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Full text of "Memorial of Lewis and Susan Benedict"

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MEMORIAL 



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PRIxXTED FOR TH£ FAMILY. 
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MEMORIAL. 




EWIS, son of Uriah Jr. and 

Ruth (Rockwell) Benedict, 

was born in Milton, Saratoga 

County, N. Y., November 7, 

1785. Another son was born 

of the same parents, in 1793, 

and died within three years 

thereafter. The eldest born 

remained practically an only 

son, until after Uriah Jr.'s 

second marriage with Phoebe 

Marvin, in 1802, when, in 1810, his third son 

and last child was born, Lewis being at the 

time twenty-five years old. 



The character of Uriah Benedict Jr. had so 
much effect on that of his son, that a few words 
concerning him seem to be required. In 1779, 
when he was but fourteen years old, his name 
appears on the pay-roll for some military ser- 
vice; not unlikely the pursuit of Major Monroe, 
who in the course of his raid on that district 
had destroyed the growing crops on his father's 
farm. He saw service again in 1781, when he 
went on foot through the wilderness, some four- 
teen miles, in order to enlist. There is reason 
to suppose that on these occasions be took coun- 
sel of his own will; he certainly did resist his 
father's entreaties to quit the service. The ma- 
turity of the young Uriah was not what might 
have been expected from a boyhood character- 
ized by such evidences of energy of spirit and 
almost reckless independence of action. Perhaps 
the quiet times which followed the turbulent 
condition that prevailed during his minority, to- 
gether with the unexciting character of the pur- 
suits to which he then betook himself, affording 
neither temptation nor opportunity for their ex- 
ercise, suffered the sterner qualities of his nature 



to lapse for want of use. He grew to be one of 
the most amiable and gentle of men, with tastes 
befitting rural life, and among them a fondness 
for the culture of flowers almost passionate. One 
of the tenderest of husbands and fathers, he was 
not less exemplary and useful as a citizen and 
neighbor. His great natural capabilities for 
business brought ample reward for his diligence 
and enterprise; the "Four Corners," in Milton, 
where he established himself, became a nucleus, 
around which population and industry soon gath- 
ered and continued to increase. 

Lewis Benedict received from nature a phy- 
sical organization of rare perfection and vigor. 
In advanced life his presence was imposing. 
The medallion now upon his tomb in the Albany 
Cemetery, one of Palmer's happiest efforts in the 
matter of resemblance, is regarded by strangers 
to his person as a copy of some fine antique, 
rather than a singularly fiiithful likeness of the 
man who lies buried beneath. His intellect was 
after the fashion of the body it animated, robust, 
masculine, and active even to restlessness. His 
boyhood in some respects was a tolerable copy 



of that of his father. The self-will and indepen- 
dence of conduct that marked the boy Uriah of 
1779 and '81, were conspicuous in his son; but 
the parallel can be traced no farther. At no 
subsequent time of his life did his characteris- 
tics or deportment at all harmonize with those 
of the meek and quiet citizen of the "Four 
Corners," whose influences descended upon his 
family and society around him, with the steadi- 
ness and gentleness of the dews of heaven. 

From childhood to manhood, his life was spent 
in ministering to the discursive and eccentric 
curiosity of an inquisitive spirit, or in respond- 
ing to the impulses of a physical constitution 
that eschewed repose. Action was the law of 
his being and he obeyed it. He roamed the 
woods or traversed the highways and bye ways 
at will, his guns of the best and his horses of the 
fleetest ; for the liberality, not to say weakness, 
of his father, denied him nothing that he coveted. 
Curious and questioning, he investigated and 
analyzed the principles and processes of rural 
economy and of business as they were then ac- 
cepted and applied, but he practiced them not ; 



for neither trade nor agriculture could tempt 
him to make either his pursuit. If he entered 
the harvest field or the warehouse of his father, it 
was because that, at the time, it chanced to be 
the most agreeable thing; a more pleasing one 
would at once cause him to forsake both. In 
these unregulated courses, he gained much very 
serviceable knowledge of the affairs of common 
life, preserved his health and greatly increased 
his bodily vigor; but he was also kept by them 
a stranger to books and to habits of study. 
Thus, though he accumulated a considerable fund 
of useful knowledge and added to it daily, he 
acquired neither science nor learning. His vi- 
vacity, quick perceptions and common sense 
views of general affairs, aided by a mathema- 
tical faculty, a natural gift that made him equal 
to abstruse calculations, so glossed his lack of ac- 
quirements that, both at home and in society, 
he escaped such criticism or censure as might 
have constrained him to turn his steps into the 
paths of learning. The social position, ample 
means and willing disposition of the parent fa- 
vored the chances of high education for this 



child; but perversity entailing no penalty within 
that mild jurisdiction, he ignored advantages 
not common at the period, and turned a deaf 
ear to his father's appeals to fit himself for col- 
lege. In this obliquity of a vigorous mind and 
in his condition of only son, is to be found the 
solution of a fact which perplexed many who 
knew him, and which in view of his subsequent 
opinions and action, is certainly a remarkable 
one ; — that he received only the ordinary educa- 
tion of a country school of that day. His way- 
ward and apparently aimless life seemed less 
ominous to his father, because it was free from 
the slightest tendency toward any form of vice 
or dissipation. All his exuberance of life and 
spirits found vent in exercises which strength- 
ened his body and did not deprave his mind. 
Neither did these things at all abate his filial 
love and respect. Warm as was the affection 
with which his father regarded him, it was re- 
ciprocated with equal fervor, and their relations 
continued to be of the most cordial and endearing 
character until they were terminated by death. 
To the end of his life the son never ceased to 



10 



mourn this great error of his youth, or to warn 
others against its commission. It made him in- 
tolerant in his own family toward the slightest 
neglect of any means of instruction ; and proba- 
bly was the source of the extreme sympathy and 
interest he always exhibited in the success of 
schemes designed to promote education and dif- 
fuse knowledo-e. 

' o 

When the time arrived at which, according to 
the convictions of his own judgment, more serious 
and methodical avocations could no longer be 
postponed, his father proposed to him to take 
part in his own well established business. But 
familiar intercourse with so much of the world 
as had been accessible to him had expanded his 
ideas, and some consciousness of his own powers 
assured him of success in plans upon a larger 
scale. He declined his father's proposition, on 
the ground that business in the country was too 
monotonous, and the theatre too circumscribed, 
to suit him. It will cause no surprise, after 
what has been said, to be told, that the father 
succumbed to the son's desire and removed his 
business to Albany ; then second only to New 



11 



York, as an emporium of domestic trade. This 
occurred in 1805. 

In 1806, Lewis attained legal age, and was 
admitted a partner in the firm of his father, 
which thus became Marvin, Benedict & Co. In 
1812, he married Susan, daughter of Spencer 
and Dorothy (Hallenbake) Stafford. In 1813, 
the firm of Marvin & Benedict was dissolved by 
the death of Lewis's father. His matrimonial 
connection was the means of introducing him 
both to new partners and a new business. The 
business of Marvin, Benedict & Co. had been in 
West India goods and the produce of the country. 
Spencer Stafford confined the dealings of his 
house, mainly to iron and its manufactures ; but 
was, himself, one of the pioneer manufacturers 
of stoves and copper and tin ware, in Albany. 
In 1815, Lewis became a partner in the firm of 
his father-in-law, Staffords, Spencer & Co. The 
hardware business proved especially agreeable 
to him, and he never forsook it during his busi- 
ness life. His connection with his father-in-law, 
in mercantile relations, ceased in 1825, and never 
was renewed. Thenceforth, he was senior in all 

12 



his partnerships, and they were numerous. 
Although he was, himself, always a resident of 
Albany, he had partners and establishments 
elsewhere, at various times, especially in Utica, 
Rochester and New York. His activity, enter- 
prise and public spirit, soon placed him in the 
front rank of the leading men of the city ; and 
every project designed to increase its business, 
wealth, population or attractiveness, found in 
him an energetic supporter. Having taken an 
active part in establishing the Commercial Bank, 
in 1826, he was appointed one of its first Board 
of Directors, and he remained one so long as he 
was in business. He was also a Director of the 
Albany Insurance Company. About the same 
time, he became greatly interested in promoting 
steam navigation on the Hudson River, and was 
stockholder and director in several associations 
formed for that purpose. Directorship in his 
view was something more than an honorary dis- 
tinction. It implied a trust, with duties all the 
more binding, because the consequences of neglect 
of them would fall on stockholders who had 
trusted. His conscientiousness on this point 

18 



was the cause of infinite labor and tribulation 
to himself. In 1833, the Utica and Schenec- 
tady Kail Road Company was incorporated and 
he was named a corporator. He was also chosen 
Director on the organization of the Company, 
and was continued in the Board until 1847, 
when he declined to serve longer. The construc- 
tion of this road was attended with difficulties 
hardly to be imagined now. There was no pre- 
cedent for any thing ; a very few short lines of 
rail road only having been built in the country 
at that time. As a member of the Executive 
Committee of the Board, he devoted days and 
nights to the service of the corporation . The then 
Engineer of Construction and, subsequently , 
Superintendent for fifteen consecutive years, Mr. 
William C. Young, writing, in 1862, of Mr. Bene- 
edict's connection with the enterprise, says : " His 
influence was positive and effective in the organ- 
ization and management of the Utica and Sche- 
nectady Rail Road, and contributed to a successful 
result in general and in detail ; and that inau- 
gurated a S3 stem of economy and practicabilities 
in the Rail Road system, which was the prevail- 

14 



ing one for the time." The Albany and West- 
Stockbridge Rail Road received his support 
from its inception, and he served it as a Director 
for many years. He held the same relation to 
the Saratoga and Schenectady Rail Road, and 
took a leading part in its location, construction 
and management. The public works of internal 
improvement, especially the Canals, were objects 
of much interest and solicitude to him. Ex- 
Canal Commissioner Asa Whitney, says : '' The 
Canal System of the State was then (lb 39), oc- 
cupying a prominent place in the public mind, 
particularly the Enlargement of the Erie Canal. 
Mr. Benedict was among the most prominent 
and efficient advocates "of prosecuting the 
Enlargement to completion. My connection 
with the project as a Canal Commissioner, 
brought me in contact with the prominent 
men of the State who interested themselves 
in the question ; and the opinions of none were 
more respected or deferred to, than those of 
Lewis Benedict." 

In 1849 he was Chairman of a Board of Com- 
missioners charged with the duty of devising a 

15 



plan to supply the city with wholesome water 
and made an elaborate report on the subject. 

It might seem that most men would have 
been unwilling to increase the sum of care and 
labor such avocations and responsibilities cre- 
ated; still, there was another department in 
which he wrought for no private purpose, with 
such zeal and industry, that the wonder was how 
he found time or spirit for anything else. His 
contemporaries would not need to be told, that 
this field of effort was Politics. He was not a 
Democrat, it is believed, at any time of his life ; 
certainly not in the false sense which has long 
attached to the term. But, whatever may have 
been his creed in early manhood, he had pro- 
fessed it with a moderation, that brought him 
neither the notoriety nor the obloquy of extreme 
partisanship, although he had been, somewhat 
actively in favor of John Quincy Adams in 
1824. It is probable that the first serious and 
sustained effort he made to diffuse his own views 
among his fellow citizens, was when the abduc- 
tion and alleged murder of William Morgan 
by the Free Masons, in 182G, led to an agitation 

16 



of the public mind so violent as now hardly to 
be realized, coincident with some favoring cir- 
cumstances in his own condition and relations. 
With natural impulses toward kindness, reve- 
rence for law and order, and detestation of pri- 
vate vengeance, it was almost a matter of course 
that he took the Anti-masonic side of the contro- 
versy. It happened at the same time, that 
both business interests and family ties so iden- 
tified him with the then village of Rochester, 
that he knew, and was known to its people, as 
well as if he had been a constant resident. Of 
many acquaintanceships he formed there, one 
was with Thurlow Weed. In 1825, Mr. Weed 
had represented the county of Monroe in the As- 
sembly, and naturally enough had had relations 
with one so famiUar with the interests of Ro- 
chester as Mr. Benedict, and who was concerned 
in its material prosperity more deeply than 
many of his immediate constituents. Each 
seems to have perceived certain qualities in the 
other which provoked mutual esteem, that 
steadily increased as they came to know each 
other better. It is clear, however, that the 



strong points in the character of each were ap- 
prehended by the other, and that mutual respect 
was mingled with personal regard. Mr. Bene- 
dict was impressed by the wonderful fertility 
and power of Mr. Weed's mind ; and he at once 
discerned and as promptly conceded, his singular 
fitness to be a party leader. The affiliation of 
two men so diverse in temperament, in habits, and 
pursuits, that it seemed there could be nothing in 
common between them, is a striking exemplifi- 
cation of the magnetic power of Mr. Weed's na- 
ture, which few desired, and fewer still were 
able to resist. So, when, in 1830, he found Mr. 
Weed again in the Assembly, a representative 
of Anti-masonic feeling and interest, sympathiz- 
ing himself in the strong indignation excited by 
the alleged violence done to personal liberty 
and freedom of speech, he attached himself to 
him and his projects, with the force and fidelity 
that belonged to his character. It appearing 
that there was no organ, at the seat of the State 
Government, to give utterance to the sentiments 
of that portion of the people who protested 
against the further toleration of Free Masonry, 



18 



it was decided that one should be supplied. 
The Albany Evening Journal was the fruit of 
that decision. Of course, the projector and 
Editor of the paper, and not unlikely some of his 
friends, had aims quite above and beyond the 
special occasion which appeared to have sug- 
gested its establishment ; but they were not put 
forth with any distinctness, nor was any claim 
to public regard and confidence based upon them. 
In the fortunes of the new paper, and of Mr. 
Weed, its editor, Mr. Benedict took a profound 
interest. Mr Weed became a resident of Al- 
bany, and a personal and political association of 
the most intimate and confidential character at 
once began, and was continued during the active 
portion of Mr. Benedict's life. 

In 1831, the then Seventh Senatorial District 
had been discreet or fortunate enough to elect 
a young lawyer of Auburn, William H. Seward, 
one of its representatives ; much to the vexa- 
tion of some otherwise intelligent men, who 
found themselves unable to conceive of wisdom 
or discretion befitting the position, dissociated 
from hair less gray than their own. He was 

19 



young, and in appearance, even youthful. Mr. 
Benedict enjoyed unusual conveniences for over- 
looking the progress of public business, and for 
intercourse with such as were concerned in 
transacting it. His own house adjoined the 
Capitol, and then, and for years thereafter, he 
dispensed a hospitality so generous, that the 
sessions of the Legislature brought very few of 
position or influence to its halls, officially or 
otherwise, whom he did not meet socially under 
his own roof. His interest in public affairs and 
his relations to those which had a political bear- 
ing, led him habitually, to scan the course of 
legislation in his peculiarly inquisitive way, so 
that few knew better than himself what was 
doing, why it was done, and by whom ; while 
his genial nature and the social habits referred 
to kept him so largely acquainted with the 
membership of both houses, that it would have 
been more difficult to avoid, than it was to ap- 
proach, individual members with whom he 
might desire to confer. Some uncandid, not to 
say envious criticism, from quarters he was ac- 
customed to respect, would have directed Mr. 

20 



Benedict's attention to the young Senator, if it 
had not been already attracted by the skill and 
dignity with which he repelled attack, and the 
ability and spirit with which he maintained his 
own views. The prudence of the Senator's pub- 
lic course and his unaffected equanimity under 
circumstances that might have excused, if not 
justified, some show of resentment, moved Mr. 
Benedict to admiration ; and in the intimacies of 
personal intercourse which soon followed, the 
Senator revealed traits of character that greatly 
commended him to Mr. Benedict's regard. His 
position in the Senate was a trying one. He 
stood nearly alone. His party was odious to its 
opponents beyond all ordinary partisan dislike ; 
it was, simply, hated. His assailants were 
veterans in parUamentary warfare. From his 
readiness and power in debate, his imperturbable 
self-command, and his wisdom and shrewdness 
in suggestion, Mr. Benedict formed hopes of his 
eminence and usefulness, which, high as they 
were, the future amply realized. 

Mr. Weed's unerring sagacity had selected 
Mr. Seward from among the young men of the 



31 



State, as best fitted to eliminate a faith from cer- 
tain elements, some existing and others only 
foreseen, on which a political party might take 
its stand; and which, with wise and timely modi- 
fication of its professions and under submission to 
Mr. Weed's guidance, would be likely to achieve 
supremacy among such a people as ours. Ac- 
count wasmadeof the ever-increasing ^proportions 
of the body politic, the inevitable multiplication 
and conflict of interests, the more general diffusion 
of knowledge among the people, and their grow- 
ing consciousness of" certain inalienable rights," 
as sure to create constantly recurring necessities 
for readjustment of policies and institutions to 
new conditions. Reverence was graduated by 
the merit rather than the age of things, and 
limits were set to the worship of mere antiquity 
however venerable ; and while nothing was dis- 
carded solely because it was old, nothing was 
ignored merely because it was new. The spirit 
of the times refused obedience to the rule so much 
affected by Walpole and commended by his 
American disciples, " not to disturb things which 
are at rest ;" and the choice presented, in the 

22 



view of wise men conscious of its resistless power, 
was either to move with it or stand still and be 
crushed by its advance. This forbade the ste- 
reotyping of watchwords, means or methods, and 
they were left within the pale of discretion ; but 
constancy, eternal and unwavering, seeming 
possible to an end that covered all the aspira- 
tions of patriotism and philanthropy, it was so- 
lemnly ordained. That end was :— the moral 
and intellectual elevation, the complete enfran- 
chisement and the material prosperity of all the 
people of the State and Country. A high degree 
of practical wisdom and skillful statesmanship 
only could be equal to a successful performance 
of the necessary functions ; and the event proved 
that a portion of the people, considerable enough 
to constitute a powerful political party, did be- 
lieve that the requisite degree of both, inspired 
the counsels that fell from the lips of Mr. Sew- 
ard, the columns of the Albany Evening Journal, 
and later, from those of the New York Tribune, 
and so accepted them. 

To the aid of the party thus to be created, 
organized and fostered, Mr. Benedict brought all 



33 



the capacity and influence he jDossessed. It 
harmonized with his best judgment and gratified 
a personal partiality to concur in Mr. Weed's 
estimate of the genius and discretion of the pro- 
posed leader ; and it was always a pleasant 
memory with him that, he perceived and trusted 
early, where some hesitated long and doubted. 
Regarding appeals to mere passion or prejudice 
and flatteries of ignorance, as base in nature 
and likely to be retributive in effect, his hope 
of impressing the intelligent and virtuous per- 
manently, rested wholly on considerations ad- 
dressed to the human understanding and 
conscience. Therefore, in order to enlighten 
the one and arouse the other, he labored zeal- 
ously to establish the organ of the party, on an 
enduring and commanding basis, and to elevate 
its elect orator and statesman to positions of 
influence and power. In all the essays of Mr. 
Weed and himself to promote the growth of the 
party they were much aided by a conviction, as 
true as it was universal, that neither expected 
the slightest personal profit from the party suc- 
cess. It was notorious that official station was 

24 



repugnant to the taste of both, and that more 
than once it had been urgently tendered and 
resolutely declined. In those years, Mr. Weed's 
annual salary as editor would not have covered 
his annual disbursements for the relief of party 
necessities ; and Mr. Benedict, who worked in- 
cessantly and received nothing in any form, 
was, nevertheless, a constant and liberal con- 
tributor to the party treasury. 

It is profoundly suggestive to reflect that, at 
the time the Albany Evening Jommal was esta- 
blished, March, 1830, the controversy that 
brought it into life and excited the people far 
and wide nigh to frenzy was, whether Free Ma- 
sonry should be proscribed or not ? Not one 
word, nor one thought seems to have been given 
to another destined to be waged, mainly, by the 
same contestants and to dwarf or overwhelm all 
others ; that, whether Human Slavery should be 
protected or not ? So great an advance as has 
been witnessed within the span of life that re- 
mains after middle age, ought to provoke new 
faith in the tender mercies of God and in some 
recondite virtue in Man ; and inspire hope, even 



in the desponding, that the redress of many grie- 
vous and robust wrongs and the alleviation of 
much misery is at hand. The Anti-masonic is- 
sue, however, was not ill fitted to educate the 
people for the proper consideration of the graver 
problem ; and it proved that tuition looking to 
that end was sadly needed. 

Anti-masonry in essence, was simply an effort 
to resist and depose an authority, usurped by 
such as were without natural, legal or constitu- 
tional right to exercise it. It would seem to be 
the most natural of sequences, that the same 
spirit that contended against Masonic oppression 
should, instinctively, find itself opposed to every 
form of that species of wrong ; but, in point of 
fact, it proved to be a work of difficulty and re- 
quired much time and prodigious labor, to turn 
the fire of its batteries against the stupendous 
and all pervading tyranny of Slavery. At the 
North, long continued false teaching on the part 
of venal public men, not only in respect to the 
legal and constitutional relations of Slavery, but 
also in regard to the actual results of its work- 
ings on the Civilization of the South, and the 

26 



iteration and diifusion of their perversions both 
of law and fact, by presses and demagogues 
equally corrupt and false, had misled multi- 
tudes. Consciences naturally tender, and in all 
other relations "void of offense," had been 
hardened by pulpit expositions of an alleged sa- 
credness of origin, and assurances that the most 
just and merciful of all codes sanctioned the least 
just and most cruel of all systems; and by ex- 
. hortations from the same quarter men, them- 
selves free, were led to maintain and enforce its 
usurpations. So much interest, passion, ignor- 
ance and indifference were arrayed on the side 
of Slavery and manoeuvred with such skill, that 
any speedy dislodgement of it seemed chimerical 
to many who loathed it, and thp few who then 
hoped and believed otherwise only earned for 
themselves the title of Fanatics ; although they 
have since come into a peculiarly rich heritage 
of fame. It is certain that the first appearance 
of William Lloyd Garrison and his company of 
Abolitionists evoked no applause from Mr. Bene- 
dict, although, as in the case of many other 
leading Anti-masons, subsequently, his conver- 



27 



sion to Anti-slavery became radically complete. 
If the cause of liberty and justice received some 
of its most able and faithful adherents from the 
disbanded array of Anti-masonry, it was also 
scandalized and betrayed by traitors and apos- 
tates from the same quarter, whose baseness and 
treachery are without parallel in our history, 
this side of Benedict Arnold and the epoch of 
the Revolution. 

It was not among the designs of Providence 
that a movement, fraught with results to the 
country and the world infinitely beyond any the 
projectors of it conceived, should proceed far, 
without the participation of one who seems to 
have been created, especially, for its purposes. 
How Mr, Weed and Mr. Benedict were drawn 
to him, is naively told by Mr. Greeley himself, 
in the celebrated " Seward, Weed and Greeley " 
letter, thus : " I was a poor young printer and 
Editor of a Literary Journal — a very active and 
bitter Whig in a small way, but not seeking to 
be known out of my own Ward Committee, 
when, after the great political revulsion of 1837, 
I was one day called to the City Hotel, where 

28 



two strangers introduced themselves as Thurlow 
Weed and Lewis Benedict of Albany. They 
told me that a cheap Campaign Paper of a pecu- 
liar stamp at Albany had been resolved on, and 
that I had been selected to edit it." In the 
same connection, Mr Greeley says ; " It was 
work that made no figure and created no sensa- 
tion, but I loved it and did it well." The paper 
in question was The Jeffersonimi, established 
by Mr. Benedict at his own risk, and as it 
proved, at his own loss; but Mr. Greeley's cha- 
racterization of his share of the work is quite 
too modest to be just. He made it one of the 
most effective journals, for its purpose, that had 
ever been printed ; and if he were not in the 
front rank of political journalists before, he cer- 
tainly was, after The Jeffersonia7i had deve- 
loped his vast capabilities for that department 
of the profession. Mr. Greeley, himself writing 
thirty years later, says : " The Jeffersonian was 
a campaign paper, but after a fashion of its own. 
It carefully eschewed abuse, scurrility and rail- 
ing accusations. Its editorials were few, brief 
and related to the topics of the day, rarely 



3!) 



evincing partisanship, never bitterness. * * 

* * * In short, it aimed to convince 
and win by candor and moderation, ratlier than 
overbear by passion and vehemence. * * 

* =•' I think its efficiency was somewhat 
evidenced by the fact that, while the whigs were 
beaten that Fall in Maine, in Pennsylvania, in 
Ohio (which they had carried two years before), 
and in nearly or quite every State westward 
of Ohio, they were successful in the later elec- 
tion in New York, as the result of a desperate 
struggle, and on an average vote largely beyond 
precedent, William H. Seward ousting William 
L. Marcy from the Governor's chair, and Luther 
Bradish succeeding John Tracy as Lieutenant 
Governor — each by more than ten thousand 
majority." Mr. Benedict's admiration of Mr. 
Greeley's intellectual ability and respect for his 
moral worth increased steadily with his oppor- 
tunities for observing them, and were never 
greater than in the latter years of his life. 

Mr. Benedict was not spared the false charge 
that the Civil War was precipitated by the party 
he had done so much to sustain ; nor when his son 

30 



was a jDrisoner of war in the fearful hands of the 
Confederates, the taunt, that but for the labors of 
such as himself, that son might have been safe in 
his father's house instead ; but none of those 
things moved him. Before the captivity of his 
son was ended and while the strife of the Rebel- 
lion was raging, he died ; his latest and most 
cherished belief being that, but for the education 
furnished by " Seward, Weed and Greeley," the 
people would not have attained to the degree of 
intelligent and conscientious patriotism, of which 
the Civil War was at once the evidence and the 
measure. With his own share in that grand 
course of discipline and instruction, which com- 
prised a generation in its term, and in its 
graduates a nation, and with its momentous 
consequences, he vv'as happy and satisfied ; and 
with serene unconcern he left to such as took 
knowledge of it, the task, or the pleasure as it 
might be, to define its limits or calculate its 
value. Assuming nothinghimself and claiming 
nothing from others, fully equal to being re- 
membered or forgotten, he accepted, as a present 
and adequate reward, the testimony of his own 

>!1 



conscience that, to the best of his ability, he had 
put every talent committed to his charge to the 
use of his fellow men, without respect to their 
physical or moral differences, or to political or 
geographical partitions of the common Earth. 

If he was less than the equal of some of his 
colleagues in essays, which required for their 
due performance more thorough intellectual 
training than he possessed, there were depart- 
ments in which few exceeded him either in 
practical knowledge or experience. His legiti- 
mate business made him familiar with the prin- 
ciples and routine of foreign and domestic trade ; 
for although a dealer in the products of his own 
country, he was also a large importer of goods 
manufactured abroad. His connection with 
banks, whether as director or dealer, was inti- 
mate and extensive, both in city and country. 
The Finances, particularly in relation to banks 
and currency, both State and National, were 
chronically in a condition, that coerced political 
parties to take ground in reference to them. 
The revenue policy of the country was settled 
rather by the ballot-box than by Congress, and 

32 



the Tariff question was seldom absent from the 
elements of party strife. In relation to such 
matters he was a competent adviser and his 
counsels were received with respect. He had 
much to do with suggesting and shaping the 
most important legislation concerning Banks 
and Currency, that was had while his party 
was dominant in the State. 

It would not consist with the limits or design 
of this paper to recount, with even an approxi- 
mation to completeness, the multiform labors 
Mr. Benedict jjerformed, the sacrifices of busi- 
ness and money he offered, the anxieties and 
trials he endured, through long years, in order 
to advance the cause of good government and 
universal freedom. To do that, it would require 
a history of all the phases of faith that parties 
exhibited, of all the changes in their relations 
and management, and of all the vicissitudes of 
fortune they encountered during his long politi- 
cal course; as well as a narrative of his personal 
experiences that, alone, would fill a volume. 
It is enough to say, that in devising, nourishing 
and expanding, the political organization, whose 

33 



course at times may have seemed erratic and its 
aims shifting enough to render its identity ques- 
tionable ; only, however, in the view of such as 
perceived not certain steady purposes, of which 
the far-sighted statesmen who shaped its ends 
never lost sight. Whatever the change, it was 
never capricious or wanton, nor opposed to the 
main design of the party or to the spirit of the age. 
It is curious as a fact and not less fortunate as 
a coincidence, that the same lines which divided 
the People on questions of political economy, 
also separated them in respect to those which 
concerned the rights and liberties of the citizen. 
Hence, the Liberal party comprised the same 
body thai made up the party of Protection to 
American Labor; and the Pro-slavery party, 
after the invention of the Cotton Gin by Whit- 
• ney, was always the party of Free Trade. Its 
cohesion, therefore, was maintained without 
fracture under mutations of policy, and even of 
name ; because they were not merely justified, 
but rather compelled, by the crumbling of ideas 
and systems which prescription alone had sus- 
tained but could no longer uphold, by the pres- 

34 



sure of new wants, by the irresistible impulses 
of expanding thouglifand the ameliorations of 
christian ci vilization . The charge of inconstancy 
to names or twilight professions was pointless 
against a strong consciousness of progress toward 
its ultimate purpose ; and both the homogene- 
ousness of the party and the near accord between 
it and its counsellors were finally vindicated, by 
the unbroken front and undivided counsels it 
opposed to disunion and treason. It dispersed 
all doubts and disclosed its true mission, perhaps 
not its last, in the sublime manifestations of 
force and patience, of love of liberty and love 
of country, made by the Republican party of the 
Civil War. 

Darker days than the Liberal party saw in 
the course of its protracted struggle never 
dawned upon country; still, neither the 
hope nor the sjoirit of its leaders ever flao-o-ed 
nor did their followers cease to trust in them. 
The day is past when any may contemn the 
wisdom, doubt the patriotism or deny the ser- 
vices, of that illustrious triumvirate, "Seward, 
Weed and Greeley," and escape the imputation 



that themselves are neither wise, patriotic 
nor truthful. If the genius and capacity for 
thought and labor they displayed early in 
their career, filled their friends with delight 
and hope, their cotemporaries of all other 
shades of belief beheld their essays with 
wonder; and none more, than some who ar- 
raigned their principles and policy with much 
bitterness of spirit. The lofty courage and 
steady perseverance with which they pursued 
beneficent ends, kept hope alive for years in 
hearts that, but for such encouragement, would 
have failed altogether. And now, in view of 
benefits already harvested and of those the 
future promises, so largely the fruits of their 
culture, who shall say that they have not made 
us, our posterity and all mankind, forever their 
debtors ? 

Of the little company who shared in the 
councils of which this party was born, who 
framed its issues, organized its forces, planned 
its campaigns and then fought them, who mode- 
rated its triumphs and retrieved its defeats, by 
all of which its growth was first protected and 



then assured, next to those eminent men, who 
comes, if not Lewis Benedict, with his fertile 
brain, his tireless and gratuitous industry, his 
invincible courage ? 

The hand of affection attempting a sketch of 
a friend, is apt to find that it has accomplished 
merely a eulogy ; and in such circumstances, it 
is assuring in a high degree to be able to test, 
and if need be, to correct friendly exaggeration, 
by cool estimates from independent sources. 
Three of Mr. Benedict's co-laborers, fitted by 
long and intimate association to speak of his quali- 
ties, and from their position best acquainted 
with the nature and extent of his services, 
while, by wisdom and great poHtical experience, 
they were also best able of all men to compute 
the value of them, have recorded their opinions 
of him and his works. On an occasion which 
made it proper for Mr. Weed to speak in this 
behalf, he said: "In the darkest days of Jack- 
sonism and Van Burenism, when the ' Albany 
Regency ' wielded with an iron despotism the 
power of the General State and City Govern- 
ments, Mr. Benedict was foremost, in services 



37 



and sacrifices, among the few who upheld the 
Wliig Banner. As Chairman of the Whig State 
Committee, for six memorable years, he was the 
political engineer who organized and guided the 
Whig phalanx. To him there were no terrors 
in defeat. Beaten in one campaign, he imme- 
diately set about a reorganization for another. 
In 1837 he established The Jeffersonian, a 
paper which contributed largely to the successes 
which followed. In the great Presidential con- 
flict of 1840, Mr. Benedict abandoning his own 
business, gave himself up to the Whig party. 
Every county in the State was thoroughly or- 
ganized. For two years preceding that election, 
Mr. Benedict's time, thoughts and energies were 
given wholly to his duties as Chairman of the 
State Committee. In 1844 Mr. Benedict was 
again acting in the field. Until the latter part 
of August of that year, none doubted our suc- 
cess in this State. Circumstances, however, 
which need not be referred to now, created ap- 
prehensions. Mr. Benedict sent intelligent 
Whigs through the Northern and South West- 
ern counties; and after opening an extensive 



correspondence with the Whig County Commit- 
tees, went West himself. The result of his in- 
quiries proved that our State was in danger. 
An estimate, based upon information thus ob- 
tained, gave our opponents a majority. This 
information was communicated to our leading 
friends, in September, accompanied with sugges- 
tions which it was believed would save the 
State. Those, however, who subsequently 
abused us for losing the State, insisted that there 
was no danger. Again early in October, 
Mr. Benedict renewed his warnings, and urged 
immediate and efficient action. Mr. Clay was 
then our Candidate for President and Mr. Fill- 
more for Governor. Mr. Benedict, foreseeing 
their danger, marked out a plan which promised 
to save both ; but strange as it may seem, Mr. 
Benedict was thwarted in his efforts to save the 
State by the advice of a gentleman whom Mr. 
Fillmore has recently appointed a Foreign 
Minister. We impugn not the motives of that 
Gentleman. The fatal error was in his judg- 
ment. Believing, as he and another gentleman 
then present did believe, that the State was 



39 



abundantly safe without the effort suggested by 
Mr. Benedict, their counsels prevailed, and all was 
lost." [Albany Evening Journal, Oct. 5, 1850). 

Gov. Seward addressing him, in 1843, wrote : 
" I owe a debt of everlasting gratitude to Weed, 
which I shall never repudiate. And to you I 
am sensible I am scarcely less indebted. With 
all his talent, his wisdom, his sagacity and his 
virtues, there would have been no successful 
Whig party without your energetic and indo- 
mitable efforts; and but for your generosity 
towards me, I should have been a stranger to all 
benefits of the party success. These obligations 
I have always held in more cherishing remem- 
brance, because I knew that your motives were 
free from selfishness and every kind of interest. 
I should have no satisfaction in remembering 
the favors thus lavished upon me, if I had not 
the consciousness of having endeavored to ele- 
vate the Administration to the standard of its 
wisest and most disinterested friends." 

Mr. Greeley says : " When I first met Lewis 
Benedict (in 1837) he was more than fifty years 
old. Directness, shrewdness, quickness of ob- 

40 



servation and inflexible decision, were his lead- 
ing characteristics. He was eminently and em- 
phatically a man of business. He used no more 
words than were necessary, and having formed 
and expressed his opinion was not easily moved 
to reconsider the matter. His interest in pub- 
lic affairs was profound and eager ; but he had 
no desire to be conspicuous even in movements 
which he inspired and directed. He had no 
dream of ever holding office, no wish to be 
known as a wielder of authority or power. He 
sought success through the diffusion of intelli- 
gence, the enlightenment of the masses. For 
the arts of the demagogue he had a profound 
contempt; for the villainies of the ballot box 
stuffer, the miscounter of votes fairly cast, he 
cherished an intense and righteous detestation. 
Others were more widely known and enjoyed a 
far greater popularity; but of the men whose 
incessant exertions and sacrifices contributed to 
wrest our State from democratic control through 
the protracted, arduous struggle of 1837-40, 
hardly one labored more efficiently than Lewis 
Benedict." 



41 



In domestic and social relations Mr. Benedict 
revealed softnesses and sympathies, which a 
somewhat brusque manner and a certain posi- 
tiveness in statement, quite common with him, 
gave no token that he possessed. Such as met 
him only in the struggles and competitions of 
ordinary life and business, might have pro- 
nounced him too intolerant of errors or differ- 
ences of opinion, and too dogmatic, to be either 
genial in nature or charitable in spirit ; but all 
who knew him in his private ways would have 
dissented from such a conclusion. His high re- 
spect for science and learning and his desire to 
promote their diffusion have been already hinted 
at ; but it is due to his memory to state, that, 
although he was not formally a member of any 
church, his view of agencies suitable to the end 
he desired was comprehensive enough to include 
every means of instruction devised by religious 
though tfulness. Thus while he was generously 
aiding and patronizing secular institutions and 
schemes, both by money and influence, he was 
habitually and for conscience sake, a contributor 
to the support of every enterprise that promised 

42 



to increase the knowledge and elevate the morals 
of the youth of the country. The poor whether 
of the church or the street, were always objects 
of his regard ; and during many years it was his 
custom to consider their wants in connection 
with those of his own household, and provide 
for both. The chief trouble these benefactions 
cost him was to hide the knowledge of them 
from all but the beneficiaries themselves. His 
practical concern with j)ublic questions and party 
management made him acquainted with men of 
parallel pursuits and position of every kind of 
political belief; and it was one of his pleasures 
to assemble in his own house guests so opposed 
in sentiment to himself, and sometimes to each 
other, that any host might have hesitated to 
bring them together ; as if to demonstrate how 
rigorously he excluded from the sacred retreats 
of private life, the asperities and antagonisms 
in which none indulged more freely than him- 
self outside of those inclosures. These gene- 
rous and hospitable modes characterized his 
domestic and social life during his long career 
as merchant and politician. When advanced 

43 



years set for him the lesson they spare no man 
of like standing and pursuits, such was the 
modesty of his nature that he accepted and 
learned it, in the absence of all self-conscious- 
ness that age had impaired his discretion. And 
when the new generation came seeking its 
rightful place on the stage of human action, he 
welcomed and made way for it with alacrity ; 
retiring himself with dignity jind composure 
that had their origin and support in a convic- 
tion, that he had so acted an important part, 
that it would not become him to claim exemp- 
tion from a remorseless rule, or expose himself 
to suspicion, even at the hands of the thoughtless 
or unjust, that he inclined to "lag superfluous 
on the stage." His numerous family, a large 
circle of relatives and some attached friends, 
preserved cheerfulness in his house ; and an ac- 
cumulation of unsettled affairs, the legacy of 
forty years of active mercantile business, gave 
employment to all the time he was willing to 
spare from the contemplation of public affairs 
and scrutiny of the action of public men. In 
his latter years, though at times annoyed by the 

44 



approaches of the malady that finally caused his 
death, he was seldom confined to his house, and 
his habits, both of mind and body, continued to 
be active until his mortal sickness supervened. 
On the fourteenth of January, 1862, his house 
was the scene of one of those festivities, occasions 
for which, if not altogether rare, are at least not 
common. It was the fiftieth anniversary of his 
marriage and he commemorated it by a Golden 
Wedding. The occurrence was one of great 
interest in his family and among his friends, and 
called forth many evidences of joy and respect. 
The unusual degree of health and vigor ex- 
hibited by the venerable couple was a theme of 
remark and congratulation among their guests. 
Especially noticeable was it that, a benignant 
Providence had led the husband to the age of 
seventy-seven and the wife to that of seventy- 
one, sparing both not only the infirmity of body 
common to that stage of life, but even the slight- 
est premonitory symptom of the atrojjhy of mind 
which so often enervates the blessing of " length 
of days." Beyond some blanching of the hair 
and some furrowing of the cheek, the accepted 

' 45 



signs of old age were altogether wanting. The 
burden of years had bowed neither, nor did 
speech or manner foreshadow the near approach 
of decrepitude or decay ; but erect in figure and 
vivacious in spirit, they received their friends 
as they might have done forty years earlier. 
Notwithstanding the expectation of life, reason- 
ably justified by his high physical and mental 
condition on that evening, in six months there- 
after, Lewis Benedict had no existence, save in 
memory. He died July 15, 1862. 

His wife survived him more than seven years, 
dying December 30, 1869, in her seventy -ninth 
year. This prolongation of life appeared to be 
due partly to physical causes, but largely to 
moral ones. Her assiduous personal perform- 
ance of the functions of housekeeping, to which, 
both taste and habit inclined her, involved so 
much bodily exercise that she preserved her 
health under a degree of seclusion in her own 
house, that would seem not to favor such a re- 
sult. When this class of duties was discharged 
her immediate and constant recourse was to 
reading ; and thus stagnation of mind was pre- 

46 



eluded. Sorrow for the dead, love for the liv- 
ing, the obligations of good neighborhood and 
the practice of religious services and duties, 
kept her moral sensibilities animate and tender. 
A course of life better adapted to foster physical 
health and strength, and to develop the most 
amiable and useful qualities of our common 
nature, could hardly have been devised. 

Without the slightest consciousness that it 
could be well indicated by so technical a name, 
she really exemplified by her " walk and con- 
versation " a well digested system of philosophy ; 
one that proved adequate to sustain and comfort 
her under all the trials of a life, which if rich in 
prosperity for the most part, was by no means free 
from adversity. The doctrine of Chance found 
no refuge within her system. Design reigned 
over it without a rival. Life, in her view, was 
void of accidents ; its joys and its sorrows were 
at once referred to the volition of a will di- 
rected by an intelligence higher than her own, 
and tempered by a kindness even tenderer than 
her own. Every dispensation of Providence, 
whether it caused her heart to leap for joy or 



47 



overflow with grief, was accepted as a manifest- 
ation of administrative wisdom beyond her com- 
prehension, or of a love whose depths she could 
not fathom ; and her vocation was, either to 
rejoice with reverence, or mourn " not as those 
without hope." The death of her husband, the 
most poignant of her distresses, she bore with 
anguish justified by her love for the lost and 
that showed the thoroughness of her humanity ; 
and yet with faith and patience that demon- 
strated the energy of her trust in the wisdom 
and mercy which guided the hand that smote 
her. During her long Christian course, and at 
the time of her death she was, with a single ex- 
ception, the most aged member of her church, 
she was exemplary in discharging the duties 
that belonged to her profession, and careful not 
to omit such as were due to those not " of the 
household of faith." It was a beautiful testi- 
mony to the equitable character of her convic- 
tions, that in her scheme of Christian duty the 
claims of both God and Man were regarded; 
and she felt that she had no more right to 
withhold from " Caesar the things that are 

4H 



Caesar's," than from " God, the things that are 
God's." She respected the image of her Maker 
wherever it had pleased him to impress it, and 
she recognized His temple in every human being 
no matter with what hue the Creator might have 
colored his work. The generous and catholic 
spirit that glowed in her husband greatly added 
to her facilities to meet the calls of duty and con- 
science; for she but pleased him while she re- 
freshed her own soul, by devoting his substance 
liberally but discreetly, to the spreading of gos- 
pel truth, the diffusion of Christian morals and 
the alleviation of human want and suffering. 

The way she most affected, however, was, 
according to her sensitive and retiring nature, 
" along the cool sequestered vale of life ; " for, 
as has been intimated, general society had but 
few charms for her, although her own house 
had been one of its constant resorts. Her tastes 
were strongly domestic and her habits conformed 
to them to the uttermost degree her social 
duties and position would permit. Her most 
winning appearance, perhaps, was in the place 
she most coveted ; — at her own fireside. There, 

49 



surrounded by her family and encouraged by 
such attention as proceeds from love and respect, 
from her quiet seat, she dispensed the treasures 
of memory and the fruits of reflection ; inter- 
spersed with counsels that were timely and 
justified by her experience of life. Familiar as 
she was with the family histories of the circle 
which composed the society of her early days, 
she had no remembrances for the passages which 
the dictates of a kind heart and regard for social 
peace, suggested were better forgotten than re- 
called; and of all her inculcations none were 
more frequent or earnest, or better enforced 
by her own practice, than such as commended 
forbearance and charity in speech. Among the 
most fixed of her customs was, after the even- 
ing lamp had been lighted, to give her attention 
to the daily journals. From girlhood she had 
been accustomed to read aloud, first for her 
father, then for her husband ; and having be- 
come accomplished in the art she continued to 
use it for the pleasure and advantage of her 
family. By these means she appropriated as 
much as she imparted ; and it followed by the 

50 



aid of a retentive memory, that she kept herself 
informed as to public affairs and matters of 
general interest, and she seldom withheld such 
speculations as their nature and condition suo-- 
gested. 

When the Civil War broke out, and her son 
was in the Union army, her diligence in glean- 
ing both fact and doctrine from the newspapers 
was quickened; and she analysed them with 
the best powers of her mind and conscience, to the " 
obvious increase of her moral force and capacity. 
Few statesmen comprehended the causes or conse- 
quences of the war, few military men, its events 
more accurately than she did. Her impromptu 
criticisms of men and measures often surprised 
her auditors by their depth and shrewdness; 
and not seldom were the faith and courage of 
others renewed and fortified by her interpreta- 
tion of the same handwriting that had filled 
them with terror. The New York Tribaue and 
the Independent became as necessary to her as 
her daily bread ; and gathering inspiration from 
their stirring appeals, she rendered to others 
their patriotic exhortations, with a fervency and 



51 



impressiveness that seemed to inspire them anew. 
When a Confederate volley sent her son to 
death, in the battle of Pleasant Hill, and shat- 
tered her own heart, she mourned indeed like 
bereaved Kachel of old ; but neither the cloud 
of the battle, nor the mists of her own grief, 
were dense enough to hide from her eyes cer- 
tain compensations inhering in the justness and 
holiness of the cause for which he died, and in 
the wealth of the harvest yet to be reaped by 
mankind from that sowing of blood ; nor did 
she cease to uphold the national cause, by act, 
by speech and by prayer, as if her heart had not 
been wrung. No disloyal utterance escaped 
her rebuke, no disloyal citizen, her contempt, 
while the war lasted; and one of the most 
grievous of her spiritual trials was, perhaps, 
after the war, when she strove to forgive those 
who, in her judgment, had been false to God, to 
Man and to their Country. In other days, a 
less degree of self-sacrificing and earnest love of 
humanity, of liberty and of country, than she 
exhibited, has rescued the name of more than one 
woman from oblivion ; but the times will be 

52 



evil indeed when sucli an exemplar of those vir- 
tues, as Susan Benedict, shall fail to receive the 
respect and gratitude of the loyal and humane 
to whom these presents may come. 

Such traits as might have been looked for, 
from the mixed nature of the parentage of Mrs. 
Benedict and her training, appeared in her with 
more than ordinary distinctness. The qualities 
of order and neatness, proverbially important 
constituents of Dutch character, she inherited 
from a Mother of that race and in abundant 
measure; while her education and culture, 
after the New England pattern, developed 
moral characteristics and mental habitudes that 
might have contented a Puritan. The latter 
was the work of her Father, a New England 
man ; and of course, such proclivities were not 
checked by her marriage to a Husband of like 
origin. 

In the earlier portion of her married life, while 
family cares and household duties left her few 
waking hours for other pursuits, opportunity to 
gratify her taste for reading and reflection was 
somewhat limited; but, after the maturity of 



53 



her children, and still more after the death of 
her husband and son, she remitted to others 
many of the cares which theretofore had been her 
own, and devoted much time to reading and 
meditation. Every day brought some contribu- 
tion to her fund of knowledge, or revealed some 
access of capability to turn her acquisitions to 
account. Her views of affairs, whether public 
or private, became broader and clearer, her ob- 
servations more acute, her counsels wiser; and 
while a general and increasing elevation was 
discernible throughout her deportment, her 
tone and manner appreciably softened. She 
grew meeker in spirit as she waxed stronger in 
mind, was more placable than ever though 
always prone to forgive, more charitable toward 
dissent, though never intolerant; and contrary 
to common experience, in her last illness, exer- 
cised powers both of memory and of judgment 
with a force and precision not equalled in all 
her previous life. With entire submissiveness 
to the divine will and self-possession not less 
complete, yet in a frame of mind as far removed 
from presumption or indifference as it was from 



fear, and by the light of That Countenance 
which her last prayer supplicated might shine 
upon her, she met and conquered her last and 
only enemy Death, taking from him his stino- 
and from the Grave its victory by the omnipo- 
tent influences of Christian Faith and Hope ; a 
demonstration all the more conclusive, because 
it would seem that a Greater than either had 
constrained both Age and Disease to respect her 
moral and intellectual faculties ; that, with them 
in their best estate, she might show the suffi- 
ciency of the Grace of God for the needs of that 
supreme hour, which, better than the longest 
life, proves the insufficiency of the mightiest of 
the props and stays that the Art of Man can 
provide from the resources of this world. 



55