occasions. I do not, however, 
believe there is any immediate danger of the establishment of an 
arbitrary government by usurpation. I think the country is not yet 
prepared for it, but I fear it is preparing. I do not see much chance 
of the government's getting into better hands. Should that happen, 
no men in the nation could raise it from its present degraded condi- 
tion up to the tone and style of Washington. 

The government must probably for many years remain in this 
degraded state, vibrating between life and death. The administra- 
tion may often pass from one faction to another. Each faction, with 
intent of securing the continuance of their power, will gratify the 

worst prejudices of the people, and pursue measures they know to 
be base and unworthy. Such a course would probably soon end in 
confusion, out of which might arise a new order of things, were it 
not that the State governments will be able, as it is hoped, to afford 
a tolerable degree of security for individual rights. 

Serious apprehensions are entertained for the loan of the present 
year. The government dare not lay new taxes, or even perpetuate 
the old ones, and pledge them for the redemption of the loan. I 
think the loan will be obtained, but probably on terms very disadvan- 
tageous to the country. A project is just started of creating a Na- 
tional Bank, with a capital of thirty millions to aid the loan. 

General Hampton has resigned. Wilkinson will be laid aside. It 
is probable a court of inquiry is ordered on the subject of his last 
campaign. Contrary to expectation last fall, Harrison will be kept 


in Ohio or among the Indians. The young Generals Izard, Brown, 
McComb, Smith, etc., will be brought forward. Izard will probably 
have the chief command. I think no Lieutenant-General will be 

The Secretary of War will keep all the operations of the army as 
much as possible under his own direction. He has the reputation 
of more talents than any other in the administration. 

Till within a few days it was confidently expected Congress would 
rise the 11th April. It is now doubted. I hope to be at home by 
the last of April. 

You seem to have a good prospect of preaching quaiitum sufficit 
at Boston elections. I think they are disposed to draw rather heavily 
on you. My respects to Mrs. Appleton. 

I am as always truly yours, J. Mason. 


Washington, Ajivil 7, 1814. 

My dear Mary, — I can give you no more certain information 
respecting the rising of Congress than in my last. The House of 

Representatives are now employed in repealing the embargo and 

non-intercourse acts, and on a bill to incorporate a great national 
bank. Several other projects are on foot which will consume con- 
siderable time. The spring is coming forward rapidly. The cherry- 
trees are in full bloom, and the weather has become mild and pleas- 
ant. I wish very ardently to be on my way home. I have become 
tired of being here, and almost everything and everybody I see here. 
You may therefore be certain I shall write you as soon as I can. 

Give my respects to Mr. Fales and Miss Marsh, and love to the 

Sincerely yours, J. Mason. 


Philadelphia, April 22, 1814. 

My DEAR Mary, — I went on board the steamboat, as I wrote you 
I intended, in the afternoon of Wednesday. It was stormy when we 


set out, and increased during the night, which was extremely dark. 
About midnight the boat struck on a sand-bank. It was so dark 
that nothing could be seen. We supposed ourselves near the west- 
ern shore. In that situation the boat remained till daylight, when 
we discovered ourselves to be near the middle of a narrow part of 
the bay, two or three miles from either shore. Had we known our 
situation during the night we should have felt somewhat uneasy. 
The tide set the boat afloat at six o'clock, and without further diffi- 
culty we got to Frenchtown at noon. In the afternoon we crossed 
the isthmus to Newcastle, on the Delaware, and there went on board 
another steamboat, which brought us here about two o'clock last 
night. The weather has been very bad, which has made the roads 
unusually bad. Thus far, however, I have come on without much 
fatigue, and am entirely well. I intend to set out tomorrow or on 
Sunday for New York, in a line of stages which goes through Somer- 
set in New Jersey, north of the common route, and is two days in 
going through. The roads that way are said to be pretty (92) good, a 
part of the other way almost impassable. The stages are much 
crowded., In your last letter you mentioned that there was talk at 
Portsmouth of danger from the enemy. I have since seen a para- 
graph in the newspapers that a squadron was supposed to have been 
seen off the Isle of Shoals, and that the vessels had been moved up 
the river. I hope there is no occasion for the alarm. If an attack 
should be made, it must be known several hours before the enemy 
can be in possession of the town. I wish you not to be alarmed by 
conjectures or idle reports. If, however, a real attack is made (as 
I have before told you) , I wish you immediately to fly into the country. 
The best road will probably be towards Exeter. Do not delay to re- 
move furniture. Put a few light articles of mOst value into the horse- 
cart with yourself and children, and take Mr. Fales or Joshua to con- 
duct you. If Joshua or some of the servants would tarry at the house 
it would be best. I doubt whether they would. Joshua would prob- 
ably be called out with the militia. If none would tarry, let them 
follow you. Shut up the house and secure it as well as you can 
from thieves, in case the enemy should let it alone. Their principal 
object will be the destruction of the seventy-four gun ship. I do not 
expect they would attempt a landing in the town, should they destroy 
or try to destroy the ship. I wish you, however, not to rely on that ; 


but if an attack should be made on navy-yard or port, instantly to 
retire. I do not suppose there is any probability of such an attempt. 
I still wish you to be prepared how to act in case of such an event, 
so as not to lose time by indecision. At New York I shall expect 
a letter from you. Should the alarm continue, I shall hasten home as 
fast as possible. I shall set out for New York tomorrow, if I can 
get a seat in the stage without being excessively crowded. I want 
to tarry in New York a day or two if I can. 

Affectionately yours, J. Mason. 

The third session of the Thirteenth Congress began on the 19th 
day of September, 1814, having been summoned by a special proc- 

lamation of the President. The events which had taken place since 
the adjournment in March, were not of a kind to exhilarate the 
public mind or lessen the task of the administration. On the Ni- 
agara frontier, the tarnished honor of American arms had been in 
some degree restored by the gallantry and good conduct of General 
Brown and General Scott ; but in settling the military account of the 
summer, the balance was decidedly against us, and the war had 
gradually passed from an offensive to a defensive kind. The national 
pride had been deeply wounded by the capture of the Chesapeake in 
June. The eastern coast of Maine was in possession of the enemy, 
and most of the seaport towns were blockaded by his fleets. In Aug- 
ust a British force had marched to Washington, burned the Capitol, 
the President's house, and some of the other public buildings, and 
retired. In local and state elections the Democratic party had 
lost ground, and sullen and ominous clouds of opposition were gath- 
ering in the northern heavens. The currency was disordered, the 
finances were in the greatest confusion, the expenses of the govern- 
ment far outran its income, and in consequence its credit had sunk 
so low that the poor resource of borrowing, on which it had thus 
far relied to supply the deficiency, seemed likely to stop. The ad- 
ministration were at their wits' end, and the President's special mes- 
• sage at the opening of the session was a pathetic appeal to the coun- 
try for men and money. 

Mr. Mason did not take his seat till the 4th day of October, and 
he remained in Washington till the 24th day of February, a few 


days before the close of the session. He was constant in his place 
in the Senate, and his name appears in several occasional comhiit- 
tees. He made an elaborate speech on the Militia Bill, hereinafter 
noticed. Much of the time of both houses of Congress was given 
to the question of a bank of the United States, and Mr. Mason, who 
understood the subjects of banking and the currency, doubtless took 
part in the Senate discussions on the subject, but the system of re- 
porting was very imperfect in those days, and much of what was 
said in debate was never set down. 


His letters to his wife and his friend Dr. Appleton give us 
glimpses of the course of public business and of his share in it. 


Washington, October 6, 1814. 

My dear Mary, — . . . . The expectation of a removal to Phil- 
adelphia gains strength. It will be determined in a few days in the 
House of Representatives. I still think the issue very doubtful. 
The discussion has created a most violent excitement among the 
people of this district and vicinity. The derangement occasioned 
by the visit of the enemy to this place is much greater than I nad 
supposed. The destruction of the public buildings and papers pro- 
duces serious inconvenience. The Administration are severely and 
almost universally condemned for their misconduct on that occasion. 
They seem to be falling into general contempt. Poor Mrs. Madison, 
it is said, shows the most sensibility on the subject. In her flight from 
the enemy, she was not only without assistance or consolation from 
the inhabitants, but treated with abuse. The President left her to 
shift for herself. She often heard her husband execrated for his mis- 
conduct and pusillanimity. On the night the British occupied the 
city, she attempted to find refuge in a private room of an inn, about 
twenty miles distant, which was occupied by a lady who rudely and 
peremptorily ordered her to depart. The disgraceful and distressing 
•stories told are innumerable. 

Sincerely yours, J. Mason. 



Washington, October 8, 1814. 

My dear Mary, — Nothing has yet taken place which is consid- 
ered in any measure conclusive on the question of removal. Were 
it not for the excitement and clamor of the inhabitants of this place, 
I should expect we should remove. As the matter is, I am wholly 


in doubt as to the final determination. The government is in utter 
confusion and distress. Without a cabinet, without credit or money, 
the nation is in a most deplorable condition. Opinions of the pros- 
pect of peace are as various as they were with us before I left you. 
The intention of the government seems to be to lay heavy taxes to re- 
store their credit. 

Tell Mary I received her letter and will answer it soon. 

Faithfully yours, J. Mason. 


Washington, October 16, 1814. 

My dear Wife, — .... The House of Representatives yester- 
day determined, by a majority of five or six votes, against removing 
to Philadelphia. I was prepared to expect it. If the war continues, 
I think the government will be removed from this place within a 
year from this time. More despatches are expected soon from our 
Commissioners at Ghent, which will probably give notice that the 
negotiation is ended. There is a possibility, but little probability, 
the negotiation may be continued and terminate in peace. Some 
of the terms proposed by the British envoys are wholly inadmissible. 
Our government is destitute of everything the exigency of the times 
requires. The country must probably encounter extreme suffering. 
I do not believe the enemy thinks of attempting a permanent con- 
quest of any portion of our country. I am glad the alarm and appre- 
hension of the people at Portsmouth has in some measure subsided. 
I do not, however, from this infer that the real danger is lessened. I 
wish you to continue in the same' preparation for removal till the 
middle of November. After that time the boisterous weather will 


afford a defense. I had not much real apprehension of an attack 
when I left you. It is, however, still possible. 

Faithfully and affectionately yours, J. Mason. 


Washington, June 24, 1813. 

My DEAR Mary, — I am very glad you remembered to write me 
on Wednesday in the afternoon as I requested you. When I am 
so far distant from all those I love best, it affords me great pleasure 
to hear from them often. I therefore request you to continue to 
write to me at least once a week. As soon as you have learned a 
little more French you may write to me in French, and I will en- 
deavor to construe your letters. I presume it will take me longer to 
construe them than it will you to write them. I wish you to perfect 
yourself in French as fast as possible. I intend to go to studying it 
when I come home, and I shall want you to assist in instructing me. 
I want to see you all much. Kiss James, Jane, Robert, and little 
Charles for jne. 

Your affectionate father, J. Mason. 


Washington, January 23, 1814. 

,My DEAR Mary, — I was pleased by receiving your letter, and 
more by those from your mother and Mr. Fales in which they praise 
you. When I am removed so far from you, and am often thinking 
of you with anxiety, you cannot conceive what pleasure it gives me 
to be assured you are doing well. I promise myself much pleasure 
when I come home in the spring, to find you have made much progress 
in all your studies, and especially in your French and music. I men- 
tion these because you may not always have so good instructors in 
those branches., I wish you to excel in everything praiseworthy. 
Industry will do all that is necessary in your studies. You must also 
be accomplished in your manners, amiable in your temper and dispo- 
sition. Let no envious malignant passions find a place in your breast. 
If habitually indulged, they will render all accomplishments useless, 


and destroy your happiness (97) both" in this and a future world. Be 


diligent, virtuous, and truly religious, and you will not only be happy 
yourself, but greatly conduce to the happiness of all your friends. 
That you may do so is the earnest prayer of 

Your affectionate father, J. Mason. 

P. S. — Give my respects to Miss Payson. 


Washington, October 16, 1814. 

My DEAR Mary, — I have received your second letter, and am 
glad to see you are so willing to write to me. I shall be pleased with 
your letters, however frequent. Your mother informs me that you 
and the other children behave exceedingly well. Be assured nothing 
could give me more pleasure. Could you duly appreciate the satis- 
faction your good and correct conduct affords me I am confident your 
affection for me, were there no other reason, would induce you to 
persevere in it. Children can hardly conceive to what a degree their 
conduct affects the happiness of their parents. I am certain my 
happiness in this world will depend in a great measure on my chil- 
dren. It will be my endeavor that they shall not be disappointed in 
any just and reasonable expectation from me, and I trust none of 
them will disappoint my hopes. 

Your affectionate father, J, Mason. 


Washington, October 20, 1814. 

My DEAR Mary, — You have written me two letters which I have 
not answered. I ought to have answered them sooner, — particularly 
the one in which you inform me of your heroic conduct in having 
those two teeth extracted. I am exceedingly glad that ugly affair is 
over, and greatly commend you for it. I do not doubt the (98) opera- 
tion was painful for a few minutes, but the benefit will be permanent. 
You may learn from this never to give way to idle fears, but always 


to collect resolution to do whatever your duty requires. A timid 
person often suffers much unnecessary pain through causeless fears. 

You express an apprehension that you shall not arrive to any 
great perfection in music. I thought you made very considerable 
progress last summer. I wish you to persevere. With industry, I 
doubt not you will soon play very well. 

I have a letter from your uncle Appleton, in which he says Mary 
Appleton will spend this winter with you. I am glad of it, as she is 
a good girl and will be an agreeable companion for you. If she is 
now there give my love to her. 

Your affectionate father, J. Mason. 


Washington, Siinday Evening, October 30, 1814. 

My DEAR Wife, — This afternoon I went to Mr. Addison's little 
church, and heard a very pious, good discourse. His is the most 
orderly and best place of worship here. I can obtain a good seat 
without crowding anybody out of it, I intend to go pretty constantly 
this winter, I have two or three invitations for seats, but they are 
often filled. The church is very small, and generally full. I yester- 
day had the high honor of eating a state dinner with their majesties. 
The President is more despised by his political opponents, and less re- 
spected by his friends, than he ever has been heretofore. The mis- 
fortune attending all his measures tends to sink him into contempt. 
I consider hijn the immediate author of all the misfortune of the 
country. I wish to see as little as possible of him. Mrs. Madison, 
it is said, is about establishing her public drawing-room. I think I 
shall trouble it very little this season. Everything wears a sad as- 
pect. The desolation of last summer makes a deep impression. The 
winter will be duller than the last. Less company to (99) amuse, and 
worse prospects to depress us. The political horizon is so dark as 
almost destroys hope. As yet little has been done, but we shall not 
long remain inactive. I feel less pleased with my situation here than 
I have heretofore. I very often turn my thoughts home to you and 
our dear children. There I see peace, quiet, and happiness. I pray 
God this source of consolation may remain undisturbed ; without it I 


should be most wretched. My separation from you and exposure to 
the turmoil and tumult of political life has taught me to appreciate 
more justly domestic enjoyment. I believe I never rated very highly 
the pursuits of ambition. Among those who have run this race 
most successfully, I see few happy or satisfied. Our country affords 
but slight inducements to engage in it. My inclination for it is cer- 
tainly not increasing. I wish you to be particularly attentive to your 
health, and when you write inform me precisely how it is. I intend 
this evening to write to the children. 

Your affectionate husband, J. MASON. 


Washington, November 2, 1814. 

My DEAR Mary, — I am rejoiced to know by your letter of 26th 
October, that everything with you is so well, especially that the chil- 
dren conduct in all respects so satisfactorily. One strong objection, 
among many others, to my being so much absent from home, has 
always been depriving them of ;my advice and assistance. I hope 
this will prove no disadvantage to them. I have no fear but you 
will perform towards them every duty in your power. I think their 
proper education one of the chief objects of my life. The more I 
see and reflect, the more deeply am I impressed with the importance 
of inculcating early in their minds their moral and religious duties 
and honorable sentiments. I would not wish their religion to be of 
a gloomy cast, which often tends to superstition and enthusiasm, 
nor to consist of unintelligible dogmas, which bewilder the mind, 
but mild and rational, which may ameliorate their hearts and regu- 

late their conduct. You mention your surprise that Mr. C. Cutts 
should be chosen Secretary of the Senate. Perhaps your surprise 
will be increased by my telling you that it was by my vote and those 
of some of my friends he was chosen. The fact was we were 
unable to elect the person we wished, and if we did not take Mr. 
Cutts we should have had a person we liked much less. His brother, 
Edward Cutts, has to-day been put into the office of Collector of 
Internal Taxes. He was approved in the Senate by a majority of 
one only. I was among the non-contents. This news is for your- 


self. My trunk at O'Neals' of which you inquire, I found safe. 
My lodgings at Crawford's Inn, in Georgetown, are pretty good. I 
have a very excellent chamber, consisting of two apartments (for 
which, by the way, I pay an extra price). There is too much com- 
pany in the house. The sort of it which I am with is very good, 
consisting of Messrs. Goldsborough, Gaston, Lewis, of Virginia, 
Miller, and two or three others, Messrs. King and Gore and their 
wives, who are the best people here, I see often and with much sat- 
isfaction. Madame Bonaparte has disappeared with the French Em- 
peror. Whether she has retired to Elba'' or Baltimore, I know not. 
Give my respects to Mr. Fales, and tell him to get of Tappan and 
Foster the reviews you mention. My love to the children and 
yourself. Faithfully yours, 

J. Mason. 


Washington, November 6, 1814. 

My dear Wife, — Day before yesterday two very good letters 
from George and Mary came to hand. George says you had received 
no letter from me for six days, and that you were anxious about the 
cause. I think there must have been some irregularity in the mail, 
for I am confident I have not omitted to write so long a time. If, 
however, by any accident I should omit writing longer than usual, 
you ought not to impute it to any serious cause. Should anything 
ill happen to me, be assured I should write immediately. I am 


sometimes more than ordinarily occupied a few days. This, how- 
ever, never keeps you many hours out of my mind, and I will en- 
deavor it shall never for many days prevent my writing to you. I 
wish you to write as often as your convenience will permit, and 
have the children write as often as they are willing. Their letters 
have become amusing to me. I want to hear from you in some way 
three or four times a week. A report prevails that the British are 
again proceeding up the Chesapeake towards Baltimore. I place 

'•" Napoleon was banished to Elba, an island in the Mediterranean Sea, from 
May 4, 1814, to February, 1815. This island is off the coast of Italy, 5 or 6 
miles therefrom; measures 18 miles by 6 miles, area, 86 square miles. 



little reliance on the report, as similar ones have often proved un- 
true. Should Baltimore be again attacked, we shall probably go to 
Philadelphia. Were that the only consequence I should not regret 
their visit. Congress begins to be seriously engaged in the business 
of laying taxes, and providing for recruiting the army. The dom- 
inant party are very fearful for their popularity on both subjects. 
Inform me what is said about the Convention at Hartford. 

Affectionately yours, * J. Mason. 


Washington, November 12, 1814. 

My DEAR ,WiFE, — Contrary to my intention, I was the day before 
yesterday involved in a pretty arduous debate on a bill in relation to 
the army, which incidentally involved the subject of conscription. I 
got through I believe tolerably well, in the opinion of my friends. 
I am noiw pressed to write off my speech for printing, with which I 
am rather inclined to think I shall comply.' I dislike the labor and 
have not vanity enough to believe it will do me much credit. I aim 


told, as is usual in all such cases, it will do good to the public. I 
trust I have patriotism sufficient to overcome my indolence. I am, 
however, not fully convinced by this argument addressed to my van- 
ity. It is most probable I shall' for some reasons, or without any, 
go on. If that should happen, you will not have the labor or amuse- 
ment, whichever it may be, of reading it very soon. It will take all 
my leisure for several days to do my part, and several days more to 

1 The speech to which Mr. Mason here alluded, was delivered in the Senate, 
Wednesday, November 10, 1814, upon a bill in several sections, to authorize the 
President of the United States to call upon the several States and territories 

thereof, for their respective quotas of thousand militia, for the defense of 

the frontiers of the United States, and is reported in the Annals of Co7igress 
for the Third Session of the Thirteenth Congress, p. 77. It is an able and 
rather elaborate speech, pointing out with much force the Constitutional ob- 
jections to the measure, and its dangerous tendencies. After much discussion, 
and many amendments in both Houses, the bill was finally indefinitely postponed 
in the Senate. See Hildreth's History of the United States, vol. iii. (Second 
Series), pp. 539-541; Curtis's Life of Webster, vol. i. p. 139. 


do the printing. So you need not fear seeing it probably within ten 
days or a fortnight after you receive this. And you must not be 
disappointed if you do not see it at all. This story is for yourself 


Sincerely yours, J. Mason. 


Washington, November' 17, 1814. 

My DEAR Wife, — .... In my last I believe I told you some- 
thing about a speech I had made and was requested to publish. I 
have made some progress in writing it out. I am, however, not 
entirely determined to publish it. If published it will not appear 
within a week or ten days from this time. In consequence of cer- 
tain comments made on a few observations I have made, I was 
obliged to make the speech. I had a pretty large audience, consist- 
ing of many of the House of Representatives. The speech by my 
friends was better received than I had expected. I have not much 
leisure to write it out, as I must at present attend in the Senate each 
day. Give my love to the children. 

Sincerely yours, J. MASON. 


Senate Chamber, NoveDiber 20, 1814. 

My DEAR Wife, — The same mail which will bring this, will also 
bring you the speech which I have mentioned. Being desirous of 


knowing the just merits of this speech aforesaid, and concluding you 
must be a perfectly impartial judge, I wish for your candid judgment 
on this subject. The speech, when made, was pretty well received. 
What its fate will be with the public, I know not, I cannot say, care 
not. The subject is i,mportant enough to excite interest. I have no 
doubt the subject of conscription will undergo, both here and among 
the people, ample discussion. Mr. Gore has just delivered a very 
eloquent speech on this subject, in a bill introduced since the one I 
attempted to discuss. Mr. Giles is now answering it. The children. 


in their letters received since yours, say nothing about the fever. I 
hope it does not prevail. 

Sincerely yours, etc., J. Mason. 


Washington, November 24. 1814. 

My DEAR Sir, — I intended before this time to have ansv^ered 
your letter of 21st October, but the truth is, that on the subjects 
you mention, as on most others of a political nature, my mind has 
been in such a state of doubt that I have not known what to say 
nor sometimes what to do on subjects where I was obliged to act. 

The government in all its departments is in great confusion, and 
there are alarming indications of approaching dissolution. The 
immediate cause of the most pressing distress is the deficiency in 
the Treasury and the almost total loss of public credit. The gov- 
ernment are unable to pay the most urgent demands. They can 
borrow money on no terms but such as would ruin their credit irre- 
trievably. The last loan in September for two and a half millions 
cost $170 in stock for $100 cash. The nominal terms were $100 
stock and $80 cash. But the previous loan for near ten millions was 
made at $100 for $88 cash, with the condition that if any future 
loan under same act should be made on terms more favorable to the 
lenders, that loan should be entitled to same terms. This last loan 
consequently entitled the first lenders to the difference of eight per 


cent, on ten millions, which brings the expense of that loan to the 
rate mentioned. This is sufficient evidence of the miserable condition 
of public credit. 

It is feared the proposed terms cannot be obtained in season to 
bring relief. The project for a bank of paper stock to issue paper 
without the means of redeeming it on examination, begins to appear 
to those who at first were disposed to favor it to be too idle to ex- 
pect anything permanently good from it. Should it be adopted, of 
which I have great doubt, the relief, if any, would be short lived. 
After letting out a flood of paper money, it would probably fail and 
destroy all possibility of retrieving public credit for a long time. 

Our best people here do not think very favorably of the terms 


proposed by the British to our envoys at Ghent. The claims with- 
out modification were, I think, inadmissible, and the manner in which 
they were urged extremely offensive. The line of the Grenville 
Treaty of which you inquire begins at the mouth of the Cuyahoga 
River (entering into Lake Erie), and runs southerly about half way 
to the Ohio and then westerly to the west line of the State of Ohio, 
and then again southerly to the Ohio River, and would take away 
from us about one third of the State of Ohio and all the territories 
of Michigan, Illinois, and Indiana, and all north of those territories. 
You may find the treaty in the Appendix to the second volume of the 
United States Laws. The inhabitants beyond those limits amount 
to perhaps fifty or sixty thousand. The si7ie qua 7ion now, however, 
did not fix on this line but left it for discussion. 

There is considerable reason to believe the discussions between 
the envoys did not break oft" immediately after the dispatches were 
sent. I think it probable our envoys still remain at Ghent. We 
have no knowledge that government has heard anything from them 
since the dispatches which were published. It is probable that the 
note which they say they were to send to the British envoys con- 
tained a long and full statement of our injuries and the supposed 
impossibility of acceding to the terms proposed, and that this was 
sent to the British Government, and that the envoys waited for an 
14 (105) 

answer. It is possible the answer may have been such as to justify 
the continuing the negotiation, and that peace may be the result. 
This, however, I do not think probable. 

If the war goes on the States will be left in a great degree to take 
care of themselves. What this will end in it is impossible to fore- 
see. This is the cause from which, in my opinion, a dissolution of 
the Union is to be apprehended. If the people discover the General 
Government is unable or unwilling to defend them, they will soon 
withdraw all support from it, and look for relief to their State gov- 
ernments. If compelled to tax theimselves to support their militia 
and State troops, they will not at the same time pay heavy taxes to the 
United States. 

I have no satisfactory information of the views and intentions of 


the individuals who are to compose the Hartford Convention/ I do 
not expect much from it at present, v^hatever may be the wishes or 
intentions of those gentlemen. I expect it will end in a strong dec- 
laration of injuries and a recommendation of moderate measures, 
unless certain army bills now before Congress should create great 
excitement in New England, 

Some of these bills adopt, to a considerable extent, the principle 
of Colonel Monroe's report, recommending a conscription for the 
army. It is said the Southern States, especially Virginia, will bear 
them quietly. I think New England will not. It is not yet certain 
any of these bills will pass. The Senate have passed two and sent 
them to the House of Representatives. The first which authorizes 
enlisting minors, I suppose will be borne with a good deal of grum- 
bling. The other, which directs the classing of the militia for the 
purpose of making forcible drafts of men to serve for two years, I 
think will not be borne in New England at all. No forcible resist- 
ance, however, will be necessary to defeat it. Without the aid of 
the State governments it cannot be executed. The House of Rep- 
resentatives have before them a bill of much more obnoxious char- 
acter. , 

On the introduction into the Senate of the first of these bills, 


without intending it at the time, I was reduced to the necessity of 
entering into an examination of the Secretary's doctrine, which does 
not apply so much to that bill as to the others. On the report's being 
mentioned with approbation I condemned it in pretty strong terms. 
This produced the next day a formal argument in defense of it which 
obliged me to reply somewhat at large. I sent you by the last mail 
in a newspaper the substance of my argument. Like an occasional 

=> The Hartford Convention was a secret political convention that met at 
Hartford, Conn., from December 15, 1814, to January 5, 1815, at the suggestion 
of the Massachusetts Legislature. It was composed of 26 Federal delegates 
from Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and two counties of New Hamp- 
shire, and one from Vermont. The object of the convention was to devise means 
of security and defense, and safeguarding the rights of the individual states. 
It was in opposition to Madison's administration, but as peace was declared 
before the convention adjourned, the amendments recon^mended by the conven- 
tion to the National Constitution were abandoned, but it did much to hasten the 
downfall of the Federalist Party. 


sermon it was published at the request of some of the hearers, and as 
I have heard you say, in your course with them, you are not obliged 
to read it because it has been sent to you. 

Yesterday Gerry died very suddenly. He had travelled from Bos- 
ton to this place in five days, which was enough to kill a younger 
and stouter man. During this session he had conducted in his place 
in the Senate much better than usual. I had last winter a little mis- 
understanding with him, which by taking some trifling pains I had 
just got settled and I hope forgotten before he died. His funeral has 
been attended with all due ceremony to-day. The President is often 
subject to bad health, and is now sick though not dangerously. This 
gives considerable importance to this election. 

The Federalists and a few others will vote for Mr. King.^ Two 
on our side, one from Delaware and one from North Carolina, are 
absent; were they present I think we might probably elect him. As 
it is, I do not expect it. To-day the ac^ministration party think of 
choosing Mr. Taylor, of South Carolina. They are not, however, very 
well agreed. Their chief reason for setting him up is to prevent his 
voting for Mr. King, which it is said he was inclined to do. I think 
it probable enough they will change to another. Please to present 
my affectionate respects to Mrs. Appleton. 

I am, sincerely yours, J. Mason. 



Washington, December 4, 1814. 

My DEAR Wife, — I live a hermit's life here, though not 

strictly confined to a hermit's fare. I am in company very little. I 
have few invitations, and those I mostly decline. The truth is, the 
inhabitants here, with few exceptions, are good for nothing. I am 
much more engaged in business than I was last winter. The Con- 
gress library having been burnt, I have not access to any good li- 
brary of books. I read, however, considerably. I am in my cham- 
ber alone a great portion of the time, when out of the Senate, and 

1 For the place of President of the Senate vacated by the death of Vice 
President Gerry. 


often feel solitary. I take less interest in the people here than I 
did last winter. I suppose the chief reason is that all the novelty is 
gone. I wish in my soul I could leave them and come home. I 
very often, when thinking of you and the children, doubt the sound- 
ness of the reasons which induced me to come here. I do not think 
I shall do either myself or the public much good by coming here. I 
aim certain I should be much happier at home. I do not know that 
my ambitious feelings, of which I suppose I have a portion in com- 
mon with other folks, have been disappointed. But I do not think 
the gratification of them by any means sufficient to compensate for 
the loss of domestic enjoyment. Be sure, my dear Mary, that is the 
great source of all enjoyment in this world. There everything inter- 
ests, in other situations too often nothing. I here enjoy the society 
of some of the best, and I think greatest, men of the nation, who 
seem to be disposed to treat me with kindness. This is the chief 
consolation and pleasure of my situation. I have written to your 
father and little Jane. There is a Mr. Comstock, from the State of 
New York, in the House of Representatives, who introduced him- 
self to me and told me he was a cousin of yours. He is a sad Dem- 
ocrat, otherwise a pretty decent man. Do you know anything about 
him? Affectionately yours, 

J. Mason. 



Washington, December- 11, 1814. 

My DEAR Wife, — The last letter I have of yours is of the 30th 
November, containing your very concise criticism on my speech. As 
it is as favorable to the author as it is concise, I shall find no fault 
with it. The subect is, in my opinion, of great importance. As it 
pleases you, and I hope will not displease the few of my friends who 
will read it, I may expect to escape without much cause of repent- 
ance. The debates are still continued on the same subject in the 
House of Representatives with vehement animation. Webster, a few 
days ago, made a very splendid speech on the subject, which will be 
published. I expect the principle will be adopted, in a small deeree, 
in the House of Representatives. We have had an interesting dis- 


cussion on a bill to establish a national bank, in which I took a part. 
Being of the committee which originated the bill, and being opposed 
to it, I could not well avoid taking a share in the debate, had I been 
so inclined. Indeed, I felt no inclination to avoid it. If I ever get 
time to write it, and the newspapers should not be too full of Congress 
speeches, I may possibly publish it. On that occasion, Mr. King (of 
the Senate) spoke in his best manner and greatest power. He is 
the most eloquent man I ever heard." I feel considerably anxious about 
your health. I wish you to write me exactly how you are. If neces- 
sary, I will make arrangements to come home the latter part of the 
winter. Tell me what you wish on that subject without any reserve. 
Should the situation of things here be such as to make my tarrying of 
much importance, I shall not come, unless your health is poorer than 
usual, under similar circumstances, if you do not especially wish it. 
Write me frankly your wishes on this subject. I can come if neces- 
sary, and if you think it necessary, I will come. There is no use in 
telling how much I should prefer coming home to staying here. My in- 
clinations alone must not govern. When will your mother come to 
tarry with you? I received Mary's letter of the 3d December. By 
her account (109) you had rather a solitary Thanksgiving. I think you 
had best not live too solitary. I fear you will permit your spirits to 

^ That Mr. Mason put Rufus King at the head of all orators he had ever 
heard, is high praise, as Mr. Mason was a man of wide experience, and had 
heard the best speakers in the land. 

"To Mr. King, it was assigned to answer Mr. Burr (Aaron Burr), if he 
should take part in the debate. Otherwise, he was not to speak. Mr. Burr 
did not nise to address the chair until the (president had proceeded half way 
in putting the question ; and then commenced and went through a discourse of 
considerable ingenuity. When he had finished, Mr. King immediately replied; 
and is said to have displayed his talents as an orator more powerfully than on 
any occasion during his whole life. An able judge of eloquence, and one of the 
first men of our country, represents the exhibition as tmanscending anything 
that modern, if not ancient times, ever produced. He says the orator worked 
himself up into such a frenzy, that he leapt from the floor and that extravagant 
as this action may now appear, it was no more than 'the action suited to the 
word.' * * * Of late years it has been observed, that Mr. King has, with the 
animation of his manner given place to a more calm and dignified modera- 
tion." — William Coleman — Sketch of Rufus King, Delaplaincs Repository, vol. i. 
p. 184; cited in 1 Rufus King's Life and Correspondence, 532. 


become depressed; nothing can be worse for your health. I think 
there is more danger from depression of spirits than is generally sup- 
posed. A cheerful mind is a great protection for health of body. I 
am also of opinion that our feelings may, by proper pains and manage- 
ment, be kept, in a great degree, under our own control. I think I 
have that control over my feelings, to a considerable degree, and I am 

certain they are not of the most manageable sort 

Affectionately yours, J. Mason. 


Washington, December 18, 1814. 

My dear Wife, — I have received your letter of 9th December, 
for which I thank you. You need not fear that the length of your 
letters will tire me. If my letters, often filled with matters in which 
you take little interest, are still gratifying to you, what must yours 
be to me, which are always on subjects of the deepest interest. You 
cannot well conceive the degree of interest I take in everything hap- 
pening at home. The stories told in the letters of the children not 
only amuse but interest me. I become more dissatisfied with my 
situation here. It is much more disagreeable than it was the last 
winter. The society and amusements are, perhaps, nearly the same, 
but I have less to do with them. I am more disgusted with them 
than I then was. Except a few belonging to Congress, I neither 

see nor want to see anybody The prospect of public affairs 

is most unpromising, and I see little probability of its altering for 
the better. This necessarily embitters all my reflections, and de- 
stroys most of the pleasures I might otherwise enjoy. I most 
sincerely wish I was fairly rid of my present situation and restored 
to quiet and domestic enjoyments. I know not why I have given 
you the above sad story, which can do you no good. But remem- 
ber, it is only for yourself. You inquire concerning Mrs. Lear, 


whom I have not seen since I came here. Colonel Lear, about three 
weeks ago, called on me. Two or three days ago I went to return 
the aforesaid visit in due form, and finding both the Colonel and his 
lady absent, paid it in pasteboard, which will probably be the amount 
of our intercourse this season. Should I by chance see Mrs. Lear, 


of whom I think very favorably, I will certainly remember your mes- 
sage to her. If I have time I shall write to the children, if not, give 
my love to them. 

Sincerely yours, J. MASON. 

P. S. — Tell Mary I will write to her soon. Kiss little Robert 
and James for me. 


Washington, December 20, 1814. 

My DEAR Mary, — I received your letter dated 11th of Decem- 
ber, yesterday. I am pleased with your account of the manner 
which you and the other children employ your Sundays. By a 
proper employment of it no day of the week can be so pleasant or 
so useful. The duties of religion should never be forgotten. The 
observance of them is as necessary to secure happiness in this 
world as in the next. True piety tempers and regulates all the 
minor virtues. It is the best security against violence of passion 
and irregularity of conduct. It softens the heart and regulates the 
affections. A man without religion is never to be much relied on. 
But an impious woman is a dangerous monster always to be shunned 
and avoided. Infidelity and irreligion are absolutely inconsistent 
with the delicacy of the female character. If then, my dear daughter, 
you wish to be respected and esteemed in this world, or happy in a fu- 
ture, cultivate sentiments of piety and religion. Let such sentiments 
become habitual, and they will be your best protection against misfor- 
tune and greatest security for happiness. 

Your affectionate father, J. Mason. 


Washington, December 22, 1814. 

My DEAR Wife, — When I last wrote you, I happened to be in a 
train of sombre reflections, some of which, after I had sent the 
letter, I recollected I had imparted to you, and was sorry for it. 
I do not permit myself often to indulge such reflections, and less 


often impart them to others, as it can do no good. My health is 
entirely good, and my spirits tolerable. The public concerns are, 
to be sure, very gloomy, but I do not suppose my being sad would 
mend them. I do not intend to place on my shoulders unneces- 
sarily any part of the national misfortunes. My own share I will 
bear as I can, and do what I can to lessen the whole. 

Affectionately yours, J. Mason. 


Washington, December 27, 1814. 

My DEAR Wife, — I have received today your letter of the 21st, 
in which you say you had received no letter from me later than the 
6th of December. There must have been great delay or irregular- 
ity in the mail, for I have never, I think, omitted writing more than 
three or four days. You mentioned the children have colds. I hope 
it is nothing more than common colds, which will pass off. I enjoy 
my health better than usual. I have felt nothing of the rheumatism, 
nor any other complaint, but the influenza, which was not severe, 
and lasted but a few days. My employment, though not very pleas- 
ant, is quite regular. I am, of course, constantly, or nearly so, in 
the Senate during its sessions, which are from eleven o'clock in the 
morning to three or four in the afternoon, and sometimes later, un- 
less when want of business permits an earlier adjournment, which 
is not often. We dine by candle-light a considerable portion of the 
time. The evenings and mornings I generally spend in my own 


chamber. I have not dined out of my own lodgings more than 
three or four times, so that I am in no danger of injuring my health 
from that kind of dissipation. I am, however, in no want of com- 
pany. The mess (as it is here called) with which I dine, consists of 
eight or ten gentlemen, mostly well informed, pleasant, and agree- 
able. The manner and style of boarding-house living, I do not 
much like. If I can I shall come home before the end of the session. 
Should it be necessary on account of your health, I will come at all 
events. I wish you therefore (as I have heretofore), to write me 
how you are, and what your wishes are on this particular. The 


belief that an attack has been made on New Orleans, creates much 


Faithfully yours, J. Mason. 


Washington, January 1, 1815. 

My dear Mary, — I wish you a happy New Year. May this and 
many succeeding years witness our prosperity and happiness. I 
have purchased some small books for New Year's presents to the 
children, some in French for George and Mary, which I hope will 
be useful to them. They are too large for my frank, and I do not 
know how I shall send them without too much expense. I shall 
also send one to Jane. I am glad our Amherst friends are with you. 
I know you will highly enjoy their visit. Should any of them be with 
you when you receive this, give my best respects to them. The 
weather here is remarkably fine, and has been so for so(me time. To- 
day is like our weather in the latter part of October. I shall go to 
church in the afternoon. As you took so much interest in the sub- 
ject of conscription, I suppose it must give you consolation to know 
that Mr. Giles' principal bill to enforce it, has finally failed in the 
Senate. I do not think it will be again revived this session. The 
Mammoth Bank is the subject of chief interest here now. It has 
been for a long time, and is still held under (113) debate in the House 

of Representatives. There is a probability it will undergo general 
changes. If I do not write to the children, give my love to them. 

Sincerely yours, J. Mason. 


Washington, Januai-y 15, 1815. 

My DEAR Wife, — . ... I want much to set out for home the 
fore part of the next month. Affairs here are however in such a 
condition, that I cannot determine on it at this time. Appearances 
at present indicate that the remainder of the session will be very 
busy and important. If you are very desirous on account of your 


own situation, that I should come home, I wish you (as I have be- 
fore written you) freely to express your wishes. I do not think I 
ought to sacrifice my own happiness and also that of those most dear 
to me, to an idea of public duty. I do not expect my presence here 
will be of much importance. Yet I do not incline to be absent, with- 
out a pretty satisfactory excuse, as possibly an occasion might occur 
where my vote would be material. When will your mother come to 
tarry with you? Do not have her delay coming for want of a con- 
venient opportunity, but send for her when she will be ready to come. 
If not convenient for Mr. Fales to go, send our horse and sleigh, or 
one from the livery stable, with a good coachman. Mr. A. Ladd 
called on me this morning, and for an hour or two answered all my 
numerous inquiries about Portsmouth. I did not get much news 
from him however. Except the business of privateering, the people 
there are doing little, by his account, and I suppose thinking less. 
The Bank Bill, which has so long been a standing dish here, has 
again got into the Senate for discussion, on the amendments proposed 
by the House of Representatives. I hope we shall in a few days be 
rid of it in some way, for I am heartily tired of it, I expect it will 
finally pass pretty much as amended by the House of Representa- 
tives, which will still leave it (114) bad enough. No further news is 
heard from New Orleans. I intend to write to some of the children. 
To the others give my love. 

Most sincerely yours, J. Mason. 

P. S. — I send you a speech of Mr. Gore. It is very incorrectly 
printed. " ^ [^ 


Washington, January 29, 1815. 

My DEAR Wife, — Your letter of the 22d instant gives me much 
satisfaction. I know you have exerted much resolution in recon- 
ciling yourself to the idea of my being absent till after the end of 
the session. I duly appreciate your conduct in this particular. My 
being at home on the occasion alluded to might be of no great im- 
portance, except the satisfaction I know it would afford me. I ex- 
pect to have been able by this time to say with certainty whether 


I could come or not. I cannot, however, at present well make the 
determination. I have some faint hopes of being able to set out 
before the end of the session, without material inconvenience. As I 
have before told you, this still remains uncertain. The question of 
the Bank is expected to be brought forward again in a new shape, 
and some other matters of equal importance. Mr. Webster^ now 
intends to set out in about a week. The House of Representatives is 
so numerous, he says he can go and not be missed. He wants to 
attend the Superior Court. I doubt whether he will go at that time. 
If he should I should be most unwilling to tarry behind, but fear I 
shall be obliged to. Depend upon it I will come if I think it justi- 
fiable. My inclinations lead me so strongly to that course, that I 
almost fear to trust my own judgment to determine. I know if I 
apply to others they will advise me to stay. I am entirely well, and 
you need fear nothing on account of the newspaper reports of the 
sickness in Virginia. As usual, the statement has been exaggerated. 
The sickness of Alexandria has abated. I doubt whether any cases of 
that disorder have ever been nearer (115) this place. I had accepted 
an invitation to dine today at Alexandria with a Mr. Swan. I did not 
go, but not through any apprehension of the sickness there. The day 
has been extremely cold, and I thought a ride home this evening would 
be too dear a price for a dinner. The weather for several days has 
been colder than is often experienced here. It equals our cold winter 
weather. The Potomac is frozen so that it is passed on the ice. 
News has arrived this evening, that the British have been partially 

« Daniel Webster (1782-1852). Says Dr. John Lord, vol. iv. Beacon Lights 
of History, pp. 449-50: — "In his legal career, when for nearly forty years he 
discussed almost every issue that can arise between individuals and communi- 
ties, some half a dozen have become historical, because of the importance of 
the principles and interests involved. In the Gibbons and Ogden case he as- 
sumed the broad ground that the grant of power to regulate commerce was ex- 
clusively the right of the general Government. William Wirt, his distinguished 
antagonist, then in the height of his fame, relied on the coasting license given 
by the states; but the lucid and luminous arguments of the young lawyer (then 
42) astonished the Court, and made old Judge Marshall (then 69) lay down 
his pen, drop back in his chair, turn his coat ''■;Ts, and stare at the speaker in 
amazement at his powers. The first great cast which gave Webster reputation 
was that pertaining to Dartmouth College, his ah)ia mater, which he loved as 
Newton loved Cambridge. The College was in the hands of politicians, and 


defeated at New Orleans. Strong hopes are entertained for the 
safety of that place. I think, however, the result is still very doubt- 

I am most affectionately yours, J. Mason. 


Washington, February 5, 1815. 

My DEAR Wife, — By the last mail I received your letter of 29th 
January, and am gratified with knowing you are well, and that you 
expect your mother soon to be with you. You can scarcely con- 
ceive my ardent desire to leave this disgusting place and return to 
you. I have for a considerable time entertained a secret hope that 
about this time I should be able to set out for home. I think it 
probable that Mr. Webster will set out in the course of this week, 
but I despair of being able to accompany him. Another vexatious 
Bank Bill will be introduced into the Senate tomorrow, which will 
be debated for a considerable time. I expect it will pass in the 
end, but the votes on that subject in the Senate have on several 
occasions been so equally balanced, thar i dare not absent myself 
till it is over. And even then several subjects are expected which 
are deemed of much importance. Those in whom I place most 
confidence, to whom I have spoken of my intention of going away 
before the end of the session, decidedly dissuade me from it. This 
I expected, and of course shall not be greatly influenced by it. But 
I really fear that I shall be obliged to tarry. I have no doubt, you 
have entertained expectations of my return, though I have given 


Webster recovered the College from their hands and restored it to the trustees, 
laying down such broad principles that every literary and benevolent institution 
in this land w^ill be grateful to him forever. This case, which was argued when 
he was 36, with consummate ability, and with words as eloquent as they were 
logical and lucid, melting a cold court into tears, placed Webster in the front 
rank of lawyers, which he kept until he died. In the Ogden and Saunders case 
he settled the constitutionality of State bankrupt laws; in that of the U. S. Bank 
he maintained the right of the citizen of one State to perform any legal act in 
another; in that which related to the efficiency of Stephen Girard's will, he 
demonstrated the vital importance of Christianity to the success of free insti- 
tutions, — so that this very college, which excluded clergymen from being teachers 


you little encouragement. I feel a strong inclination to be with 
you on my own account, and a still stronger on yours. If I could 
have set out at this time. I intended to have seen my friends in 
Connecticut on my way. But if I am delayed till the end of the 
session, as I expect to be, I shall come directly home. I fear you 
will think I do wrong, notwithstanding what you have written, if I 
omit coming home till the session ends. To the protection of a 
kind Providence I commit you, with earnest prayers for your safety. 
The fever at Alexandria has subsided. This place is as healthy as 
usual. I am entirely well, which you may always know unless I 
mention the contrary. 

Affectionately yours, J. Mason. 


Washington, Fehynuiry 5, 1815. 

My DEAR Mary, — I believe I owe you two or three letters. I 
have been much engaged for some time, which must be my apology. 
I look forward with great pleasure to the time I shall come home 
and see you all. In the midst of company I often feel solitary be- 
cause I am so far from those I best love. I hope it is wholly unneces- 
sary for me to request you to be particularly attentive to all the 
wishes of your dear mother. Your own feelings will prompt you to 
pay her every dutiful attention in your power. A good and affec- 
tionate child will always find in the mere performance of these du- 
ties a sufficient reward. What can afford you more satisfaction 
than to know that you contribute to the happiness of a mother who 
is entitled to and enjoys your warmest affections. 

in it, or even visiting it, has since been presided over by laymen of high religious 
character, like Judge Jones and Doctor Allen. In the Rhode Island case, he 
proved the right of the State to modify its own institutions of government. In 
the Knapp murder case, he brought out the power of conscience, — the voice of 
God to the soul — with such terrible forensic eloquence that he was the admiration 
of all Christian people. No better sermon was ever preached than this appeal to 
the conscience of men." 

Says Jeremiah Smith {Morrison's Life of Synith, 40) : "In single qualities 
I have known men superior to Mr. Webster; Hamilton had more original genius; 
Ames, greater quickness of imagination; Marshall, Parsons, and Dexter were as 



I am pleased by learning you get on so well in your studies. I 
fear however you are too soon through your geography. It is a 
very useful study. When I come home I shall examine you and 
see whether you know everything about all the countries in the 
world. I expect you will have to resume that study again. 

Your affectionate father, J. Mason. 



Washington, Febnmry 11, 1815. 

My dear Wife, — News has this moment arrived, that the en- 
emy, soon after their late defeat at New Orleans, re-embarked and 
have left that part of the country. Their loss is said to be between 
three and four thousand men, including Generals Packenham, Gibbs, 
and Kean, badly wounded. Our loss only one hundred and thirty-six. 
This important event has caused great exultation here, as it will 
through the United States. 

Affectionately yours, J. Mason. 


Washington, February 14, 1815. 

My DEAR Wife, — . . . . We have just received the news of a 
treaty of peace from an arrival at New York. You will have heard 
of it before you receive this. No official information is yet received, 
but there is supposed to exist no doubt of the fact. Everybody 
here is extremely elated with joy. If the terms of the treaty are 
tolerable, it is a most fortunate event for the country. We expect 
to receive it tomorrow. If it is ratified, it will give a new turn to 
all our business here. It will, however, rather increase than lessen 

remarkable for logical strength; but in the union of high intellectual qualities, 
I have known no man whom I think his equal." 

Rufus Choate, before the Suffolk Bar, in Boston, October 28, 1852, at the 
Memorial Proceedings, added: "Who anywhere, has won, as he had, the double 
fame, and worn the double wreath of Murray and Chatham, of Dunning and Fox, 
of Erskine, and Pitt, of William Pinkney and Rufus King, in one blended 
transcendent superiority?" 


the quantity for the small remainder of this session. The business, 
however, can in no change, be of so unpleasant a nature as it has 
been. The Bank Bill is postponed in the House of Representa- 
tives, to await the event of the truth of this report. I expect Mr. 
Webster will set out for home in two or three days. I cannot 
express how ardently I wish to accompany him, but it cannot be. 
Give my love to the children. With earnest prayers for your safety, 

I am Affectionately yours, 

J. Mason. 



Washington, February 17, 1815. 

My DEAR Wife, — I have your letter mentioning that your mother 
had arrived, and would remain with you. This gives me much satis- 
faction. Mr. Webster left this place yesterday. It was not possible 
for me to accompany him. The sudden arrival of the Treaty of 
Peace has changed everything. The public business, though differ- 
ent, is not perhaps less urgent or important than if war had con- 
tinued. The Treaty of Peace will be published in a day or two. I 
entertain some hopes of being able to set out for home one week 
from this time. This however is uncertain. At all events I shall 
set out in a fortnight, which will be the end of the session. Con- 
tinue to direct to me here till the 28th instant. I will write to you 
where to direct to me on my way home. Give my respects to your 
mother and to Mr. Fales, and love to the children. 

Affectionately yours. J. Mason. 




Letter from Mr. Gore. — Letter from Mr. King. — Mr. Mason's Congressional 
Life till the Close of the Fourteenth Congress. — Domestic Correspondence. 
— Correspondence with Dr. Appleton, Mr. King and Mr. Gore. — Mr. Mason 
declines the Office of Chief Justice of the Superior Court of New Hamp- 

TXT' HILE at home, after the close of the Thirteeenth Congress, 
'^ Mr. Mason received a letter from Mr. Gore, and also one 
from Mr. King, both of which are here given, alike from the in- 
trinsic interest and as showing the friendly relations between these 
eminent men and their correspondent. 


Waltham, 16th August, 1815. 

My dear Sir, — . ... I have always thought Dallas extremely 
culpable in the course he has pursued in relation to the payment of 
the public revenue. If, instead of authorizing its discharge in paper 
of less value than specie, he had directed that nothing should be re- 
ceived as compensation of the duties but specie or treasury notes, it 
is almost certain he would have compelled all the banks to have 
paid specie, or to have seen their paper so disgraced as to become of 
no value. His treasury notes and the funded stock would in all 
probability have been nearly at par by this day. I can perceive no 
honorable and wise motives for taking depreciated paper for duties, 
and I am yet to learn where he obtained authority to receive less 
than money for the public revenue except in treasury notes. 


I cannot refrain from thinking that notwithstanding all the weak 


and wicked management of our public stewards the stocks of the 
United States will appreciate. The revenue will be productive, 
and I think abundant to the re-establishment of public credit. 
United States stocks have risen in value, whether owing to any cause 
that is like to have a permanent influence, I cannot say. Our Bos- 
ton banks, from all that I learn, will continue to pay specie ; they are 
satisfied that their course has been and is correct, and that eventu- 
ally they shall derive advantage from having adopted and persisted 
in their present system. The end of the war, on the continent of 
Europe, will be attended with a depression of the price of specie in 
England, and of course that drain for our specie will be stopped. I 
have therefore thought that temptations to our people to adopt the 
conduct of the Southern banks, will be diminished, and motives to 
such of these as are solid to resume the payment of specie be in- 
creased ; but however they may be influenced as to a return to specie 
payment, I perceive no reason to doubt that the Boston banks will 
persevere in their conduct. 

I cannot even conjecture what will be Dallas' plan as to a paper 
bank the next session, but I do flatter myself that under the auspi- 
cious circumstances which seem to exist both here and in Europe, 
we may indulge in expectation that the great mass of the commu- 
nity and a majority of Congress will return to those safe maxims 
which reestablished the credit of the United States in Washington's 
administration and preserved it so manifestly to the advantage of 
the whole and every part of the Union even during the reign of 
philosophical democracy. Should this be the case, I think we may 
not only put down the schemes of this mountebank but probably 
erect a fair and solid institution for the nation which will necessarily 
crush all these issues of irredeemable paper. Farewell, my dear 
friend. Instead of ridiculing the brevity, I fear you will complain 
of the tedious length of my epistles. 

Yours faithfully and aff'ectionately, 

C. Gore. 

16 (121) 


Jamaica, L. I., November 22, 1815. 

Dear Sir, — I last evening received your letter of the 12th. I 


have some acquaintance with the condition and views of the banks 
in our city, and though I have no particular information concerning 
the banks southward of us, my apprehensions are much the same 
as respects them all. Mr. Burke has remarked, that all men possess- 
ing unlimited and discretionary power, tending to their own advan- 
tage, abuse it; and we are not to expect a miraculous interposition 
to alter the laws of nature. 

To be sure there has been a commendable moderation, which 
would have been more considerable, in the ad,ministration of our 
city banks, if they had unitedly rejected the projects of Dallas. In 
Pennsylvania, Maryland, and the District of Columbia, the banks 
seem to have imposed no restraints on themselves; their issues 
have been excessive, and their profits indispose them to resume a 
better course. 

By an agreement between our city banks, they are pledged to 
each other, and to the public, that their debts should not exceed 
their respective capitals and sixty per cent, addition; that such of 
them as owed more than this sum should reduce their debts within 
that limit, and that the debtor banks should pay to the creditor 
banks six per cent, interest on their weekly balances. The interest 
is paid; but I doubt whether the banks, which at their stoppage 
owed more than the limited ratio, have diminished their debts; and 
have some reason to believe that the aggregate debt at the forego- 
ing epoch has been increased, though not exceeding five or six per 
cent. According to a supplemental and late agreement, the debtor 
banks are severally pledged to reduce their debts to the creditor 
banks to $400,000 each, before the first of January. To effect this 
they must sell funded debt, or treasury notes, exceeding a million 
and a half of dollars; this would depress the stock market and be 


attended with loss to the sellers, a circumstance sufficient to deter 
them from doing it. 

Some of the banks here desire to return to the old system ; others 
of them do not wish it, even, and I think I risk nothing in express- 
ing an opinion that the paper circulation will be persisted in, if its 
discontinuance be left to the banks which do not pay their notes in 
specie. Congress may correct the mischiefs of this state of things 
by passing laws to establish a bank on the only correct principles, 


and providing that the revenue shall be receivable only in specie, 
or the notes of banks which pay their notes in specie. The paper 
system vanishes. The currency, bad as it is, cannot preserve its 
present credit; unless the public have satisfactory evidence of the 
probable resumption of specie payments, it will become worse; and 
as the States can pass no law protecting the banks against their 
creditors, the further depreciation of their notes will stop their cir- 
culation, suits will be instituted against the banks, one decision had, 
and the bubble bursts. 

Whether Congress will establish a national bank, on the only 
sure plan, you are as able as I am to determine ; if they do not, I am 
persuaded that the excessive issues of bank notes must put an end 
to their circulation. 

I have no expectation of leaving hoime for Washington before 
the 6th or 7th of December. By late accounts from Mr. Gore, I 
am uncertain whether his. health be such as will allow him to under- 
take the journey. 

I should like well enough to be present at the discussion of the 
commercial convention with England. If those who made it, so far 
as it is made, are gratified, let it become the law. The currency is, 
in my opinion, the more important subject that will require our at- 
tention and exertion; and we shall be there in time to hear, and 
to be heard concerning it. With very sincere respect and esteem, 

I am, dear sir, your obedient and faithful RuFUS King. 

I hope you will come on as soon as you can without too great a 


sacrifice ; Washington without the intercourse of one's friends, few 
as in that scene they necessarily must be, would be insufferable. 

The first session of the Fourteenth Congress began on the 4th 
day of December, 1815, and closed on the 30th day of April, 1816. 
In the number of able men it comprised, it has rarely been equalled, 
and never surpassed in the history of the country. In the Senate, 
besides Mr. Mason himself, there were his friends, Mr. King, Mr. 
Gore, and Mr. Daggett. -Mr. Campbell, of Tennessee, reappeared in 
his old place, having resigned his office of Secretary of the Treasury. 
Besides these, there were James Barbour, of Virginia, Harper, of 
Maryland, and Macon, of North Carolina. 

Conspicuous among the members of the House was William 


Pinkney, of Maryland, a man of really great powers, in spite of the 
vanity and affectation with which greatness is not usually attended, 
Mr. Randolph appeared anew from Virginia, having defeated Mr. 
Eppes by a small vote, after a hard contest. Mr. Webster came 
again from New Hampshire, Mr, Clay from Kentucky, and Mr. 
Calhoun and Mr, Lowndes from South Carolina, Among other 
men who made their mark, and are remembered in the history of 
the country, were Mr. Forsyth and Mr, Wilde, of Georgia, Mr, 
McLean and General Harrison, of Ohio, Mr. Tyler, of Virginia, Mr. 
Timothy Pickering, of Massachusetts, Mr. Sergeant and Mr. Hopkin- 
son, of Pennsylvania, Mr. Hanson, of Maryland, and Mr. Gaston, of 
North Carolina. 

The Federalists had gained since the date of the previous Con- 
gress, the Senate standing twenty-two Democrats to fourteen Fed- 
eralists, and the House a hundred and seventeen Democrats to sixty- 
five Federalists. 

Mr. Mason did not take his seat till the 8th day of January, 1816. 
His brethren showed their estimate of his abilities by placing him 
upon the most important of their committees, — that upon finance 
and a uniform national currency; of which Mr. Campbell, the ad- 
ministration leader in the Senate, was chairman. The other mem- 


bers were Mr. Chase, of Vermont, Mr. Bibbs, of Georgia, and Mr. 
King, of New York. Mr. Mason was also put upon a committee 
on providing for the publication of the decisions of the Supreme 
Court, which reported a bill which was passed by the Senate, but 
was indefinitely postponed in the House. 

The kindred subjects of finance and the currency engrossed most 
of the time of both Houses during the first session of the Four- 
tenth Congress. The government had a difficult task before it: 
it was to reform the currency, to repair the waste of the war, and 
provide the means of paying at once the interest on the national 
debt, and ultimately discharging the principal; and to this task it 
addressed itself with energy, ability, and, all things considered, very 
fair success. 

Early in the session Mr. Calhoun introduced into the House of 
Representatives a bill to incorporate the subscribers to a Bank of 
the United States. At that time most of the leading statesmen of the 


country were agreed as to the expediency and constitutionality of 
such a measure, but there was much difference of opinion as to the 
details, a difference arising to some extent from the disordered state 
of the currency. Everywhere except in New England, the banks had 
ceased to redeem their notes in specie, and thus the country was suf- 
fering under the evils of an irredeemable paper currency. 

When the bill came up from the House, Mr. Mason proposed to 
amend it by striking out five dollars, the proportion of specie to be 
paid in at the time of subscription, and inserting ten, and made a 
short speech in support of his motion, but after some discussion 
withdrew it, having doubtless ascertained that it could not pass. 

He also proposed the following proviso to be added to the twelfth 
rule for the government of the bank: "That all bills or notes so to 
be issued by said corporation shall be made payable on demand, 
other than bills or notes for the payment of a sum not less than 
dollars each, and payable to the order of some person or 
persons, which bills or notes it shall be lawful for said corporation 


to make payable at any time not exceeding days from the 

date thereof." After some discussion the amendment was adopted, 
and the blanks were filled with a hundred dollars and sixty days. 

Having the strongest dislike of a paper bank, and desirous to 
impose upon the new institution, by the strongest sanctions, the 
obligation to redeem its notes in specie, he proposed a further 
amendment, giving to Congress the povv^er to repeal the act of in- 
corporation if payment of its notes in gold or silver should be re- 
fused for such length of time as Congress might deem injurious to 
the United States; but the amendment was rejected by a vote of 
seventeen to fourteen. 

Upon the final passage Mr. Mason voted against the bill, as did 
his friends Mr. Gore and Mr. King, probably on the same ground 
that led Mr. Webster to the same course in the House, on account 
of the participation of the government in its direction and manage- 

This session of Congress was also memorable for the passage of 
a tariff act, introduced by Mr. Calhoun, and supported by the lead- 
ing members from South Carolina, for the avowed purpose of pro- 
tection to American manufacturers. It was finally passed in the 


Senate by a vote of twenty-five to seven, Mr. Mason being among 
the minority, doubtless because of the injury the measure would 
cause to the commercial interests of Portsmouth. 

He also made a short speech upon an amendment to the Consti- 
tution proposed by Mr. Varnum, of Massachusetts, requiring repre- 
sentatives in Congress and electors of the President, to be chosen 
in separate districts, and not by general ticket. Mr. Mason was 
inclined to favor the application of the principle of the choice of 
electors, but was not disposed to interfere with the right of a State 
to choose representatives by general ticket, if it saw fit. 

At this session a law was passed, without much discussion or 
excitement, which gave to members of Congress an annual allow- 
ance of fifteen hundred dollars instead of six dollars a day during 
the session. Little did the man who innocently and unthinkingly 


gave their hand to this measure dream of the wind they were sow- 
ing, and the whirlwind they were to reap! To us at the present 
day this amount, even as money then was, does not seem an unrea- 
sonable compensation for the loss of time, and sacrifice of private 
interests, which attendance on Congress involved ; but such was 
not then the temper of the times. For some cause or other, — 
perhaps on account of the large national debt then hanging over 
us, — this harmless act gave rise to one of those waves of popular 
feeling which sometimes sweep over our land like a prairie fire. 
The spending of the people's money is always an easy theme for 
cheap rhetoric and virtuous indignation, and the act was furiously 
assailed in the newspapers and in electioneering speeches. The Fed- 
eral Legislatures of Massachusetts and Rhode Island protested 
against it, the former declaring it to be "an innovation upon the cus- 
tom, and not congenial with the republican principle, of our govern- 
ment," and Democratic Georgia and Kentucky responded in the same 
strain. Of the members who voted for it many lost their re-election 
by reason of such vote, and many were re-chosen by only a very close 
vote. Such was the fright into which Congress was thrown by the 
angry growls of their constituents that the obnoxious law was 
promptly repealed during the second session, as to all future Con- 
gresses, though with a thrifty reservation of the benefit of it for 
themselves. Mr. Mason, luckily, had voted against the law, and thus 


the tempest of popular obloquy did not beat upon him ; though no one 
would have met it with a calmer front had he seen fit to give the 
measure his support. 

This sensibility as to the expenditure of public money has ceased 
to be a virtue, or a weakness, of the American people. 


Washington, January 10, 1816. 

My dear wife — I have received only one letter from you which 
was waiting here for me. To-day I have received a letter from 


George. I wish you to write whenever you have leisure, as I wish to 
hear from you frequently. No important business has been done. 
The House of Representatives have been engaged in a warm debate 
on an old question, — Whether their assent is necessary to give form 
and effect to a treaty made by the President and Senate. On that 
occasion the celebrated Mr. Randolph, and Mr. Pinkney of Baltimore, 
were the most conspicuous speakers on the opposite sides. Mr. Ran- 
dolph by no means answered my expectations. It is generally 
thought he fell far below his former reputation.^ Appearances still 
continue to indicate a very quiet and peaceable session. As in duty 
bound, I last evening went to Mrs. Madison's drawing-room, and 
after seeing the usual number of unmeaning faces, and saying and 
hearing the usual number of unmeaning things, came back again. I 
do not perceive or learn that the concourse of people here is greater 
than common. At the drawing-room I saw Mrs. Sargent (formerly 
Miss Swan), whom I thought by far the finest woman there. I un- 
derstood she is to set out for home to-day or to-morrow. Mrs. Derby, 
Mrs. Harrison of Philadelphia and Mrs. Otis, have been here and 
passed on southward. Instead of treasury reports and bank bill cal- 
culations, I am engaged in reading Wraxall's Memoirs, which I find 
very entertaining. You must have noticed extracts from his work in 

1 It was in the course of this speech that Mr. Randolph indulged himself 
in the impertinence, when speaking of Mr. Pinkney, who had been Minister to 
England and Attorney-general, and was at that time at the head of the Ameri- 
can bar, of saying, "I give up to the gentleman from Maryland — / a/m told he is 
from Maryland, etc." 


the newspapers. I intend to amuse myself this winter as well as I 
can, and I earnestly advise you to the same determination. I believe 
much depends on such resolution, for I certainly do not dislike what 
I see and hear here as grievously as I did last winter. 

Truly and faithfully yours, J. Mason. 



Washington, January 14, 1816. 

My DEAR Mary, — I am gratified by your letter, especially in 
two particulars. It is in the first place very well written, and evident- 
ly shows a very considerable amendment in your handwriting. To 
effect this, you know I have often told you nothing was wanting but 
care and attention. I wish to see your handwriting still further im- 
proved. It is effected with little labor, and is a pleasant and useful 
accomplishment. It is also becoming more fashionable in our coun- 
try; a bad handwriting is deemed vulgar. I am also much pleased 
with your determination to persevere in your mathematical studies. 
You began arithmetic with strong prejudices against it, imbibed at 
the Academy, which I think you had mostly overcome before I left 
home. I hope you will make such progress in Euclid before my return 
as to make it necessary for me to study it to enable me to examine you. 
Tell Alfred and James they must write to me before they are to ex- 
pect any letters from me. 

Your affectionate father, J. Mason. 


Washington, January 19, 1816. 

My DEAR Wife, — I have your letter in answer to one from Balti- 
more. You seem to be alarmed with the many perils past. I do not 
specially remember what I said in that letter, but presume I men- 
tioned the occurrence of a very unusual number of carriages broken 
down and other vexatious accidents which delayed me in my journey. 
But I certainly did not intend to say or intimate that those accidents 
were attended with any extraordinary danger, for really there was 


little or none. I never performed the journey with less danger or 
fatigue. When it was stormy I stopped till it was fair, and when dark 
till light. Contrary to my intention, which I believe I mentioned to 
you, which was to keep still and not trouble (129) myself with debat- 

ing, I yesterday delivered in the Senate a speech against the right of 
the House of Representatives to interfere with treaties made by the 
President and Senate. I was tolerably well satisfied with my own ar- 
gument, which was heard with attention. I shall not publish it. As we 
have no stenographer in the Senate, the labor would be considerable, 
and the subject creates no great interest with the public. Many argu- 
ments have already been published. Give my love to the children. 

Truly yours, J. Mason. 


Washington, January 24, 1816, 

My DEAR Wife, — There has been a great change of weather 
from dry and cold to wet, which has given me a cold, but not severe. 
I am otherwise entirely well. I am sorry to learn that Dr. Goddard 
declines being candidate as Governor. I fear the consequences, but I 
by no means regret the course I have adopted, as far as I was person- 
ally concerned.^ That course, so seasonably adopted, relieves me 
from much trouble and vexation, to which I might otherwise have 
been exposed. I hope in the end, the election will turn out right, but 
I am fearful of it. I continue in the same lodgings I occupied last 
winter. I cannot yet find others more convenient. The distance from 
our new capitol is too great. I have seen a good deal of the celebrated 
John Randolph, who is in all respects the most extraordinary man I 
ever knew. He diff'ers essentially both in person and mind from his 
species. I do not think so highly of his talents as I did before I saw 
him, but he is more eccentric than he is reputed. I do not think he 
will long sustain his reputation for talents. I take less interest in the 
affairs here than I formerly did. I of course anticipate less trouble. 

1 Some of Mr. Mason's friends had desired him to consent to be a candidate 
for the office of Governor, but he had declined. 



I wish in my heart I was clear of it all and at home with you and my 
family, where all my happiness is. I shall write to some of the chil- 
dren. Give my love to the others, and kiss the little ones for me. 

Affectionately yours, J. Mason. 


Washington, January 24, 1816. 

My DEAR Mary, — I am pleased with your progress in Euclid. 
The study of geometry affords a noble exercise for the mind. Wom- 
en are generally prejudiced against it and all kindred studies. They 
often say such studies are useless for them. This is wholly untrue. 
The chief object in the study of geometry, as well as other depart- 
ments of mathematics, is to enlarge, strengthen, and discipline the 
mind. If, then, it be important for women to think and reason, it is 
important for them to cultivate these studies which enable them to 
think and reason correctly. I was sorry to learn that a foolish an- 
tipathy to arithmetic prevails in your Academy. By the progress 
you have made in Euclid I trust you have overcome your dislike to 
such studies. By application you may soon be able to find as much or 
more amusement in them than in music or drawing. 

If I do not write to Alfred and James by this mail, tell them I 
will soon. Your affectionate father, 

J. Mason. 


WASlflNGTON, January 27, 1816. 

My DEAR Wife, — I expect evil consequences 

from the unexampled difficulty experienced in finding a candidate for 
Governor, stated in your letter and in others I have received. The 
consequences, however, must be more deplorable than I apprehend, to 
make me regret the course I adopted. I certainly did not (131) expect 
the extreme difficulty which has been experienced. All the world here 
are talking about Mr. Randolph, who has been talking in the House 
of Representatives all the time of the session for three full days in 


succession, about everybody and everything. He observes little or no 
connection in his discourses, and produces no effect except entirely 
to destroy his own reputation and influence. I have not heard him 
during any of his very long speeches. But those who did are almost 
universally disgusted. His standing and influence is lost. The ad- 
ministration party are in almost as great perplexity about their can- 
didate for the next Presidency, as we are in New Hampshire about 
our next Governor. At this moment the chance is against Monroe, 
and in favor of Mr. Crawford of Georgia. Perhaps a few days may 
change the prospect, and set both aside and present a new man. The 
Federalists take no part in the quarrel. I am growing more and more 
tired of all political quarrels. My present intention is to return to 
you early in the spring, whether Congress rises or not. I do not, how- 
ever, yet think of fixing any precise time. Depend upon it, I will 
come as soon as with any propriety I can. 

Affectionately yours, J. Mason. 


Washington, February 15, 1816. 

My dear Wife, — I have just received your note dated Saturday 
afternoon, which I presume must have been last Saturday. The mail 
had previously been delayed. I am glad little Mary Ann has got on 
her feet. I should like to see her, with all the other little frolicsome 
actors of the nursery, which would be much more amusing and grati- 
fying than anything I meet with here. Although I had determined to 
the contrary, I find myself quite as much, if not more engaged in the 
ordinary business of Congress than I was in former sessions. Being 
obliged to vote and act in matters of no small national importance, I 
could if I would, avoid taking a (132) considerable interest in them, 
which often compels me to take some pains to get the necessary in- 
formation. I shall not, therefore, have so easy a time of it this winter 
as I intended. There is an unusual multiplicity of business, and the 
present appearance is that we shall have a long session. I do not, 
however, intend, unless there should be more necessity for it than I 

anticipate, to tarry longer than I first determined on 

Truly yours, J. Mason. 



Washington, Saturday evening, Febi-uary 17, 1816. 

My dear Mary, — In your letter of 11th of February, you say 
the letter you had just received from me was the only one you had re- 
ceived for more than a week. I think it must have been owing to 
some irregularity in the mail, for I do not believe I have ever omitted 
to write so long. I have usually written as often I supposed as twice 
a week. For the future I will endeavor that no so great interval of 
silence shall occur. I will at all events be careful not to be in debt on 
this score. All your letters shall be punctually answered at least, and 
I wish you to write as often as you can. I can with truth assure you 
that the most agreeable moments I experience here are those em- 
ployed in reading your letters. You cannot well conceive the interest 
which the narration of any little family incident excites. One reason 
for it, is, that I take no interest in the concerns of most of those I see 
and associate with. This has some exceptions. There are a few men 
here, for whom I have not only a high respect, but also a most sincere 
esteem. My acquaintance with them I consider the chief compensa- 
tion for the many sacrifices I have made in coming and remaining 
here. But warm friendships are not often contracted among men 
who have arrived at or passed the middle age of life. This is perhaps 
more especially the case among ambitious men, of which character, 
the most I see here partake in a greater or less degree. I do not mix 


SO much in society as I told you I intended to do. I cannot do it with- 
out more trouble than it is worth. The situation and condition of the 
place render it very inconvenient. Mr. Dexter,'' of whom you in- 
quire, I have seen very seldom and accidentally. He occupies a small 
tenement near the Capitol. I see but little more of him than I should 
if he was at Boston. I am told he is a very common attendant at the 

^ Samuel Dexter is here alluded to, the celebrated Boston lawyer, who con- 
ducted before the Supreme Court of the United States The Embargo Case, by 
which embargo, all shipping interests of New England were virtually destroyed. 
He was born in 1761 and died in 1816, May 4th— less than three months from 
the time the above letter was written. See Webster's great tribute to him as 
a lawyer in his reply to Hayne, in the United States Senate. At another time, 
Webster said of him, in comparison with Judge Parsons: "In point of char- 


President's, or rather Mrs. Madison's, where I never am more than 
mere etiquette requires. Mr. Atherton I see very seldom, not more 
than two or three times since I came here, and then only foi' h few 
minutes. He and I live almost four miles apart. Mr. Marsh has 
gone home. Mr. Gore has been confined the most of the time he has 
been here. His complaint has been a lameness in one of his knees, 
which he thinks is caused by rheumatic affection. He is recovering 
slowly, and rides out almost every day. He expects in a few days to 
resume his seat in the Senate. He has suffered much and borne it 
with great fortitude. He has not, however, at any time supposed his 
situation dangerous Affectionately yours, 

J. Mason. 


Washington, Fehmary 25, 1816. 

My DEAR Wife, — Mr. King is nominated for Governor of New 
York, as you have probably seen in the papers. It was without his 
knowledge or consent. He has not determined what he will do. A 
very earnest press is made on him, which seems to embarrass him a 
little. If he assents, it will be attended with a great sacrifice of per- 
sonal feeling and inclination. The weather here is now mild, and ex- 
hibits the appearance of early spring. The spring is much earlier 
than ours. No more severe cold is expected. I shall write to some of 
the children, and wish you to give my love to the rest. I would give 
more for an opportunity of seeing them than all the grave politicians 
in Washington. I can form no opinion of the end of the session, but I 
intend to terminate my session (134) some time in April. The politi- 
cal fever here is less violent than the last winter. Party zeal seems to 
be subsiding, and we are of course more quiet and good-natured. 

acter, Dexter undoubtedly stands next to Judge Parsons at the Boston Bar; 
and in the neighboring counties and states, I suppose he stands above him. He 
has a strong, generalizing, capacious mind. He sees his subject in one view, 
and in that view^, single and alone, he presents it to the contemplation of his 
hearer. Unable to follov^^ Parsons in minute technical distinctions, Parsons is 
unable to follovi^ him in occasional vaultings and boundings of his mind. Un- 
like Parsons too, he cannot be great on little occasions. Unlike him, Parsons 
cannot reject every little consideration on great occasions. Parsons begins with 


Affectionately yours, J. Mason. 

P. S. — Either this mail or the next I shall send the little children 
some picture-books. I have Jane's letter, for which thank you. 


Washington, March 8, 1816. 

My dear Wife, — You seem to have a pretty strong in- 
clination for reading Congress speeches. Could I suppose any con- 
siderable portion of the community participated with you in that in- 
clination, I should perhaps be more inclined to adopt what I conceive 
to be your advice on this subject. It is said a stenographer is to at- 
tend in the Senate, in which case it is probable your inclination will 

be gratified 

Affectionately yours, J. Mason. 


Washington, March 10, 1816. 

My dear Wife, — I have just received a letter from George in 
which he gives a pretty favorable account of himself. I hope it is not 
unjust. I have written to him two or three times. Although I am 
satisfied Dr. Appleton will do for him all in his power, I cannot but 
feel some anxiety about him. The more I see and notice the world, 
the more I am desirous of bestowing attention on the education of 
our children. It is of vast importance to them. In our country edu- 
cation is more important than in those where rank and fortune se- 
cure a certain grade and standing in society. I should decidedly pre- 

common maxims, and his course to the particular subject and particular con- 
clusion brightens and shines more and more clearly to its end. Dexter begins 
with the particular position which he intends to support; darkness surrounds 
him; no one knows the path by which he arrives at his conclusion. Around 
him, however, is a circle of light when he opens his mouth. Like a conflagra- 
tion seen at a distance, the evening mists may intervene between it and the eye 
of the observer, although the blaze ascend to the sky and cannot be seen." — 
Harvey's Reminiscences of Webster, p. 22, said by Webster in 1804, while in 
Gore's ofRce. 


fer giving our children superior educations to giving them fortunes 
without educations. With this opinion I (135) know any neglect of 
duty towards them in this particular will be attended with lasting re- 
gret. Thus far I trust we have performed this duty with diligence, and 
I hope some success. To Mary, I have no doubt you pay all necessary 
attention. From you she must receive the most important part of 
her education. Others may teach her common literature and ordi- 
nary external accomplishments, but you alone can with maternal care 
and authority, teach her to cultivate pure affections and true sensi- 
bility, and all the virtues appropriate to the female character. This 
is the instruction most necessary for a young female, and compared 
with which all other instruction is of little value. We are employed 
\\ere, as usual, in matters which we deem of great importance and 
which other folks care nothing about. The Bank is still under con- 
sideration, and excites increased interest. It is generally believed the 
bill will pass. Nothing is determined as to the Presidential election, 
but I think it will soon be. I often think of home, and never without 
wishing myself there. Give my respects to Mr. Fales and love to the 
children. Yours most affectionately, 

J. Mason. 


Washington, March 16, 1816. 

My DEAR Wife, — I have had two letters from you since I last 
wrote. I am exceedingly glad our domestic concerns are so prosper- 
ous. You seem to have had less trouble in managing them than, con- 
sidering the unlucky accidents which have occurred, I expected. I 
most sincerely wish I was at home to share them with you. I cannot 
yet fix the time I can set out to return. I have intended, as I believe 
I have written you, to set out the first part of April. I still intend it 
if possible. There is, however, some business to come before Con- 
gress, which I shall be very unwilling to leave unfinished. It is now 
thought the session will end by the last of April. Of this, however, no 
certain opinion can be formed. An act has just been passed, changing 
the compensation for (136) members of Congress from an allowance 
of six dollars a day to a salary of $1,500 a year. It is supposed this will 
shorten the sessions. The real object is to increase the compensation. 


which it will do to the amount of about one third. Though I like 
having the money well enough, I was among those who doubted the 
expediency of taking it in this way. I do not think this measure will 
have much effect in shortening the present session, whatever it may 
do in future. The Bank Bill, which has been a long time under con- 
sideration, has just passed the House of Representatives, and come 
to the Senate, where it will doubtless pass. Mrs. Madison, with other 
high court dames, lately petitioned Congress for an act of incorpora- 
tion for a Female Asylum, of which Mrs. M. was to be presidentess. 
The Senate most ungallantly rejected the petition. Being among the 
rebels on this occasion, I expect to experience no more smiles at the 
palace. This evening is to be held the grand Democratic caucus for 
designating the next President. There has been great difficulty, and 
the party is now believed to be so equally divided between Monroe and 
Crawford, that many doubt which will be selected. I expect Monroe 
will succeed. I have not had the easy, amusing winter I intended. 
My time has been mostly devoted to the business of Congress. I have 
spent little time out of my own lodgings, except in the Senate 
Chamber. The winter has, however, passed as much to my satisfac- 
tion as I expected. Party spirit has a good deal subsided. If I can 
get away in season, I shall be tolerably satisfied. 

Affectionately yours, J. Mason. 


Washington, February 10, 1816. 

My dear Wife, — I have had no letter from you since the one 
dated January 31st. I believe I have not written so often for the ten 
days past as I usually do. The truth is, I have been a good deal oc- 
cupied by the ordinary business of Congress. Though nothing of 
very great importance has been under consideration, we (137) have 


been very much engaged in the common business of the session. The 
land tax, which has occasioned so much debate in the House of Repre- 
sentatives, has not yet come to the Senate. It is very doubtful what 
will be its fate, as also with the bank bilk The matter of the next presi- 
dency still continues to be the subject of the greatest interest. The 
chances between Monroe and Crawford are supposed to be nearly 


equal. The common opinion is that they will not settle the question 
between themselves, but refer it to the nation. I think it most prob- 
able they will in some way make a compromise 

Affectionately yours, J. Mason. 


Washington, March 20, 1816. 

My DEAR Wife, — I presume you have seen the result of the 
Democratic caucus, in the nomination of Colonel Monroe by a very 
small majority. This has been and continues to be the subject of 
general conversation and high excitement. Crawford's friends, 
though dissatisfied, will probably in the end submit. This, ho'Wever, 
is not yet certain. We are now beginning to hasten, in the despatch 
of public business, to bring the session to a close. I think Congress 
will adjourn in the course of April. Whether I can set out before the 
adjournment, I cannot yet say. I have heard no news of the New 
Hampshire election. I feel anxious to hear, and hope to-day's or to- 
morrow's mail will settle it. 

In haste, truly yours, J. Mason. 


Washington, March 24, 1816. 

My DEAR Wife, — I have received your letter of 12th, after the 
one dated the 15th inst. The mail has, during the winter, been very 
irregular. I was pretty well prepared to expect the unfortunate re- 

suit of the election as to the governor, but not as to the Legislature.' 
I still hope the Senate is not changed. If all the departments of gov- 
ernment are thus suddenly changed, I fear much mischief from the 
first ebullition of party heat. The presidential election here is gen- 
erally believed to be determined in favor of Colonel Monroe, not. how- 
ever, without much dissatisfaction among the Democrats 

1 At the spring: election of 1816, the Democratic party in New Hampshire 
elected their candidate for governor, and a majority of mcmliers in both houses 
of the Legislature. 


I never felt a stronger desire to be at home than at the present time. 
This is about the time, or near it, when I had intended to set out on my 
return. But however disagreeable it is to tell you so, I cannot deter- 
mine with any certainty on my return. At present, with a proper re- 
gard for my duty, I cannot leave my seat vacant unless urged by high 
necessity. The bill for incorporating the bank is coming under the 
consideration of the Senate. Very important alterations will be at- 
tempted. The new tariff of duties is also to be acted on, with several 
other important measures. I think Congress will rise the latter part 
of April, perhaps by the 20th. When I have mentioned to two or 
three of my friends an intention of going away before the end of the 
session, they have objected in the strongest terms. I will come as 
soon as I can. I have written to my brother I shall return by way of 

Lebanon Affectionately yours, 

J. Mason. 


Washington, March 26, 1816. 

My dear Wife, — In your last letter you mention your anxiety 
about the children, especially the eldest. It is a subject on which 
we shall probably always feel anxious. As they are, to all appear- 
ance, doing tolerably well, I think it wisest and best for us to en- 
deavor rather to lessen than increase this anxiety. We ought to 
and I trust shall faithfully perform our duty towards them. This 
we must do to the utmost of our power. This done, the excess of 
anxiety ought to be repressed, because it can do them no good but 


may become to us the source of much suffering. You say you 
doubt the propriety of sending Mary from home this spring.^ I 
rather think, as I did when we last conversed about it, that it will be 
best for her to go to Boston, if a suitable situation can be found for 
her. Perhaps, however, there will be no benefit in fixing her fancy 
on this plan at present. If anything should prevent it, she might 
feel disappointed, and be less inclined to attend to her studies at 
home. The expediency of sending her there will depend much on 
the finding a good situation. I shall be at home in season to de- 
1 That is, to school in Boston. 


termine about it. In the meantime, you can make such inquiries as 
shall be in your power. Since I last wrote you I have made two 
short arguments on the tedious and trite subject of the Bank. One, 
I believe, was no great affair ; the other, in my opinion, pretty good. 
It was supposed to have some effect towards attaining its object, 
which was an amendment to the bill carried against the pronounced 
determination to have no amendment made. This bill will occupy 
the Senate for several days. You have seen in the papers the 
arrival of Mr. Bagot, the British minister. His wife, it is expected, 
will be the subject of the most attention here. She is the niece of 
the great Duke of Wellington, and of course the subject of atten- 
tion and curiosity. They have taken lodgings in the same hotel I 
am in, for a short time, till their house shall be prepared. I called 
yesterday to make a visit of form. The lady affects great affability, 
and professes to be pleased with everything she sees in the country. 
Affectionately yours, J. Mason. 


Washington, April 6, 1816. 

My DEAR Wife, — Yesterday I received your letter of 30 March, 
and am glad to know you all continue well. I feel very impatient 
with the prospect of being detained here longer than I intended. 
I think the session will end the latter part of this month. I do not 


intend to stay longer than about the 20th. The Bank Bill has 
passed. The new tariff of duties is now the business of the greatest 
importance. That still remains under discussion in the House of 
Representatives. It will be before the Senate next week. The last 
of a session is always unpleasant on many accounts. The business 
always presses so as to leave no leisure to those who attend to it. But 
what is worse, everybody becomes sour and ill-tempered. After be- 
ing shut up together for three or four months, debating and quarrel- 
ing, it would be expected that better men than the most of us are, 
would become heartily tired of each other. I do not think a legis- 
lative body ever ought to continue together more than three months 
at one time. This is certainly long enough, if they sit in such a place 
as Washington, where they can see and converse with none but them- 


selves. With all these grievances, the winter has passed tolerably 
well with me, certainly as well as I expected. I have been little in 
company, because I found little amusement and less instruction, in 
any I could hear of here. Party spirit, which the last session was 
very acrimonious, has greatly subsided. Indeed party distinction has 
almost disappeared in both houses of Congress. It is possible some 
occasion may again call it up. But the distinctions between Federal- 
ists and Democrats will, I think, never again be felt as strongly as 
they have heretofore been. There is now more appearance of the 
distinction being forgotten than I have ever before seen. 

Affectionately yours, J. Mason. 


Washington, Apnl 14, 1816. 

My DEAR Wife, — I have your letter of 7th April. I have ex- 
pected Congress would rise the 22d inst., which was named for that 
purpose. Yesterday the question was called up in the Senate, and 
it was thought impossible, with proper consideration of the public 
business, to adjourn at that time. The determination of it is post- 


poned to next Saturday. Congress it is said, and I believe, will 
adjourn before the last of the present month. I have always in- 
tended, if Congress did not adjourn, not to postpone my journey 
home later than the 22d. But I cannot be certain of setting out at 
that time. The Tariff Bill, with some other important matters, re- 
main to be acted on. I am told I must not go away till these are 
despatched, and that will be at or near the end of the session. I 
want to leave this place, where there is little I like, and I want ex- 
ceedingly to be at home, where is, and always must be, all my 
happiness. I shall come as soon as I can. I have agreed with 
Mr. Webster that we will go together. He wishes to set out by 
the 25th. I wish you to continue writing to me here, till I mention 
some other place for your letters to meet me on my way 

Affectionately yours, J. Mason. 



Washington, Monday, April 22, 1816. 

My dear Wife, — It was till lately expected that Congress would 
rise on the evening of today. The period is now postponed certainly 
till the first of next week. There is a great press of business in the 
Senate, mostly of an ordinary sort, but some important. Mr. Webster 
and I have agreed to return together. He wants to set out this week. 
I have doubts whether it will be possible for me to do so without in- 
curring an imputation of neglect of duty. I wish you to direct to me 
here, till I request you to omit it. Your letters will be sent after me 
on the road if they come after I have set out. The spring here is said 
to be very backward, the weather for three or four weeks having been 
cold, till a few days past. The fruit trees are still in blow, and the 
country begins to look pleasant. I have taken advantage of it by 
two or three short rides, which after my winter's confinement have 
been very agreeable. On Saturday I went to dine at a Mr. Calvert's, 
near Bladensburg, where I saw a collection of paintings supposed to be 
the best ever seen in (142) this country. They were sent to this coun- 
try to escape Bonaparte's grasp, and are soon to return to Europe. 
Yesterday I went to Alexandria, where I attended church in the fore- 
noon, and dined with Mr. Swan. If I was not confined to my place 
in the Senate, I think I could dispose of a few days pleasantly enough 
in making a few short excursions. I have never been here when the 
weather was so inviting. The congressional invalids, of whom there 
have been a considerable number, are fast recovering. Dissatisfac- 
tion with their situation and want of exercise were, I believe, the 
chief cause of their complaints. I promise myself good weather, and 
consequently a pleasant journey home. I shall not come home so 
rapidly as I sometimes have. I must stop in Connecticut, and Mr. 
Webster wants to be a day or two in Philadelphia and New York, 
which will also be agreeable to me, if we can spare the time. It will 
make but a few days difference in the time of my getting home. 

Affectionately yours, J. MASON. 

The second session of the Fourteenth Congress began on the sec- 
ond day of December, 1816, and closed on the fourth day of March, 
1817. Mr. Mason was in his place on the first day of the session. 


He was again put upon the leading committee of the Senate, that 
on finance, and he was also a member of that upon commerce and 
manufactures. The legislation of the session was not of much in- 
terest or significance. The most important measure acted upon 
was a bill introduced by Mr. Calhoun to appropriate as a permanent 
fund for internal improvements the bonus of the bank of the United 
States, and the government's share of its dividends. This passed 
the House after much opposition, and by a very small majority, and 
also went through the Senate with a large negative vote, but, doubt- 
less much to the surprise of its author and its chief supporters, it 
was vetoed by the President on the ground of unconstitutionality. 

To those who remember the later years of Mr. Calhoun's public 
life, it will be curious to note that at this time his name was identi- 
fied with three such measures as a bank of the United States, a 


protective tariff, and a national scheme of internal improvements. 
He was then a very young man, having only reached the age of 
thirty-five years at the close of the Fourteenth Congress. He was 
the administration leader in the House, and had won that position 
by a combination of qualities at once solid and brilliant; by patient 
industry, by eloquence and energy in debate, legislative tact, com- 
prehensive statesmanship, and singular powers of fascination over 
those who came within his personal influence. He was the pride 
and hope of a great party to which he belonged, and no man of his 
age had seemingly so brilliant a future before him. Over Mr. Clay, 
his only rival in popular favor, he had an advantage in the austere 
purity of his private life. It is sad to think of the false lights that 
led him astray in his latter days, and of the doubtful name he has 
left in history, when compared with his striking early promise. 

Mr. Mason, on the 17th day of February, submitted a motion to 
reduce the military peace establishment from ten thousand to five 
thousand men, and supported the measure in an able and elaborate 
speech, showing at once reflection and research. He was replied to 
by Mr. Barbour, of Virginia, and his motion was indefinitely post- 
poned by a vote of twenty-four to eleven. 

Mrs. Mason passed the winter with her husband at Washington, 
and thus we miss the record of his life there which is supplied in 
previous years by his letters to her. He wrote occasionally to his 


children, and one or two letters passed between him and his friend 
Mr. Gore, who since the close of the preceding session had been com- 
pelled by ill health to resign his seat in the Senate. He also wrote 
a letter to Mr. King, who did not take his seat till the 30th of De- 


Washington, December 15, 1816. 

Dear Sir, — I have your letter of the 8th, and though I am for 
many reasons desirous of your being here, I cannot state any im- 
portant business which is likely soon to come before the Senate. 


The standing dishes served up by the President will, I think, re- 
main untouched for the benefit of his successors. An attempt will 
be made to establish a national university, which I am told will 
probably fail in the House of Representatives. A bankrupt law and 
a navigation act, similar to the British, will also be attempted. 
The western men intend to upset the whiskey tax, which must of 
course, be attended with the repeal of all the internal taxes. But I 
do not think any of these will reach the Senate till after New Year's 

The President has found out, as you have probably seen by the 
papers, that the Kentucky Horse Act of the last session needs miend- 
ing.' Much abuse is cast upon poor Lee, the commissioner. I be- 
lieve his decisions are of a complexion very similar to the law he 
acts under. A treaty with Sweden has been sent to us. I did not 
hear it read. When printed, I will send you a copy. 

We, with Mr. and Mrs. Webster, are lodging in one of the houses 
of Carroll's Block, a few doors south of Queen's Tavern. We are 
entirely by ourselves. The people of the house are disposed to do 

1 Mr. Mason here alludes to an act entitled "An act to authorize the pay- 
ment for property lost, captured, or destroyed by the enemy, while in the military 
service of the United States, and for other purposes," approved April 9, 1816. 
It Mras introduced by Mr. Johnson, of Kentucky, and horses formed a considerable 
portion of the property referred to. Mr. Lee was the commissioner under this 
act. The President sent a special message to Congress, December 6, 1816, calling 
their attention to the act as needing further legislation. 


the best they can for us. We do not fare very sumptuously, but on 
the whole are as comfortably situated as we had reason to expect. 
Crawford's establishm.ent is continued by his brother, who, when 
I called there, was not to be found. The bar tender told me you 
were expected. Major Lewis Grosvenor and Herbert are the only 
members of Congress there. I am told the establishment is some- 
what deranged. Bailey, a reformed gambler from Virginia, has 
taken and fitted up for a tavern the house south of the Old Capitol, 
where the Supreme Court held their session last winter, together 
with the house adjoining. He also has the house occupied by Dal- 
las. It is said his accommodations are very good, and that the cook- 

19 (145) 

ery is superior to what has been found here. Should you prefer 
being on the Hill to going to Georgetown, as I hope you will, I am 
inclined to think you may be as well suited at Bailey's as at Craw- 
ford's. I am told that Mrs. Wadsworth, who has pretty good rooms, 
has no lodgers. I will willingly make any further inquiries or ar- 
rangements for you on this subject that you may wish. 

I am, sincerely and faithfully, your most obedient servant, 

J. Mason. 

P. S. — Mr. Harper has resigned his seat in the Senate, which is 
to be filled by Hanson. I am in doubt whether to set this down to 
the side of profit or loss. 


Washington, December 19, 1816. 

My DEAR Mary, — Since we parted with you in Boston, we have 
heard from you less frequently than we have wished. Your mother 
has several times expressed some anxiety about the cause of your 
silence, fearing you was sick. You must in future write to us of- 
tener. We shall expect a letter from you in future either to me or 
your mother, once a week at least, and as much oftener as your lei- 
sure and inclination will permit. Separated from us and all the 
family, as you are, we feel more anxiety to hear from you often than 
we otherwise should. I wish you to give me a particular account 


of your studies, and how you are suited in all particulars with your 
situation. Your mother bore the journey here remarkably well. I 
think her health is better than it has been the two or three years 
past. I hope there is no occasion for my advising you to diligent 
application to your studies. You must recollect that the coming two 
or three years of your life, if misspent, cannot be recalled. You 
will at that time be a young woman, to whom all who may know or 
hear of you will assign a character which it will not be easy after- 
wards to alter. I trust your situation and opportunities are favor- 


able for improvement, and I entertain sanguine expectations of 
your rapid progress. You mention that Dr. Park has said nothing 
to you about composition. When I saw him I told him I should 
submit the direction of your studies to him. I have much confi- 
dence in him. You may, if you please, mention the subject of com- 
position to him. Inform me if you experience any difficulty in get- 
ting to school in bad weather, and how your health is. I believe 
your mother wrote to you that you might lend the books you men- 
tioned as you wish. In your vacation, should an opportunity occur, 
I think you had best make a visit to Amherst. 

I am most affectionately yours, J. Mason. 


Washington, December 30, 1816. 

My DEAR Sir, — I have your letter in which, among many better 
things, you remind me of my negligence in not writing to you. My 
case is not quite so bad as you suppose. I really have written to you 
once since I arrived here. As nearly as I can recollect, it was about 
a fortnight ago, and which of course you ought to have received before 
your letter to me. I suppose my wrong direction must have delayed 
your receiving it. Of news we have nothing. In dullness and in- 
dolence in the way of business, the commencement of this exceeds 
all former sessions of Congress which I have known. As yet, nothing 
has been done in either House. In the Senate we have said nothing. 
The Representatives have talked a little, but to no point or purpose. 
Webster's report on the Compensation Law is the only thing produced 


which has attracted any notice. All the friends of that luicked meas- 
ure think he has made for them a very able defense. It has renewed 
their courage to such a degree that I expect they will let the law 
remain long enough to answer all the purposes of this session. A 
very extraordinary degree of listlessness pervades the Legislature. 
Everybody seems convinced of the impossibility of resisting executive 


influence, or giving any new direction to the political machine. The 
Federalists, having lost all hope, and consequently having no bond 
of union, cease to act with any degree of concert. I see nothing 
which will again unite them. They may occasionally show them- 
selves in some of the States, but in this government they will soon 
become extinct. It is to be hoped an opposition will arise from 
some other quarter, and under another name, that may restrain 
executive power and influence, which in my opinion is becoming 
really formidable. Nothing else is seen or felt here. At present 
none who have the means wish to restrain, but wish to partici- 
pate in that power. Nothing seems to be agreed on as to the next 
Cabinet. Crawford, it is said, wishes to be retained. If so, he 
must be gratified for a short time; but the sins of a competitor for 
the diadem can never be forgotten or forgiven. I think it probable 
Mr. Monroe is inclined to make J. Q. Adams Secretary of State,' 
believing there is no danger of finding in him a dangerous rival 
four years hence. But Clay, with his western people, will oppose 
that project. If Adams is brought in it will not be with any inten- 
tion of his final advancement to the presidency. I rather expect 
he will remain in his present situation, where he seems in no dan- 
ger of acquiring too much reputation. Mr. Coleman delivered me 
your letter. I carried him to the Senate and introduced him to 
several of our friends. He soon got into so good company that I 
saw little of him. Mrs. Mason and Mrs. Webster continue to be 
better pleased than I expected. The weather has been remarkably 
fine, which they improve in seeing the great city and its vicinity. 
Mr. King has arrived. Excepting a trifling cold, he is very well 

Sincerely yours, J. Mason. 

' This was done, as John Q. Adams was made Secretary of State by Presi- 
dent Monroe, March 5, 1817, entering upon the duties of that office September 22, 
1817, and continuing in that office through Monroe's second term till 1825. 



Washington, January 25, 1817. 

My dear Sir, — I presume from your letter of the 11th that 
you have a very just idea of our condition. On no occasion has 


anything- like a Federal opposition appeared during this session, 
in either House. It will never again be seen. There is nothing 
to sustain such an opposition. Under existing circumstances I 
doubt if such an opposition is to be wished for. What good can it 
do? What section of the Union, or portion of the community, 
would sustain a man, who should now take upon himself the labor 
of exposing the grossest peculation and mismanagement? Riding 
on the top of the popular tide, the executive can easily run down 
any man or any number of men who should make the idle attempt. 
The people would not believe the alleged abuse to exist, till com- 
pelled by the most irrefragable evidence, when they would probably 
justify it. What then are the men who do not and cannot agree 
to the measures of government to do? I think they can do noth- 
ing. The preparations which I see among the Federalists to make 
their somersets excite neither pain nor displeasure. Let those who 
wish to go pass over quietly. The most of them will meet with a 
favorable reception. Monroe wants recruits for the war of the next 
succession, and will smile on all who come. His apprehensions are 
not without foundation. As one opposition sinks another will rise, 
and perhaps with more favorable auspices. It is rumored that mur- 
murings are already heard. Within a day ar two, the report that 
J. Q. Adams is to be Secretary of State has gained more credit. I 
have had it from a source that convinces me it is seriously thought 
of. The inducement is said to be to lessen the jealousy against 
Virginia, and conciliate New England. Some think there is a 
bo7ia fide intention to designate him for the next presidency, and 
that Colonel Monroe believes this the best way of securing his next 
four years term. Others suppose the only object is to afford A. a 
fair chance of hanging himself, which they say he will certainly do 
in a short time. Mr. Clay gives no credit to the latter supposition. 
He with all his western friends are clamorously opposed to A, 


Crawford'' is said to be sulky, and to talk of retiring. I think better 
of Mr. Adams' prospect than I have heretofore. I do not however 
believe anything is yet determined on. No movement has been 


made in the Legislature respecting the Massachusetts Militia claim. 
I understand Messrs. Lloyd and Sumner are arranging the accounts 
for executive examination, in hopes of getting a portion allowed on 
the principles established in favor of the Virginia claims. They 
may get a small pittance on that ground, but I suspect before they 
obtain any serious amount, they will find they know nothing of the 
true key for construing the Virginia rule. 

Truly yours, J. Mason. 


Washington, January 25, 1817. 

My DEAR Mary, — Your letters have given us much satisfaction, 
especially since you have abandoned the too laconic style of one or 
two of the first. But I have received a letter from Mr. Webster 
which gives me more pleasure than any of yours. He says Dr. Park 
spoke in very favorable terms of the progress you make in your 
studies, which I trust he would not do without your deserving it. 

I have several times endeavored to impress on your mind the 
importance of a zealous and assiduous attention to your studies, and 
I shall think my labor and pains amply rewarded if I can suppose 
I have in any degree contributed towards the attainment of this 
object. I have much confidence in your preceptor. He will afford 
much aid, but the chief dependence must be on your own exertions. 

An ill founded opinion has prevailed too extensively that liter- 
ary acquirements do not constitute an essential ingredient in the 
character of an accomplished woman. Fortunately for your sex 
this foolish opinion is much less prevalent now than formerly in our 

^ W. H. Crawford (1772-1834), of Georgia, was born in Virginia, and was 
a political leader and made Secretary of War by Madison in 1816, and then by 
Monroe, in which office he continued till 1825. In 1824, he was the caucus nomi- 
nee of the Democrats for President, ranking third with Jackson, Adams, Craw- 
ford and Clay. From 1827 till his death Crawford was a judge of the Northern 
Circuit Court of Georgia. 


country. Great improvements have already taken place in this 
particular of female education. I have no doubt they will continue 
and increase, and that the v^^omen of the rising generation will in 
literature at least greatly excel their predecessors. This reflection 
must not only excite a laudable ambition in a generous mind for 
literary attainments, but impose a degree of necessity for exertion 


even on the sluggish and ignoble. For I hope that ignorance in a 
woman who has had a convenient opportunity for acquiring knowl- 
edge, will soon be deemed as disgraceful as it is in a man. 

The only restraint on your application to study should be a proper 
attention to your health. This must not be neglected. You must 
allow a reasonable portion of time for exercise, recreation, and atten- 
tion to your person. 

I wish you to inform me what you have studied since you have 
been at Boston, and state to me also frankly how you stand in com- 
parision with others in your class. Your mother joins me in cordial 
love to you. Most affectionately yours, 

J. Mason. 


Washington, Jayiuary 25, 1817. 

My Dear James, — We have been much gratified by regularly 
receiving your and Alfred's letters since we parted with you, and 
also by the accounts we have had from others of your correct con- 
duct. I hope you are diligent in your studies, and that I shall find 
on my return in the spring that you have made good proficiency. I 
wish you to attend to your handwriting, in which I am glad to see 
you have made some progress. When you next write, tell me what 
you are studying, and how long lessons you get. I suppose George 
is still with you, unless he has gone to Amherst. His visit I trust 
has been very pleasant both to you and Alfred. Your mother and 
I look forward with exceeding great pleasure to the time of our re- 
turn home, when we hope to have you all together again in health 
and happiness. I trust that you as well as the rest of our beloved 
children, will so conduct as to merit our entire approbation, which 



will greatly increase the pleasure of that happy meeting. 

Your affectionate father, J. Mason. 


In August, 1816, the following correspondence passed between 
Governor Plumer and Mr. Mason, relative to a seat upon the bench 
of the superior (the highest) court of New Hampshire. 


Epping, August 7, 1816. 

Dear Sir, — Yesterday I received official information that Mr. 
Upham declines accepting the office of a justice of the Superior 
Court of Judicature. Another judge must therefore be appointed. 
Agreeably to your request I give you notice of the fact; and permit 
me to inquire if you are appointed Chief Justice of that court, will 
you accept the office? It has long been my desire that you should 
have that office, and I think it will be offered to you, provided I 
have assurance you will accept it. It is an office worthy your am- 
bition, and one I hope you will hold till you are removed to the 
bench of the Supreme Court of the United States. How soon the 
Council will be convened is uncertain; but I thank you for your 
answer as soon as convenient. 

And in all events believe me to be with much respect and esteem, 
Sir, your most obedient humble servant, 

William Plumer. 


Portsmouth, August 18, 1816. 

Dear Sir, — I am sensible of the honor you do me by the inquiry 
in your letter of the 7th inst. You ask whether if appointed I will 
accept the office of Chief Justice of the Superior Court. There may 
be an appearance of indelicacy in my stating any determination on 
this subject while there is no vacancy in the office in question. I 
think, however, under the circumstances of the case, I ought not to 
be influenced by that consideration, but frankly to communicate at 
your request the result of my reflections. 



Could I flatter myself with the belief of possessing the necessary 
qualifications, the proposed office would certainly satisfy my highest 
ambition. There would however still remain two objections which 
seem to me to be insuperable. 

The salary by the present law allowed is in my opinion wholly 
inadequate. The duties of the office are very laborious, and the sit- 
uation highly responsible. The proper discharge of those duties 
must necessarily engross so large a portion of the whole time as to 
leave very little leisure for any other employment. For such ardu- 
ous and constant labor in so responsible a situation I cannot think 
the present salary a reasonable compensation. 

My other objection arises from the late organization of that court. 
Experience has, I think, demonstrated that if the three judges are 
required to be all present at each jury trial they can never do the 
business of that court in a manner satisfactory to themselves or 
beneficial to the public. For many years past the business has been 
gradually increasing, and it will probably continue to increase with 
the increasing wealth and population of the State. Whoever shall 
be the judges, I think I hazard little in foretelling that under the 
present system the business will accumulate, and consequently be 
delayed to a very injurious degree. Perhaps there were defects in 
the plan lately abolished which needed a remedy. But I shall be 
greatly disappointed if the return to the old system in the particular 
I have mentioned should not be found to be injurious, and a contin- 
uance in it impracticable. If the judges are competent for their 
places, I think there can be no danger in confiding to a single judge 
the power of ruling the evidence and directing the course of the 
ordinary trials by jury of issues of fact, subject to certain exceptions. 
Such a practice prevails in most of the United States, and has been 
attended with no mischief, as far as I am informed. Wherever that 
practice does not prevail, it has been found necessary to have a much 
greater number of judges in proportion to the business to be done 
than is contemplated by our present system. 

After thus stating the reasons which prevent my complying with 


your proposal, I trust it is unnecessary to add that political consider- 


ations, which in these times are often supposed to determine almost 
everything, have with me on this subject no influence. 

I am with much respect, sir, your most obedient servant, 

J. Mason. 




Mr. Mason resigns his Seat in the Senate of the United States. — Letters to Mr. 
Gore and Mr. King, informing them of the Fact, and their Realies. — Letter 
to Dr. Appleton on the same Subject. — Portsmouth in the Early Part of this 
Century. — Mr. Mason's Professional and Domestic Life. — The Dartmouth 
Case. — Correspondence to the Close of the Year 1818 with Mr. Gore, Mr. 
King, Mr. Daggett, and Judge Story. 

T N June, 1817, Mr. Mason resigned his seat in the Senate of the 
-'- United States. He has not left on record any statement of the 
reasons which led him to take this step, but they may be inferred 
from the tone of his letters in the two preceding chapters. 

In the first place, unlike most Americans, and especially unlike 
most American lawyers, he had no political ambition. Public office 
had no charms for him, and professional occupation was far more 
to his taste than political. Popular applause he neither sought nor 
cared for, nor had he that cheap accomplishment of popular elo- 
quence by which such applause is most easily won. He spoke 
wisely, weightily, and logically; he addressed the reason and the 
conscience of his hearers ; but what he said was not commended 
by any aid of voice, eye, or gesture. He had none of the external 
graces of oratory; his manner was simple and unimpassioned, and 
his tone conversational. His powerful mind and masculine taste 
would have disdained the triumphs secured by an appeal to the pas- 
sions or prejudices of those whom he addressed. Thus his love of 
his profession, and his indifference to public life, conspired to make 
his place in the Senate distasteful to him. 


But more powerful than any other motive was his unwillingness 
to continue the sacrifice he was obliged to make in being so long 


absent from his family. His domestic affections were very strong, 
and all his hours not given to his profession, were spent at home. 
For the rest and refreshment which a hard-working lawyer so much 
needs he was peculiarly dependent upon his family. When absent 
from them in Washington, he had no resource for his lonely even- 
ings but the solitary pleasure of reading. For the questionable 
amusements to which members of Congress sometimes resort for 
pastime he had no taste, even if his strict New England training 
had allowed him to look upon them as innocent. His letters are 
full of expressions of the longing he felt to be at home with his wife 
and children, and of the sacrifice he was making in living away 
from them. 

He felt too that a numerous family of young children had claims 
upon him paramount to all others, both to secure for them a pro- 
vision against want in case of his death, and to give his constant 
care to the training of their minds and characters. 

The situation of the country left him at liberty to obey the strong 
impulse which called him home. Its youthful energies and bound- 
less resources were already beginning to repair the waste of the 
war. The burden of taxation had been lightened, commerce revived, 
manufacturers were quickened, and Mr. Crawford, who was appoint- 
ed Secretary of the Treasury in October, 1816, had been able, in his 
report at the meeting of the second session of the Fourteenth Con- 
gress, to give a hopeful view of the finances of the country. 

And now that the war was over, the bitterness of political feeling 
which had grown out of the war and the measures which had led 
to it had much abated. The Federalists, a party decreasing in in- 
fluence and numbers, had acquiesced in the election of Mr. Mon- 
roe, a man of moderate talents and moderate temper, who made 
neither earnest partisans nor vehement opponents. Most men were 
ready to bury the hatchet of political strife ; and a man of Mr. Mason's 


political sagacity could not fail to see that the old party lines were in 
a fair way to be erased, and that new issues would make new divi- 
sions of the future. 

Mr. Mason, upon resigning his seat in the Senate, wrote to his 
friends, Mr. Gore, Mr. King, and Dr. Appleton, informing them of 


the step he had taken. His letters, and the replies of Mr. Gore and 
Mr. King, are here given. 


Portsmouth, June 18, 1817. 

My dear Sir, — I have just resigned my seat in the Senate of 
the United States. For a considerable time past I have contem- 
plated doing this. I have many reasons for staying at home, and 
very few for going to Washington. Among the circumstances which 
have lessened my inducements to retain my seat in the Senate, your 
resignation is not the least. I certainly do not regret having spent 
so considerable a portion of four years in that station. I am not 
vain enough to console myself with an idea that my labors have 
been of any special advantage to the country. But the time has 
not been spent without advantage to myself. It has afforded me 
the opportunity, which I should otherwise never have enjoyed, of 
knowing some of the greatest and best men in our country. And 
I have the consolation of hoping that in a few instances I have been 
so fortunate as to attract their kind regards. I have also had an 
opportunity of seeing the tricks and cunning contrivances by which 
the nation has been, and I suppose for a long time will continue to 
be governed. These can never be well understood without the ad- 
vantage of a situation from which one can see the master jugglers 
manage their puppets. 

I fear the good people of Boston will kill the President with 
kindness. I am, however, on the whole, glad to see them taking 
that turn. They have certainly derived no benefit from pursuing 


an opposite course.' No one can foretell what this will produce; 
but I do not believe the Federalists, or quasi-Federalists, have any- 
thing to expect from Colonel Monroe. When I saw you a few 
moments in Boston last spring, you told me it was possible that in 
some excursion in the course of the summer you might take Ports- 

1 President Monroe, who made an extended tour through the country in the 
summer of 1817, was in Boston at the date of this letter. 


mouth in your way. I wish you would say it was probable. 

I am sincerely yours, J. Mason. 


Waltham, June 22, 1817. 

My DEAR Sir, — I duly received your letter of the 18th mention- 
ing that you had resigned your seat in the Senate of the United 
States. On public grounds I am concerned. No one more quickly 
discerns the weakness and wickedness of bad measures, and none 
more thoroughly exposed them, and in many instances you succeed- 
ed in defeating their schemes or in rendering them less obnoxious. 
I am sorry also for our friend King's sake, who will be altogether 

For your own gratification you have, I entertain no doubt, re- 
mained as long as was desirable. The inconvenience in going and re- 
turning, the comfortlessness of Washington, and the privations of 
so many enjoyments in being from home were, and must have con- 
tinued to be, great sacrifices. I rejoice that you were there while I 
held a seat, and should be extremely delighted, if it were for your 
interest and happiness to live in my neighborhood, that once in a 
few weeks I might exchange thoughts with you on the passing events. 
I despair of ever being able to go so many miles from home; v^ere 
I able, I would visit you and yours with great satisfaction. 

The Boston folks are making great efforts to show their respect 
for the new President. It has been a question who should evince 


most devotion, the Federalist or Democrat. The former appears to 
have got the start in the race. The military will escort him ; all the 
citizens are to attend on the way in carriages and on horseback, and 
finally he is to be shown all the boys of Boston on our Common. 
If he does not meet us with due respect after all this, and illustrate 
some of the most distinguished leaders either by knighting them, 
or sending them to represent the dignity of the United States in 
China or England, he must be lost to all sense of gratitude as well 
as of public good. My want of health will prevent me from paying 
my personal respects to the President. I am confined to my own 


fields and my own furrows, which are looking well, but here are 
neither the weeds of ambition nor avarice. If I had tolerable health 
and limbs, I could pass the remnant of my days in cheerfulness; 
aa it is, I endeavor to go on tranquilly and without repining. My 
wife enjoys very passable health, and unites with me in affectionate 
regards to Mrs. Mason and yourself. Farewell. 

Your faithful friend, C. GORE. 


Portsmouth, June 26, 1817. 

My dear Sir, — I have resigned my seat in the Senate of the 
United States. I had contemplated it for some time, as I mentioned 
to you last winter. It was my intention to have postponed my resig- 
nation till next fall, and so retain the power of altering my deter- 
mination should I see reason. But as that would have carried the 
appointment of my successor from the Legislature to the Governor, 
which I did not wish to do, and as I saw no probability of any 
change of opinion, I thought it best to resign at the present time. 
For staying at home I have many inducements ; but for going to 
Washington none, except the pleasure and advantage of being with 
you. I do not see that the public have any manner of concern in 
this matter. I have not vanity enough to flatter myself with the 
notion of having done the public any good while I have been in 


the Senate, nor do I see any probability that I could if I remained 
there longer. 

I do not regret, however, having spent so considerable a portion 
of time in that situation. It has been of great advantage to me. 
It has afforded me the means of seeing, and in some measure un- 
derstanding, the tricks and cunning management by which the na- 
tion has been and probably will for a long time continue to be 
governed. And what is much better, it has also afforded the op- 
portunity, which I should otherwise never have enjoyed, of cultivat- 
ing the acquaintance and (I trust I may add) the favorable regards 
of some of the greatest and best men our country has ever possessed. 
I shall always consider the having acted with you on some important 


occasions, as constituting the most fortunate and gratifying events 
of my life. And be assured, my dear sir, I shall hold in grateful 
remembrance the uniformly kind treatment I have always experi- 
enced from you. 

I shall apply myself to my professional pursuits, and seek for 
happiness in domestic enjoyments. The education of my children, 
which is certainly the first and most important duty of a parent, 
will of itself for a long time afford me much employment. 

I understand the Boston folks are making unexampled prepara- 
tions for the reception of Mr, Monroe. The intent is to work out 
the stain of the Hartford Convention and their other rebellions. I 
do not believe it will answer the purpose intended. We here, being 
suspected of no disloyalty, shall make no extraordinary exertions. 

I was informed a few days ago from Boston that Hunter had 
lately sailed for England. It was intimated he might be in govern- 
ment employ. I think that cannot be. If so you must of course 
know, as it was well understood at Washington, that the President 
was to do nothing without your privity and advice. Mrs. Mason 
joins me in affectionate regards to Mrs. King. 

I am with the highest respect, 

Faithfully yours, J. Mason. 



Jamaica, L. I., July 4, 1817. 

My DEAR Sir, — Accept my acknowledgments for the very 
obliging letter which you have written to me. I was sorry to see it 
announced that you had resigned your seat in the Senate. To the 
force of same of the motives that have influenced you on this occa- 
sion I am not insensible ; but that you have done no good, and think 
it doubtful whether you should be able to do any, by continuing in 
the Senate, I am not willing to admit or to believe. On the contrary, 
for maxims of government, principles of administration, and views 
of general policy, the observance of which cannot fail to promote 
the public welfare, I am quite sure that our colleagues and country 
owe us something. 


It is true that we have had to contend with prejudices constantly 
working against us, and jealousies, that caused individuals to vote 
in opposition to us, as well as to their own convictions. These are 
discouraging circumstances, especially as they seem to be insepara- 
ble from our political system; which, although less conducive than 
might be desired to the greater prevalence of exact justice, is never- 
theless fitted to our condition, and, as I am inclined to believe, more 
certain to promote our progress in wealth and strength than any 
other political arrangement. 

The President by this time must be at Boston, where, as you 
conjecture, there will doubtless be performed some works of super- 
erogation. With our reformed notions we should not place much 
reliance upon the efficacy of these over zealous deeds. According 
to my interpretation of motives, and of the conduct of the President 
at Philadelphia and amongst us, he will apparently receive in good 
part whatever is offered by way of respect. But here, as also at Phil- 
adelphia, the exclusives have manifested some little jealousy and 
displeasure; and if the extraordinary demonstrations of attachment, 
respect, and confidence that may be exhibited at Boston should be re- 
ciprocated by the President, I should not be (161) surprised if the 
same produce an equivalent coolness and disaffection amongst old 
friends and partisans. There are more than one or two aspirants 
carefully watching and weighing all that occurs, or is omitted, in 
the course of this Presidential journey. 

I went to town on the day of the President's arrival to offer my 
respects. He received me, as he received others, in an obliging man- 
ner; asked me to dine with him, which I did. I invited him to 
come and dine with me. He would if he could; by which I under- 
stood that he would not, as he did not. I was invited to accompany 
the President to West Point, which I did not. He asked me to 
meet him at the fortifications at the west end of this island. I met 
him there, and went with him to Sandy Hook. The President 
came down to the fortifications in the steam frigate, which had been 
undocked and prepared for this service. Although manned with a 
numerous and skillful crew, and the distance only ten miles, it was 
four o'clock p. M. before the frigate arrived at the fortifications, 
demonstrating in this experiment the entire failure of this expen- 


sive project as a moving battery. With the most careful attention 
and management, they were unable to force the frigate through the 
water, at a rate which would have enabled her to move to attack, or 
to escape from, an enemy. In the course of the night she returned 
to the dock. The President remained with the Vice President on 
Staten Island ; and the Connecticut steamboat came down the fol- 
lowing morning to carry him to Sandy Hook. During this expe- 
dition he spoke to me freely on several public topics, leading always 
in their relation. He also spoke of his tour, and the considerations 
that have engaged him to make it ; but his observations were general 
in their nature, and such as cover and conceal details and therefore 
are little satisfactory. I however perceive no reason to alter my 
conjecture concerning the present administration. The chief must 
be influenced by the changes which from time to time occur. I an- 
ticipate little harmony or decision of character in his cabinet. 

The office of Secretary at War is yet vacant; it has been offered 
and refused by Lowndes since the refusal of Shelby. Harrison is 


anxious to obtain it, and for want of a better in the line assigned 
for the choice may perhaps obtain it, though I doubt his success. 

Of the foreign concerns I have heard nothing since we parted. 
Who is to succeed Mr. Adams, whether Rush, Pinckney, or Derby, 
I cannot inform you ; so that you see, notwithstanding your informa- 
tion, I am not let into all the secrets. 

As the President will visit Portsmouth, perhaps something may 
leak out worth telling. In this case don't be over prudent; I can 
keep your secret. Swift accompanies the President. Perhaps he- 
may again make you his confidant; he appears now equally assidu- 
ous as he manifested formerly an inclination to be, in the anticipa- 
tion of a different order of men and things. By the by, the ci devant 
Secretary at War made me a short visit some weeks ago. With 
regards, in which Mrs. K. unites, to Mrs. Mason, I am and shall 
always be with great regard and respect. 

Dear Sir, your obedient and faithful servant, 

RuFUs King. 



Portsmouth, July 3, 1817. 

My dear Sir, — You have probably seen that I have resigned my 
seat in the Senate of the United States. I had contemplated doing 
it for some time. I have many reasons for staying at home, and very 
few for going to Washington. 

The President is expected here some time next week, if the Bos- 
ton folks do not kill him with kindness.^ I will then ascertain and 
inform you whether he intends to extend his tour far enough to see 
you. I was told a few days ago, by a gentleman who conversed 
with him on the subject before he left iWashington, that he then 
intended to go no further than Portland. Perhaps he may be so 


much gratified with the attentions of his liege subjects in these 
parts that he may alter his determination. 

As to your other inquiry in relation to his title or address, you 
have probably seen it learnedly discussed in the newspapers. In 
conversation with the President I believe it has not been customary 
to give him any title. The late President was always, in conversa- 
tion with him, called Mr. Madison; in notes, etc., addressed to him, 
"The President of the United States," at least this was the case as 
far as I know. In haste, yours, J. Mason. 

After resigning his seat in the Senate, Mr. Mason resumed the 
professional and social life which had been partially interrupted by 
his public service in Washington. As this life continued in a uni- 
form course till his removal to Boston in 1832, it may be well to 
sketch it a little more fully than has before been done. 

Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where Mr. Mason so long lived, 
and where all his children were born, is to-day a cheerful town to a 
stranger's eye, and they whose lot is cast there find it a pleasant 
place to live in. It is situated on a beautiful peninsula on the south 
side of Piscataqua River, with a noble harbor, which is never frozen 
even in the severest winters, owing to the great rise and fall of the 
tide, the narrowness of the channel, and the consequent rapidity of 

^President Monroe visited Portsmouth after the date of this letter, and by a 
vote of the citizens was received and addressed by Mr. Mason, who also enter- 
tained him at dinner at his house. 


the current. The region around it, from its happy blending of land 
and water, has much and varied beauty. The town abounds with 
signs of past prosperity, especially with those spacious, wooden 
houses which prosperous men in New England were so fond of build- 
ing in former days, suggesting good incomes and large families. 

In 1797, when Mr. Mason went to Portsmouth to live, it was rela- 
tively a place of more importance than now. Its chief sources of 
prosperity were shipbuilding, for which it had peculiar facilities in 
its noble harbor and its proximity to extensive forests, and the car- 
rying trade. For both of which it was mainly indebted to the wars 
of the French Revolution which were desolating Europe. It had 
many prosperous and enterprising merchants, and an active, thrifty, 


and energetic population. Its ships were known in every clime, and 
the commerce which enriched it gave an improved tone to the man- 
ners and social habits of its inhabitants. 

Mr. Mason hesitated for some time between Boston and Ports- 
mouth as a place of residence, and among the reasons which led 
him to make choice of the latter was the belief, which many enter- 
tained, strange as it may now seem, that the future progress and 
prosperity of Portsmouth were more assured than those of Boston. 

Portsmouth was also at that time a place of more than common 
social attractions. Even before the Revolution, in the days of wigs, 
cocked hats, and flowered waistcoats, it was the residence of many 
cultivated families, and the seat of a generous hospitality; and at 
the close of the last century its old character remained, indeed made 
more marked by the wealth which commerce had poured into its 
lap. The Marquis of Chastellux, who was there in 1782, speaks of 
seeing handsome women elegantly dressed, of dinners and suppers, 
and of fine houses richly furnished ; and making all due allowances 
for the rose-colored atmosphere through which a French nobleman 
may have been supposed to observe everything, enough remains to 
show that there must have been then an easy, agreeable, and some- 
what refined society. 

In those days travelling was slow, difficult, and expensive. A 
journey from Portsmouth to Boston was quite as formidable, to say 
the least, as a journey to Washington is now. For society the in- 
habitants of towns in New England were dependent mainly upon 


themselves, and thus the ties of social life were more closely drawn 
than now. And then men were not so busy, and time was not so 
precious, as now. Books, newspapers, and magazines were compar- 
atively rare and thus men and women read less or fewer books, but 
they talked more, and their letters were longer and more elaborate. 
Cheap postage has spoiled letter writing. Much time was spent in 
social visits on an easy and not expensive footing. The elaborate 
dinner of modern times was unfrequent, but tea parties and supper 
parties — the latter beginning very little later than the fashionable 


hour for dinner parties to-day — were common. The gentlemen 
had their clubs and exclusive social gatherings, which were convivial 
in their character, sometimes too convivial ; and occasionally a youth 
of promise fell a victim to the temptations of a mistaken hospitality. 

In one respect social life in New England has improved since the 
beginning of the present century. The vice of gaming was more 
common among respectable people then than it is now. This is 
not because we are more virtuous than our fathers, but because the 
craving for excitement which leads to gaming can now find many 
forms of gratifying itself which were then unknown. 

By the cultivated and agreeable society of Portsmouth Mr. Mason 
was warmly welcomed, and his own nature was social enough to 
enjoy the attentions which were extended to him. But it soon ap- 
peared that his profession was an interest paramount to all others, 
and that no social claims were ever allowed to interfere with those 
of his clients. Self interest is ever quick-sighted, and the active 
men of business in Portsmouth soon found out that every trust 
committed to his professional charge was faithfully, ably, and 
promptly discharged. He was not only diligent in business and 
successful in litigated cases, but he was uniformly prompt in paying 
to his clients the money he had collected for them. This seems but 
common honesty, and not worthy of special commendation, but in 
those days it was by no means a uniform rule among the members 
of the bar. Money was in great demand and could be turned to 
good use; and thus lawyers were tempted to keep what belonged to 
their clients in their own hands as long as possible, and employ it 
to their own advantage by loan or investment. His charges were 
moderate, even when tried by the modest standard of that period. 


And thus from all these causes his business rapidly increased, as he 
was always gaining new clients and never losing old ones. 

Upon his marriage, Mr. Mason went immediately to housekeep- 
ing, for the bad practice of putting young wives into hotels and 
boarding-houses was not known in those days. He lived for some 
time in a hired house in the compact part of Portsmouth, but as an in- 
creasing (166) family and the growing claims of society and hospitali- 
ty required larger accommodation, and an assured income justified the 
outlay, in 1802 he built for himself a large and handsome house, upon 
a fine and elevated site a little out of the business part of the town. 
Attached to the house were extensive grounds, including a garden, 
laid out with taste, and planted with fruit and ornamental trees. 
In the care of his grounds, and the cultivation of his garden he spent 
much time and took much interest.^ 

In this house Mr. and Mrs. Mason spent thirty happy and pros- 
perous years, surrounded by their children, and in the exercise of a 
generous hospitality. Friends and relatives were constantly under 
their roof as guests, sometimes for long periods. 

Mr. Mason's position at the bar at the time of his election to the 
Senate, was so high and assured that his four years of public service 
entailed no further loss of business than that which was caused by 
his absence from his clients; and immediately upon his return he 
found himself in full professional employment once more and with 
a cloud of clients around him. 

In 1817 his family consisted of eight children ; five sons and three 
daughters, of ages ranging from seventeen to two years ; and it is 
at this period, or a little earlier, that his surviving children's recol- 
lection of their father begins. 

His way of life was uniform and regular. His working-day al- 
ways began very early ; and for many years, during the winter season 
at least, he was wont to breakfast alone, before his family had ap- 
peared, in order that he might be in his ofiice at a seasonable hour 
and before the daily stream of business had set in. He dined in the 

1 Mr. Webster, writing to Mr. Ticknor from Lowther Castle, in England, 
August 21, 1839, says: "You know all about Lowther Castle; one may safely say 
of it what Mr. Mason said of his house in Portsmouth, that it is a comfortable 
shelter against the weather!" 



middle of the day, as was then the general custom of New England, 
and went back to his office in the afternoon. But his evenings were 
always spent with his family at home, and only an imperative en- 
gagement could induce him to depart from this rule. 

His extensive practice required him to make frequent journeys, 
and to spend much time away from home. He regularly attended 
the sessions of the courts at Concord, the capital of the State, and 
at the shire towns of all the counties in the neighborhood of Ports- 
mouth. He was sometimes called on professional duty to Newbury- 
port, Portland, Wiscasset, Salem, and Boston. 

These journeys he generally made in his own carriage, — a chaise 
in summer and a sleigh in winter, — and as courts of justice wait for 
no man, neither heat nor cold nor storm could delay his departure 
at the appointed time. The surviving members of his family well 
remember the preparations for these journeys in the bitter cold of a 
New Hampshire winter: the shawls, coats, cloaks, and blankets that 
were put in requisition for warmth and protection. But Mr. Mason's 
frame was robust and his constitution vigorous ; and during his long 
practice he very rarely lost a day, or failed to keep an appointment, 
by reason of illness. But it was his habit, wherever he might be 
during the week, to pass the Sunday with his family. This was a 
pleasure to which his children looked forward with confident expec- 
tation, and they were rarely disappointed. 

Mr. Mason, upon his return from Washington, became much en- 
gaged in the celebrated case of Dartmouth College v. Woodward, 
so well known in the professional and constitutional history of the 
country. The College derived its corporate existence from a charter 
of the crown in 1769, appointing Dr. Eleazer Wheelock president, 
devolving the government upon him and eleven other persons named 
trustees, who were also empowered to fill vacancies in their own 

Under this charter the College had lived and flourished for nearly 
half a century, and its corporate rights had never been called in 
question. But clouds of opposition began at length to muster in 
the heavens. It was hardly possible that the chief literary institu- 
tion of the State should help being drawn into the political strife 
so hotly waged between the two great parties which divided the 


country. At any rate, the College and its officers had incurred the 


ill will of the Republican party. Mr. Barstow, the Republican his- 
torian of New Hampshire, thus puts the case in defense of the Legis- 
lative action of the state: "The trustees of Dartmouth College (so 
called from the name of its founder and patron, the Earl of Dart- 
mouth), had for a considerable time pursued a course calculated to 
render them unpopular with a majority of the people. Possessing, 
under their charter from George III., the power of removing mem- 
bers of their board and appointing their own successors, they had 
confided the exclusive control of an institution designed for the 
common benefit to members of a single religious sect and a single 
religious party. Funds bequeathed to the College for the establish- 
ment of a professorship had been applied to purposes partaking of 
a sectarian character. John Wheelock, himself a liberal benefactor 
of the College, and the son of its illustrious founder, had been re- 
moved by a summary exercise of the powers of the trustees, and a 
man more subservient to their views appointed in his place." 

It is not necessary to inquire how far these charges were true ; or 
to state any facts and considerations in defense of the action of the 
trustees; the passage is quoted simply as one would cite an author- 
ity, or refer to the statement of a witness, in the argument of a suit 
at law. ^ '^l^WW. 

The Republican party having carried the State in the spring 
election of 1816, no time was lost in applying the hand of so-called 
reform to the College. At the opening of the June session of the 
Legislature Governor Plumer called their attention to the subject in 
his message, denouncing the charter as "hostile to the spirit and 
genius of a free government," recommending a radical change in its 
constitution and government, and enforcing his recommendations 
by that specious pretext of the public good which is always sum- 
moned in defense of a political majority which has resolved to invade 
rights of property. 

The views of the Executive received the sympathy and support of 
the Legislature; and on the 27th of June, 1816, an act was passed 
giving to the State of New Hampshire complete jurisdiction over 

22 (169) 



the College, enlarging the number of trustees to twenty-one, and 
changing its name to Dartmouth University. Subsequent acts were 
passed in the same spirit to enforce the authority of the State, and 
neutralize the resistance of the trustees, who refused to submit to the 
law, declaring it dangerous to the best interests of society ; that it 
subjected the College to the arbitrary will and pleasure of the Legis- 
lature ; that it contained palpable violations of their rights, and was 

The Legislature persisted, and by their help two of the original 
board of trustees, together with the nine who had received their 
appointments from the Executive of the State, constituting a major- 
ity of the whole number, met at Hanover, reappointed John Whee- 
lock to the presidency, and elected William H. Woodward treasurer 
of the University. 

But three fourths of the old board of trustees refused to obey the 
law, or surrender the property of the corporation; and under their 
direction, the officers of the old College, retaining a large majority 
of the students, continued their former course of instruction in 
apartments procured for the purpose, the college buildings being in 
possession of the trustees of the neiw University. Thus there was 
presented in the small village of Hanover the strange and unseemly 
spectacle of two institutions of learning struggling for the possession 
of the same property, and in fierce hostility to each other — a state of 
things fatal to the usefulness of both, and equally so to the interests 
of literature and education in New Hampshire. 

As might be expected, every man of influence in the State took 
part with one side or the other, and both parties appealed to the 
public in pamphlets and newspaper communications; and as an in- 
fusion of theology never tends to sweeten political discussion, the 
controversy assumed an acrimonious character, and abusive epithets 
were hurled freely by each of the combatants. The popular voice 
seemed to be on the side of the new University, and in the election 
of 1817 the Republican party carried the State by a. rather stronger 
vote than in the previous year. 


The old trustees determined to appeal to the law in defense of 
their rights, and accordingly brought an action of trover against Mr. 
Woodward, the treasurer of the University, for the recovery of the 


books of record, charter, common seal, and books of account, which 
they alleged to be their property. The defendant set up in defense 
the latws of 1816, and his appointment under them. 

The counsel for the plaintiffs were Mr, Mason, Mr. Smith,'' and 
Mr. Webster; for the defendant, Mr. Sullivan'' and Mr. Bartlett.'^ 
Never was there a case in New England in which more zeal and ability 
was shown, for the gentlemen who appeared for the defense were 
superior men and upheld the claim of their client with learning and 
power. At the June term of the Superior Court in Grafton County, 
1817, the case was argued on the part of the plaintiffs by Mr. 
Mason and Mr. Smith, and on the part of the defendant by Mr. Bart- 
lett and Mr. Sullivan, and continued 7iisi for further argument in 
Rockingham County on the next circuit. 

« Jeremiah Smith (1759 — 1842), was 58 years old when this case was tried 
in the State Court; had been four times in Congress, judge of the U. S. Circuit 
Court, Chief Justice of the State Superior Court for 7 years; then Governor of 
N. H. ; then Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court for three years. Was of 
Scotch-Irish stock; possessed of great and accurate learning and of great natural 
abilities, but like Mason, he was no orator. Webster said of him: "He knows 
everything about New England, and as to law he knows so much more of it than 
I do, or ever shall, that I forbear to speak on that point." (This was written in 
1825 to Chancellor Kent). 

^ George Sullivan, (1771—1838.) At the time of this trial, he was 43. "Sulli- 
van was from Irish and Revolutionary stock, a race of soldiers, orators and law- 
yers. He was attorney-general (as his father was before him, and his son, after 
him) for 21 years; a classical scholar, well read in the law; and excellent special 
pleader; swift to perceive, prompt to act, and full of resources. He relied too 
little on his preparation, and too much upon his oratory, his power of illustration 
and argument. But neither the Court, the jury, nor the people ever grew weary 
of listening to his silver tones or his arguments, that fell like music on the ear." — 
Shirley's Dartmouth College Causes, 154. 

t'lchabod Bartlett, (1786" — 1853), was but 31, when this case was tried, four 
years younger than Webster, and died one year after Webster; was called "The 
Little Giant." He and Webster were from the same town, Franklin, N. H., and 
theirs were the leading families in it. He served three terms in Congress; was 
indefatigable in preparation, eloquent in the highest sense, ready, witty, and a 
popular idol. In the art of gaining verdicts he was confessedly the equal of any 
engaged in this trial. He was a graduate of Dartmouth; never married; had 
great tact; came near fighting a duel with Henry Clay, while in Congress. His 
argument in the Dartmouth College case is given in the 65th New Hampshire. 


Accordingly at the September term of the same year in Rocking- 
ham County the case was argued anew by the same gentlemen, and 
closed on behalf of the plaintiffs by Mr. Webster. 

Mr. Mason opened the case for the plaintiffs. His argument oc- 
cupies forty pages of Mr. Farrar's report of the case, published in 
1819, and is a model of powerful logic, condensed statement, and 
affluent learning. He maintained that the acts of the Legislature 
were not binding, first, because they were not within the scope of 
the legislative power; second, because they violated the Constitution 
of New Hampshire ; third, because they violated the Constitution of 
the United States. 

The decision of the State court was in favor of the defendant, 
and mainly on the ground that the College was a public corporation ; 
and that between the State and a public corporation there is no con- 
tract which the State cannot regulate, alter, or annul at pleasure. 

The case was then taken by writ of error to the Supreme Court of 
the United States, and after a magnificent argument by Mr. Web- 
ster, the decision of the State court was reversed in an im.mortal 


judgment by Chief Justice Marshall, on the ground that the College 
charter was a contract within the meaning of the Contsitution, and 
thus not within the scope of the legislative authority of a State. 

Mr. Webster's celebrated argument has more variety of illustra- 
tion and more rhetorical finish than that of Mr. Mason's before the 
State court of New Hampshire, but all the legal and constitutional 
points taken by the former were anticipated by Mr. Mason, and stated 
with not less clearness and force. 

Mr. Mason felt the deepest interest in the Dartmouth College case, 
and argued it with all the energy of conviction. In his view it was 
not simply a controversy between two corporations as to which was 
entitled to certain rights and property, but the question went deeper 
than this. It went deeper than the relations between the States and 
the general government, even to the foundations of civil society it- 
self. He believed the act of the Legislature of New Hampshire to 
be a piece of legislative usurpation, and that the State had no more 
right to transfer the property of Dartmouth College to another cor- 


poration than they would have to take his house from him without 
paying for it, and give it to another man. He believed that neither 
property nor rights would be safe if such powers could be exercised, 
and he hailed the decision of the Supreme Court as giving fresh 
security to property and new guaranties to rights, 

Mr. Mason had for Chief Justice Marshall a veneration and grati- 
tude such as he felt for no other man, save Washington only; and 
without doubt, the moral courage and irresistible logic shown by 
the Chief Justice in this case had no small share in forming this es- 
timate. Upon this point W. H. Y. Hackett, Esq., a distinguished 
lawyer of Portsmouth, who knew Mr. Mason well, has furnished me 
with an interesting illustrative anecdote. One day, soon after Cal- 
houn's nullification doctrines began to attract attention, Mr. Mason 
looked in at Mr. Hackett's office and found him reading one of 
Marshall's constitutional opinions. Mr. Mason said: "If John Mar- 
shall had not been Chief Justice of the United States, the Union 
would have fallen to pieces before the general government had got 


well under way. Marshall has controlled the Virginia politicians by 
the irresistible power of his logic. He carried so many well in- 
formed and well intentioned men with him that the mischievous 
school of Jefferson politicians could not control Virginia against 
Marshall. Jefferson was a man of many virtues, but he was a phi- 
losopher, not a statesman. He and Madison did not quite agree, 
though they tried to agree. Madison's mind felt the force of Mar- 
shall's reasoning, and never quite adopted the Virginia States' rights 
theories. John Marshall has saved the Union, if it is saved." 

After his retirement from the Senate, Mr. Mason kept up a corre- 
spondence on public affairs with his friends Mr. King and Mr. Gore. 
He also heard occasionally from Mr. Daggett, United States Sena- 
tor from Connecticut, whom Mr. Mason valued as a sound 'lawyer, a 
firm Federalist, and a man of amiable temper and genial and com- 
panionable spirit. A correspondence begins at this period with 
Judge Story, which continued during the life of the latter. 



Waltham, Jidy 4, 1817. 

My dear Sir, — The President is here, he rides hard, visits every- 
thing, and in so rapid a manner that it is utterly impossible he 
should burden his mind with any superfluous knowledge. This 
day he breakfasted with Commodore Bainbridge at Brookline, in- 
spected an arsenal at Watertown, a cotton manufactory at Waltham, 
examined Mr. Lyman's villa, stopped at my house, ate a straw- 
berry, bowed and shook hands cordially, returned to Boston to meet 
the Town oration, the Governor's collation, and the Cincinnati ad- 
dress and their dinner, take tea at Governor Gray's, etc., etc. 

I wrote him a note apologizing for not paying my respects in per- 
son, and saying if he came in this quarter and could call without 
inconvenience, I should be happy to see him. 

In that note I took the liberty to say "All cherished the hope that 
his administration would be guided by a single eye to the public 


good, and that all interests would be alike protected and promoted, 
and that I was persuaded this would redound to his personal satis- 
faction not less than to national honor." 

Mr. King mentioned that he told him it was his intention to visit 
me if he possibly could. 

To-morrow he visits the Navy yard, seventy four-gun ship, re- 
views Middlesex militia, dines with the Governor, and spends the 
evening with Senator Otis. So we go, and the sooner he goes the 
sooner will the town and its neighborhood be at rest. 

With our best regards to Mrs. Mason, I remain. 

Your faithful friend, 

C. Gore. 


Portsmouth, July 14, 1817. 

My dear Sir, — The President came here Saturday in the after- 
noon and set out for Portland early this morning. We have acted 


foolishly enough, though not in the magnificent style of the Boston 

As you requested, I asked him the first opportunity I had, whether 
he should proceed further east than Portland. He said he thought 
not, but did not seem to be entirely determined. I inquired of 
him again yesterday, when he said he certainly should not. That 
he had wished to go as far east as he could, but that his progress 
had been so slow that he could not without great exertion get away 
from the Western Lakes (where he must go) before the time of the 
fever and ague. I gave him to understand that if he went down to 
your College you would probably feed him. 

I do not know whether that was the highest possible stimulus for 

He expressed high satisfaction with New England and the treat- 
ment he has experienced from the Yankees. 

We are all well. Truly yours, J. Mason. 


Georgetown, D. C, Sunday, November 30, 1817. 

My DEAR Sir, — Mrs. King and myself arrived here last evening, 
and the form of habit has set us down again at Crawford's. I don't 
learn that as yet any of the members have arrived here, though the 
city is said to be pretty full. We occupy our old apartments to- 
gether with your room, having had a door of communication opened 
between it and our front room. We shall both miss and regret the 
loss of your society ; indeed we can hardly conjecture who are to be 
our associates. Mr. Bailey, on the Capitol Hill, will draw a large 
portion of the members to his extensive establishment, which as I 
hear embraces all, or nearly all, the houses between the house where 
he was last year and that in which Mr. Dallas lived. Mr. Otis has 
taken quarters of Bailey in Dallas's house. Not having been abroad 
I have heard no news, except that Mr. Gates, whom we met in our 
road from Baltimore, informed us that there is to be a contest be- 
tfween Gen. Sam Smith and Mr. Clay for the Speaker's chair. He 
also said that the President would bring the situation of the Span- 
ish colonies before Congress in his Message. The opposition to Mr. 


Clay may mean more than appears on the surface; mean whatever 
it may, it must have the effect, if I interpret it correctly, to separate 
him from the administration, and such separation will begin a new 
division of parties ; but we had better defer a little while our specu- 
lations on this matter, as at present we see very little into it. Our 
Boston folks have not been honored by an admission to the cabinet. 
I allude to the office of Attorney-general. What their late choice of 
a successor to Mr. Lloyd may do in their favor we must wait to find 
out. To one who finds instruction, as well as amusement, in observ- 
ing the new lights which break in upon us, the temper of accommoda- 
tion, the attachment to new friends, and the desertion of old ones, 
the correction of past errors, by approving what we had believed to 
be wrong, and the condemnation of what we have strenuously con- 
tended to be right, the scene of this session of Congress will not 


fail of being sufficiently interesting. But more hereafter. Mrs. 
King desires me to unite her regards to mine and to present them 
to Mrs. Mason. 

With esteem and respect I am, dear sir, always your obedient 
and faithful servant, RuFUS King. 


Portsmouth, December 10, 1817. 

My dear Sir, — I am much obliged by your letter of the 30th of 
November. Mr. Gore informed me that you had been a little indis- 
posed. Your being so early at Washington is evidence of restored 
health, as well as of your continued interest in the public welfare. 
You certainly have few of the old school to help you. I am how- 
ever most sincerely glad that you continue in the Senate. I feel 
a stronger inclination to be with you than I intended or expected, 
when I resigned. But the considerations which produced it, forbid 
my repenting of that act. 

I see by the newspapers that General Smith was soon distanced. 
He surely had no aid from the administration. The Federal party 
being extinct, and no other being organized to act in opposition, the 
present session of Congress must be fruitful in novel exhibitions, 


affording ample scope for observation and reflection. Nothing like 
the present state of things has been experienced since the adoption 
of the Constitution. At the commencement of the government, 
the deep interest and ardent zeal it excited, brought to its aid and 
united in action the best talents of the country. I have always sup- 
posed also, that there was then exhibited a disinterested patriotism 
and purity of intention, not often found in the administration of 
public affairs. One may doubt, without being over skeptical, whether 
the nation enjoys all those advantages, in an unusual degree, at the 
present time. For the last sixteen years (I think I may say twenty) 
the government has been carried on by party spirit. What is now 
to be substituted ? Will patriotism return, or will Executive patron- 


age and influence answer the purpose? I shall not be greatly sur- 
prised if the present Congress should be somewhat torpid and in- 
active. This disorder will however, as I think, be of short dura- 

The President's message (of which I received a copy by your 
frank) is, as far as I have heard, quite satisfactory. The present is 
not the time for finding fault. The expedition to Amelia Island 
excites some attention. The suppression of the establishment, I 
suppose means the occupation of the Island by a military force. I 
have no doubt of the justice and expediency of suppressing, in some 
way, that nest of pirates.' Had Mr. Adams, while President, done a 
similar act, there would have been not a little carping at his authority, 
notwithstanding such "imperious considerations" as are alleged in 
justification of the present measure. Is East Florida to be in- 
cluded in a similar occupation? I hope there is no danger of our be- 
ing entangled in a serious dispute for that miserable sand-bank. The 
recommendation to repeal the internal taxes is what I least expected 
and most dislike. I had hoped that our experience during the late 
war had sufficiently demonstrated the danger of relying for revenue 
wholly on imports. And even were we sure of perpetual peace, 
what would be a more suitable subject for taxation than the whiskey 
stills? This is the only tax which tends to an equalization of 

1 At the close of the year 1817, Amelia Island off the coast of Florida, was 
occupied by a band of lawless adventurers, who were driven off by orders of the 
United States Government. 


burdens between the sea-board and interior States, The estimate 
now given of the produce of the customs and sales of public lands, 
is, if I rightly recollect, several millions above the estimate in Mr. 
Crawford's last report. But if the present is a just estimate, the 
amount may be easily disposed of with the addition of the internal 
towns. Why not apply the surplus to the payment of that part of 
the public debt owned by the Bank of the United States which is 
redeemable at the pleasure of the Government? 

I shall take much interest in the doings at Washington this win- 
ter, and shall be obliged by your explanation whenever you can favor 

23 (177) 

me with it without taxing yourself too much. Mrs. Mason joins me 
in presenting our respects to Mrs. King. With the highest respect, 
I am sincerely yours, J, Mason. 


Portsmouth, December 24, 1817. 

My DEAR Sir, — . . I have heard little from Washington more 
than is contained in the newspapers. At the first of the session 
there seemed to be considerable expectation that Mr. Speaker Clay 
would place himself at the head of a new opposition. In a letter I 
have just received, it is said he will probably attempt to push the 
President in the further discussion which is soon expected on the 
subject of the South American patriots. But I do not believe he 
will gain much on that ground. Nor do I believe he will go into 
opposition. Should he, Monroe will strangle him within one year. 
I believe, for a short time, at least, we are to be all Federalists and all 
Republicans. How the Government is to get on, I form no conjec- 
ture. The situation is novel. The Government has been carried on so 
long by mere party spirit, that I expect our rulers will be somewhat 
perplexed to carry it on by any other principle. They seem already 
to have lost the scent, and be at fault in the House of Representa- 
tives, on the subject of internal improvements. I should not be 
surprised if there should be experienced some difficulty in getting 
the Legislature into action. What is to be the stimulus and what 
the guide? Is there sufficient force of enlightened patriotism? Or 
is the executive patronage and influence so greatly increased, of it- 


self sufficiently powerful? What I most regret is the repeal of the 
internal taxes. Who would have expected that the direful experience 
of the last year of the late war would have been so soon forgotten? 
I hope your health is confirmed or continues to improve. Please 
to present my, with Mrs. Mason's, best regards to Mrs. Gore. I am 
as always, dear sir, affectionately yours, J. Mason. 


Georgetown, D. C., January 3, 1818. 

Dear Sir, — I received and am obliged to you for your letter. 
As yet nothing of interest has occurred in Congress; the apathy 
which appears to exist must not be regarded as evidence that no 
strong passions are concealed, and waiting only for an occasion to 
show themselves. An opposition will arise. The President has no 
zealous friends nor enemies ; but as a sufficient number of rivals may 
be pointed out, the quiet aspect of things will not continue. Per- 
haps a difficulty is felt concerning the questions on which the for and 
against the President are to show themselves. I shall not be disap- 
pointed if the report concerning Roads and Canals be the occasion 
that will be used to form an opposition, at least in appearance. If, as 
is supposed, a large majority disagree with the President in his con- 
struction of the Constitution, and after a debate of the question 
shall vote accordingly, it will be a beginning; and the next debate, 
that may be on a question to recommend to the President to re- 
ceive a mission from Buenos Ayres, (which the President may do 
without such advice,) may more clearly disclose personal views and 
political hostilities, and terminate in the more distinct appearance 
of a new opposition. 

The South American question, just as I have stated it, is one in 
which great unanimity is said to exist among the men of the West, 
and therefore a favorable occasion for their leader to appear and to 
draw towards him the regards of those who may be willing to ele- 
vate and follow him. 

Crawford, it is whispered, cannot support himself on his salary, 
and talks of retirement. Whether this be the real motive, or an 


unwillingness to figure in the approaching contests, or whether the 
whisper be correct, we know not. 

Mr. Clinton will be backed by the mammoth State, as Mr. Giles 
called us, and his canal is persuasive also, in Ohio, Indiana, and 
among the back men of Pennsylvania. Mr. Adams is understood 


to have the favor of all the good patriots of New England, and 
John Holmes at their head is to be his Guy of Warwick. All these 
competitors, whose numbers, by-the-by, lessen trouble to Mr. Presi- 
dent, will make rare sport for the amateurs. To be a little more 
sober, I think it is quite impossible as yet to determine what new 
controversies or parties, are likely to arise. So far as I can conjecture, 
the remnant of Federalism here is disposed to look on. Mr. Otis of 
Boston has been with us, but left the Senate a week ago or more 
to hold his court, which will continue the suits and allow him to 
return. If he really expected anything, I fancy his hopes were not 
raised by the weeks he passed here. 

With sincere esteem and respect, I am dear sir, 

Your obedient servant, RUFUS King. 


Washington, January 5, 1818. 

My dear Sir, — Your favor of 28th December is received. 
Should the bill for internal improvements be passed after the dec- 
laration of the President, it probably will be done with an intent to 
support an opposition, and this subject will be resorted to as the 
most popular. The requisite majorities can hardly be expected, and 
it is not certain that they will be desired. The Federalists, as you 
justly remarked, can make no opposition. They are quiet and, as far 
as I know, disposed to remain so. Can a government constituted 
like ours long continue in the torpid state which now appears? A 
patronage of millions will be an object of ambition. You can be- 
lieve that at least three gentlemen are not unconcerned about the 
next Presidential election, and at least three hundred have some 
anxiety about elections or appointments of less importance. In this 
condition, what more natural than that another party should arise? 


Materials are not wanting to form it. These remarks are, of course, 
inter nos. In connection with the foregoing observations, you will 
bear in mind the thorny state of our relations with Spain, and the 


strange situation of our affairs at the South. Is Amelia Island ours 
by conquest? What shall we do with it and its inhabitants and 
garrisons? Assuredly we may look for matter of much interest 
from these sources, and you perceive a great conflict of opinion 
among "brethren of the same principle" on this subject. If the 
Executive is supported in his views, by some of his principal officers, 
others may think and act very differently. 

Enough of prophecy. A bill for a bankrupt law is again reported 
(I think the one of the last session) . A very general, not to say uni- 
versal, opinion exists in favor of such a law. The discussion of its 
details will doubtless be tedious, but I think it will pass in some 
form. The mercantile interest demands it. It now seems abso- 
lutely necessary to relieve the nation from partial, and, I may add, 
swindling insolvent laws. A system of internal revenue, in my 
judgment, is just and propet- at all times, but I heartily concurred 
in the late repeal, because the land stamp had already been dis- 
continued, and the license tax and carriage taxes are vexatious 
and unequal. Indeed, when Congress refused to continue the land 
tax, I considered the system as destroyed. We cannot in this coun- 
try maintain such a system in any times except those of immediate 

And now, with my kind regards to Mrs. Mason, a word for her. 
Mrs. Monroe opened her drawing-room (in the Palace), for the 
first time this season, on New Year's day. The weather was fine, 
and the assemblage brilliant and numerous. The Furniture is more 
splendid than I had before witnessed ; but of this, as well as of the 
dresses, I can give no description for want of the appropriate lan- 
guage. Mrs. Monroe wore an Italian hat with a very beautiful 
white plume, and she so contrived both, as to set off, to the best 
advantage, every iota of her handsome face. Her deportment was 
graceful and dignified. It is well understood that dining parties 
and levees are to be continued as formerly, but Mrs. Monroe declines 
returning visits. Our session has hitherto been very peaceful; no 


subject will probably create much agitation, except that which 


regards the Southern patriots and pirates. Probably the judiciary 
may undergo some important revisions, but of this I am by no 
means certain. Aaron Burr once said, that "Every legislature was 
a d — d Jacobinic club with respect to the judiciary."" 

I shall at all times hear from you with pleasure, and should any- 
thing occur here worth communicating, and perhaps without such 
occurrence, you shall hear from me. 

Very sincerely yours, David Daggett. 

"Aaron Burr (1756 — 1836). American political leader and Vice-President 
of the United States, was born in Newark, N. J., the son of a clergyman and 
educator of the same name. He was noted for his sententious sayings. For in- 
stance : 

1. "Law is whatever is boldly asserted and plausibly maintained." 

2. "As to a compromise, move slowly, never negotiate in a hurry." 

3. "Never do to-day what you can do well tomorrow, because something 
may occur to make you regret your premature action." 

4. "It is an affront to exhibit to others a face of gloom." 

5. "They say!' Those two little words have done more harm than all 

6. "Of all animals, authors are the vainest; no eulogies of their works 
can be too gross." 

7. "I have left in cash two half-pence, which is much better than one penny, 
because they jingle, and thus one may refresh one's self with the music." 

8. "The Scriptures are the most perfect system of truth the world has ever 

9. "I never knew a memory which retains accurately names and dates to be 
accompanied with much invention, or fancy. It is almost the exclusive blessing 
of dullness. The mind which perceives cleai'ly, adopts and appropriates an idea, 
and is thus enlarged and invigorated. It is of little moment whether the book, 
the time, or the occasion be recollected." 

10. "My idea of a devil is composed more of malice than of meaness." 

11. "To render any reading really amusing, or in any degree instructive, 
never pass a word you do not understand, or the name of a person or place of 
which you have not some knowledge. You will say that attention to such matters 
is too great an interruption. If so, do but note them down on paper, and devote 

• an hour particularly to them when you have finished a chapter or come to a 
proper pause. After an experiment of this mode, you will never abandon it." 
(Webster had a habit of closing a book which he had read, and if there was any- 
thing peculiarly interesting or striking, laying it up in his memory, by repeating it 
to himself, and if he could not do this, go over it again, and thus make it his own.) 



Portsmouth, January 6, 1818. 

My dear Sir, — I feel myself much obliged by your letter. I 
do not expect to attend the session of the Supreme Court of U. S. 
this winter. Although I had become somewhat tired of Washington 
and its bustle, I confess I should like to see again, for a short time, 
some of the faces collected there. But were there no other reasons, 
my engagements at our Superior Court would prevent my undertak- 
ing that journey at the present time. I am endeavoring to pick up 
my old law habits, which, as you once told me, are usually much en- 
dangered by a residence among the politicians of Washington. I 
noticed the movements in Congress towards a new organization of 
the courts, and think it probable something will before long be done 
on that subject. There may be differences of opinion as to the form 
and manner of organization of them, but the better informed will 
agree, as I think, in the necessity of establishing in some way new 
circuit courts. It is not probable those courts will be made to con- 
sist of the present district judges, as has been sometimes talked of, 
but new judges will probably be appointed. I am. fully sensible of 
the value of your favorable opinion, and of the kindness of the wish 
you express of seeing me in a judicial office. I do not think it neces- 
sary or proper for me, in speaking to you on this subject, to affect 
any prudery. Could I suppose myself tolerably qualified for it, such 
a situation must (182) doubtless be acceptable to me. It would be 
unwise for me to say thus much publicly. For, however willing I 
might be to accept it, I should not dare flatter myself with the expec- 
tation of the offer of such an appointment. Should there be occasion 
of appointing judges in this circuit, so numerous would be the appli- 
cants, such interest would be made, and such management used, that 
there would be little chance of the offer being made to me. I have 
no reason to suppose myself personally obnoxious to the ill-will or dis- 
pleasure of those whose duty it would be to make the selection. But 
I know of no ground on which I could found any special claim of 
merit with them. In the present state of public opinion and feeling, 
no reason is apparent why a very strict conformity in political creed 
would be deemed necessary. Were that the case, I could profess no 


readiness to abjure heresies, but I could safely declare that according 
to my view of the mysteries, ijou learyied doctors of the orthodox 
sect are in the constant habit of indulging both in word and deed in 
all the heresies and sins I feel any affection for. 

I have just been reading in the second of Gallison, your opinion 
on the admiralty jurisdiction of the courts of U. S. I intend to read 
it again, and with more minute and critical attention. As far as I 
understand the subject, I really think you have settled the question. 
I have also read your decision concerning G. W. Campbell's remission 
of penalties.' Should he chance to see it, he will certainly think there 
is a necessity for establishing new courts. 

I am, with much esteem and respect, dear sir. 

Sincerely and faithfully yours, 

J. Mason. 


Salem, January 9, 1818. 

My DEAR Sir, — I have the pleasure to acknowledge the receipt 
of your favor of yesterday. I hope that Congress will create (183) cir- 
cuit courts on the plan of the Judicial Act of 1801 ; and I shall use 
all my little efforts for this purpose. In case a new system passes, 
I do, not think that the President ought in the slightest degree to 
consult political opinions ; but ought to select the ablest and the best 
men. It seems to me that this course is so obvious, both for the dig- 
nity of the government and the good of the public, that the President 
will have no adequate temptation to deviate from it. In relation to 
candidates for office, I should on ordinary occasions feel a delicacy 
in approaching the Executive; but as to judicial appointments, espe- 
cially within my circuit, I feel it almost a duty to give him exact in- 
formation. If therefore, a new court is created I shall certainly 
bring before him the merits of the various professional gentlemen 
who are entitled to be considered as candidates for such appoint- 
ments. I shall do this on public grounds, and shall most explicitly 
recommend you for the highest judicial office, because I am most de- 
cidedly of opinion that your learning, talents, and rank equally en- 

^Mr. Mason refers to the case of The Margaretta and Cargo, 2 Gallison, 515. 


title you to it. I need not add that I shall in no degree feel myself 
prompted to this act by my private friendship and respect for you, 
strong- as these are, but by motives of public good, by a desire to sus- 
tain the honor and the independence of the Bench, and through them 
of the government itself. In addressing myself to the Executive, 
however, I shall carefully abstain from the slightest intimation to 
him that you would accept such an office, or even that I felt at liberty 
to entertain such an opinion. This course I deem proper, lest I should 
otherwise seem to seek what ought to be most earnestly sought by 
the government itself. Perhaps I may be wrong in supposing that I 
shall have any influence with the Executive in such an appointment; 
but if so, I am sure he cannot be ignorant of the very high rank which 
you hold in the profession, and how entirely acceptable to the public 
would be your appointment. If anything should occur of a decisive 
character, I will do myself the pleasure of writing you from Wash- 
ington, whither I go in about ten days. If I sTiall have the good for- 
tune to have your suffrage as to the Admiralty Jurisdiction, (184) 
it will greatly strengthen my opinion, which I confess I have not yet 
seen the least reason to change.^ 

I am, with the highest respect. 

Your most obliged friend and servant. 
Joseph Story. 

jeremiah mason to joseph story. 

Portsmouth, January 15, 1818. 

My dear Sir, — I feel myself not only much obliged by the kind 
sentiments, but much honored by the favorable opinion expressed in 
your letter of the 9th anstant. If the Administration and their con- 
fidential friends will assent to it, I have no doubt the best chance for 
success in attempting to amend the judiciary establishment, would 

Uudge Story here alludes to his judgment in the celebrated case of De Lovio 
V. Boit et al., 2 Gallison, 398, maintaining that a policy of insurance is a mari- 
time contract, and therefore of admiralty jurisdiction. After much discussion, 
and some difference of judicial opinion, the doctrine of this case has been recently 
affirmed by the Supreme Court of the United States in Insurance Co. v. Durham, 
11 Wallace, I. 



be on the plan of the Act of 1801. That would save the labor of get- 
ting up a new bill, and settling the details, and would also have the 
advantage of experience on its side. When this subject was talked 
of the last session, it was said that the then President and his friends 
would not like a revival of the old Act of 1801, for fear of the appear- 
ance of inconsistency in reviving an act they had formerly repealed. 
I know not whether there was any foundation for the suggestion. I 
heard it from no authority. I should not think it probable that Mr. 
Monroe would, at the present time, be influenced by any such appre- 
hension. Were it admitted that when that act was repealed there 
were sufficient reasons for it, surely it cannot be said those reasons 
now exist. The circumstances of the country are materially changed, 
and the duties of the judiciary vastly increased. Of this, the fre- 
quent application for new courts from various quarters, is sufficient 
evidence. In letters from Washington, I am told there is considera- 
ble talk of doing something on this subject, but that the result is very 
uncertain. In (185) one of them is repeated a saying of A. Burr, 
"that every legislature, in their treatment of the judiciary, is a d — d 
Jacobin club." There is certainly nothing in a good judiciary likely 
to attract the favorable regards of a Legislature in turbulent party 
times. The dominant party in such times can expect no aid in fur- 
therance of some of their measures from the judiciary. Indeed, both 
parties having unreasonable expectations of aid from the judiciary, 
are usually disappointed, and are apt to view it with jealousy. And 
as it has nothing to offer to appease or attract either party, neither 
will hazard much for it. The Legislature at present seem greatly re- 
lieved from the influence of party spirit. The situation is new, and 
affords ample matter for observation and reflection. It may not be 
easy to foretell what the government would do were this quiet state 
of peace to continue long enough for the adoption of permanent meas- 
ures. Would to God the experiment might be fairly tried. But it is 
whispered at Washington that a new party is soon to be formed. I 
know many idle conjectures are constantly formed and buzzed about 
in that place, and sometimes gain a degree of credit they are in no 
way entitled to. I can see the recurrence of no cause likely to pro- 
duce any strong party division during this Congress. Whatever pro- 
duces it must be in relation to the next Presidential election, which 
is yet too remote to justify the exposure of arrangements for it by 


any candidate. But however this may be, I certainly think the pres- 
ent a very favorable time for the Legislature to act on the subject of 
the judiciary. Should the executive government be favorably inclined 
to an establishment similar to that of 1801, I think there is great 
probability of its being effected. Against the wish of the Executive 
and encountering the obstacles which that department can easily 
raise, I do not believe anything can be done on the subject. 

I am, dear sir, with much esteem and respect, 

Truly and faithfully yours, 

J. Mason. 


Portsmouth, Januai-y 27, 1818. 

Dear Sir, — I am much obliged by your letter of the 3d of Jan- 
uary. I had not supposed it probable that the rival candidates for 
the next Presidency would have exhibited themselves at so early a 
period. The next Congress would seem to be soon enough for that. 
A premature exposure of their pretensions must tend to the security 
of the present incumbent. It is reported here that Mr. Monroe in- 
tends bo7ia fide to make his Secretary of State his eventual successor, 
and that he will in due time give evidence of such intention. Of 
course we are all to give our utmost aid to secure the inheritance to 
the present occupant, during his lawful term of eight years, in hopes 
thereby to obtain the reversion to ourselves. In confirmation of this, 
it is said the Secretary is very desirous of keeping New England 
quiet. That he has advised his friends in Massachusetts not to set 
up a candidate, nor make any opposition to the reelection of Governor 
Brooks. I believe the latter report to be true, and that his advice will 
have good influence. 

If the President is attacked for his conduct towards the patriots 
of South America, New England will, as I think, support him. In- 
deed, be the ground of attack what it may, the Yankees will not at 
present join in it. They have become tired of opposition, which has 
given them no profit, and not much credit, and are ndw inclined to 


try the opposite course, and sing the "Vicar of Bray."'' While in 
opposition, our force being paralyzed by division, we effected nothing. 
Shall we have success, when united in a course of subserviency? 

My namesake, of Boston, I am told, is disposed to act a consider- 
able part.i He is to occupy neutral ground, and perform the office 
of mediator. I know little of him personally, but have lately heard 
pretty good judges, who knew him well, declare that he had capacity 
and talents of a higher order than the public give him credit (187) 
for. His election gave no dissatisfaction to many of the Bostonians, 
who ostensibly favored the election of his opponent. 

The good people of Massachusetts are desirous of relieving Mr. 
Otis'' from the burden of one of his offices. I am informed that it is 
firmly determined that he shall quit either his judgeship or office of 
Senator. The lawyers of Boston, some of whom want the aforesaid 
judgeship, complain loudly. A late statement by the judges of the 
Supreme Court to the Legislature, proposing the imposition of more 
duties on the judges of inferior courts, bears directly on him. 

I hope a Bankrupt Act will pass this session. The act of 1801, 
not being well understood at first, was in some of the States badly 
executed. The system had just become familiar when it was repealed. 
The vesting of the appointment of commissioners in the President, 
by a subsequent act, was in my opinion injudicious. The President, 
not having the requisite knowledge of characters, is less able to make 
proper selections than the judges. It is also, as I think, expedient 
that the commissioners should be dependent for their appointments 

'"^ A disputed English character, who lived in England, born 1540, died 1588. 

' Mr. Jonathan Mason, who was a representative from Boston from 1817 to 

^ Harrison Gray Otis, (1765 — 1848), a nephew of James Otis, noted as an 
orator, Graduated from Harvard, 1783; practiced law in Boston; succeeded 
Fisher Ames in lower House of Congress, where he became a decided opponent 
of the Jeffersonian party; was judge of the Court of Comtmon Pleas, 1814-18; 
attended the Hartford Convention, in 1814; elected to Federal Senate, 1817, 
where he distinguished himself in the debates over the Missouri question; was 
defeated as Federalist Governor of Massachusetts, in 1823; elected Mayor of 
Boston, 1829; published in 1848, an open letter advocating Zachary Taylor for 
the Presidency. He also published Letters in Defense of the Hartford Convention 
and the People of Mass., (1824), though Mr. Mason endeavored to dissuade him 


on the judges, which would best secure a diligent attention to their 
duties. As their doings come often under the examination of the 
courts, their misconduct or negligence being known would prevent a 
reappointment, if to be made by the judges. 

I am, dear sir, with high respect, your faithful servant, 

J. Mason. 


Portsmouth, Januarij 29, 1818. 

My DEAR Sir, — I am much obliged by your letter of the 6th 
January. It seems there is a confident expectation at Washington 
that a new opposition party is soon to appear. All my information 
tends strongly to that point. I did not expect to see much of an oppo- 
sition this session, or even during this Congress. And I still am 
inclined to believe the Washington prophecy antedates this (188) 
event one year at least. You know the politicians there, having 
leisure enough for it, are apt to amuse and sometimes heat them- 
selves with reports of plots and conspiracies which never existed, 
except in imagination. While we were there, many reports of simi- 
lar nature gained credit for a time, and then ended in nothing. As 
far as I understand, it is expected that Mr. Speaker C. is to head the 
opposition, and to rest himself at present chiefly on the President's 
treatment of the patriots of South America. In that warfare, I think 
Mr. C. will find few allies on this side the Alleghany. I believe the 
nation generally, with the exception of the Western men of war, is 
well satisfied with the conduct of the government toward the Spanish 
Colonies. If there be any fault, it is in not sufficiently restraining the 
fitting out privateers in our harbors under the patriotic flags. This 
neglect will be no crime in Mr. C.'s view. Whether the expulsion of 
Commodore Aury and his renegadoes from Amelia Island, and the 
occupation of it by our troops, can be justified under the Secret Act 
of 1811, or whether it comes within the general scope of the executive 
power, may be very doubtful. But as it is generally assented that 
something of the kind ought to have been done by somebody, the 
President's authority will not be very severely scrutinized, unless 
some misfortune to the country comes from it, which it not probable. 


He must take care that Aury, now desperate, does not, after being 
dismissed with his privateers, indemnify himself for his loss at the 
expense of our merchants. Perhaps it would have been as well to 
have hung him, and confiscated his vessels, which, if he is a pirate 
(as the President asserts), was our proper security against future 
trouble. Neither on this, or any. other subject, can an attack be made 
at this time on the President, with any prospect of support. The 
nation at large seems to like the present tranquility, and freedom 
from party altercation. It has the recommendation of novelty. I 
think no new party can be formed but with a direct view toward the 
next Presidential election, which is too remote for present calcula- 
tion. If Mr. C. pursues this project with his usual boldness and 
want of (189) caution, he stands a good chance of being strangled 
at the end of two years. Mr. Adams' advice to his friends to sup- 
port Governor Brooks, shows his anxiety to keep the good people of 
Massachusetts quiet. He will certainly be somewhat perplexed with 
your State claim. I suppose your friends are not desirous of pre- 
serving that source of popularity any longer, but are willing to have 
it extinguished. Your Legislature appear to be disposed to relieve 
Mr. Otis from the burden of one of his offices. His declining the 
proffered military rank has no effect. Will he abandon his salary or 
senatorial dignity? If the latter, you will have to look out for two 
new Senators, as I am told Mr. Ashmun intends this for his last 
visit to Washington. Mrs. Mason, as usual, desires to unite with me 
in regards to Mrs. Gore. I am, dear sir, with unabated esteem. 

Sincerely and affectionately yours, 

J. Mason. 


Washington Febmary 10, 1818. 

My DEAR Sir, — Yours of 26th January was duly received. I now 
send you a pamphlet just published by Charles F. Mercer. It may 

^ David Daggett, (1765-1851), of Connecticut, was 54 years of age at this 
time, and one of the foremost lawyers of his day, afterwards Chief Justice of 
Connecticut, and one of the greatest jurists that ever honored that position; was 
for twenty years a lecturer on Constitutional Law, at the Yale Law School; 


afford you a moment of amusement, but I am quite sure the perusal 
of it will give no real pleasure to either of the parties. Perhaps you 
have read the speech of Mr. Thompson's successor, on the slave 
trade/ Judge Tait, whom you know sits just behind me, and is not 
the most placid man in Christendom, was so enraged at it that I was 
obliged to interfere and tell him that M. was a good Republican, and 
yet I thought if he did not preach better in future, his license ought 
to be taken away. The Democratic press at Philadelphia is attacking 
Clay with great virulence. The author is a certain Mr. Inchiquin- of 
"blessed memory." Bledsoe in the Senate, and Bibb in the House of 
Representatives of Kentucky, you see are aiding (190) in the Span- 
ish patriot cause; and Pope and his friends, in their turn, are lash- 
ing Clay for his opposition to Monroe. Talbot told me, last evening, 
that every member of their Legislature ought to be put in irons for 
making their thirty-nine new banks. He says by their charters, not 
a dollar of specie capital is required, and that it is done from hos- 
tility to the National Bank. I think Kentucky is in a very hopeful 
way. Their Legislature is to pull down Old Spain and overturn the 
National Bank, and their College or University is to furnish the 
world with sound literature and religion under the auspices of Presi- 
dent Holley. The claim of Beaumarchais is again pressed upon us. 
It will probably now undergo a very thorough investigation, and a 
report will be made which will terminate the question one way or 
another. It is very hard to bring either House into discussion of the 
Bankrupt Law, or into anything relating to the judiciary. Topics 
of more immediate interest, though of minor importance, take the 
preference. I forgot whether I told Mrs. Mason about Queen's draw- 
ing-room and her dining-table. They are splendid enough for any 
Republic. The plates are of beautiful French china, with the Ameri- 
can coat of arms in the centre. The plateau (I believe they call it) 

U. S. Senator, 1813-1819. He was a strong Federalist, a master of invective, 
w^ielded a ready pen, and in sarcasm and repartee, reminded one of Dean Sv^ift. 
He died in 1851. He was born three years before Mason and lived three years 

1 Mr. Daggett here probably alludes to a speech by Mr. David L. Morrill, Sen- 
ator from New Hampshire, on the African slave-trade, delivered in the Senate, 
January 12, 1818. — 'See Benton's Abyidgement, vol. vi. p. 16. 

- Inchiquin was the pseudonym of Charles J. Ingersoll. 


is magnificent beyond anything I ever witnessed. Mrs. M. does not 
return visits. Her daughter, Mrs. Hay, and niece, Miss Goreman, 
act for her in that ceremony. Mrs. Adams (J. Q.) is taking the same 
course, which, as will easily be imagined, causes some heart-burnings. 
We have a very pleasant time in the Senate this winter. I think you 
would be more pleased were you with us, than at any former ses- 
sion. The thorny questions about the war, seem to have subsided, 
except those growing out of the Massachusetts and Connecticut 
claims; they will linger and finally be paid. Old Father Morrow 
takes good care of the land ; Mr. Tait nurses the navy ; Williams ad- 
heres closely to the military; and Goldsborough, to the District of 
Columbia. The city is now thronged with strangers, and many of 
them of much consideration. The Supreme Court, as you know, is 
sitting, and that brings some distinguished men. (191) 

Meade's affair' has excited some spirit in the House ; it will prob-' 
ably lead to nothing of much importance. With particular remem- 
brance to Mrs. Mason, 

I am very sincerely yours, David Daggett. 


March, 1818. 

Dear Sir, — I ought sooner to have acknowledged and thanked 
you for your letter; but having nothing to communicate of any con- 
sequence, I have omitted, and for the same reason might still omit, 
to do what civility required. Except the Bankrupt Bill, which has 
been rejected in the House of Representatives, no measure of im- 
portance has been even debated. The West and the South seem to 
have arrayed themselves against the Bankrupt Bill. This is hardly 
fair; as we have stipulated in favor of the security of their labors, 
and in doing so, in some sort disregarded long settled opinions in re- 
lation to slavery among ourselves, we might in return expect that in 
a matter about which they are little concerned, and scarcely at all 

1 Richard W. Meade, an American citizen, and navy agent of the United 
States at Cadiz, was imiprisoned in Spain upon a judgment obtained against him 
in the courts of that country as assignee of a bankrupt. The House of Represen- 
tatives adopted a resolution to support the President in any measures he might 
adopt to obtain his release. 


interested, and which so deeply and exclusively affects the commer- 
cial States, they would be disposed to consent to a measure that the 
experience of all the commercial nations has sanctioned. 

Perhaps the measure may hereafter be resumed and with better 
success. I perceive no material difference in Congress now, from 
what it was at the commencement of the session. There is no party 
for, and none against, the President. Should the latter appear it 
would probably create the former. There are whispers and sneers, 
about too much formality, etc., rich furniture, and a reserve some- 
what beyond the plainness and simplicity of republicanism. 

The Cabinet too is said to be ill assorted ; its members mutually 
jealous of each other and not over often consulted. How these (192) 
things may be I am not able to tell you. I can well imagine that the 
Department of State and that of Treasury are not very likely to be 
cordial or confidential. Rivals do not consult each other, nor are 
they more likely than others to agree in opinions in which they have 
no personal concern. The Secretary at War" is a young man, with 
honorable views, so far as I have understood them, but at present 
cannot be supposed to have great influence in any direction ; and as 
to the Secretary of the Navy," his value must everywhere depend on 
his being placed so that he may count something. Of the Attorney- 
General^ I have heard very little ; personally I am not able to say any- 
thing. The Virginians say, as our friend Lewis used to do, that he 
is a high-minded man; though as a lawyer I have heard that Web- 
ster appeared with great advantage in opposition to him in the Bos- 
ton question, turning on the point of State or United States jurisdic- 
tion. The President continues that same course of profession which 
was so engaging in the course of his eastern tour. This is more be- 
fitting a Secretary of State, who decides nothing, than the President 
who decides all things. I think it cannot be continued without be- 
coming insipid, unless he gratifies by performance, as well as by 
expressions of regard and good will. That he would do so, I am dis- 
posed to believe, if he dare ; but notwithstanding we are all Federal- 

^ohn C. Calhoun was Secretary of War. 

I'Benjamin W. Crowninshield, of Masschusetts, was secretary of the Navy. 

•■William Wist, of Vii-ginia, was Attorney General, entering upon his duties 
November 15, 1817. 


ists and all Republicans, that means in the sense of the motto of the 
Prince of Wales, — we may all support but only a part be rewarded. 

If Mr. A. or Mr. B. have believed by broad avowals of fidelity 
and support, that the past would be forgotten, and that they would 
be permitted to share the children's bread, they will find themselves, 
at least for a time, and I cannot tell for how long, disappointed. 

That New England is ready to serve and support, I do not doubt ; 
but yet for a time the government will be critically situated, if it 
can be supported only by a majority that would not exist without 
New England. So much for domestic affairs. A word or two re- 
specting foreign concerns. 

Our Spanish negotiation is just now at a stand, and the (193) De- 
partment of State is soon to send in a report, that will show that 
we are now precisely where we were in 1805. Spain concedes noth- 
ing; the United States relaxes nothing. Spain would cede the Flori- 
das for the Territory of Louisiana west of a line a few miles west of, 
and corresponding with the Mississippi. This we decline, and Spain 
is told that when she shall oflfer a more reasonable arrangement, the 
United States will receive and consider it. In this state of things, 
England announced that she had been desired by Spain to mediate 
between her and us; that she had answered, that to do so she must 
also be asked by us. To this communication England has been in- 
formed that we decline her mediation, as we shall do the mediation 
of any other power, — this claim is added to preclude a like offer from 

The South American question is assuming new interest. Rus- 
sia has sold four ships of the line and three or four frigates to Spain ; 
and the money that England is said to have engaged to give Spain 
to accede to the abolition of the African slave-trade in 1820 is to pay 
for these vessels. 

The sale of these ships was not known, until publicly announced 
either by the English Ministers in Petersburg or Spain. It excited 
some attention in England and Lord Cathcart was ordered to ask an 
explanation of the Court of St. Petersburg, and whether Russia was 
about to take any part with Spain against the colonies. The answer 
was, that the transfer was a mere fiscal operation : the sale of ships 
not wanted for money much wanted ; and that Russia would take no 


part between Spain and her colonies ; and considered the sale of the 
ships as an unessential and mere fiscal affair. These ships are des- 
tined to accompany a grand expedition against Buenos Ayres ; and as 
Mexico is almost or entirely tranquillized, treasure from this quarter 
to a great amount has been, and is in the course of being remitted to 
Spain, with which ships, soldiers, and the other things requisite for 
the expedition are to be obtained and dispatched so as to reach Buenos 
Ayres toward the month of (194) September and in season to enter 
upon their operations in the spring of that hemisphere. 

While all these things are going on, the views of England are 
understood to have undergone a change in respect to the dispute be- 
tween Spain and Portugal. The latter seized upon Monte Video on 
the River Plata. In the course of the last summer a strong note was 
delivered to Portugal by the five great powers, which was nearly 
equivalent to a demand that Portugal should deliver up Monte Video 
to Spain. This has not been done ; and England, as is said, is now 
of opinion that Portugal ought not to deliver up Monte Video until 
the question of the independence or submission of the Spanish colo- 
nies be determined. As it is almost indispensable to the projected 
expedition that Spain should have Monte Video, this change of policy 
in England is a very significant proceeding. 

That England has altered her views, though not certain is very 
probable. She has announced to our government that she has been 
desired by Spain to mediate between her and the colonies; that she 
has as yet decided nothing, but that she will mediate only on the 
basis that South America shall be commercially independent, that 
her trade shall be equally open to all nations, etc. England has prom- 
ised further and full communication on this subject to our govern- 
ment. Now such a mediation terminating successfully is to Spain 
equivalent to the loss of her colonies. 

In these circumstances if Congress take the subject of America 
into their consideration, they ought in prudence to postpone any de- 
cision, and so I think they will do. 

These views and communications of England seem to look to the 
breaking up of the great European alliances, to a state of things in 
which England may be more and more excluded from continental 
connection, and more and more impelled to look to arrangements in 
America and with the United States, that shall prevent their associa- 


tion with those who may hereafter and at no remote day combine 
against her. 

But this, as you must perceive, is mere speculation. I cannot 
even (195) review the sheets that I have filled; if you can make them 
out, it will cost you I fear much more than they are worth. 

Yours truly, R. K. 


Portsmouth, March 5, 1818. 

My dear Sir, — During the last four weeks, I have been con- 
stantly engaged in the business of our Supreme Court, which has 
occasioned the delay in my answering your two last letters. I am 
confident the accommodations for your boys at Judge Peabody's will 
prove satisfactory. I had not supposed it would have been agreeable 
to him, and for that reason probably should not have applied to him. 
If my children go, I should prefer that place for them to any other 
in Exeter, I am not yet determined as to sending them. We have a 
young man here under whose instruction they are now doing much 
better than heretofore. 

Of late I have heard very little from Washington. I do not think 
anything of much importance is doing there. I am sorry they did 
not pass the Bankrupt Act. On the whole I think it would prove 
beneficial to the commercial interests of the country and not injurious 
to any other. The present Congress have shown as much ingenuity 
as their predecessors, in getting up great debates on little subjects. 
They have certainly shown a very notable disposition that way in 
their proceedings relative to poor old St. Clair and the other Revolu- 
tionary worthies. What can be the cause of this extraordinary zeal 
towards these relicts? I do not expect Congress will do anything of 
much importance till new parties shall be formed, and of that there 
seems no immediate prospect. In most cases there will be so many 
conflicting views and interests, that a majority will seldom be found 
united for action in any important matter. Perhaps this state of 
apparent apathy and indolence is not to be regretted. The irritation 
and excitement of past years, has certainly done no good to the better 
side, and I do not believe their (196) continuance would do any 


good to the best interests of the country. I agree with you, that 
Federalists have nothing to expect in the way of appointments to 
office from the present administration. Were this a main object with 
them, as it certainly ought not to be, there is no probability of their 
soon attaining it by any probable change. The old Federal doctrines, 
as first delivered by the true apostles of that faith, will never again 
be extensively professed. But with new glasses, I think, they are 
coming gradually into use. The truth is, you ancient apostles ex- 
pounded your doctrines in a manner ill-suited to the corrupt taste of 
your hearers. You flattered none of their appetites, but insisted that 
they must love and practice virtue for its own sake. You divided the 
saints from the sinners, and the latter being always a majority soon 
burst open "the doors of honor aifd confidence." It is not probable 
they will soon consent to have these doors shut against themselves. 
As there is no chance of reclaiming these sinners, I do not think it 
worth while to be constantly preaching to them or quarreling with 
them. The offer of England to mediate between us and Spain, at the 
desire of the latter, looks as if the misunderstanding was of a more 
important nature than I had supposed. I think with you, our gov- 
ernment would do wrong to accept the mediation. I cannot believe 
there is any manner of danger of war from that quarter. The motion 
of Mr. Forsyth in the House of Representatives, for information of 
the state of the negotiation, can be intended only to frighten the Don. 
Mrs. Mason desires to join me in kind regards to Mrs. Gore. 

I am sincerely and affectionately yours, J. MASON. 


Waltham, March 20, 1818. 

My DEAR Sir, — The parties at Washington seem to be forming 
under the two questions, — of South America and the appropriation 
for canals. Clay and Forsyth appear to put themselves forward as 
the champions. (197) 

England, in her sweet and amiable disposition, is to give Spain 
four or five hundred thousand pounds for her consent to abolish the 
slave-trade at some future day. This sum is to be paid to Russia for 
the ships supplied by that power. Russia was asked by England at 


Petersburg, if she meant to depart from her neutrality, and take part 
with Spain against her colonies. The reply was definitely no. She 
only merely sold the ships. England will mediate between Spain and 
her colonies, on the condition that the latter shall have a free trade 
with all the world without preference to any part. Such a mediation 
would be useless to Spain. England has explained herself partially, 
and promises that she will fully, to the United States. 

Spain and Portugal are at variance, as you know, about Monte 
Video. Last year, as you will recollect, the allies delivered a strong 
note on this subject. England now, we are told, has taken the part 
of Portugal, and wishes her to retain possession of Monte Video, at 
least temporarily. One would suppose from these things, the alliance 
was not like to continue forever. 

The state of the war in South America is not accurately known. 
Spain, we understand, will make one great effort about September 
next to conquer her rebellious subjects. If she fail then, her case 
must then be considered desperate. As in all probability the colonies 
will at no very distant day be free from the metropolitan country, it 
seems advisable to many now to show their good dispositions in order 
for future favor. 

I regret with you that Congress did not pass a Bankrupt Law. 
Such a system is necessary to commercial States, and for that reason 
I presume was not acceptable to the South and West, with whom our 
patriots seemed to unite. Our best regards to Mrs. Mason. 
Sincerely and affectionately, I remain 

Your friend, 

C. Gore. 


Washington, March 18, 1818. 

Dear Sir, — I thank you for your letter of 5th inst. Tom Paine, 
speaking, or rather writing of some one, says, " He went up like a 
rocket and came down like the stick." That is evidently true of a 
certain great man from Cyrus King's district. He has attempted as 
a politician, so much wisdom, and such a desire to be admired by 
everybody, that he has ceased for weeks to be regarded by miyhody. 
His friends, however, still uphold him as a lawyer, but in the Dart- 


mouth College Cause, he sunk lower at the bar than he had in the 
Hall of Legislature. The opinion was entirely universal, that Web- 
ster rose superior even to Wirt, (though it is said that he appeared 
very well,) and infinitely so to Holmes/'' The great question of in- 
ternal improvements, seems almost jaded down. Clay has not suc- 
ceeded at all at this game. Monroe has gained rather a triumph. 
Probably it will not be agitated again at this session. The skirmish 
respecting the petition of the patriot agent, proved very unfortunate 
for the opposition. It is said that the Speaker will certainly propose 
that some of the Provinces shall be acknowledged independent, and 
that on that question he will come out as large as life against Mr. M. 
He will, however, be foiled. 

The furniture question will make some noise. It seems an appro- 
priation of twenty thousand dollars has been greatly exceeded, and 
that the House is still almost empty. I tell our good Republicans to 
be quiet; Republicanism always adores show and parade in its friends. 
Have you seen a history of " Pinkney's Embassy to Naples?'" I'll 
send you a copy by this mail, if one is to be had. (199) It seems he 
undertook to be very cunning, but on the whole, the Italian was up 
to him. That mission was indeed disgraceful, and the Senate de- 
graded the body by yielding to Madison's impudence. Its issue is 
such as all men of forecast predicted. 

I hear little and see nothing of Adams. He declines calling on 
Senators, I understand, and his wife refuses to return the visits of 
the ladies. He hoV^ever gives parties, and is, I am told, quite splen- 

3 John Holmes was a famous kaleidoscopic politician, and a power in the 
land in his day; 45 years old when he attempted to reply to Webster in the Dart- 
mouth College case, at Washington; born in Massachusetts, 1773; graduated at 
Brown University, 1796, with Tristam Burgess, Dr. Shurtleff, and other celebri- 
ties; came to bar in 1799, and that year settled at Alfred, in the town of San- 
ford, County of York, and that part of Massachusetts then known as the district 
and now as the State of Maine, and which was admitted into the Union two years 
after the argument in the Dartmouth case. Holmes was not without talent; 

1 "William Pinkney, the former ambassador to London, appointed in Bayard's 
place as Minister to Russia, had been also commissioned to take Naples in his 
way, and to ask payment for the vessels and cargoes formerly confiscated by Mu- 
rat. But the restored Bourbon Government seemed to think it strange, as ap- 
peared from the correspondence now laid before Congress, that this demand had 
never been pressed upon Murat himself during the years he had continued in 


did. Of his political course nothing is said, except once in a while 
it will be gently suggested that it is out of the question as to his 
being President. We have a valuable acquisition in Burrill and 
Crittenden. Eppes is a man of some grit, and not troublesome. 
Barbour continues his ore rotuyulo eloquence. "My maxim, Mr. 
President," said he the other day, "is ficd justitia mat coelum, and 
leave the balance to Heaven." His wife has been here with him, 
and is a very excellent woman, as many of the Virginia ladies are. 
If my business will permit, I shall visit your place the ensuing 
summer, in which case I shall certainly call on you and Mrs. M., 
to whom please tender my regards. 

Yours very respectfully, 

David Daggett. 


Portsmouth, April 13, 1818. 

My Dear Sir, — I am greatly obliged by your letter (without 
date) received about three weeks ago. I was struck with your 
views of our public concerns, some of which were entirely new to 
me. I think the present session of Congress, which has been so 
peaceable and done so little, must terminate in worse humor and 
with less placid prospects than it commenced. Storms threaten 
sooner than I expected. I had anticipated for the country a few years 
of quiet rest, during which the strong jealousies and angry (200) 
passions might, in some measure, subside. I still think a great 

had much self-conceit, always cool and self-possessed; was a scheming, busy, 
restless, rollicking politician. Had broad, course wit, stinging repartee, more than 
once silencing John Randolph, and delighted the hoi-polloi, and kept every country 
bar-room in a roar by his questionable stories, but was out of place in Marshall's 
Court, pitted against such a man as Webster, as it was possibly to be. He had 
neither taste, time, inclination, the mentality to grasp, prepare and argue a case 
like this. 

power. They disclaimed any responsibility for the acts of a usurper by whom 
they had suffered still more than the Americans; and notwithstanding the display 
of a naval force before Naples, — the new seventy-four Washington, and several 
sloops-of-war, — Pinkney had left for Russia without being able to obtain any 
recognition of the claim." — Hildreth's History of the United States, vol. vi. p. 610. 






majority of all political parties are desirous of remaining at rest. 
They have become fatigued with party dissensions, and expect no 
benefit from their continuance. But our people are so easily ex- 
cited, that a little matter will answer the purpose. I fully agree with 
you that the President's smiling dispensation of promiscuous com- 
placency must soon cease to have any effect. He may probably 
soon find himself involved in unexpected turmoil. Among other 
difficulties which are pressing on him, I do not see how he is to dis- 
pose of the subject of internal improvements which he flattered him- 
self he had got rid of, with great adroitness, by requesting Congress 
not to quarrel with him about it. With his professed opinion, how 
can he assent to the appropriation of money for this object. Under 
the management of corporations created by the States, as seems to 
be intended by Congress, this indirect mode of pursuing the object 
does not, as I think, free the measure in any degree from the sup- 
posed constitutional difficulty, but subjects it to other weighty ob- 

Both from the manner and matter of Mr. Adams' answer to poor 
Don Onis, I infer that the administration has no fear of a war with 
Spain. There are many obvious reasons why Spain ought to avoid 
a conflict with us. But if her councils are as weak and mad as is 
generally represented, there can be no safe reliance on her prudence 
or forbearance. 

I have been somewhat amused with Mr. Pinkney's statement of 
the result of his mission to Naples. I wish our merchants had 
their rights; yet recollecting the degrading manner in which his 
renomination was pressed on the Senate, I cannot much regret to see 
the exact fulfillment of your prophecy. The bill prohibiting British 
vessels from their colonies from an entry in our ports, which passed 
the Senate so unanimously, excites considerable attention in this quar- 
ter where that trade is deemed of importance. The expectation 
is that the British will succumb, as they did in the case of the (201) 


Plaster Act of the last session.^ Should this expectation be disap- 
pointed and the trade be destroyed, it will cause much clamor among 

lAn act approved March 3, 1817, forbidding the importation of plaster in 
foreign vessels from countries whence vessels of the United States were not 
allowed to bring it, 


our traders. I think, however, it will be better for the country in 
the end that the trade should be destroyed than to be carried on as 
it now is by the exclusion of our vessels. 

I am sincerely and faithfully yours, J. Mason. 


Portsmouth, April 19, 1818. 

My DEAR Mary, — I advised you when at home, so fully, on 
what I thought required your strict attention, that it may seem un- 
necessary to enlarge on those topics. But my affection for you and 
anxiety for your welfare induce me to restate a few ideas. 

To arrive at great excellence in any of your pursuits, you must 
entirely conquer all that indolence and listlessness, to which, either 
from natural disposition or habit, I fear you are a good deal subject. 
You must acquire more energy and force of mental exertion. This 
is to be attained by a vigorous and continued exercise of the powers 
of the mind. By such exercise, those powers will be greatly in- 
creased and sharpened. None of your studies are better calculated 
for this purpose than composition. I wish you therefore to pay 
special attention to it. Write long pieces. After reading and think- 
ing on the subject on which you are to write, express your ideas, in 
the first instance, rapidly and boldly, as they occur. The great ob- 
ject is to secure the ideas ; this must be done without much atten- 
tion to their dress. You may afterwards, at leisure, dress them in 
the most appropriate language you can, and if necessary, new-model 
the sentences. This however is a matter of minor importance. If 
you have good strong ideas, you will soon learn to express them well 
enough. In attempting composition you must not suffer yourself 
to be restrained hy diffidence, or false delicacy, but exert boldly (202) 
all the powers you have. Never encourage with yourself a low and 
mean opinion of your own talents. This is often the effect of mere 
indolence. In most pursuits, a firm resolution to excel, and per- 
severing diligence, will secure success. Without them nothing very 
estimable ever was, or will be attained. • 

This same zealous and ardent exertion, with resolute persever- 
ance, is necessary for your success, whatever be the object of your 
pursuit. Even in manners and external accomplishments, nothing 


can be done without it. I strongly urge your attention to this, be- 
cause I fear you are somewhat deficient in this particular. I hope 
the plain manner I use will not hurt your feelings. No other would 
be likely to do any good. 

I suppose Alfred has given you all the family and town news. 
Your affectionate father, J. M. 


Crawford's, Apy-il 21, 1818. 

Dear Sir, — I yesterday received your obliging letter of April 13, 
in which you acknowledge the receipt of one from me without date. 
Congress adjourned last evening. Except laws that will require 
the payment of a good deal of money out of the treasury, we have 
done nothing that is mischievous, as a great many private money 
bills did not pass by reason of the delay in getting them sufficiently 
forward. The evil is not as great as a longer session would have 
made it. The pension to Revolutionary officers and soldiers will, 
as I expect, turn out much greater than was anticipated. The com- 
prehension of all who served for the term of nine months and more, 
was imprudent. 

I was inclined to have confined the provisions to the officers, but 
could meet with no support. The soldiers were paid high bounties, 
and clothed and fed. Not so the officers. I would have gone as far 
as to include all the soldiers who were in the Continental army 
when it was discharged, but this was discrimination, and (203) 
it was with difficulty that the mihtia was shut out. The sailors go 
in, notwithstanding their prize money. 

For manufacturers, we have raised the import duty on iron in 
bars, from nine to fifteen dollars per ton, with a correspondent in- 
crease of the import on nails, spikes, and iron castings. The twenty- 
five per cent, on cotton and woolen goods, which was limited to 1819, 
has been extended to 1826, by which time, with this encouragement, 
our own manufactures will or ought to be so established, that coarse 
cottons and fine woolens may perhaps be prohibited from abroad. 

We have moreover passed a navigation law that, after September, 
closes our ports against British vessels coming from British ports 
closed against American vessels. This is a strong measure, but 


called for, as I believe, by a just regard for American navigation. 
We are independent of Great Britian for supplies of sugar, coffee, 
rum, etc. Whether she be alike independent of us for live stock, 
provisions, bread-stuffs, timber, lumber, staves, and heading is to be 
now ascertained. Perhaps the ports of Bermuda and the Bahamas, 
which are open to as, may still enable the English ships to carry on 
a disproportionate share of this intercourse ; if so, we must go further 
when we see the operation of the new law. It must be made effect- 
ual so far as to secure to us an equal share at least of the naviga- 
tion. If England still continues to say that we have nothing to 
give her for admitting out money and ships in her East Indies; 
we may say in return: Be it so if you think so; but if you will not 
allow us to go and buy your East India fabrics, we will not allow 
them to be brought by you to our country, nor indeed will we allow 
them to be used or consumed by our people; in a word, the letter 
and spirit of the law (which passed with great unanimity, and which 
never at any former time would have passed at all), closes our ports 
against British vessels from any British port or place closed against 
American vessels. 

I gave all my heart and all my strength, with all my hopes of suc- 
cess to this measure, which in principle is incomparably the most im- 
portant law ever passed on this, and perhaps on any other (204) sub- 
ject. England at this day, by the extension of her commercial sta- 
tions throughout the world, and the application of her navigation law 
to this extension of dominion, has effectively monopolized a great por- 
tion of the navigation necessary to carry on the commerce of the 
world. As respects others she is now more disproportionately in pos- 
session of the general commerce of nations than the Dutch were in 
the middle of the seventeenth century ; and our laws must check her, 
as her navigation laws have checked and broken down the Dutch. 
Don't understand me that I expect or desire any breaking down of 
England; but I do hope that, if faithful to ourselves, we shall oblige 
England to let us in for a fair share of the general trade carried on 
between the nations of the earth. Farewell. 

Yours, R. K, 



Portsmouth, May 15, 1818. 
Dear Sir, — I thank you for your letter of 21st April. I have 
understood from the first that the Navigation Act was yours. I am 
sensible of its importance, and am glad to learn that it accords with 
the public sentiment more universally than could have been ex- 
pected. To attain your object, probably other acts regulating the 
intercourse with certain licensed ports will be necessary. With that 
view the favorable inclination of the public opinion to the measure 
is very important. I think it is matter of deep regret that we have 
not a more able man as minister at London, to explain our objects 
and prevent irritation. "" From the importance and idle loquacity of 
the present minister little can be expected. I have been told you 
may have a re-election to the Senate, if you should be inclined to 
accept it. I most ardently wish that both you and your State may be 
so disposed. I am confident that a great portion of the best men in 
the country, and including very many of the better informed Demo- 
crats, would consider your absence from the public councils a national 
loss. I hope no ordinary consideration will induce you to (205) 
retire. In the breaking up of old party connections, and the conse- 
quent unsettled state of feelings and opinions, it is impossible to 
foresee what new views and objects may be speedily presented. 

Among orthodox candidates for the chief magistracy no one pre- 
sents a character eminently entitled to public confidence. I re- 
ceived, by your frank from Philadelphia, an English paper contain- 
ing a letter from our Governor Plumer to Mr. Bentham. The Gov- 
ernor certainly did not intend that letter for a newspaper. I think 
it is best he should hear of it before he makes his speech to the 
Legislature. There is, however, no danger of his doing any mischief 
in this matter. It is impossible to make our Legislature sufficiently 

a Richard Rush, of Philadelphia, late Attorney-General of the United States, 
was our Minister to England. Born 1780, died 1859. He was a native of Phila- 
delphia; graduated at Princeton, 1797; admitted to the bar, 1800; Attorney- 
General of Pennsylvania, 1811; Attorney-General of the United States, 1814-16; 
in 1817, was for a short time acting Secretary of State, and was that year sent 
to England as Minister Plenipotentiary, where he remained till 1825; Secretary 
of the Treasury, 1825-29; candidate with J. Q. Adams for Vice-President, in 
1828; was sent to secure the money left by James Smithson to found the Smith- 
sonian Institution, by Jackson, in 1836; Minister to France, 1837-51. 


understand Bentham's impracticable projects, to induce them to 
attempt their adoption. His Utopian plans are too deep, as well as 
abstract, to attract the attention of any of our Legislatures. Mr. 
Bentham, as I suppose you know, addressed a circular to all our gov- 
ernors, after having been rejected by Mr. Madison and the Emperor 
Alexander. His system, as far as I understand it, is the supposed 
result of reason, applied to the nature of man, without any regard 
to previous laws, habits, and prejudices. This may suit metaphysi- 
cians, but would make sad work with everybody else. As the good 
people of Connecticut are about forming a new plan of government, 
I should like to see them try an experiment with Bentham's system. 
I am sincerely and faithfully yours, J. Mason. 


Jamaica, L. I., May 19, 1818. 

My Dear Sir, — I received this evening your obliging letter of 
the 15th, and as my frank will expire to-morrow, I avail myself of it 
to make you my acknowledgments, and to say a few words on the 
subject of my continuance in the Senate. I am neither informed, nor 
curious to be so, whether there is a disposition in our Legislature to 
reappoint me. I shall neither decline nor solicit a reappointment; 
and should that event happen, would continue to take my seat (206) 
so long as my own comfort and convenience would permit me to do so. 

You are correct. Ulterior provisions may and probably will be 
requisite to carry the Navigation Act into effect. I with you regret 
that we are without an able man in England, and the more so as I 
have little or no expectation that England will view this law in the 
light that they ought to consider it ; they will be likely to look back 
to former acts intended to disserve them, which we have revoked 
because we found that they disserved ourselves. The present meas- 
ure rests upon this proposition, — the trade, or rather navigation, 
must be reciprocal, or it must not be allowed to exist. The greatest 
difficulty that I anticipate is in the regulation of the intercourse be- 
tween our frontiers and the contiguous English provinces. The 
question is wholly untouched at present. We shall be better able 
hereafter to examine it, as well as the intercourse that will be car- 


ried on with the colonial free ports. Our next session may probably 
be an interesting though short one. 

With regards to Mrs. Mason, I remain, my dear Sir, with great 
regard, Your obedient and faithful servant, 

RUFUS King. 


Portsmouth, December 13, 1818. 

My Dear Sir,— If I had any sufficient apology for my negligence 
in having so long omitted to write you, I should not fail to avail my- 
self of it; as the matter is, I can only assure you, it has not been 
occasioned by any want of respect or affection. 

I know you must have been rejoiced to hear that Mr. Gore has, 
in some measure, recovered his strength and health. I saw him in 
October, when he appeared much better in all respects than he has at 
any time since his sickness at Washington. Mr. Webster, who was 
here a few days ago, says he continues to gain strength and that 
his friends entertain hopes that he may recover the use of his (207) 
lame knee. It he does, I hope he will not again attempt the severe 
exercise he formerly used, and which I believe was injurious to him. 
Judge Story showed me last autumn a letter which he had received 
from your friend. Sir William Scott. The Judge had sent him sev- 
eral volumes of "Reports of Decisions in the Supreme Court of the 
United States," and I believe a volume of cases in the circuit. Sir 
William speaks of our courts in terms very civil and complimentary, 
and expresses his satisfaction at seeing certain principles acknowl- 
edged, the application of some of which by him, we have heretofore 
supposed bore rather too hard on our neutral rights. He invites a 
continuance of the correspondence, with which the Judge is, as he 
ought to be, much gratified. 

You had at the last session subjects of more interest and impor- 
tance under consideration than had been generally expected. The 
same is likely to be the case at the present session. The concerns of 
the nation are increasing, both in number and extent, with a rapidity 
far beyond ordinary calculation. The inquiry authorized by the 
House of Representatives into the doings of the Bank of the United 


States, excites considerable interest in this quarter, where all feeling 
on political subjects has for some time been apparently extinct. You 
know we are supposed to love money better than anything else. 
I do not perceive in what way that inquiry can do much good. 
I know but little of the doings of the Bank. In its origin, we sup- 
posed it was intended to be made in a special manner subservient 
to the views and interests of its patrons. I presume, from the 
stories of Bank speculations which are told, that object has been 
attained ; this evil can be prevented by no other means that I perceive 
than a radic^ change in the direction, and I know not how that is 
to be effected, except by a change in the ownership of the stock; 
this, if any remedy, must be a slow one. A miserable branch was 
established in this place and placed under the management of 
officers and directors entirely unsuitable for the trust; no application 
was made to anybody here worthy of confidence to name proper 
persons to take charge of it. I was appointed in the (208) first board 
of directors, at whose nomination I never knew nor inquired. Not 
liking the company they had associated me with, I immediately de- 
clined having anything to do with it. 

From the "Proceedings of Jackson's Court Martial," it seems 
the two unfortunate men he executed were in no way guilty of the 
charge of having acted as spies. If so, I see no ground on which 
their execution is to be justified. I fear this hasty and sanguinary 
act will be found to be entirely unjustifiable. 

I do not know what credit to give the newspaper report, that a 
treaty is concluded with England, embracing all the points in dis- 
pute. From the notice in the President's message, that it had been 
agreed to extend the period of the duration of the present conven- 
tion, it was not expected a new treaty was so soon to be entered into. 
If such a treaty has been made, I presume your Navigation Act 
must have been greatly conducive to it. 

^ Andrew Jackson (1757-1845). A Tennessee soldier, statesman and farmer. 
He helped frame the Constitution of Tennessee; Representative in Congress, 
1796; United States Senator, 1797; Judge Supreme Court of Tennessee, 1798- 
1804; hero of War of '12; first Governor of Florida; again United States Sena- 
tor, 1823; had the highest number of votes for President of United States, but 
not a majority, 1824, and the choice was thrown into the House of Representatives 
and J. Q. Adams was chosen; President of United States, 1829-37. Had unbend- 



Mrs. Mason joins, me in best respects to Mrs. King, who, we are 
informed, is with you at Washington. 

I am, my dear Sir, as ever sincerely and faithfully yours, 

J. Mason. 

ing will-power, an abhorrence of debt, public and private, and during his presi- 
dency the debt of the United States was fully paid in 1835; disliked banks, and 
the love of hard money, justice and his country were ruling passions. Fought 
many duels, was chivalrous with women; retired after the presidency to the 
"Hermitage,"' consisting of about 1,000 acres, some twelve miles out from Nash- 
ville, Tenn., where he died. 

''■ -nrn 

nn I 



Correspondence during the Years 1819 and 1820 — Letters to and from Mr. King, 
Mr. Gore, Mr. Webster, Dr. Appleton, and Judge Story, — Mr. Mason a mem- 
ber of the New Hampshire House of Representatives in 1820. — Report and 
Resolutions upon certain Resolutions of the State of Virginia upon the Ad- 
mission of Missouri, sent to the Governor of New Hampshire. 


Waltham, January 20, 1819. 

My Dear Sir, — You will perceive by Governor Brooks' speech, 
or rather message, that he has been induced to join in hosannas to 
the present administration, and to express an entire confidence in 
our national rulers. This may be presumed to have arisen from a 
disposition to conciliate Mr. Monroe's friends to the claim of Mas- 
sachusetts for the reimbursement of her expenses in the last war. 
Its efficacy I doubt. It is not easy to discern, if the Legislature 
respond to this sentiment as was intended how Massachusetts can 
have any other candidate for the Presidency at the next election, if 
power continues in the present hands. 

Mr. Adams seems to have taken the course in his essay on the 
Seminole war and the murder of Ambrister and Arbuthnot, — for 
I feel it to be this crime, — which his enemies would have pointed out 
to him as most calculated to promote their views. ^ 

If Mercer does justice to the subject, — and I am much inclined 
to hope and believe he will, — I think the noble Secretary will writhe 

1 Arbuthnot and Ambrister were two British subjects, tried by court mar- 
tial for aiding and abetting the Seminoles in their war with the United States in 
1818. Arbuthnot was condemned to death, and Ambrister to be whipped and 
imprisoned; but General Jackson ordered them both to be executed. This affair, 


under the lashes which he has most indiscreetly and unnecessarily 
courted. Your faithful friend, 

C. Gore. 


Portsmouth, January 31, 1819. 

My Dear Sir, — I doubt whether Governor Brooks' lofty praise 
of Mr. Monroe will have much tendency to procure the allowance of 
your militia claim. The course adopted by the minority in your 
Senate will, in my opinion, have a much stronger tendency the other 
way. Had your Legislature humbled themselves before the Govern- 
ment of the United States by adopting the resolution proposed by 
General King, it might have had some effect. It must be a consider- 
able object with the Government of the United States to have the 
question concerning the command of the militia amicably settled in 
its favor. And the quiet, humble submission of Massachusetts, 
the great State of this section and constant leader in all rebellions, 
would go far to settle it. As long as it shall be believed at Wash- 
ington that you may be brought to this submission, your claim 
will not be admitted without it. Whether you would not by such 
course lose more in character than the money is worth, ought to be 
considered. I think the best way for the Federalists would have 
been, fairly to have met and discussed the subject in Congress, and 
if rejected, as it probably would have been, to have said no more about 
it. While the matter remains at it now does, the claim will be a 
standing bribe to the Federalists to degrade themselves, and if not 
effectual for that purpose, it will in the end bribe the good people 
of Massachusetts to elect rulers who can adopt the proposed 
resolution without feeling any degradation. I agree with you in 
opinion of the character of General Jackson's conduct, and am 
glad to see the subject taken up with so much spirit in the (211) 
House of Representatives of the United States. I hope the debate 

which caused much excitement both in England and America, illustrates General 
Jackson's iron will and reckless disregard of consequences, as well as the un- 
bounded influence which he had acquired by his successful defense of New Or- 
leans. Mr. Adams, to the regret of many of his friends, defended General Jack- 
son's course. 


will terminate in a censure of Jackson. I really think it a national 
concern. The barbarous conduct of Jackson and his court-martial, 
and not less barbarous doctrine by which it is attempted to be justi- 
fied, will, unless disclaimed, disgrace us in the opinion of the civil- 
ized world. My winter courts are just commencing, in which I ex- 
pect to be shut up for the ensuing five weeks. I do not greatly dis- 
like the labor of itself, but, unfortunately, the subjects of litigation 
in our courts are for the most part too trivial and unimportant to 
excite much interest. Mrs. Mason and Mary desire me to present to 
you and Mrs. Gore their kindest regards. 

I am sincerely and faithfully yours, J. Mason. 


Portsmouth, January 31, 1819. 

My DEAR Sir, — Last summer I neglected my duty by omitting 
to write to you. In the first part of the present session of Congress, 
I did write to you, and on both occasions I have met with a like 
reward in your silence. 

The discussion, still going on as I suppose in the House of Rep- 
resentatives, concerning General Jackson and his court martial, ex- 
cites very considerable interest in this section of the country. I am 
of opinion that Mr. Adams has lost credit with his New England 
friends, by his bold attempt at a jusification. I think it unfortunate 
for him that he did not confine himself to the repelling of the com- 
plaint of Spain, where there seems to be much ground for recrimina- 
tion at least, without attempting so broad and entire justification of 
the whole transaction in all respects. I see no ground on which the 
execution of Arbuthnot and Ambrister can be justified, nor much 
in the circumstances of the case to excuse the act, which must, in 
the common opinion of mankind, be held to have been cruel and 
barbarous. I presume there is no real apprehension that Congress 
will attempt to obtain a forfeiture of the charter of the (212) 
Bank of the United States. The stock may now be purchased sev- 
eral per cent, below par. I am told it is the opinion of some shrewd 
men in money calculations, that it will soon rise again above par. 
It would seem probable this will be the case, if the direction gets 


into better hands, unless the concerns of the Bank have been so 
badly managed as to occasion a great eventual loss. I know you 
cannot have troubled yourself to have formed any opinion on this 
subject as to money-making projects, yet you probably have an 
opinion of what will be the result. If so I shall be obliged to you 
for it. I have thought of investing a sum of money in the stock of 
the Bank. What is the probability of a change in the Board of Di- 
rectors at the next election. 

With my best regards to Mrs. King, I am, as always, 
Sincerely and faithfully yours, 

J. Mason. 


Washington, February 4, 1819. 

My Dear Sir, — Since my arrival here, I have been all the time 
in court, and can therefore as yet say nothing more than I have 
seen and heard here. Most of the judges came here with opinions, 
drawn in the College cause. On the other side a second argument, 
as you know, was expected. Dr. Perkins had been a week at Bal- 
timore, conferring with Mr. Pinkney. Mr. Pinkney came up on 
Monday. On Tuesday morning, he being in court, as soon as the 
judges had taken their seats, the Chief Justice said that in vacation 
the judges had formed opinions in the College cause. He then 
immediately began reading his opinion, and, of course, nothing was 
said of a second argument. Five of the judges concurred in the re- 
sult, and I believe most or all of them will give their opinions to the 
reporter. Nothing has been said in court about the other causes. 
Mr. Pinkney says he means to argue one of them; but I think he 
will alter his mind. There is nothing left to argue on. (213) 
The Chief Justice's opinion was in his own peculiar way. He rea- 
soned along from step to step; and, not referring to the cases, 
adopted the principles of them, and worked the whole into a close, 
connected, and very able argument. Some of the other judges, I 
am told, have drawn opinions with more reference to authorities. 
Judge Bell's case I expect to come on in two or three days. I am 


alone in it, and must do as well as I can. I have not been in Con- 
gress; and have seen very few members. The House is yet in the 
Seminole war; afterwards comes the Bank, and near to that, I think, 
comes the third of March. I do not think there is any chance for 
the Bankrupt Bill, or the Circuit Court Bill, this session. I 'have 
not seen Mr. King. It is not thought here that he will be re-elected. 
I shall write you again,' as soon as I have acquainted myself with 
the topics that float in the Congress circles. Mr. Bagot returns to 
England in the spring. Yours truly, 

Daniel Webster. 


Crawford's, Fehmary 7, 1819. 

Dear Sir, — I received last evening your letter of the 31st past. 
As I in due course received that which you were good enough to write 
to me in the beginning of the session, I have had no reason for my 
omission in writing to you in return, not having anything of interest 
or importance, except what the newspapers publish, to communicate. 
I have, except the little tittle-tattle to you, written rarely to any one. 

The Jackson debate, which has been going on for three weeks, un- 
less terminated last night, still continues, and it is quite likely that 
it will be also taken up in the Senate, though altogether against my 
inclination. I misinterpret very much the true meaning of this de- 
bate, if other objects than to criticize and censure Jackson have not 
a prevailing influence in the bringing it forward, and ascribing to it 
so much importance. The periodical election of President is (214) 
without doubt the only plan by which the executive could, or should 
in the actual condition of the country, be provided, but it is not and 
cannot be doubted, that this election, except perhaps in rare in- 
stances, such as those of Washington and Jefferson, — will at all 
times employ the vigilance, awaken the hopes, and excite the passions 
of a large portion of the public men of the nation ; and in a special 
manner will it have this effect on every question that rouses the pas- 
sions or excites the prejudices which always exist in popular govern- 

Whether new combinations and positive efforts will show them- 


selves at the next election is more than lean determine; but I think 
that the attempt to substitute a successor, is as likely to occur as not 
to occur. This must be left to the future. The Bank fever — for it 
really amounts to fever — is quite another affair. The bad admin- 
istration of the officers of this company, the little fulfillment of the 
expectations and predictions that the projectors of the bank en- 
couraged and made, the positive dif!iculties of the country by reason 
of the number of banks and the excess of paper, have produced a very 
general dissatisfaction, and the disappointment is altogether ascribed 
to the Bank of the United States. 

You well understand how very few men have any correct notions 
on the subject of money as a currency ; and will therefore easily com- 
prehend the confusion of ideas, the utter ignorance of a correct the- 
ory, as well as the rash and intemperate measures, which, in the pres- 
ent critical, and in my view dangerous condition of the currency may 
manifest themselves. According to what I hear, the House of Rep- 
resentatives are without any guide or plan. They are angry and in- 
temperate; and the difficulties of the State Banks, especially in the 
interior and western world, prepare most of the members from these 
quarters for any measures which would put down the Bank of the 
United States. Proposition on proposition unfavorable to the bank, 
without a word from any one by way of excuse or support, may, — 
and if the course be persisted in, probably will — shake the public 
confidence, and create a run on the bank and its branches (215) 
which they may be unable to meet. If the Bank of the United States 
stop, all the other banks south of New England must stop also, and 
we may be thrown into even a worse condition than we were at the 
close of the war. My own wish has been that the stockholders should 
be convened; that they should purge the direction of all the specu- 
lators and stock-jobbers ; that they should apply for authority to re- 
duce their capital, which might be done without dif!iculty to the 
amount of the hypothecated shares (some eight or ten millions) ; that 
the President in co-operation with the stockholders, should name four 
men of very respectable standing as the government directors, and 
that the new board should go to work soberly, diligently, and with all 
the information which they possessed or could acquire, to administer 
the Bank with prudence, and so that it might in some satisfactory 
degree fulfill the expectations of the government and the public. But 


whether this or any other good course will be adopted, I am unable to 
say; or whether the House of Representatives may not disapprove 
every attempt to correct the past errors and mistakes which have been 
committed, is beyond my power to predict. I say nothing of the Sen- 
ate, where the subject is scarcely spoken of. The Jackson case en- 
gages much of their attention; and if I read men correctly a major- 
ity of the Senate, some from one, others from another motive, would 
pass a vote of censure on Jackson, thereby imparting censure to the 
President, and his minister Mr. Adams. 

You will see the new treaty with England. This being effected, 
Mr. Bagot, having obtained leave of absence, is soon to return home ; 
as the Wellingtons are in great consideration — through them he 
may expect a more agreeable mission. 

From France we have nothing, and I believe expect nothing. It 
is said Gallatin desires to come home ; it has been said so for a year 
or more, but he has not asked for leave. 

Erving is coming home from Madrid. He asked leave of ab- 
sence on account of health — it will be granted, and he will be laid by. 
(216) Forsyth will succeed him, and will be nominated at the close of 
this session. 

Don Onis has received further instructions, by which he is au- 
thorized to yield the Floridas, the United States taking their claimants 
oiT from Spain and engaging to satisfy them ; and instead of the line 
of the Sabine from its mouth to its source, and thence north to the 
Missouri, and up the same to the Rocky Mountains, and along the 
Rocky Mountains north or south to the forty-first degree of latitude, 
and on that parallel to the Pacific, heretofore offered by Spain as our 
western and southern boundary, Don Onis is said to be now author- 
ized to take the Sabine from its mouth to its source, thence north to 
the Red River, and up the same to certain high lands far west, along 
the same northerly to the Arkansas River, up the same to the Rocky 
Mountains, along the same northerly to the forty-first degree, and so 
to the ocean on that parallel. 

It is said the Western people here object, and insist on going 
west on the Gulf of Mexico, to the Colorado River. What are the 
views of the Executive, I do not know; but I have not the smallest 
hesitation in the opinion that we ought immediately to conclude with 
Spain on this boundary. We have enough, more than enough of west- 

(Wife of James Madison.) 


ern territory, and it is the highest imprudence to grasp at more. 
Having settled the north boundary of Louisiana with England, our 
people cannot be restrained from emigrating further and further to 
the West. Two, three, some say five regiments are to be sent to the 
mouth of the Yellow Stone River, which constitutes the great fork 
of the Missouri ; this fork is about fourteen degrees of longitude west 
of the Mississippi, which is about thirteen degrees west of this place. 
The first consequence of this unnecessary project will be an In- 
dian war; and it will be the most formidable Indian war in point of 
numbers in which we have been engaged; but as these Indians are 
badly armed, and their country an open one, they will be beaten and 
the regular army with the numerous body of militia will take a lik- 
ing to the country, which they will begin to settle, and the (217) 


money expended by the old States will enable them to do so without 
great inconvenience ; especially as the Indian war that will be long 
and moderate, will continue to furnish the requisite supplies. The de- 
mands and strength of the West are increasing daily, and the vigor, 
decision, and union of the old States decrease in a fully equal degree. 
I could give you an interesting potion on this subject; but if there be 
none who care for what is going on, why should one endeavor to ex- 
cite solicitudes which would be useless and therefore should not be 

I am at the end of my paper, so farewell, 

RuFUS King. 


Washington, February 15, 1819. 

My dear Sir, — I am determined to write you a letter before I 
sleep, although this doing nothing I find to be the most busy employ- 
ment on earth. To talk is so much the practice, that in the few caus- 
es I have, I find my attention wholly engaged in listening. We have, 
for instance, an equity case here from Massachusetts District. Mr. 
Bigelow, Mr. Amory, and myself argued it in half a day in Boston. 
It comes up here on precisely the same papers and same points. We 
have now been two whole days upon it, and Wirt is not yet through 
for appellee, and I am yet to close for appellant. In Mr. Bell's case, 


Mr. Pinkney" was near two hours in opening, and full four in the 
close. In that case we have no judgment yet. I think some impres- 
sion was made on our side, and I have hopes of the issue, but know 
nothing certain. 

I believe the terms of a treaty are nearly settled with Don Onis. 
United States to have Florida, and to pay our own citizens their 
claims on Spain, not exceeding five and a half millions. Our Govern- 
ment to appoint a Board of Commissioners to adjust their claims. 
The Western boundary I do not know; suppose, however, that the 
mouth of the Sabine on the Gulf, and somewhere (218) near the 

^ William Pinkney (1764-1822). American statesman and one of the lead- 
ing lawyers of the United States, born at Annapolis, Md. It was the opinion 
of Judge Joseph Story, George Ticknor, Jared Sparks, John Marshall, William 
Wirt, Rufus Choate, Henry Adams, Alfred Salem Miles, Judge R. B. Taney, 
the historians James Ford Rhodes and John B. MacMaster, that Pinkney had no 
equal as an orator and advocate at the bar. Says Rhodes: "Pinkney had served 
his country abroad with ability and honor, but he had won his greatest renown at 
the bar. When Daniel Webster came to Washington to practice in the Supreme 
Court, Pinkney was the acknowledged leader of American lawyers, and this 
surpassing eminence he held to the day of his death, although his position began 
to be shaken after the Boston lawyer had made the great argument in the Dart- 
mouth College case. Perhaps a perception of Webster's growing power and 
future rank led Pinkney to say to a friend and biographer that 'he did not desire 
to live a moment after the standing he had acquired at the bar was lost, or even 
brought into doubt or question.' "This great lawyer was as vain of a handsome 
face, accomplished manners, an elegant dress as he was of his legal acumen. 
Clad in the extreme of fashion, he preferred to be regarded an idle and polished 
man of society rather than to be looked upon as what he really was, an un- 
wearied student (as S. G. Goodrich, in his Recollections of a Life-time, Vol. 2, 
399, says : 'Always preparing his speeches with the utmost care, writing out 
the showy passages, and learning them by heart — a member of Monroe's Cabi- 
net once told me that he heard him about 5 o'clock of a winter's morning, reciting 
and committing to memory, in his room, the peroration of a plea, which he 
heard delivered the same day before the Supreme Court.') rehearsing in private 
the appropriate gestures and rhetorical points, he sought to convey the notion 
that he spoke on the spur of the moment.'" — James Ford Rhodes' Hist. U. S., Vol. 
1, 34. 

Perhaps no better pen-picture can be cited than that of George Ticknor's 
letters, written to a friend in Boston, in 1815. Mr. Ticknor heard the great 
lawyer argue on separate days The Frances and the Nereide cases, before the 
Supreme Court, in Washington. He wrote: "Pinkney was formed on Nature's 
most liberal scale, who, at the age of 50, is possessed with the ambition of be- 


mouth of the Columbia River on the Pacific, are the termini. How 
to run from point to point, I know not. I have no doubt the signing 
of such a treaty will be announced before Congress rises, though at 
present it is not wished, I understand, that much should be said about 
it. The judges' salaries have got through the House. Their fate in 
the Senate is uncertain, but I think they will get through. The heads 
of departments will not wish to trust the bill back in the House again. 
The Circuit Court Bill, it seems generally understood, will not be 
brought forward this session. Upon the whole, I am satisfied it 
should not be. Nothing has been as yet done with the Bankruptcy, 
and its seems too late to do anything. The question is before the 

ing a pretty fellow, wears corsets to diminish his bulk, uses cosmetics, as he 
told Mrs. Christopher Gore, to smooth and soften a skin growing somewhat 
wrinkled and rigid with age, and dresses in a style which would be thought fop- 
pish in a much younger man. * * * * -phe display was brilliant. Not- 
withstanding the pretension and vehemence of his manner — though he treated 
Mr. Emmett (Thos. A.), for whom I had been much interested yesterday, with 
somewhat coarse contempt — in short, notwithstanding there was in his speech 
great proof of presumption and affectation; yet, by the force of eloquence, 
logic, and legal learning, by the display of naked talent, he made his way over 
my prejudices and good feelings to my admiration and I had almost said, to my 
respect. He left his rival far behind him; he left behind him, it seemed to me at 
the moment, all the public speaking I had ever heard. With more cogency than 
Mr. Dexter (Samuel), he has more vivacity than Mr. Otis (Harrison Gray Otis) : 
with Mr. Sullivan's (George Sullivan) extraordinary fluency, he seldom or never 
fails to employ precisely the right phrase ; and with an arrangement as logical and 
luminous as Judge Jackson's, he unites an overflowing imagination. It is, how- 
ever, in vain to compare him with anybody or everybody whom we have been in the 
habit of hearing, for he is unlike and, I suspect, above them all. He spoke about 
three hours and a half {The Nereide case), and when he sat down, Emmiett rose 
very gravely. 'The gentleman,' said the grand Irishman, in a tone of repressed 
feeling which went to my heart, — 'the gentleman, yesterday announced to the 
Court his purpose to show that I was mistaken in every statement of facts and 
every conclusion of law which I had laid before it. Of his success to-day the 
Court alone have a right to judge; but I must be permitted to say in my estima- 
tion, the manner of announcing his threat of yesterday, and of attempting to 
fulfill it to-day, was not very courteous to a stranger, an equal, and one who is 
so truly inclined to honor his talents and learning. It is a manner which I am 
persuaded he did not learn in the polite circles of Europe, to which he referred, 
and which I sincerely wish he had forgotten there, wherever he may learnt 
it.' Mr. Pinkney replied in a few words of cold and inefficient explanation, 
which only made me think less well of him, and impelled me to feel sorry that I 
had been obliged so much to admire his high talents and success." 


Court whether the State Bankrupt Laws are valid. The general 
opinion is, that the six judges now here will be equally divided on 
the point. I confess, however, I have a strong suspicion there will be 
an opinion, and that that opinion will be against the State laws. If 
there were time remaining, the decision, should it happen, might help 
through the bill. The question between Maryland and the Bank, is to 
be argued this day week. I have no doubt of the result. Wirt and 
Pinkney still talk of arguing one of the College Causes. On our side 
we smile at this, not being able to suppose them serious. I hope 
they will not attempt it, as it would only lead to embarrassment about 
the facts. I should have no fears for the result. I am anxious to 
know how the decision is received in New England. Our New 
Hampshire members behaved very well on the subject of the judges' 
salaries, nothwithstanding this decision. Mr. Swan made a speech, 
and it is said a very good one, in their favor. Holmes opposed them 
with great violence. I wrote Judge Bell yesterday. You may say to 
him that nothing has occurred to-day indicative of a decision. 

Yours very truly, D. Webster. 


Washington, February 20, 1819. 

Dear Sir, — Some time since I wrote to you a letter, too long 
and too unimportant to be worth your deciphering. I now add a few 
lines to say that the treaty with Don Onis is settled, and the copies 
are preparing for signature on the 22d, when it will be laid before the 

Spain cedes the Floridas in sovereignty, and in consideration of 
this the United States release Spain from all claims by American citi- 
zens on account of illegal captures, condemnations, etc., etc., and en- 
gage to satisfy these claims to an amount not exceeding five millions 
of dollars. A commission to be established. The commissioners to be 
appointed by the President and Senate to liquidate and if necessary to 
apportion these claims. The boundary to be as follows. Beginning 
at the mouth of the Sabine River up the same to its source, then 
north to the Red River and up the same to the one hundredth degree 
of west longitude, thence north to the Arkansas River, and up the 


same to its source in the Rocky Mountains, and then north or south, 
as requisite, to the forty-second degree of north latitude and along 
this parallel to the Pacific Ocean. An article respecting the delivery 
of seamen deserting from the vessels of the two parties is also in- 
serted in the treaty. The settlement is one of much importance, as 
it will compose the temper of the zealous and turbulent men of the 
West who desire and would gladly engage in a Spanish war. As re- 
spects land, the Floridas we want ; of lands in the West we have al- 
ready more than enough."" 

I some time since made a motion to abolish all credit in the future 
sale of the public lands. A bill for this purpose has passed the Sen- 
ate, to take effect in July 1820. It should have been on the 1st of 
January next, and I am in hopes the House of Representatives will 
fix on this day. 

Already a debt of about fifteen million dollars is contracted. The 
debtors are scattered through and indeed compose the (220) popula- 
tion of four or five new States. Nine laws have in annual succession 
passed to postpone payments when due. A tenth is on its passage, 
and during the session a motion was made in the Senate to strike off 
the interest on the debt. Postponement is matter of course, abate- 
ment of interest would follow, and ultimately the release of the debt 
or separation. 

I consider the confining all future sales to cash payment the most 
important law that has been passed for several years. 

Very faithfully your. obedient servant, 

RuFUS King. 

a This is in line with Webster's opinion of the West, as when he said, upon 
a proposition before the Senate to establish a mail-route from Independence, 
Mo., to the mouth of the Columbia River: "What do we want with this vast, 
worthless area? This region of savages and wild beasts, of deserts, of shifting 
sands and whirlwinds of dust, of cactus and prairie-dogs? To what use could 
we hope to put these great deserts, or those endless mountain-ranges, impene- 
trable and covered to their very base with eternal snow? What can we ever 
hope to do with the Western coast, a coast of 3,000 miles, rock bound, cheerless, 
uninviting and not a harbor on it? What use have we for this country?" At 
another time Webster said that the port of San Francisco would be twenty times 
as valuable to us as all Texas. (This was in 1845.) 



Washington, February 23, 1819. 

My DEAR Sir, — I received your yesterday, enclosing a column 
of the "New Hampshire Gazette." The piece was probably written 

either by or the . The "Concord Patriot," I perceive, is 

full of stuff equally bad or worse. This is disreputable to our part of 
the country, and on that account is to be lamented. It will do no hurt 
here. Depend upon it the fate of the cause is fixed in this court. 
Messrs. Pinkney and Wirt talk of arguing one of the other causes 
when we reach them. Perhaps they will, but I very much doubt it. 
As to their facts which they say are new, they will, I apprehend, be 
told that if admitted, they would not alter the result; and in the next 
place that the court considers the recital of the charter as conclusive 
upon the facts contained in it. I hope we shall get to the causes in 
about a week ; and although Mr. Pinkney speaks of wishing the argu- 
ment to be next year, I shall endeavor to press the causes through to a 
final decision now. The unanimity of the court gives it great 
strength ; and they will be, if I mistake not, not at all inclined to leave 
the cause under any doubt whatever. In Judge Bell's case, the event 
is exceedingly doubtful. My belief is, there is a division on the bench. 
You may take it for true, at present, that Ch. J., L., and J.," are in 
favor of Bell; W., D., and (221) S.,'^ contra. It is not worth while to 
mention this, even to Mr. Bell. It is possible that further reflection 
may bring a majority to think alike, but I am fearful it must stand 
over and be argued again before Todd. You observed the fate of thel 
Insolvent Laws. The case between Maryland and the Bank is now on 
the carpet. I said what belonged to me yesterday. Hopkinson ans- 
wered. It will be further argued by Mr. Pinkney and Mr. Wirt on 
our side, and by Jones and Martin for the State; of the decision I 
have no doubt. We had a favorable decision yesterday in United 
States vs. Rice, about the goods imported into Castine, while the Brit- 
ish held that town. There will be nothing done against the bank. 

» "Ch. J." (Marshall); "L." (Brockholst Livingston), of New York; "J." 
(William Johnson), of South Carolina. 

b "W." (Bushrod Washington, of Virginia); "D." (Gabriel Duvall, of 
Maryland); "S." (Joseph Story, of Massachusetts). 


Lowndes' speech on Saturday shook the facts of the report essential- 
ly. I do not believe there will be fifty votes for doing anything. A 
treaty is concluded with Spain, The Floridas are ours. It will be 
speedily known. The treaty is now before the Senate. The Senate 
are very likely to censure Jackson. Goldsborough says there is a set- 
tled majority for doing so. Our great friend, however, will be the 
other way. It is said he was consulted on the subject last summer. 
Nothing has been said of the Judiciary Bill. It will probably not be 
stirred ; yet it is possible it may, but I think the chance very small. 
I have something to tell you when I see you on that subject, which 
will make you laugh. 

I beg you to give my love to Mrs. Mason and Mary, and all the 
children. I begin to be anxious to get off. A month is as long as 
Washington wears well. I hope to get away by the 5th or 6th of 
March. Yours very truly, 

D. Webster. 


Boston, April 13, 1819. 

My dear Sir, — .... I was yesterday at Salem. Judge Story 
has lost a daughter (the one who has so long been an invalid,) and 
Mrs Story is quite unwell but convalescent. He says he wishes the 
(222) circuit had commenced, that he might have employment and 
occupation. As to the College Cause, you may depend on it that there 
will be difficulty in getting delay in that case, without reason. I flat- 
ter myself the judge will tell the defendants, that the new facts which 
they talk of, were presented to the minds of the judges at Washing- 
ton, and that, if all proved, they would not have the least effect on 
the opinion of any judge; that unless it can be proved that the king 
did not grant such a charter as the special verdict recites, or that the 
New Hampshire General Court did not pass such acts as are therein 
contained, no material alteration of the case can be made. Our course 
will be to resist the introduction of evidence — on the ground of im- 
materiality, — being very liberal as to the sort of evidence which we 
care for, provided the facts proposed to be proved be admissible. Let 
Mr. Bartlett continue to understand that we shall resist all delay. 


You may take another thing for true, — Pinkney sent back this cause 
to get rid of it. He talked, however, and blustered, because among 
other reasons the party was in a fever and he must do something for 
his fees. As he could not talk in court, he therefore talked out of 
court. I believe his course is understood. Let us hope for the best, 
and by all means oppose protraction. Yours truly, 

D. Webster. 

N..B. To take away pretense of delay, suppose you tell Bartlett 
that we shall not require strict proof of any known fact if the court 
should think the fact material. 


Portsmouth, August 1, 1819. 

My DEAR Sir, — I trust you will not think me improperly intru- 
sive when I beg leave to offer you my most sincere condolence on the 
occasion of your late severe bereavement.' I should have done (223) 
so sooner, but I felt unwilling to break in upon your deep affliction. 
I know that your habitual mastery of your feelings and discipline of 
your temper which I have supposed you possessed in an extraordinary 
degree, will enable you much better than anything I can suggest, to 
bear with equanimity and fortitude your present sufferings however 

If the sympathy of the most cordial friendship can afford you a 
momentary consolation, be assured, my dear Sir, you have it; your 
uniform kindness to me excited a gratitude and friendship which I 
shall continue to feel while any feelings remain. 

I am sincerely and faithfully yours, 

J. Mason. 


Brunswick, August 11, 1819. 

My DEAR Brother, — I write you under the influence of those 
grateful and affectionate feelings which your kindness in general, 
particularly that which you have recently manifested, tends to ex- 

1 The death of Mrs. King. 


cite. Conscious that during the years of our frequent intercourse 
we have introduced much more seldom than we ought that subject 
which infinitely more than all others concerns us both. I would 
make some amends for it at this late period by writing with freedom 
what I know you will read with seriousness and candor. 

I now view myself, as you know, at no great distance from the 
eternal world. Infinitely important consideration! I can therefore 
better than ever judge of the value of religion, though on account of 
its increasing apparent magnitude, find myself less than ever able to 
express that value. My present object is, by dear Sir, to press this 
subject on your attention. 

Permit me to remind you that the elevated talents which you 
possess, carry with them no ordinary portion of responsibility, and 
render religion to you, both as it respects your personal security and 
salvation, and your influence on others, really of more moment (224) 
than it is to ordinary men. Your talents and general deportment 
have acquired for you a great influence with the public. Should this 
be thrown with decision on the side of religion, how happy, in all 
probability would be the result. 

Not doubting that you consider the Scriptures as the word of 
God, I do most earnestly and affectionately entreat you by humble and 
devout study of them, to ascertain what are the conditions of being 
saved, and further to bestow on the subject of your own salvation 
that attention which its vast importance so evidently demands. This, 
my dear brother, is only an appeal to reason, — only a request that 
objects may be regarded according to their real worth. We have 
polluted hearts, which must be changed by the power of divine grace. 

August 12. — Since writing what goes before I have been re- 
minded that my time is short, as I have raised much bloody matter 
and considerable fresh blood, all which I have no doubt came from the 

Allow me to suggest that though at present you are in great 
prosperity, it must at some period terminate. Your friend Mr. King 
is depressed, you informed me, by the loss of his wife. Your friend 
Mr. Gore is laboring under a painful, perhaps fatal disease. I men- 
tion this to show that earthly happiness must not content us, it will 
soon vanish. The soul, my dear brother, and eternity, are the objects 
for which we must chiefly provide. 


When we took leave a few days since, you kindly said, ''God grant 
I may see you again, and in better health." This desire, I think will 
not be granted, but God will do well. I desire humbly to submit to 
his will. I desire humbly to throw myself at the Saviour's feet, dis- 
claiming most emphatically every hope of justification but through 
his all-suflficient atonement. Give my affectionate love to Sister 
Mason and the children. 

And now, dear Sir, God grant I may see you and in a better 
world! Your affectionate and grateful Brother, 

J. Appleton: 

29 (225) 

October 2. 

My dear Sir, — When the preceding was written, viewing death 
as quite near, I had designed that the letter should not be sent till 
after that event should occur. In great mercy God is preserving me 
and rendering me on the whole rather more comfortable than I was 
at Commencement. Under the influence of the same affections which 
dictated the letter, I now send it, praying that its contents may ap- 
pear as important to you as they do to me. While I feel an interest 
in anything of an earthly nature, I shall not be insensible to the wel- 
fare of my friends. Any information concerning yourself and fami- 
ly, especially George (who promises very abundantly in a kind letter 
to me,) will be highly acceptable. 


Portsmouth, Octobei- 11, 1819. 

My DEAR Brother, — I am fully sensible of the value of your 
kind and very interesting letter, and return you my most hearty 
thanks for it. During the long friendly intercourse from our first 
acquaintance in which I have always considered myself your debtor, 
I recollect no act on your part which makes so strong a claim to my 
gratutude as the present. I know that I have been too inattentive to 
the great and important subject of religion. I have occasionally 
thought of it with some degree of serious earnestness. But I must 
admit that I have neglected to bestow on it that ardent and habitual 
attention which its vast importance demands, I have found it much 


easier to make resolutions than to observe them, I hope and trust 
that the resolutions which I shall make in compliance with your 
friendly solicitations will be better observed and have more perma- 
nent effects. 

When I parted with you I entertained hopes (though I confess 
they were not sanguine) of your recovery. From all the accounts 
which I have since seen and heard my hopes are considerably in- 
creased. I understand your physicians do not think it expedient 
(226) that you should attempt to get into a milder clinaate for the en- 
suing winter, and that your opinion accords with them. If those who 
are most competent to judge continue to think so I have nothing to 
say. But should anything occur to change this opinion, I hope you 
will not permit any consideration of the expense to affect your de- 
termination. That may certainly be provided for without any difficul- 

I have just received a very pressing invitation from Mr. Gore to 
make him a visit. Mr. King is now with him at Waltham. I am 
very desirous of seeing both of them, and intend to go there and to 
Boston this week. Mrs. Mason will accompany me. 

Since he has been at home George has done quite as well as I 
had any reason to expect. He has been sufficiently diligent in his 
studies and more docile and tractable than I expected. 

Mrs. Mason and all the children desire to be affiectionately re- 
membered to you. 

I am, my dear Sir, sincerely and faithfully yours, 

J. Mason. 


Boston, November 15, 1819. 

My DEAR Sir, — Our family is in such a condition, as to health, 
that I do not see how it is possible for us to visit you this week. 
Our little girl has been sick and is now not well; and one of our 
domestics has a settled and very severe and dangerous typhus fever. 
Dr. Warren thinks her symptoms better to-day, although she is 
yet in danger. I regret this disappointment the more as there are 
some topics about which I wish to confer with you. The principal 


one is the Bank. All that was publicly done you have seen. Mr. 
Sears tells me, and wishes me to inform you, that there is no inten- 
tion of discontinuing the New Hampshire Branch. Perhaps you 
will not think it worth while to say much about this, however, at 
present. Our people here are making exertions to collect proxies, (227) 
with a view to the election, the first of January, and we beg you to 
look out for the New Hampshire votes. A list of directors was 
pretty much agreed on, at least for the Northern States, at Philadel- 
phia. It is intended that New York and Massachusetts shall have 
three each : New York, — Bronson, Gracie, and Bayard, probably. 
Massachusetts, — Lloyd, Silsbee, and, mirabile dictu, D. W. ! This 
last they will be laughed out of the notion of, and therefore pray 
say not a word about it. Our proxies here will be given to Mr. 
Lloyd or Mr. Silsbee, both of whom will attend the election. They 
should be with power of substitution, lest accident should happen. 
It is thought here, that the present is a favorable time to introduce 
a proper management into the Bank, and I think you will be of 
that opinion. Will you write me on the subject, and let me know 
what number of votes may be calculated on in New Hampshire. It 
is not thought probable that any opposition will be made to the 
ticket which will be proposed. But it will be well to be prepared 
against surprise. 

Wedfiesday. — We see with immense pain, the annunciation of 
the death of Dr. Appleton. Few men have made a short life more 
useful, and his friends must derive great consolation from that re- 

I have seen Stuart. He says the pictures shall be completed this 
week. I think they may be, perhaps, next. 

Let us hear from you. Yours as usual, 

D. Webster. 


Portsmouth, November 19, 1819. 

My dear Sir, — I received a letter yesterday from Mr. Webster, 
saying that the indisposition of one of their children and the sickness 
of a domestic would prevent their making us the promised visit at 
this time in company with you. I hope this will not be the occasion 


of our being disappointed of your visit also. You have (228) 
probably seen in the newspapers, notic§ of the death of Dr. Apple- 
ton, our dear friend and relation. We are somewhat depressed by 
this event, but shall not for that cause be the less glad to see you. 
My acquaintance and friendship with Dr. Appleton is of twenty 
years' standing. During a great portion of that time our intercourse 
was very frequent and intimate. He possessed one of the most 
powerful and best ordered minds I have ever met with. The loss 
will be deeply felt by his friends, and I think extensively by that 
part of the public to which he was known. With best regards to 
Mrs. Story in which I am joined by Mrs. Mason, and in an ex- 
pectation of soon seeing you, I am dear Sir, 

Sincerely yours, J. Mason. 


Portsmouth, November 23, 1819. 

My DEAR Sister, — . I most sincerely sympathize with you in your 
present affliction. I am fully sensible the loss you have sustained 
is of no ordinary magnitude. I feel it severely myself. It is felt 
deeply and extensively by the public at large. All who knew him 
seem to unite in considering the death of your dear husband as a 
public loss. Although your friends and even the public sympathize 
with you I know you have peculiar cause of grief. The tenderest 
ties by which human beings can be connected are dissolved, and he 
in whom your sanguine hopes and expectations of human happiness 
were centered is taken from you in the midst of his days. It ought, 
however, to be matter of some consolation that although his life 
was short, it was eminently useful, and that few men with how- 
ever long lives have done more for the benefit of mankind. But 
your chief and great consolation must be derived from that holy 
religion the duties of which he so ably explained and which, I trust, 
you well know how to practice. It would be unreasonable to expect 
that one afflicted as you are should not to a certain extent indulge 
their sadness and grief. You must, however, remember that (229) 
important duties remain for you to perform, and that you must not 
by the immoderate indulgence of sorrow disable yourself to dis- 


charge them. I know your sensibility, and mean only to caution 
you against any excessive indulgence of your feelings. There is 
danger it may become habitual and uncontrollable. I entreat you 
also to indulge no extravagant feelings of anxiety for the situation 
of your children. I doubt not sufficient means will be found for 
educating and providing for them. You will certainly be specially 
careful of your own health. 

It is my intention to come and see you some time in the course 
of the winter. If in the meantime I can do anything for you I 
wish you to mention it. Or if there is any particular reason why 
you wish me to come to Brunswick soon I will endeavor to come. 
I presume you have no thoughts of changing your present situation 
before spring. With kindest regards to Mrs. Ellis and the children, 
in which Mrs. Mason desires to join with me, 

I am your affectionate brother, 

J. Mason. 


Portsmouth, December 4, 1819. 

My dear Sir, — We are exceedingly sorry that you and Mrs. 
Story could not make us the visit which we had anticipated with so 
much pleasure. This disappointment it seems must be set down 
to the score of misfortunes occasioned by your having bad district 
attorneys. You say you will yet come to Portsmouth, if you have 
a day's leisure. I really hope you will. I am very desirous of see- 
ing you before you go to Washington. Be so good as to drop me 
a line a day or two before you come, so that I may not be absent. 
I shall be in town for several ensuing weeks, except occasional 
avocations for a single day. I have just read the newspaper ac- 
count of the doings of the meeting at Boston yesterday on the im- 
portant subject of the extension of slavery to new States. I (230) 
suppose you were there. I hope such meetings will be held in all 
the chief places in New England and the north part of the United 
States. We are to have one here next Wednesday. There seems 
to be here, as I trust there must be in all the non-slaveholding States, 
great unanimity. I have however been informed that Judge Wood- 


bury has expressed doubts of the constitutional power of the Legis- 
lature. With great esteem, sincerely yours, 

J. Mason. 


Portsmouth, December- 15, 1819. 

My dear Sir, — I thank you for the copy of your speech on the 
Missouri Slave Question which you so kindly sent me. I am glad 
to have this, as I had lent and lost one, previously sent me, together 
with the doings of the public meeting at New York. You have 
certainly explained the subject in a most lucid manner, and as I 
think put at rest, as far as argument and reasoning can do it, all 
doubts as to the constitutional power of Congress; and if Congress 
has the power it would seem that no one who consulted the interest 
of the nation at large, could doubt the expediency of exercising it 
on the present occasion. This question has latterly attracted great 
attention and caused considerable excitement in the public mind in 
this quarter. We had a meeting in this town yesterday. A slight 
attempt to prevent it was made by a few demagogues, fearing a loss 
of influence from a union of parties on this subject and also by 
some of the personal friends of Mr. Parrott, now a Senator, for this 
State, who at the last session voted in the House of Representatives 
on the wrong side of the question. The attempt failed. The meet- 
ing was well attended, and included nearly all in any degree com- 
petent to form an opinion on the matter under consideration. Con- 
siderable pains were taken to have the subject in some of its im- 
portant bearings understood ; the result was a unanimous opinion, 
with the exception of two or three dissentients only, that (231) 
Congress possess the power and ought to exercise it. Meetings 
are notified in various parts of this State. The expression of pub- 
lic opinion in New England, will probably be sufficiently strong not 
only to conform those of our members of Congress who were pre- 
disposed to act right, but also to bring back some, who at the last 
session were wrong. 

I hope that some of the State legislatures which now are or 
soon will be in session, will take this subject into consideration, and 
expose at large the monstrous immorality and consequent national 


disgrace of permitting the further extension of slavery. This can- 
not, as you intimate, be advantageously discussed in Congress. Can- 
not this be done in the Legislature of Pennsylvania which is now 
in session? 

I am with great respect, your faithful and obedient servant, 

J. Mason. 


Waltham, December 28, 1819. 

My DEAR Sir, — I am pleased that in New Hampshire the peo- 
ple have expressed their opinion on the Missouri Question; and in 
addition to the expression by towns and districts, in Massachusetts, 
I hope our Legislature will pass resolutions intimating their desire 
for the exclusion of slavery. It is the more necessary, as some of 
our delegation were in favor of the bill, without the amendment. 

The appearances are much in favor of Mr. King's election to the 
Senate, which for the public good I earnestly wish may take place, 
and I should believe that the attendance at Washington would pro- 
mote his happiness. 

That the chief may not have told all the truth in relation to Spain, 
is very probable, and though I never gave credit to all that Giles 
used to say, I think it likely there was less falsehood in his assertions 
on this subject than on many others. Our boys ^ are now at (232) 
home. They say they dined on Thanksgiving Day with Governor 

Congress, we are told by the public papers, contains many men of 
business. I venture to predict it includes more men of talk, and they 
seem to have many subjects of great fertility on which to try the 
strength of their lungs 

With our affectionate regards to your wife and daughter, 

I remain your faithful friend, C. GORE. 

1 Mr. Gore's nephews, William and Edward Payne. 



Portsmouth, January 2, 1820. 

My dear Sir, — I thank you for the volume of the collections 
of your Historical Society. It remained in Boston till last week, 
together with your letter, for want of a convenient conveyance. I do 
— as it was natural for you to suppose, from the evidence I always 
exhibit — claim decent from the "tall and portly" Captain John 
Mason. I well recollect reading the narrative contained in this 
volume, many years ago, in Connecticut, and I have lately taken 
some pains without success, to obtain a copy of it. Trumbull, in 
his "History of Connecticut," states from this same narrative, very 
minutely, the circumstances of the famous Pequot battle, and adds 
many facts tending to show the justice and necessity of the war 
on our part. My brave ancestor certainly used harsh means to 
destroy the unfortunate Indians. But if the danger and distress 
of the infant colony were as great and imminent as represented 
(which I see no reason to doubt), an apology, if not a justification 
is furnished, for the seeming cruelty and inhumanity. Whenever 
I have read this account I have been gratified by the evidence it 
furnishes of his adroit conduct and extraordinary bravery. But I 
could never suppress a strong wish, that he had been able to effect 
his object in some way more consistent with humane feelings than 
that of burning his enemies. It must be admitted that the poor In- 
dians have, in most parts of the country, experienced a cruel (233) 

fate, from the time of their first acquaintance with us. You prob- 
ably noticed the praise bestowed on Uncas, the Sachem of the Mo- 
hegans. This battle secured to my ancestor the admiration and 
friendship of the Indian chief, who granted him several very exten- 
sive tracts of land, in the Colony of Connecticut, and these grants 
entailed on his descendants a set of lawsuits with that colony, 
which lasted as Trumbull says, seventy years. An appeal was 
carried to the King and Council in England, and there determined 
against them, a few years before the Revolutionary War. I have 
often heard my father talk of this land claim and great lawsuits. 
He had no direct interest in it. It belonged to an elder branch of 
the family. But I suppose he expected some advantage in case of 



success, as he contributed considerable money to assist in carrying 
on the lawsuit, which he said was finally lost for want of good 
management. When you have read this long story, I dare say you 
will sincerely repent of having sent me the book which has led 
me to inflict so much fatigue on you. 

I agree with you, that it is desirable that your Legislature should 
express their opinion on the Missouri Question. I hope the Legis- 
lature of New York will also do the same. It would be mortifying 
to have this important question determined against us, by reason 
of a defection of our own members of Congress, when we are 
clearly right in principle, and have so great an interest in the issue. 
And there is danger that such will be the result, unless prevented 
by a full expression of public opinion in the non-slaveholding 

It is said the wise men at Washington are divided in opinion 
in relation to Spanish affairs. Some doubt the wisdom of execut- 
ing a treaty before it is made. 

Virginia is certainly determined to be again in opposition to the 
General Government. If her new batch of resolutions pass, I hope 
they will be immediately answered by both Massachusetts and New 
York. That which instructs her representatives and Senators in 
Congress to give their assent to no laws unless strictly conso- (234) 
nant to the principles of Mr, Madison's resolutions of 1798-99, exceeds 
in arrogance anything ever before attempted. 

I rejoice to learn from your last letter, that both you and Mrs. 
Gore are on the recovery. Mrs. Mason and Mary desire their affec- 
tionate respects to her and yourself. 

I am, dear Sir, truly yours, J. Mason. 


Waltham, Jaymary 9, 1820. 

My DEAR Sir, — I am in hopes that our Legislature will express 
their sense in a very decided manner on the Missouri Question. There 
is some strange and as yet some unaccountable conduct among our 
printers on this subject. I, at an early date after its publication, re- 
ceived a corrected copy of Mr. King's speech; this I sent to Mr. 


Webster, saying that I should have endeavored to procure its inser- 
tion in the "Repertory," but Mr. Hale had at several times declined 
to publish pieces for me on politics and literature which prevented me 
from offering it to him. Finding that W. did not think worth while 
to obtain its appearance in that paper, I sent it to the printer of the 
"Centinel," who, after my note was gone from me, but before it had 
reached him, requested the speech that he might print it. He acknowl- 
edged my note, inserted my recommendation, and promised to have it 
printed. He omitted to do it, and says the omission is at the request 
of friends to the good cause. 

The argument is conclusive in my mind, and entirely free from 
everything that could embarrass the question, or excite any personal 

Considering this strange course, I am prepared to meet any dis- 
position of the Legislature, while I feel the subject to be of greater 
importance to the character of the nation, and the political power of 
New England, than any before Congress. One would have thought 
Virginia possessed her share of power in the United States, but she 
admits no rival near the throne, and is determined that the (235) 
construction of her Legislature shall exclusively control the Constitu- 

Mrs. Gore and myself are both in better health than when I last 
wrote you, and unite in regards to Mrs. Mason, yourself, and daugh- 
ter. Yours faithfully and affectionately, 

C. Gore. 


Portsmouth, January 16, 1820. 

My dear Sir, — I heartily congratulate you on the election of Mr. 
King. It is a striking instance of the triumph of personal character 
over party influence, alike honorable to him and beneficial to the pub- 
lic. His election must tend to moderate the spirit of faction and les- 
sen the influence of demagogues. I trust there is no doubt of his ac- 
cepting the appointment. The manner of his election and the exigency 
of the times leave him no liberty of choice. His services are not only 
of great importance to the nation, but what ought to weigh much, the 
nation is duly sensible of it. That the Boston printers should omit to 


publish his speech on the Missouri Question, under the circumstances 
you mention, is most extraordinary. Some individuals must have 
controlled them. There is surely nothing in the speech incautious or 
unguarded, and I think with you that the argument is conclusive. It 
has in truth furnished the materials of all the public discussions on 
our side. The Boston memorial, which was drawn by Judge Story, 
was evidently and as he frankly states, taken almost wholly from it. 
. . . . It is all important that your Legislature should unite with 
Pennsylvania and New York in expressing their opinion on this great 
question. I see Governor Brooks makes no allusion to it. The omis- 
sion of Massachusetts to express an opinion, on the ground of doubt 
as to the right of Congress to prohibit slavery, or on the ground of in- 
difference as to the issue, may, and probably will determine as suf- 
ficient number of votes in the House of (236) Representatives to 
turn the question. I do not believe the advocates of slavery will gain 
anything by the extraordinary attempt in the Senate to tack this sub- 
ject to the bill for the admission of Maine. The attempt is entirely un- 
parliamentary, and will be resisted. What do you think of Mr. Otis's 
attempt to defend the Hartford Convention? When I was in Boston 
last autumn, he mentioned his intention to me, and asked my opinion 
of its expediency. I advised him not to make the attempt. I told him 
that transaction M^as passing rapidly out of recollection and would 
soon be forgotten, and that it would be unwise to revive it by a public 
discussion, which could do no good but might do much harm. The 
event will show whether I gave him good or bad advice. With affec- 
tionate regards to Mrs. Gore, 

I am, my dear Sir, truly yours, 

J. Mason. 


Waltham, January 24, 1820. 

My DEAR Friend, — I sincerely rejoice with you on Mr. King's 
election to the Senate, and more especially, as regards him, in the man- 
ner of it. He wrote me that he should set off on Friday last for Wash- 
ington, where I trust he will do much good. 

You have known the cause of our cooling off on the Missouri 


Question. The tears of the gentlemen to whom you allude on his re- 
turn home operated on others, and letters, as I am told from Congress, 
absolutely shut the press, and possibly the Governer's mouth, on this 
interesting question, Messrs. Quincy and Sullivan, we hear, doubt if 
they have not been too ardent and too explicit in the expression of 
sentiments against the unqualified admission of Missouri; and the 
consideration of this subject in our Legislature will be postponed until 
it can have no effect. All are alive on the Hartford Convention, and 
it is not impossible that instead of quieting the real or pretended jeal- 
ousy on that measure, new bickerings and (237) increased acrimony 
between Massachusetts and some other portions of the Union may be 
the result. The New York papers speak with censure and not a little 
virulence on the subject; one of the numbers of these essays hints in 
strong terms that Messrs. Jay and others did or recommended the like 
conduct; but these men, says Mr. — , are forgiven. Enough seems 
to be said to irritate and provoke retort, but not enough, if it were pos- 
sible, of which I doubt, to put down clamor. With deference to those 
who wield the weapons of their own defense, I think the essays carry 
the mark of apology and have the language of supplication in such 
manner and to so high a degree, as will produce directly the reverse 
of what is intended. As a piece of the like fabric, our wise men in the 
Legislature have been trying to get up something like a re-burial of 
Governor Strong and a funeral eulogy. This is now projected, as I 
learn, by those who declined to say a word of requiem to the departing 
Governor when he offered his farewell speech. Surely then was the 
proper hour, and why it was not embraced must be sought for, not in 
the most honorable motives of the human heart. We are told it would 
aid much in the same cause, which is supported by the lucubrations in 
the "Intelligencer." Thus you perceive our politics, and the springs 
of them, so far as they are delivered to me. 

Your faithful friend, C. GoRE. 


Portsmouth, Jariuary 31, 1820. 

My dear Sir, — I thank you for your key to the Boston riddle. I 
should never have found it out by guessing. It certainly places your 
great men on humble ground. Should we through their means fail in 


the great question which now agitates the nation, they will incur an 
odium that will be remembered long after the Hartford Convention 
will have been forgotten. And from present appearances I think there 
is some danger that this will be the case. The backwardness of Mass- 
achusetts to express an opinion will be (238) felt at Washington. I 
doubt whether we have any men in the House of Representatives, of 
sufficient weight of talents and character to preserve our majority 
there, while under the violent pressure of a cajoling management to 
which they are exposed. There is reason to fear the question will be 
carried in favor of slavery by New England votes. I see nothing in 
the meek apology of the Hartford Convention, which if left unan- 
swered would effect a change of public opinion or feeling. Mr. Gales 
promises that the subject shall be fully discussed. It is probable, 
however, that in the present press of other and more interesting sub- 
jects, this will pass off without exciting much notice. You doubtless 
observed the honorable mention of our Act, for raising State troops 
for the purpose of local defense. Do you remember the cold indiffer- 
ence with which that measure was at the time received in New Eng- 
land ? I believe this is the first time that it has ever been noticed here 
in a newspaper 

I am sincerely yours, J. Mason. 


Portsmouth, ApHl 15, 1820. 

Dear Sir, — I thank you for the Congressional papers which 1 
have received by your frank. I had hoped to see the speeches on the 
Missouri Question which you delivered this session, but I begin to fear 
they are not to be published. 

It is apparent from the rude and illiberal abuse they have at- 
tempted to cast upon you, that you must have touched the slave-hold- 
ers to the quick. I trust that such abuse can do you no serious injury. 
Notwithstanding the apathy which prevails in this section of the 
Union on most political subjects, the discussion of that question ex- 
cited strong feelings and made an impression that will not be soon 
worn off. Its bearing on political power is at length in some degree 
understood. The arrogant spirit of domination exhibited by the peo- 
ple of the South, both in and out of Congress, has offended some and 


alarmed others. Many of the former supporters (239) of the Virginia 
rule now lament with apparent sincerity our domestic disunion, the 
acknowledged cause of the late defeat. If this tendency of public 
opinion should be permitted to have its natural course, it would prob- 
ably produce considerable effect. But the demagogues, office holders 
and office seekers, sensible of their danger, are doing all in their power 
to counteract it. At present the prevalent feeling is that of mortifica- 
tion mixed with no inconsiderable degree of indignation toward those 
of our Representatives who are believed to have sacrificed the most 
important interests of their constituents to base servility and mer- 
cenary hopes of personal advantage. It would seem that if a barrier 
is ever to be opposed to the ambitious projects of the Southern and 
Western States, it must be done soon. And in what way can that 
be done, while they command all the patronage of the Government? 
As long as that is the case I fear they will always be able to secure a 
majority in both Houses of Congress. If so our only remedy is to look 
to another quarter for a President. I hear of nobody who thinks this 
can be attempted with any prospect of success, till the present incum- 
bent shall have served out his two terms. I know not what is inferred 
from General Smith's caucus, but presume that no considerable op- 
position is expected to Mr. Monroe's re-election. 

The good people of New England have been much disturbed dur- 
ing the past winter by the appearance of the ghost of the Hartford 
Convention, so adroitly conjured up, by Mr. — in his defense of the 
character of the defunct. When I was in Boston last autumn, he men- 
tioned to me his intention of undertaking that defense. I tried to dis- 
suade him from the attempt. I do not know what he thinks of his 
success, but I am told that all his friends, as well as the friends of the 
Convention, are heartily sorry that he brought this unlucky subject 
back from the oblivion into which it was fast sinking. With great re- 

I am as ever faithfully yours, J. Mason. 


Washington, May 4, 1820. 

My DEAR Sir, — It is some time since the receipt of your obliging 
letter of the 15th ultimo. It ought sooner to have been acknowledged. 


but my attention has been of late a good deal engaged in watching the 
course of the New York election. The struggle is over, but who cries 
victory we here are unable to ascertain. My wishes have been on the 
side of Tompkins, believing that under him the State may be sooner 
composed than it would be under Clinton. Our session is near to its 
close. Except that bill changing the mode of selling the public lands, 
nothing of importance will have been done, though much has been dis- 
cussed which stands postponed to another session. Had not the 
friends of the tariff embraced a system too comprehensive or compli- 
cated, they would have succeeded. The cotton and woolen manufac- 
tures disconnected with their associates would have received the pro- 
tection asked for, but the bearing of the bill on ship-building and navi- 
gation was insufferable. The auction and cash payment of duty bills 
failed also, being reported as parts of the tariff system, as it was 

Our Spanish affairs have often changed their phases during the 
winter; and the expected news from Spain, since the convocation of 
the Cortes, will in all probability postpone any definitive measures re- 
specting Florida, about which less solicitude exists than formerly. 
Some desire the province of Texas, lying along the ocean and west of 
the Sabine, to be also obtained ; others have become less desirous re- 
specting the Floridas, which will only add further strength in the 
Senate to the slave States, which by the multiplication of new States 
have become a controlling power in our government, though a minor- 
ity. I have, however, no doubt that ultimately we shall possess the 
Floridas. In respect to the Missouri debate, in which I took a part, 
which became the theme of gross misrepresentation and abuse, al- 
though, as the newspapers have shown, much has been (241) said, 


the argument, whether the power or the policy be the inquiry, re- 
mains unbroken in favor of the restriction. Indeed, nothing having 
the character of a law, or constitutional or statesmanlike argument, 
has been offered to the contrary, and in my conviction none can be in- 
vented. All the speeches hitherto published have been prepared by 
those who delivered them. There was no note-taker present in the 
Senate, and I have not put a pen to paper in order to preserve what I 
said on this occasion. The Presidential caucus was a mere abortion. 
The measure was adopted more by the vanity of General Smith than 


from all other motives. There will be no opposition to Mr. Monroe, 
that I have heard of. None is expected even from New York, whose 
deputation will in all probability be anti-Clintonian. If Tompkins has 
been chosen Governor of New York there might have been, and even 
yet may be, a caucus for his successor ; but I consider this event un- 
certain and not likely to be definitely ascertained, at least in favor of 
Tompkins, before Congress adjourns. Rush, of Pennsylvania, Mor- 
row, of Ohio, Clay, of Kentucky and my brother, of Maine, have been 
spoken of, but as far as I can form an oponion, it would be that no per- 
son is yet soberly thought of for the place of Vice President except 

Our treasury is exhausted. No notice was personally given of 
its condition. The Executive removes, but dares not propose to im- 
pose, taxes. The reduction in the military appropriation of this year, 
including £he fortifications and ordnance department, exceeds two 
millions. This financial scheme is adopted with the knowledge that 
contracts have been made that require this sum, but which the con- 
tractors will not receive as they ought, but for which, with damages. 
Congress will be called on next year. The stopping of the Yellow 
Stone Expedition will prove a neat saving, and may prevent an Indian 
war. The suspension or repeal of the Pension Law will be another 
saving, and yet the government must borrow from two to four mil- 
lions this year, and the prospects of the next year are still more alarm- 
ing. The project of the new tariff if it succeed, must reduce the im- 
port of tonnage duties still lower, and its (242) establishment must 
produce the necessity of a system of internal taxes which the Western 
States have no inclination to impose. A motion to reduce the army is 
before the House, and if no fears respecting Florida prevent, it will 
prevail. The navy will follow next year. So we go. Excuse this 
rambling letter, and believe me very truly. 

Your respectful and faithful servant, 

RuFus King. 


Jamaica, L. I., Maij 25, 1820v 

Dear Sir, — As Virginia has appealed to the respective States on 
the Missouri Question, I hope that your Legislature will not only sus- 
tain the appeal but give judgment in the cause. 


You are in the Legislature and will of course attend to the sub- 
ject, should your Governor, in imitation of Wolcott, bring it before 
you. I have no wish to recur to the subject during the next session of 
Congress ; we shall be the same persons, and the results will not vary. 
Holmes of Maine, who is to come to the Senate, would be on the slave 
side; and New Hampshire has been divided. Although the question 
is not immediately to be discussed again in Congress, the principles 
will be constantly felt, and those which are correct want strengthen- 
ing and confirmation. New Hampshire can and ought to lend her 
support. I wish that your Mr. P. would retire and give to you his 
place. The North wants force ; numbers which are mere numerals in 
politics as well as finance are not to be relied upon.^ On all controvert- 
ed points in every national question, we fight militia against regulars ; 
and as in war we suffer grievous defeats until by more concert, which 
we have little prospect to effect, or by the influence of pride, which 
disdains inferiority, we select and continue our best men in Congress. 
No alteration can be accomplished, but we shall forever be governed 
by the minority whose interest materially differ from our own and 
from those of. a majority of the natives. If you could come from New 
Hampshire, and (243) Webster from Massachusetts, I should feel 
some courage and confidence. Think of these things. 

With great esteem and respect, I am always and truly yours, 

R. King. 

^ "Numbers which are mere numerals in politics as well as finance are not 
to be relied upon." This is similar to Rufus Choate's, "Neutrality in any sharp 
civil dissention is cowardly, immoral, and disreputable;" or James A Garfield's, 
"All governments are party governments; and until the real millenium comes 
there will be parties in religion, in politics, and in every realm of thought;" or 
Horace Greeley's, "That which styles itself 'an independent journal' is inevitably 
a fraud. The essence of its profession is an assumption of indifference to the 
ascendency of this or opposite party, which does not exist. In a free State, 
whereof the people are intelligent, no journalist is or can be indifferent, and an 
affectation of impartiality necessarily cloaks some selfish and sinister designs;" 
or R. A. Horr's (a Congressman from Michigan), "An independent in politics 
as a rule, is good for nothing; he is always on both sides of every question, and 
on neither side of any. He is half fish and half woman — a political mermaid, 
too much woman to be good for anything as a fish, and too much fish to be good 
for anything as a woman." 



Boston, May 30, 1820. 

Dear Sir, — I hope you will think a little of districting your 
State for members of Congress. I deem it an important affair in the 
present state of things and in relation to probable future events. 
They have done it in Vermont ; and I learned there last week that two 
or three of their most considerable men might perhaps be elected in 
the fall. I believe I suggested to you also, the expediency of separat- 
ing the Congressional from the State elections. The Massachusetts 
Legislature assembles to-morrow. The important business is to de- 
cide whether there shall be a convention to amend the State constitu- 
tion, and to elect a Senator. As there is one Senator from Boston, 
the other must come from the country.^ I suspect it will be Mills, 
George Bliss of Springfield, or William Baylies of Bridgewater. It is 
possible, however, it may be a merchant, in which case I think Mr. 
Reed of Marblehead likely enough to be chosen; very little is said 
about it at present. Our courts are through. Judge Story adjourned 
on Saturday, and Chief Justice Parker on the Saturday before. When 
your legislative labors are over, I hope you will come this way and 
play a little. If nothing occurs to prevent, I intend being in Concord 
one day about the 20th of June. I have promised Mr. Olcott to be 
there if practicable. Your consignment of books and potatoes came 
safe to hand. I have tried the latter article first, and find it good. 
My appetite for the first is not at present quite so keen. The first 
Piscataqua man I see here, I shall charge with the conveyance of the 
two books I promised you. Mrs. Webster desires her regards to Mrs. 
Mason and her daughters. Yours truly, 

D. Webster. 


=> Harrison Gray Otis was the Boston senator, and Elijah H. Mills, of 
Northampton, Mass., was elected to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of 
Prentiss Mellen, then of Portland, Maine, who resigned the United States Sen- 
atorship, May 15, 1820, as Maine was cut off from Massachusetts, and became 
a State of the Union, March 15, 1820. Mr. Mellen resigned to take the Chief 
Justiceship of the Supreme Court of Maine. 



Portsmouth, June 4, 1820. 

My dear Sir, — I have to acknowledge the favor of two letters 
from you: one from Washington and the other after you had re- 
turned home. I thank you for the kind expression of your wish to see 
me again in the Senate. Many considerations concur to render that 
situation very agreeable to me, among which the benefit of your so- 
ciety would not be esteemed the least. But it is for the present entire- 
ly out of the question. Mr. P.^ has no intention or inclination of re- 
signing a seat which is so necessary to him for his comfortable sup- 
port, unless he can secure some other place which will be equally 
profitable, of which I do not know that he has any prospect. And were 
he to resign, it is not probable his seat would be offered to me. And 
even were both of the difficulties removed, others of a personal nature 
and such as could not be easily surmounted, would still remain. Mr. 
Mellen as was expected, has resigned. Mr. Webster can probably, if 
he pleases, have that place." In a conversation I lately had with him, 
he seemed to think that he could not immediately forego the profit of 
his professional business. It was however apparent that he had a 
strong liking for the situation, and should it be offered to him two 
years hence, I doubt whether he would decline it. I am fully sensible 
that it is of vital importance to us of the North to be better represent- 
ed in Congress ; but I see not how this is to be effected, in any con- 
siderable degree, as long as we remain subject to our apparently in- 
terminable factions. 

The good Democrats of this town, by accident I believe happened 
to elect me a member of the Legislature for the present year. I had 
no previous suspicion of their intention. The chief inducement I have 
to attend the ensuing session of the Legislature, is to see that the 
Virginia Resolutions on the Missouri Question, should they come un- 
der consideration, are disposed of to the best advantage. There will 
be, as I fear, no small difficulty in bringing our Legislature to (245) 

^ John F. Parrott, of Portsmouth, was one of the senators from New Hamp- 
shire at this time, and David L. Morrill, of Goffstown, New Hampshire, the 

'^ Mr. Webster was elected to the United States Senate and took his seat 
March 4, 1827; but was in the lower House of Congress, 1823-27. 


the expression of any strong opinion with that degree of unanimity 
which is necessary to give it effect; the dominant party has been 
already greatly alarmed. Many of their influential leaders, among 
whom are the judges of our Superior Court, pretend to have doubts 
of the constitutional power of Congress to impose the restriction 
against slavery. The true cause of the alarm is a fear that a schism 
may be produced in the party. The leaders are constantly recom- 
mending a peaceable acquiescence in the decision that Congress has 
made, and a careful abstaining from whatever may cause irritation, 
provoke local jealousies, etc. 

One branch of our Legislature, the Senate, it is expected, will be 
entirely Democratic, and at least three fourths of the House of the 
same sort. The attempt will be to parry the question and avoid the 
expression of any opinion. Much will depend on the course which 
shall be adopted by our Governor, and it is impossible to foretell what 
that will be. 

I am, with the highest respect. 

Most sincerely and faithfully yours, J. Mason. 


Boston, Mne 15, 1820. 

My DEAR Sir, — If your session should prove as short as you an- 
ticipate, it will not be in my power to see you at Concord. The circuit 
court sits here, by adjournment, on Monday, which I must attend. 
If your session should last through next week, I shall probably be 
up. I have been endeavoring to do something about an answer in 
Mr. Olcott's case, but have made very little progress in it. I wish 
he would send me a full copy of the bill. Our Legislature is wholly 
engrossed by local subjects, especially by the project of a conven- 
tion, which it seems we are to have. I have inquired of Mills, Dal- 
ton, Lawrence, and others. They all say the Virginia Resolutions 
have not been communicated to them! ! Whether they were sent 
last winter, or whether the Governor has (246) omitted them, or 
whether Virginia never sent them at all, is more than I know, and 
more than anybody here appears to know. Mills's election is prob- 
ably the best thing that could be done. He is always respectable, and 


will be, I think, a safe man. Local causes rendered it convenient to 
choose a man in his part of the State, and he is generally popular. 
I learn from various sources that you make quite a promising legis- 
lator. I am glad to hear it. So far as I learn particulars, they meet 
my approbation. I like your idea of discontinuing joint committees, 
— a great barbarism — in legislative proceedings. In the course of 
time, I expect to hear of some legislative movements about the 
judiciary, if opinion in New Hampshire is as strong on that subject 
as it is represented to be by those persons whom I see here from the 
State. Our convention is an important subject; a great many things 
of consequence will be discussed in it, among others the erection of 
a court of equity. 

Yours, D. W^EBSTER. 


Waltham, June 25, 1820. 

My dear Sir, — I have received your letter of the 23d June in- 
stant and read your resolutions with much pleasure. I think them ex- 
cellent, and sincerely wish that Massachusetts had as well preserved 
her dignity and character. Why Governor Brooks did not present 
them to the notice of our Legislature, I cannot say. Thinking he 
would, I desired a common friend to request of Judge Parker that 
he would converse with his Excellency and impress on his mind 
what was due to his own character, that of the State, and to the 
cause of freedom, and the defense of our own political power. I 
could not see the Governor myself, and although I have inquired of 
several, I have never attained the least satisfaction on this subject. 
There is, as I feel, a total lethargy on all our national concerns in 
the sentiments and conduct of those who direct public opinion and 
the public councils. The people on the Missouri Question are a 

great way in advance of their leaders. Individuals with whom I 
have talked on this question (and I have spoken to all I have met 
and are conversant on such topics) , acknowledge its importance, but 
it would seem that some fatal spell is brought to operate on the 
Government to prevent every expression of sentiment, or only at 
such time as to discover our opinions when we are sure they can 


have no influence but to raise the ill temper and contempt of the 
slave-holding States. 

I rejoice that you went to the Legislature, and that you have 
caused the State to honor itself and support the cause of freedom. 

My wife, who is in tolerable health, unites in affectionate regards 
to yourself, Mrs. Mason, and daughter. 

Faithfully I remain your friend, 

C. Gore. 


Jamaica, L. I., Juhj 6, 1820. 

Dear Sir, — So far from thinking that you stopped short of the 
true point, your report and the resolutions of your Legislature, with- 
out reference to the domestic considerations to which you refer, are 
just such as they should be to produce the reflections that may lead 
to reformation. Your argument is persuasive as well as convincing, 
and the suggestion, that your scheme might be considered as ac- 
quiescence in the slavish construction of the Constitution, is a sea- 
sonable rebuke to Massachusetts, whose errors and repentance are 
equally deplorable. States, like men, who fail in self-respect are 
without title to the respect of others. After the separation of Maine, 
Massachusetts was bound to retrieve her ancient reputation, and to 
obtain justice she must show the world that she merits it. 

With friendly regards and great respect, I am dear Sir, 

Your obedient and faithful servant, 

RuFUS King. 


P. S. — In a letter last evening received from Mr. Gore, he says 
that he is told that the Virginia Resolutions were not sent to Massa- 
chusetts. Has Virginia restricted them to the States whose Sena- 
tors voted for the extension of slavery? 

I wish very earnestly that you would settle the conclusion firmly 
in your mind, that you ought to form motives in every sense hon- 
orable, and give me leave to say obligatory, to desire to return to 


the Senate of the United States, and as soon as it may be in your 
power to do so. The highest interest of your country, your own 
reputation, and the very extraordinary condition of the representa- 
tion of the Northern States, all unite in calling for those sacrifices 
which I fear you have not sufficiently undervalued. 

Mr. Mason, as he informs Mr. King in his letter of June 24, 1820, 
was in that year chosen a member of the New Hampshire House 
of Representatives from Portsmouth. He was not a candidate for 
the office, and was wholly unprepared to receive at the hands of the 
Democrats, who were a majority in the town, an honor which must 
have been gratifying to him as a mark of their respect for his per- 
sonal character. He was induced to accept the office not merely 
from the motive mentioned in his letter to Mr. King, — a wish to see 
that the Virginia Resolutions on the Missouri Question, should they 
come before the Legislature, as he expected they would, should re- 
ceive proper consideration, — "but also from a desire to effect some 
changes in the administration of the law in New Hampshire which 
his experience at the bar had shown to be desirable. 

Upon the organization of the House he was placed at the head 
of the committee on the judiciary, and from the journal of the 
House appears to have given much time and thought to his legisla- 
tive duties. Among other things, he reported resolutions which 
passed into a law, making substantial changes in the judiciary sys- 
tem of the State, abolishing the court of common pleas, transferring 
most of its jurisdiction to the superior court, and constituting a 
court of sessions. 

32 (249) 

The Virginia Report and Resolutions on the Missouri Question 
were sent by the Governor of that State to the Governor of New 
Hampshire, early in the June session, and by the latter transmitted 
to the Legislature for their action. They were drawn with much 
ability, and set forth in forcible and earnest language the doctrines 
as to the sovereignty of the States and the limited powers of Con- 
gress, of which Jefferson and John Taylor of Carolina were the 
leading exponents in their time.^ 

In the House of Representatives they were referred to a commit- 

1 The report and resolutions may be found in the House Journal of the 
New Hampshire Legislature, June session 1820, page 41. 



tee of which Mr. Mason was chairman, and on the 16th day of June, 
he presented a report and resolutions thereon. These, alike from 
their essential merit and the enduring interest and importance of 
the subject on which they treat, are thought worthy of being here 
reproduced : — 

The committee has not deemed it necessary to inquire whether it would 
have been expedient for the Legislature, at the present time, to express its opin- 
ion on this important subject, if it had not been thereto specially invited. But 
the Legislature of the State of Virginia has seen fit to address to the Legisla- 
tures of the different States of the Union certain resolutions, together with the 
reasons on which they are founded, giving a construction to important provisions 
of the Constitution of the United States, and defining the powers of Congress. 
The forbearing to express an opinion, when thus appealed to, might be taken for 
an acquiescence in the construction contended for. 

After having carefully examined the resolutions, and the reasoning offered 
in their support, with all that attention to which they are entitled, as well on 
account of the source whence they originated, as on account of the great im- 
portance of the subject to which they relate, the committee is of opinion 
that the Legislature of Virginia contend for an erroneous construction of the 
Constitution of the United States, relative to the powers of Congress, which if 
adopted will prove highly injurious to the best interest of the Nation. 

Since the passing of the resolutions under consideration, the subject matter 
of them has been so amply discussed in the Congress of the United States, as to 
render it at this time an unnecessary and useless labor to assign and illustrate 
at large the reasons why this Legislature ought not to give its assent to them. 

Notwithstanding the reasoning of the Legislature of the State of Virginia 
on the (250) language of the Constitution, the committee has full confidence that 
the power to prescribe the prohibition of slavery, as a condition of the admission 
of new States into the Union, is vested in Congress by a fair interpretation of 
the language of that instrument. 

The argument chiefly relied on is that the prescribing such condition by 
Congress is inconsistent with the sovereignty of the State to be admitted, and its 
equality with the other States. It is admitted that "Congress — if the applicant 
for admission into the Union had no right whatever to demand it, as would be 
the case of an independent State making such application — might provide for 
the admission of such State upon the performance of precedent conditions not 
impairing its sovereignty." If so, as the territory of Missouri had no right to 
demand admission, the only question is. Whether the right to establish slavery 
within their respective limits is essential to that sovereignty which is enjoyed 
by the different States of the Union under the Constitution of the United States? 
For evidence that such right is not essential to their sovereignty, an appeal might 


be made not only to the solemn assertion of the unalienable right of all men to 
freedom, announced in the Declaration of our National Independence, and which 
is adopted among the fundamental principles of many of the State governments, 
and to the reiterated acts of the General Government, in admitting into the 
Union nevi^ States with a prohibition of slavery, but also to the enlightened 
judgment of wise and good men of all countries. 

Slavery is prohibited by the immutable law of nature, which is obligatory 
as well on States as individuals. The establishing or permitting slavery by a 
State being thus morally wrong, the right to do it, instead of being essential to 
its sovereignty, cannot exist; except only in cases where slavery having been al- 
ready introduced cannot be suddenly abolished, without great danger to the 
community. Under such circumstances, it must of necessity be tolerated for a 
time as the solemn means of self-preservation. 

This painful necessity may justify the temporary continuance of slavery 
in certain States of the Union, where it now exists. But in the opinion of the 
Committee nothing can justify the unnecessary extension of this great evil to 
newly formed States. 

As far as it may effect the sovereignty of a nation, no material difference is 
perceived between the case where it surrenders its supposed right to carry on a 
traffic in slaves with a foreign country assenting thereto, and the case of its 
surrender of its right to acquire in any other way and retain slaves within its 
own limits. And yet several independent nations — and our own among others 
— have, without any suspicion of injury to their rights of sovereignty, bound 
themselves by treaty stipulations forever to prohibit that monstrous traffic. Have 
they thereby lost what is essential to their sovereignty? 

If from the generality and conciseness of the terms used in the federal Con- 
stitution any doubt remained as to their true construction, in relation to the 
power of Congress, in the particular under consideration, such doubt would be 
removed on (251) examining the condition of the territory belonging to the United 
States, at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, and the obligation they 
were then under to form the same into States to be admitted into the Union. 

After the United States had by the treaty with Great Britain, and by a 
cession from Virginia and certain other States of their claims, acquired an 
undisputed title to the territory northwest of the River Ohio, they passed the 
ordinance of 1787, for dividing that territory into States, and for their admis- 
sion into the Union. This ordinance is entitled "Articles of compact between the 
original States, and the people and States within the said territory forever to 
remain unaltered." It recites the objects and design to be "for extending the 
fundamental principles of civil and religious liberty, which form the basis where- 
on these republics, their laws, and constitution are created; to fix and establish 
those principles as the basis of all laws, constitutions, and governments which 
forever hereafter shall be formed in said territory; to provide also for the es- 


tablishment of States and a government therein, and for their admission into 
a share in the federal councils, on an equal footing with the original States, at 
as early a period as may be consistent with the general interest." It then pro- 
vides as one of the articles to remain forever unalterable, that "there shall 
be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the said territory." The State 
of Virginia, with four other slaveholding States, assented to this compact. And 
Virginia afterwards expressly ratified it, by an act of its Legislature. The 
States mentioned in the ordinance, and in which slavery was to be thus forever 
prohibited, were still to be admitted on an equal footing with the original 
States.' Of course the prohibition of slavery was not supposed to be incom- 
patible with their sovereignty. 

The United States having thus pledged their faith and bound themselves to 
admit these States into the Union, with a perpetual prohibition of slavery, it would 
seem to be impossible that the Constitution, which was soon after formed, 
and certainly with a full knowledge of the ordinance, should not have been in- 
tended and understood to confer on Congress the requisite power to perform the 

In further proof that the Constitution must have been so understood, might 
be cited the act expressly confirming this ordinance, among the first doings of 
Congress under the Constitution. In conformity with this understanding of the 
Constitution, have the States northwest of the River Ohio been admitted into 
the Union, subject to a perpetual prohibition of slavery. Most of the other new 
States have likewise been admitted on such conditions as Congress, deeming 
them to be suitable to their respective situations, has been pleased to prescribe. 

This being the construction being given to the Constitution immediately after 
its adoption, and which has been acted upon without opposition, and acquiesced 
in for more than thirty years, it was not to have been expected that its correct- 
ness would at this late period have been drawn into question. 

It must be recollected that this contemporaneous construction of the Con- 
stitution was made by those who had the best possible means of knowing what 
was its true (252) intent. Many of the distinguished members of the Conven- 
tion which formed the Constitution, were at that time in the national councils. 

Neither these States themselves, so admitted on prescribed conditions, nor 
any body in their behalf, have heretofore doubted that they were on an equal 
footing with the original States, or that they enjoyed all the rights essential to 
their sovereignty. 

The Legislature of Virginia attributes this early construction of the Consti- 
tution, so uniformly followed by the General Government, and acquiesced in by 
the States, to the score of misapprehension. And an intimation seems to be 
given to the newly admitted States that the conditions and stipulations, on which 
they were admitted, and which were solemnly ratified by them, are of no bind- 
ing force. The dangerous tendency of such a doctrine is too apparent to need 


The Legislature of Virginia admits "that this subject addresses itself very 
strongly to their interest as well as their feelings." If the obviously just and 
long settled construction of the Constitution, in a particular of great national 
concernment, may in a moment of excitement be set aside in favor of supposed 
doubts, raised by the excess of ingenuity of reasoning, no ground of security will 
remain for the equal rights of the States ; and the foundation of the Union itself 
may be shaken. 

An argument against the power of Congress t-o prevent the extension of 
slavery to new States is attempted to be raised from the general scope of the 
Constitution and from the nature of our free institutions. The Legislature of 
Virginia says, "It can never be believed that an association of free and independ- 
ent States, formed for the purposes of general defense, of establishing justice, 
and of securing the blessings of liberty to themselves and their posterity, ever 
contemplated the acquisition of territory for the purpose of establishing and 
perpetuating for others and their posterity that colonial bondage against which 
they themselves had so lately revolted. Power may enslave them (the inhabi- 
tants of territories) longeii, but the laws of nature and of justice, the genius 
of our political institutions, and our own example, proclaim their title to break 
their bonds and assert their freedom." Can this have been intended for calm 
reasoning, to convince the undenstandings of those to whom it purports to be 
addressed, or was it designed to produce an effect on the feelings and conduct of 
the inhabitants of the territory of Missouri then demanding admission into the 
Union? It is hoped it will never be believed that this association of free States, 
formed for the noble purposes above stated, ever contemplated the acquisition 
of territory for the purpose of establishing or extending bondage of any kind. 

If the Constitution gives to Congress the power in question, it is not per- 
ceived that there is any stipulation in the treaty ceding Louisiana to the United 
States that forbids the exercise of it in providing for the admission into the 
Union of the territory of Missouri. The provision of the treaty, which is sup- 
posed to impose on Congress the obligation of admitting that territory uncon- 
ditionally, is the following: (253) "The inhabitants of the ceded territory shall 
be incorporated into the union of the United States, and admitted as soon as 
possible, according to the principles of the Federal Constitution, to the enjoyment 
of all the rights, advantages, and immunities of citizens of the United States." 
It is not believed that this provision can have any effect whatever on the ques- 
tion. The admission into the Union is to be according to the principles of the 
Constitution. If Congress may according to those principles make the prohibi- 
tion of slavery a condition of the admission, then surely the admission, subject 
to that prohibition, cannot be at variance with the principles. 

The rights mentioned in the treaty are such as are conferred by the Con- 
stitution of the United States on its citizens, among which the right to hold 
slaves (if such right there be), is not one. Admitted subject to the proposed 
inhibition of slavery, the inhabitants of Missouri would have enjoyed the same 
rights, as citizens of the United States, as do the citizens of the States on the 


north side of the River Ohio, or as do the citizens of other States where slavery 
is not tolerated, and who, as is hoped, will not be soon convinced that they do 
not enjoy all the rights a,ppertaining to citizens of the United States. 

To avoid this conclusion, the Legislature of Virginia contends that the 
clause "according to the principles of the Federal Constitution," is no more than 
a qualification of the time of admission. But the Constitution neither states 
nor even alludes to any principle whatever to designate or determine the time 
for the admission of a new State. Such construction of those words would 
therefore render them wholly inoperative, and must consequently be rejected. 

The toleration of slavery in a portion of our common country has long 
furnished matter of reproach on our national character. Strong hopes were 
entertained that instead of the zeal now shown for enlarging the sphere of its 
baneful operation, suitable measures would have been adopted for its gradual 
abolition. Congress, having the power, is bound by considerations of justice and 
humanity, and by a regard to the general welfare of the nation, to prevent the 
further extension of this evil. The attempt to wrest this power from Congress af- 
fords just cause of alarm. It is apparent that slavery creates habits and interests 
peculiar to the States tolerating it, and that it constitutes between them a strong 
bond of union. To this cause is to be attributed the unparalleled unanimity of 
every Senator and Representative of the slaveholding States, on the passing of 
the late act by Congress, affecting this subject. 

Should this odious bond of union be permitted to be extended, without op- 
position, it will soon produce such a combination of political power as may be 
sufficient permanently to control all the measures of the national councils. By 
the Constitution, a disproportionate share of political power is conceded to the 
slaveholding States on account of their slaves. And although the equivalent 
given to the States not tolerating slavery has in a great degree failed, by reason 
of the government's seldom resorting to direct taxation for revenue, yet no com- 
plaint is made, while the (254) advantage is confined to the original States, the 
parties to the compact, or even to new States formed within their limits. But 
new States formed out of territory not included within the original limits of the 
United States have no claim to this advantage. And the granting of it to 
them, when nothing in their situation renders it necessary, is an act of injustice 
toward the States not allowing slavery, and which, if persevered in, may in the 
end destroy their just share of power and influence in the General Government 
and endanger their security. 

Which said report was approved and agreed to, as expressing the opinion 
of this Legislature. Therefore, — 

Resolved, by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court con- 
vened, That in the opinion of this Legislature the Congress of the United States 
has by the Constitution the right in admitting new States into the Union to 
prescribe the prohibition of slavery, as one of the conditions on which such State 
shall be admitted: 


That in the case of Missouri, to which, by the Preamble and Resolutions of 
the General Assembly of Virginia, the attention of this Legislature has been 
called, that right remained in full force, unimpaired either by the treaty under 
which that territory was acquired, or any subsequent acts of the General Govern- 

That in the opinion of this Legislature, the existence of slavery within the 
United States is a great moral as well as political evil, the toleration of which can 
be justified by necessity alone, and that the further extension of it ought to be 
prevented by the due exercise of the power vested in the General Government: 

Resolved, That the Governor of this State be requested to transmit a copy 
of the foregoing report and resolutions to the Governor of the State of Virginia. 

The Democrats of Portsmouth were so well satisfied with Mr. 
Mason's course in the Legislature in 1820 that they re-elected him 
in 1821. He was again placed at the head of the judiciary commit- 
tee, and in this capacity reported a bill, which became a law, vesting 
in the Superior Court chancery jurisdiction in cases of real and 
personal estate given to charitable uses. This was among the very 
first acts, if not the first, which conferred chancery powers upon 
the highest court of the State. 

In 1821 a subject of general interest came before the Legislature 
of 'New Hampshire in the shape of a report and resolutions from 
the Legislature of Ohio, relating to proceedings in suits in the cir- 
cuit court of the United States for the district of Ohio against cer- 
tain officers of that State. These suits grew out of an attempt of 


the State of Ohio to tax the United States Branch Bank at Chili- 
cothe in that State, and the resistance of the bank to the tax as 

The report and resolutions of the State of Ohio were referred to 
the committee on the judiciary, which presented the following re- 
port and resolutions. 

State of New Hampshire. 

In the yemr of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and twenty-one. 

Whereas a report of a committee of both Houses of the General Assembly 
of the State of Ohio, and certain resolutions founded thereon, relating to pro- 

1 See Osborn vs. United States Bank, 9 Wheaton, 738. 


ceedings in suits in the Circuit Court of the United States for the district of 
Ohio, against certain officers of that State, have been connmunicated by his Excel- 
lency the Governor, with a request of the Legislature of the State of Ohio that 
this Legislature will express its opinion thereon; which report and resolutions 
having been duly considered: Therefore, 

Resolved, by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court 
convened, that the Congress of the United States has by the Constitution power 
to establish a Bank, with offices of discount and deposit in the several States, 
as is done by the Act establishing the Bank of the United States; and that the 
exercise of this power is necessary for the due administration of the fiscal con- 
cerns of the United States. 

Resolved, That as the Constitution and Laws of the United States made in 
pursuance thereof, are the supreme law of the land, "anything in the Constitu- 
tion or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding," therefore any act of 
the Legislature of a State, which if carried into effect, would prevent or defeat 
the rightful exercise of any of the powers vested in the General Government, is 

Resolved, That the act of the Legislature of Ohio, levying a tax on the Bank 
of the United States, if carried into effect would compel a removal from that 
State of the offices of discount and deposit there established and thereby prevent 
and defeat the rightful exercise of the power vested in the General Government 
by virtue whereof the officers of the Bank were there established. 

Resolved, That inasmuch as the judicial power of the United States extends 
to all cases in law and equity arising under the Constitution and laws, this Legis- 
lature is of opinion that the judicial power of the United States is co-extensive 
with the legislative power, and that it appertains to the judicial department of 
the government of the United States to determine cases arising from a conflict 
between the laws of the United States and the laws of a particular State, and 
that the preservation and due exercise of this power is essential to the peace and 
safety of the Union. (256) 

Resolved, That, in the opinion of this Legislature, the proceedings in the 
Circuit Court of the United States for the district of Ohio, in the before men- 
tioned report stated, do not violate the letter or spirit of the eleventh article of 
the amendments of the Constitution of the United States, nor constitute any just 
cause of complaint. 

Resolved, That while this Legislature will always be ready to lend its aid 
to defend against any real encroachment on the rights of any of the States of 
the Union, it will give its full support to the General Government, so long as it 
confines itself within its prescribed limits, in the exercise of the powers entrusted 
to it by the people of the United States, to secure the great objects for which 
the Constitution was formed. 


Resolved, That his Excellency the Governor be requested to transmit to the | 
Governors of the several States of the Union a copy of the foregoing resolu- j 
tions. I 

In the House the report was accepted, and the resolutions adopt- 
ed, by a vote of one hundred and seventy-two yeas to eight nays; 
but in the Senate, mainly, as it was said, through the influence of 
an active Democratic politician, a member of that body and after- 
wards of the United States Senate, they were indefinitely postponed 
by a vote of seven yeas to five nays. 

33 (257) 



Correspondence to the Close of 1824. — Letters to and from Mr. King, Mr. Gore, 
Judge Story, and Mr. Webster. — Mr. Mason, in 1824, a Candidate for the 
United States Senate. — Causes of his Defeat. 


Boston, January 12, 1821. 

MY DEAR Sir, — We learned by Mary's letter of Jane's recovery, 
which gave us great pleasure. We had become a good deal 
alarmed for her. You perceive our Convention is over. We have 
got out as well as we expected. As soon as our volume of debates 
and proceedings is published, I shall send it to you. It was a great 
body in numbers, and though I think it generally was well dis- 
posed, there was a good deal of inflammable matter, and some radi- 
calism in it. We were extremely fortunate in finding a consider- 
able number of gentlemen well disposed, who might otherwise have 
occasioned much trouble. You laugh a little, I know, at our early 
debates about Rules and Orders, etc. But the "Rules and Orders" 
brought us out at last. Without them there is reason to think we 
might have come badly off. Some of our friends have increased 
their reputation a good deal. I think Judge S. has done so, al- 
though he had a great deal of that commodity before. Button, 
Hoar, and Saltonstall have decisively risen, not a little. We think 
three good things done; the Judiciary, the College, and the future 
amendment articles. As to the rest, there may be different opin- 
ions. The House of Representatives is not enough reduced; but 
we could go no further, without departing altogether from town 
representation. The Senate stands pretty well. Whether the (258) 
Religious Article is helped or hurt, its friends hardly know; so I 


suppose no great injury has probably been done it. Some smaller 
amendments about the militia, etc., have passed, which it would 
have been better to have omitted. I learn that you have finished 
your Common Pleas. The consequence, I think, must ere long be, 
an entire new modification of your Supreme Court. I hope you will 
keep in the Legislature long enough to pass a law for districting 
for members of Congress. I think that quite an object. 

I suppose I must leave home for Washington about the 25th. 
I wish you could make business up here for a day or two, before 
that time. 

I have had no regular talks with anybody, since you were here, 
and I think there were some subjects which we left unfinished. 

I want to look into Moore's "History of the English Revolution," 
to ascertain a particular fact. I will thank you to give it to the stage- 
driver to be brought to me, Sunday or Monday. It will come safe. 
Yours with usual regard, D. Webster. 


Portsmouth, January 20, 1821. 

My dear Sir, — While the debates were going on in your Con- 
vention, I was so much occupied with the ordinary business of our 
Legislature that I did not read them with much attention. I have 
lately read some of the principal speeches, and anticipate the pleas- 
ure as well as instruction, I shall derive from the volume containing 
the whole, which I understand is to be published. I am told your 
best folks are pretty well satisfied with the result. You have cer- 
tainly gained considerable for the Judiciary, something in lessening 
the number of Representatives in the House, and also for the Col- 
lege, and in the matter of future amendments. I am more certain 
that some of you have gained an increased stock of reputation. 
The bad usages which have prevailed in your State Legislature, sub- 
jected you to some difficulty at first, in the matter of rules, and (259) 
orders. But after that was over, I am decidedly of opinion that the 
debates and doings of the Convention cannot fail to elevate the 
character of your State. I hope also they will shed some lustre on 
the rest of New England, which stands greatly in need of it. I sup- 
pose you must be about setting out on your annual journey to 


Washington. The State of Virginia, it seems, has provided you 
with another case, involving State rights. I see by the last '"Na- 
tional Intelligencer," that her Legislature has made a pretty bold 
attempt to forestall the decision of your court, in the lottery case. 
Virginia will never be quiet till she gets into her natural state of 
opposition to all the departments of the national government. Mary 
was much delighted with her visit at your house. She returned 
suddenly from Boston, as perhaps you may have heard, on account 
of the sickness of her sister, who has now happily recovered. Wish- 
ing you a prosperous journey, pleasant session of your court, and 
happy return, I remain. 

My dear Sir, as ever, sincerely yours, 

J. Mason. 


Portsmouth, January 8, 1822. 

My DEAR Sir, — I should have answered your letter of last Oc- 
October immediately, had I not felt a little timid in expressing any 
opinion on one of the subjects you mentioned; I mean your slave- 
ship case.' On receiving your letter I made a slight attempt to 
examine the question. I found that I had not all the late English 
cases, and as I knew little about it, I concluded the wisest course was 
to say nothing. I rejoice that you have been able to come to the re- 
sult you have, so suitable to the character of a court of justice, and 
to the nature of our system of government, and so congenial to all 
our best feelings. I am very desirous of seeing your opinion, which 
from an intimation in one of the public papers, I expected would 


have been published before this time. I take it you must necessa- 
rily come into conflict with the opinion of Lord Stowell. It will be 
highly honorable to our country to take the lead and give the law 
on this subject, and I trust you will be supported by the Supreme 
Court (where I suppose the cause has gone), and not impeded by 
any interference of the Executive Government. I have no difficulty 
in the questions discussed last summer in the Boston newspapers 

1 Mr. Mason refers to the case of La Jeune Eugenie, 2 Mason, 409. 


relating to the action of replevin, to which you allude. I had oc- 
casion, a few years ago, to examine that point, and then concluded 
that the Massachusetts doctrine was unsound.^ In that conclusion I 
was confirmed by the late discussion, which showed as I think much 
industry and ability. The publishing of reports of law cases in so 
many of the States, is doubtless in many respects beneficial, but I 
fear it will in the end prove in some respects injurious. From the 
time of Dr. Sangrado to the present, men have generally been pretty 
resolutely determined to abide by the opinions they have put into 
their own books. Were it not for this difficulty in retracting pub- 
lished opinions, it is probable the court of Massachusetts would have 
returned to what can hardly be doubted is the true doctrine of the 
law. I have no doubt, however, that the Massachusetts reports are 
on the whole beneficial. Many of the cases are ably discussed and 
have been highly useful to us in this State. But I still think it 
would have been much better that some of the cases had been omit- 
ted. The science of the law is rapidly progressing, and if the busi- 
ness of reporting was managed more sparingly, fewer anomalies 
would at a future period be found in the laws and practice of the 
different States. I learn from Washington that the expected attack 
on the judiciary will be made, but, according to my informant, with 
little prospect of success at this time. The Kentucky proposal for 
amending the Constitution will end in smoke. The objections to 


that project are obvious and insuperable. Besides destroying one 
of the leading principles of our government, a separation of the de- 
partments, it would subject judicial decision to all the intrigue and 
management to which a legislative body is always exposed. What 
chance for justice or consistency in a factious and somewhat popu- 
lar body, feeling little responsibility, a vast majority of whom if left 
to the influence of correct motives, would be wholly incompetent to 
the proposed task! If this experiment could be tried, without dis- 
turbing the Constitution, I should not dislike to see the attempt. 

J The Massachusetts doctrine was that replevin lies for a wrongful detention 
of the plaintiff's goods, although the original taking may have been justifiable. 
Judge Story held that the taking as well as the detention must be unlawful in 
order to authorize the process. See Baker et al. vs. Fales, 16 Mass. 147; Meany 
vs. Head, 1 Mason, 319. 


The nation would soon become sick of it, and the failure would free 
the Supreme Court from much undeserved odium. I do not believe 
there is any immediate danger to the judiciary by any acts of the 
Legislature. But what may be finally effected by perseverance and 
reiterated attempts it is impossible to say. A considerable por- 
tion of the jurisdiction of the courts of the United States is of such 
nature as will be always likely to give offense and excite angry pas- 
sions, and unfortunately not only all the responsibility, but all the 
odium rests on the judges of the Supreme Court. From their in- 
significance, or some other cause, the judges of the district courts 
share no part with you. I do think it is greatly desirable that there 
should be inferior courts, of character sufficiently reputable to bear 
a portion of the responsibility. But of this at present there seems 
to be no chance. The Supreme Court has no choice of courses to 
be pursued. The straightforward course is the only one that can 
be followed. It may be with as much temperance as the Chief Jus- 
tice pleases, and no man ever excelled him in the exercise of that 
virtue. But any vacillation or retracting, which might be set down 
to the score of the present noisy threats, would be not only incon- 
sistent with a due regard to personal character, but in their conse- 
quences, destructive of the best interests of the nation. I have con- 
fident hopes that the doctrines of the new school will be met, both 
in and out of Congress, by such a manly opposition, as will put 
them down, before there shall be time for them to do much injury. 
I have been lately informed that our friend Webster has given (262) 
intimations that Chancellor Kent might probably be induced to ac- 
cept the presidency of Dartmouth College. I know nothing of the 
ground on which this intimation has been made. Probably you may. 
I think you are personally acquainted with the Chancellor. I have 
no manner of doubt he would be appointed without the least hesita- 
tion, if it were understood he would accept the appointment. I have 
no direct communication with any of the trustees, but am told 
measures will be taken to ascertain whether he will accept. If you 
can with propriety, I wish you would use your influence with him 
to induce him to hearken to the proposal. It would be highly grati- 
fying not only to us in New Hampshire, but to all New England, 
to have him among us. At the first blush, perhaps the situation 
would not seem very eligible for him. But if he intends to spend 


the remainder of his life in literary pursuits, it matters not much 
where his place shall be. A man of his eminent talents can always 
make a place suitable for himself. 

With the greatest esteem and respect, I am truly yours, 

J. Mason. 


Washington, February 21, 1822. 

My DEAR Sir, — I had the pleasure of receiving your late letter 
a few days since. I will not conceal how much satisfaction it gave 
me to learn your approbation in the case of La Jeune Eugenie. It 
was one of those questions on which professional minds might well 
differ, but which I felt involved a great principle of morals. The 
opinion has been read by several of the judges here, and in general I 
think it not unsatisfactory to them in its results. The Chief Justice, 
with his characteristic modesty, says he thinks I am right, but the 
questions are new to his mind. Mr. Pinkney agrees entirely in the 
result, and in all the intermediate reasoning except on a single point, 
where he thinks the doctrine so qualified, that he does not think it 
incorrect, though he says he paused upon it. Speaking of this gen- 

^ Joseph Story (1779-1845), was appointed to the United States Supreme 
Bench at thirty-one, by Madison, in 1811, where he sat for thirty-four years. 
He assisted the development of American constitutional law in fixing the stat- 
utes of American admiralty, patent and equity jurisprudence. Story says that 
after reading Blackstone, Mr. Sewell, his preceptor, directed him to read Coke 
on Littleton. "It was a large folio, with Hargrave & Butler's notes, which 
I was required to read also. Soon after Mr. Sewell's departure for Washing- 
ton, I took it up. I set myself down and wept bitterly. My tears dropped upon 
the book, and stained its pages. It was but a momentary irresolution. I went 
on and on, and began at last to see delight, ay, and to feel that I could compre- 
hend and reason upon the texts and contents. When I had completed the reading 
of this formidable work, I felt that I breathed a purer air, and that I had ac- 
quired a new power." — 1 Story's Life and Letters, 74. 

Story said of Mason: "Mr. Mason is the most eminent counsellor at the 
bar of New Hampshire. He is, as everyone acquainted with him knows, a labor- 
ious, acute, learned, sagacious, accurate lawyer, whose mind is capable of the 
highest reaches of reasoning and Whose comprehensiveness of view rarely 
leaves anything untouched or unseen, belonging to the subject which he investi- 
gates." — Stoi^y's Autobiography, 23 (Written in 1804.) 


tleman, I am sorry to inform you that on Sunday last he was taken 
very ill, with what is generally thought an apoplexy. But it is called 
by some softer name, a brain fever — for instance. He is better now, 
though still very ill, and I have my doubts whether he will ever 
again be thoroughly well.^ At all events I think we shall scarcely 
again witness his extraordinary efforts. It is remarkable that Mr. 
Wirt^ was taken ill at the commencement of the term with a like 
attack, from which he is slowly recovering, and it is exceedingly 
doubtful if he will be able to attend court during the whole term. 
Our business has been exceedingly deranged by these accidents, 
and very little important business will be done this session. The 
propositions of Virginia, etc., and of Mr. Johnson of Kentucky, 
respecting the judiciary are not likely to find much favor here in 
Congress. From opposite motives there will be hostility to them; 
and I learn that even in Virginia, Mr. Eppes, in offering his resolu- 
tions against the judiciary, has met with a rebuke, — seventy-two 
against seventy-eight members voting to postpone them indefinitely. 
This looks somewhat ominous. In respect to the candidates for 
the Presidency, discussion has somewhat subsided, but it is clear 
that all public business is colored with the hues borrowed from this 
subject. Every measure is watched with a jealous regard to its 
bearing on this point. Kentucky is at present firmi for Mr. Clay, 
and will struggle hard to bring other Western interests to bear in 
his favor. Mr. Crawford's friends are evidently alive and exerting 
themselves. Beyond all question Virginia means to stick by him. 
Mr. Adams seems in statu quo. I do not hear that he makes any 
friends, and unless supported by Maryland, he will not have a com- 
manding vote. I do not learn that he has any very zealous parti- 
sans at work for him. Mr. Lowndes by present appearances will not 
ultimately run against any other candidate from South Carolina, 

1 Mr. Pinkney died four days after the date of this letter. 

a William Wirt (1772-1834). Says Rufus Choate: "Wirt at 35 years of age, 
was, I think, the most interesting man of the profession of our country. Webster 
and Pinkney had not then come out in national relief. With them, letters were an 
after-acquisition; with Wirt, the literature was originally congenial. I didn't hear 
him in his prime (Choate read law with Wirt, in 1821, when the latter was 49), 
for the winter I was in his office he was struck down in the middle of preparing a 


but his friends will unite with those of Mr. Calhoun.'^ This latter 
gentleman stands very high here among elevated and considerate 
men, and appears to be gaining ground. His youth is against him, 

and will probably weigh much in abating the wishes in his favor. 
But in all other respects I am told he is thought superior to most, if 
not all of the candidates. It is impossible to conjecture what will be 
the event, and I have not even attempted to speculate on it. I think, 
if he is not set up, his friends will probably incline to Mr. Adams. 
The whole Cabinet is by the ears. All are candidates, and as I hear, 
they are quite shy of each other. I imagine that consultations are 
merely formal, and advice rarely given in concert. I have thus 
thrown out all that I can learn of the floating rumors and guesses 
in this city of uncertainties; and am, with my respects to Mrs. Mason 
and Mary, most sincerely but in great haste, 

Your faithful friend, Joseph Story. 

great case by a sort of paralysis, brought on entirely by over work. Wirt told 
me once that he sat right behind Webster in the Dartmouth College case and he 
didn't hear anything of that pathetic peroration which Goodrich describes; at 
least, he was not impressed with anything in particular about it. I think Wirt's 
argument in Burr's case, and on the motion to exclude all the testimony as to 
what occurred in other parts than the venue, his greatest effort on record." — 
— Parker^s Reminisceyices of Rufus Choate, 271-2; also 2 Great American Law- 
yers, 306, by John Handy Hall. 

^ Rufus Choate, James Parton, W. H. Sparks, and Senator Jas. H. Kyle, 
speak depreciatingly of Calhoun; not so, Daniel Webster and Henry Cabot Lodge, 
the latter of whom recently said: "He was really a great man, one of the con- 
spicious figures of our history. In that history he stands out clear, distinct, 
commanding. There is no trace of the demagogue about him. He was a bold, 
as well as a deep thinker, and he had to the full the courage of his convictions. 
The doctrines of socialism were as alien to him as the worship of commercialism. 
He raised his mind to truths. He believed that statesmanship must move on a 
high plane, and he could not conceive that mere money-making and money-get- 
ting were the highest objects of ambition in the lives of men and nations. He 
was the greatest man South Carolina has given to the Nation. * * * He was one 
of the most remarkable men, one of the keenest minds, that American public life 
can show. It matters not that before the last tribunal the verdict went against 
him, that the extreme doctrines to which his imperious logic carried him have 
been banned and barred, the man remains greatly placed in history. The un- 
yielding courage, the splendid intellect, the long devotion to the public service. 







Boston., March 23, 1822. 

My dear Sir, — I came home this day week, after a longer ab- 
sence than usual, and having had a severe cold on the way, which 
detained me two or three days at New York. My observation at 
Washington has not probably enabled me to say anything new to 
you, as Mr. King has probably often written you, and his guesses 
are worth a great deal more than mine. I have formed, however, 
one or two opinions, which I shall state, without at present giving 
reasons for them, as to the future events. In the first place, I think 
it clear there is to be a ivarm contest for the Presidency; and my 
expectation is that after sifting out sundry candidates having less 
support, the final struggle will be between Crawford and Calhoun. 
It would certainly come to this, if the present Congress were to de- 
cide the matter and were now to take sides. Whether the People 
may not interfere, before the time comes, and make a President of 
somebody else, I know not. The New York dominant party talk 
mysteriously, and hint that they may bring up Mr. King. Of all 
this I do not believe one word. I think they are aiming not to 
serve Mr. King, but to serve themselves hij him; and I fear he is 

not quite so fully impressed with this truth as he ought to be. I 

the pure unspotted private life are all there, are all here with us now, untouched 
and unimpaired for after ages to admire." — From speech on acceptance of the 
Statue of Calhoun, in U. S. Senate, Mar. 12, 1910. 

On the contrary, James Parton says: "Mr. Calhoun was not a student; he 
probed nothing to the bottom; his information on all subjects was small in 
quantity, and second-hand in quality. Nor was he a patient thinker. Any 
stray fact or notion that he met with in his hasty, desultory reading, which 
chanced to give apparent support to a favorite theory or paradox of his own he 
seized upon eagerly, paraded it in triumph, but pondered it little; while the 
weightiest facts which controverted his opinion he brushed aside without the 
slightest consideration. His mind was arrogant as his manners were courteous. 
Everyone whoever conversed with him must remember his positive, peremptory, 
unanswerable 'Not at all, not at all' whenever one of his favorite notions was 
assailed. He was wholly a special pleader; he never summed up the testimony. 
We find in his works no evidence that he had read the masters in political 
economy; not even Adam Smith, whose reputation was at its height during the 


take the New York votes to be yet to be disposed of, according to 
circumstances. Pennsylvania, it is thought, will be unanimous for 
Mr. Calhoun, and I suppose is the basis of his expected support.. 
I have heard opinions expressed, respecting other States and parts 
of States, about which speculations have been formed. Maine is 
expected to go for Mr. Crawford. Your Mr. Hill is gone to Wash- 
ington, and in all probability he will pledge New Hampshire to the 
same interest. I think the "Intelligencer" latterly favors the same 
interest. The President, as far as he ventures to have any opinion, 
is, I imagine, against that interest. We had rather an interesting 
court. There were some causes of consequence. Your friend Taze- 
well (who quotes you on all occasions) made a good speech in one 
of these Baltimore privateering causes. He is a correct, fluent, easy, 
and handsome speaker; and a learned, ingenious, and subtle lawyer. 
Our friend Judge Story seems to have drawn up more than his share 
of opinions; and I think in general they were very able. In the 
Spanish Commission affairs go tolerably well. The general course 
is favorable to the North and the real mercantile losses except only 
as far as relates to the contract cases which are likely to be forced 
in, against the opinion of the Commission. I have a particular rea- 
son for wishing to see you between this time and the first of May. 
Shall you probably be this way? 

I am, dear Sir, yours as always, 

D. Webster. 

first half of his public life. In history he was the merest smatterer, tho it was his 
favorite reading, and he was always talking about Sparta, Athens, and Rome. 
The slenderness of his fortune prevented his traveling. He never saw Europe, 
and if he ever visited the Northern States, after leaving colloge, his stay was 
short. The little that he knew of life was gathered in three places, all of which 
were of an exceptional and artificial character — the City of Washington, the 
up-country of South Carolina, and the luxurious reactionary City of Charleston. 
His mind, narrow and intense, because, by revolving always in this narrow 
sphere and breathing a close tainted atmosphere, more and more fixed in his 
narrowness and more intense in its operations.'' * * * According to Calhoun's 
reasoning, South Carolina should have a veto upon acts of Congress. Very 
well; then each county of South Carolina should have a veto upon the acts of 
the State Legislature; and each town should have a veto upon the behests of 
the county; and each voter upon the decisions of the town. Mr. Calhoun's argu- 
ment, therefore, amounts to this: that one voter in South Carolina should have 



Portsmouth, April 12, 1822. 

Dear Sir, — I thank you for sending me your Report on the 
Restrictions of our Trade with the British West Indies. The very 
satisfactory view which you have given of the justice and policy of 
the measures adopted by the United States, must tend to silence 
the complaints which local interests had excited. In this quarter 


of the Union no dissatisfaction has been felt except by a few individ- 
uals whose private interests were supposed to be affected. Our best 
informed merchants are of opinion that the value of this trade has 
been greatly overrated, and if it should be permitted to our vessels 
equally with the British, under the restrictions which would prob- 
ably be imposed, that it could not be profitably pursued to any con- 
siderable extent. A strong recommendation of the President for 
acknowledging the independence of the South American provinces, 
and the extraordinary unanimity with which it was adopted by the 
House of Representatives, leads me to suspect there was information 
at Washington that this measure would give no serious offense in 
Europe. If the late intelligence of the declaration of the Spanish 
Cortes be true, it would seem that was not the case. 

I hope we are in no danger of a misunderstanding with Spain, or 
any other power, on this subject. We are certainly not in a situa- 
tion to justify the encountering much risk. In the present condi- 
tion of our finances, it would be folly even to talk of a war. If I 
mistake not the people at large do not participate much in the zeal 
felt by their representatives on this occasion. 

The squabbles among the members of the Cabinet for the succes- 
sion tend to degrade the government and deprive it of the public 
confidence. It must require nothing less than the whole energy of 
the President to keep the peace of his own household. Should 
these squabbles continue, there is a chance that the people may 
take the matter into their own hands and determine it for them- 
selves, in which event I hope that more than one of the present 

the constitutional right to nullify an act of Congress, and no law should be 
binding which has not received the assent of every citizen." — Article, "Calhoun," 
in Famous Amencans of Recent Times, pp. 142 and 165-6. 


candidates may be disappointed. The Baltimore pamphlet on the 
public defaulters, as far as it is known, attracts much attention. If 
the facts were fairly before the people, they would produce a strong 
sensation and in the end a beneficial effect. The government would 
be compelled to adopt a more efficient system of accounting for 
expenditures of public money. But there is no way by which these 
statements can reach the people. Since the Federal opposition ceased, 
no prudent conductor of a newspaper has deemed it (267) expedi- 
ent to publish anything that might give offense to the powers that 
be. And this will continue to be the case until an opposition shall 
arise under some other name and from a different quarter. I do 
not know how to account for the long continuance of such entire 
apathy and indifference towards the present administration. It seems 
to have neither friends nor foes. 

From the exictement that prevailed in Virginia and several other 
States, a violent attack on the Supreme Court was expected in the 
course of the present session of Congress. I am glad to see that 
this, together with a multitude of other projects of less importance, 
will probably end in smoke. I know it has often been said that 
lawyers are apt to attach too much importance to the judiciary de- 
partment. I confess I have long been of opinion that the vigorous 
exercise of the judiciary power, to the full extent now authorized by 
law, was absolutely necessary for the preservation of the government. 
I think there is more occasion for extending than for restraining 
the exercise of this power. Were it not for the extreme jealousy, on 
the score of State rights, felt in some sections of the Union, I should 
like to see provision made by law for the exercise of this power, to 
the utmost limits fixed by the Constitution. I cannot see how the 
other two departments of government can be effective, where the 
judiciary can do nothing. A restriction of the judiciary power neces- 
sarily involves a correspondent restriction of the other powers of 
government. It must be so at least in all cases where the general 
government comes in conflict with the State government. 

With great respect and esteem I am faithfully yours, 

J. Mason. 



Jamaica, L. L, May 17, 1822. 

Dear Sir, — I thank you for your obliging letter received at 
Washington. After a long and unprofitable session, Congress (268) 
adjourned last week. Our South America recognition ought to 
make, and as I hope will make, no change in our political relations, 
though some apprehend difficulties. It is not probable that ministers 
will be sent before they are needed by our government ; the delay will 
afford opportunity to select proper characters and to watch the 
course of events ; it will morever avoid the eclat of a premature 
proceeding. At the early period of the session we saw much eager- 
ness on the subject of the next President; but the disinclination 
manifested by some of the State legislatures to enter into an early 
discussion of the question had the effect to discourage the same, and 
the session finished leaving the candidates in the situation in which 
it found them. Mr. Adams stands where he was. Calhoun did not 
advance. Crawford holds his own, and Clay is encouraged to per- 
severe. His hopes rest on the election to be made by the House of 
Representatives. The subject will be resumed at the next session, 
and events which may occur in the interval may serve to render men 
more decided and explicit. The competition between the heads of 
departments creates jealousies and divisions in the proceedings of 
Congress, and these will be increased in future sessions. The situa- 
tion of the incumbent is such as might have been expected. The last 
year or two of his predecessor exhibited but little evidences of the 
attachment or fidelity of his political friends. The close of the actual 
Presidency will not in this respect be more fortunate. 

Our commercial difficulties with France will, as I conceive, be 
settled by a convention between Mr. Adams and Mr. Neuville. It will 
be only for a year or two, but will probably lead to a future and recip- 
rocally beneficial adjustment. From England we have information 
that their West India ports are about to be opened. Some persons 
doubt whether in the present state of our navigation, the opening 
of the trade to British and American vessels will be advantageous; 
but those who have most considered the subject of commerce, best 
understand the advantages of its freedom, and with confidence de- 


pend upon its penetrating qualities and the tendency thereof to its 
increase. If the markets of all nations were open, the (269) con- 
sequence would be to create the highest stimulus to commercial en- 
terprise and human industry. I am persuaded that this theory is the 
true one for the people of the United States, and it is a comfort to me 
to believe that it will make our country illustrious. 

With regard and respect, I am dear Sir, 

Your obedient, faithful servant, 

RuFUS King. 


Portsmouth, Aj)ril 17, 1823. 

My Dear Sir,— In a letter I had from Mr. Payne, within a few 
days, he informs me that you had in good degree recovered your 
health; that you were much better than you had been for several 
years past, and that there was a fair prospect of your again having 
the use of your limbs. I most cordially congratulate you on this hap- 
py event. Be assured, my dear sir, I am exceedingly rejoiced. There 
are very few persons in the world, whose welfare would give me 
such sincere pleasure. The patience and magnanimity with which 
you have borne your long continued and severe sufferings, have al- 
ways excited my admiration. I hope and trust that the present pros- 
pect will not prove fallacious. I have enjoyed good health all my 
life, with few trivial exceptions, and I have been often told that no 
one can duly appreciate the full value of health, without having un- 
dergone the pains and penalties of sickness. I pray God you may 
long enjoy your present happiness without again paying its extrava- 
gant price. It seems Dr. Eustis has carried his election with an over- 
whelming majority. I was prepared for this result, when I saw both 
Orthodoxy and the Hartford Convention invoked to his aid. This 
is the second time Mr. Otis has been the unfortunate occasion of 
calling up the ghost of that unlucky convention. I hope it is now laid 
forever. This is probably the last struggle of Federalism. This last 
defeat, in its stronghold, like most former ones, has been effected 
by the want of policy and the mismanagement (270) of the leaders. 



Whether the result ought to be deemed matter of regret, depends in 
my opinion almost entirely on the course that shall be pursued by 
the successful candidate. Since the dissolution of the Federal party 
in the United States, I have not been able to see any general benefit 
from retaining its name and nominally supporting its principles in 
a single State. It may have been convenient to individuals, and 
possibly beneficial to that State at large. However that may be, it 
has certainly been injurious to neighboring States, by impeding by 
its example the amalgamation of parties. Without much confidence 
either in the wisdom or moderation of the successful candidate, I 
still hope the follies of Gerry's administration are not to be reacted. 
If I mistake not, the spirit of the times does not require it, and would 
ill bear it, unless excited by what is now to become the opposition. 

I see it stated in the papers, that Judge Jackson has resigned. 
This vacancy, left to be filled by the successor of Governor Brooks, 
would I think add much to the security of the bench. Should an 
individual obnoxious to the dominant party be appointed, ways ana 
means would be easily devised for removing him, and probably his 
brethren with him. This State, Connecticut, and New York furnish 
ample evidence that in times of party excitement judicial offices are 
no more permanent or secure than others. 

I am just released from a long and tedious session of our court. 
One of our judges, being about to become Governor, ^ "^ thought an 

1 Judge Woodbury. 

a Levi Woodbury (1789-1851). American jurist, born in Francestown, N. 
H. He graduated at Dartmouth, in 1809; began law practice in Francestown; 
and in 1816 was appointed clerk of New Hampshire Senate. In 1817 he became a 
judge of the State Supreme Court, and was one of the three judges that sat in 
the Dartmouth College case, when tried in the State Court. He was Governor of 
New Hampshire, in 1823-4, Speaker of the Lower House of Congress, 1825; U. 
S. Senator, 1825-31; Secretary of the Navy, 1831-34; and Secretary of the 
Treasury, 1834-41. He was again a member of the Federal Senate, 1841-45; As- 
sociate Justice of the U. S. Supreme Court, 1845-51, until his death. His politi- 
cal, judicial, and literary writings were edited by Nahum Capen (3 vols., 1852). 
Judge Woodbury said of Mason: "In a profound knowledge of several branches 
of jurisprudence, and in some of the most choice qualities of a forensic speaker, 
he had in his palmy days, not merely in this State (Massachusetts) or New 
England, but in this whole country few equals, and probably no superiors." — 
Remarks of Judge Woodbury, upon Mr. Mason's death, U. S. Circuit Court, 
Boston, Oct. 17, 1848. 


attempt to clear out the docket would add to his glory. This occa- 
sioned a long adjourned session in this county. I intend soon after 
the Circuit Court of the United States, which will begin 8th May, 
to go to Boston. I am the more desirous of this, as I anticipate the 
pleasure of seeing you in good health. With my and Mrs. Mason's 
best respects to Mrs. Gore, 

I am truly and affectionately yours, 

J. Mason. 


Portsmouth, April 24, 1823. 

My dear Sir, — I see that by an act of the last session your cir- 
cuit is to commence at Portland the 1st of May. We expect Mrs. 
Story will accompany you to Portland, as she intended to do so one or 
two of the last times you went there. We shall be highly gratified if 
you can make it convenient to spend a day or two with us as you 
go down. We shall depend at all events on your coming directly to 
our house, and remaining for the night, which you must of course 
spend in Portsmouth when on your way to Portland. I had prom- 
ised myself the pleasure of going with you to Portland. I was ap- 
plied to to argue a cause pending in your court there. But I believe 
it is agreed to be continued, which will deprive me of the excuse for 
going. Mr. Webster wrote me from Washington, a few days ago, to 
ask you for a letter he had written to you, of and concerning the 
appointment of a successor of Judge Livingston. I feel a curiosity 
to know the causes of the unexpected demur that has happened in 
that matter, and wish you would remember to put the letter in 
your pocket. When I first heard of the death of Judge Livingston, 
I had strong hopes that Chancellor Kent" would have been appoint- 

a James Kent (1763-1847.) "The case of Griswold v. Waddington (15th and 
16th Johnson's Reports) contains more elaborate and thorough investigation in- 
to the consequences of a war, as affecting the relations, intercourse and con- 
tracts of the respective subjects of the hostile parties, than is to be found in any 
other adjudicated case, or in any treatise on the subject, in our own, or in any 
foreign language. It is not merely a judicial opinion, but a most learned and ex- 


ed ; but if what I have heard intimated be true, that this appointment 
is embraced in the calculations of the present great political juggle, 
whatever may be the cause of the delay, I think Chancellor Kent 
stands no chance. I do not see how his appointment can be made 
to answer the purpose of any of the candidates. With best regards 
to Mrs. Story, in which Mrs. Mason joins me, 

I am, as ever, truly yours, 

J. Mason. 


Portsmouth, November 3, 1823. 

My DEAR Sir, — I received, a few days ago, the package herewith 
sent, from Sparhawk, the secretary of this State, containing, as he 
says, several pamphlets of our statutes, with a request that I would 
see them forwarded to you. I suppose this is intended to be in com- 
pliance with a resolve passed while I was in the Legislature. If I 
rightly remember, that resolve directed him to send you all of our 
statutes then in force, and future ones as published. I recollect such 
was the purport of the resolution introduced, and something was 
said about there not being in the secretary's office a complete set of 
the statutes in print. Whether the resolution was amended in con- 
sequence of that suggestion, I do not recollect. But I do remember 
speaking to Mr. Sparhawk on the subject, and he promised me to 
send you the volume containing our last edition of the statutes, and 

haustive dissertation on this branch of national and municipal law, embracing a 
masterly and critical analysis of all the cases and supporting every position by 
an irresistible force of argument and weight of authority. Like the famous 
treatise of Bynkershoeck on Public Law, it ought to be not transiently consulted, 
but by a diligent and repeated perusal, should be transcribed into the mind of the 
student." — Judge Duer's Discourse on Kent, pp. 50-1. 

"English schoolmen may discuss the various merits of Nottingham, Hard- 
wicke and Eldon and award the palm to the one or the other, or resort to nice 
distinctions and qualifications, but the mere mention of American equity suggests 
Kent, at once, the founder and expounder of Chancery in the United States. That 
he was without a rival in this particular domain is but faint praise, for he is 
without a competitor. The seven volumes of Johnson's Chancery Reports do not 
admit of comparison." — Jas. Brown Scott on Kent, 2 "Great American Laivyers," 
p. 531. 


such pamphlets since published as he had in the office, or could 
procure. In case you have not reteived them and will inform me, 
I will procure them for you. 

I have a letter from Mr. Webster, stating that Mr. Clinton has 
started in the Presidential race, with the present appearance of ex- 
traordinary popularity, in the State of New York. He seems to 
think, from present appearanges, that Mr. Clinton stands a good 
chance to carry the State of New York. If so, it increases the prob- 
ability that the election will be decided in the House of Representa- 
tives. My son George returned last evening from his Western pere- 
grination. He returned by way of Detroit, through the Lakes, and 
is full of stories of perils by land and by water. One of the latter 
went near being fatal to the poor fellow. In crossing the Hudson at 
Albany, he imprudently — as is common for young men and not un- 
common for old men— sat in a close carriage. By a mishap the 
horses with the carriage went out of the boat into the river, where 
the water was twenty feet deep. He luckily crept out of a window 
and hung on to the carriage till taken off by another boat, (273) 
immediately after which the carriage sank. He sustained no other 
inconvenience than a thorough ducking in the cold water, and the 
wetting of his baggage, which was afterwards recovered. He has 
seen a good deal of the Western world, and I trust will derive some 
benefit from it. He seems not to be desirous of returning with a 
view of a residence there. I am sorry he had no opportunity to 
deliver the letter you so kindly gave him to Judge Todd. 

With my and Mrs. Mason's respects to Mrs. Story, I am, dear 
Sir, as ever, truly and affectionately yours, 

J. Mason. 


Princeton, November 20, 1823. 

My DEAR Sir, — We are thus far on our way well, and without 
accident. I spent two or three days in New York, and write this 
principally to give you information of what surprised me, and will 
agreeably, I imagine, surprise you. I mean the extraordinary present 
popularity of Mr. Clinton. I was in no manner prepared to hear 


the language, held in the city, on that subject. The various candi- 
dates for the Presidency, or their friends, now seem to consider him 
the most formidable opponent, as far as that State is concerned. 
What from the natural reaction of popular sympathy, in favor of 
one who is supposed to have been hardly used, and what from his 
now acknowledged merits, as connected with the canal, he seems 
rising very strangely. In short, his friends speak with great con- 
fidence of his success in that State, and with almost equal confidence 
of his strength in Ohio. This gives a new aspect to things, and 
probably renders still more improbable any choice by the electors. 
Mr. Clinton's friends, and Mr. Calhoun's friends, at this moment, 
seem to think the only controversy in New York must be between 
those two. They admit that Mr. Adams has a great body of well 
wishers and some active friends ; but they think neither class is in- 
creasing at present. And Mr. Crawford, they (274) think, or 
affect to think, out of the question. In the mean while it seems to 
be understood, as far as I could learn, that the friends of Mr. Clin- 
ton and Mr. Calhoun would go along amicably, for the present, at 
least, and until public opinion should more fully develop itself. In 
all the Middle States, there is such a fashion, or passion, for enter- 
taining projects of internal improvement, that considerations of 
that sort are expected to have influence on the highest elections. 
Foreign relations being all quiet and pacific, and no high party 
feelings at present existing, the necessary exitement of public senti- 
ment seems only likely to be found in schemes of internal improve- 
ment. I believe you and I have the fortune, good or ill, to have 
committed ourselves in favor of the constitutional power of Congress 
to aid such objects. 

I hope to find a letter from you at Washington. Mr. Stockton's 
good family are all well, and desire their respects to your family. 
Julia is at New Bedford for the winter. 

Yours, most truly, 

D. Webster. 



Washington, November 30, 1823. Sunday Evening. 

Dear Sir, — We arrived here on Wednesday evening safe and 
well, after a journey which on the whole was pleasant and agreeable. 
Our lodgings were ready, and are very comfortable. The attendance 
of members is uncommonly large, and we shall have a quorum, no 
doubt, tomorrow. Mr, Clay arrived last evening. He will doubtless 
be Speaker, although I understand Mr. Barbour's friends intend to 
run him. It will not go, Mr. Clay's popularity as Speaker is great, 
and he is, in many respects, a liberal and honorable man. His 
health is not good, but I fancy not so bad as to induce him to decline 
the chair. Though I think him tolerably liberal, and not unfriendly 
in his general feeling, yet I do not suppose that in the organization 
and arrangement of the affairs of the House he will (275) venture 
to disregard old lines of distinction. Mr. King has arrived, but I 
have not seen him. Both your Senators are here. 

I have not seen much here yet to add to the stock of knowledge 
on the subject of the Presidential election. It looks to me, however, 
at present, as if it might happen that Mr, Crawford would ere long 
be given up and his friends go off in a direction to Mr. Clay. It ap- 
pears to me to be our true policy to oppose all caucuses, — so far, our 
course seems to me to be clear. Beyond that I do not think we are 
bound to proceed, at present. To defeat caucus nominations (or 
prevent them), and to give the election, wherever it can be done, to 
the people, are the best means of restoring the body politic to its 
natural and wholesome state. 

Mrs. Webster sends a great deal of love to you all. 

Yours, most truly, D, Webster, 

I hope you have not abandoned an idea which you intimated to 
me at Dorchester. I think you will do exceedingly right to take 
that step, and am sure you will not regret it. It will excite no jeal- 
ousy or suspicion here, at all ; and you have reasons which will allay 
any that might arise at home. 



Salem, December 2, 1823. 

My dear Sir, — I am greatly obliged to you for forwarding to me 
the pamphlet laws of New Hampshire. I have never received those 
passed at June sessions of 1819 and 1820, so that my series since 
the publication of the first volume is broken. I should be very glad 
to obtain the missing laws of 1819 and 1820, and if the Secretary of 
State could furnish me with them it would be quite a favor. 

I had not heard from Mr. Webster, until I received your letter, 
since his departure. The new Presidential candidate quite surprises 
me. But he is a buoyant man, and though I think his chance very 
small, it may probably send the choice to the House of (276) Repre- 
sentatives. I still incline to think Mr. Adams' chance upon the 
electoral vote, better than that of any other candidate. But there 
are so many slips between the cup and the lip, that I do not even 
pretend to prophesy. Mr. Calhoun is acquiring friends who will 
steadily aid him ; but it appears to me that he has very great obstacles 
to overcome, whether the choice be with the people or with the House 
of Representatives. I dare say I shall hear much and see much on 
the grand arena at Washington this winter. 

I have lately received a letter from Judge Jackson, in which he 
speaks pleasantly of his reception in England. He says that the 
English are very reserved to persons who are not regularly intro- 
duced to them, but when certified of your character and domicil they 
are as hospitable and frank as any people. He thinks American 
society is very much courted in England, particularly by the higher 
classes of society. He has received many civilities from accidental 
acquaintances, which gave him very favorable impressions. For- 
tunately, my letter to Lord Stowell was useful to him, for his lord- 
ship immediately called on him and showed him great civility. This 
leads me to say that I have lately received a letter from Lord 
Stowell, with a beautifully bound copy of his ecclesiastical decisions 
in the Consistory Court in London, in two volumes. He apologizes 
for not having written me before, and states that ill-health, old age, 
and the death of friends have so absorbed his time, that he has 
voluntarily done nothing beyond his oflficial duties. He mentions 


that the common-law courts are in a sad state. Lord C. J. Dallas, 
Chief Baron Richards, and the Master of the Rolls (Sir T. Plumer), 
are in very ill health, and some of the puisne judges also; so that a 
good deal of the business is done by Serjeants, which does not give 
satisfaction. The sick judges cannot retire, because they have not 
served long enough to entitle them to the retiring pension. I was 
not before aware that there was any particular period fixed for this 
purpose. But you may see that everything in England settles 
down upon established usages. He mentions also the attacks in 
Parliament on Lord Eldon, and confidently believes (277) he can 
vindicate himself. When we next meet you shall read it at large, 
and I am sure it will gratify you. By the way, I find by late English 
papers, that both Lord Eldon and Lord Stowell have been seriously 
ill. At their ages (seventy-five to seventy-seven), it can hardly b« 
expected that they should be able to work much longer, but haW 
their places are to be supplied, I cannot conjecture 

Yours most truly and affectionately, 

Joseph Story. 


Portsmouth, December 29, 1823. 

Dear Sir, — I have seen the report of the Judiciary Committee 
of the last session, which you mention. The first mentioned project, 
of adding two more judges to the Supreme Court, is in my opinion 
entitled to very little consideration. The reasons mentioned against 
it in the report are sufficient. Another, and perhaps not less 
weighty reason, is that such increase of the number of judges would 
greatly lessen their individual responsibility, which with most men 
constitutes the strongest security for diligence and faithfulness in 
the performance of public trusts. 

Much better than that is the third proposal, which is to make two 
circuit courts for the Western States with judges, who are not to be 
members of the Supreme Court. The want of courts in those States 
is certainly an evil, which Congress is bound in some way to remedy. 
The establishment of cirucit courts there, on this plan, seems to 


furnish a ready remedy for the evil there. These courts will be 
anomalous in our system, but not more so than the present district 
courts in those States, with the powers of circuit courts, are. No 
objection arising from any provision of the Constitution against es- 
tablishing such courts occurs to me. It will probably tend to a long 
continuance of irregularities in the system and mar its beauty. Con- 
gress will soon be pressed to establish similar courts in some of the 
present circuits, where, by reason of their great extent, or the (278) 
age or infirmities of the judges assigned to them, it will be said they 
cannot discharge the duties of circuit judges. On the whole, I think 
this plan ought to be adopted, if nothing better can be done. 

But I prefer the second project in the report, which is to create 
circuit courts on the plan of those of 1801. The only objection 
against that mentioned in the report, is that those courts were tried 
and abolished. This rests wholly on party feelings. Whether those 
feelings have subsided sufficiently to do away the force of this reason, 
I cannot judge. The reason then urged, that the courts were un- 
necessary, cannot now apply with equal if with any force. Since 
the repeal of the act creating those courts, the population of the 
United States has doubled, and the litigation in the courts more than 
twice doubled. 

Something like this plan must, I think, in the end be adopted, 
and if it would be done now it would be better than to postpone to a 
later period or introduce it by degrees. I think this desirable for 
many reasons. The jurisdiction of the courts of the United States 
ought to be enlarged to the extent of the Constitution, except in 
small cases of trivial importance. The courts are the only source 
from which the nation can hope for a system of jurisprudence 
worthy of it. From the States' courts nothing can be expected. 
The vacillating policy of our little petty States, leading to such fre- 
quent changes in the organization of their courts and more frequent 
changes of judges, forbids all hope of system or consistency in adju- 
dications. Of this the judicial history of New England for thirty 
years past furnishes sufficient evidence. 

The late resolution in New York tends to the conclusion that the 
large States have no better foundation for hope. For the business 
that ought to be done in the national courts, the present establishment 
does not afford a sufficient number of judges. I make no account of 


the district judges. When brought to act in matters of serious im- 
portance, as members of the circuit court, none of them, as far as I 
know, have been, or are of any value. Out of their own district 
courts they do nothing. This leaves the whole labor and (279) 
weight to be borne by the seven judges of the Supreme Court. In 
my opinion, they ought not to be made to bear either. In some of 
the circuits the judge of the Supreme Court can do the present 
business. That is the case in this circuit. The business here is 
probably now as well, and perhaps better, done than it would be by 
a court on the proposed plan. But this depends on the character of 
the judge, and the smallness of his circuit. It was very different 
during Judge Cushing's time. While he presided in the circuit 
courts, nothing of importance was or could be done there. And this 
at some period has been the case in other circuits. In some circuits 
the business is said to be too much for a single individual, in addi- 
tion to his duties as judge of the Supreme Court. This has been 
said of the western circuit. But it seems to me improper that the 
business of a court of extensive and important jurisdiction should 
depend even on the health of a single individual. 

I think, also, there ought to be two sessions yearly of the Su- 
preme Court, which cannot be while the judges hold the circuit 
courts. Trials there are often delayed for want of time, to the 
great inconvenience of the parties. But what is still worse, decisions 
are sometimes made, and opinions drawn up and delivered, in haste 
to prevent the delay of another year. 

More courts and judges are also wanted for the purpose of ena- 
bling them better to defend themselves and their jurisdiction. In all 
the attacks on the judiciary, the judges of the Supreme Court, alone 
and unaided, have been obliged to fight the battle. The poor dis- 
trict judges have never been thought of in the attacks, or felt in the 
defense, — a larger corps of judges would afford more strength and 

This course tends obviously to the extension and more thorough 
establishment of the judicial power of the national government, and 
for this reason will be apt to meet with opposition from those who 
are hostile to that power. How powerful such opposition would be, 
I cannot conjecture, although I think this the best plan, and that it 
ought not to be abandoned ; yet were I in your situation I would (280) 

Taken soon after his marriage at age of thirty-one. 


not propose it at this time unless I saw a tolerable prospect of suc- 
cess. The attempt if unsuccessful would be injurious, as it would 
tend to put off the time of its final accomplishment to a period more 
distant than otherwise might be. 

Your motion in favor of the Greeks has produced some excite- 
ment. Our good people here talk of doing something by way of con- 
tribution. Mr. James Sheafe, and some others of the discreet mer- 
chants, say they fear it will offend the Turks and endanger their ves- 
sels in the Mediterranean. 

Yours truly, J. MASON. 


Washington, Febmary 15, 1824. 

My DEAR Sir, — The caucus was holden last night, and you will 
see its result. The number attending was smaller than was expected ; 
and it seems to me the measure is more likely to hurt than to help 
Mr. Crawford. You will observe that a majority of three States 
only attended. This is an awful intimation of what will be the con- 
sequence if the election should come into the House of Representa- 
tives; and I fully believe it must come there. It does on the whole 
now seem to me extremely probable that Mr. Crawford's prospects 
are at an end. Even with New York he can have little hope. The 
Pennsylvania Convention will meet the 4th of March, and I presume 
will nominate either Jackson or Calhoun, and probable the former. 
If so, Mr. Calhoun will be no longer a candidate. Then the question 
is, who will be the three candidates presented to the House. Mr. 
Adams certainly will be one. If Mr. Crawford gets New York, he 
will be one; but he should not, and I doubt whether he will, he will 
not come in to nomination, in which case the other two will be Clay 
and Jackson. Mr. Crawford being out of the case, Virginia, it is 
thought by Mr. Tazewell, would be not unlikely to go for Mr. Adams ; 
and she might (281) influence Maryland and North Carolina so 


that the present aspect of affairs looks to me favorable to that gentle- 
man. But the moon does not change so often as the prospects of 
these candidates. One thing is observable: they are all, just now, 



very civil toward Federalists. We see and hear no abuse of us ex- 
cept in some places in New England. I hope all our friends will see 
the propriety of keeping very quiet, at present. Our time for action 
has not come, but is aproaching. I hope your election of governor 
will not be made to mingle Presidential matter with it. I presume 
the old democratic regular party, or its accustomed leaders in New 
Hampshire, will now feel authorized and obliged to support Craw- 
ford. Others of the party will not. There will of course be a schism, 
and it will be time enough six months hence to decide what course of 
conduct the case requires from Federalists. The election in Massa- 
chusetts is important in the same view. I think it not unlikely it 
may result in a Federal Legislature, which, if done without bringing 
up the question of President, may be of some importance. The Court 
is going on very well; the business this term is likely to be not as 
heavy as usual. We have no opinion yet in the Steamboat Cause; 
but I presume there can be no doubt how it will go. The case of 
collision, is, I think, unquestionably made out; and I have no doubt 
the Court will decide, that so far as respects commerce between 
different States (which is this case), the law of New York is in- 
operative. Possibly the navigation of the New York waters between 
port and port in her own territory, may be subject to different con- 
sideration. I have as yet reported no bill on the judiciary, but incline 
to think we shall recommend a partial system of circuit judges. If 
we had more confidence as to the course the appointing power would 
take, we might act differently. I find your Mr. Plumer, who is on 
the committee with me, a very pleasant and respectable man. I see 
more of him than of all the rest of your delegation. Of the com- 
pliments my Greek speech has received, I value your letter more 
than all ; for although you say of course as much as you think, I 
presume your real opinion is so favorable that (282) you believe 
the speech reputable. I am quite satisfied with that. The motion 
ought to have been adopted, and would have been by a general vote, 
but for certain reasons which the public will never know, and which 
I will not trouble you with now. I could divide the House very 
easily on the subject now, and perhaps carry a vote. Whether I shall 
stir it again must be considered. Mr. Adams' opposition to it was 
the most formidable obstacle. You saw how Messrs, Clay and 


Bartlett' settled their matter, or, rather, how somebody else settled 
it for them. I presume you are right as to the motive which led 
Bartlett to speak a conned speech against my motion. That was all 
fair enough. At least I could not complain. But when he brought 
into debate his broad Dover court wit, I thought it better to settle 
the account on the spot. A similar motive, I fancy, influenced a few 
other creatures from New England; but I am bound to say, that 
out of New England, I do not think it influenced more than two or 
three members. 

Mrs. Webster and our children here are quite well. We all send 
our love to Mrs. Mason and the family; among whom we hear you 
have the pleasure to reckon Julia Stockton. Her brother left here 
for home three days ago. He is to come back in a fortnight or 
three weeks. Yours always, 

D. Webster. 


Boston, February 22, 1824. 

My dear Sir, — I thank you for a letter some time since received, 
and entertained hopes that you might visit our city while we re- 
mained in its precincts. The warm weather of yesterday, and aspar- 
agus from Waltham — not, however, from the open ground — excited 
a wish of being in the country. The storm of this day dissipates such 
desires, and we are content under the guardianship of Mr. Quincy. 
You will have seen the eloquent speeches of our friend Webster 
and others. Randolph was quite amusing, and many think (283) 
more wise and correct than usual. Indeed, it is generally considered 
here that after the flourish of Mr. Monroe and the members of Con- 
gress, the business ended as well as could be wished, though Pro- 
fessor Everett may be disappointed of a foreign mission. The House 
of Representatives, I fear, are more noxiously employed now in pro- 
viding means for employing the Treasury and corrupting the peo- 
ple, under the title of promoting internal improvements. It remains 

''This refers to Ichabod Bartlett, who was in the lower house of Congress at 
this time, and came very nearly having a duel with Henry Clay. See Vol. 1, 
Green Bag, 1889 — article, "Ichabod Bartlett." 


to be seen if the new tariff can supply all that may be wanted for 
these purposes, should this, as I cannot but feel unwise, measure 

Crawford appears to have gained a nomination. The effect of 
this will be something in his favor. Whether the rebellious spirit of 
Democracy will resist Chandler and Co. is doubtful. Adams' sun 
does not appear very bright. His brother Democrats are willing to 
surrender him, if a caucus of true Republicans at Washington pre- 
fer another. 

Mr. 0., you will see, is again before the public, not as a candidate 
for the chair of state, but as member of the Hartford Convention, 
which his opponents have rendered odious, and have tainted him so 
deeply with, that the dye can hardly be removed by his ink, though 
profusely spent 

When the spring opens and we return to the shades of Waltham, 
may we flatter ourselves with an expectation of seeing Mrs. Mason 
and yourself; leave room at least for one day from her relations in 
the city to visit her friends in the country. 

With our best regards to your wife and children, I remain. 

Ever faithfully yours, 

C. Gore. 


Portsmouth, April 12, 1824. 

My dear Sir, — After congratulating you on your safe return 
from the fatigues of your session at Washington, I wish to inform 

you that I have just received a letter from Mr. Webster saying that 
it is rumored at Washington that Judge Sherburne had resigned, 
but that official information had not been received of his resigna- 
tion; that all the Representatives of this State, with the exception 
of Mr. Plumer, had signed a recommendation for Judge Livermore 
as his successor ; that Mr. Parrott, also of the Senate, had signed the 
paper, and that Mr. Bell was restrained by considerations of delicacy. 
This information, Mr. Webster says, was communicated confidentially 
to him, and must be used accordingly. He has probably given 


you the same information, if not I am certain he could have no ob- 
jection that you should know it. For the purpose of ascertaining 
how the fact as to the resignation was, two persons this forenoon, 
went in succession to Judge Sherburne and told him there was a 
rumor he had, or was about to resign. He replied to each of them 
that there was no manner of foundation for it; that he neither had 
resigned nor intended to resign. Notwithstanding this reiterated 
assertion, one of the gentlemen, who is very competent to form a 
correct opinion, tells me that he is satisfied, from the Judge's manner 
of talking on the subject, that he either has resigned or is in some 
negotiation for so doing. He says the Judge seemed to have his 
recollection better than usual for some time past. I am inclined to 
think that he has sent on his resignation to Washington, to be de- 
livered or retained, as may be thought best by some person there. 
I am very desirous that Nat. A. Haven, jun., should be appointed to 
this place, whenever there is a vacancy. He is in all respects suit- 
able for it. You probably may recollect a conversation we had last 
autumn with Mr. Webster. Under the present circumstances, it 
seems awkward to do anything, as it is possible Judge S. has not 
resigned, and I wish that may prove to be the case, for I fear the 
combined influence of our members of Congress. If no objection 
to such course occurs to you, I wish you would write one or more 
letters recommending Mr. Haven, and send them inclosed to Mr. 
Webster, to be used on such contingency as you may prescribe, or 
at his discretion, if you think best. I shall write to (285) him in 
that way. But no great influence from this State can be made against 
the united recommendation of our delegation 

With the greatest esteem, faithfully yours, 

J. Mason. 


Portsmouth, April 12, 1824. 

My DEAR Sir, — It is rumored here that Judge Sherburne has 
resigned. The Judge peremptorily contradicts it, and says that he 
neither has nor intends to resign. Still, from what I have heard, I 
cannot but believe that there is something like a negotiation on the 


subject going on. 

In case the Judge shall resign, I am desirous that Nat. A. Haven, 
jun., should fill the vacancy. His fine natural talents, high legal 
and literary attainments, united with the most entire purity of mind 
and character, render him eminently suitable for a judicial situa- 
tion. If you will make his real merits known to the government, 
I have great confidence in the belief that he will be appointed. I 
am with the greatest esteem. 

Your friend and obedient servant, 

J. Mason. 


Portsmouth, April 13, 1824. 

My DEAR Sir, — I thank you for several packages of Congres- 
sional documents, which I have received during the present session 
under your frank. I have read your speech on the "Central Power," 
with much interest. It was in my opinion well timed and admira- 
bly calculated to awaken the public attention on a most important sub- 
ject. The debate was rude, and, as reported, in some instances vulgar, 
and must consequently have been painful. This certainly (286) 
ought to have been checked. But I do not comprehend the grounds 
on which the President ruled the subject-matter to be irrelevant 
and out of order. The danger of this power is, I trust, fast becom- 
ing more palpable. It cannot bear open discussion. The attempt 
to exercise it on the late occasion seem to me to have been ill-judged. 
A very considerable portion of those intended to have been con- 
trolled, instead of submitting will go into open rebellion. I have 
done forming conjectures of the final result of the Presidential elec- 
tion. The prospects of the candidates are more changeable than 
the moon. The newspapers, which hitherto have been the great 
engine for operating on public opinion, are for the most part sus- 
pected of being so thoroughly pledged for the support of their 
respected favorites that they have on this subject lost a part of their 
accustomed influence. 

All this quarter is supposed to belong to Mr. Adams, and so it 
does at the present time, and it is probable he may hold it long 


enough for his occasion ; this, however, is not quite certain. He has 
few personal friends, and no very strong hold on their public feel- 
ings. A tremor in the popular pulse is often perceptible. His 
greatest security consists in the want of favor here for either of the 
opposing candidates, and not in attachment to him. 

I was sorry to see the public avowal of your determination to re- 
tire from the Senate at the close of the present Congress. I had 
entertained hopes that you would have retained your situation there 
for another term. Your retiring will create a vacancy which I have 
no expectation of seeing effectually filled. In whatever situation 
you may be, my warmest wishes for your prosperity and happiness 
will always follow you. I am, with the greatest esteem, 

Most sincerely yours, J. Mason. 



Washington, April 19, 1824. 

Dear Sir, — I hear nothing further about the resignation. The 
members here now think it has not taken place. I hope it has not. 
Possibly the events of the summer may enable you to get up a 
respectable interest for Mr. Haven. The Senate will probably take 
up the Tariff Bill to-morrow, and an attempt will be made to com- 
mit it to a select committee. It is generally thought the Senate will 
a good deal modify, or altogether reject the measure. But this is 
not very certain, as the majority is not large either way. We have 
heard a good deal of nonsense on this subject, and some of it from 
high quarters. I think you will be surprised at Mr. Clay's'' speech. 
It is printed, and I shall send you a copy. My speech will be printed, 
and you will get it.' Whatever I have done in other cases, I must 

^'"Clay was a man of large natural ability, but he lacked the training of a 
systematic education. He learned early to appreciate the heaven-born endow- 
ments, and to rely upon them for success in his chosen career. Of sanguine tem- 
perment, quick perception, irresistible energy, and enthusiastic disposition, he 
was well fitted to be a party advocate, and was the greatest parliamentary 
leader in our history. Jefferson, Clay and Blaine have been our three greatest 

1 This was Mr. Webster's speech on the tariff, delivered in the House of 
Representatives April 2, 1824. 


say that in this I have published it against my own judgment. I 
was not expecting to speak at that time, nor ready to do so. And 
from Mr. Clay's ending, I had but one night to prepare. The ideas 
are right enough, I hope, but as a speech it is clumsy, wanting in 
method, and tedious. We have rather a calm about the Presidential 
election. There is nothing in my opinion, at present, to change the 
expectation that Messrs. Adams, Crawford, and Jackson will come 
to the House. In two or three days, I believe we shall try to fix a 
day for adjournments. I hope very much to get home before you 
go to Concord, and see you. I will keep you informed of the events 
bearing on this point, and if I get home, you must come up to Boston. 
Among other things, hope you mean to district the State for the 
choice of members to Congress. My great business of the session 
remains yet undone, that is, to get through the law for paying the 
Spanish claims. We apprehend some trouble about it from quarters 
where we did not expect it. Mr. King thinks we ought to take stock, 
payable both (288) as to principal and interest, out of the Florida 
land sales! I hope he will withdraw his opposition to the proposed 
bill (which provides for payment in cash), or that we shall be able 
to overcome it. 

tacticians, and their followers were greatly depressed when any one of these 
heroes was defeated. Clay was inclined to 'crack the whip' over those of his sup- 
porters who exhibited a desire to hang back and question whither his impetuous 
lead would tend. He knew men well, but he had no knowledge of books. The 
gaming-table had for him allurements that he could not find in the library. 
According to the manner of his time, he drank to excess. His warm heart made 
him a multitude of friends; his impulsive action and positive bearing raised up 
enemies ; yet at his death he left not an enemy behind him. He was withal a man 
of inflexible integrity. Straightened in pecuniary circumstances during a large 
portion of his congressional career, he nevertheless held himself aloof from all 
corruption. Other Americans have been intellectually greater, others have been 
more painstaking, others still have been greater benefactors to their country; 
yet no man has been loved as the people of the United States loved Henry Clay.'' 
— 1 James Ford Rhodes' History of United States, 120. 

Webster said of him: "I think he never was a man of books, a hard stu- 
dent; but h.e has displayed remarkable genius. He has been too fond of excite- 
ment, — he has lived upon it; he has been too fond of company, not enough alone; 
and has few resources within himself. Now a man who cannot, to some extent, 
depend upon himself for happiness, is to my mind one of the unfortunate." 
Henry Clay was born in Virginia, 1777, read law with Chancellor Wythe; and 
died in Washington, D. C, June 29, 1852. 


Mrs. W. and the children are very well. We all begin to be very- 
desirous of going home. Please remember us most affectionately to 
your family. Yours very truly, 

D. Webster. 


Washington, Ap7-il 24, 1824. 

Dear Sir, — The newspapers will have apprised you of the 
proceedings of the House of Representatives upon the receipt of 
the letter of Mr. Edwards, preferring charges against the Secretary 
of the Treasury.^ The committee composed of able members, of 
whom our friend W. is one, have dispatched the deputy sergeant- 
at-arms to Illinois, to require the attendance of Edwards before the 
committee for examination. Whether they will serve the Secretary 
of the Treasury with a copy of Edwards' memorial, and call for his 
defense, I have not heard, nor has there yet been time for considera- 
tion and decision. The fact is the proceedings are of first impres- 
sion, and the course is to be discovered and adopted by the committee. 
I have reason to think that your counsel would be useful, and lead 
to confidence in the prosecution of this affair. The joint committee 
have agreed to recommend to the two Houses to adjourn on the 17th 
of May, and there is now no reason to believe that Edwards will 
be able to appear before the committee by that day. If the com- 
mittee search the charges to the bottom, it will require several weeks ; 
and this cannot be done without the personal examination of (289) 
Edwards. Congress may continue in session, or authorize the com- 
mittee to proceed in recess, and adjourn to some earlier period than 
the usual time of meeting, to receive the report of the committee. If 
Edwards fails to make good his charge, he is destroyed. Such are 

1 On the 19th day of April, 1824, Ninian Edwards, formierly United States 
Senator from Illinois, presented a memorial to the House of Representatives, con- 
taining serious charges against Mr. Crawford, Secretary of the Treasury. A 
committee to whom the memorial was referred, fully exonerated Mr. Crawford; 
in consequence of which Mr. Edwards was required by the President to resign his 
appointment as Minister to Mexico, and also to refund the outfit and quarter's 
salary he had received. 


the feelings of Crawford's party. If the charges, etc., be made good, 
another man will be overthrown. Thus you see that these are no 
ordinary measures. It may be attempted to smother or suppress the 
investigation by a partial report that may exculpate Edwards as a 
false accuser, and in this way acquit Crawford. The practicability of 
doing this must be very doubtful. I am inclined, without knowing, 
to conjecture that the committee will be disposed to go to the bottom 
of the charges, let the decision affect whomsoever it may. I pray 
you consider well and answer with as little delay as you can. Should 
not the proceedings assume the form of precise answers to charges, 
instead of general denials and references to correspondences and 
documents which may prove nothing precise, and the meaning of 
which it may be difficult to make out? 

With great respect and esteem, I am, dear Sir, 

Your obedient servant, 

RuFus King. 


Washington, May 9, 1824. 

My DEAR Sir, — It seems now to be extremely uncertain whether 
I shall see you before you go to Concord. The Houses will probably 
not agree to adjourn until the 20th or 25th, and I may be detained 
beyond that time, as the commission of Spanish claims closes the 8th 
of June. 

There are several things on which to say a few words, which I 
must write, since there is so little hope of a communication, ore tenus. 

First, as to President. I have not observed any great recent 
change, in appearance, as to this election. Mr. Adams'" appears, (290) 
'■^ John Quincy Adams (1767-1848.) "There was something rasping and jar- 
ring in Adam's delivery, and when the old man undertook to make himself heard, 
as he sometimes did, above the din and confusion, he helped most to create, his 
voice, though apt to break, would pierce the remotest corner of this ill-construct- 
ed chamber (House of Representatives) like the shrill notes of a fife. If his man- 
ner in speaking was harsh and unsympathetic, his matter when in debate was still 
more so. He indulged in the bitterest personalities, sarcasm, and cutting invec- 
tive, exposed motives and imputed usually the most unfavorable, as his memoirs 
show, and in his whole course of action appeared very lightly bound to the cur- 


however, to be increasing in strength. The novelty of General Jack- 
son is wearing off, and the contest seems to be coming back to the old 
question between Mr. Adams and Mr. Crawford. They, with Jack- 
son, will, I think, come into the House; and my behef at present is 
that Mr. Adams will be chosen. But Mr. Crawford's friends are, 
nevertheless, as confident as ever. As to the feelings of these two 
gentlemen and their friends toward Federalists, you know my opin- 
ion. It has not essentially changed, except that circumstances have 
compelled them all to treat us with increasing respect. The events 
of the winter, with the common operation of time, have very much 
mixed up Federalists with some or other of the parties, and though 
it is true that some men make great efforts to keep up old distinc- 
tions, they find it difficult. Of Mr. Crawford's friends, the South 
are liberal and the North are not. I have reason to think the caucus 
address very disagreeable to Mr. C. himself, and many of his friends. 
It was the work of the North. Mr. Adams, I think, sees also that 
exclusion will be a very doubtful policy, and in truth I think a little 
better of the kindness of his feeling toward us, than I have done. 
I have always taken it for granted that Mr. Adams would get New 
Hampshire, certainly, as against Mr. Crawford, if for no other reason, 
on account of Mr. C.'s supporters there. At least I have not seen how 

rent opinion of his time. He conciliated neither parties nor party idols. But in 
his courageous independence and fixedness of purpose lay the secret of his in- 
fluence, which widened rapidly now that the rivalry of personal ambition was 
eliminated; for there was a sort of stubborn integrity about him, a passionate pa- 
triotism. His keen insight, too, and profound conception of coming dangers, 
made his guidance more powerful with his fellow-citizens than they were aware. 
Athletic in his studies, he dived into the depths of the subject which interested 
himself and the public and brought up facts and miotives. With family tradi- 
tions and experience in public affairs reaching back to the sources of our govern- 
ment, with systematic habits of which the younger statesmen might despair, who 
was unwilling to give up the pleasures of social intercourse, Adams in his old 
age knew more of his country's history than any other living American. Read- 
ing and experience made him full; journalism made him exact.'' — 4 Schouler's 
United States History, 185. 

When the friends of Tom Marshall, of Kentucky, wished him to meet Adams 
in debate, in 1842, the Kentuckian replied: "Not I. I have been gored by that 
d — — d old bull, and have had enough of him. If there be any of this kind of 
work, it must be undertaken by somebody else. The old devil, as you call him, is 
a match for a score of such fellows as you and I." 


Federalists could possibly join with those who support Mr. C. The 
company he keeps at the North is my strongest objection to him. 
I hope you will get through the session without committing your- 
selves. The electors, I presume, will be chosen by the people ; and you 
will see perhaps clearer in August or September than in June. Still 
I fancy you will find a very great majority of the Legislature favor- 
able to Mr. Adams. 

As to Senator. I feel much more interest on this subject than 
the other. I have constantly cherished a sort of hope that you would 
consent to come here once more, and that events might possibly 
bring you in. How that is, I cannot now see, at this distance; but 
if the good people are willing you should come, I hope most (291) 
earnestly you will. I like Mr. Parrott's course and conduct very 
well, and should much prefer him to any others likely to be chosen, 
unless it be yourself. He could undoubtedly be provided for, under 
the next administration, in some agreeable mode, as he is generally 
respected. If, however, it comes at last to a question between him 
on one side, and Governor Woodbury, or Governor Morrill, etc., etc., 
on the other, I think there ought not to be a moment's hesitation. 
I trust you will not forget the districting of the State. That is a 
great operation, as far as it is desirable to complete the destruction 
of the caucus system. 

We do not yet hear from Mr. Edwards. Some think he will not 
come back in season for this session. I imagine we shall wait till 
about the 24th, and if he is not here by that time that Congress 
will adjourn, leaving the commission to take his evidence when he 
comes. There will be a great call for a Report, as far as practica- 
ble, before the House adjourns, which perhaps must be made. 

Our bill for paying the Spanish awards, which I told you was 
with me the great business of the session, has passed the House. It 
was violently opposed, however, by Mr. Clay, Mr. Randolph, and 
others. Strange as you may think it, Mr. King has a great inclina- 
tion to oppose it in the Senate. I trust, however, he will finally not 
do so. It will pass, I hope, without great difficulty. If it should, 
the awards, I presume, will be paid immediately after the 8th of June. 

Mrs. Webster sends her love to your household. We are all 
quite homesick. Yours always, 

D. Webster. 


It will be observed that Mr. Webster in this letter speaks of Mr. 
Mason's return to the Senate of the United States as an event 
which might happen. There was a strong desire on the part of his 
friends that he should resume the place he had formerly filled with so 
much honor to himself and so much usefulness to the country; and 
the state of politics at that time seemed to favor their wishes. By the 
gradual melting away of the federal party, the old political (292) 
divisions had ceased to exist, and new lines had not yet begun to 
be drawn. Politics were in a transition state, and votes were deter- 
mined mainly by personal preferences for the four candidates for 
the Presidency: Mr. Adams, General Jackson, Mr. Crawford, and 
Mr, Clay, all of whom were members of the old republican party. 
All of the New Ehgland States, New Hampshire included, supported 
Mr. Adams; and Mr. Mason, who distinctly preferred him to any of 
his rivals, once more found himself on the side of the majority. 

Mr. Mason in 1824, was, for the last time a member of the New 
Hampshire House of Representatives from Portsmouth; but as he 
was a candidate for the United States Senate, he appears to have 
taken comparatively little part in the proceedings of the Legislature. 
Though there were at that time no divisions on national politics, yet 
a majority of the House were members of the republican party ; and 
in the Senate, which was only twelve in number, all but one had been 

There were at that time two sessions of the Legislature in New 
Hampshire — one in June and one in November. At the June ses- 
sion there was a strong and general sentiment in favor of Mr. Mason, 
but by common consent, the election was postponed to the November 
session, when the result of the Presidential contest would be known. 
But all were disappointed in this expectation, because, as is well 
known, there was no election of President by the people in the autumn 
of 1824. The vote of New Hampshire, as well as of all the other New 
England States, had been given to Mr. Adams. 

In the interval between June and November, the question of 
United States Senator had been discussed all over the State with more 
interest than the claims of the rival candidates for the Presidency, 
and the public sentiment had been expressed so strongly in favor of 
Mr. Mason, that his friends confidently expected that he would be 
chosen without opposition at the November session. 


In the mean time, Mr. Eastman, a State Senator, and brother-in- 
law of Mr. Levi Woodbury, had been elected to Congress. (293) 

The Legislature met November 17, 1824, and on the 30th of the 
same month Mr. Mason was chosen United States Senator by a 
vote of more than two thirds of the whole House. This was com- 
municated to the Senate, as was then the custom, in the form of a 
resolution naming the person chosen. 

On the 3rd day of December, after several ballotings, the Senate 
elected Mr. William Plumer, jr., at that time a member of Congress. 
A special message was then sent to the House, informing them that 
the Senate concurred in passing the House resolution, with an amend- 
ment, striking out the words "Jeremiah Mason," and inserting "Wil- 
liam Plumer, jr." ^ 

On the same day the House non-concurred, thus adhering to Mr. 
Mason, by a vote of 142 nays to 58 yeas. 

On the 7th of December, the Senate chose John F. Parrott ; and 
on the next day the House non-concurred by a vote of 158 nays to 42 

On the 10th of December, the Senate elected Samuel Dinsmoor; 
and for the third time the House refused to concur, the vote being 
112 nays to 77 yeas. 

On the 21st of December a motion was made in the Senate to 
concur with the House in the choice of Mr. Mason. It was affirmed, 
and never denied, that seven members had pledged themselves to 
vote in the affirmative, but upon a count the ballots were six to six. 
The pledges had been so distinctly given that it was at first thought 
there had been a mistake in the count. A scene of much excite- 
ment followed in the Senate. A motion was made to raise a com- 
mittee to inquire and report whether any error had been made in 
counting the votes, but after some discussion it was rejected. Public 
opinion charged Mr. Eastman with having voted contrary to his pledge, 
and the charge was never satisfactorily met. He served in (294) 

1 William H. Y. Hackett, Esq., of Portsmouth, at that time assistant clerk of 
the Senate, was the bearer of the message to the House on this occasion. It was 
delivered by addressing the speaker, and announcing the amendment. As Mr. 
Hackett turned to go back to the Senate chamber, he passed Mr. Mason, who was 
standing before the fire in a corner of the Representatives Hall, and with a smile 
said to him, "Good-morning, Mr. Hackett, I see you propose a trifling amend- 


Congress but a single term, and failed of a re-election mainly, as was 
supposed, on account of the cloud cast upon him by his course on this 

The result was that the session closed without any election of 
United States Senator, and at the June session of 1825, Levi Wood- 
bury was chosen by both branches of the Legislature, he being at 
that time a supporter of Mr. Adams, though, as is well known, he soon 
became a zealous and trusted adherent of General Jackson. 

This account of Mr. Mason's defeat may seem more full and par- 
ticular than its importance demands ; but it is curious as showing by 
what slight obstacles the course of events is often turned aside, and 
what grave results are produced by trivial and accidental causes. Mr. 
Mason would undoubtedly have gone to the Senate had not Mr. East- 
man, one of his electors, been a brother-in-law of Mr. Woodbury, and 
had he not believed that his kinsman would have the best chance for 
the place if Mr. Mason were finally successful. 

It is much to be regretted that the efforts of Mr. Mason's personal 
and political friends to return him to the Senate were not successful. 
He would at once have taken the place of a leader in that body, and be- 
ing a supporter of the administration, he would have had a much 
more important share in the government and legislation of the coun- 
try than in the days of Mr. Madison, when, being one of a hopeless 
minority, he could do little more than modify and criticise the work 
that was prepared by others. Mr. Adams would have found in his 
judgment and firmness a tower of strength to his administration. He 
would have always given faithful and disinterested counsel, and his 
calm and passionless wisdom was exactly what a man of Mr. Adams' 
peculiar temperament wanted. And to Mr. Mason personally a resi- 
dence in Washington would have been more agreeable than it had been 
ten years before. In the interval Washington had made some prog- 
ress in social and material civilization. The manner of living was 
more comfortable, and a more congenial society would have made him 
feel less keenly his absence from home. (295) His high professional 
reputation could hardly have failed to bring him a fair amount of bus- 
iness before the Supreme Court of the United States. And, lastly, the 
means of conveyance had improved, and his journeys to and from 
Washington would have been less disagreeable and fatiguing. 

Mr. Mason bore his defeat with more equanimity than did his 


friends. He was indeed in that happy state of indifference which did 
not require him to affect what he did not feel, or conceal what he did 
feel. As a matter of duty, he was ready to accept the trust if it were 
offered to him ; otherwise, he was well content to remain at home with 
his family and his clients. In his heart of heart he was probably 
more than content with a result which prevented him from embark- 
ing a second time on the stormy sea of politics. 

And it may be proper here to state that the surviving members 
of Mr. Mason's family now look back with satisfaction upon a result 
which saved him from being again exposed to the turmoils and ex- 
citements of political life. They feel that while a further term of 
six years in the Senate would have been a gain to him so far as fame 
was concerned, it would have been a loss on the score of happiness. A 
more widely extended national reputation would have been but a poor 
compensation for the annoyances and discomforts to which he must 
have been exposed. His stern integrity, his high sense of public duty, 
his disdain of the tricks and devices by which party success is secured, 
and his blunt sincerity of speech, if they did not disqualify him for 
public service, made the calm and unambitious walks of professional 
life far more to his taste. (296.) 

Taken soon after her marriage to Mr. Mason, in 1799, at age of twenty-one. 



Mr. Mason's Life and Jorrespondence from the close of 1824 till his removal to 
Boston in 1832. — Death of his Son Alfred. — Chosen President of the Branch 
Bank of the United States at Portsmouth. — His Policy in managing its Busi- 
ness. — ■ Opposition awakened by his Course. — Successful Defense against the 
Charges brought against him. 


Fehniary 14, 1825. 

DEAR Sir, — You will have heard that Mr. Crawford declines 
the Treasury. I have understood his reason to be, that he pre- 
ferred to leave his friends in a situation to support or oppose the gov- 
ernment as they might hereafter think their duty required, without 
embarrassing them by his own connection with the administration. 
The Department of State is offered to Mr. Clay. He has it under ad- 
visement. It is thought to be doubtful whether he will accept it ; but 
my own opinion rather is that he will. Nothing further is known, and 
I have no secrets. Mr. Cheves' name is mentioned, in conversation, 
for the Treasury. De Witt Clinton, Mr. McLean, Postmaster-general, 
and one or two others, have been suggested as candidates for the War 
Department. But these are, I presume, all rumors, and nothing more 
is known or decided at present. Mr. Wirt and Mr. Southard, it is un- 
derstood, will remain in their places. I took care to state my own 
views and feelings to Mr. Adams, before the election, in such a man- 
ner as will enable me to satisfy my friends, I trust, that I did my duty. 
I was very distinct, and as distinctly answered ; and have the means of 
showing 'precisely what was said. My own hopes, at present, are 
strong that Mr. Adams will pursue an honorable, liberal, magnani- 
mous policy. (297) If he does not, I shall be disappointed, as well as 



others, a7id he will he ruined. Opposition is likely to arise in an unex- 
pected quarter, and unless the administration has friends, its enemies 
will overwhelm it. It is not necessary, in writing to you, to deny the 
rumor, or rumors, which the press has circulated, of a place provided 
for me. There is not a particle of probability of any such offer. My 
own sentiments about those things are very much as they were when 
I saw you. The Court is going on slowly. Judge Story has very much 
recovered his health, and is in good spirits. The Chief Justice is un- 
commonly well. I hear little from your State. If you have half an 
hour from courts and juries I should be glad to hear from you. 

Your§ as always, 

D. Webster. 


Boston, April 19, 1825. 

My dear Sir, — I thank you for your kind letter. You do not and, 
cannot overrate the strength of the shock which my brother's"^ death 
has caused me. I have felt but one such in life ; and this follows that 
so soon, that it requires more fortitude than I possess to bear it with 
firmness, such parhaps as I ought. I am aware that the case admits 
of no remedy, nor any present relief ; and endeavor to console myself 
with reflecting, that I have had much happiness in lost connections ; 
and that they must expect to lose beloved objects in this world who 
have beloved objects to lose. My life, I know, has been fortunate and 

a Ezekiel Webster, (1780-1829,) the elder brother of Daniel, died at tha age 
of 49. He was a man of high talent, much professional learning, and great 
solidity of character. Daniel relied upon his judgment. Before the younger 
brother left New Hampshire, for the larger field in Boston, in 1816, Ezekiel was 
unwilling to put himself forward in the law; but after such comparison was no 
longer likely to be suggested, he became eminent as an advocate. He and Daniel, 
in whom the powers of genius were united with its dangers, had struggled to get 
an education, the father mortgaging his farm to educate Daniel, and the latter 
had interceded with his father, mother and two sisters to have Ezekiel go to 
college, which was finally decided upon by the family, the mother saying, she 
"could trust the boys.'' By hard struggling, teaching, etc., Ezekiel was finally 
graduated at Dartmouth, in 1804, three years after the graduation of the young- 
er brother, in 1801. 


happy beyond the common lot ; and it would be now ungrateful as well 
as unavailing to repine at calamities of which, as I am human, I must 
partake. But I confess the world at present has for me an aspect any- 
thing but cheerful. With a multitude of acquaintances, I have few 
friends. My nearest intimacies are broken, and a sad void is made in 
the objects of affection. Of what remains dear and valuable, I need 
not say that a most precious part is the affectionate friendship of 
yourself and family. I want to (298) see you very much indeed, but 
know not whether I shall be able soon to visit Portsmouth, You will 
be glad to know that my own health is good. I have never, for ten 
years, got through a winter, without being more reduced in health and 
strength. My children also are well. Edward is at Boscawen, where 
he will probably stay this summer, or as long as the family may be 
kept together there. Daniel hopes to go to college in August. Julia 
proposes to pass the summer, or part of it, with Mrs. Lee, and must 
afterwards be disposed of as best she may. This occurrence is cal- 
culated to have an effect on the future course of my own life, and to 
add to the inducements already felt, to retire from a situation in 
which I am making daily sacrifices, and doing little good to myself or 
others. Pray give my love to the family. 

Yours affectionately and entirely, Daniel Webster. 


Portsmouth, April 29, 1825. 

My DEAR Sir, — I was for many reasons rejoiced to hear of your 
appointment as minister to England. Again seeing your old friends 
and acquaintances there must, I presume, be gratifying to you person- 
ally, and, I am sure, it will prove advantageous to the public. 

This appointment also indicates that Mr, Adams does not intend 
to pursue the miserable course of his three predecessors. 

In a letter just received from Mr, Gore, he says you are to embark 
soon, but that you have an intention of visiting him first, and that he 
will notify me when you will be at Waltham, I should be highly grati- 
fied by seeing you here, but if that cannot be, I will certainly avail 
myself of the opportunity of seeing you at Waltham. 

The Circuit Court of the United States sits here 9th May one or 


two days, which I must attend. At any other time during the en- 
suing month I can go to Waltham. 

I am with great esteem, your obliged friend and obedient serv- 
ant, J, Mason. 


Jamaica, L. I., May 3, 1825. 

My dear Sir, — Last evening I received your letter of the 29th 
past. The mission to Great Britain was wholly unexpected by me, and 
not desired on my part ; the offer of the President was accompanied by 
expressions of some solicitude for the satisfactory adjustment of all 
depending questions with England, and the determination to make 
sincere efforts to effect the reunion of political parties. 

In these subjects I felt a deep interest, and it was suggested that 
they would be promoted by my appointment to the mission to Great 
Britain. Being undecided, I asked time for consideration, to confer 
with my family and to consult a few friends. 

This was not deemed unreasonable, and the result has been, that 
I have accepted the mission, on which I may proceed in the month of 
June, accompanied by my eldest son, his wife, and a portion of their 
children. This arrangement will afford me the comfort and kindness 
of home, instead of being entirely dependent upon strangers. It would 
give me much satisfaction to meet you and other friends before my 
departure, but this will not happen, as I shall not be able to make my 
visit to our friend Mr. Gore, having, though a man of few affairs, so 
many concerns to attend to that I shall not have the necessary time. 

With great respect and esteem, I am, my dear Sir, your obedient 
and faithful servant and sincere friend, Rufus King. 


Washington, March 27, 1826. 

My DEAR Sir, — During the session of the court, I had not leisure 
to attend to general correspondence. You must receive this as an ex- 
cuse for leaving your letters so long unanswered. It happened, luck- 
ily enough, that the House of Representatives were occupied on no 
very interesting subjects, during my engagements (300) elsewhere. 


You see Panama in so many shapes that you probably expect to re- 
ceive no news in regard to it. The importance of the matter raises 
mainly from the dead set made against it in the Senate. I am afraid 
my friend Calhoun organized and arranged the opposition. He ex- 
pected to defeat the measure. That would have placed the President 
in his power, more or less, and if the thing could be repeated on one 
or two other occasions, completely so. Mr. Adams, then, would have 
been obliged to make terms, or he could not get on with the govern- 
ment, and those terms would have been the dismissal of Mr. Clay. As 
far as to this point, all parties and parts of the opposition adhere and 
cohere. Beyond this, probably, they could not move together harmo- 
niously. Vast pains were taken, especially with new members, to bring 
them to a right way of thinking. Your neighbor was soon gained. 
At the present moment, some who acted a violent part in the Senate 
wish to have it understood that they are not, therefore, to be counted 
as members of a regular opposition. I have been informed that Mr. 
Woodbury and Mr. Holmes disclaim opposition. Others again say 
they had not full information, and complain of that. Others make' 
quotations of sentences, words, or syllables, from the documents, and 
carp at them. But you see all. In the House of Representatives it is 
likely the necessary money will be voted by thirty or forty majority. 
We may have a week's debate. Our Massachusetts claim came up on 
Saturday. One of the Jackson men attacked it with great bitterness. 
Generally speaking, they are exasperated with all men, and every- 
thing, that ever did, or is ever likely to oppose General Jackson. The 
Bankrupt Bill will be taken up, shortly I hope, in the Senate. If it 
shall come down to us, I shall press it hard. If the Senate reject it, I 
shall not think it worth while to introduce the discussion into our 
House. I observe the state of your recent elections. As between 
Governor Morrill and General Pierce, I suppose you found it difficult 
to make a choice. It appears to me your leading men are likely to 
classify themselves as opponents of Mr. Adams. It is, or is it not, de- 
sirable to bring things as fast as possible to that (301) issue? The 
Congress election takes place next fall. Would it not be well to set up 
a good strong ticket, and vote for it? Of the gentlemen now in the 
House of Representatives I do not reckon more than one or two, or 
three at most, who are really and truly in favor of the present admin- 
istration. It is possible, however, that they may keep themselves from 


any overt and palpable acts of opposition. If it would do any good, I 
suppose means might be found to have letters addressed to Governor 
Morrill on this matter. Mr. Bell seems uncommonly zealous, and de- 
termined in favor of the President, and acts a liberal and manly part 
in recent and present occurrences. The real truth is, that Mr. Adams 
will be opposed by all the Atlantic States south of Maryland ; so ^vould 
any other Northern mmi. They will never acquiesce in the adminis- 
tration of any President on our side the Potomac. This may be re- 
lied on, and we ought to be aware of it. The perpetual alarm which 
is kept up on the subject of negro slavery, has its objects. It is to keep 
the South all united and all jealous of the North. The Northwestern 
States and Kentucky are at present very well disposed. So is Louisi- 
ana. Tennessee and Alabama will agree to anything or oppose any- 
thing, as General Jackson's interests may require. The Crawford men 
in Georgia, will doubtless go in the same direction. In North Carolina, 
there are some who prefer Mr. Adams to General Jackson, and in Vir- 
ginia it may be doubted whether the General can be effectually sup- 
ported. Virginia says little about the men whom she would trust, and 
opposes those actually in power. In our House, however, the Virginia 
phalanx of opposition is not formidable. More than a third in number 
may be reckoned favorable. There is some reason to think the Jack- 
son fever begins to abate in Pennsylvania, and doubtless it is over in 
New Jersey. Under these circumstances, if New York and New Eng- 
land go steady, it is not likely that the South will immediately regain 
the ascendency. 

The news from England does not represent Mr. King's health as 
entirely restored. He is able, however, to attend to business. 

Yours very truly, D. WEBSTER. 


Washington, May 2, 1826. 

My dear Sir, — Letters came yesterday from Mr. King desiring 
his recall, and proposing that he may be permitted to return, as soon 
as possible, to the United States ! This is unlucky. It is a very un- 
seasonable termination of that mission, and perhaps will settle some 
things not exactly as might be wished. The truth is, that Mr. King's 


health has been such, that he has been able to do nothing since he ar- 
rived in England. In the mean time, two or three things intrusted to 
him are of pressing and urgent importance, so much so, that I think it 
probable the President had determined to send out somebody to aid 
Mr. King in the negotiation, and then, perhaps, to proceed to France 
to act in conjunction with Mr. Brown, in renewed effort to obtain in- 
demnity from the French government for spoliation, etc. I imagine 
it would have been thought advisable, under all circumstances, to have 
intrusted this special service to Mr. Gallatin. Mr. King's resignation 
has changed the state of things. I have not seen the President, since 
the news came, but I have seen Mr. Clay, who gave me the informa- 
tion. I incline to think the course will now be, to send Mr. Gallatin 
immediately to England to take Mr. King's place. Mr. Gallatin, I 
was told, was willing to go on a special, but not on a permanent mis- 
sion. He does not wish, it is said, to be obliged to take a house or any 
establishment abroad, being rather desirous of husbanding his outfit, 
etc. What may come of this, I cannot tell ; but see no way but to leave 
things to take their course. My impression, at present, is, that it 
would be unseasonable at present to make any movement to give an- 
other direction to the affair. The Judiciary Bill is yet between the 
two Houses. It may possibly be lost, but I think it will not be. If the 
Senate do not yield their amendment, probably we shall agree to it. A 
pretty satisfactory arrangement will be made as to the judges. The 
present Postmaster-general will be named, (303) in case Ohio be 
separated from Kentucky; otherwise, I conjecture the judge in that 
quarter will be N. F. Pope, at present district judge of Illinois. In 
Louisiana, I presume, a Judge Porter will be appointed ; in Tennessee, 
either a Mr. Emerson or a Mr. Crabbe ; I hope the former. In looking 
out for men for these places, a very honest and anxious desire is felt, 
I believe, to find men who coyicur in the leading decisions of the Su- 
preme Court. If any error be committed on that point, it will be 
through misinformation. I intend to be home by the 22d or 23d of 
May. There remain no public subjects of great interest, except the 
Bankruptcy, which has breezed up, somewhat too late, in the Senate. 
Be kind enough to give our love to Mrs. Mason and the children. 
As the Judge will be with you about this time, you may show him 
this. Yours always truly, 

Daniel Webster. 



Boston, May 31, 1826. 

My dear Sir,— We all arrived safe home, at the end of last week. 
The fatigue of the journey, the heat of the weather, and other causes, 
occasioned me an illness of two or three days, which I am getting over. 
All the rest of the family are quite well, and would be very happy, but 
for the loss of our neighbor Mrs. Blake. You will readily imagine that 
this affects us much. Mr. Blake is recovering his tone of mind much 
faster than I expected. His health is uncommonly good, and I hope we 
shall find ways to soothe his sorrow for his immediate loss. I have 
not been out yet, and know nothing of what is doing or intended here. 
Your last letter I received recently before leaving Washington. I have 
not been inattentive to New Hampshire affairs. I have had many and 
full conversations with Mr. Bell, and he has gone home with the best 
intentions. He will be at Concord the second week of the session ; and 
I have no doubt he will take a straightforward course. He is fully 
satisfied (304) of the folly of our divisions at home ; he is ready to de- 
nounce that folly, and to conjure his friends to abandon it. He means 
to rally the republican friends of the administration; and, if neces- 
sary, he will break with Hill. These, I believe, are his views and 
purposes. What he can do, or how far he will succeed, is more than I 
know. There is one great danger, and that is, that Hill will affect to 
conform, promise to come off from opposition gradually, and finally 
to come into the support of the administration, and by this course pre- 
vent an open rupture. Now all this, in my judgment, would be but 
giving Hill new credit, by which he would work more mischief in the 
end. He cannot be trusted in any promise or engagement which should 
bind him to a course of honest and liberal politics and manly feeling. 
For running an opposite race, he may be trusted without any promise 
at all. Even if the road led away manifestly from his own interest, 
he would follow it. Whether it be possible to strengthen Mr. Bell on 
this point, I know not. Possibly something may occur to you, and 
therefore I have made the suggestion. I understand that Mr. Bart- 
lett, a few days before the adjournment, made a decided profession of 
friendship for the government, and of his intention to support it here- 
after, bo7ia fide. This I learn in confidence. Dr. Whipple is well dis- 
posed. Healy, who went there an oppositionist, seems really to have 


been converted; and Brown and Eastman probably are not ready to 
run against the current of things at home. I doubt, therefore, wheth- 
er much opposition could be raised to the re-election of your present 
members, on the ground of their being in opposition. None of them 
would acknowledge the fact, unless, possibly, Mr. Harvey might. I 
think the present moment not unfavorable to our operation ; and un- 
less it be evaded, by the means I have mentioned, I should expect good 
from it. 

I shall come down to see you one of these days, though I yet can- 
not say exactly when. I have nothing before me for the summer like- 
ly to occupy me much. 

I am, dear Sir, very truly yours, D. Webster. 



Salem, August 26, 1826. 

My dear Sir, — I have been delayed in writing you by the hope 
that Chief Justice Marshall might send me a favorable answer. I 
received a letter three or four weeks ago from him, in which he ex- 
pressed a strong opinion that he should be unable to attend Commence- 
ment. But as his son had since that time resumed his connections 
with the college, I had indulged the belief that he might yet change his 
mind. There is no longer any hope that he will gratify us by his pres- 
ence. I have written my discourse not without much trouble and 
anxiety of spirit; and conscious after the late splendid exhibitions at 
Boston and elsewhere, I shall have but little chance of satisfying an 
audience already wrought up to the highest point by these admirable 
funeral discourses, especially by Mr. Webster's. My own discourse is 
principally of a merely literary cast, and perhaps somewhat heretical 
and somewhat admonitory. What will be its effect I cannot pretend to 
foresee; and I wish with all my heart the thing was fairly off my 
hands. In the conclusion I have taken a brief though not a cold notice 
of our friend Haven. I dare not say that you will be repaid by visit- 
ing us on such an occasion, and yet I will not disguise how greatly 
your presence would cheer me and comfort me. Mrs. Story has just 


recovered from an attack of the scarlet fever and throat distemper; 
she is able to go out but is somewhat debilitated. She intends visit- 
ing Cambridge at Commencement, and my own engagements will nec- 
essarily carry me thither on Tuesday afternoon. 

In great haste, I remain, with the truest respect, yours affec- 
tionately, Joseph Story. 

P. S. — If you should come, the P. B. K. Society will expect the 
favor of your company to dinner. We somewhat expect the President 
and government. (306) 


Portsmouth, August 27, 1826. 

My dear Sir, — I was about to write to you when I received your 
letter of yesterday. I had determined to attend Commencement at 
Cambridge, for the sake of hearing your oration, and I feel disappoint- 
ed and mortified that I cannot. I have just returned from a three 
weeks' attendance on our courts, and am a good deal indisposed. My 
complaint is of a nature that threatens me with the visitation of a 
confirmed dysentery, which at this season and with this weather must 
be guarded against. I fear a journey, with the excitement attending 
the occasion, might prove seriously injurious. I feel the more morti- 
fied by this disappointment, as you are so kind, as to say my presence 
would be gratifying to you. I assure you, my dear sir, no ordinary 
obstacle should deprive me of the pleasure I anticipated from hearing 
your discourse. Your anxiety to find yourself well through your un- 
dertaking, is natural, and to a man of easy excitability, unavoidable. 
I have, however, no fear of the result. I feel quite sure that you will 
fully satisfy the expectations and wishes of your friends. 

Of Mr. Webster's oration, I think highly. It will in my opinion, 
not only sustain his former reputation, but increase it. Some parts 
are truly eloquent, and he has managed the whole with admirable 

We had not heard of Mrs. Story's sickness, and are glad with 


the first notice of it to know she is so nearly recovered. Please to 
present my and Mrs. Mason's best regards to her. 

I am, my dear Sir, as ever, most faithfully yours, 

J. Mason. 


Portsmouth, September 3, 1826. 

My DEAR Sir, — I am truly sorry that I was unable to comply 
with your advice to be at Cambridge to hear Judge Story's oration. 
For a fortnight past, I have been much indisposed, occasioned by our 
most extraordinary weather, and was fearful it would end in down- 
right sickness. That I trust is warded off. I infer from the news- 
paper reports that the Judge acquitted himself very ably, and to the 
entire satisfaction of his auditors. 

Of your oration, there seems to be but one opinion. Without say- 
ing anything of its merits, in point of eloquence, I really think you 
have managed the subject with most admirable address, of which no 
small share was necessary, considering your own situation. I do not 
see that you have exposed yourself to serious abuse from any quar- 

I fear the tendency of political affairs in this State is not such as 
we wish. Your brother, whom I lately saw at Concord court, proph- 
esies nothing but evil. He has been on a tour through the north part 
of the State, and says a majority of the old democratic party, if called 
to act at this time, would be found to be hostile to the present adminis- 
tration. I doubt the correctness of his opinion, but seriously fear 
that things tend that way. 

The attempt to exclude Harvey from a nomination in the Legis- 
lative caucus, failed entirely. Governor Bell, as far as I know, has 
neither said nor done anything since his short visit to the Legislature 
in June. I do not think he has ever avowed any inclination for a con- 
cert or union of any kind with Federalists. The project for an admin- 
istration paper, to be edited by Moore, will probably fail. It is doubt- 
ful whether it would do any good under the influence that would con- 
trol it. Should it go on, its avowed object would be to maintain the 


old party distinctions. Indeed, I know of no prominent republican 
friends of the present administration in the State who seem willing to 
do away with the old party distinctions. (308) They all want to keep 
up that distinction solely for the sake of securing the little paltry of- 
fices to themselves. It will be impossible to induce the Federalists 
to act with them on those terms. The democracy of Boston seems to 
be better disposed. Is it possible to devise any plan by which it can 
be brought to act with effect on this dark and benighted corner of the 
earth? If you can, do something for us. 

Faithfully yours, J. Mason. 


Portsmouth, January 9, 1828. 

My DEAR Sir, — On coming home to-day from Salem I received 
your letter of 26th December, which had been lying by several days. 
I had been desirous of writing to you from the time I first heard of 
your and Mrs. Webster's sickness at New York. But I was very soon 
told it was your intention to go to Washington and to return to New 
York, which made it uncertain where a letter would reach you at any 
particular time. We have been greatly distressed by the various ac- 
counts of your and Mrs. Webster's situation, which have not been so 
alarming as that in your letter. I was at Boston last Sunday, and saw 
Mr. Paige immediately on his return from New York. His account of 
Mrs. Webster's health was greatly more favorable, as you know. He 
had not then seen Dr. Warren, but said that the New York surgeons 
thought much better of the case than they had, believing (as I under- 
stand him) that present appearances were greatly more favorable. 
As to your health, he said he had never before seen you so much re- 
duced and so feeble" but that he supposed the cause of your sickness 
to be in a good degree, at least, removed, and that there was good 
ground to hope that rest and quiet would speedily restore you. I am 
aware that your sufferings have been excessive, and, with all the alle- 
viation of present favorable appearances, if they continue as when Mr. 
Paige left you, that your situation must still be full of distress. In 
case Mrs. Webster still (309) continues in a condition actually critical, 
in the opinion of those most competent to judge of it, I do not think 


that your duty to the public requires you to leave her to resume your 
seat in the senate. Indeed, it seems to me that under such circum- 
stances it must be quite impossible for you to attend to your duties in 
the Senate, and I think you ought not to attempt it. Nor do I think 
you ought to return to Washington till your own health is in a good 
degree restored and confirmed. But I hope and trust, my dear sir, 
that when you receive this Mrs. Webster may be deemed to be out of 
danger. If however, she should unfortunately be otherwise, and you 
should be obliged to remain with her (as I think in that case you 
would), I much doubt whether that would justify you in immediately 
or soon vacating your seat in the Senate. This I understand to be the 
intimation in your letter. Whether her continuing long in such situa- 
tion would not render your resignation expedient, can be determined 
hereafter. I most cordially wish under present circumstances that 
you were out of the Senate; but I do not see how you will justify re- 
signing at this time. Your motives will be misunderstood by many 
of your political friends, and misunderstood and misrepresented by all 
your political enemies. Your resignation would unquestionably be 
imputed to your supposed despair of success of the administration 
party. I am sure it would be so represented by all the opposition pa- 
pers in the United States, and I think it very probable that many not 
under their influence would believe it. Considering your standing, 
such a belief might at the present time do the administration and the 
country vast injury. I think the injury arising from absence from 
the Senate would be immeasurably less than from your resignation. 
Having accepted the place so recently, nothing but imperious neces- 
sity will be or ought to be considered a justification for resigning it 
under the present circumstances of the country. At all events, I hope 
you will not come to a determination to do this hastily. If you find it 
probable that you must be absent from the Senate, the whole or a 
chief part of the present session, I think you ought to state your will- 
ingness to (310) resign to some of your political friends at Washing- 
ton, and be in some measure guided by their opinion of its expediency. 
There can be no danger of thereby exposing yourself to the suspicion 
of wishing to obtain their advice. You are too well known at Wash- 
ington to fear anything of that sort. 

After giving you my opinion thus frankly on this point, I think I 
am bound to say with equal frankness that not only Mrs. Webster's 


situation, if it continues to be dangerous and critical, but, in my 
opinion, a due regard for your own health, if it be so low and slender 
as I fear it is, makes it your duty to remain quietly where you are for 
the present. I know the call for you in the Supreme Court will be 
urgent, but I really fear that any extraordinary exertions with your 
present feeble health and anxiety may destroy you. If you do return 
to Washington, I most sincerely advise you to abstain as much as pos- 
sible from occasions of high excitement and exertions. Such a course, 
under present circumstances, cannot injure your reputation. Since I 
saw you in Boston, I have been twice to Salem to attend the trials of 
the Ai^gonaut. We have had two tedious jury trials, and have ob- 
tained two successive verdicts, much against the wishes of Judge P. 
He seemed to think it his duty to obstruct the plaintiff's course as much 
as he could, but I believe we have got our verdicts on such grounds as 
must end the litigation, though not on the ground we ought to have 
had them. I left Salem immediately after the last verdict was given. 
I have no doubt the Judge has in some way reserved the cases for the 
whole court, 

I have been so engaged that I have not had time to read Mr. 
Clay's letter ; but I have been told by several who have read it that it is 
entirely conclusive, and that it cannot fail to produce extensive effects. 

The prospect is now favorable for our spring elections. There 
will be greater exertions and excitement than we have experienced 
for many years. 

I shall be very desirous of hearing occasionally how you and 
(311) Mrs. Webster are. Mrs. Mason joins me in affectionate re- 
gards to her and yourself. 

I am, my dear Sir, most sincerely yours, 

J. Mason. 


Portsmouth, January 27, 1828. 

My DEAR Friend, — Your two letters from New York prepared 
us to expect what has happened. We most sincerely sympathize with 
you in this event, in all its bearings and aspects, so melancholy and so 
distressing. I know of no occasion on which I have seen Mrs. Mason 


more deeply affected. Without perhaps fully appreciating their ex- 
tent, I know your sufferings have been, and still are, excessive. You 
have all the consolation that the sympathy of friends and universal 
condolence can give. But my knowledge of you my dear sir, forbids 
the hope of much relief or benefit from this source. Your consolation 
must come from a higher source. Your relief in this great calamity 
rests with yourself and your God, and there I confidently trust you 
will find it. This is one of those events which strikingly illustrates 
the vanity of human expectations and the imbecility of all human 

Mr. Ticknor in a letter of yesterday, says he understands your in- 
tention to be to return to Washington in eight or ten days. This, it 
seems to me, ought to depend entirely on your own feelings and the 
condition of your health. I learn from Mr. T. that your business at the 
Supreme Court will not be permitted to be on you at this term. This I 
had anticipated. We know nothing of the arrangements you have 
made or think of making for your children this winter. We under- 
stand they are now with you at Mr. Blake's. Mrs. Mason desires me 
to say to you that in case you can form no plan for taking care of them 
more satisfactorily, she will most willingly take charge of the two 
youngest till your return from Washington next spring. She is aware 
of the nature of the trust she offers to assume (312) and will of course 
execute it with all possible care. If this arrangement appears to you 
preferable to any other you can make, I request you will assent to it 
without fear or any apprehended trouble to us. For be assured, my 
dear Sir, Mrs. Mason will undertake it most cheerfully. When I first 
heard of your being at Boston, I thought of going there to see you, 
but I fear I shall not be able. A violent snow-storm is now raging, 
and it now is impossible to foresee how it will leave the travelling. I 
am likewise at this time much pressed with engagements for the win- 
ter session of our Supreme Court which commences at Dover the first 
of next week. 

Mrs. Mason desires her most affectionate regards to you. 
I am, my dear Sir, most faithfully yours, 

J. Mason. 



Portsmouth, February 16, 1828. 

My dear Sir, — I have read your memoir of Chief Justice Mar- 
shall, in the "North American Review," with great pleasure. It is al- 
ways a difficult task to recount the merits of an eminent man while liv- 
ing, and do him only tolerable justice, without incurring the danger of 
the accusation of adulation. Your undertaking was rendered more 
delicate by reason of your connection with and known high regard 
for the Chief Justice. I think you have succeeded, as far as you have 
gone, admirably well. You have certainly done right in giving a con- 
cise sketch of his life, and leaving his actions to speak his praise, with- 
out any attempt at lauding, which, under existing circumstances, 
would in you have been unbecoming. In one particular, I wish the 
memoir had been more dilated and full. I mean his great opinions on 
the construction of the Constitution of the United States. I am aware 
of the difficulty you would be under in entering at large into the 
merits of this labor, in which you have yourself so largely participat- 
ed. These opinions constitute the stronghold for the Chief Justice's 
fame, and must sustain it (313) while the Constitution of the coun- 

try remains. The decisions on the construction of the Constitution, on 
the various points which have arisen in the Supreme Court, have done 
vastly more for the stability and permanency of our system of govern- 
ment, than the present generation is aware of. The principles in- 
volved in those decisions are constantly developing themselves with in- 
creased importance. If our constitutions ever get to definite and well- 
settled constructions, it must be chiefly effected by judicial tribunals. 
All experience, past and present, shows that much is not to be expected 
from legislative bodies. Hence the vast importance that the early de- 
cisions of the Supreme Court should be rested on principles that can 
never be shaken. Since I parted with you at Salem, I have been almost 
constantly engaged in courts. I have been again at Salem on the 
Argonaut, and obtained another verdict. The last verdict was sub- 
stantially on the same grounds with the preceding one. I expected the 
defendants would have submitted, and believe that was their intention 
at the close of the trial. But from their not having disposed of the 
ship, I incline to think they intend to try their chance with the whole 






court on some question of law. I suppose Mr. Webster will be with 
you before this reaches you. I would have gone to Boston to see him, 
but I could not. I infer from his letters, and what I learn otherwise, 
that he has been most deeply affected, but that he bears his suffering 
with fortitude. This I expected from him. His loss is in truth most 
grievous. His wife was embraced in all his plans, as an essential part. 
I know of no woman more universally beloved or who more deserved 
to be beloved. I trust that Mr. Webster will not undertake any severe 
labor this winter. He can certainly avoid it without any danger to 
reputation, if he pleases. With my and Mrs. Mason's and Mary's 
kind regards to Mrs. Story. 

I am, my dear Sir, as ever, truly yours, 

J. Mason. 


Washington, Febi-uary 27, 1828. 

My dear Sir, — I thank you for your obliging letter, and not the 
less so, for your notice of the review of Chief Justice Marshall's life 
in a favorable manner. If it has gone tolerably well with the public, 
I shall sit down quite contented, for at the period of its publication, I 
began to feel a good deal of sensitiveness on this point. I have reserved 
a full display of his constitutional labors, for some future period. Mr. 
Webster is now here, and I think his health is greatly improved, and I 
no longer feel any anxiety on that head. But our meeting was quite 
painful ; and at times he is now excessively gloomy and thoughtful. I 
find great difficulty in rousing him to professional or public labor, and 
yet when so roused, he brings himself out with all his accustomed 
energy, and is for the time comparatively happy. The very excite- 
ment, however, tends again to exhaustion and despondency; and his 
mental distress, and his struggles, sometimes to disguise and some- 
times to overcome it, are not a little embarrassing. I think that time 
and distance, which are great things in all human affairs (as Mr. 
Burke used to say), will ultimately bring him up to his usual tone. 
By the by, on the very first day he took his seat in the Senate on his 
return, the Process Bill, which has been so long before that body, was 
on its last reading ; and having glanced at its form and terms he saw 

—21 . 


very great objections to it, and rose, asked one or two explanations, 
speaking in a very subdued and cautious tone. Some reply was made, 
and he then merely apologized by intimating some doubts. He spoke 
perhaps for five or ten minutes. Immediately on this, Mr. Tazewell 
came out upon him in a set speech of two hours, and pressed him in a 
manner which, considering his painful situation, was thought uncalled 
for and inexcusable. It looked like an attempt to grapple with and 
overcome the sick lion. It happened just at the hour of adjournment 
and Webster moved it, excited by the attack to a reply. He talked 
over the matter with me in the evening, and it did him good. (315) 
The next day he went into the debate, and in a speech of about two 
and a half hours, he displayed a most masterly and overwhelming 
argument, and in the judgment of everybody broke down the bill. In 
short it was recommitted, and as such in its present form is dead. Al- 
though the subject was somewhat technical, he quite interested the 
public, and his triumph was as splendid as his friends could wish. He 
is now engaged in the business of the court, and complains (and truly) 
that he finds it almost impossible to fix his mind strongly enough upon 
it, to work well. We do all we can to stimulate and cheer him, and it 
produces a good effect, and before the close of the term, I have no 
question he will feel the stirring ambition of excelling about him. De- 
pend upon it, he must be kept employed or he will be miserable. I am 
inclined to believe that there has been some truth in the rumor that he 
was about to be sent to England. He spoke to me the other day on 
the subject with a view to draw out my opinion. I do not know 
whether you will agree with me, but I frankly stated my opinion to be 
at the present juncture against it. I alluded to the fact that he stood 
at the head of the administration party, and particularly in the Senate 
he was indispensable to its successful progress ; that with a view to 
ulterior objects, he was now precisely where the public would have an 
opportunity of appreciating him, and he of bringing home his char- 
acter to their closest observation, that the times were critical, and 
services now rendered would not be forgotten. That a withdrawal 
from these scenes would be thought a timid choice to escape from re- 
sponsibility by some, and by others as little more than an honorable 
exile. That if possible the administration might linger on with a 
charge for a year, when the crisis would be over. That, however de- 
sirable to himself under his present situation, as a change of scene, it 


would throw him out of professional employment for the time, and 
compel him, after great expenses, to return back with some disad- 
vantages. From this short sketch you will perceive the channel in 
which my thoughts run. He was much inclined to think my notions 
right. What will be the final result I know not, but I think (316) he 
will stay at home. In respects to politics I should have much to say, if 
I were at your fireside. The appearances grow every day more favor- 
able to Mr. Adams' re-election. The opposition in Congress are a good 
deal alarmed and fluttering. It is whispered that Mr. Macon of North 
Carolina begins to talk very moderately, and Mr. Benton begins to be 
a little doubted by his ovv^n friends. The chances in Pennsylvania are, 
in the estimate of all, very favorable ; and indeed her vote is now al- 
most certainly calculated on. Virginia is in great commotion. I do not 
believe her vote will be changed, but the days of her dynasty will be 
soon numbered, and you may expect that a great revolution will take 
place before long in her public policy and public servants. Kentucky 
is now understood to be safe. New Jersey also, and Maryland with a 
decided major vote. Unless, therefore, some positively unlucky 
changes take place, there is much reason to rely with confidence on the 
re-election of Mr. Adams. So much, my dear sir, for the gossip of 
politics. Of other gossip I know little. The court will probably ad- 
journ about the 15th of March. We have done a good deal of busi- 
ness and shall not probably leave sixty causes behind us. This is a 
great victory over the old docket, and encourages me to hope much 
from the future course of the court. I heard with very great satis- 
faction from other sources, of your second triumph in the Argonaut, 
with the additional fact that you had added very much to your former 
argument, convincing all but one. Mrs. Story desires her love to Mrs. 
Mason and Mary and Jane, in which I wish to be permitted to join, 
being with the highest respect her and your 

Much obliged friend, Joseph Story. 


Portsmouth, March 12, 1827. 

My dear Sir, — Mr. C. S. Daveis of Portland is desirous of ob- 
taining the appointment of reporter of the decisions of the Supreme 


Court of the United States, now vacant by the resignation of Mr. 
(317) Wheaton. Mr. Daveis is certainly a good lawyer, and dis- 
tinguished for laborious and persevering industry. His studies and 
taste are quite congenial with the place he is desirous of, and I have no 
doubt, if appointed, he would perform its duties with much diligence 
and entire faithfulness. As Mr. Daveis is personally known to you, 
you can best judge of his fitness, and it would be useless if not im- 
proper for me to urge his claims on your consideration. All I mean is, 
to request, in case the situation be not already filled, that his claims 
may be fairly considered among those of other candidates. Not hav- 
ing heard that the Supreme Court has risen, I shall direct this letter to 
you at Washington, with much doubt whether you will not have left 
before this reaches that place. 

I am as ever, truly yours, J. Mason. 


Washington, March 20, 1828. 

My DEAR Sir, — The practice of asking the advice of friends in 
one's own affairs is a little old-fashioned. I do not think very highly 
of the custom myself. Still, I now write mainly with the purpose of 
taxing your good-nature with the request that you will say, in a 
straightforward way and few words, what you think upon the sub- 
ject with which the newspapers have been busy for some time past. I 
do not mean to trouble you for a long statement of pros and cons. Nor 
do I mean to anticipate your impressions by a single suggestion of my 
own. You see what all the world sees, and know what all the world 
knows, of the state of things here, and of my present conditions. Will 
it be the best for the administration, and best for me, that I stay 
where I am, or that I go elsewhere? I care not how shortly you speak, 
but I pray you to speak freely. We are in very good spirits, with the 
news from New Hampshire. I believe certain gentlemen here are a 
good deal disappointed. It was confidently expected by them, that 
(318) General Pierce would succeed. We trust he has failed, and it 
seems our friend Hill is out also. Affairs here are wearing rather a 
better appearance. The intelligence from interesting points is a lit- 
tle cheering. Perhaps the most important contests, or rather one of 


the earliest of the important contests, will be in Kentucky. The elec- 
tion of governor takes place in that State on the first Monday in 
August. The whole will turn, mainly, on the administration question. 
Metcalf is candidate for the administration side, and Barry, whom you 
know, for the opposition. The result of this election is likely to de- 
cide the ultimate vote (the whole vote) of Kentucky, and must neces- 
sarily have a great operation elsewhere. If Barry should succeed, by 
a strong vote, I should give up Kentucky, and, with Kentucky, nearly 
all hope of Mr. Adams' re-election. New York is unquestionably 
mending. If it goes on, as it is now going, a great majority of votes 
in that State will be for Mr. Adams. The Louisiana members are to be 
elected again, in July. It is believed Mr. Livingston will be left out, 
and a friend of the administration elected in New Orleans. Judge 
Story left us two days ago. The court has had an interesting session, 
and decided many causes. The judge of our circuit has drawn up an 
uncommon number of its opinions, and, I think, some of them with un- 
common ability. 

Yours always truly, D. Webster. 


Portsmouth, March 27, 1828. 

My dear Sir, — I have omitted to answer your letter a few days 
because I did not well know how to answer it. You ask whether I 
think it best for the administration, and best for you that you remain 
where you are, or go elsewhere, that is, accept the appointment to 
England offered you. On the first question, I have no doubt; for 
obvious reasons. I think it is certainly best for the administration that 
you remain where you are. In your present situation (319) you can 
render the most essential aid and support, the loss of which at this 
time would be severely felt. The administration at the present time 
need all their strength, and that exerted to the greatest possible ad- 
vantage. Your services in the Senate may be greatly important at the 
next session, and if Mr. Adams succeeds in his election, as I trust he 
will, your services will probably be vastly more important at the next 
Congress. But what I deem of still greater importance is your influ- 
ence in the approaching election, which by leaving the country will be 


lost or greatly lessened. Without entering at large into the reasons, I 
am decidedly of opinion that your remaining where you are is most 
advantageous for the administration. 

On the other question I have had doubts, but after giving it the 
best consideration in my power, I have come to the conclusion that 
what is best for the administration is also best for you. The success 
of the present administration deeply involves the best hopes and high- 
est interests of the country. You are a public man, and, as I believe, 
are destined to continue a public man, and as such you are in a great 
degree identified with the administration. Under such circumstances, 
it seems to me that you cannot well sever your personal interests from 
the interests of the administration and of the country. If I am right 
on the first question, of which I entertain no doubt, your services in 
England at this time will be of minor importance when compared with 
your services at home. If so, there seems to be something of the na- 
ture of public duty in the case. And I trust it is and will continue to 
be the true interest of an elevated public man to follow the path of his 
duty. The administration, believing you to be entitled to it, may be 
willing to give you the contemplated appointment, if you wish for it, 
but I presume they cannot be desirous that you should accept it. I do 
not think that the ribaldry of the opposition newspapers ought to be 
permitted to have any influence whatever on your determination. 

I have in compliance with your request given you my frank 
opinion without any detail of reasons. And I think I ought with 
equal frankness to tell you that I do not feel much confidence in (320) 
the correctness of my opinion. I am too far removed from the 
great world, and too little conversant with political affairs, to be 
competent to form a judgment of any value on this matter. I am 
aware there may be considerations of a private nature, arising from 
your own feelings at the present time, which may be entitled to much 
weight. Of these you alone can judge. 

I am as ever faithfully yours, 

J. Mason. 



August 1, 1828. 

My DEAR Sir, — I have seen Mr. Cowperthwaite this morning, 
and had a full conversation with him, respecting the state of the 
bank at Portsmouth. At his request I have agreed to write to you, 
and I come at once to the main matter. He thinks it important 
that you should take the Presidency of the Branch, if you can be 
persuaded to do so. He says you manifested no disposition for it; 
but I did not learn from him that he had suggested a probable in- 
crease of the salary, as among the motives. It now stands, I hear at 
eight hundred dollars. He desires me to say, confidentially, that 
if twice that amount would induce you to take the office, it would 
be given cheerfully. In all probability, the amount of pay would 
not be a subject of difference between you and the bank, if you 
were inclined to have the office. He is to leave Boston on Monday 
morning, and I am anxious to hear from you before his departure. 
I suppose you have weighed the pros and cons, and probably have 
a feeling one way or the other on the subject. I do not wish to in- 
fluence your judgment, but should think it a great object with the 
bank to obtain your services, and am persuaded they would pay as 
liberally as you should think they ought. If you have made up your 
mind fully against it, Mr. Waldron will be appointed. In that case 
the bank will immediately crave leave to send you a large retainer 
at least a proper one, and engage your professional services, (321) 
with a desire that you should pay particular attention to its afitairs 
and be paid accordingly. After the receipt of this letter, I wi 1 thank 
you not to enter into any engagement adverse to the bank until 
there shall be time to hear from Philadelphia. Contrive to let me 
have an answer on Sunday. I write this at Beverly, having come 
down here to visit Mr. Thorndyke's family. I shall return to B. this 
evening Yours truly, 

^^^^^"^' D. Webster. 

In the spring of 1828 the first great sorrow of Mr. Mason's Ufe 
fell upon him in the death of his second son, Alfred, which occurred 
at the Bellevue Hospital in New York, April 12, 1828. He was a 
young man of remarkable abilities, engaging manners, and strong 
scientific tastes. He was a student of medicine, and pursued his 


professional studies with such interest and energy as to awaken the 
highest hopes of future usefulness and distinction. Applying for 
the post of assistant surgeon at the Bellevue Hospital, he was suc- 
cessful in his application over a large number of competitors. De- 
voting himself to his duties with unremitting zeal during the prev- 
alence of an epidemic, with an heroic disregard of danger to himself, 
worn down by care, anxiety, and toil, he was attacked by a disease 
which his exhausted frame was unable to resist. His death was 
mourned by many who had watched with interest his brilliant pro- 
fessional progress, and his winning and amiable traits of character, 
and with what crushing weight it fell upon the hearts of his father 
and mother can be felt only by those who have learned by their own 
experience how sweet are the joys, and how sharp the sorrows of a 

In the summer of 1828 Mr. Mason was chosen president of the 
Branch Bank of the United States at Portsmouth. 

For many years this institution had not been judiciously or 
profitably managed. A large portion of its funds had been employed 
in discounting accommodation paper, in other words, in lending money 


without security. The notes so discounted usually ran for four 
months, and when they matured, a payment of only ten per cent, was 
required, and for the remainder a new note was given. Thus, under 
the most favorable circumstances it required three years and four 
months to discharge a debt, and as there was no security, the final 
payment depended upon the continued solvency of either maker or 
indorser of the discounted paper. 

But even these partial payments of ten per cent, were dispensed 
with, and sometimes the money to make them was procured by new 
accommodation loans. So long had this usage continued that it had 
acquired something of the force of a legal precedent, and the cus- 
tomers of the bank had come to consider that they had a sort of vested 
right to renew their notes on payment of ten per cent. To such 
an extent had the practice prevailed that when Mr. Mason entered 
upon the discharge of his duties as president nearly a hundred and 
fifty thousand dollars of the capital of the bank were invested in 

1 A further account of this amiable and promising young man will be found 
in the Appendix. 


accommodation paper, with the understanding that only ten per 
cent, should be paid every four months. Of this amount between 
eightly and ninety thousand dollars were due from persons in the 
interior of the State, and in Maine, most of whom were not engaged 
in business. And this bad method had been pursued in spite of 
strong injunctions to the contrary in a letter written by the president 
of the parent bank to Mr. Mason's predecessor in November, 1826. 

The directors of the parent bank at Philadelphia became uneasy 
at the state of things at Portsmouth, and felt that a radical change 
of management was necessary, and that such change could only be 
effected by putting the branch there in charge of a man who not only 
understood the true principles of banking, but had firmness enough 
to enforce and adhere to them. 

The friends of the bank, Mr. Webster especially, strongly recom- 
mended Mr. Mason for the place of president. This was done, not 
only without any suggestion from him, but without his knowledge, 
and when the offer was first made to him he was inclined to refuse 

it, alike from distrust of his ability to discharge duties to which he 
had riot been trained, and from reluctance to be even partially with- 
drawn from the practice of his profession. But his disinclination 
yielded at last to the persuasion of his friends and the friends of the 
bank, and he was accordingly made president. 

He had never been a banker, nor even a bank director, nor had 
he been engaged in business ; but he had a mind eminently fitted to 
grasp the true principles of banking, finance, and the currency, as well 
as the firmness and perseverance needed in one who undertakes to 
reform abuses whether great or small. He perceived at once that the 
management of the bank had been opposed to the true principles of 
banking, which are, first, to discount business paper, or lend money 
on the security of actual property; and, second, as a general rule, 
to enforce payment of every loan at maturity. He therefore resolved 
to change the mischievous practice which had so long prevailed, but 
his sound sense and large experience of life taught him that all reform 
should be gradual, and that the debtors of the bank must have a 
reasonable time to adapt themselves to the new policy. 

He therefore made no change in the old usage at the date of the 
first maturity of each accommodation note after his accession to office. 


Ten per cent, was paid, and a new note was given for the remainder. 
But he required the new note to be given for sixty days, and when 
that matured he exacted a payment of twenty per cent. Thus the in- 
tervals of payment were shortened, and the amounts increased, each 
by one half. 

Such was the general rule applied ; but where satisfactory securi- 
ty was offered more favorable terms were granted, and no honest man 
was oppressed or harshly dealt with ; and when a debtor was unable 
to pay in full, Mr. Mason was always ready to listen to fair terms of 

In making new loans preference was uniformly given to business 
paper, and no loans were made in the interior of the State except to 
persons of undoubted pecuniary ability. (321) 

The results of this course were entirely satisfactory. In August, 
1829, the old loans to parties in the interior of the State had been 
reduced to thirty-five thousand dollars, and the whole amount of 
loans to parties living in small towns in the interior was only forty- 
nine thousand dollars, a little more than half the amount a year 

The customers of the bank, and the business community gener- 
ally acquiesced in this change of policy, and submitted without a 
murmur to the inconvenience which in some instances it occa- 
sioned. But, as might naturally be expected, there were some ex- 
ceptions. Some bore with impatience the pressure laid upon them 
by the necessity of paying twenty per cent, every two months in- 
stead of ten per cent, every four months. And thus there grew up 
a certain amount of discontent and of consequent ill-will to Mr. 

But all this might have passed away and made no sign had not 
politics come in to blow the spark into a flame. The administration 
of President Jackson began on the 4th of March, 1829, and the new 
chief magistrate entered upon his office with no friendly feeling to- 
ward the Bank of the United States. Mr. Mason, though taking no 
active part in politics, had given his name and influence in favor of 
Mr. Adams and against General Jackson. The second comptroller of 
the treasury was Mr. Isaac Hill, of New Hampshire, a zealous and 
influential politician, high in the confidence of the President, and 


certainly no friend to Mr. Mason. Under his lead, and that of Mr. 
Levi Woodbury, also a personal and political favorite of the Presi- 
dent, the democratic party of New Hampshire were arrayed in op- 
position to the Portsmouth Branch, and Mr. Mason's management 
of it. 

The first acts of hostility came in the form of two memorials to 
the directors of the parent bank in Philadelphia : one dated June 27, 
1829, from sundry residents of Portsmouth and its vicinity, and one 
dated June 29, 1829, from several members of the New Hampshire 
House of Representatives, both praying for the removal of (325) 
Mr. Mason from the office of president. These memorials were 
alike in temper and spirit, and were evidently arrows out of the same 
quiver. They made vague charges of harshness and partiality, but 
contained no statements of particular acts. 

Next came a letter from the Secretary of War to Mr. Mason in 
his official capacity, dated August 3, 1829, informing him that it had 
been found necessary to change the pension agency in New Hamp- 
shire from Portsmouth to Concord ; that William Pickering of the 
latter place had been appointed pension agent, and directing Mr. 
Mason, upon the production of an order which would be sent by the 
department to Mr. Pickering, to deliver to him all the books and 
papers relating to the pension agency, and any balance of funds in his 
hands. Mr. Pickering forthwith appeared with the order in question, 
and demanded the books, papers, and funds accordingly. Mr. Mason, 
after a careful examination of the acts of Congress upon the subject, 
having come to the conclusion that the War Department had no right 
to take from the -bank a duty devolved upon it by Congress, declined 
to (;omply with the order, and so reported to the president of the 
parent bank at Philadelphia. The directors, after an elaborate legal 
opinion by John Sergeant and Horace Binney, fully sustaining the 
conclusions of Mr. Mason, approved his course, and the matter was 
dropped without any further action on the part of the administration. 

The memorials above mentioned were taken into consideration 
by the government of the bank at Philadelphia, and it was determined 
that the president and one of the assistant cashiers should visit 
Portsmouth, and carefully inquire into the complaints against Mr. 
Mason. In August, 1829, Mr. Biddle accordingly spent some days 


in Portsmouth. A circular letter was addressed to all the signers of 
the memorial, inviting them to lay their grievances before him. 
Several responded to the call, and their complaints were patiently 
heard. Mr. Biddle then addressed Mr. Mason a letter setting forth 
all the charges which had been made against him, to which Mr. 
Mason replied with full explanations on every point (326) urged. 
The letter and the reply were drawn up with legal precision, and 
resembled a libel and answer in admiralty. 

The charges and answers being thus reduced to writing were 
carefully inquired into both by oral evidence and an examination of 
the books of the bank. The result was a complete vindication of Mr. 
Mason on every point of complaint, and a report to that effect was 
made to the directors at Philadelphia, who, on the 13th of Novem- 
ber, adopted a resolution that the various charges and allegations 
against him were entirely groundless. 

It should be borne in mind that all these attacks were made up- 
on Mr. Mason exclusively, as if he had been the autocrat of the bank, 
and was solely responsible for its management. But such was not 
the case. He had the advice and support of a board of directors, 
some of whom had held the same office under his predecessor. No 
step of any importance was ever taken without consulting the direc- 
tors, and it was unusual that any difference of opinion arose be- 
tween them and the president; and when such difference did occur, 
he sometimes yielded his judgment to theirs. 

Mr. Mason retained his office of president so long as he lived in 
Portsmouth, and no further demonstrations were made against him, 
and the prosperity of the branch bank under his charge, during a 
trying financial period, vindicated the wisdom of his policy. 


Washington, January 6, 1830. 

Dear Sir, — I thank you and Mrs. Mason for all your kind con- 
gratulations and good wishes. ' I hope to have the pleasure of mak- 
ing Mrs. Webster acquainted with your family soon after our return 
to New England, and it is among my most ardent wishes, and one 

' On Mr. Webster's second marriage. 


also of my firmest expectations, that the affectionate friendship, which 
has so long- uninterruptedly subsisted between our families, may be 
cherished and strengthened by the new connection which I (327) 
have formed. We are now just getting into our lodgings and becom- 
ing settled for the winter. Julia is with us. Her health is good and 
she appears very happy and well pleased. In the political world, 
little has yet transpired. Mr. Baldwin of Pittsburg, is to be the new 
judge vice Washington. This is another escape. We had given up 
all hope of anything but Chief Justice Gibson's nomination. Mr. 
Baldwin is supposed to be, substantively, a sound man, and he is un- 
doubtedly a man of some talents. The nominations, some of them, 
have come in, and we shall have much debate. We shall be beaten, 
however, by four votes, if the Senate is full, twenty-two to twenty- 
six I shall be glad to hear from you so often as you can find 

time to write. I pray the most affectionate remembrance to your 
wife and daughters. 

Yours always truly, 

D. Webster. 


Portsmouth, February 8, 1830. 

My dear Sir, — I intended some time ago to have written to you, 
but the courts in this and Strafford County kept me constantly en- 
gaged during the last month; before they were over I was attacked 
by a cold so severe, as to threaten serious illness. 

I have seen your first speech on Mr. Foot's resolutions. Of the 
second I heard the echo only, which is loud and distinct. I presume 
it will be soon published, and I look for it with great interest. I am 
rejoiced that you have been able on this occasion to place yourself 
and New England on high ground. I take it for granted that you 
will be obliged to be again out, during the present session on the 
subject of executive appointments, on which it seems to me you can- 
not fail. That discussion is unavoidable, and ought certainly in 
some way to be made public. If this is to be your last session in the 
Senate (as you have intimated), it is greatly desirable, for obvious 
reasons, that you quit with eclat. (328) 

The movements in this State preparatory to the spring elections 


seem in some small degree to have lessened the apathy and stupor 
which have prevailed ever since the late Presidential election. General 
Upham's nomination for governor is well received, and considerable 
exertion will be made to effect his election. He unites all the friends 
of the late administration, and present appearances justify the ex- 
pectation that some of those who were attached to the present ad- 
ministration will give him their aid. Some were disgusted with his 
being so rudely turned out of office, and others, by the general course 
of the administration. I should feel more confident of the expected 
effect of these causes were there less abundant evidence of the deep 
political depravity of the present times. In this particular I am in- 
clined to think our poor State suffers more grievously than most 
others of the Union. Considerations of personal interest have much 
more influence, with our people, than heretofore. By the manner 
in which the offices of emolument of government have lately been dis- 
posed of, great numbers of individuals are led to expect some advan- 
tage from being connected with the dominant party. Instances are 
not unfrequent of the public avowal of such motives, and so callous 
has the public mind become, that the avowal creates little or no 
disgust with the community. I am of opinion that a great portion of 
this excess of political depravity, in this State, may be traced to two 

I hope that you have before this time disposed of Duff Greene to 
your satisfaction. 

I understand that many of your friends in Boston are coming to 
an opinion that you will remove to New York. Whatever may be 
your final determination, it seems to me unadvisable to let public 
opinion settle decisively that way, before you shall have determined 
the matter yourself. 

Should you determine in favor of it, I shall personally regret your 
removal. It would necessarily render our personal intercourse less 
frequent. Death has destroyed so many of my friendships that I have 
but few remaining. I do not fear that your removal would (329) 
lessen the force of our long subsisting friendship, but it would un- 
doubtedly lessen the pleasure I should otherwise derive from it. 

I am as ever, faithfully yours, 

J. Mason. 



Washington, March 2, 1830. 

Dear Sir, — I see in the ''Boston Statesman" of February 26 or 
27, a renewal of an old story, told a year ago or two ago, about a let- 
ter, said to be written by me to Mr. Atherton, relative to the Hart- 
ford Convention. If I remember, when the story was told before, 
your name had something to do with it. I have no recollection of 
any letter to Mr. Atherton on the subject, written by you and me, or 
by me singly. If you could inquire of Mr. Atherton, and learn whether 
any letter of any kind was written to him, by us, or either of us, 
without communicating to him that you do it at my request, I should 
be glad to know what he has to say about it. But I do not incline 
to inquire myself, nor that you should inquire in my name or behalf. 
We have no news here since I wrote you last. Appointments not act- 
ed on. We have seen an account of your Portsmouth Town Meeting, 
— the letters, etc. I believe Mr. Bell can find no originals here. 

Yours truly, 

D. Webster. 


Portsmouth, May 13, 1830. 

Dear Sir, — I send you inclosed a letter from Robert Means in 
answer to my request to him to inquire of Mr. Atherton respecting 
the newspaper story of your advising him to join the Hartford Con- 
vention. I suppose you have seen his voluntary disavowal in the 
Boston papers of your having made any such application. (330) 

Vast numbers of your speech have been published, and they seem 
to be producing a strong impression. Were it not for the depraved 
condition of political morality, I should entertain hopes that the 
present discussion in the Senate would produce great and permanent 
alterations in public opinion. It must doubtless have considerable 
effect. I hope Governor Bell will answer Woodbury's miserable trash. 
Indeed, I do not see how he can in justice to himself avoid doing it. 

Our election is lost, as you have probably seen by the newspapers. 
The falsehoods and forgeries against Upham were contradicted as 


speedily as they could be, but there was not time for the contradic- 
tion to have its full effect, except in the immediate vicinity of this 

It is believed that if the election had come on a fortnight later 
Upham would have carried it. As it is, both Senate and House will 
have majorities of Jacksonians. It is not certain, however, that 
Woodbury or (in case of his being otherwise provided for) Hill will 
be elected to the Senate of the United States. It is quite possible 
that some other Jackson man may step in before them 

Yours as ever, 

J. M. 


Cambridge, May 6, 1831. 

Dear Sir, — I returned home on Wednesday, having had an un- 
usually short term at Portland. On my return I found my young- 
est daughter (Louisa), very ill of the throat distemper and scarlet 
fever. She has been very dangerously ill, and is not yet deemed by 
her physician out of danger, although he encourages us to hope she 
may recover. Her fate must be decided in a few days. Whether I 
shall be able to attend the circuit court at Portsmouth, is wholly un- 
certain. Under existing circumstances I cannot leave home, (331) 
and indeed, I am myself obliged from her critical state to be day 
and night in her room. 

If a decidedly favorable change should take place before Sunday 
evening, I shall go from Boston in the mail-stage of that evening for 
Portsmouth. If there is not such a change, it will be quite impos- 
sible for me to give my attendance. I must beg the favor of you to 
communicate the facts to Judge Harvey, whom I have not the pleasure 
of knowing. He can do with the business of the court exactly as he 
may deem most convenient. I exceedingly regret this occurrence on 
many accounts ; and am now so exhausted by continual watchings that 
I can scarcely hold my pen. 

Believe me very truly and affectionately yours, 

Joseph Story. 







Cambridge, May 9, 1831. 

My dear Sir, — The event which my thought foreboded, has oc- 
curred. My dear little daughter died this morning. We are in utter 
despair; and I am incapable of leaving home, from mental exhaus- 
tion, even if it were otherwise possible. I have no doubt that the 
acts of 1789 and 1794, to which you have referred, cover the case. 
The words come completely up to the case. The marshal should 
therefore adjourn the court from day to day for the four days, and 
then to the next term. I can say no more. I am desolate beyond ex- 
pression. You and Mrs. Mason have met with a like calamity, and 
can pity and sympathize with us. God bless and preserve you and 

I am most affectionately your friend, 

Joseph Story. 


Portsmouth, May 23, 1831. 

My DEAR Sir, — When I lately intruded on you with a letter of 
business, I had no apprehension of the melancholy event which had 
involved you in such heartrending distress. I am fully aware how 
idle would be the attempt to mitigate your and Mrs. Story's suffer- 
ings, from your late bereavement, by any consolation that I can im- 
part. I still feel a strong inclination to let you know that we most 
sincerely sympathize and condole with you. Parental affection is the 
most uniform as well as the strongest of any that our nature is 
capable of. I have never known any grief to equal that of parents 
from the loss of children. The death of an interesting child in the 
early bloom of life, blasts all flattering hopes, and implants a wound 
that seems remediless. Philosophy and religion, with the aid of 
time, may assuage the suffering. The chief consolation must come 
from hopes which religion furnishes. In truth without these hopes 
life, checkered and clouded as it is by the constant occurrence of such 
distressing events, would not be worth possessing. And this, I think, 
constitutes one of the most solid foundations of those hopes. It seems 



inconsistent with the wisdom and benevolence of God, that beings 
so intelligent as our race, should have been created, for the sole end 
of what we do and suffer in this world. 

Mrs. Mason with her love to Mrs. Story, desires me to express 
her deep sympathy in your affliction. 

I am, dear Sir, your sincere friend, 

J. Mason. 


Cambridge, May 25, 1831. 

My DEAR Sir, — I thank you most sincerely for your kind and 
consoling letter. Mrs. Story and myself have been indeed exceedingly 
(333) wretched. The calamity which has befallen us, was so sudden 
and awful, that it sunk us into utter despair. Our dear little daugh- 
ter was in our eyes, one of the most lovely and perfect of human 
beings, and we really idolized her. Her death has made everything 
about us desolate. I am myself now quite calm, having mastered the 
struggles of my first feelings. At first I was unable to offer any 
resistance, and buried my thoughts in solitude and silence. The 
duties of my office have recalled me to the business of life, and this 
has for a part of every day relieved me from the burden of my own 
personal griefs. Indeed, there can be but two sources of relief in 
cases of parental bereavement. The one is employment, which 
diverts our thoughts; the other is religion, which soothes them into 
confidence and hope. I have a firm confidence in the goodness of 
God, and in his parental mercy and wisdom, though it is utterly 
mysterious to me. I ought not to doubt that it is all for the best, and 
I confess, that but for the hopes of a glorious immortality, and re- 
union with departed friends, I should sink into total despair. This 
furnishes the only means by which I am able to reconcile the 
melancholy events of this life with any notions of a just and benef- 
ficent Providence. Mrs. Story remains quite feeble and desponding. 
She is however calm and tranquil, but extremely gloomy. I have felt 
a good deal of anxiety on her account, but I trust that time will bring 
the usual alleviations, and by removing the images of the past, enable 


us both to partake of the common blessings of society. As for hap- 
piness, I confess that I have little expectation that we shall, or can 
ever feel it again as we have been accustomed to do. There will be a 
darkness in our minds that must forever shade every earthly prospect. 

Mrs. Story sends her love to Mrs. Mason, and I beg to be most 
kindly remembered to her and the family. 

Believe me most truly and affectionately your friend, 

Joseph Story. 


Cambridge, November 19, 1831. 

My dear Sir, — I am very much obliged to you for the copy of 
the New Hampshire Resolutions, which you have sent me, and for 
the minutes of your argument in defense of them. The former I 
shall place at large in a note to my lectures on Constitutional Law ; 
the latter I shall incorporate as far as I may into my text. Docu- 
ments of this sort are becoming more and more valuable every day. 
I am just returned from Rhode Island, where I had very little busi- 
ness of an important nature. Just at the moment of my departure 
from home, I received a letter from the Chief Justice, stating that 
his health Was so much better that he expected to return home the 
next (now past) week. If I had not received this letter, as the weath- 
er was favorable and my health much restored, I believe that I should 
have ventured on to Philadelphia. I am now engaged on the Charles 
River Bridge Case. After it is finished, I should be glad to have you 
read it over, if I thought it might not give you too much trouble. It 
is so important a constitutional question, that I am anxious that 
some other mind should see, what the writer rarely can in his zeal, 
whether there is any weak point which can be fortified or ought to be 
abandoned. The general structure of the argument I hope is sound. 
But all the details may not be. 

I send you a copy of my Mount Auburn address, of which I beg 
your acceptance ; and also a printed copy of the lines which I promised 
Mrs. Mason, With my kind regards to all the family, 

I am very truly your affectionate friend, 

Joseph Story. 



Portsmouth, November 24, 1831. 

My dear Sir, — I have received your letter with your Mount 
Auburn address and the elegy, which we had before seen and read 
(335) with much interest. I am much pleased with the address. You 
have certainly executed a task of considerable difficulty with much 
success. I will most willingly examine your opinion on the case you 
mention, and give you the result of my reflections on it. I am exceed- 
ingly rejoiced that the Chief Justice^ is doing so well. I trust and 
hope in divine mercy that his life and strength may be continued till 
the danger to the judiciary from the present dynasty shall have pass- 
ed away. I cannot refrain from communicating to you in confidence 
a matter of great importance to myself, in which your kindness has 
led you to express an interest. I have come to a determination to 
remove to Boston, next spring. In preparation for it, when at Boston 
a few days ago, I purchased a house near that of my friend Mr. Law- 
rence. Whether this resolution will be for the better or worse, time 
only can resolve. For special reasons I wish nothing said of it at 
present. Mrs. Mason and my family desire their kindest regards to 
yourself and Mrs. Story. 

With great esteem I am, as ever, faithfully yours, 

J. Mason. 


Cambridge, December 23, 1831. 

My DEAR Sir, — Owing to my recent illness, from which I am 
now, as I trust entirely recovered, the preparation of my opinion in 
the Charles River Bridge Case was suspended. I have just completed 

a "If we read Marshall's opinions in the four great cases interpreting the 
Constitution, Marbury v. Virginia, McCulloch v. Maryland, Gibbons v. Ogden, 
and Cohen v. Virginia, we will see that the great issue involved was interpreted 
according to its evident meaning, — the important part of the same decided; 
while we may have some doubt in regard to the minor matters treated, we will 
not have to the correctness of his conclusions on questions of first importance. 
Thus in Marbury v. Madison, we may doubt whether the appointment to a Fed- 
eral oifice is complete until the appointee's commission is delivered to him, but not 


it; and it is to be copied, and I hope to send it to you by the middle 
of the next week. If you should have examined it sufficiently to give 
your opinion, I should be glad to receive it before I go to Washington, 
which will be by Sunday the 2d of January. If not I will thank you 
to send it to me by mail at Washington. I wish to make some remarks 
to explain its great length, and the repetition of the same suggestions 
in different parts of the same opinion. I have written my opinion in 
the hope of meeting the doubts of some of the brethren, which are 
various and apply to different (336) aspects of the case. To accom- 
plish my object, I felt compelled to deal with each argument separate- 
ly, and answer it in every form, since the objections of one mind were 
different from those of another. One of the most formidable objec- 
tions is the rule that royal grants, etc., are to be strictly construed. 
Another is against implications in legislative grants ; another is 
against monopolies. Another is that franchises of this sort are bound- 
ed by local limits ; another that the construction contended for will bar 
all public improvements. I have been compelled, therefore, to re-state 

of the duty of the judiciary to disregard constitutional legislation; in McCulloch 
V. Maryland, we may question the correctness of the assertion that the power to 
tax is the power to destroy, but not of the power of the Federal Government to 
create a corporation as a means of executing one of the enumerated powers; in 
Gibbons V. Ogden, we may think, in spite of Marshall's opinion to the contrary, 
that the legislation of Congress and of the State of New York were not in con- 
flict, but we will not dispute the correctness of the definition of the scope of the 
Federal power over commerce; while in Cohen v. Virginia, as the Court confines 
itself to the single question of the jurisdiction, we will accept Marshall's argu- 
ment in all its parts as sound. This ability to take a legal question on which a 
large numlber of persons have preconceived opinions, the product of their politi- 
cal prejudices, analyze it in all its parts in such a way that the conclusion reached 
is admitted by the great majority of each successive generation of students to be 
inevitable, is the best test of Marshall." — 2 Great A^yieHcan Lawyers, 374-5, — 
Art. "Marshall,"' by Wm. Draper Lewis. 

As to Marshall's reasoning powers, Judge Jos. Story tells the follo^ving: 
"Mr. Samuel Dexter was once in company with Fisher Ames and Chief Justice 
Marshall. The latter comtmenced a conversation, or rather an opinion (for he 
was almost solus in the dialogue) which lasted some three hours. On breaking 
up, the two former commenced on their way homeward, praising the depth and 
learning of their noble host. Said Ames, after a short talk, 'to confess the truth. 
Dexter, I have not understood a word of his argument for half an hour.' 'And 
r, good humoredly rejoined Dexter, 'have been out of my depth for an hour and 
a half.' "—2 Story's Life and Letters, 504. 


the arguments in different connections. I have done so hoping in this 
way to gain allies. I should otherwise have compressed my opinion 
within half the limits. 

Believe me very truly and affectionately yours, 

Joseph Story. 

jeremiah mason to daniel webster. 

Boston, May 27, 1832. 

My dear Sir, — Letters from Washington, stating the unanimity 
of the committee of the House of Representatives on manufactures, 
with the exception of Mr. Barbour, in reporting a bill in accordance 
with the views of the Secretary of the Treasury, have created great 
alarm. Those best informed on the subject, are united in opinion, 
that such a bill if passed, will prove fatal to the woolen manufacturers. 
They think that no rate of ad valorem duties can be safely substituted 
for the minimum duties. While the foreign woolen trade shall con- 
tinue in the hands of foreigners, and often the manufacturers, who 
can readily furnish such inventories and other evidence of the cost 
of the articles imported, as they please, no vigilance in the custom- 
house officers could detect and prevent frauds. Under the present 
administration, it cannot be expected that much pains will be taken 
to prevent known frauds. The best conducted woolen factories have 
been maintained with great difficulty. Taken altogether, they have 
probably since 1824, been a loss (337) to their owners, equal to the 
amount of the interest of the money employed in them. The one I 
till lately was interested in, proved much worse than this ; there was 
a loss besides interest, of a part of the capital. Increased skill now 
affords better prospects. But the present bill, if enacted, will I think, 
turn many of them into cotton factories, and cause others to be 

The woolen manufactory directly .interests a larger portion 
of the people of the United States than any other. All the wool 
growers are directly interested. If this be sacrificed, what ground of 
hope can there be that other branches, less important, and not so 
directly affecting the interests of great numbers, will not successively 


experience the same fate. It seems now to be better understood than 
formerly, that the ruin of one branch of industry or one kind of 
property, must unavoidably disturb and injure all the rest. 

I thought the New York convention took the only safe ground, 
which was to defend the whole system. This unites all its friends. 
It must be defended on this ground or not at all. Alterations and 
modifications not materially affecting the principle of protection, are 
of course to be admitted. Let the wool growers and woolen manu- 
facturers be now sacrificed, and it is idle for the cotton manufacturers 
to expect when attacked, to have their aid. The only security is in 
the union of all the friends of the protection system. For this end 
all the interests must be faithfully protected. The whole line must 
be protected or the battle will be lost. 

Besides, I do not see what is to be gained by yielding up this 
essential part of the system. As I understand the case, the enemies 
of the protection of manufacturers deny that government has the 
right to attempt it. This is certainly the ground assumed by their 
leaders, and a dissolution of the union is threatened as the penalty for 
the exercise of this right. The right is not, in the opinion of a vast 
majority of the nation, of a doubtful nature. To attain it was cer- 
tainly among the chief inducements to form the government, A great 
majority deem the exercise of it essential to their welfare; and, as 
far as it has been exercised, the results have been eminently (338) 
successful. Immense interests are involved. Under such circum- 
stances, to yield a part, in hopes of appeasing the violence of the 
opposers, seems to me to be an indication of weakness and folly. This 
yielding will not satisfy or appease your opponents, but encourage 
them to reiterated assaults till the whole system shall be abandoned. 
It will be early enough to yield a part and to modify when there shall 
be reasonable ground to expect that the doing so will produce satisfac- 
tion and lessen the violence of opposition. I do not believe that 
yielding at the present time would produce that effect. On the con- 
trary, I think it would encourage opposition and increase its violence. 
Such is ordinarily the effect of yielding to unprovoked and unjusti- 
fiable threats. I would do nothing to increase the hopes of the 
Southern States that the exercise of the power in question would be 
abandoned. The due exercise of it is in my opinion not only essential 


to the welfare of the country, but to the very existence of the Union ; 
without it the government would not be worth preserving, and such, 
I believe, would on trial, be found to be the opinion of all the North- 
ern and Eastern States. The abandonment of the exercise of this 
power would immediately overwhelm New England with poverty and 

I do not pretend to calculate the effect of the passing of this bill 
on the approaching presidential election. In process of time, I have 
no doubt it would render its advocates unpopular and odious. But as 
the operation of it is probably suspended to a future day, the effects 
would not be felt by the people till after the election will be over. If 
anything less than public suffering and calamity can awaken the peo- 
ple to a sense of their true interests, it would seem that the unprin- 
cipled conduct and mischievous attempts of the present administra- 
tion would do it. 

General Jackson has sufficiently explained what he means by a 
judicious tariff. 

A number of gentlemen, and Mr. A. Lawrence^^ among the rest, 
(339) are about setting out for Washington to explain and enforce 
their views on the pending measure. 

I am as ever, faithfully yours, 

J. Mason. 


Washington, June 23, 1832. 

My dear Sir, — I duly received your letter, ten days ago. Mr. 
Biddle, when he wrote you, requested me to send you copies of the 
Reports, which I promised to do; but in truth, I had none to send, 

=1 Abbott Lawrence, (1792-1855,) American merchant, legislator and diplo- 
matist, younger brother of Amos Lav/rence. Born at Groton, Mass., and educated 
there. Became a partner of his brother Amos (1814) in the dry-goods business, 
in Boston, taking a prominent part later in building up American manufacturers. 
The City of Lawrence, Mass., is the result of his activities. He donated also the 
money which founded the Lawrence Scientific School, at Harvard. He filled sev- 
eral public offices, including those of United States Congressmen, 1835-7, and 
1839-40, Commissioner for the settlement of the Northeast Boundary question 
with Great Britain, 1842, and that of Minister to Great Britain, 1849. 


nor did we any of us get more than one copy, until two days ago, 
when Mr. Bell, as he informs me, sent you one. I have to-day receiv- 
ed your second letter, and it has caused me to finish a duty which I 
commenced yesterday, that is, to write you on the subject of your first. 
I have reflected a good deal, and spoken to several friends, Mr. Bell, 
Mr. Clay, Mr. A. Lawrence,^' and others, as to the necessity which 
the "Globe" may be supposed to have imposed on you to answer its 
slanders. On the whole, the result of opinion is, that there is no im- 
mediate occasion for your appearance in print. The abuse of the 
"Globe," on this point, will hardly affect the interest or fate of the 
bank, in its present crisis, and if it should, its mischief would be ac- 
complished before your statement could appear. My own impression 
is, that after the adjournment of Congress, let the question go which 
way it may, it ivill he expedie7it for you, at your leisure, to make a 
suitable publication, and think it may probably be expected. No 
doubt, the authority on which the "Globe" proceeds, is Mr. Wood- 
bury, Mr. Hill, Mr. Hubbard, etc., etc., or some of them. In the House 
of Representatives the Tariff Bill will probably be passed or rejected 
to-day. I know not which. If it come here, we shall try first, to 
amend, and second, if we cannot amend, to postpone the whole sub- 
ject. Our majority at best will be small and feeble. Party absorbs 
everything. New York (her politicians) are obviously willing to sell 
the tariff, or anything (340) else, for the sake of making Mr. V. B." 
Vice President. We shall know in a few days what the end is to be. 
The House of Representatives will probably take up the Bank Bill, 
Monday or Tuesday. I think it will pass that house, but the prevail- 
ing impression is, that the President will return the bill with his 

Yours truly, 

D. Webster. 


^ Abbott Lawrence. 

'' Van Buren was known as "A Northern man with Southern principles," 
and on account of his political influence, was called the "Little Magician." He 
was not an orator, but his more important speeches show careful preparation and 
his opinions carried weight. His early practice made him financially independent, 
and paved the way for his entrance into politics. He was an early disciple of 
the Clintons, Robt. R. Livingston and Aaron Burr, and later of Andrew Jackson. 


He was a meanlber of the State Senate, a member of the Court of Errors, the 
highest Court in New York, until 1847, Attorney-General of New York for four 
years (1815-19), U. S. Senator, 1821-28, when elected Governor; also previous to 
this a memiber of the Constitutional State Convention; resigned the governor- 
ship in 1829, to become Secretary of State under Jackson ; appointed Minister to 
England in 1831, but was not confirmed by the Senate; Vice-President with Jack- 
son, 1833-37, and President of United States 1837-41. Immediately after the ad- 
mission of Benjamin F. Butler, he became a partner of Mr. Van Buren and the 
firm was soon known as one of the most distinguished in the State of New York, 
not only for its influence in the legal world, but for its controlling power in 
politics. One of the great secrets of Van Buren's success was t*he discernment he 
exercised in the selection of his friends and allies. In this he excelled the subtle- 
ty of Richelieu, Buckingham and Halifax. Says John Fiske: "Van Buren was 
the greatest master of political economy and the most lucid conception was had 
by him of the proper sphere of our government of all the presidents, and Shep- 
ard's Life of Van Buren is the ablest of the Statesmen Series." — 1 Historical 
and Literary Essays, by Fiske, 348. 



Mr. Mason's Life and Correspondence, from his Removal to Boston in 1832 till his 
Death. — Professional and Social Life in Boston. — Death of his Son James. — 
Retirement from Active Professional Labor. — Declining Years. — Death and 

In 1832 an important event took place in Mr. Mason's life : he re- 
moved his residence from Portsmouth to Boston. This was a change 
he had long had under consideration, and he did not come to a de- 
cision without a careful weighing of the arguments for and against it. 
He was then sixty-four years old, and he was too wise a man not to 
know that, in general, it is not expedient to change either residence 
or occupation after the age of sixty. But there were reasons which 
made his case an exception to the general rule. 

Portsmouth had been for many years a stationary, and had begun 
to be a declining town. The source of its former growth and pros- 
perity had been dried up by the general pacification of Europe in 
1815. The productive energy and enterprise of New England, once 
so profitably occupied in foreign commerce, the carrying trade and 
shipbuilding, were now largely diverted to manufactures, and for 
these, Portsmouth, so rich in facilities for commerce and shipbuild- 
ing, had no especial advantages. The professional business which 
Mr. Mason drew from Portsmouth itself was rather diminished than 
enlarged. His labors were not lessening, and his income was not 
increasing. And he was now getting to be an old (342) man, and age 
is not locomotive. His frequent journeys on professional business 
calls, and his long absences from home, were growing more and more 
irksome to him. Were he in Boston, his practice would be in that city 
or its immediate neighborhood. His name and face were well known 


in the courts of Massachusetts, and his professional reputation was 
as high in Boston as in Portsmouth. He had every reason to be- 
lieve that in the metropolis of New England the practice of his pro- 
fession would be at once less laborious and more lucrative than in 
Portsmouth. And in a social point of view he had more to gain 
than to lose by the change. Though there were many families in 
Portsmouth to whom he and his were strongly attached, yet his 
earliest and most intimate friends, such as Judge Story, Mr. Web- 
ster, Mr. Ticknor, Mr. Amos Lawrence,-'' and Mr. Abbot Lawrence, 
were all in Boston, or its immediate vicinity; and it was much to 
him to exchange the occasional and imperfect intercourse by letter 
for the full and free communion of speech. And there were yet 
stronger attractions than those of friendship drawing him to Bos- 
ton, for his son, James, was established there in business as a partner 
in the house of J. W. Paige & Co., and another son, Charles, was just 
about to enter Harvard College. 

It is probable — though no intimation of the kind appears in his 
correspondence — that Mr. Mason's annoying experiences as presi- 
dent of the Branch Bank of the United States in Portsmouth, as 
told in the preceding chapter, formed the weight which at last 
turned the doubtful scale. He was not a sensitive man; his frame 
and spirit were alike too robust for that; but he was not indif- 
ferent to the good-will of his neighbors, and his was one of those 
natures which feel more than they express. It pained and doubt- 
less surprised him, that among his townsmen and neighbors there 
was a certain amount of dormant unfriendliness which took shape 
and utterance in an unreasonable opposition to his official course as 
president of the branch bank. The source of this unkindly feeling 
may be found in certain touches of nature which make the whole 
world kin. (343) 

* Amos Lawrence (1786-1852), American merchant, was born at Groton, 
Mass., and after education there, went to Boston, 1807, engaged in the dry-goods 
business, receiving into the partnership in 1814, his younger brother, Abbott. 
They conducted the business with great success. The firm was instrumental in 
developing the manufacture of cotton goods in the United States, and started a 
factory of their own in Lowell, in 1830. During his life he gave away $639,000 
for educational and charitable purposes, — $10,000 for the completion of Bunker 
Hill Monument. 


Mr. Mason was a great man in a small town. In intellectual 
force there was no one equal to him, and no one second to him. 
But some men bear with impatience the sway of an understanding 
superior to their own; and thus, while he had the respect of all, 
while he had many warm friends, there were some who feared him 
and some who envied him. He had not the character or the man- 
ners which make men popular. He never angled for the good 
opinion of others. Conscious of his strength, and careless of conse- 
quences, he never suppressed what he thought, and never uttered 
what he did not think. He read men with a sharp and penetrating 
glance. No form of weakness could escape him ; and for such weak- 
ness as took the form of vanity or pretention he had an intolerant 
contempt, which he took no pains to conceal. He always spoke his 
mind with great freedom. His powers of sarcasm were great; he 
said pointed and pregnant things which were forgotten by himself, 
but never by those against whom they were directed. Men who are 
universally popular, of whom everybody speaks well, usually have 
in their characters something of weakness, or something of insin- 
cerity; and the kind of unfriendliness which Mr. Mason called forth 
was really a tribute to his intellectual force and the manliness of his 

The final parting was less hard to him than to Mrs. Mason, whose 
sweet and gentle character awakened nothing but good-will, and who 
was attached to the home where she had so long lived by innumer- 
able memories of kindness and sympathy, alike in joy and sorrow, 
on the part of her friends and neighbors. 

But when the change was made, and they were established, neith- 
er fie nor his family found any occasion to regret the step that had 
been taken. Indeed, if there were any regret, it was that the re- 
moval had been so long postponed. Had he come to Boston when he 
left the Senate in 1817, it would have been a wise measure. He would 
have worked less hard, earned more money, and had a wider range 
and higher class of social enjoyment. 

As it was, he found all his expectations more than met. He was 

received by his professional brethren with cordial welcome and by 
none could his learning and power have been more thoroughly ap- 


predated than by the able bar which Boston then had, comprising 
such men as Webster, Hubbard, Dexter, Choate, Rand, Fletcher, 
Charles G. Loring, and Charles P. Curtis, to say nothing of the living. 
And he could not fail to count it among the great felicities of his 
new position that he was to argue cases before a court presided over 
by so great a lawyer and magistrate as Chief Justice Shaw/ He 
found his time fully employed in the practice of his profession, both 
as chamber counsel, and as senior counsel in the conduct of causes; 
and in both capacities, the interests intrusted to him were of great 
magnitude, and the legal questions were of a kind worthy of his 
powers. His written opinions were especially sought in the con- 
struction of wills, and in the solution of difficult problems in the law 
of real property, and frequently too in nice points of commercial 
law, and in constitutional law. I have before me at this moment a 

^ "It has been my fortune in the course of a professional life of more than 
forty years, to practice before some very distinguished judges, but I cannot men- 
tion the name of Chief Justice Shaw without saying that, in all the qualities 
which make a great magistrate — in strength of intellect, in depth of mental 
vision, in comprehensive grasp of every question, however difficult, that came be- 
fore him, in application to it of the appropriate learning, and in the unquestion- 
able poise in which he held the scales of Justice, until one or the other ought to 
predominate, I have known no man who was his superior. Chief Justice Marshall 
I never saw; Chancellor Kent I never saw upon the bench, although I once met 
him in private life. But when I name Taney, Story, Nelson and Curtis, as among 
the judges before whom it has been more or less my lot to appear, and recall 
many others of deserved distinction in different States of whom I have had per- 
sonal observation, it will, perhaps, be allowed that my estimate of Shaw as a 
judge, unimportant as it is to his fame, has not been formed without sufficient 
opportunities of comparison with men of note and mark. There have, doubtless, 
been judges who would be called more learned, or possessed more learning in 
special departments of the law, but no one ever knew Chief Justice Shaw to fail 
in the knowledge and application of the cause on which he had to act. It is true 
that he was aided by a learned bar, whose presentation of their cases was habitu- 
ally thorough. But, after all has been done that learned advocates can do, it is 
the office of the judge to select, weigh, to compare, and not unfrequently, before 
the law can be declared, to make researches which counsel have not made, or to 
draw distinctions which have not been drawn. The opinions of this eminent person 
have always been received by the courts of other States of this Union and in the 
Federal Courts with a respect that have not been less than phenomenal, and that 
have not been accorded to those of any judge who has held a place in the judicial 
history of any part of the country." — George Ticknor Curtis — 1 R. B. Curtis' 
Memoirs (Note) 134. 


quarto MS. volume, of three hundred and forty-six closely written 
pages, containing upwards of fifty opinions, many of them long and 
elaborate, and all marked by affluent learning, logical power, and 
a singularly clear and terse legal style. The earliest is of the date of 
September, 1832, and the latest of May, 1842. 

The volumes of Pickering's Reports, from the fourteenth to the 
twenty-third inclusive, contain twenty-six cases in which Mr. Mason 
appears as senior counsel, many of them of great magnitude and 
importance ; and during the same period he was of counsel in nine 
cases, of a similar class, in the Circuit Court of the United States. 
Of course, as every lawyer knows, a great deal of business must have 
been done by him which never resulted in questions of law to be 
heard by the whole court. He also often appeared before committees 
of the Legislature when important legal questions were under con- 
sideration, or large property interests were involved, and was heard 
with great attention and respect. 

Mr. Mason found his social relations at Boston most agreeable. 
He took a large and handsome house on Tremont Street, to which 

his own friends, old and new, and the friends of his children, were 
cordially welcome. Always given to hospitality, always fond of con- 
versation, it was a great pleasure to him to renew his intercourse with 
his friends of long date, such as Mr. Webster and Judge Story, and 
hardly a less pleasure to form new acquaintances, and exchange 
thoughts with the fresh and active minds of a young generation. 
For he followed the wise advice of Dr. Johnson, and kept his friend- 
ships in repair. His heart warmed to every young man of profes- 
sional or general promise with whom he was brought in contact ; and 

In a case in which an old white-haired man was a party before Judge Shaw, 
Choate of counsel, gave reign to his imagination and quoted a touching passage 
from King Lear. The Chief raised his mighty, and, with reverence be it spoken, 
shaggy head and glowered. "Mr. Choate," he broke out, "this is a dry question of 
law, and you mistake if you suppose the Supreme Court is to be influenced by 
any such considerations as you appear to be suggesting." Choate paused, fussed 
with his papers, then murmured just loud enough to be audible, enough for the 
tittering bar to hear him, "the Chief is not much of a lawyer, but what a polite 
and amiable man he is." Considering that the gruff Chief is as a lawyer worthy 
to rank with Theophilus Parsons, the rejoinder was very sarcastic. — Parko-'s 
Reminiscences of R. Choate, 200-1. 


many who were once young and are now old will recall with grateful 
recollection his frank and manly kindness. 

It was in the spring of 1832 that I, being a law student, first saw 
Mr. Mason. We met at the house of our common friend, Mr. Tick- 
nor, a house for so many years known in Boston for its elegant 
hospitality, and the cultivated and agreeable society which gathered 
there. Every member of the bar and every law student in New 
England knew at least two things about him: that he was a very 
great lawyer and a very tall man. My knowledge of him went some- 
what further, for I had often heard both Mr. Ticknor and Judge 
Story speak of him, the latter always in strong admiration of his 
legal attainments and logical power. I was, of course, prepared 
for his commanding stature, but his manner was not exactly what I 
had expected. It was more quiet and simple than such as young men 
usually associate with great intellectual power. His complexion 
was fresh and healthy, and his face more smooth and unwrinkled 
than in most men of his age. Had I seen him without knowing who 
he was, I should have taken him for a prosperous farmer. As I 
glanced from his face to that of Sir Walter Scott, in a fine portrait 
by Leslie which hung over the fireplace, I thought I saw some re- 
semblance between the two. His voice was lower and gentler than 
seemed in harmony with his stately presence. He used no gesture 
in speaking; there was nothing peremptory or emphatic in his tone, 
and his manner was the reverse of dictatorial or overbearing. I no- 
ticed that his language was plain, almost homely, and (346) that his 
accent had a strong New England flavor. For both of these peculiar- 
ities I had been prepared. 

From that time I often saw Mr. Mason, and nothing could be 
more agreeable than the intercourse I had with him. The fact that 
I had passed a year and a half in my childhood in his native town 
of Lebanon seemed to make a bond of sympathy between us, and 
led him to talk freely of his own early life, and the men and man- 
ners of a former age. He was fond of the conversation and society 
of young men. One reason of this was that he was much given to 
the asking of questions. This is a form of conversational inter- 
course which can only be cautiously indulged in between equals in 
age and station, because it seems to imply a relation of superiority 


and inferiority. The conversation between kings and their sub- 
jects is usually in the form of questions and answers. But, of course, 
no young man could object to giving to a man of Mr. Mason's age 
and eminence the largest and freest range of inquiry. Nor did Mr. 
Mason in the asking of questions take any attitude of superiority. 
He was — what those who knew him slightly did not suspect — a 
modest man, more ready to disclaim the right that belonged to him 
than to assert any which did not. If he asked questions, the reason 
was simply that he was all his life a keen observer and student of 
men. No book-worm ever read books with more interest than he 
read men, and of all persons I have ever known he was the most 
penetrating and the most accurate observer of humanity. No man 
ever interpreted more unerringly the outward signs by which the in- 
ward nature is revealed. Men stood before him as if made of glass. 
And every new human being that he met was an object of special 
interest to him, like a new book to a scholar, or a fresh specimen to 
a naturalist. And the asking of questions was his way of reading 
the living book. 

In conversation he was not only one of the most instructive of 
men, but one of the most agreeable. In talking with a young man he 
never assumed any vantage-ground of age or eminence. He had so 
much real power that he could afford to be frank and simple. (347) 
He never talked down to a young man; never infused any con- 
descension into his manner; never wounded one's self-esteem by 
the trick of drawing out. He laid his own mind fairly alongside 
the mind of the person he was talking with. He had no occasion 
for those artificial defenses of a stately manner and a formal style of 
speech which weak men sometimes throw up to prevent a too near 
approach. In all my personal intercourse with him he was as frank 
and free as if we had been equals in age. He told me many inter- 
esting anecdotes of his professional life and his experiences at Wash- 
ington, which I now regret that I did not record at the time. Alas, 
how many things there are which we neglect to do when young, and 
are sorry for it when old! He discussed with great freedom the 
statesmen and lawyers he had known, and never spared those whom 
he thought weak or selfish or unprincipled. 

Mr. Mason's discourse was not only the discourse of a wise man. 


but it was seasoned with certain mental traits not always found in 
combination with wisdom. He had a keen sense of the ludicrous, 
and the quickest discernment of any weakness that was a legiti- 
mate subject of ridicule. Thus his conversation had point and 
flavor, a homely vigor and energy, and a certain originality both of 
thought and expression. His memory was stored with personal 
anecdotes and characteristic traits and incidents illustrating the 
peculiarities of the distinguished men he had known. He was a 
frank and courageous talker, never keeping anything back from 
over-cautiousness, or an apprehension that somebody might think 
that what he was saying was not exactly proper for a man of his 
age and position. I have never known an old man whose conversa- 
tion had so much of youthful spirit as his. I recall one or two in- 
stances illustrating this trait. 

He told me once that when quite a young man he had a profes- 
sional conference with Mr. Theophilus Parsons, before the latter 
was made Chief Justice of Massachusetts. Among the elements in 
the case was a certain conveyance of parish land, by a clergyman, and 
its nature and effect were under discussion. Mr. Mason suggested 
(348) that it might be held to be a covenant to stand seized. Mr. 
Parsons turned to him quickly, and said: "Mason, I like that; that 
is a good idea of yours ; in the relation between a clergyman and his 
parish there is some analogy to that between a man and his wife." 
Mr. Mason went on to tell me: "I didn't know, or had forgotten, 
that a consideration of blood or marriage was necessary to support 
a covenant to stand seized, but I said nothing, and as soon as I got 
home, I took down my books and began to study the subject, and 
found the blood spurting out between the very lines of the page." 

On one occasion he came into Mr. Sumner's office, which was 
next to mine, and found him engaged in writing an address to be 
delivered before a Peace Society. After a little good-natured ban- 
ter on the part of Mr. Mason, and an equally good-natured defense 
of his views by Mr. Sumner, the former, rising to take his leave, 
said: "Well, Sumner, you may be right, but I should just as soon 
think of joining a society for the suppression of thunder and light- 
ning as a society for the suppression of war." 

Mr. Mason's correspondence, after his removal to Boston, de- 


clined in extent. This is the common experience of life. Not only do 
the friends of our youth and manhood depart before us, but the im- 
pulse to write letters grows weaker as we grow older. In the vernal 
season of life man obeys the general law which bids the bird sing 
and the tree burst into leaf. Youthful friendship seeks expression, 
and young men and young women write to each other because the 
full heart overflows, and its waters cover the page. It is their own 
satisfaction, rather than the satisfaction of their correspondents 
which moves them. But in declining life our affections flow in nar- 
rower and deeper channels. The frost of repression locks up the cur- 
rents of the soul which once ran so freely. We think more but write 
less, and when we do write, our words are touched with the finger 
of time. Emotions are like blossoms ; they seem out of season in the 
autumn. The line of the poet, — (349) 

"Be his the natural silence of old age," 
involves a truth which all who have reached old age will recognize. 
Mr. Mason's habitual correspondents had never been numerous 
and two of them, Mr. King and Mr. Gore, to both of whom he looked 
up with a peculiar feeling of attachment and respect, died in the 
same year, 1827. Of his surviving friends, those whom he most 
valued, Judge Story, Mr. Webster, and Mr. Ticknor, were near at 
hand ; and thus, after 1832, most of his correspondence was upon 
public affairs with Mr. Webster, while the latter was in the discharge 
of his public duties in Washington. 


Boston, May 27, 1832. 

My dear Sir, — Letters from Washington, stating the unanim- 
ity of the Committee of the House of Representatives on manu- 
factures, with the exception of Mr. Barbour, in reporting a bill in 
accordance with the views of the Secretary of the Treasury, have 
created great alarm. Those best informed on the subject are united 
in opinion, that such a bill, if passed, will prove fatal to the woolen 
manufactures. They think that no rate of ad valorem duties can 
be safely substituted for the minimum duties. While the foreign 
woolen trade shall continue in the hands of foreigners, who are often 


the manufacturers, who can readily furnish such inventories and 
other evidences of the cost of the articles imported, as they please, 
no vigilance in the custom-house officers would detect and prevent 
frauds. Under the present administration, it cannot be expected that 
much pains will be taken to prevent known frauds. The best con- 
ducted woolen factories have been maintained with great difficulty. 
Taken altogether they have probably since 1824 been a loss to their 
owners, equal to the amount of the interest of the money employed 
in them. The one I till lately was interested in, proved much worse 
than this. There was a loss besides interest, of a part of the capital. 
Increased skill now affords better prospects. But (350) the present 
bill, if enacted, will, I think, turn many of them into cotton factories, 
and cause others to be abandoned. The woolen manufactory directly 
interests a larger portion of the United States, than any other. All 
the wool-growers are directly interested. If this be sacrificed, what 
ground of hope can there be, that other branches, less important and 
not so directly affecting the interest of great numbers, will not suc- 
cessively experience the same fate. It seems now to be better under- 
stood than formerly that the ruin of one branch of industry, or of 
one kind of property, must unavoidably disturb and injure all the 
rest. I thought the New York convention took the only safe ground, 
which was, to defend the whole system. This unites all its friends. 
It must be defended on this ground, or not at all. Alterations and 
modifications, not materially affecting the principles of protection, 
are of course to be admitted. Let the wool-growers and woolen 
manufacturers be now sacrificed, and it is idle for the cotton manu- 
facturers to expect when attacked, to have their aid. The only 
security is in the union of all the friends of the protective system. 
For this end, all the interests must be faithfully protected. The 
whole line must be protected, or the battle will be lost. Besides, I 
do not see what is to be gained by yielding up this essential part of 
the system. As I understand the case, the enemies of the protection 
of manufactures, deny that government has the right to attempt it. 
This is certainly the ground assumed by their leaders, and a dis- 
solution of the Union is threatened as the penalty for the exercise 
of this right. The right is not, in the opinion of a vast majority of 
the nation, of a doubtful nature. To attain it was certainly among 


the chief inducements to form the government. A great majority 
deem the exercise of it essential to their welfare, and as far as it 
has been exercised the results have been eminently successful. Im- 
mense interests are involved. Under such circumstances to yield a part 
in hopes of appeasing the violence of the opposers, seems to me to 
be an indication of weakness and folly. This yielding will not satisfy 
or appease your opponents, but encourage them to reiterated as- 
saults, till the whole system shall be (351) abandoned. It will be 
early enough to yield a part, and to modify, when there shall be 
reasonable ground to expect that the doing so will produce satisfac- 
tion and lessen the violence of opposition. I do not believe that 
yielding at the present time would produce that effect. On the con- 
trary, I think it would encourage opposition and increase its violence. 
Such is ordinarily the effect of yielding to unprovoked and unjusti- 
fiable threats. I would do nothing to increase the hopes of the 
Southern States that the exercise of the power in question would be 
abandoned. The due exercise of it is in my opinion not only essential 
to the welfare of the country, but to the very existence of the Union. 
Without it the government would not be worth preserving, and 
such, I believe, would on trial, be found to be the opinion of all the 
Northern and Eastern States. The abandonment of the exercise of 
this power would immediately overwhelm New England with poverty 
and ruin. I do not pretend to calculate the effect of the passing this 
bill, on the approaching Presidential election. In process of time, 
I have no doubt, it would render its advocates unpopular and odious. 
But as the operation of it is probably suspended to a future day, the 
effects would not be felt by the people till after the election will be 
over. If anything less than public suffering and calamity can 
awaken the people to a sense of their true interests, it would seem 
that the unprincipled conduct and mischievous attempts of the pre- 
sent administration would do it. General Jackson has sufficiently 
explained what he means by a judicious staff. A number of gentle- 
men, and Mr. A. Lawrence among the rest, are about setting out for 
Washington to explain and enforce their views on the pending 

I am, as ever faithfully, yours, J. Mason. 



Washington, Jtine 23, 1832. 

My DEAR Sir, — I duly received your letter ten days ago. Mr. 
Biddle, when he wrote you, requested me to send you copies of the 
(352) "Reports," which I promised to do ; but, in truth, I had none to 
send; nor did we, any of us, get more than one copy, until two days 
ago, when Mr. Bell, as he informs me, sent you one. 

I have, to-day received your second letter, and it has caused me 
to finish a duty which I commenced yesterday, that is, to write you 
on the subject of your first. 

I have reflected a good deal and spoken to several friends, — Mr. 
Bell, Mr. Clay, Mr. A. Lawrence, and others, — as to the neces- 
sity which the 'Globe' may be supposed to have imposed on you, to 
answer its slanders. On the whole, the result of opinion is, that 
there is no immediate occasion for your appearance in print. The 
abuse of the 'Globe,' on this point, will hardly affect the interest or 
fate of the bank, in its present crisis ; and if it should, its mischief 
would be accomplished before your statement could appear. My own 
impression is, that after the adjournment of Congress, let the ques- 
tion go which way it may, it will be expedient for you, at your leisure, 
to make a suitable publication. I think it may probably be expected. 
No doubt, the authority on which the 'Globe' proceeds, is Mr, Wood- 
bury, Mr. Hill, Mr, Hubbard, etc., etc., or some of them. 

In the House of Representatives, the Tariff Bill will probably be 
engrossed, or rejected, to-day, I know not which. If it come here, we 
shall try, first, to amend, and, second, if we cannot amend, to post- 
pone the whole subject. * Our majority, at least, will be small and 
feeble. Party absorbs everything. New York (her politicians) are 
obviously willing to sell the tariff, or anything else, for the sake of 
making Mr. V. B. Vice President. 

We shall know in a few days what the end is to be. The House 
of Representatives will probably take up the Bank Bill Monday or 
Tuesday. I think it will pass that house; but the prevailing impres- 
sion is, that the President will return the bill, with his objection. 

Daniel Webster. 



Boston, January 8, 1835. 

Dear Sir, — The Legislature was organized yesterday. A nomi- 
nation will be made within a few days, unless some unforeseen obstacle 
comes in the way. I have seen Governor Davis, whose feelings and 
opinions are, as always, entirely right. Mr. Hale, and perhaps, some 
others, who are rightly inclined, but habitually slow in action, seem 
desirous of having a more formal communication with the Massachii- 
setts Representatives, at Washington, on the subject. Letters have 
been sent to Washington, but, I think, answers will not be waited for. 
One difficulty suggested against the movement is, that a nomination 
would cause your resignation of your seat in the Senate, at the end of 
the present session. This is stated vaguely, on the authority of a 
supposed intimation made by you. This, some of your friends have 
denied. I do not think that a nomination would create any necessity 
for a resignation. Indeed, I think a resignation of your place in the 
Senate, for this cause, would be considered as false delicacy. In this 
I know many of your best and soundest friends concur. It would 
cause universal regret. At all events, it seems to me there is no 
necessity for making such a determination at this time. If the elec- 
tion is to be finally determined in the House of Representatives, the 
presence of a candidate at Washington, without exerting any im- 
proper influence, will be advantageous. 

As to personal considerations for your resignation. I hope ar- 
rangements can be made to counteract their influence. Some in- 
dividuals here, who have a right to speak with authority, say such 
arrangements can and shall be made. 

Truly yours, 

J. Mason. 
■ " (354) 


Washington, Febmai-y 1, 1835. 

My DEAR Sir, — rl received your letter yesterday, and the mail of 
to-day brings intelligence verifying your prediction that Mr. Davis 
would be elected Senator. So far as regards the filling up the vacant 


seat in the Senate, nothing could be better. I hope all the evil will 
not happen, which is expected or feared, arising from the difficulty 
of finding him a successor in the administration of the executive 
government of the State. I do not think Mr. Adams will ever again 
consent to be candidate; certainly not against Mr. Everett;' and Mr. 
Everett and Mr. Bates are not men to suffer the harmony of the 
State to be disturbed by a controversy among their personal friends. 
I am still most anxious that all fair means should be used to settle 
this masonic and anti-masonic quarrel in Massachusetts. You have 
little idea how much it retards operations elsewhere. The reported 
debate in the Whig Caucus, on the subject of the Bristol Senators, is 
industriously sent to every anti-masonic quarter of the union, and 
has excited much unkind feeling, and thereby done mischief. We 
are endeavoring here to make the best of Borden. Our anti-masonic 
friends in Congress will write to him, advising him not to commit 
himself to any course of public conduct, till he shall come here and 
see the whole ground. The nomination appears to have been done 
as well as it could be. I mean, of course, in the manner of it. No 
fault is found with it by our friends, so far as I know. Measures are 
in train to produce a correspondent feeling and action, in New York, 
Vermont, and some other States. The Legislature of Maryland is 
now in session, and I have seen a letter to-day, which says, that if 
Mr. Clay were fairly out of the way, that Legislature would immedi- 
ately second the Massachusetts nomination. Mr. Clay does nothing, 
and will do nothing, at present. He thinks — or perhaps it is his 
friends who think — that something may yet occur, perhaps a war, 
which may, in some way, cause a general rally round him. Besides, 
sundry of the (355) members of Congress from Kentucky, in addition 
a Edward Everett (1794-1865), born at Dorchester, Mass. An American 
orator, scholar and political leader. Was graduated at Harvard, became a tutor 
there, and in 1814 was ordained pastor of the Brattle St. Unitarian Church, 
Boston, v/here he gained wide reputation as a pulpit orator and controversialist, 
when less than twenty years old. Was professor of Greek at Harvard, 1815-24; 
studied in Germany with Geo. Ticknor; edited N. A. Review 1820-4; Representa- 
tive in Congress 1825-35; Governor Massachusetts, 1836-40; 1841-45, Minister to 
Great Britain; President Harvard College 1846-9; Secretary State 1852-3; U. 
S. Senator, 1853-4. His greatest reputation was as an orator. His oratory was 
elegant, graceful, polished, elaborate, often florid, carefully studied, and general- 
ly more or less artificial, and of a style which has long passed out of date. 


to their own merits, rely not a little on Mr. Clay's popularity, to in- 
sure their re-election next August. They have been, therefore, alto- 
gether opposed to bringing forward any other man at present. Public 
opinion will, in the end, bring out these things straight. If Mas- 
sachusetts stands steady, and our friends act with prudence, the 
union of the whole Whig and anti-masonic strength is certain. 
Everything indicates that result. Judge McLean already talks of 
retiring. His nomination seems coldly received everywhere. Unless 
Indiana should come out for him, I see no probability of any other 
movement in his favor. Mr. White's nomination is likely to be per- 
sisted in. Neither you nor I have ever believed it would be easy to 
get Southern votes for any Northern man; and I think the prospect 
now is, that Mr. Van Buren will lose the whole South. This schism 
is calculated to give much additional strength to our party. If Mr. 
W. appear likely to take the South, it will be seen that Mr. Van 
Buren cannot be chosen by the people ; and as it will be understood 
that Mr. White's supporters are quite as likely to come to us, in the 
end, as to go to Van Buren, his course will lose the powerful support 
which it derives, or has derived, from an assured hope of success. 
The effect of those apprehensions is already visible. The recent at- 
tempt to shoot the President is much to be lamented. Thousands 
will believe there was plot in it; and many more thousands will see 
in it new proof, that he is especially favored and protected by 
Heaven. He keeps close as to the question between White and Van 
Buren. I have omitted to do what I intended, that is, to say a few 
words upon that part of your letter which relates to myself, more 
directly. In a day or .two I will make another attempt to accomplish 
that purpose. Mr. Taney's case is not yet decided. A movement is 
contemplated to annex Delaware and Maryland to Judge Baldwin's 
circuit, and make a circuit in the West for the judge now to be 
appointed. If we could get rid of Mr. Taney, on this ground, well 
and good ; if not, it will be a close vote. We shall have a warm de- 
bate on the Post Office Report, the (356) Alabama resolutions, and 
other matters ; but I think my course is to take no prominent part in 
any of them. I may say something against expunging the Journal. 

Yours truly, D. Webster. 



Washington, March 19, 1835. 

My dear Sir, — I return Mr. 's letter. Mr. A. did quite as 

well in his letter to the 'Statesman' as could be expected. We have 
not yet acted on the New Hampshire nominations. I know not 
whether to desire to reject them or not. Decatur and Cushman are 
in great danger, but would they be succeeded by anybody better? 
And if Hill should be rejected, should we not have him in the Sen- 
ate? Appearances in various parts of the country indicate dissatis- 
faction with the present state of things. The stock of patronage is 
exhausted, and many are left unprovided for; and they are looking 
out for other parties and other leaders. It is admitted, I believe, by 
most that Mr. Clay is gaining rapidly in the West. Kentucky is 
doubtless strong for him, and as against anybody but General Jack- 
son, he would take nearly all the Western votes. In the mean time, 
the anti-masonic party, steadily increasing in New York, is break- 
ing out like an Irish rebellion in Pennsylvania. It goes on with a 
furore that subdues all other feeling. These things put party calcu- 
lations at defiance. The party here are obviously very much alarmed. 
The administration Senators are understood to have held a caucus 
two nights ago, and endeavored to unite and rally. Something more 
of tone and decision has been since visible. It may secure, perhaps, 
the confirmation of all the appointments. As to measures, they are 
irreconcilable. They cannot stir against the tariff". As a means of 
union, and a necessary means, they seem now inclined to keep the 
present President in office through a second term. He now intends 
to hold on, beyond all doubt. Here, again, accidents to his life or 
health would (357) produce quite a new state of things; so that, on 
the whole, I do not think there has been a period in our time, when 
one could see less of the future than the present. 

I thank you for your civil sayings about my speech. It has made 
much more talk than it deserves, owing to the topic, and to the times. 
I hope it is doing some good at the South, where I have reason to 
think it is very generally circulated and read. 

Yours, very sincerely, D. Webster. 

Having cut my thumb, I write even worse than usual. 


In June, 1835, another great sorrow fell upon Mr. and Mrs. Ma- 
son, in the death of their second surviving son, James Jeremiah Ma- 
son, in the thirtieth year of his age. It was a bitter grief to them, 
and called forth the strongest expressions of sympathy from their 
many friends. Their son was fondly loved by them ; and he deserved 
all their love. And it was hard for him to be called away from life so 
soon, for he had much to make life sweet. His person was hand- 
some, his manners were engaging, his disposition was amiable, his 
business prospects were brilliant, and he had recently been most hap- 
pily married. He was the first of their children to marry ; and every 
parent can understand the pleasure with which they looked forward 
to seeing a son settled near them, in a home of his own. But all 
these fond hopes and anticipations were suddenly shattered. In 
course of a journey to the South, in the spring of 1835, the seeds of 
a disease were sown in his frame, which, upon his return, took the 
form of a fever, which ended in his death, after a brief illness. 


Boston, April 3, 1836. 

My dear Sir, — I feel much obliged to you for your letter of the 
21st December, notwithstanding the apparently inexcusable delay 
(358) in answering it. I have in truth been much occupied with pro- 
fessional engagements during the winter term of our court, which 
are not yet ended. 'A more efficient cause, is, I am habitually a very 
dilatory correspondent. If you will grant me further favor, I will 
endeavor to observe better manners for the future. I am glad to 
know that your opinion of the present state and future prospects of 
England is so favorable. You certainly had a fine opportunity of 
seeing and judging. I have been delighted with Mrs. Ticknor's 
journal. It seems impossible to have spent four months to better 
advantage. The power and influence of that nation are so vast, that 
her course must of necessity materially affect not only our own coun- 
try, but all other countries of the civilized world. I was not aware 

1 Mr. Ticknor, at the date of this letter, was residing with his family in 


that the wealth of the commercial and manufacturing classes had 
increased with the rapidity you state. This must certainly affect the 
balance of power in the government. The relative power of the 
nobility and ancient landed gentry has certainly lessened, and must 
continue to lessen still more. Their power rested essentially in their 
property. The stability of the government consisted chiefly in the 
close connection between property and political power. This has al- 
ways been found to be the only safe foundation for stability in free 
governments, where the people are opulent. Wherever great wealth 
abounds, it will be the prime object of desire. It cannot be rendered 
secure to its possessors, without giving them the power necessary to 
defend it from all assaults. As the wealth of the commercial and 
manufacturing classes increases, in the same degree ought their 
political power to increase. If this newly acquired power can be 
kept under the influence of property, the government may change in 
some of its features, according as the taste of the new possessors of 
power differs from the old. But I see cause to apprehend revolution 
in want of stability. So long as the House of Commons shall truly 
represent the property of the nation, the institutions necessary for 
the security of property will be preserved in vigor. A House of Com- 
mons, elected by any influence other than that of property, will be 
likely to make war on it (359), or at least become careless about its 
protection and security. Against such a House of Commons, the 
Peers, can make no efficient stand. In this connection I consider the 
late change in the qualifications of electors of members of Parliament, 
and the new modeling of the municipal corporations, greatly the 
most important of all the attempted innovations on the British Con- 
stitution. If the elective franchise be extended so far as to get be- 
yond or free from the control of property, I should anticipate fur- 
ther changes leading to trouble and confusion. While property 
governs, it matters little whether it be in the hands of the land- 
ed gentry, or of the capitalists, or in the hands of whigs or tories. 
I know this aristocracy of wealth is apt to be evil spoken of. But in 
a country where wealth greatly abounds, I doubt whether any other 
foundation for a stable free government can be found. It may be in 
some degree checked and modified by other influences. But after all 
the real power must mainly rest in property. In our country, it is 


quite apparent that most of our troubles arise from the Tight of 
universal suffrage. This is our radical error. Should we ever arrive 
at such a degree of wealth as Great Britain now has, it will be entire- 
ly impracticable for us to get on, without great changes in our gov- 
ernment. According to your account of the riches of that country, 
we need not fear encountering this danger soon. Our wealth, how- 
ever is, in my opinion, increasing as rapidly as is desirable. 

The information given you by the British Minister at Dresden, 
that the apprehension of a rupture with Russia made the French 
Government anxious to settle their misunderstanding with us, was 
an extraordinary circumstance. That is unquestionably the true key 
to the unexpected offer of the British Mediation, and also to the time- 
ly discovery by the French Government, of the satisfactory ex- 
planation in the President's last speech, of the insult in his former 
speech. It is not a little remarkable that this information should 
first come (as I believe it did) by way of North of Germany. They 
might have had at Washington conjectures, but I doubt whether 
they had anything in the nature of facts to rest their (360) con- 
jectures on. It was generally believed here that the President was 
inclined for war. Many expected it. A war spirit was rising, and 
there is no doubt the country would have sustained the President on 
the ground he took. If the French had not yielded the point, as here 
they are understood to have done, war must have been the conse- 
quence. History affords few instances of war for causes more trivial 
or fooHsh. There is a strong expectation, as you doubtless know, 
that the Presidential election will result in the elevation of Mr. Van 
iBuren. Judging from present appearances he will be elected by the 
people. Mr. Webster has retired from the contest. Perhaps he may 
be voted for by Massachusetts, for the reason that this State cannot 
be brought to vote for either of the other candidates. The Whigs of 
New England will make no effort to sustain Harrison or White. Mr. 
Van Buren will profess to follow in the tracks of the old hero, but 
he will not inherit his immense personal popularity. None of the 
Southern States will be cordial in his support. Some of them will 
oppose him, notwithstanding his efforts to conciliate them. But I 
think there can be no such union between the opposition of the South 
and the North as will render it powerful or efficient. The opposition 


in the Senate has lost its ascendency, and Congress is now in full 
blast. Two new States, Michigan and Arkansas, will be admitted 
into the Union, during the present session. Both of them will be 
Van Buren States. The most exciting political subject of the present 
time is the abolition of slavery. There are now at least five hundred 
abolition societies in the United States, and they are rapidly in- 
creasing, both in numbers and zeal. Few political men of any stand- 
ing have yet joined them. As soon as they show themselves powerful 
at the polls, they will not want for political leaders. Dr. Channing's 
pamphlet, which you have doubtless seen, has gone through several 
large editions. It has exposed him to much censure, not only from 
slave-holders, but from many not infected with that taint. Very 
many of his friends think it unfortunate that he meddled with a 
subject so entirely unmanageable for any practical purpose. (361) 
The people of the South are greatly excited and alarmed. Calhoun 
and your friend Preston take a prominent lead. They are suspected 
of an intention of making use of this subject as a means of dissolv- 
ing the Union, and establishing a Southern Republic. In my opinion 
no question has arisen since the establishment of our government 
so dangerous to its permanence, as this. Whenever the abolitionists 
gain such an ascendency as to induce any interference, on the subject 
of slavery in the Southern States, those states will withdraw from 
the Union. They seem united in opinion, that a regard for their 
safety would require them so to do, and to erect a government 
especially calculated to protect them against slave insurrection. Our 
good city moves on its accustomed course. Money is the main object 
and that is obtained fast enough to satisfy most of its votaries. 
Those of my own family are as far recovered from the ef- 
fects of our overwhelming domestic calamity, as could be expected. 
Indeed, Mrs. Mason has shown more resignation, patience and forti- 
tude than I expected from her. They all unite with me in affection- 
ate regards to yourself, Mrs. Ticknor, and Anna, to whom I request 
to be remembered in a special manner. I am flattered with the 
assurance that amid all the novelties she is constantly seeing, she 
permits me to retain a place in her recollection. We miss you more 
than I can express. As Mrs. Ticknor's health, the professed object 
of your going abroad, seems now pretty well established, I am selfish 


enough to wish that a Russian war, or something else, should drive 
you home, before the expiration of the threatened period of your 

I am, my dear Sir, as ever, with entire esteem, faithfully yours, 

J. Mason. 


New York, June 30, 1836. 

My dear Sir, — . . . . Affairs were in a pretty state of excitement 
when we left Washington. Be assured, Maryland, Ohio, and (362) 
Kentucky, are irretrievably .lost to the administration. Indiana, also, 
and probably Illinois and Missouri. Recent events will hasten on the 
contest, and it will be impossible to restrain the people from bringing 
out Mr. Clay as a candidate against General Jackson. We had a great 
run of luck, especially in the House of Representatives, the last 
week of the session. I hope to see you soon. As to my seat, I shall 
not act suddenly on that subject. Sometime ago, you expressed a 
wish that Mr. Madison might come out against this nullifying doc- 
trine. That object is secured. In due time the public will have the 
benefit of his opinions, in the most gratifying manner. I left Wash- 
ington on Monday, the moment of the adjournment, and came hither, 
without much delay. At Philadelphia I saw Mr. Biddle and some oth- 
er gentlemen, and we had a hearty laugh at the fortunes which have 
befallen your puissant accusers, Hill, Decatur, and Cushman 

I am, dear Sir, yours as ever, D. Webster. 


Cambridge, December 29, 1837. 

My dear Sir, — I enclose you a copy of the title-page and dedi- 
cation and preface of my new work.' I hope that you will not think 
that I have taken too great a liberty with your name, in what I have 
said, as it is a very moderate expression of my own opinions. 

The work will probably be published about the first of February, 

1 The Commentaries on Equity Pleadings. 


being now nearly all printed, with the exception of the Indexes and 
a few sheets of the text. I shall have the pleasure of asking you to 
accept a copy, when it is published. 

I am with the highest respect, truly yours, 

Joseph Story. 

In 1838, on completing his seventieth year, Mr. Mason, in ac- 
cordance with a resolution formed long before, retired from active 
(363) practice in the courts, and during the rest of his life confined 
himself to the duties of chamber counsel. Herein he found all the 
professional employment he wanted ; and his family, his friends, and 
his books, filled up all the time not needed for the claims of his 
clients. He never knew the burden of unoccupied hours, or the 
dreariness of living without an object. In July, 1842, he accepted, in 
the following letter, an invitation from Mr. Ticknor to come to 
Woods' Hole, where he and his family were passing the summer. 


Boston, July 23* 1842. 

My dear Sir, — I am much obliged by your kind invitation to 
repeat my visit to you in your seclusion this summer. Recollecting 
the high enjoyment I had there the last season, I find it impossible 
to refuse your present invitation. I received your letter on my re- 
turn with Mrs. Mason from Connecticut, where we had been to see 
my relatives. I contemplate soon making a short tour somewhere 
with my daughters, after which, sometime during the month of 
August, I intend to avail myself of your invitation, bringing with 
me some of my family, of which I will give you seasonable notice. 
Mrs. Mason and my daughters desire their best regards to Mrs. Tick- 
nor and Anna, with thanks to Mrs. T. for her note. 

You ought to be thankful that you have nothing but newspapers 
to pester you on the deplorable condition of our public afi'airs. The 
tone of conversation here has become distressingly desponding and 
sad. Public and private credits are daily sinking lower and lower. 
All important business plans suspended, and the merchants and cap- 








italists, having nothing to do, interchange moans with each other. 
From Washington all hopes of relief are nearly abandoned. The pre- 
vailing opinion is that Congress will adjourn without doing anything 
effectual with the tariff. The general contempt for the President 
is increased, and the desertion of the Southern Whigs excites in 
many breasts very angry feelings. Amidst this general (364) 
gloom, a letter from A. Lawrence,' just received, sheds a ray of hope 
on the pending negotiations with Great Britain. He says, that Great 
Britain and the United States have agreed on a line for the Eastern 
boundary, and that Massachusetts has assented to it. Hence it is in- 
ferred that the treaty will be made and the line established with or 
without the assent of Maine. 

I am with sincere regard, truly yours, J. Mason. 

A letter from Mr. Ticknor to Mr. Legare," written after Mr. Ma- 
son's visit, gives a pleasant glimpse of the latter in his hours of so- 
cial ease. 

Woods Hole, August 21, 1842. 

My dear Legare, — .... Mr. Mason came last week and passed 
a few days with us. He was very amusing, — talking more than 
common and less pohtics, and in a less lugubrious tone. He feels that 
at seventy-five he need not trouble himself much about what you do 
at Washington, and though the state of the country deprives him of 
four or five thousand dollars a year from his hard earned income, he 
neither frets nor whines about it. Things will last out his time ; and 
for posterity, they must do as he has done, — fight it out. So he 
played whist, and made merry ; took a nap in the forenoon, and a 
cigar in the afternoon, in short, was in the best possible condition. 
But he gives you all up at Washington, and thinks it is time there 
was a Convention of the Free States, to look out for themselves. 

The veto came while he was here, and good fun he made of it. 

^ Abbott Lawrence. 

'^ Hugh S. Legare (lu-gre'). (1789-1843). As an orator and politician 
Legare rivalled the splendor of Burke, and his flashing reach of thought, as a 
scholar he entirely equalled Gibbon in labor and in learning and would have 




Washington, August 21, 1842. 

My dear Sir, — I cannot forego the pleasure of saying to an old 
nd constant friend, who, I know, takes a personal as well as public 
iterest in the matter, that the treaty^ was ratified last evening, by a 
365) vote of thirty-nine to nine! I did not look for a majority quite 
D large. I am truly thankful that the thing is done. 

Yours ever faithfully, 

D. Webster. 


Boston, August 28, 1842. 

My DEAR Sir, — You are entirely right in the belief that I feel 
eeply interested in the matter of your treaty, as well for public as 
ersonal reasons. In my opinion it is of more importance to the wel- 
are of the country than anything that has taken place since the 
'reaty of Ghent. Such I believe to be the public opinion. Your 
lerits in this negotiation are universally admitted to as great an 
xtent as can be desired. What afl'ects you so essentially, cannot fail 
3 excite a strong personal interest with me. For be assured, my 
ear Sir, that there has never been a moment during our long con- 
nued friendship when I feel more deeply interested in your wel- 
ire than I do at the present time. While I most cordially congratu- 
ite you on your present success and the increase of your reputation 
3 a statesman therefrom, I cannot forbear suggesting my fear and 
nxiety for the future. When the late cabinet so hastily resigned 
leir places, under the supposed influence of Mr. C, I certainly 
lought you acted rightly in not going out at his dictation. The 
ninent services you have since performed will satisfy all whose 

1 The Ashburton Treaty, — named after Lord Ashburton (Alexander Baring), 
ho with Webster, negotiated the treaty. 

aced himself in parallel with Mansfield as a lawyer, * * * A man far the most 
smarkable that pur country has seen, in all accomplishments of public life, he 
ft nothing to be lamented in his career except its early close, at the age of 
'ty-cfour. He was appointed Attorney General of the U. S. by President Tyler 


1 IS are of any value, that you judged rightly in remaining in 
;( ;o enable you to do what you have done. This important af- 
tnow brought to a happy conclusion, and your best friends here 
ikthat there is an insuperable difficulty in your continuing any 
re in President Tyler's Cabinet. Having no knowledge of your 
ic'ig or personal relations with him, or of your views, I do not 

athorized to volunteer any opinion or advice. I presume you 
a'are of the estimation in which the President is held in this re- 
1. By the Whigs he is almost universally detested. This (366) 
isation is as deep and thorough as their contempt for his weak- 
3!,nd folly will permit it to be. I use strong language, but not 
)r:er than the truth justifies ; your friends doubt whether you can 
i€ safely to your own character and honor act under or with 
hi man. It is generally understood that Mr. Choate will resign 
:\ end of this session. In that event your old seat in the Senate 
I 3 open to you ; on some accounts that would not seem altogether 
iible. I have heard it suggested that you might have Mr. Ever- 
'sDlace in England and let him go over to France. 

repeat that for the reasons already intimated I give no opinion 
avice as to what is best and most expedient. I hope and trust 
I ill judge and determine rightly . Lord Ashburton has been re- 
r<l here in a manner, I presume, quite satisfactory to himself, 
•luded you publicly and also in private conversation in terms as 
pig as your best friends could desire. 

I am, my dear Sir, as ever, faithfully yours, 

J. Mason. 


Washington, Februa7-y 6, 1844. 

My DEAR Sir, — I have received your letter of January 29th. The 
r of my being about to remove to New York is quite idle. Having 
;«'ed into engagements to take part in three or four causes, to be 
Ji in that city, some young gentlemen invited me to take a room 
J theirs, for my use, when there, with access to their library, 
; This I agreed to as being convenient to me ; and probably they 


supposed it would not be prejudical to them. The subject of return- 
ing to the Senate has been suggested to me, from various quarters. 
At the present moment I see no great pubhc object to be accom- 
plished, by such a movement, and it might only excite expectations 
not likely to be fulfilled. No great interest can be felt for what re- 
mains to be done, under the present administration. The country 
is likely to be mainly occupied with the (367) next election. The 
result of that election may enable us to see what is before us, more 
clearly. Mr. Choate's term expires in March, 1845> and from the 
proposed time of his resignation to that time, I do not see much that 
could be done for good. Besides, I think it would be rather awkward 
to be in the Senate now. I could not probably approve much of 
what should be done by the administration ; and it would be disagree- 
able to find myself obliged to oppose vigorously, an administration 
to which I have myself belonged. There being therefore, in my judg- 
ment, no great public object to be attained, I feel the more at lib- 
erty to consult my private convenience. I am now a little engaged in 
the law, and need strongly enough what fees I may be able to pick 
up. To be sure, I should be very glad to be done with the courts; 
but their atmosphere, if not altogether pleasant, is yet usefully 
bracing, to those whose purses are slender, however it may be with 
their constitutions. On all accounts, therefore, I think it better that 
I should, for the present, remain where I am. Let us see what the 
ensuing election may bring forth. I dare say there is no very strong 
desire that I should return to the Senate. The body of the Whigs 
might wish it, but there are other candidates, who may like the 
chance, and there are also some prominent men who have not yet di- 
gested the spleen, generated by past events. As to these last, let 
them indulge themselves, I shall bide my time. 

I am, dear Sir, yours very truly, 

Daniel Webster. 

A diary kept by his eldest daughter, Mary Mason, and seen by 
no one but herself till after her death, contains a few entries touch- 
ing the last years of her father's life, which may be here appropri- 
ately introduced. 


1845, November. — My dear father seems deeply touched by the 
sorrow of our beloved friends, ^ and we talked a good deal upon the 
(368) recognition of friends in Heaven. He thinks the doctrine is no- 
where clearly revealed in Scripture, but it is one no human mind is 
willing to give up. He hopes to recognize his mother there, of whom 
he has the most delightful recollection. 

1847, January. — Father says that during the Avery trial, a 
young clergyman came to him and told him that the Lord had re- 
vealed to him in a dream that Avery was innocent and had command- 
ed him to tell him. Father asked if it had been revealed to him how it 
could be proved. The man acknowledged that it had not. Then father 
told him he had no confidence in his dream, 

1847, March. — Father was reading this afternoon Peabody's 
"Sermons on Consolation." He said he liked them, but should have 
liked them better if they were more orthodox. He wanted to keep 
all the orthodoxy he had. He would give almost anything he had for 
the strong faith of his grandfather, Fitch, who was a pious, good, old 
man, and used to take a great interest in him, when he was a young 
man, thinking, as he was going to college, that he would certainly be 
a minister. 

1847, March. — Father seems depressed at times, and to feel the 
burden of old age pressing very heavily upon him. He often says 
that his chief business now is to prepare for a better world, and 
that he is constantly trying to do so. He seems to feel intimations 
which he cannot describe, that his days are not to be long on earth, 
and the tenderness of his affection for his family, and loving to have 
us close to him, is very touching. How thankful I feel that Charles 
is to be living so near him. He loves to talk of the resurrection, and 
was much interested this evening in hearing Dr. Stone's sermon upon 
the Church in Heaven. 

The Avery trial mentioned in Miss Mason's diary was that of 
the Rev. Ephraim K. Avery, a Methodist clergyman, charged with 
(369) the murder of Sarah M. Cornell, before the Sujtreme Court of 
Rhode Island, in Newport, in May, 1833. It awakened an intense in- 
terest throughout New England, and especially in the State of Rhode 

1 The death of Robert Lawrence, the youngest son of Mr. and Mrs. Amos 
Lawrence, is here alluded to. 


Island. The fact that a Methodist clergyman, of hitherto irrepi 
able life, was charged with the crime of murder, and incidenta 
adultery, was alone enough to create a strong sensation, and 
were besides, many elements in the case calculated to stimulat 
gratify a prurient taste. Persons took sides for and against the 
oner, and made up there minds beforehand as to his guilt or 
cence, and on this account it was difficult to find twelve unbiase( 
to sit upon a jury. The trial lasted twenty-seven days, beginni 
the sixth day of May, and closing on the second day of June, a 
immense number of witnesses were examined. It was one of 
sensational cases for which Mr. Mason had little taste, and in 
he was not often engaged, and he accepted the retainer as a 
matter of professional duty. 

The great religious denomination to which' the prisone 
longed were naturally desirous to secure in his defense the bes 
fessional ability the country afforded, and the result showed th 
dom they displayed in selecting a great lawyer and a man of co 
mate judgment like Mr. Mason rather than a showy declaimer. 
facts in the case were well calculated for Mr. Mason's peculiai 
ers. The issue of guilty or not guilty involved two inquiries: 
whether the unhappy young woman whose death was the cause 
trial committed suicide or was murdered; and secondly, whet] 
the latter event, the prisoner was the guilty party. Of thes 
inquiries the former was the more important, for if the jury 
satisfied of the murder, this, owing to the facts in the case, 
have been one step, at least, towards the conviction of the pri 
whose counsel had no other theory to account for the death thai 
it was an act of self-destruction. Mr. Mason's cue therefore v 
persuade the jury that Miss Cornell had not been murdered, bu 
committed suicide. To this point his whole force was directed b 
his argument and in the examination and (370) cross-examii 
of witnesses. His case was to be made out by inferences drawn 
a great number of facts, and for this task his infinite patienc 
tenacious memory, his logical power, and his unerring tact wei 
mirably suited. The whole trial may be advantageously studi 
the young lawyer as an illustration of what has before been 
that sound judgment is the most important element in the cond' 


cases, whether civil or criminal. His argument is a simple unimpa^ 
sioned statement addressed to the understandings of the jury, pr( 
senting the facts on behalf of the prisoner in that plain way whic 
veiled the consummate skill with which they were marshalled. Aft€ 
such an argument, it may be safely said that a conviction could nc 
have been possible, though a divided jury might have been. Tfc 
prisoner was acquitted, and though there was some local and ten 
porary dissatisfaction, the general public were satisfied with the n 

I will not vouch for the truth of the following anecdote; but 
not true it is probable. It is said that some time after the trial 
friend of Mr. Mason's, not a lawyer, ventured to ask him whether 1: 
himself thought that Avery was innocent; to which Mr. Mason r 
plied with a smile, "Upon my word, I never thought of it in that ligl 

Another story told of him as happening in Newport during tl 
course of this trial, I believe to be true. A distinguished member < 
the Rhode Island bar, who had never before met Mr. Mason, hi 
heard of his habit of asking questions, especially of new acquai: 
tances, and when presented to him he determined to forestall him 
this particular, and accordingly began the conversation by a serii 
of questions. Among other things, he asked him whether he lik( 
this and whether he liked that, of all which queries Mr. Mason an 
wered some and parried others. At last his interrogator said : "We 
Mr. Mason, tell me what you do like ?" To which Mr. Mason rephe( 
"Why, I like to sit in this chair, and have a Rhode Island lawyer ai 
me questions." It is needless to add that the examination by i 
terrogatories was not further continued. (371) 

A letter addressed to Mr. Mason in the last year of his life 1 
Mr. C. G. Loring, one of the leaders of the Suffolk bar, shows the hi| 
respect in which the former was held by his professional brethrer 


To Hon. J. Mason : — 

Dear Sir, — (The Law Club will commence its winter meetin 
at my house on Monday, and I hope we may anticipate the gratific 


tion of your attendance. I am induced to write to you upon the sub- 
ject, by an intimation at Judge Putnam's, that it was doubtful 
whether you intended to continue to us the pleasure of your atten- 
dance ; and from his saying to me, that he should retire if you did. I 
utter the feelings of all the members of the club with whom I habit- 
ually associate, and I doubt not of all the rest, that we should es- 
teem the loss of yourself and Judge Putnam as one of the greatest 
privations we could incur — not to say the greatest. And I trust 
therefore, that for our sakes, you may be induced to remain with us. 
Permit me too, to add, with the freedom which your great and un- 
varying kindness to me seems to authorize, that I cannot but think 
that the occasional intercourse of yourselves with those who enter- 
tain towards you sentiments of such profound respect and hearty 
affection, and who are almost inevitably secluded from you by their 
engrossing and arduous labors, at all other times, may do something 
to help the winters pass more agreeably, in retaining you still in the 
atmosphere of social labor, where you have done so much for your 
and their mutual good and honor. 

With very great affection and respect, 

Charles G. Loring. 

8 AsHBURTON Place, November 13, 1847. 



Boston, May 8, 1848. 

My dear Friend, — I thank you for your kind letter, received 
some days ago, and for all the proofs of sympathy and affection 
manifested for us in our afflictions. These two calamities were un- 
expected. I find it difficult to hold up against them. Of five chil- 
dren, only one remains. But I try to discipline myself, and sub- 
mit without repining to the will of God. It is a sad thing to outlive 
our children; but if it be so ordered by Divine Wisdom, I acquiese. 

1 This letter was in reply to one from Mr. Mason, called forth by the death 
of Mr. Webster's second son, Major Edward Webster, and Ml-s. Julia Webster 
Appleton, his daughter. 


Ere long, I know that I must follow them. I shall not go to Wash- 
ington for a week or ten days, and will find an occasion to see you and 
your family before my departure. You and Mrs. Mason are among 
those whom I and mine have longest known and most loved. I thank 
God that I am not deprived of either of you in this day of trouble. I 
look back on our long friendship and intercourse, as a bright line 
along the course of life ; and it has been a continuing consolation, 
when connections the nearest and dearest have been struck down. 

With true regard and affection, yours, 

D. Webster. 

On the 27th day of April, 1848, Mr. Mason completed his eightieth 
year. Thus far the natural infirmities of age had pressed lightly up- 
on him. His constitution was robust, his health had always been 
vigorous, and his intellectual powers had suffered no decline. He had 
the same pleasure in reading, and in the society of his family and 
friends, that he had always had. And so it continued during the 
summer and early autumn of 1848. It was in the month of October 
that the final summons came, and the Providence which had crowned 
his life with so many blessings, was equally kind in the manner of 
his death, sparing him the burden of a long illness, and (373) sparing 
his friends and family the pain of seeing the mind decay before the 
body died. The following narrative of his last illness and death is 
taken from the diary of his daughter, Mary Mason, from which a few 
extracts have been previously given : — 

"October 15, 1848. — The blow has come at last, which has re- 
moved our noble head. Our beloved father is no longer here. He 
breathed his last peacefully at eight o'clock last evening, his dear 
ones all around him, and I think he was conscious of their presence 
almost to the last, for he pressed Charles'^ hand when he asked him if 
he knew him, I think within an hour of his death. We had thought 
him dying since ten o'clock in the morning, when Charles made an 
earnest prayer for him, at his request. Now that the solemn scene 
is over, let me try to recall some of the circumstances. 

1 His youngest son, an Episcopal clergyman, settled in Boston. 


"Sunday, the 8th of October, he was well, and went to churc 
day, which has been an effort to him during the last year, whei 
infirmities had increased, and an afternoon nap was necessarj 
his health and comfort. Monday, he drove mother out in the n 
ing, but did not seem very well; but he called with her, as he 
many times before, to see Mrs. Eustis, who has been so ill. He 
home at his usual hour in the afternoon. I was sitting at the 
dow. He sat down in his chair that he loved so well, and enjo] 
quiet hour of meditation, looking upon the western sky and si 
How he loved that hour and view, and would seem to fix his 
upon the distance, as if he would penetrate the brightness be: 
That evening was a very pleasant one. Miss Lyman took tea wit 
and father made her sit down by him, and tell him of a visit sb 
been making in Lebanon, and talked with great interest to her ( 
old place. He has loved lately so much to speak of the home c 
childhood. Dr. Potter,^ with Charles, were here in the evening. 
Potter sat all the time close to father, and seemed to value the 
lege. 1 

"The next morning he did not come down to breakfast, anc 

it late, and seemed unwell. I went into the library, and found hi 
laid down his paper. I asked him if I should read a speech c 
Webster's ; but he did not listen with his usual interest. He so( 
down, but could not sleep, and mother sent for Dr. Ware, who S( 
to think him more than commonly indisposed. He gave him ca 
and ordered him to live upon gruel. That evening he seemed 
miserable, but he insisted on going down to tea, and he and n 
took tea together in the parlor, as we thought the dining rooir! 
In the evening, I read to him for the last time in his accustomeci 
passages from 'The Diary of Lady Willoughby.' Charles came | 
evening, and thought him better. That night I slept in the! 
room, to be near. At about two o'clock, mother called me, an 
he was very restless, and had a good deal of pain in his bret 
rubbed him with hot spirit, and put on a mustard plaster, 
seemed to relieve him for the time. While I was doing thi 
heart failed me, it was such a new thing to be doing this for h 

• 1 Now the Right Reverend Horatio Potter, Bishop of New York. 


seemed as if his noble frame were yielding at last. He went i 
sleep again, but in the morning he seemed no better, and to have r 
wish to leave his room. He was exceedingly restless, and could g' 
no relief from change of position. He asked if George' had res 
prayers with us since he had been sick, and expressed a wish that tlr 
service should not be omitted. Mother came into the room. He sail 
'Come here and sit by me ; I always love to have you near.' I aske 
if I should read to him. He said yes ; and I read parts of the f ourt 
and fifth chapters of Hebrews. Afterwards, when he and moth( 
were alone, Charles came in and prayed with them. He lay down, i. 
usual, after dinner, with mother at his side. In the afternoo: 
Marianne- went into the room, and found dear father trying to g( 
up, but he did not seem to have the power. She was frightened, an 
called me, and we found he had lost the use of his limbs, but cou] 
not comprehend the difficulty. He said he must get up, and seeme 
so determined, that, with the aid of Charles, we got him into (375 
his chair, where the doctor found him, and persuaded him to be pi 
on the bed again ; and leeches were soon applied to his head. Whi 
the doctor was attending to them, he turned round and said, 'Wh: 
doctor, I thought only old women put on leeches.' After this, he w£ 
wandering; but his mind could always be recalled by questions, whic 
he would answer in a way which showed he understood them. E 
was throwing his arms out once, as he often did, and mother aske 
him what he wanted. He said, 'Nothing.' She said, 'Man wants bi 
little here below.' He showed that his observation was still alive, f( 
he immediately finished the couplet: 'Nor wants that little long 
He asked Charles to pray with him several times, and intimated h 
comfort in it. When asked if he could place his whole trust in h; 
Saviour, he said, 'What other trust can I have,' with earnest solen 
nity. In everything he said, — which was but little, for he spok 
with great difficulty, — he showed great humility, but a firm relianc 
on the merits of his Savior. His eyes were generally closed, bi 
occasionally they were turned up with an earnest, devout look, as : 
in prayer. He seemed to know we were all about him, and often ca: 

1 His eldest son, an inmate of his father's family. 

2 His youngest daughter. 


ried our hands to his Hps, and put his arms around our necks and 
drew us down to him. The trial of helplessness, from his great 
weight, and from his being unused to be taken care of, must have 
been very painful to him ; but he took everything without complaint, 
and with perfect gentleness and patience. 

Saturday, the 14th, his breathing seemed to be difficult. As the 
forenoon advanced, it grew more regular, and seemed peculiar. He 
was less conscious, and we felt that death was approaching. The 
family were all summoned. When Charles came in, he made an 
earnest prayer, commending his soul to his Maker and Redeemer. 
He made it close to his ear. He asked him if he had heard and un- 
derstood him; he pressed his hand, and tried to speak. He never 
spoke again, although I think he was conscious that we were about 
him. All day we were watching that beloved, venerable form, think- 
ing that each breath might be the last. It did stop about (376) 
eight o'clock in the evening. Without a struggle or a groan, the soul 
had fled: the noble form was left beautiful and serene, like a marble 

Mr. Mason's disease was paralysis, teminating in apoplexy. He 
died October 14th, 1848, and his funeral took place, October 17th. 
His remains were laid in the cemetery at Mount Auburn, after serv- 
ices in Grace Church, by the Rev. Alexander H. Vinton, D. D. A 
few weeks before his death, he had driven out to Mt. Auburn with 
his wife, and pointed out the spot where he wished to be laid. 

One or two little incidents occurred during his brief last illness 
which were characteristic of him. His son Charles asked him what 
kind of pain he had. He answered, ''I don't know of any pain that is 
pleasant." His daughter Mary chancing to make some casual re- 
mark in a low tone of voice, not intended for his ear, he asked what 
she said, "Nothing, Sir," was the reply. "Mary, what words did you 
use with which to say nothing?" was his rejoinder. 

No memoir of Mr. Mason should conclude without some mention 
of his remarkable personal appearance. In his case, as in that of Dr. 
Johnson, a powerful mind was inclosed in a giant frame. Like Saul, 
the son of Kish, he towered in stature above all his fellows. First in 
Portsmouth, and afterwards in Boston, he was the tallest man who 
walked the streets. In his prime, when he stood erect, his height 


was six feet and six inches ; though in decHning Hf e, by reason of a 
sHght habitual stoop, he appeared less tall than he really was. His 
frame, slender in youth, expanded as he grew older, and in his latter 
years assumed a bulk proportioned to his height. His head, well 
formed and really large, seemed small in comparison with the size 
of his person. His movements were slow ; he used no gestures in 
speaking; and so far as the body was concerned, his habits were in- 
active. His powerful constitution and temperate habits insured him 
long continued and vigorous health without regular exercise or any 
particular rules as to diet. He was capable of severe and protracted 
toil to the last. Few men of sixty-five could have borne as he did the 
exhausting strain and pressure of the Avery trial. It (377) is not 
work that kills, but worry ; and Mr. Mason's was one of those happy 
organizations that burn none of the oil of life in worrying or fretting. 

The portrait at the beginning of the volume is a photograph 
from a bust by Clevenger. It well recalls Mr. Mason to those who 
knew him; but to those who knew him not it hardly reproduces the 
calm power and kindly shrewdness of the original. 

Those who have read the preceding pages will have formed a 
distinct impression of what manner of man Mr. Mason was, and it 
only remains for me to fill up the outhne already drawn, and set 
forth more in detail his traits of mind and character. In doing this 
I shall speak both from my own observation of him, and from the 
testimony of others who knew him longer and better. 

It should be borne in mind that Mr. Mason's public claims to re- 
membrance, rest wholly upon his merits and eminence as a lawyer. 
There has hardly been a man in our country of his general intellec- 
tual force, whose labors and triumphs were so exclusively profes- 
sional as his. To the honors of literature he made no claim; and 
though under favorable conditions he might have won enduring 
fame as a statesman, his term of public service was too brief, and 
fell upon too unpropitious times, to permit him to entwine his name 
with the history of his country. 

And further it is to be noted that Mr. Mason was always a law- 
yer, and never a judge. The function of a judge is higher than that 
of a lawyer, and a seat on the bench is the natural reward of eminence 
at the bar: it is always so in England, and generally so in this coun- 


y, unless the glittering prizes of politics prove the stronger attrac- 
on. The fame of a lawyer is at once local in its range, and brief in 
s duration. A great judge lives in his recorded opinions ; but a great 
,wyer, a brilliant advocate, lives only in memory and tradition, and 
)on becomes little more than a shining name. 

It is to be regretted that Mr. Mason never occupied a high judi- 
al position.^ He had all the powers and accomplishments needed 
378) for such a place; such as learning, powerful logic, patience, 
uickness, calm courage, a dignified presence, robust health and con- 
Bquent capacity for labor. He could not have failed to make a great 
idge. Had he not been too old at the death of Chief Justice Mar- 
lall, there was no man in the country more worthy to succeed that 
lustrious magistrate. 

Mr. Mason was a great lawyer, perhaps the greatest lawyer that 
7er practiced at the bar in New England. But when we call a man a 
reat lawyer, we use language which has a certain degree of vague- 
ess. Chief Justice Parsons, Judge Story, Mr. Webster, Chief Jus- 
ce Shaw, Mr. Choate, were all great lawyers, but no two of them 
ere alike. Each had powers and faculties peculiar to himself. It 

I with lawyers as with painters; Raphael, Titian, Correggio, Rem- 
randt, were great painters; but they differ widely in their charac- 
^ristics, and no trained eye would ever mistake a work of one for 
lat of another. For those who did not know Mr. Mason, we must 
nalyze and discriminate. The question to be answered is, wherein 
id he differ from the other great lawyers who were his contempo- 
iries, whether on the bench or at the bar. 

Mr. Mason's superiority as a lawyer may be thus stated : that of 

II men who ever practiced law in New England, he was the most fully 
quipped with all the weapons of attack and defense needed in the 
rial of causes. It is but putting the same thing in another form to 
ay that of all men who have even been at the bar in New England, 
e was the most formidable opponent. And of all lawyers, he was the 
lost successful; that is, no other man ever tried so many cases and 
)st so few, in proportion to the whole number that he tried. There 
^as nothing which a client ever wants a lawyer to do for him which 
Ir. Mason could not do as well as any, and better than most. No man 

1 It will be remembered that M.r. Mason declined the post of Chief Justice of 
le Superior Court of New Hampshire. See page 152. (Edition of 1873.) 


[lirgue a legal question before a court with more learning and 
ci No man could try a cause with more tact, judgment, and 
iThough not eloquent, in the common acceptation of that term, 
lii could address a jury more persuasively and effectively. No 
's opinions as chamber counsel, whether (379) oral or written, 
iiore carefully considered or wiser. No man in all the depart- 
;;of professional life ever made fewer mistakes. 
Jnd what were the causes of Mr. Mason's success as a lawyer? 
tivere the elements of his superiority? what w^ere the qualities 
!| gave him such position and influence at the bar? These 
tms require answers somewhat in detail. 

(f course, in the composition of a great lawyer, learning is an 
rial element. A man may be learned in the law and, yet from 
tDf natural force, not be a great lawyer; but no man can be a 
llawyer without learning. Mr. Mason's learning was confined to 
cmmon law. Though a mind like his was eminently fitted to 
] and apply the principles of equity jurisprudence, yet as he 
3.ate in life to the study of the subject, he never was a great 
t lawyer ; but within the range of the common law, his learning 
rofound, various, exact, and ready. His attainments seemed less 
i:;hey were, because he never cared to make a display of them, 
iidained a parade of cheap learning. He never incumbered his 
i with needless authorities. . He took it for granted that the court 
^s addressing was not ignorant of the law. His arguments were 
^kable for the skill and power with which the rules of law were 
jd to the case in hand. That the stream of legal learning had 
jl over his mind was shown by its general fertility in legal prin- 
jand analogies. Thus, the more learning a judge had, the more 
I he appreciate Mr. Mason's arguments. 

.nd this affluent learning was accompanied by a power of rea- 
? in which few equalled and none surpassed him. He was so 
r in argument and so clear in statement, his native legal in- 
s were so sound, that he would have been heard with respect 
if his learning had been meagre. His language was plain but 
priate, and he never used a superfluous word, 
learning, logical power, and clearness of statement, will make a 
lawyer, will secure to their possessor the confidence of his (380) 
3 and the ear of the court; but a man may have all these and 


yet be without skill in the trial of causes, and powerless before a 
jury. But here Mr. Mason was quite as strong as in the examina- 
tion and discussion of purely legal questions, and this too without 
the accomplishment of brilliant eloquence. But then he had every 
quality needed in the trial of causes, eloquence alone excepted. 

In the conduct of causes before a jury the most important ele- 
ment is judgment, that which is also the most important element in 
the conduct of life. Without judgment, learning is cold, the elo- 
quence is a light which is quite as likely to lead astray as to lead 
aright. Causes are won not by brilliant strokes but by the continuous 
exercise of skill, tact, and discretion. Erskine, the most eminent 
of English advocates, and Choate,^ the most eminent of American 
advocates, were quite as remarkable for judgment in the trial of 

1 "Rufus Choate is the only advocate I ever heard who had the imperial power 
which would subdue an unwilling and hostile jury. His power over them seemed 
like the fascination of a bird for a snake. Of course, he couldn't do this with 
able judges, although all judges who listened to him would, I think, agree that he 
was as persuasive a reasoner as ever lived. But with inferior magistrates and 
juries, however determined the charmer, he was irresistible. There are very few 
important cases recorded that Choate lost. * * * Next to Webster himself, the 
foremost forensic orator of modern times, against whose imperial eloquence no 
human understanding, either on the bench or in the jury box, seemed to be 
proof. * * * No gambler ever hankered for the feverish delight of the gaming 
table as Choate did for the absorbing game, half chance, half skill, where twelve 
human dice must all turn up together one way, or there is no victory." — Geo. F. 
Hoar's Autobiography of Seventy Years, 230, 350 and 356. 

Matt H. Carpenter, who read law with Choate, in drawing a comparison be- 
tween Webster and Choate, says: — "Choate always stood in awe of Webster, and 
spent nights in preparation when about to contend with him at the bar. This I 
never could understand; as a mere lawyer, I think Choate as much the superior 
of Webster as Webster was the superior of lawyers generally. His knowledge of 
the law, his readiness in using all his resources, legal, literary, historical, or po- 
etical, his power of advocacy, the magnetism of his presence and the absolute en- 
chantment in which he wrapt both court and jury never was equalled in any 
other man, I believe." — Jos. Neilson's Memoirs of Rufus Choate, 295. 

"Having been for more than twenty years his antagonist in forensic strug- 
gles, at least, I believe, as frequently as any other member of the Boston Bar, I 
may be competent to bear witness to his peculiar abilities, resources and manners 
in professional services. And having, in the varied experiences of nearly forty 
years, not infrequently encountered some of the giants of the law, whose lives 
and memories throughout the land — among whom I may include the honored 


cases as for powerful and captivating eloquence, and this was the 
preeminent quality of Scarlett, the most successful of English advo- 
cates, who won more verdicts in proportion to the cases he tried 
than even Erskine, 

In this primal quality of judgment Mr. Mason had no superior. 
From the beginning of a case to the end he never made a mistake. 
He left nothing undone which should be done: he did nothing which 
should be left undone. He never asked an injudicious question; 
he never protracted the examination of a witness to a needless 
length, and yet he never failed to extract from him all that was 
pertinent to the matter in hand. And he was as vigilant as he was 
judicious. Under a manner calm and seemingly impassive, he was 
all eye and all ear. Every expression of a witness's face, every tone 
of his voice, was carefully noted. And the impression made by the 
events of the trial, both upon the court and the jury, was also sedu- 
lously watched. 

His addresses to the jury always commanded their strict atten- 
tion, from their strength, clearness, and point. He understood the 
common mind, and knew how to hit it between wind and water. 
His reasoning was close yet easily followed; he presented his facts 
(381) with great skill; his language was plain, but with a certain 
idiomatic point and flavor well suited for popular effect. He never 
wearied his compulsory audience by talking too long; and his easy 
conversational tone established at once agreeable relations between 
him and them. And he had from nature a gift Which did him good 
service on such occasions, and this was his keen perception of the 
ludicrous and his quiet vein of sarcasm. This power was always 
under the control of sound judgment and good taste, but it gave a 
peculiar seasoning to his arguments and helped to fix the attention 
of the jury. They expected these little touches of humor to come 

names of Prescott, Mason, Hubbard, Webster, Dexter, and others among the 
dead, and those others yet with us, to share in the sorrows of this hour — I do no 
injustice to the living or the dead in saying that, for the peculiar powers de- 
sirable for a lawyer and advocate, for combination of accurate memory, logical 
acumen, vivid imagination, profound learning in the law, exuberance of literary 
knowledge, and comma'nd of language, united with strategic skill, I should place 
him at the head of all whom I have ever seen in the management of a cause at 
the bar." — Chas. G. Loving, at Memorial Meeting of the Boston Bar. 


in occasionally, and did not permit their thoughts to stray, lest per- 
chance they might lose some of them.' 

He never approached the trial of a case, however unimportant, 
without the most careful preparation. He never put a witness on 
the stand whom he had not thoroughly examined beforehand. Thus 
he was rarely taken by surprise, or had occasion to change front in 
the face of his enemy. And all his intellectual powers had the sup- 
port of a calm and even temperament. Nothing ruffled or discom- 
posed him; he never lost his temper or his self-possession, and no 
one could have judged from his face and manner whether the cur- 
rent of the case was setting against him or for him. 

As an illustration of Mr. Mason's readiness and quickness in the 
trial of causes, I may mention here a little incident told me by the 
gentleman who was acting as his junior at the time. In the course 
of the examination of an important witness before a Boston jury, 
a question was asked by the presiding judge. Mr. Mason instantly 
rose, and, after checking the witness, said to the court: "May it (382) 
please your Honor, I should like to inquire on whose side you asked 
that question. If it is on our side we do not want it put, and if it is 
on the other side, the answer would not be legal evidence." 

Of all Mr. Mason's professional accomplishments, the popular 
mind was most impressed with his skill in cross-examination ot 
witnesses."" Most of the traditional stories current about him turn 
upon his triumphs in this department, wherein he undoubtedly never 
had an equal in the annals of the New England bar. One of those 
current in my young days was about his unfrocking and demolish- 

1 "I well recollect a description Mr. Webster once gave me of a change which 
he said he deliberately made in his own style of speaking and writing. He ob- 
served that before he went to Portsmouth his style was florid, — he even used the 
word 'vicious,' — and that he was apt to make longer sentences, and use larger 
words, than was needful. He soon began, however, to notice that Mr. Mason was, 
as he expressed it, 'a cause-getting man.' 'He had a habit,' said Mr. Webster, 'of 
standing quite near to the jury, so that he might have laid his finger on the fore- 
man's nose; and then he talked to them in a plain conversational way, in short 
sentences, and using no word that was not level to the comprehension of the least 
educated man on the panel. This led me to examine my own style, and I set about 
reforming it altogether.' " — Curtis's Life of Webster, vol. i, p. 90. . 

a In the Life and Letters of George Ticknor, Vol. 1, pp. 122-3, Mr. T. says in 


ing a man who, to give more effect to his false testimony, had ar- 
rayed himself for the nonce in the garb of a Quaker. It was long 
remembered in the region where it happened as an exciting and 
amusing scene; amusing, at least, to every one but the victim. 

Mr. Mason's method in cross-examination was peculiar. Infe- 
rior artists in this department are apt to approach their opponent's 
witness in a way which alarms him if he be timid, and provokes him 
if he be bold. The first questions are a sort of declaration of war. 
The cross-examination then becomes a keen encounter of wits if the 
witness be resolute and self-possessed, from which, however much 
the spectators may be amused, the client's cause gains but little. If, 
on the other hand, the witness be dull and with no skill in verbal 
fence, the instincts of self-preservation will prompt him to take 
refuge in silence, and say as little as he can. 

Mr. Mason began in a different fashion, when it was his cue to 
break down a witness by cross-examination. He did not frighten or 
bully him. His first questions were put in a tone and manner which 
lulled his apprehensions and threw him off his guard. They were 

a letter from Frankfort, Germany, Mar. 29, 1817: "Baron Gagern, the Minister 
of the King of Holland for Luxembourg, reminded me of Jeremiah Mason, for the 
moment I entered the room he came up to me and began to question me about my 
country, its great men, etc., like a witness on the stand, till I began to feel almost 
uncomfortable at this kind of interlocutory thumb-screwing; but when he had 
learned all he wanted to — and his questions were very shrewd, and showed he 
knew what he was about — I found him an extremely pleasant, instructive man, 

In a note to the same work, the editor, Mr. Ticknor, says: "On a visit to 
Portsmouth, N. H. (This was before Mr. Ticknor's visit to Europe, when twenty- 
six years of age), I carried a letter of introduction to Mr. Jeremiah Mason, a 
distinguished lawyer of that city, and was invited to tea. Mr. Mason asked me 
endless questions, and I grew so tired and vexed, that I left the house, I 
said to myself that I never would pass through that man's door again. The next 
day I met Mr. Mason at dinner at Mr. Webster's, when the style of address was 
quite changed, and I never after regretted knowing Mr. Mason." 

During Mr. Ticknor's absence in Europe, his journal was for a time in the 
hands of his friend, Mr. N. A. Haven, of Portsmouth. Mr. Mason insisted on 
seeing it. The passage above, comparing Baron Gagern to Mr. Mason in his 
style of questioning, met his eye. Years afterward, when acquaintance had 
grown into friendship, Mr. Mason mentioned that he had read that passage, 
which drew forth a confession about the first call, and Mr. Mason replied that he 
always questioned young men so. 


generally such as a witness would readily answer, being seemingly 
remote from the matter in hand. Easy relations would thus be es- 
tablished between the questioner and the respondent, and the latter 
would perhaps felicitate himself in being so gently dealt with by one 
who had the reputation of being so searching and formidable in 
cross-examination; gradually the inquiries became more convergent 
and consecutive ; the folds began to tighten, and soonor or later a 
(383) point was reached when the witness supposing him always 
not to be speaking the truth, would pause in embarrassment and re- 
flect whether he were telling a consistent story, and this, if continued, 
would be fatal to him. 

Of course, such a process would be of no avail, and even injudi- 
cious, in the case of an honest witness. Mr. Mason had too much 
good sense and too much experience not to know that in nine cases 
out of ten the attempt to break down a witness who is telling the 
truth, though in a clumsy way, only recoils on the head of him who 
makes it. But his knowledge of men was so great, his penetration 
so keen, his power of interpreting the signs of thoughts so remark- 
able, that he rarely or never made a mistake as to a witness's purpose 
and intent. 

I am indebted to my friend Mr. John J. Clarke, of the Boston 
bar, for an interesting incident in Mr. Mason's professional life, es- 
pecially illustrating his peculiar power in the cross-examination of 
witnesses. Soon after his removal to Boston, he was retained as 
senior counsel by Mr. Clarke, in the trial of an appeal from a de- 
cree of the judge of probate for the County of Middlesex, sustain- 
ing the will of a man who had recently died in one of the towns in 
that county. The issue raised by the appeal was upon the sanity 
of the testator at the time of the execution of the will. It presented 
a nice question for the consideration of the jury, for he had died 
of delirium tremens, and the will was executed not long before his 
death; and though there were some periods during the last days of 
his life when he was hardly of disposing mind and memory, yet 
there were unquestionably others when he was entirely competent 
to make a will, and the point to be determined was as to his sanity 
at the time the will was executed. 

Mr. Justice Wilde presided at the trial, which lasted three days. 


It excited much interest, and the court-room was crowded with 
spectators from first to last. The leading counsel for the heirs at 
law, who sought to impeach the will, was Mr. Hoar,"^ of Concord, 
whose power over a Middlesex jury, as was well known, was so (384) 
great as to give to every cause in which he was retained a decided 
vantage-ground at the start. 

The principal witness in support of the will was a woman who 
acted as nurse to the deceased in his last illness. She was an intel- 
ligent person, and Mr. Mason believed if she made her statements 
on the stand, under oath, as clearly and strongly as she had when 
questioned by counsel in their preparation of the case, that her 
testimony would be well nigh conclusive. 

The principal witness against the will was an acquaintance, and 

^ "E. Rockwood Hoar, when a supreme judge of Massachusetts, was appoint- 
ed Attorney-General of the United States, by Grant. He sprang from the 'old- 
est and purest English New England stock.' Impressing his Massachusetts com- 
panions as *a typical New Englander, essentially Puritan,' he seemed to one 
apart from that community a man of broad intelligence and sympathy. It was 
'a sense of humor and spirit of kindliness' that made him a citizen of the world 
and demonstrated to the guest of his home in Concord that 'the noble frugality 
and quiet dignity' of his little town might cradle the wildest views of life. In 
Washington during his term of office his manners were thought brusque, but in 
Concord they were always marked by gentle considerateness. 'Emerson loved 
him' and Lowell, in a private letter to Nordhoff, paid him this tribute: 'You 
cannot set too high a value on the character of Judge Hoar. The extraordinary 
quickness and acuteness, the flash of his mind (which I never saw matched, but in 
Dr. Holmes) have dazzled and bewildered some people so that they were blind 
to his solid qualities. Moreover, you know there are people who are afraid of 
wit and cannot see wisdom unless in the deliberate movement of thought whose 
every step they can accompany. I have known Mr. Hoar for more than thirty 
years, intimately for twenty, and it is the solidity of the man, his courage and his 
integrity that I value most highly.' J. D. Cox, whose association with him in the 
Cabinet was the beginning of a life-long friendship, wrote that 'a heartier accord 
with all that is right and true, a warmer sympathy with whatever makes for 
progress and tends to level men upward, was never seen.' " — 6 Jas. Ford Rhodes' 
United States History, 239-40. 

E. Rockwood Hoar (1816-1895), Massachusetts, was a Representative in 
Congress; a graduate of Harvard; State Senator of Massachusetts; six years 
Judge of Common Pleas Court; ten years Judge of Massachusetts Supreme 
Court; and a member of the Overseers of Harvard College, fourteen years 


occasionally a boon companion, of the testator. Mr. Clarke had rea- 
son to believe that he was prepared to swear falsely, and that he 
could be broken down by such a cross-examination as Mr. Mason 
was able to administer, and this was one of the reasons which de- 
termined him in the choice of a senior counsel. The case. was open- 
ed on behalf of the heirs at law, as they had taken the appeal. Two 
or three of their witnesses, not being of any great importance, were 
cross-examined by Mr. Clarke. But when the principal witness 
above mentioned was put upon the stand, Mr. Clarke whispered to 
Mr. Mason, and said that he should devolve upon him the cross- 
examination of this witness. 

When the direct examination, which made a favorable impres- 
sion, had been concluded, Mr. Mason asked permission for a brief 
conference with his junior. Turning to Mr. Clarke, he said, ''Is the 
nurse in court?" Mr. Clarke replied that she was. "Where is she?" 
rejoined Mr. Mason; "point her out to me." Mr. Clarke pointed 
her out accordingly, in a distant part of the court-house. "Go to 
her," continued Mr. Mason, "and see if she is ready to swear to all 
that she has told you." Mr. Clarke, reluctant to draw upon himself 
the gaze of the whole court-house by so novel a procedure, made 
some objection, but Mr. Mason said very decidely, "Do as I desire 
you, and leave the responsibility with me." Mr. Clarke accordingly 
made his way with some difficulty through the throng, spoke with 
the witness a few moments, and came back and reported to his senior 
that all was right. (385) 

Mr. Mason then began his cross-examination. In an easy, con- 
versational, and seemingly friendly tone he asked a number of ques- 
tions which had little to do with the case, with a view to disarm the 
witness's suspicions, and put him off his guard. To this end, also, 
he occasionally interspersed a remark or two commendatory of the 
witness's manner and readiness in replying. This continued for a 
brief season, when Mr. Hoar objected to the cross-examination as ir- 
relevant, but the judge allowed it to go on. A few moments later, 
the objection was renewed, and again overruled. After a short in- 
terval Mr. Hoar arose, and with great earnestness and emphasis ap- 
pealed to the court for the third time, protested against a course of 
examination which was wasting the time of the court in inquiries 


which had nothing to do with the matter in hand, and insisted that 
Mr. Mason should state the purpose for which his questions were 
asked. Judge Wilde replied that it was not usual to restrict a law- 
yer of Mr. Mason's experience in the cross-examination of a witness ; 
that to state the purpose for which a question was asked would 
often defeat such purpose, and that all that could be asked of Mr. 
Mason was to say that he had an object in his inquiries. Mr. Mason 
then rose, and said that, upon his honor, every question he had put 
was put with a purpose, and that this purpose would be revealed in 
due season. 

After this no further interruption took place, and the cross- 
examination went on some time longer, and had apparently been 
brought to a close, and the witness had begun to congratulate him- 
self that his fiery ordeal had been passed without harm. After a 
moment's pause, Mr. Mason rose, and slowly approaching him, 
said, "Mr. Witness, I am much obliged to you for the frankness and 
fullness with which you have answered my questions, and I have 
only one more to ask, and will then dismiss you." He then put to 
him a question, to which the whole previous examination had been 
introductory, and which was so adroitly framed that he could not 
answer it in any way without contradicting some important state- 
ment previously made. The witness saw at once the trap into which 
he had fallen, (386) and was silent. He trembled, turned deadly 
pale, his knees shook, and he seemed ready to faint. Mr. Mason 
asked him if he had understood the question. Still no reply, and 
after a long pause, during which there was the silence of death 
through the court-house, Mr. Mason said, "You may step down, sir." 
It is needless to add that this scene not only destroyed the value of 
his testimony, but essentially damaged the appellant's case. The 
result of the trial was a verdict in favor of the will. 

The incident made an impression upon Mr. Clarke which the 
lapse of forty years has not effaced, and he has told me that in the 
whole course of his professional life he had seen no parallel to the 
skill and power displayed by Mi-. Mason on this occasion. 

Some lawyers, especially if young and fond of popular applause, 
are apt to make the trial of a cause a sort of dramatic entertain- 
ment, for the benefit of the bystanders, and their own honor and 


glory. There is a temptation to do this because there is some re- 
semblance between the course of an exciting trial and that of a play, 
and incidents occur in courts of justice which recall the unexpected 
turns and surprises of the stage. But in proportion as the advo- 
cate yields to this temptation does he endanger the cause of his 
client. Mr. Mason was never for a moment drawn aside from the 
straight path of professional duty by the force of this attraction. He 
had no other object in view than to gain a verdict. He took cogni- 
zance of none but the judge and the jury. The bystanders were no 
more to him than if they had been so many wooden images. He 
never asked a question or made a remark that was prompted by 
their presence. To the judgment they might form of his conduct 
of a case his indifference was supreme. 

I once asked an eminent member of the bar, still living, who in 
his early practice had had frequent professional relations with Mr. 
Mason, wherein he excelled the other distinguished lawyers he had 
known. He replied, that in addition to learning, general force of 
mind, and extraordinary power in cross examination, Mr. Mason 
surpassed all men he had ever consulted in the instinctive readiness 
(387) with which he would point out the rules and principles of law 
applicable to a given statement of facts. When a case was submit- 
ted to him, he would require the facts and circumstances to be fully 
communicated, asking many questions to this end, and then, in- 
stantly, would indicate the path of inquiry in which the law govern- 
ing the question was to be sought. My informant added that he had 
sometimes been to him with a case on which he had read and thought 
for three or four days without coming to any definite conclusion, 
and that Mr. Mason, in a few words would furnish the key he had 
been seeking, and as with a lightning flash disperse the darkness in 
which he had been groping. 

Though Mr. Mason's time and powers were almost wholly given 
to the study and practice of the law, his mind had too much orig- 
inal force to be dwarfed or cramped thereby. There was nothing in 
him of professional pedantry or professional narrowness. He had 
read a good deal among the best writers in English literature, and 
had wasted no time upon worthless books. With the history, espe- 
cially the political history, of his own country, he was very familiar. 


Every mind has its own laws and conditions of growth. Some 
find appropriate food in the study of books, others in the observa- 
tion of life and the study of men. Mr. Mason's was of the latter class. 
He preferred what Bacon calls discourse to studies. He had not 
his friend Chief Justice Parsons' omnivorous passion for books. In 
his leisure hours he preferred to talk with a friend to shutting him- 
self up in his study to converse with an author. He was given to the 
asking of questions, as has before been said, and there is in one of 
Bacon's Essays a passage on this habit which fits Mr. Mason as 
much as if it had been written for him: "He that questioneth much 
shall learn much, and content much, but especially if he apply his 
questions to the skill of the persons whom he asketh, for he shall 
give them occasion to please themselves in speaking, and himself shall 
continually gather knowledge." As I recall Mr. Mason, he seemed to 
me the wisest man I have ever personally known ; that is, whose judg- 
ment was the most sound, whose (388) sagacity was the most un- 
erring, whose inferences from facts «nd events were the most cor- 

Though Mr. Mason was by natural endowments admirably fitted 
for the law, I do not think he would have missed his vocation had 
he been trained to some other calling. Had he been a merchant or 
a manufacturer, there can be no doubt that he would have been 
successful and prosperous. What Livy says of the elder Cato, is 
exactly applicable to him : "hi hoc viro tanta vis animi igeniique fuit, 
ut quocunque loco natus esset, fortunam ipse facturus fuisse videre- 
tur." (In this man so great was the strength of mind and genius as 
that in whatsoever place he had been born, he would have been seen 
to have made his fortune.) 

It is hardly necessary to say that in politics Mr. Mason was a 
Federalist of the straightest sect; that is, he held all the faith and 
creed of the Federal party, without reserve or qualification. But 
being a wise man, and a man of calm temperament, he never went 
to extremes, whether in opinion or conduct. During the war of 1812, 
his course was entirely patriotic. He never gave his hand to the 
violent expressions and unwise steps into which some good men of 
the Federal party were hurried by the warmth of opposition. He 


would, for instance, assuredly have advised against the Hartford 
Convention, had he been consulted upon the subject. 

In all free countries there are two natural parties, — the party 
of progress and the party of stability ; and the history of every free 
country is a record of the struggle between these two parties. Mr. 
Mason belonged to the latter of these parties. By nature and by 
education alike he was a conservative. Any where, and under any 
conditions, he would have been such. In England he would have 
been a strong but not a bigoted tory. By his natural instincts he 
was averse to innovation, and inclined to walk in the old ways. He 
had little confidence in popular judgments, whether upon pohtical 
or general questions ; and, as will have been seen, was inclined to 
take rather desponding views on public affairs. He certainly did 
not believe that there was to be found in universal suffrage a solu- 
tion of all political problems and a cure for all political diseases. 
His political convictions were modified and colored by his profes- 
sional (389) experiences. His immense practice brought him into 
constant contact with the weak side of human nature, with its errors 
of judgment, its infirmities, its mistakes, its want of moral resolu- 
tion ; and he could not believe that wisdom would be evolved from an 
aggregation of men, most of whom were not wise, or virtue from an 
aggregation of men many of whom were not good. Like all the 
able and excellent men who belonged to the old Federal party, his 
object was to strengthen the hands of the general government, to 
uphold the Supreme Court of the United States and the judiciary 
generally, to guard rights and property against popular violence, and 
to teach, directly and indirectly, a respect for law. And in common 
with the leaders of the Federal party, he could not forsee the unex- 
ampled material prosperity of the country, and the conservative in- 
fluence of such prosperity. 

Mr. Mason was, all his life, a man of decided religious convic- 
tions. Trained in the faith of the early fathers of New England, 
neither the growth of his mind nor his observation of humanity led 
him, in his mature years, to depart therefrom. His whole intel- 
lectual being rested upon a strong conviction of the supremacy of 
law, and that every violation of law involved a corresponding pen- 
alty; and the leading articles of the creed in which he was reared. 


the fall of man, the divinity of Christ, and the atonement, being 
in harmony with his views of the attributes and providence of God 
and the nature of man, solved for him the moral problems of life. 
After his removal to Portsmouth he worshipped with his family in 
the Episcopal church of that town, preferring its liturgy and service 
to the Congregational form. In his prime of life, as happens with 
most men who are deeply engaged in secular affairs, he gave less 
thought than he afterwards did to religious subjects, or the con- 
templation of a world beyond the grave,^ but with the lengthening 
shadows of his decline these great questions dwelt more in his mind, 
and he came to think, read, and speak of them habitually. After 
his removal to Boston, he became a member of St. Paul's (390) 
Church, under the charge of the Rev. Dr. Stone, for whom he had 
a high regard, both as a pastor and a man.- The deep and abiding 
sorrow caused by the death of two amiable and promising sons, had 
also its natural effect in weaning his thoughts from earth, and turn- 
ing them toward the heaven to which these treasures of his heart 
had been removed. The last years of his life were marked by more 
frequent expressions of religious feeling, and by a mixture of gravity 
and tenderness in his manner which was the result of meditation 
on the great themes of life, death, and immortality. 

In illustration of Mr. Mason's religious feeling, at the time 
when he was most actively engaged in the business of life, I quote 
an extract from a memoir of him, prepared by his friend Mr. Eben- 
ezer Wheelwright, who for many years had peculiar opportunities 
for observing his traits of mind and character, before his removal 
from Portsmouth.. 

"In the year 1831, February 12, there was an annular eclipse of 
the sun; and the agencies of science were in motion to make obser- 
vations and report its astronomical relations. The day was very 
beautiful, and no cloud was seen in the sky. As the eclipse ad- 
vanced the writer joined Mr. Mason, at the terminus of the beauti- 
ful street that led up to his mansion. It had been planted with a 
long row of sycamores, which had now attained their growth, and 
1 See the correspondence between him and Dr. Appleton in Chapter VI. 

- See in the Appendix a letter from Dr. Stone upon Mr. Mason's religious 
character in declining life. 


both in winter and summer were finely ornamental. The shadow 
was deepening every moment, until the whole surface of the sun, 
except the circular thread of light, was obscured, as we slowly 
walked along. Mr. Mason remarked, as far as the writer's memory 
serves, as follows : — 

" 'A scene like this is always appalling : I wonder not that 
savage nations were terrified by such manifestations of the Deity. 
The intuitive idea of God is thus magnified into a visible certainty, 
and though we know the laws of the solar system, yet we cannot 
escape from the conviction, that these are the workings of (391) 
the Divine power. We lose sight of the law in the presence of the 
Lawgiver. The solemnity of the scene puts a limit to our curiosity, 
and instead of conducting the investigations of science, I would 
rather stand still and adore.' The conversation then turned to the 
supernatural darkness of the crucifixion, which men of infidel minds 
deemed incredible and asburd. It was evident that a deep religious 
awe pervaded his mind and that his faith in the Gospel record was 
not staggered by astonishing narrative, for it was a fitting accom- 
paniment of the aWful deed, and a manifestation of God's displeasure 
which none of the multitude who witnessed it, had ever denied." 

My task is now closed. In looking over what I have written I 
feel conscious that I have exposed myself to a criticism which I will 
answer by anticipation. It is now nearly a quarter of a century since 
Mr. Mason died. His contemporaries have all passed away, and of 
those who personally knew him, and thus are qualified to judge of 
the correctness of my sketch, the number is rapidly diminishing. 
He wrote no books, and so does not enjoy the fame that is won by 
successful authorship. He was never a judge, and thus his name is 
not preserved in his opinions, like those of Marshall and Shaw. 
Among the younger members of the profession of the law he is 
becoming merely a name and a tradition. I am aware that by some 
of these last it may be said that, after the usual manner of biogra- 
phers, I have magnified the claims and merits of my subject. They 
may ask for more definite and sustantial proof of the greatness of 
Mr. Mason than any I have been able to present. To such objections 
I have only to say that my estimate of Mr. Mason has been carefully 
and advisedly formed. For many years I knew him well; perhaps 


as well as a young man can know an old man who was never ap- 
proached without great respect, almost reverence. I have known 
also many of the eminent lawyers and statesmen of New England, 
and have only to say that my early impression of Mr. Mason's 
powers has been confirmed by time, and strengthened by my observa- 
tion of others. And furthermore, I (392) speak confidently and 
from knowledge when I add that the high place I have assigned to 
him as a man and a lawyer would, were they alive, be emphatically 
and unhesitatingly confirmed by Judge Story, Mr. Webster, and Mr. 

So far as Mr. Webster is concerned, the above statement is not 
matter of inference merely. He thus records, twenty years before 
Mr. Mason's death, in his Autobiography, his impressions of his 
friend's powers. 

"I lived in Portsmouth nine years, wanting one month. They 
were very happy years. Circumstances favored me at my first be- 
ginning there. Owing to several occurrences, there happened to be 
an unfilled place among leading counsel at that bar. I did not fill it, 
but I succeeded to it. It so happened, and so has happened, that 
with the exception of instances in which I have been associated with 
the Attorney General of the United States, for the time being, I 
have hardly ten times in my life acted as junior counsel. Once or 
twice with Mr. Mason, once or twice with Mr. Prescott, once with 
Mr. Hopkinson, are all the cases which occur to me. 

"Indeed, for the nine years I lived in Portsmouth, Mr. Mason 
and myself, in the counties where we both practiced, were on oppos- 
site sides, pretty much as a matter of course. He has been of infi- 
nite advantage to me not only by his unvarying friendship, but by 
the many good lessons he has taught, and the example he set me, in 
the commencement of my career. If there be in the country a 
stronger intellect; if there be a mind of more native resources; if 
there be a vision that sees quicker, or sees deeper into whatever is 
intricate, or whatsoever is profound, I must confess I have not 
known it. I have not written this paragraph without considering 
what it implies. I look to that individual who, if it belong to any- 
body, is entitled to be an exception.^ But I deliberately let the judg- 

1 This was Chief Justice Marshall. 


ment stand. That that individual has much more habit of regular 
composition, that he has been disciplined and exercised in a vastly- 
superior school, that he possesses even a faculty of illustration (393) 
more various and more easy, I think may be admitted. That the 
original reach of his mind is greater, that its grasp is stronger, that 
its logic is closer, I do not alloW."^ 

That this high estimate was never changed, appears from the 
sketch of Mr. Mason's life and character contained in Mr, Webster's 
address to the Supreme Court of Massachusetts, on behalf of the 
bar of Suffolk, after his friend's death; which will be found in the 

The fame which Mr. Mason enjoys is not proportioned to the 
intellectual superiority accorded to him by his contemporaries. But 
this is no uncommon lot. Fame, like fortune, distributes her favors 
with a capricious hand. Unhappy is he who makes the pursuit of 
fame the object of his life, and feels that his life is a failure if he do 
not secure it! Mr. Mason's descendants must console themselves 
with the sentiment expressed in the beautiful language of Milton: — 

"Fame is no plant that grows on mortal soil, 
Nor in the glistering foil, 
Set off to the world, nor in broad rumor lies, 
But lives and spreads aloft by those pure eyes. 
And perfect witness of all-judging Jove, 
As he pronounces lastly on each deed. 
Of so much fame in Heaven expect thy meed." 

1 Curtis's Life of Webster, vol. i. p. 89. 






At a meeting of the Bar of the County of Suffolk, held October 17, 1848, in 
the Law Library, the Hon. Richard Fletcher was appointed Chairman, and Mr. 
George T. Curtis, Secretary. 

The Chairman having stated that the meeting had been called to take some 
notice of the decease of the Hon. Jeremiah Mason, — Mr. Choate rose, and spoke 
nearly as follows: — 

I have supposed, sir, as you have done, that it would be the desire of the Bar 
of Suffolk to mark the event which has led to the call of this meeting, by some- 
thing more than the accustomed and formal expression of sensibility and regret 
for the loss of one of its number. 

Mr. Mason was so extraordinary a person; his powers of mind were not only 

so vast, but so peculiar; his character and influence were so weighty, as well as 

good; he filled for so many years so conspicuous a place in the profession of the 

law, in public life, and in intercourse with those who gave immediate direction to 



public affairs, — that it appears, most fit, if it were practicable, that we should at- 
tempt to record, somewhat permanently and completely, our appreciation of him, 
and to convey it to others, who knew him less perfectly and less recently than 
ourselves. It seems to me, that one of the very few greatest men whom this 
country has produced; a statesman among the foremost in a Senate, of which King, 
and Giles, and Gore, in the fullness of their strength and fame, were members; a 
jurist who would have (397) filled the seat of Marshall as Marshall filled it; of 
whom it may be said, that, without ever holding judicial station, he was the author 
and finisher of the jurisprudence of a State; one whose intellect, wisdom, and up- 
rightness gave him a control over the opinions of all the circles in which he lived 
and acted, of which we shall scarcely see another example, and for which this 
generation and the country are the better to-day: — such seems to me to have been 
the man who has just gone down to a timely grave. I rejoice to know, that the 
eighty-first year of his life found his marvelous faculties wholly unimpaired. 

"No pale gradations quenched that ray." 
Down to the hour when the apoplectic shock, his first sickness, struck him, as it 
might seem, in a moment, from among the living, he was ever his great and 
former self. 

He is dead; and although, here and there, a kindred mind — here and there, 
rarer still, a coeval mind — survives, he has left no one, beyond his immediate 
blood and race, who in the least degree resembles him. 

Under the influence of these opinions and wishes the resolutions which I hold 
in my hand have been prepared, chiefly by others; and I have been requested to 
offer them to the acceptance of the Bar. 

Mr. Choate then moved the following resolutions, which were unanimously 
adopted :. — 

Resolved, That the members of this Bar have heard with profound emotion of 
the decease of the Honorable Jeremiah Mason, one of the most eminent and dis- 
tinguished of the great men who have ever adorned this profession; and, as well 


in discharge of a public duty, as in obedience to the dictates of our own private 
feelings, we think it proper to mark this occasion by some attempt to record our 
estimate of his pre-eminent abilities and high character. 

Resolved, That the public character and services of Mr. Mason demand prom- 
inent commemoration; that throughout his long life, whether as a private person 
or in public place, he maintained a wide and various intercourse with public men, 
and cherished a constant and deep interest in public affairs, and by his vast 
practical wisdom and sagacity, the fruit of extraordinary intellectual endow- 
ments, matured thought, and profound observation, and by the soundness of 
his opinions and the comprehensiveness and elevated tone of his politics, he 
exerted at all times a great and most salutary influence upon the sentiments and 
policy of the community and the country; and that, as a Senator in the Congress 
of the United States during a period of many years, and in a crisis of affairs 
which demanded the wisdom of the wisest, and the civil virtues of the best, he 
was distinguished among the most eminent (398) men of his country for ability 
in debate, for attention to all the duties of his great trust, for moderation, for 
prudence, for fidelity to the obligations of that party connection to which he was 
attached, for fidelity still more conspicuous and still more admirable to the higher 
obligations of a thoughtful and enlarged patriotism. 

Resolved, That it was the privilege of Mr. MJason to come to the Bar, when 
the jurisprudence of New England was yet in its infancy; that he brought to 
its cultivation great general ability, and a practical sagacity, logical power, and 
patient research, — constituting altogether a legal genius, rarely if ever sur- 
passed; that it was greatly through his influence that the growing wants of a 
prosperous State were met and satisfied by a system of Common Law at once 
flexible and certain, deduced by the highest human wisdom from the actual wants 
of the community, logically correct, and practically useful; that in the fact that 
the State of New Hampshire now possesses such a system of law, whose glad- 


some light has shone on other States, is seen both the product and the monu- 
ment of his labors, less conspicuous, but not less real than if embodied in codes 
and institutes bearing his name; — yet that, bred as he was to the Common Law, 
his great powers, opened and liberalized by its study and practice, enabled him 
to grasp readily, and wield with entire ease, those systems of Equity, applicable 
to the transactions of the land or the sea, which in recent times, have so much 
meliorated and improved the administration of justice in our country. 

Resolved, That, as respects his practice as a Counsellor and Advocate at this 
Bar, we would record our sense of his integrity, prudence, fidelity, depth of 
learning, knowledge of men and affairs, and great powers of persuading kindred 
minds; and we know well, that, when he died, there was extinguished one of the 
few great lights of the old Common Law. 

Resolved, That Mr. Webster be requested to present these resolutions to the 
Supreme Judicial Court, at its next term in Boston; and the District Attorney 
of the United States be requested to present them to the Circuit Court of the 
United States now in session. 

Resolved, That the Secretary communicate to the family of Mr. Mason a 
copy of these resolutions, together with the respectful sympathy of the Bar. 

In the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, on Tuesday, November 14, 
1848, the Court having been opened in form at nine o'clock, A. M., and prayer 
having been offered, Mr. Webster rose and said: — 

May it please your Honors: Jeremiah Mason, one of the Counsellors of this 
Court, departed this life on the 14th of October, at his residence in this city. The 
death of one of its members, so highly respected, so much admired and venerated, 
could not fail to produce a striking impression upon the members of this Bar; 
and a (399) meeting was immediately called, at which a member of this Court, 
just on the eve of leaving the practice of his profession for a seat on the Bench, 


presided; and resolutions expressive of the sense entertained by the Bar of the 
high character of the deceased, and of sincere condolence with those whom his loss 
touched more nearly, were moved by one of his distinguished brethren, and 
adopted with entire unanimity. My brethren have appointed me to the honor- 
able duty of presenting these resolutions to this Court; and it is in discharge 
of that duty that I rise to address you, and pray that the resolutions which I 
hold in my hand may be read by the Clerk. 

The Clerk of the Court then read the resolutions, when Mr. Webster rose, 
and continued: — 

The proprieties of this occasion compel me., with whatever reluctance, to 
refrain from the indulgence of the personal feelings which arise in my heart 
upon the death of one, with whom I have cultivated a sincere, affectionate, and 
unbroken friendship, from the day when I commenced my own profesional 
career, to the closing hour of his life. I will not say, of the advantages which 
I have derived from his intercourse and conversation, all that Mr. Fox said of 
Edmund Burke; but I am bound to say, that of my own professional discipline 
and attainments, whatever they may be, I owe much to that close attention to 
the discharge of my duties which I was compelled to pay, for nine successive 
years from day to day, by Mr. Mason's efforts and arguments at the same Bar. 
Fas est ab hoste doceri^; and- 1 must have been unintelligent, indeed, not to have 
learned something from the constant displays of that power which I had so 
much occasion to see and to feel. 

It is the more appropriate duty of the present moment to give some short 
notice of the life, character, and qualities of his mind and heart, so that he 
may be presented as an example to those who are entering upon or pursuing 
the same career. Four or five years ago, Mr. Mason drew up a biography of 
himself, from the earliest period of his recollection to the time of his removal 
to Portsmouth, in 1797; which is interesting, not only for the information it 

^ It is hard to be taught by an enemy. 


gives of the mode in which the habits of his life were formed, but also for the 
manner of its composition. 

He was born on the 27th day of April, 1768, at Lebanon in Connecticut. 
His remotest ancestor in this country was Capt. John Mason (an officer who had 
served with distinction in the Netherlands, under Sir Thomas Fairfax), who 
came from England in 1630, and settled at Dorchester in the colony of Massach- 
usetts. His great grandfather lived at Haddam. His grandfather, born in 
1705, lived at Norwich, and died in the year 1779. Mr. Mason remembered him, 
and recollected his character, as that of a respectable and deeply religious man. 
His ancestor on the maternal side was James Fitch, a learned divine, who came 
from England and settled in Saybrook, but removed to Lebanon, where he died. 
A Latin epitaph, in the ancient burying-ground of that town, records his merits. 
One of his descendants (400) held a large of land in the parish of Goshen, in 
the town of Lebanon, by grant from the Indians; one of half of which, near a 
century afterwards, was bequeathed to his daughter, Elizabeth Fitch, the 
mother of Mr. Mason. To this property Mr. Mason's father removed soon after 
his marriage, and there he died in 1813. The title of this land was obtained 
from Uncas, an Indian sachem in that neighborhood, by the great grandfather 
of Mr. Mason's mother, and has never been alienated out of the family. It is 
now owned by Mr. Mason's nephew, Jeremiah Mason, the son of his eldest 
brother James. The family has been distinguished for longevity, the average 
ages of Mr. Mason's six immediate ancestors having exceeded eighty-three 
years each. Mr. Mason was the sixth of nine children, all of whom are now 

Mr. Mason's father was a man of intelligence and activity, of considerable 
opulence, and highly esteemed by the community. At the commencement of the 
Revolutionary War, being a zealous Whig, he raised and commanded a company 
of minute-men, as they were called, and marched to the siege of Boston. Here 
he rendered important service, being stationed at Dorchester Heights, and en- 


gaged in fortifying that position. In the autumn of that year, he was promoted 
to a colonelcy, and joined the army with his regiment, in the neighborhood of 
New York. At the end of the campaign, he returned home sick, but retained 
the command of his regiment, which he rallied and brought out with celerity 
and spirit when General Arnold assaulted and burned New London, He be- 
came attached to military life, and regretted that he had not at an early day 
entered the Continental service. Colonel Mason was a good man, affectionate 
to his family, kind and obliging to his neighbors, and faithful in the observance 
of all moral and religious duties. 

Mr. Mason's mother was distinguished for a good understanding, much 
discretion, the purity of her heart and affections, and the exemplary kindness 
and benevolence of her life. It was her great anxiety to give all her children the 
best education, within the means of the family, which the state of the country 
would allow; and she was particularly desirous that Jeremiah should be sent 
to college. "In my recollection of my mother," says Mr. Mason, "she was the 
personification of love, kindness, and benevolence." 

Destined for an education and for professional life, Mr. Mason was sent 
to Yale College, at sixteen years of age; his preparatory studies having been 
pursued under "Master Tisdale," who had then been forty years at the head of 
a school in Lebanon, which had become distinguished, and among the scholars 
of which were the Wheelocks, afterwards presidents of Dartmouth College. 
He was graduated in 1784, and performed a part in the Comjmencement exercises, 
which greatly raised the expectation of his friends, and gratified and animated 
his love for distinction. "In the course of a long and active life," says he, "I 
recollect no occasion when I have experienced such elevation of feeling." This 
was the effect of that spirit of emulation which incited the whole course of his 
life of usefulness. There is now prevalent among us a morbid and sickly notion, 
that emulation, even as honorable rivalry, is a (401) debasing passion, and not 


to be encouraged. It supposes that the mind should be left without such excite- 
ment, in a dreamy and undisturbed state, flowing or not flowing, according to 
its own impulse, without such aids as are furnished by the rivalry of one with 
another. For one, I do not believe in this. I hold to the doctrine of the old 
school, as to this part of education. Quintilian says: "Simt quidam, nisi 
institeHs remissi: quidam iinperio indignantur ; quosdam continet metus, quos- 
dam debilitat: alios continuatio exhindit, in aliis qAus impetus facit. Mihi ille 
detur puer, quern laus excitet, quern gloria juvet, qui victu^ fleat; hie erit alendus 
ambitu, hunc mordebit objurgaUo, hunc honor excitabit; in hoc desidiam nun- 
quam verebor." 

(Some (people) are mild and relaxed, unless trained and disciplined: some 
are impatient and restive under the restraints of authority: some are controlled 
by the influence of fear, while it weakens and disheartens others: some yield to 
persuasion, while the exercise of force is required in the case of others. Give 
me the young man, who responds to the stimulus of praise, who glories in 
achievement, and is cast down by defeat; such a youth will be influenced by am- 
bition, and the claims of duty and honor; but will never become the victim of 
sloth and idleness.) I think this sound sense and just feeling. 

Mr. Mason was destined for the law, and commenced the study of that pro- 
fession with Mr. Baldwin," — a gentleman who has lived to perform important 
public and private duties; has served his country in Congress, and on the bench 
of the Supreme Court of Connecticut; and still lives to hear the account of the 

a Simeon Baldwin, (1761 — 1851.) Born in Norwich, Conn., December 14, 
1761; was graduated from Yale college in 1781; studied law, was admitted to 
the bar in 1786, and practiced in New Haven, Conn.; elected as a Federalist to 
the Eighth Congress (Mar. 4, 1803 — Mar. 3, 1805); associate judge of the Su- 
preme Court of Errors 1806 — 1817; president of the board of commissioners 
that located the Farmington canal in 1822; mayor of New Haven in 1826; died 
in New Haven, Conn., May 26, 1851. Simeon E. Baldwin, (1840— ), the 
eminent lawyer and judge, chief justice of the Supreme Court of Errors, Conn., 
in 1907, a member of the International Law Association (1899-1901,) is a grand- 
son, and is now living in New Haven, Conn. 


peaceful death of his distinguished pupil. After a year, he went to VernTont, 
in whose recently established tribunals he expected to find a new sphere for the 
gratification of ambition and the enjoyment of talents. He studied in the of- 
fice of Stephen Row Bradley, afterwards a Senator in Congress; and was admitted 
to the Bar, in Vermont and New Hampshire, in the year 1791. 

He began his career in Westmoreland, a few miles below Walpole, at the 
age of twenty-three; but in 1794 three years afterwards, removed to Walpole, 
as being a larger village, where there was more society and more business. There 
was at that time on the Connecticut River a rather unusual number of gentle- 
men, distinguished for polite accomplishments and correct tastes in literature, 
and among them some well known to the public as respectable writers and 
authors. Among these were Mr. Benjamin West, Mr. Dennie, Mr. Royal Tyler, Mr. 
Jacobs, Mr. Samuel Hunt, Mr. J. W. Blake, Mr. Colman (who established, and 
for a long time edited, the "New York Evening Post"), and Mr. Olcott. In 
the association with these gentlemen and those like them, Mr. Mason found an 
agreeable position, and cultivated tastes and habits of the highest character. 

About this period he made a journey to Virginia, on some business connected 
with land titles, where he had much intercourse with Major-Gen. Henry Lee; 
and, on his return, he saw President Washington, at Philadelphia, and was 
greatly struck by the urbanity and dignity of his manner. He heard Fisher 
Ames make his celebrated speech upon the British treaty. All that the world 
has said with regard to the extraordinary effect produced by that speech, and 
its. wonderful excellence, is fully confirmed by the opinion of Mr. Mason. He 
speaks of it as one of the highest exhibitions of popular oratory that he had 
ever witnessed; popular, not in any low sense, but popular as being addressed 
to a popular body, and high in all the qualities of sound reasoning and enlight- 
ened eloquence. 

Being inclined to exercise his abilities in a larger sphere, he removed from 
Walpole (402) to Portsmouth in 1797. He had at this time made the acquaint- 


anCfe of Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton. The former advised Mr, Mason 
to remove himself to New York. His own preference was for Boston; but he 
thought, that, filled as it then was by distinguished professional ability, it was 
too crowded to allow him a place. That was a mistake. On the contrary, the 
Bar of this city, with the utmost liberality and generosity of feeling and senti- 
ment, have always been ready to receive, with open arms, every honorable ac- 
quisition to the dignity and usefulness of the profession which it follows. Mr. 
Mason, however, removed to Portsmouth in the autumn of 1797; and, as was 
to be expected, his practice soon became extensive. He was appointed Attorney- 
General in 1802. About that time, the late learned and lamented Chief Justice 
Smith retired from his professional duties, to take his place as a Judge, and 
Mr. Mason became the acknowledged head of his profession. He resigned the 
office of Attorney-General, three or four years afterwards, to the great regret 
of the Court, the Bar, and the country. As a prosecuting officer, he was court- 
eous, inflexible, and just; careful that the guilty should not escape, and that 
the honest should be protected. He was impartial, almost judicial, in the admin- 
istration of his great office. He had no morbid eagerness for conviction; and 
never permitted, as sometimes occurs, an unworthy wrangling between the 
official power prosecuting, and the zeal of the other party defending. His official 
course produced exactly the ends it was designed to do. The honest felt safe; 
but there was a trembling and fear in the evil disposed, that the transgressed 
law would be vindicated. 

Very much confined to his profession, he never sought office or political eleva- 
tion. Yet he held decided opinions upon all political questions, and cultivated 
acquaintance with all the leading subjects of the day; and no man was more 
keenly alive than he to whatever transpired at home or abroad, involving the 
great interests of the civilized world. 

His political principles, opinions, judgments, were framed upon those of the 
men of the times of Washington. From these, to the last, he never swerved. 


The copy was well executed. His conversation on subjects of state was as in- 
structive and interesting as upon professional topics. He had the same reach of 
thought, and exhibited the same comprehensive mind, and sagacity quick and 
far-seeing, with regard to political things and men, as he did in professional 
affairs. His influence was, therefore, hardly the less from the fact, that he 
was not actively engaged in political life. There was an additional weight given 
to his judgment, arising from his being a disinterested beholder only. The 
looker-on upon a contest can sometimes form a more independent and impartial 
opinion of its course and its results, than those who are actually engaged in it. 

But at length in June, 1813, he was persuaded to accept the post of a Senator 
of the United States, and took his seat that month. He was in Congress dur- 
ing the sessions of 1813 and 1814. Those were very exciting times, party spirit 
ran very high, and each party put forward its most prominent and gifted men; 
and both (403) houses were filled by the greatest intellects of the country, Mr. 
Mason found himself by the side of Rufus King, Giles, Goldsborough, Gore, 
Barbour, Daggett, Hunter, and other distinguished public men. And among 
men of whatever party, and however much some of them differed from him in 
opinion or political principle, there was not one of them all but felt pleasure if 
he spoke, and respected his uncommon ability and probity, and his fair and up- 
right demeanor in his place and station. He took at once his appropriate posi- 
tion. Of his associates and admirers in the other house, there are some eminent 
persons now living who were occasional listeners to his speeches, and much 
•struck with his ability; together with Pickering, Benson, Pitkin, Stockton, 
Lowndes, Gaston, and Hopkinson, now all deceased, who used to flock to hear 
him, and always derived deep gratification and instruction from his talents, 
character, and power. 

He resigned in 1817. His published speeches are not numerous. The re- 
ports of that day were far less complete than now, and comparatively few de- 
bates were preserved and revised. It was a remarkable truth, that he always 


thought far too lightly of himself and all his productions. I know that he was 
with difficulty persuaded to prepare his speeches in Congress for publication; 
and, in this memorial of himself which I have before me, he says, with every 
appearance and feeling of sincerity, that he "has never acted any important part 
in life, but has felt a deep interest in the conduct of others." 

His two main speeches were, first, one of great vigor, in the Senate, in 
February, 1814, on the Embargo, just before that policy was abandoned. The 
other was later, in December, 1815, shortly before the peace, on Mr. Giles's Con- 
scription Bill, in which he discussed the subject of the enlistment of minors; 
and the clause authorizing such enlistment was struck out upon his motion. 

He was afterwards for several years a member of the New Hampshire 
Legislature, and assisted in revising the code of that State. He paid much at- 
tention to the subject of the judicature, and performed his services fully to the 
satisfaction of the State; and the result of his labors was warmly commended. 
In 1824 he was again a candidate for the Senate of the United States. The 
election was to be made by the concurrent vote of the two branches of the Legis- 
lature. In the popular branch he was chosen by a strong vote. The Senate, 
however, non-concurred; by which means the election was lost — a loss to the 
country, not to him — by force of circumstances and agencies, not now or ever 
fit to be recalled or remembei'ed. 

He continued to reside for many years in Portsmouth. His residence in that 
ancient town was a happy one. He was happy in his family and in the society 
of the town, surrounded by agreeable neighbors, respected by the Bar and the 
Court, and standing at the head of his profession. He had a great love of con- 
versation. He took pleasure in hearing others talk, and gave an additional 
charm by the freshness, agreeableness, and originality of his own observations. 
His warm hospitality left him never alone, and his usefulness was felt as much 
within the walls of the (404) homes, as of the tribunals, of Portsmouth. There 
are yet many in that town who love him and his; many who remember, as chil- 


dren, the enthusiasm with which he was greeted by their fathers and mothers; 
and all in New Hampshire, old enough to remember him, will feel what we feel 
here, on this occasion. 

Led at last partly by the desire of exerting his abilities in a larger sphere 
of usefulness, and partly by the fact of the residence here of beloved domestic 
connections, he came to this city, and entered upon the performance of his pro- 
fessional duties in 1832. Of the manner in which he discharged those duties, 
this Court is the most competent judge. You, Mr. Chief Justice, and the vener- 
able associate who usually occupies a place at your right, have been witnesses 
of the whole. You know the fidelity with which he observed his duty to the 
Court, as well as his duty to his clients. In learning, assiduity, respect for the 
Bench, uprightness and integrity, he stood as an example to the Bar. You 
know the general probity and talent with which he performed for so many years 
the duty of a Counsellor of this Court. 

I should hardly trust myself to make any analysis of Mr. Mason's mind. I 
may be a partial judge. But I may speak of what I myself admire and vener- 
ate. The characteristics of Mr. Mason's mind, as I think, were real greatness, 
strength and sagacity. He was great through strong sense and sound judgment, 
great by comprehensive views of things, great by high and elevated purposes. Per- 
haps sometimes he was too cautious and refined, and his distinctions became too 
minute; but his discrimination arose from a force of intellect, and quick-seeing, 
far-reaching sagacity, everywhere discerning his object, and pursuing it steadily. 
Whether it was popular or professional, he grasped a point, and held it with a 
strong hand. He was sarcastic sometimes, but not frequently; not frothy or 
petulant, but cool and vitriolic. Unfortunate for him on whom his sarcasm fell ! 

His conversation was as remarkable as his efforts at the Bar. It was or- 
iginal, fresh, and suggestive; never dull or indifferent. He never talked when 
he had nothing to say. He was particularly agreeable, edifying, and instructive 


to all about him; and this was the charm of the social intercourse in which he 
was connected. 

As a professional man, Mr. Mason's great ability lay in the department of 
the Common Law. In this part of jurisprudence, he was profoundly learned. 
He had drunk copiously from its deepest springs; and he had studied, with dil- 
igence and success, the departures from the English Common Law, which had 
taken place in this country, either necessarily, from difference of condition, or 
positively, by force of our own Statutes. In his addresses, both to courts and 
juries, he affected to despise all eloquence, and certainly disdained all orna- 
ment; but his efforts, whether addressed to one tribunal or the other, were 
marked by a degree of clearness, directness, and force, not easy to be equaled. 
There were no Courts of Equity, as a separate and distinct jurisdiction, in the 
State of New Hampshire during his residence in that State. Yet the Equity 
Treatises and Equity Reports were all in his library, not "wisely ranged for 
show," but for constant and daily consultation; because he saw (405) that the 
Common Law itself was growing every day more and more liberal; that Equity 
principles were constantly forcing themselves into its administration, and with- 
in its rules; that the subjects of litigation in the Courts were constantly be- 
coming, more and more, such as escaped from the technicalities and the trammels 
of the Common Law, and offered themselves for discussion and decision on the 
broader principles of general jurisprudence. Mr. Mason, like other accomplished 
lawyers, and more than most, admired the searching scrutiny and the high 
morality of a Court of Equity; and felt the instruction and edification resulting 
from the perusal of the judgments of Lord Hardwicke, Lord Eldon, and Sir 
William Grant, as well as of those of great names in our own country, not now 
among the living. 

Among his eai'ly associates in New Hampshire, there were many dis- 
tinguished men. Of those now dead were Mr. West, Mr. Gordon, Edward St. 


Loe Livermore, Peleg Sprague, William K. Atkinson, George Sullivan, Thomas 
W. Thompson, and Amos Kent; the last of these having been always a particular 
personal friend. All of these gentlemen in their day held high and respectable 
stations, and were eminent as lawyers of probity and character. 

Another contemporary and friend of Mr. Mason was Mr. Timothy Bigelow, 
a lawyer of reputation, a man of probity and honor, attractive by his conversa- 
tion, and highly agreeable in his social intercourse. Mr. Bigelow, we all know, 
was of this State, in which he filled high offices with great credit; but, as a 
Counsellor and Advocate, he was constant in his attendance on the New Hamp- 
shire courts. Having known Mr. Bigelow from my early youth, I have pleasure 
in recalling the mutual regard and friendship which I know to have subsisted 
between him and the subject of these remarks. I ought not to omit Mr. Wilson 
and Mr. Betton, in mentioning Mr. Mason's contemporaries at the Bar. They 
were near his own age, and both well known as lawyers and public men. 

Mr. Mason, while yet in New Hampshire, found himself engaged in causes 
in which that illustrious man, Samuel Dexter, also appeared. The late Mr. 
Justice Story was still more frequently at the Bar of that State ; and, at a period 
somewhat earlier, your great and distinguished predecessor, Chief Justice Par- 
sons, occasionally presented himself before the Courts of Portsmouth or Exeter, 
and he is known to have entertained a very high regard, personal and profes- 
sional, as well for Mr. Mason, as for the late Chief Justice Smith. 

Among those still living, with whom Mr. Mason was on terms of intimacy, 
and with whom he associated at the Bar, were Messrs. Plumer, Arthur Liver- 
more, Samuel Bell, and Charles H. Atherton. If these respected men could be 
here today, every one of them would unite with us in any tribute of love and 
veneration to his memory. 

But, sir, political eminence and professional fame fade away, and die with 
all things earthly. Nothing of character is really permanent but virtue and 
personal worth. These remain. Whatever of excellence is wrought into the 


soul itself belongs (406) to both worlds. Real goodness does not attach itself 
merely to this life, it points to another world. Political or professional reputa- 
tion cannot last forever; but a conscience void of offense before God and man is 
an inheritance for eternity. Religion, therefore, is a necessary and indispensable 
element in any great human character. There is no living without it. Religion 
is the tie that connects man with his Creator, and holds him to his throne. If 
that tie be all sundered, all broken, he floats away, a worthless atom in the uni- 
verse; its proper attractions all gone, its destiny thwarted, and its whole future 
nothing but darkness, desolation, and death. A man with no sense of religious 
duty, is he whom the Scriptures describe — in such terse but terrific manner — 
as "living without God in the world." Such a man is out of his proper being, 
out of the circle of all his duties, out of the circle of all his happiness, and 
away, far, far away, from the purposes of his creation. 

A mind like Mr. Mason's — active, thoughtful, penetrating, sedate — could not 
but meditate deeply on the condition of man below, and feel its responsibilities. 
He could not look on this wondrous frame, 

"This universal frame, thus wondrous fair," 

without feeling that it was created and upheld by an intelligence to which all 
other intelligences must be responsible. I am bound to say, that in the course 
of my life I never met with an individual, in any profession or condition of life, 
who always spoke, and always thought, with such awful reverence of the power 
and presence of God. No irreverence, no lightness, even no too familiar al- 
lusion to God and his attributes, ever escaped his lips. The very notion of a 
Supreme Being was, with him, made up of awe and solemnity. It filled the 
whole of his great mind with the strongest emotions. A man like him, with all 
his proper sentiments and sensibilities alive in him, must, in this state of exist- 
ence, have something to believe and something to hope for; or else, as life is ad- 
vancing to its close, and parting, all is heart-sinking and oppression. Depend 


upon it, whatever may be the mind of an old man, old age is only really happy, 
when, on feeling the enjoyments of this world pass away, it begins to lay a 
stronger hold on those of another. 

Mr. Mason's religious sentiments and feelings were the crowning glories of 
his character. One, with the strongest motives to love and venerate him, and 
the best means of knowledge, says: — 

"So far as my memory extends, he always showed a deep conviction of the 
divine authority of the Holy Scriptures, of the institutions of Christianity, and 
of the importance of personal religion. Soon after his residence in Boston, he 
entered the Communion of the Church, and has continued since regularly to re- 
ceive the Lord's Supper. From that time, he also habitually maintained do- 
mestic worship, morning and evening. The death of two of his sons produced 
a deep impression upon his mind, and directed it in an increased degree to re- 
ligious subjects. 

"Though he was always reserved in the expression of religious feeling, still 
it has (407) been very apparent for several years, that his thoughts dwelt much 
upon his practical religious duties, and especially upon preparation for another 
world. Within three or four years, he frequently led the conversation to such 
subjects; and during the year past, immediate preparation for his departure 
has been obviously the constant subject of his attention. His expressions in 
regard to it were deeply humlble; and, indeed, the very humble manner in which 
he always spoke of himself was most marked. 

"I have observed of late years, an increasing tenderness in his feelings and 
manner, and a desire to impress his family with the conviction that he would 
not remain long with them. His allusions of this kind have been repeated, even 
when apparently in his usual health; and they indicated the current of his 


"He retained his consciousness till within a few hours of his death, and 



made distinct replies to every question put to him. He was fully aware that 
his end was near; and in answer to the question, 'Can you now rest with firm 
faith upon the merits of your divine Redeemer?' he said, 'I trust I do; upon 
what else can I rest?' 

"At another time, in reply to a similar question, he said, 'Of course, I have 
no other ground of hope.' We did not often speak to him during those last few 
days, but had no doubt that he was entirely conscious of his state, knew that his 
family were all near, and that his mind was free from anxiety. He could not 
speak with ease, and we were unwilling to cause him the pain of exertion. His 
whole life, marked by uniform greatness, wisdom, and integrity; his deep 
humility, his profound reverence for the Divine Majesty, his habitual prepara- 
tion for death, his humble trust in his Saviour, left nothing to be desired for 
the consolation of his family under this great loss. He was gradually prepared 
for his departure. His last years were passed in calm retirement; and he died 
as he wished to die, — ^with his faculties unimpaired, without great pain, his 
family around his bed, the precious promises of the Gospel before his mind, 
without lingering disease, and yet not suddenly called away." 

Such, Mr. Chief Justice, was the life, and such the death, of Jeremiah 
Mason. For one I could pour out my heart like water, at the recollection of his 
virtues and his friendship, and in the feeling of his loss. I would embalm his 
memory in my best affections. His personal regard, so long continued to me, 
I esteem one of the greatest blessings of my life; and I hope that it may be 
known hereafter, that, without intermission or coolness through many years, 
and until he descended to his grave, Mr. Mason and myself were friends. 

Mr. Mason died in old age; not by a violent stroke from the hand of death, 
not by a sudden rupture of the ties of nature, but by a gradual wearing out of 
his constitution. He enjoyed through life, indeed, remarkable health. He took 
competent exercise, loved the open air, and avoiding all extreme theories or prac- 


tice controlled (408) his conduct and habits of life by the rules of prudence and 
moderation. His death was therefore not unlike that described by the Angel, 
admonishing Adam: — 

"I yield it just, said Adam, and submit. 
But is there yet no other way, besides , 
These painful passages, how we may come 
To death, and mix with our connatural dust? 

"There is, said Michael, if thou well observe 
The rule of 'Not too much,' by temperance taught, 
In what thou eat'st and drink'st; seeking from thence 
Due nourishment, not gluttonous delight; 
Till many years over thy head return, 
So may'st thou live; till, like ripe fruit, thou drop 
Into thy mother's lap; or be with ease 
Gathered, not harshly plucked; for death mature. 
This is old age."^ 

After Mr. Webster had taken his seat, his Honor, Chief Justice Shaw, re- 
plied as follows: — 

Gentlemen of the Bar, — A few weeks have elapsed since our hearts were 
first saddened by the announcement of the lamented event to which the resolu- 
tions now offered refer. But such were the character, the life, and services of 
Mr. Mason; so large was the space filled by him in the estimation of the public; 
so strong was his hold upon the veneration, respect, and affection of all those 
who had known him, and been associated with him in public, professional, and 
social life, that his decease was not an event to awaken merely strong tempor- 
ary feeling of grief and sadness, and then pass away and be forgotten. It is 

a Milton: Paradise Lost. Bk. XI. Line 526. 


an event fitted to produce a deep and abiding impression upon the memory of 
the community which he has long and effectually served, the chosen profession 
which he has honored and adorned, and upon the minds and hearts of the as- 
sociates and friends whom he has instructed by his wisdom, and endeared to 
him by his kindness. 

It is therefore with the highest satisfaction, and with feelings of respect 
and affection entirely in accordance with those of the Bar, in which I am con- 
fident that my associates, the other members of this Court, will cordially par- 
ticipate, that I receive these resolutions; and I shall cheerfully comply with the 
wish of the Bar by ordering them to be enrolled with the recorded proceedings 
of this Court, in order that they may stand as a permanent memorial to future 
times, of the high sense entertained, as well by this Court as by the Bar, of the 
public character and services of Mr. Mason. (409) 

His eminent and marked professional character entitle him to a high rank 
in the estimation of those who are conversant with the administration of justice, 
and who duly appreciate the value and importance of enlightened jurisprndence, 
to the safety and peace of a free people. The prominent characteristics of his 
mind were strength, energy, and a far-reaching sagacity. To extraordinary 
powers of mind, and a keen natural sagacity, and power of discrimination, he 
brought the aid of copious learning, the fruits of patient and well-directed 
study. But with such eminent natural and acquired powers, Mr. Mason was not 
in the habit of giving hasty opinions, or of coming unprepared to the discussion 
of important questions. When cases of controverted rights were presented to 
him, he was accustomed to examine them with the most patient and persevering 
investigation, and subject them to a rigid analysis, by which he was enabled to 
follow the intricacies of the most complicated cases, and to present their true 
bearings and merits to a court or jury with admirable clearness and perspicuity. 
Mr. Mason seemed to regard the contested rights of his employers, drawn into 


litigation, as a sacred trust committed to his charge, which he was conscientious- 
ly bound to protect by all lawful and honorable means; and he regarded noth- 
ing done, by way of preparation, so long as anything remained undone which 
patient research could accomplish. 

In this respect, the character of Mr. Mason may be recommended as an 
example to all those young men who take upon themselves the responsibilities, 
and aspire to the honors of the legal profession. 

It is true that every one cannot feel assured of the eminent natural gifts 
which characterized Mr. Mason's mind; but all can imitate the patient study, the 
industrious investigation, the unshaken integrity, and conscientious fidelity which 
prominently marked the career of this eminent Jurist. 

The death of such a man though at an advanced age, and though a bereave- 
ment, in the order of a wise, kind Providence, to which we would submissively 
bow, is an event not to be chronicled and soon forgotten. His example and 
character remain: let us all look to it as an incentive to a more faithful per- 
formance of duty, to industry, to perseverance, and to all honorable effort. He 
has passed from our sight; but his public life and character belong to his age 
and to posterity. It is therefore the part of wisdom, as well as a most grateful 
duty, to cherish his memory, to dwell on the excellences of his character, and 
to deepen and perpetuate the influence of an eminent lawyer, and of a great and 

good man. _____ 

In the Circuit Court of the United States, on Tuesday, October 17, Robert 
Rantoul, Jun., Esq.,^ the United States Attorney for the Massachusetts District, 
a Robert Rantoul, Jr. (1805—1852.) American lawyer and politician, born 
in Beverly, Mass.; graduated at Harvard, 1826; was admitted to the bar three 
years later and after practicing for a time at South Reading removed m 1833 to 
Gloucester elected to the legislature as a Democrat in '33; became a member of 
the first state board of education, '37. The following year, moved to Boston; 
in '43 became collector of the port; '45-49, U. S. District Attorney for Mass 
(Feb 22 '51 to Mch. 3, '51, U. S. Senator (in place of Daniel Webster, resigned,) 
and in Nov., same year, elected to H. of R. He was a decided opponent of slav- 


presented the Resolutions adopted by the Bar practicing in that Court, and intro- 
duced them by the following remarks: — (410) 
May it please your Honors, — The duty devolves upon me of announcing to 
this Court the decease of one of its oldest and ablest counsellors. The Hon. 
Jeremiah Mason, whose death occurred on Saturday last, has gone down to the 
grave, full of honors, and after a long life of arduous professional duty. That 
a man who has filled so large a space in the estimation of his fellow-citizens 
should receive from his associates in our profession the due meed of respect, I 
have been requested by the members of the Bar of the Court for the First Cir- 
cuit to submit the Resolutions which I hold in my hand, which, with the leave 
of the Court, I will read, and move that they be entered on the records; after 
which I shall move that this Court do adjourn. 

Judge Woodbury responded to Mr. Rantoul's address as follows: — 
Gentlemen of the Bar, — This Court has received your Resolutions on the 
lamented death of Mr. Mason with the sensibility due to his great worth. His 
standing as a lawyer so very high, and his powers as an advocate so remark- 
able, were known widely; but none could fully appreciate the extent of his read- 
ing, his accuracy in details, the acuteness as well as vigor of his intellect, and 
his unsparing logic, vidthout something of that long intimacy with him in the 
practice of his profession which I formerly had the happiness to enjoy. 

ery, and in '51, a year before his death, defended Thomas Sims, the first slave 
recovered in Mass. under the Fugitive Slave Law of '50. Mr. Rantoul, Jr., paid 
the following tribute to the statesmen of N. H.: — "In the ratio of her popula- 
tion N. H. contributed more mental and moral strength to the Bar, to the Sen- 
ate, and to the Cabinet of the country than any other State in the Union. There 
were Ichabod Bartlett, the 'Randolph of the North', the brilliant flashes of 
whose wit, keen sarcasm and pungent irony gave life and spirit to the dry 
judicial discussions — Sullivan, the fascination of whose happy eloquence still 
lingers — Fletcher, whose legal acumen, clear, distinct and precise statement, 
closely reasoned argument and conscious mastery of his subject adorn no less 
the bench than formerly the bar — Jeremiah Mason, that counsellor of marvel- 
ous sagacity, unrivalled in his knowledge of human nature, — ' and Daniel 


Well may the members of that profession respect his memory, when it is 
but a just tribute to his rare talents to say that, in my opinion, in a profound 
knowledge of several branches of jurisprudence, and in some of the most choice 
qualities of a forensic speaker, he had in his palmy days, not merely in this 
State or New England, but in this whole country, few equals, and probably no 

Your Resolutions, gentlemen, shall be recorded; and this Court, out of re- 
gard to the distinguished merit of Mr, Mason and his long practice before it in 
this Circuit, will now adjourn. 


At a meeting of the Rockingham Bar, holden in the Court House at Ports- 
mouth, October 19, John Porter, Esq., the President, having taken the Chair, the 
members present were addressed by Charles W. Cutter, Esq., who, in a few brief 
and interesting remarks, alluded to the great number of eminent lawyers that 
had in times past made the Rockingham Bar distinguished throughout the coun- 
try, and referred to the recent decease in Boston of the Hon. Jeremiah Mason, 
so long the most eminent practitioner at this Bar, and probably at the time of 
his decease the greatest master of the Common Law on this continent. 


Mr. Cutter concluded by offering the following Resolutions, which, on motion 
of J. W. Emery, Esq., seconded by D. M. Christie, Esq., were unanimously 
adopted : — 

Resolved, That the recent sudden decease of the Hon. Jeremiah Mason, 
formerly and for nearly forty years a member of this Bar, of which he was its 


distinguished leader, pride, and ornament, demands some appropriate notice. 

Resolved, That the high respect and admiration universally entertained for 
Mr. Mason by his professional brethren, arose not only from his great intel- 
lectual superiority, his profound knowledge of the principles of the Common 
Law, and his unrivaled skill and sagacity as an advocate and jurist, but also 
from the most implicit and unhesitating reliance upon his high principles, his 
sense of honor, and his elevated standard of personal and professional obliga- 

Resolved, That we deeply sympathize with the members of Mr. Mason's 
family in the sudden and irreparable loss which they have sustained. 

Resolved, That the Hon. John Porter be requested to present these resolu- 
tions to the Hon. Court now in session; that Hon. Ichabod Bartlett be requested 
to present the same to the Superior Court at its next session in this judicial dis- 
trict, and also to communicate the same to Mrs. Mason, with an expression of 
the most respectful and affectionate sympathy of the members of this body. 

At the opening of the Court of Common Pleas in Portsmouth, on the 21st 
of October, the Hon. John Porter rose, and addressed the Court as follows: — 

May it please your Honors, — The Bar of this county, having received ti- 
dings of the recent death of the Hon. Jeremiah Mason at Boston, have made it 
my duty to announce that melancholy event to the Court. 

The demise of such a man as Mr. Mason cannot fail to excite the deepest 
feelings of mournful regret in the minds of those so long and so agreeably as- 
sociated with him in professional life, as this Bar has heretofore been. 

It is true, that Mr. Mason, for a number of years prior to his decease, re- 
sided in a neighboring State, and had discontinued the practice of his profession 
among us; but the largest and best portion of his valuable life was spent in this 
State and here in this immediate neighborhood, where this Court is now in ses- 
sion. It was here, at this Bar, that his young mind gave promise of that com- 


manding eminence of character, to which he afterwards attained; and it waa 
here that he exhibited the full measure of his intellectual powers and endow- 
ments in meridian life. It was here that he built up for himself a reputation 
for learning, for integrity, and for consummate (412) skill and address in the 
management of causes, that few, very few, if any, may hope to excel. Under such 
circumstances, the members of this Bar cannot but sensibly feel his loss, and 
desire to offer some tribute of respect to his memory. 

Mr. Mason was not only great in his profession, but he had much and 
varied learning of a more general and diffusive character. The circle of his 
reading was extensive, and his memory was capacious and retentive. Hence he 
became possessed of an ample store of general information entitling him to a 
high rank as a sound and thorough scholar. 

At times he held important official stations, both in the State and general 
government, the duties of which he discharged with singular fidelity and ability. 
And when in private life, such was the general confidence in the extent and ac- 
curacy of his information, and the soundness of his judgments, relative to 
passing events, that his advice and opinions exerted a decided influence, in guid- 
ing and controlling the opinions and conduct of others. 

He was a very instructive and entertaining companion. He knew how to 
be amusing and playful, as well as serious and grave. His conversation was full 
of anecdote and remark, drawn from his extensive observation and reading, both 
in regard to men and affairs. 

He had a fast hold upon the confidence of the people immediately surround- 
ing him, as neighbors and acquaintance; and he was, especially, strong and se- 
cure in the affections and esteem of those who enjoyed his more intimate friend- 
ship; and his memory, by all such, will be ever cherished and respected. 

Sundry Resolutions have been adopted, at a meeting of this Bar, in refer- 
ence to the death of Mr. Mason, expressive of their high estimation of his char- 


acter, and their deep feelings of sorrow for his loss. These resolutions, it now 
only remains for me, in behalf of the Bar, to present to the Court. 
The Resolutions were then read. 

The Hon. Samuel D. Bell, the presiding Justice, said: — 

The Court sensibly feel the great loss sustained by the profession and the 
community, by the death of the Hon. Mr. Mason. 

They entirely concur in the sentiments expressed in the resolutions of the 
gentlemen of the Bar of this county, now communicated to them. 

They unite in the wish to place upon the records of the Court some proper 
testimonial of the high esteem and respect entertained by them in common with 
the whole community, for the deceased, as a man and a scholar, as a distinguished 
legislator, and as a lawyer whose eminent learning and almost unrivaled ability 
have conferred distinction upon the Bar of the State. 

It is therefore ordered, that the Resolutions of the Bar be entered upon the 
records of the Court. (413) 

At a meeting of the members of the Merrimack County Bar, held at the 
Court Room in Concord, New Hampshire, the 21st day of October, — on motion of 
Ira Perley, Esq., Gen. Franklin Pierce was chosen Chairman, and John H. 
George, Secretary. 

Mr. Perley announced the recent death of the Hon. Jeremiah Mason, of Bos- 
ton, and stated the object of the meeting to be an expression of its appreciation 
of the distinguished character of the deceased, of his eminent abilities and vast 
acquirements, and of the great and salutary influence he exerted during the 
long period of his practice in this State. 

Voted, That Hon. Moses Norris, Ira Perley, Esq., and Gen. Charles H. 
Peaslee be a Committee to draft and report Resolutions expressive of the sense 
of the Bar upon this occasion. 

Mr. Norris, from the above Committee, reported the following Resolutions: — 

Resolved, That the long connection of the Hon. Jeremiah Mason with the 


Bar of this State, his salutary and controlling influence as its most distinguished 
member, his vast learning and pre-eminent abilities, forbid that we should allow 
the occasion of our present session to pass without some tribute to his memory. 

Resolved, That the announcement of his death has been received by this Bar 
with profound sensibility; and that the profession in the State in which he 
passed the dawn and meridian of his professional life, will, in their convictions of 
the great loss which New England has sustained, respond fully to the senti- 
ments and opinions of their brethren in that State where his sun went down. 

Voted, That these Resolutions be adopted; and that the Chairman present 
the same to the Court, with the request that they be entered upon the records. 

The Chairman presented the Resolutions to the Court with appropriate re- 
marks upon the striking characteristics of Mr. Mason, which, in his opinion, 
rendered him perhaps the most remarkable man, and the most learned jurist 
the country has ever produced. 

The Court, having appropriately responded to the feelings and sentiments 
expressed by the Bar, ordered the Resolutions to be entered upon the records. 





"Sunday Oct. 29, 1848. — Mr. Choate was here this evening, talking all the 
time of father. What reverence and admiration were felt for that man with 
whom I have been living all my life, and how little I have improved such an ad- 
vantage! He was so modest and unostentatious that, although I always felt 
he was wiser than most men, I do not think I was aware of the great estimation 


in which he was held, and of late years his tenderness has been so overflowing 
towards his family that I have lived upon his love and affection, and forgotten 
his greatness. 

"Monday, Feb. 1, 1849. — We have had great pleasure in a visit from Mr. 
Hoar a this evening. Mr. H. was a friend of my dear father's, and spoke of him 
with a reverence and admiration which went to our hearts, coming from such an 
earnest and honest spirit. He said that his visits to father had been a source 
of the truest intellectual enjoyment and improvement, that Judge Marshall 
considered him the greatest master of the common law in the country, and that 
this was the universal opinion among lawyers." 

a E. Rockwell Hoar. 




From an article which appeared in the "New England Historical and Genealogical 
Register" for October, 1871. 

In the year 1830, the year before I was appointed Clerk of the U. S. Circuit 
and District Courts, I made an assignment for one of my clients in Boston, of 
a considerable amount of property in real estate, and a factory in Charlestown, 
on Connecticut River, in New Hampshire, out of which assignment grew a law- 
suit of importance, which was the last that I was ever engaged in as counsel, 
and in which my client was successful. I mention this fact, because it is con- 
nected with my first acquaintance (415) with Jeremiah Mason, whom I em- 
ployed to act with me as senior counsel. In walking home in the early part of 
the evening with Mr. Webster, from a dinner party in Boston, I stated to him 
that I was about to have a pretty important lawsuit to manage in New Hamp- 
shire, and I had concluded to engage Mr. Mason to act with me as senior coun- 
sel. He instantly answered, "I am glad to hear it; and I will give you a letter 
to him, who is one of the cleverest fellows you ever met. You will like him." 
And he paid me the compliment of saying, "he will like you." He then, in his 
graphic way, described to me his particular friend, Mr. Mason. He said he had 
spent some years in the vigor of manhood in Portsmouth, N. H., where he had 
Mr. Mason as his opponent in most of the important cases which he argued in 
that State. He said that since he left Portsmouth and removed to Boston, he 
had been engaged in cases at Washington, where he had for his antagonists, he 
believed, most of the ablest counsel in the United States, and that he did not 
know how much allowance he ought to make for early associations, but he could 


say, that there was no lawyer in the United States that he should fear so much 
to come in contact with as opposing counsel, as Mr. Mason. This anecdote shows 
the high opinion Webster had of Mason's ability as a lawyer, and their long con- 
tinued friendship shows the esteem and veneration in which he held him as a 

The commencement of my acquaintance with Jeremiah Mlason I have already 
stated. It continued with intimacy from the time he removed from Portsmouth 
to Boston, until his death. We used frequently to have conversation upon im- 
portant subjects, and his acute and capacious mind enabled him to be interest- 
ing and instructive. He once remarked that he considered Franklin and Ham- 
ilton, though quite different, the two greatest minds of this nation, but he was 
unable to decide which in his opinion was the greatest. He said that Hamilton, 
in his reports as Secretary of the Treasury, had presented all the arguments 
that could be urged in favor of the constitutionality and expediency of a nation- 
al bank and tariff, and but little had been added, in all the subsequent discus- 
sions, upon these subjects. 

He once remarked to me that Chancellor Kent and Judge Story were the 
only members of the legal profession in this country, thoroughly learned in equity 

The following anecdote of Mr. Mason, furnished also by Mr. Bassett, has 
not before appeared in print: — 

Mr. Mason told me that once during Jefferson's administration he had oc- 
casion to go to Virginia upon business, and he took a letter of introduction from 
Pierpont Edwards, who was an acquaintance of Jefferson and of some distinction 
as one of his political associates. When he visited Monticello he met the Presi- 
dent standing at the door waiting for his horse to be brought for him to take 
his accustomed ride. He handed him his letter, and after Jefferson had read it, 
he received him very cordially and requested him to walk into the parlor and 


be seated, where (416) he stayed about an hour and had a very interesting con- 
versation vi^ith the President. The purchase of Louisiana was the important 
subject which excited the attention of the two great political parties of the na- 
tion at that time. Mr. Jefferson soon began to express his views upon the ques- 
tion of annexation and how the interests of the nation would be promoted by 
effecting it. Mason was a rigid Federalist and opposed to the administration and 
to the measure about to be adopted. After hearing the reasons stated by Jef- 
ferson in favor of purchasing and making Louisiana a part of the United States, 
stated in his ingenious and captivating manner, he confessed that his zeal in 
opposition was quite moderated. This elaborate and eloquent disclosure of his 
views, Mason attributed to the fact that Jefferson had been informed by Ed- 
wards that he was a lawyer of some reputation in New Hampshire, and that by 
his stating the reasons urged by the President in favor of the purchase, it 
would be likely to have a favorable effect in the New England States, where he 
had to encounter the greatest opposition. This interview. Mason said, afforded 
him evidence of the ability of Jefferson to meet opposition by his extensive 
knowledge and persuasive eloquence, which he considered the principal cause 
of his success as a political ruler. 




"I was returning home from college one vacation, and having been overtaken 
by a severe rain storm, Saturday evening, stopped at a tavern some dozen miles 
from my home, and Sunday morning, it being fine weather, I mounted my horse. 


which was a powerful one, lent or given me by my grandfather, and jogged on 
through a sandy road with pine forests on each side. I had just passed a small 
meeting-house, and it was near meeting time, when I was accosted by a quiet- 
looking little man on a small nag, who said, 'Are you travelling on the LordJs 
day?' I told him my reason and that I was only on my way to my home, having 
been prevented by the storm the previous evening. He told me he was a justice 
of the peace, and that his duty was to stop me and see that I went to meeting all 
day, and after sunset I (417) might proceed on my journey. After some discus- 
sion, in which I told him I could not and would not stay, he still said his duty was 
to stop me. 'How will you do it?' At this he drew his horse aci'oss the road and 
left no room for me to pass. With that I wheeled my horse about and rode back 
some paces and then faced him. He said, 'What do you mean to do?' 'To come 
on,' meaning to take a flying leap. With this view of the case, my friend asked 
for a parley, and after some more discussion finding me still decided, he ended 
by saying, 'If you can promise me to go to meeting this afternoon, and can also 
solemnly say you think it is your duty to go on, I will allow you to pass.' Telling 
him I never doubted for a moment it was a duty, I proceeded on my journey." 




Sir, — I esteem it a great privilege to have the opportunity of dedicating this 
work to you. Few circumstances in my life could be more grateful, than those 
which enable me to inscribe on the pages, which contain my own juridical labors, 


the memorials of my private friendships, as well as the avowals of my reverence 
for the great, the good, and the wise. Your own enviable distinction, so long 
held in the first rank of the profession, and supported by an ability and depth 
and variety of learning, which have had few equals, and to which no one can 
bear a more prompt and willing testimony than myself, would alone entitle you 
to a far higher tribute, than any I can bestow. I well know that I speak but 
the common voice of the profession on this subject; for they have well understood 
the vigor and the weight of that lucid argumentation, which has spoken in 
language for the cause, and not merely for its ornament: Neque id ipsum 
tarn leporis causa, quoquam pondeHs. (Nor is this thing I do, so much an occa- 
sion of lightness and pleasure to me, as one of gravity and moment.— Mr. Story 
means to say the dedication is not made in a spirit of sprightliness, in the way 
or a compliment, but in deep appreciation of Mr. Mason's worth.) But I confess 
myself more anxious to be allowed to consider this dedication, as a tribute to 
your exalted private worth, spotless integrity, and inflexible public principles, as 
well as a free expression of my own gratitude for your uniform friendship; . . . 
a friendship which commenced with my first entrance among the bar, in which 
you were then the acknowledged leader (a period, when the value of such unex- 
pected kindness could not but be deeply felt, and fully appreciated) , and which 
has continued, undiminished, (418) up to the present hour. Such reminiscences 
are to me more precious than any earthly honors. They fade not with the 
breath of popular applause; and they cheer those hours, which as age approaches, 
are naturally devoted to reflections upon the past, for instruction, as well as 
for consolation. 

I am, with the highest respect, your obliged friend, 

Joseph Story. 

Cambridge, January 1, 1838. 






Manchester, October 20, 1848. 

My dear Mrs. Mason, — Mrs. Ticknor goes to Boston to-morrow, in the hope 
of seeing you, and offering you our very sincere sympathy in your sorrow and 
in that of your house. She will do it more tenderly than I could; but still I must 
ask to say a few words for myself. I have known Mr. Mason, during nearly the 
half of his long life, and during the whole of the active period of my own; but 
in all that time I have known no man, however distinguished, who felt himself 
too wise to seek his counsel, or too experienced in the ways of the world to profit 
by his experience. He was trusted, I think, by the greatest and best among us, 
more than any other man in New England; and he deserved the confidence he 
enjoyed, by his extraordinary and peculiar intellectual power; by his admirable 
wisdom; and by his severe and faithful integrity. All men knew they could de- 
pend upon him. But who knew it, like those who depended upon his affections? 
My dear Mrs. Mason, I have little right to allude even to your loss. But you 
will I know allow me to express my sympathy in it, and my grief at what I have 
lost myself; grateful that I have known such a man so long, and that God has 
taken him from us so gently, so kindly. 

With affectionate regards to all your family, believe me, dear Mrs. Mason, 
very faithfully your friend, George Ticknor. 

Mrs. J. Mason, Tremont Street. (419) 



Brunswick, Nove7nber 3, 1848. 

My dear Mrs. Mason, — . . . .It seems but a few days since I saw you all in 
usual health and happiness. Mr. Mason was cheerful and cordial the morning I 
saw him last. I thought he appeared more oppressed by bodily infirmity when 
I saw him in the spring, and for the first time I then thought of him as an old 
man; but I saw nothing then or in September, which led me to imagine that I 
might not often meet him again. It is surely a consolation to the family, that 
he was spared, what he seemed to dread, wasting and painful disease, and all 
the discomforts of an imbecile and helpless old age; that he enjoyed almost to 
the very last, full possession of his remarkable powers, and when summoned' 
was permitted to sink quietly to rest, free from pain or distress. I have been 
much interested in the testimonials which have been bestowed so cordially and 
so justly to his pre-eminent merits both in public and private life. Such dis- 
tinguished notices, while they may aggravate the sense of bereavement, yet must 
be highly gratifying to you all. As for myself, I have always found it difficult 
to express my own impressions of his great intellectual resources, and have 
ever esteemed it among the highest and most distinguished privileges of my life, 
that I have been permitted to listen to his conversation and enjoy its quicken- 
ing infiuence on my own mind 


Court Street, November 14, 1848. 

My dear Mrs. Mason, — I have just returned from listening to Mr. Webster's 
touching tribute to your late husband. As his words sank into my soul, I felt 
anew the irreparable loss we have all sustained, — his family, his friends, and 
his country. I was absent from home, when I heard of his death, and it was a 
source of deep regret, mingling with my deeper grief for his departure, that I 


could not join in the last tribute of religion and affection to his remains. 

I have longed to assure you of my sympathy. I have sat often in pleasant 
converse with him at your fireside, and think of those hours with gratitude and 
delight. They rise to my memory now, filling the period which has passed from 
my youth upwards, among those happy recollections which I shall bear with me 
to my grave. Let me, then, tell you how sincerely I mourn with you, how much 
I rejoice also, in the satisfaction of a well-spent life, and in his present peace. 
To die so full of years, and after so much honorable service, may well fill us at 
once with emotions of grief and thanksgiving. Of grief for what we lose, but 
of thanksgiving for all that we have had. (420) 

I trust soon to have the pleasure of calling upon you and sitting again at 
the same fireside, where I have so often listened to him, whose face I shall see 
no more on earth. 

Believing me, my dear Mrs. Mason. 

Affectionately yours, Charles Sumner. 


Epping, March 20, 1849. 

De!AR Madam, — ....Mr. Mason was one of the few very great men with 
whom it has been my good fortune to be acquainted. For, though for the last 
thirty years, I have had more or less intercourse with many called great, I have 
not been in the habit of putting more than a very few of them into the first rank 
of greatness. Mr. Mason was, in many respects, entitled to take his stand in 
the first rank. If he had earlier removed to Boston, and extended his practice to 
the Supreme Court at Washington, he would have built up for himself a national 
reputation as indisputably the first lawyer of the Union. As it is, his reputation 
is scarcely less extensive. My father's^ object in offering him, many years 
1 Mr. Plumer's father was Governor of New Hampshire. 


since, a seat on the Bench, was, that he might thus be enabled to do the State 
the inestimable service of laying broad and deep the foundations of her juris- 
prudence, in a series of decisions, which would, at the same time, have done 
lasting honor to their author. It was a source of much regret to him, that 
circumstances deemed by him imperious, prevented his accepting that appoint- 
ment. When I revert to the many acts of kindness and attention which I have 
experienced from Mr. Mason and his family, for more than thirty years past, 
I feel how great is their loss and how much I am their debtor. Now that he is 
gone, I feel more sensibly than ever, regret for the opportunities I have neglect- 
ed, of more frequent and profitable intercourse with so remarkable a man; and 
especially that I have not recorded some of the many things worthy of note, with 

which he favored me in my different interviews with him 

Your obliged and obedient servant, W. Plumer, Jr. 


Cambridge, March 24, 1849. 

Dear Madam, — I had the honor to receive a day or two ago, a copy of the 
proceedings in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, on occasion of the decease of 
your late honored and lamented husband. I am greatly indebted to you for doing 
me the favor of sending me this interesting and valuable pamphlet. The tributes 
which it contains to the memory of Mr. Mason, by some of those most competent 
to (421) pronounce his eulogy, appear to me in no degree extravagant. They 
utter what all who knew him felt, though few could express it so well. My ac- 
quaintance with Mr. Mason, never I am grieved to say an intimate one, com- 
menced at an early period of my life; as long ago as 1814. He showed to me, 
an unknown youth on a hasty visit to Washington, the most marked and flatter- 
ing attentions, which awakened in me a feeling of personal regard— independent 
of the respect, which every one felt for his talents and dignified character and 


manner. From that time forward, though not frequently enjoying the privilege 
of his personal intercourse, I never met him without receiving from him some 
word of kindness, which kept fresh and strong the feeling of attachment which 
I had formed for him from the commencement of our acquaintance. On one oc- 
casion he used an expression of comm^endation of a public performance of mine 
which he had heard, so different from the common language of compliment, that 
it sunk into my heart. 

It would be presumptuous in me, dear madam, to intrude further upon you. 
I have wished only to add the offering of my individual feelings, to the general 
sentiment of the community, which has reached you from every quarter, and 
which forms one of the chief sources of consolation, by which the loss of the 
great and good is made up to bereaved survivors. 

That you, dear madam, and your family may have the enjoyment of higher 
sources of consolation, than any which human sympathy or praise can furnish, 
is the respectful wish of Your faithful, obedient servant. 

Edward Everett, 


Boston, May 27, 1871. 

Dear Robert, — You asked me some weeks since to furnish some reminis- 
cences of your honored father. It is more than twenty years since he died, so 
that many things which he said have faded from my memory, and it is a subject 
of regret that I did not make a record at the time, of what might now be regard- 
ed with interest. My recollection of him goes far back, when you and I were 
pupils at the Lyceum in Gardiner, Maine, in the year 1827. Three days were 
required to get to Gardiner by the old Eastern line of coaches, and the first 
night I usually passed at your father's house in Portsmouth. I there saw him 


for the first time, and though somewhat awed by his presence, soon was made 
to feel at ease by his kindly nature and friendliness of manner. I became much 
more acquainted with him in 1832, after he had taken up his permanent resi- 
dence in Boston. He lived only four doors from us on Tremont Street, as you 
well remember, and the various members of our families were on terms of the 
greatest intimacy, visiting each other often several times a day. You know 
that my father ^ was very strenuous in his efforts to induce your father to (422) 
remove from Portsmouth to Boston, and it was mainly through his efforts that 
the fact was accomplished. I have reason to believe that the step taken was 
never regretted, but was the means of adding much to the happiness of all con- 
cerned. I was abroad at school at the time of the removal, and the prospect of 
such an event was a constant theme of my father's letters. 

On March 21st, 1832, he writes: "In about a week or ten days, we shall have 
two of the cousins from Portsmouth to see to putting their house in order, for 
the family to remove, and in about three weeks I hope they will be quietly settled 
down by our side in their own house. I contemplate their residence here with 
great satisfaction. It will be a source of never failing profit to you to talk to 
your uncle and to hear him talk." 

On March 28th, he writes: "Mr. Mason's family will all be here, I think, 
within twenty days, and it would seem that so far as external circumstances are 
concerned, my family will have the means of happiness in a higher degree than 
almost any other in the land." 

On April 21st, he says: "Mr. Mason's family are quietly settled in their new 
home, and the comfort of having them so settled I am satisfied will equal all my 
anticipations. Some of the members of each family are in and out a number of 
times every day, and your uncle M. comes in frequently and gives me a good 
sitting, which always leaves me something to reflect upon after he has gone. 

^The late Amos Lawrence. 


He has a great mind and has arrived at that period of life when it is agreeable 
to him to find good listeners, as well as good talkers. The last seven days would 
have been long days to me, had they not been here. You must be careful and 
give him exact information when you return, othervdse he will not value it. His 
habit is to gather knowledge from all sources, and he never forgets what he has 
once heard. If you can learn anything that will be new to him, I shall be glad." 

You, no doubt, can appreciate the force of the last passages, as you recollect 
your father's habit of what might be truly called pumping information. Often 
when I was enjoying myself with the younger members of the- family, no 
stranger being present, he would draw a chair by the side of his own at the end 
of the fireplace, and would say with a beckoning gesture, "Come here, W., and 
sit by me." I would accordingly take the chair, and prepare myself for the 
questioning I knew would follow. You will remember his position and posture 
on such occasions. He always imparted more than he gained, and his con- 
versation was of a most agreeable kind, only he would often ask questions about 
which it was embarrassing to confess ignorance, and to which one could hardly 
help attempting a reply. He would sometimes cross-examine me on some point, 
and when he got me into a corner, was always kindly and considerate, and took 
no unfair advantage of my ignorance. Persons who met him in the routine of 
business-life, could not appreciate the genial traits which he manifested in the 
daily intercourse of his own household. His conversation was entertaining as 
well as instructive, and his store