At the age of eighteen he entered the High School on Temple Hill, in the village of Genesee, Livingston county, New York, and commenced preparing for college, under the tuition of that eminent scholar and accomplished educator, the late Cornelius C. Felton, who subsequently became President of Harvard University. Mr. Kelly entered the Freshman class at Harvard in 1829, and graduated with his class in the year 1833. He immediately commenced the study of the law, with the late Orlando Hastings, Esq., of Rochester, N. Y., and read three years in his office and under his direction, when he was admitted to practice. He came to Cleveland in the year 1836, and formed a law copartnership with his old friend, college classmate and chum, the Hon. Thomas Bolton; the firm name was Bolton & Kelly. This partnership continued until the year 1851, when S. O. Griswold Esq., who had been their law student, was taken into the firm; the firm name thereafter being Bolton, Kelly & Griswold. This connection continued until the close of the year 1856, when Mr. Bolton was elected Judge of the Court of Common Pleas. Since Judge Bolton retired from the firm Messrs. Kelly & Griswold have continued the practice of law under that firm name, and are still engaged in the practice.
Mr. Kelly has made commercial law and equity jurisprudence his special studies, and in these branches of the law his great skill and learning are acknowledged by all his brethren. Indeed, as an equity lawyer he stands at the head of the profession.
It will be seen from the year 1836 until the present time, Mr. Kelly has devoted himself closely to the practice of the law; the only interruption to this was a two years service as State senator in the legislature of Ohio during the years 1844 and 1845. He was elected to the senate by the Whig party of the counties of Cuyahoga and Geauga, these two counties then composing one senatorial district. During the first session of the General Assembly, of which he was a member, the Democrats had a majority in the Senate while the Whigs had the control of the lower house. As is usual when a legislature is thus politically divided, no measures of general interest were adopted. But there happened during that session to arise a question which showed Mr. Kelly's independence, and true character. The Democracy had made complaint of the Whig extravagance and laid great claim on their own part to retrenchment and economy in the State administration. The Whigs to make political capital, proposed a bill reducing the salaries of all State officers; the salary of the Judges was put at $750 per year and the pay of all other State officials in the same ratio. The measure was adopted by the party caucus, and was carried through the lower house.
It was hoped by many that the Senate, being Democratic, would defeat the bill, and thus the Whigs would have credit for great economy at the expense of the Democrats. But when it came to that body, the Democracy, not to be out done by their opponents, favored the bill.
Mr. Kelly, singly and alone of all his party, opposed the measure, and spoke and voted against it. The bill was finally carried but was repealed in the course of a year or two afterwards.
The most prominent subject before the legislature at the second session was the establishment of a suitable banking system for the State. The business men of Cleveland were in favor of free banks, but the great body of the Whig party were strongly in favor of a State Bank and branches, and having a majority in both houses in the session of 1845 were determined to establish that system. Mr. Kelly succeeded in engrafting upon the State Bank scheme the Independent Bank system, with State stocks pledged to secure the circulation, and also in adding additional checks and safeguards to the State Bank. His efforts in this direction were duly appreciated by his constituents, and at a public meeting, called by the principal business men of the city, irrespective of party, his action on the Bank bill was specially approved.
It is to be observed also that the present National Bank system is modeled after the plan of free banking advocated by Mr. Kelly at that time.
During the same session a question arose in which Mr. Kelly took an active part, in opposition to the great body of his party, the event of which vindicated his sagacity and practical statesmanship. The question was upon a bill to grant to the Ohio Life and Trust Company authority to issue bills to circulate as currency, to the extent of half a million of dollars. At the time this bill was introduced no banking System had been adopted by the legislature; most of the charters of the old banks had expired prior to that time, and the State was without an adequate bank circulation of its own. The chief stockholders and managers of that corporation were men of high character and great wealth. The company had been successfully managed, and its credit was then deservedly high. Also the principal men of the company were leading Whigs, among these were Judges Jacob Burnett and John E. Wright of Cincinnati, Nathaniel Wright of Cincinnati and Alfred Kelley Esq., who was also at the same time a member of the senate from the Franklin district, and this application on the part of the company was backed by the presence and Personal influence of these gentlemen. The plea made by this company for this additional banking privilege was exceedingly plausible, and the measure was approved in a caucus of the Whig members almost without inquiry. The bill was introduced into the Senate by the Hon. Alfred Kelley, and its success was considered certain. Mr. Moses Kelly, alone of his party, expressed his opposition to the bill. Urged as the measure was by so many leading men,' and introduced by the acknowledged leader of the party, it seemed that such opposition must be fruitless. But on the third reading of the bill Mr. Kelly attacked it in a speech of great vigor, and strength of argument. He opposed it as unjust towards any banking system that might be established and as unwise in giving additional privileges to an already powerful corporation. Bat he opposed it chiefly because it gave to the corporation power to issue bills as money simply on individual security. He contended that whenever the State permitted any corporation or organization to issue bills to pass as money the faith of the State should be pledged to their ultimate redemption. While paying a high compliment to the ability and integrity of the managers of the Ohio Life and Trust Company, he declared there was no security but what in the future it might pass into the control of Wall street shavers and brokers, and from thence to ruin, and the people of the State left remediless with a worthless circulation in their hands. His vigorous opposition, and the strength of his argument awakened the attention of the party to the evils of the measure, and notwithstanding its powerful backing, the bill was effectually killed by Mr. Kelly's speech.
Mr. Alfred Kelley was greatly grieved at the failure of this measure. He however lived to see his error, and the ruinous failure of that company through the recklessness of the Wall street management into whose hands, as had been predicted, that company finally fell. Judge John C. Wright, now in Columbus, advocated the aforesaid measure. He was then the senior editor of the Cincinnati Gazette, and the influence of his paper was given to the bill. Although old, he was in the full enjoyment of his powers of intellect, and at that time wielded a great influence in the political affairs of the State. It happened that he was present in the senate chamber when Mr. Kelly made his speech against the bill; although chagrined at the defeat of the measure in which he had such personal interest, so struck was he with the originality and force of the argument of Mr. Kelly, and with his independence of character, and ability to rise above mere party considerations in his legislative career, that he sought Mr. Kelly's personal acquaintance, and during the remainder of his life there existed a warm personal friendship between them.
At the expiration of his term of service Mr. Kelly returned to the practice and ever since has devoted his energies to his profession. The office of Bolton & Kelly has been the school of many prominent lawyers. Among the members of the Cleveland Bar who studied under them are Messrs. F. T. Backus, George Willey, John E. Cary and his present partner, Mr. Griswold. Mr. Kelly was City Attorney in the year 1839, and a member of the City Council in 1841. While he was in the Council he was active in support of the Lake Shore improvement, which stopped the rapid encroachment of the Lake upon the shore in front of Lake street.
In 1849, Mr. Kelly was appointed by the legislature one of the Commissioners of the city of Cleveland to subscribe on behalf of the city to the capital stock of the Cleveland & Pittsburgh Railroad Company. He accepted the trust, and for a number of successive years thereafter, until the stock of the city in that road was disposed of, was chosen a Director of the Cleveland & Pittsburgh Railroad Company, to represent the interests of this city in the capital stock of that company.
In September, 1866, he was appointed by President Johnson District Attorney of the United States for the Northern District of Ohio, and held the office until the next March, not having been confirmed by the Radical senate for the reason that he had been a member of the Philadelphia Convention of the previous summer.
On the organization of the City Bank of Cleveland under the law of 1845, Mr. Kelly became a stockholder therein and was a director, and its attorney, during its existence, and has continued in the same connection with the National City Bank which succeeded the former. He also for a number of years has been a director and attorney of the Cuyahoga Steam Furnace Company.
Mr. Kelly was one of the organizers of St. Paul's Episcopal church, and has always remained a liberal supporter of the same.
He was married in the year 1839 to Jane, the daughter of Gen. Hezekiah Howe, of New Haven, Conn.
In 1850, Mr. Kelly purchased a tract of about thirty acres, being a part of what was then known as the "Giddings farm," fronting on Euclid avenue, a short distance East of Willson avenue. Here he soon after erected a tasteful dwelling, where he has since resided, and where in the leisure snatched from professional avocations he has gratified his taste for horticultural and agricultural pursuits.
In person Mr. Kelly is tall and spare, and dignified in demeanor, and although he has reached three score, he is still active and in good health. His character for integrity is unblemished and in his long professional career has never been known to uphold or defend a dishonorable cause. His rule has been to decline advocating causes which, in his judgment, have neither merits nor justice. In social intercourse he is affable and genial, and in public, private and professional life, has always commanded the respect, esteem and confidence of his fellow men. Firm in his convictions of duty, and resolute in doing it, yet so respectful and courteous to opponents is he that he may be said to be a man without an enemy.
The great rise in real estate and his professional earnings have rendered Mr. Kelly, if not what in these days would be called wealthy, comparatively rich, and surrounded, as he is, by an affectionate family and kind friends and possessed of all the enjoyments which culture and a successful life brings, we trust he may long continue amongst us.
It has been said of history, that it should never venture to deal except with periods comparatively remote. And this was doubtless true when literature was venal, or in any way subservient to royal or to party power.
It has been alike suggested of biography, that it cannot be securely trusted in the portrayal of the living. And this is no doubt true where political or partisan objects are sought to be subserved. But with this exception the most faithful portraits may naturally be expected where the subjects of them are before us, and familiarly known to us. And so that the hand refrains from those warmer tints which personal friendship might inspire, and simply aims at sketches which the general judgment may recognize and approve, the task, however difficult, cannot be said to be unsafe.
Thomas Bolton was born in Scipio, Cayuga county, New York, November 29th, 1809. His father was an extensive farmer in that section of western New York, where rich fields, and flowing streams, and beautiful scenery, are happily combined.
At seventeen he entered the High School on Temple Hill, in Geneseo, where he fitted for college; and in the Fall of 1829, he entered Harvard University, where he graduated in 1833, the first in his class in mathematics. In this connection, it is pleasant to advert to the fact that his most intimate schoolmate, classmate and fellow graduate, was Hon. Moses Kelly, who was afterwards his partner in the law for many years at Cleveland, and that between the two from boyhood down to the present day, there has been a steadfast and unbroken life-friendship almost fraternal, both now in affluence, but still living side by side. Such life-long friendships are unusual, but whenever they do exist, they imply the presence in both parties of true and trusty qualities which preserve their character as pure cement, exposed to any atmosphere, or tried in any furnace.
After graduating, Mr. Bolton entered upon the study of law at Canandaigua, in the office of John G. Spencer, now deceased, but then a strong and distinguished name in the profession. At the end of a year he came west, to seek a permanent location to further pursue his studies and enter upon the practice, first stopping at Cleveland, on finding that any further west was hardly within the pale of civilization. Cleveland itself was then, September, 1834, but a mere village, of about twenty-five hundred inhabitants. Superior street had not been graded, and at its western terminus was higher than the first story of the Atwater Block, and the bank of the lake extended fifteen rods out beyond the present Union Depot. The village did not become a city till 1836, when at a public meeting to determine upon the corporate limits, Mr. Bolton was appointed on a committee to draft the charter, and urged that both sides of the river should be embraced, but was overruled, and Ohio City was established on the other side of the river as a sort of rival, but since consolidated with Cleveland. His connection with city affairs was renewed as Councilman in 1839, and as Alderman in 1841.
But to go back to his professional life. Having studied law in the office of James L. Conger, at Cleveland, for a year, he was admitted to the Bar in September, 1835, by the Supreme Court of Ohio, on the Circuit, Chief Justice Peter Hitchcock, that Nestor among judges, then presiding. He was in partnership with Mr. Conger for a year, when he bought him out and sent for his old college friend, Mr. Kelly, with whom he formed a partnership, which continued until the Fall of 1856, a period of twenty years, when he was elected to the Bench.
As bearing upon his political career, it may be narrated, that in the Fall of 1839, he was elected prosecuting attorney of the county, at which time the Whig party was largely in the ascendancy, commanding from 1,500 to 2,000 majority, though he was a Democrat and nominated by the Democrats for the office. Two years later, at the expiration of his term, he was strongly solicited by both parties to take the office another term, but declined in consequence of the inadequacy of the salary.
An incident occurred during his term as prosecuting attorney which had a marked effect upon the politics of Cleveland and its vicinity. Up to 1841, slave-owners were in the habit of sending their agents to Cleveland and causing their runaway slaves to be arrested and taken before a magistrate, when a warrant would be obtained to return the slave, and he would be carried back into slavery. All this was done openly and publicly, creating little or no excitement, and Mr. Bolton, in the practice of his profession, was more frequently employed for this purpose than any other attorney in the city. In the Spring of 1841, three negroes, who were claimed as slaves, had run away from New Orleans and were in Buffalo. The agent of their master applied to a law firm in Cleveland for assistance. At that time, slaves arrested in Buffalo were in the habit of claiming a trial by jury, which was granted. To avoid a jury, with its sympathies, it was thought advisable to get the negroes into Ohio, and, accordingly, one of the attorneys, the agent and a negro of Cleveland, repaired to Buffalo. On their return the three negroes came with them, and it was said they had been kidnapped. On their arrival at Cleveland, the negroes were arrested under the law of Congress as fugitives from service, and lodged in the county jail. This information coming to the ears of the few Abolitionists then in the city, among others the late Hon. Edward Wade and Hon. John A. Foot, lawyers at the time in full practice, they applied to the jailor for admission to consult with the negroes. But public opinion was so strongly prejudiced against the Abolitionists that neither the jailor nor the sheriff would permit any of them to communicate with the prisoners. Accidentally, a colored man inquired of Mr. Bolton if he would take up their defence. He readily assented, and being prosecuting attorney of the county, and it being well understood that he was not an Abolitionist, the doors of the jail were readily opened to him, and he immediately made preparations for a vigorous defence of the prisoners. A writ of habeas corpus was immediately applied for to Judge Barber, one of the associate judges at the time; the negroes were brought before him, and their case continued for ninety days, to prepare for a defence.
When it was known about town that Mr. Bolton had undertaken the defence of the negroes, great indignation was excited, and many threatened to tear down his office, and to use violence toward his person. This only aroused him to greater energy and effort in behalf of the prisoners. In the meantime indictments were procured in Buffalo against the alleged kidnappers, and the excitement in the city greatly increased, so that on the day of the trial the court-house was packed with people. After an investigation, which lasted two days, the court discharged the defendants and they went acquit.
From the iniquitous proceeding in the case, and the manner in which it was prosecuted, and the excitement it produced, the community was led to reflect upon the iniquity of the system and the oppression of the law; and from that day till the slave-girl Lucy was sent back into Virginia slavery, in 1862, (to appease, it is said, the wrath of the rebels,) not a negro was sent back into slavery from the city of Cleveland, or county of Cuyahoga.
Mr. Bolton left the Democratic party in 1848, or, as he claims, it left him when it adopted its national platform of that year. He then joined the Free Soil party, and was a delegate to the Buffalo Convention, and one of its secretaries. In February, 1856, he assisted in organizing the Republican party at the Pittsburgh Convention, and in the Summer of the same year was a delegate from this Congressional District in the Philadelphia Convention, which nominated Fremont and Dayton.
When he was admitted to the Bar, the Court of Common Pleas, under the old Constitution, consisted of four members, a president judge and three associates, elected by the Legislature, and the Supreme Court of the State consisted of four judges, also chosen by the Legislature. A session of the Supreme Court was held by two of its members once a year in each county, and three sessions a year were held by the Court of Common Pleas in this and the adjoining counties. In 1835, Hon. Matthew Birchard, of Warren, was president judge. He was succeeded by Hon. Van R. Humphrey, of Hudson, and he by Hon. John W. Willey, of Cleveland, who died during his term. Hon. Reuben Hitchcock was appointed by the Governor to fill the vacancy, and Hon. Benjamin Bissel, of Painesville, was elected by the Legislature during the next session. Hon. Philemon Bliss, then of Elyria, and now Supreme Judge of Missouri, was afterward elected, and his term was cut short in 1851, by the adoption of the new Constitution, under which the judges were elected by the people for the term of five years. Hon. Samuel Starkweather was the first judge elected under the new system, and in 1856. Mr. Bolton was chosen his successor. In 1861, he was unanimounanimouslynated and elected without opposition, and in 1866, at the expiration of his second term, he retired from the Bench and the Bar.
We thus complete our outline sketch of the professional, judicial, and political career of one of our most prominent and respected citizens.
He came to the Bar of Cleveland before Cleveland was a city, and entered upon practice with that force and earnestness which were the ruling elements of his nature. He had able competitors, but he was a strong man amongst them. His promptness in the courts was proverbial. He was always ready, and if he granted indulgences he never asked for any. He was less given to books than his partner, Mr. Kelly, who was the student and chancery member of the firm, but in the ordinary departments of the common law and in criminal practice, he was always at home. He prepared his causes with the most thorough premeditation of the line of his own evidence, and of all the opposing evidence that could possibly be anticipated. Hence he moved with rapidity and precision, and was never taken by surprise. His arguments were not elaborate, or studied in point of finish, but they were strong, downright practical, and to the point. In this sense he was a fine and effective speaker to courts and juries.
These same characteristics he exhibited upon the Bench. Hardy and vigorous in his perceptions and understanding—thoroughly versed and ready in the law of pleadings and evidence—bringing to bear on the civil code, the logical training of the common law system—his ten years of service as a judge were honorable to himself and valuable to the public. In all the phases of his career and life he has been thoroughly upright.
Retired upon an ample fortune, amassed by forecast and business energy—fond of his home, and devoted with entire liberality to the education of his children—independent of office and in all other ways—strong and robust as ever in person and in mind—he is still a power in any direction wherever he chooses so to be. His broad, projecting brow, his direct and forcible speech and bearing, symbolize his character. They assure you of vital energy, strong, practical comprehension, directness and will. He may have more of the "fortiter in re" than of the "suaviter in modo" but all who know him have faith in his truth, implicit reliance upon the hearty fidelity of his friendships, and assurance, that he is always loyal to his convictions, both in public and in private life.
James M. Hoyt.
Several years since, the writer of this was in conversation with a poor man who had a hard struggle with misfortune and sickness in his attempt to rear a large family, and secure them a humble homestead. In the course of conversation the name of James M. Hoyt was mentioned, and the poor man was inquired of who that gentleman was. "Lawyer Hoyt?" he replied, "why he's the honest lawyer, God bless him!" He who could acquire this title among the poor must be no ordinary man.
James M. Hoyt was born in Utica, New York, January 16, 1815. The circumstances of his parents were such that he was enabled to acquire a good education, and graduated at Hamilton College, Clinton, New York, in 1834. On leaving College he commenced the study of law in Utica, but soon removed to Cleveland, where, in February, 1836, he read law in the office of Andrews & Foot. He remained with them in that capacity for one year, when a partnership was formed under the name of Andrews, Foot & Hoyt, which lasted about twelve years, and was dissolved only by the appointment of Judge Andrews to the bench of the Superior Court of Cuyahoga county. The firm of Foot & Hoyt continued four years longer, until in 1853, Mr. Hoyt withdrew from the practice of law and turned his attention wholly to the business of real estate, not as a broker, but as an operator on his own account, or in company with others, nearly all his operations being adjacent to the city. For the last twenty years his transactions have been very heavy, having made of land belonging to him wholly, or in part, in the city of Cleveland and its environs, thirty-one recorded sub-divisions, covering an area of five hundred acres, on which he has personally, or in connection with others interested with him, opened and named no less than seventy-six streets, including the well-known Croton, Laurel, Greenwood, Humbolt, Mahoning, Kelly, Lynden, Maple, Mayflower and Siegel streets, and Longwood avenue. He was also largely instrumental in opening Prospect beyond Hudson, and sold nearly half of the land on Kinsman street, besides selling a large amount of land on Superior and St. Clair streets; also on the West Side, Madison avenue, Long street, Colgate street and Waverly avenue. He has sold in all 3000 lots in Cleveland.
Mr. Hoyt united with the Baptist church in Utica in 1835. Soon after coming to Cleveland he became connected with the First Baptist church Sunday school, and was its superintendent twenty-six years, when he resigned, and became teacher of a congregational Bible class, which labor of love he has performed for about three years, and still continues.
In 1854, he was licensed to preach the Gospel, by the church with which he was connected. He was never ordained, and never contemplated being, but simply desired to testify to Christian truth as a business man on the principle of "He that heareth, let him say come." For the past fifteen years he has labored in that capacity more or less in nearly all the Protestant denominations in the city and elsewhere.
In 1854, he was elected President of the Ohio Baptist State Convention, and has been re-elected annually ever since, and has held anniversaries in nearly every city of the State. In 1866, he was elected president of the American Baptist Home Mission Society, being the national organization for missions for North America, has been re-elected annually, and still holds the office. Through all this time Mr. Hoyt has made many public addresses, and given lectures on both secular and religious subjects, in addition to publishing a number of articles, reviews and other literary work.
He was married in 1836 to Miss Mary Ella Beebe, in the city of New York. Of this marriage have been born six children, five of whom are living. The oldest daughter, Mary Ella, died in 1854, aged fourteen. The oldest son, Wayland, is in the Baptist ministry, and is now pastor of the Strong Place Baptist church, Brooklyn, N. Y. The second son, Colgate, is now clerk and assistant in his father's business. The daughter, Lydia, is the wife of Mr. E. J. Farmer, banker of this city.
We do not think it is exaggeration to say, that not a man in the city has more entwined himself with the affection of the people than Mr. Hoyt. For many years he has had the power to do untold evil to the poor, and to do it with a show of justice and legality, but this power was never exercised. Of the thousands of lots sold by him, a very large proportion have been for homesteads for the poor, hundreds of whom became involved through sickness, or other misfortunes, and were not able to make payments when due; many men died and left encumbered homes for widows to struggle on with, but they never lacked a friend in James M. Hoyt. Other creditors would sometimes crowd such persons, but to the extent of his ability he always kept them at bay, and if the load was in any case too heavy, would sell for the embarrassed owners, and give them the benefit of the rise in property. Time and again have we heard such things from the grateful poor.
He is liberal with his means, contributing freely for religious and charitable purposes. In politics he has ever sided with the party of progress, and, although not a politician, has added his means and exertions to the cause whenever necessary. During the war against the rebellion he was an energetic supporter of the Government, and rendered valuable aid to the cause of loyalty by his money and influence.
Mr. Hoyt, since his retirement from the legal profession, has devoted much time to those liberal studies which are too apt to be neglected amid the engrossing engagements of the Bar. He is a ripe scholar in English history, and especially in the period between the Revolution of 1688 and the accession of the House of Hanover. With an eminently practical turn of mind, he is not disinclined to meta-physical investigations, and we well remember the enthusiasm and keen zest with which he passed many winter evenings at the house of a friend in reading, analyzing, and applying the canons of criticism to Burke's Essay on the Sublime and Beautiful. His article on Miracles, published in the October number, 1863, of the Christian Review, contains one of the most searching examinations of Hume's doctrines extant. It presents a vexed subject in a new and striking light, and offers an unanswerable argument to the sophistries of the great skeptic. The article has been widely circulated and much admired for its logical acumen, and its striking simplification of an apparently complex subject. With the faculty, in a large degree, of presenting abstract truth in a form plain, attractive and intelligible to the common understanding, it is to be hoped that Mr. Hoyt will continue to contribute to the higher departments of our periodical literature, and thus by his studies and his pen add to his present usefulness in his daily avocation, for we seldom find one blessed with such a versatility of talent. He is methodical in everything, and thorough in everything. In short, he is a good lawyer, a good preacher, a good citizen, a good business man, a good father, a good neighbor, and a true friend. He is now only fifty-four years of age, both mentally and physically vigorous, and we sincerely hope his life of usefulness may be extended many years.
Franklin T. Backus.
Franklin T. Backus, was born in Lee, Berkshire county, Massachusetts, May 6th, 1813. He was the son of Thomas and Rebecca Backus. While Franklin T. was very young, his father removed to Lansing, New York, where he shortly died, leaving a large family of young children to the care of his surviving widow, with limited means for their support and education. In consequence of this, the subject of this sketch was early in life inured to hardy exercise upon a farm, to which, in after life, he has attributed his strong constitution, and ability to endure confinement, and the severest mental toil incident to an extensive legal practice.
It would be inappropriate in a brief sketch, to refer to and narrate incidents of boyhood days, and they are therefore passed over. Mr. Backus, while in early youth, became possessed of an unconquerable desire for knowledge, and while laboring with his hands, his mind was busy determining how he should secure the advantages of education. No superficial acquirements could satisfy him. Added to native talents, of a high order, were thoroughness and perseverance in everything which he resolved to undertake, and these traits applied particularly to him as a student. After resolving to obtain a thorough classical education, he set about it in earnest, and in an unusually short period of time, prepared himself, and on examination, entered the junior class of Yale College in 1834. Though the only time actually spent in college was during his junior and senior years, yet his standing was very high, and he graduated at Yale in 1836, occupying a position of one of the best mathematicians in his class. Soon after, he was tendered the position of assistant professor, or instructor in that venerable institution, an honor accorded to but few in so short a time after graduation.
On leaving Yale, Mr. Backus settled in Cleveland, Ohio, where he established a classical school, which at once became very popular and successful, and shortly afterwards commenced the study of law with Messrs. Bolton & Kelly, who were among the leading members of the Cuyahoga county Bar.
In August, 1839, he was admitted to the practice of law at Cleveland, the Supreme Court then being in session there, and entered at once upon the practice of his profession, in which, from the beginning, he took a high position. He was also an active politician, and as a member of the Whig party, participated largely in its active operations in the State, as well as in his own district, and was frequently a recipient of its honors.
In 1841, he was elected to the office of prosecuting attorney of Cuyahoga county, having been nominated to that office in a contest in which several who were older and more experienced in the profession than he, were candidates. His administration of the office was in the highest degree able and successful, and so met the approval of the public, that he was renominated by his party and elected for the second term of two years.
In January, 1842, Mr. Backus was married to Miss Lucy Mygatt, daughter of George Mygatt, Esq., then of Painesville, now of Cleveland. The choice was a most suitable and wise one, and Mrs. Backus still lives, the light and joy of their home.
In 1846, Mr. Backus was elected as a member of the House of Representatives in the Ohio Legislature, and continued there only one term, refusing a renomination. In 1848, he was elected to the Senate of Ohio, in which he took a commanding position, and was widely talked of among his friends in various parts of the State as a suitable candidate for the United States Senate, as well as for the House of Representatives in Congress.
From the breaking out of the Rebellion to its close, he was as strenuous an advocate as any one could be, of putting down the Rebellion at any hazard of blood and treasure, but differed widely as to some of the measures and policy adopted by the Government, and consequently, did not, at, or about the close of the war, act with the Republican party, nor has he since; and though not an active politician, he is now generally recognized as a member of the Democratic party.
In 1840, Mr. Backus associated himself in the legal practice with J. P. Bishop, Esq., with whom he continued for fifteen years. Mr. Bishop was afterwards chosen one of the judges of the Court of Common Pleas of the Cleveland district. Afterwards, for several years, he was associated with that able jurist, Judge R. P. Ranney, and now, for some years, he has been associated with E. J. Estep, Esq., in his profession.
That he stood high in his profession in the State as well as in Cleveland, is shown by the fact that he was nominated, by the Whig party, as candidate for Supreme Judge of Ohio, and afterwards by the Republican party for the same office, but failed of an election because the party nominating him was unsuccessful each of those years in Ohio.
Mr. Backus' life for the last twenty years has been almost exclusively devoted to his profession. When the railroads were projected which made Cleveland one of their terminations he embarked in the enterprise of their location and construction, and was early retained as their attorney and counsel, and has been acting as such to the present time. The Cleveland, Columbus & Cincinnati Railroad, from the beginning, so far as legal services have been required, has been under his special supervision. His knowledge of the department of law appertaining to corporations, and his ability as a corporation lawyer, it is believed, is not surpassed. The same may be said of him as a land lawyer, especially in regard to all questions arising in the northern part of this State. In short, Mr. Backus has had a very wide and varied experience in almost every branch of legal practice, and in every case in which he has suffered himself to be retained, he has made it a principle to be thorough and accurate, and to possess himself of a full knowledge of his case in all its aspects.
As a summary as to Mr. Backus as a lawyer, it is the opinion of those best acquainted with him and his professional ability, acquirements and experience, that, as a whole, he is unsurpassed by any in the State.
In nearly all the great enterprises of the city his advice and co-operation have been sought, and where legal advice and aid have been required, his services have often been called into requisition by the city. He not only has occupied the position professionally, before spoken of, but has, and does, still occupy high positions of trust, both for the city and individuals, and in such matters it may be safely said, there are few men living in whom more implicit confidence is reposed.
The extent of his varied legal practice can only be judged of in part, by his appearance in court. His business out of court has constituted by far the largest and most important part of his practice, and has always been done with a view to saving his client from litigation in future, so far as possible, and this he has accomplished.
In pecuniary matters Mr. Backus has been successful, not only as the fruits of arduous professional labors, but in other respects.
Mr. Backus is a very benevolent and liberal man, also, but his generosity is not in the beaten track. It is bestowed unseen and unknown by the public, and his own judgment selects the object of his bounty. His friendship when once bestowed is undying and changes not with time or circumstances so long as the person on whom it is bestowed proves worthy of his confidence.
Jesse P. Bishop.
Judge Bishop was born in New Haven, Vermont, June 1, 1815, and was taken with his father's family to St. Lawrence county, New York, whilst yet a child. His father died when he was but nine years old, and his mother returned to Vermont, taking her children with her. As soon as he was of age to be serviceable, he was apprenticed to a farmer until his fourteenth year, at the expiration of which time he resided with an uncle until his seventeenth year, when he left farm work in order to acquire an education. He studied hard for four or five years, partly maintaining himself by teaching school, and at length had prepared himself for a collegiate course.
In 1836, he came to Cleveland, and after an experience in a counting-room one season, he concluded that he was better adapted for a literary life. Accordingly he entered Western Reserve College, and on examination was admitted to the senior class.
In 1838, he began the study of law with Hon. Rufus P. Spalding, afterwards with Andrews, Foote & Hoyt, and subsequently with Varnum J. Card, and was admitted to practice August, 1839, when he immediately entered into partnership with Mr. Card, who, however, died about one year later, and Mr. Bishop formed a partnership with F. T. Backus. This business connection continued fifteen years.
In 1856, Mr. Bishop was elected to the Common Pleas Judgeship of this county and district, and served with great satisfaction both to members of the profession and to the public. His decisions were characterized by a painstaking research, and an exhaustless consideration of the principles of law involved, indicating a clear, accurate and discriminating mind. It is believed that very few of his decisions were ever reversed by a higher court, which is of itself sufficient testimony to his ability and industry. At the end of his term he declined being a candidate, and at once resumed the practice of law. In this he still continues, having associated with him Seymour F. Adams, recently of the Lewis county Bar, New York.
Mr. Bishop's life has been one of constant application to business, having no idle time, and scarcely any leisure moments. With him a decision is not reached by intuition, but by careful study, but when he takes hold of a subject he studies it thoroughly to its conclusion, and is master of all its points. Although Mr. Bishop has never been what may be termed physically robust, he possesses great power of prolonged mental application. And being also endowed with a most remarkably retentive memory, his mind is stored with a very comprehensive knowledge of law. And if there be one faculty of his mind more than another, that gives character to the man, it is his prodigious memory of facts. In a case that recently came under our notice, Judge Bishop gave evidence pertaining to a matter that occurred some twenty years since, with apparently as much precision as if the events occurred but yesterday.
In social and religions circles Judge Bishop ranks high. He is agreeable in private life, and thoroughly conscientious in moral and religious matters. He has long been a valued and honored member of the Baptist denomination. By his uprightness of character, courtesy of demeanor, and general good qualities, he has won the respect and esteem of a very large circle.
Henry H. Dodge.
Amongst the very earliest settlers in Cleveland, was Samuel Dodge, the father of the subject of this notice, who emigrated from Westmoreland, New Hampshire, to this place, in 1797, being then about 21 years of age. On arriving at Cleveland he built a log shanty, and remained about one year, when he went to Detroit, and remained about the same length of time, and returned to Cleveland, which he considered his home. Here and in the adjoining township he resided to the day of his death, which occurred October 3d, 1854, aged 78 years. About seven years after coming to Cleveland he married a Miss Nancy Doan, of Connecticut, who died in Cleveland, December 19th, 1863, leaving two sons, George C. and Henry H.
It is said that Samuel Dodge built the first frame building in this city, about the year 1800, and which was a barn for Governor Samuel Huntington, at that time living at Painesville. His proper business was that of a wheelwright, but adapted himself to all kinds of wood-work in the new country. During the war of 1812, he took a contract of Major Jessup, the commander at this point, for building a large number of boats for the Government, both here and at Erie.
Henry H. was born August 19th, 1810, and enjoyed what educational advantages Cleveland afforded, finishing his education under Hon. Harvey Rice. At the age of twenty he commenced the study of law with Hon. John W. Willey. In 1835, he married Miss Mary Ann Willey, a niece of Mr. Willey, of which marriage seven children were born. Mrs. Dodge died February 4, 1867.
Mr. Dodge was admitted to the Bar at the same time with H. V. Willson and H. B. Payne, in 1834. He at once entered into partnership with Mr. Willey, and continued with him until the latter was elected to the president judgeship of the Court of Common Pleas, in 1840. Mr. Dodge then withdrew from the practice of law to devote his whole attention to the duties of a disbursing agent of the United States, for public works, to which he had been appointed two years previously. He held that position until 1841. He was also commissioner of insolvents during 1837 and 1838.
In 1850, he was appointed State engineer, having charge of public works, and retained the position until 1855. On the organization of the United States District Court for Northern Ohio, he was appointed United States Commissioner, and held that office for three years. In 1859, he was again appointed State engineer, and continued as such until 1862, since which time he has devoted himself wholly to his real estate interests, opening up new streets, building tenement houses, and materially aiding in the growth and beauty of the eastern portion of the city. As early as 1837, he built the large brick block on the corner of Ontario and Prospect streets, formerly known as the Farmers' Block, which was, at that time, one of the largest in the city.
Mr. Dodge, through all his offices of trust as well as private business, has maintained a character for integrity and honor. He is unassuming and affable, and well calculated to enjoy the handsome competency accruing from the rise of his early real estate purchases, and being of a remarkably kind and benevolent disposition, one of his chief pleasures arises from the consciousness of doing good, by assisting those who are in need, to the extent of his ability. During the war he was most active in the country's cause, and spent his time and means freely in furnishing substitutes and rendering comfort to the families of our brave defenders, and we think, more than anything else, this desire to promote the prosperity and happiness of mankind, gives character to him.
Mr. Dodge has resided on Euclid avenue over thirty years, having built the residence now owned by General Oviatt, adjoining the present residence of Mr. D. P. Eells, in 1838, the site at that time being outside the city limits. After a few years he sold this to Thomas Bolton, and in 1840, built a brick cottage opposite Brownell street, which he occupied about fifteen years, when it gave place to the present edifice, the land having been in the family since the year 1800.
James M. Coffinberry.
Judge Coffinberry is a native of Mansfield, Ohio, having been born in that town in 1818. He studied law with his father, Andrew Coffinberry, Esq., then located at Perrysburg, in the western part of the State, and upon his admission to the Bar in 1841, opened a law office in connection with his father in Maumee City. He very early obtained the public confidence, being appreciated for his high personal and professional integrity, and giving evidence of fine abilities as a lawyer and advocate, he was elected and served as prosecuting attorney for Lucas county for several years. About the year 1845, he removed to Hancock county, and purchased and edited the Findlay Herald, a Whig paper of that day, and for about ten years practiced his profession with credit and success in the large circuit of Hancock, Allen, Putnam, Van Wert, and Wood counties.
In 1855, he removed to Cleveland, where he entered very readily into a good practice, and for six years confirmed the good reputation which he brought with him, and took high rank at a Bar which numbers among its members sortie of the best lawyers in the State.
In 1861, he was elected judge of the Court of Common Pleas, and performed the duties of the office for his full term of five years, with credit to himself and to the eminent satisfaction of the public, and an appreciative Bar. The kind and genial traits are characteristics of Judge Coffinberry's mind, and his quiet manners upon the Bench made it always agreeable for both lawyers and suitors doing business in his court. His charges to the jury were always plain, clear, and forcible, and in the course of his judicial service, he delivered some very able opinions, verbal and written, which elicited the favorable consideration of the profession, and it is understood that no judicial opinion pronounced by him has ever been reversed on review of a higher court. The charge to the jury on the trial of Dr. John W. Hughes, for the murder of Tamzen Parsons, of Bedford, which took place in December, 1865, was acknowledged by the Cleveland Bar to be one of the ablest ever delivered from the Cuyahoga Bench.
Judge Coffinberry is remarkable for an apparently intuitive perception of legal truth, which gives to his argument at the Bar, and as a lawyer and judge, to his opinions, a tone of originality. He has a fine appreciation of the learning of the profession, but though not, strictly speaking, technical in his administration of the law, he is never unmindful of its nicest distinctions, but makes them subservient to his broad and liberal views of the case. He has now returned to the practice of his profession, and is regarded as among the best advocates of the Cleveland Bar.
While Mr. Coffinberry has won distinction as a lawyer, the following record will show that he is amongst our most enterprising and energetic business men, outside of his profession: He is president of the Midas Insurance Company; a director in the Willow Bank Coal Company; a director of the Tuscarawas Iron and Coal Company; was one of the projectors of the People's Gas and Coke Company, of the West Side; has been a director of the Mahoning Railroad Company; director and attorney for the Fremont and Indiana Railroad Company; took an active interest in the construction of the West Side street railroad, and also the Rocky River Railroad; he was a member of the City Council for two years, and president of that body.
In politics, he was formerly a Whig, but now acts with the Democrats. He was principal Secretary of the Great Union Convention that nominated the late David Tod for Governor.
Judge Coffinberry has been successful in almost every undertaking, and has richly deserved it.
No member of the Cleveland legal fraternity stands higher in the respect of his colleagues and the general public, both for legal abilities and personal qualities, than James Mason. As a lawyer he stands in the front rank of the profession, his extensive reading, well balanced judgment, and logical reasoning, making him one of the most reliable counsellors and successful practitioners, whether before a court or a jury, whilst no more valuable or respected citizen is found among the list of residents of Cleveland.
Mr. Mason was born in the Autumn of 1816, in Canton, Ohio, of Vermont stock, his parents having early emigrated to this State. He was carefully educated at a good school in Trumbull county, and spent two years in Western Reserve College. In 1835, he entered the senior class in Jefferson College and graduated with the class of 1836.
On leaving College he studied law with Hon. A. W. Loomis, in New Lisbon, Ohio, and was admitted to the Bar in 1839, when he practiced in partnership with his preceptor until 1845. With the close of this partnership he went abroad and spent some time in foreign travel, returning in 1851, when he removed to Cleveland and opened a law office. His abilities and assiduous attention to business soon brought him a large and remunerative practice. Among other business he became the legal adviser of the Cleveland & Toledo Railroad Company, and also one of its directors. The value of his connection with the company was speedily recognized and acknowledged. Business of the highest class came to him until he has come to find his time fully occupied by the best class of practice.
The duties of his profession, though laborious, are not allowed to engross the whole of his time to the exclusion of domestic pleasures and social enjoyments. The general culture of Mr. Mason's mind, in addition to his legal attainments, and his affable manner, make him an agreeable companion for social intercourse, and together with his sterling qualities as a man, and his patriotism as a citizen, have won for him a host of friends warmly attached to him, and loyally resolved to do him honor.
Mr. Mason was married in 1853, to Miss Caroline Robinson, of Willoughby. Of this marriage there are five children.
Daniel R. Tilden.
The name of Daniel R. Tilden has long been familiar in Cleveland and its vicinity. For fifteen years he has held the office of Probate Judge of Cuyahoga county, and from the nature of his office, has been brought into connection with a large proportion of the citizens, and become intimately acquainted with their personal and family affairs. Many of these business acquaintances became warm personal friends, and it is believed that neither by his official, nor by his private life, has Judge Tilden made one real enemy.
Mr. Tilden was born in Lebanon, Connecticut, November 5th, 1806, He received a fair common school education, and on reaching his eighteenth year, left his native State for the South, residing four years in North Carolina and Virginia. But the South was not a congenial soil for the son of the genuine Yankee State, so he turned his steps westward, and set out for Ohio. At Garrettsville, Portage county, he halted awhile, and then went to study law with Mr. Pierson, at Ravenna. To complete his legal education, he entered the office of R. P. Spalding, and studied with him for some time.
In 1831, a movement was on foot to agitate the question of abolishing slavery. The movement was exceedingly unpopular, and it required considerable nerve to profess abolition sentiments. Now, when no other principle is avowed, it scarcely seems possible that men, now among us in the prime of life, had to endure obloquy, ridicule, and even danger, for expressing sentiments that no one now dreams of dissenting from. Among the first to espouse the abolition doctrines was Judge Tilden. With Robert F. Paine he commenced the work of organizing an Abolition Society in Garrettsville, the first of the kind in Portage county. In this work he labored with unwearied zeal, and became extensively known as one of the most prominent and active of anti-slavery leaders.
In 1832, Mr. Tilden was elected justice of the peace, and continued in that office four years; soon after the conclusion of the term, he formed a law partnership with Judge Spalding, at Ravenna. This arrangement continued about four years, when he formed a partnership with W. S. G. Otis, which lasted about three years, and was terminated by Judge Tilden becoming prosecuting attorney, an office he held four years.
In 1842, Judge Tilden was elected to Congress as a Whig, from the district composed of Summit, Portage, and Trumbull counties, and was in the House of Representatives during the exciting debates relative to the annexation of Texas and the Mexican war. He, with twelve others, took a bold stand against the war, making several speeches of very marked ability. He and his associates, among whom were Gov. Vance, Columbus Delano, and Joseph Root, refused to vote for the bill furnishing means to carry on the war, because of the preamble to the bill, which said: "Whereas, we are, by the act of Mexico, become engaged in war," &c., &c. This, Judge Tilden and his associates considered false, they would not vote for the bill until it was stricken out, and the names of these thirteen were sent throughout the country surrounded with a funeral border.
At the Baltimore Convention that nominated General Scott, Judge Tilden represented Lake and Summit counties; and at the Philadelphia Convention that nominated Taylor, he represented Summit, Trumbull, and Portage.
In 1852, Judge Tilden removed to Cleveland and formed a law partnership with Hon. H. B. Payne. Two years afterwards he was elected Probate Judge, of Cuyahoga county, and filled the position with such marked satisfaction to his constituents that he was re-elected at the close of every term, and still holds the office he has filled for fifteen consecutive years.
When practicing law, Judge Tilden was distinguished for his abilities as an advocate, and his qualifications for the judicial office he fills is attested by his repeated re-elections to it. His officiai conduct has been marked by uniform kindness, attention to the duties of his office, and the interests of those having business with it, and a constant endeavor to do right by all, whether rich or poor, learned or ignorant. If he has committed any errors—and no Judge, from the Supreme Court down, but must plead guilty to some—they have been errors of judgment only, and not of interest. No one can deny to Judge Tilden unimpeached honesty of purpose, warmth of heart, and an earnest endeavor to deal justly with all men.
Charles W. Palmer.
Prominent among the young men of the profession who promise to take and worthily fill the places of the old leaders of the Cleveland Bar now partly superannuated and soon to retire from active life, is Charles W. Palmer.
Mr. Palmer was born in Norwich, New London county, Connecticut, September 8, 1826. Nine years after, his father, Joseph B. Palmer removed to Cleveland with his family, and was for a time engaged in the storage business on the river. He is now in the employ of the Cleveland & Pittsburgh Railroad Company. Charles had only the advantages of the common schools until he was sixteen, but before he reached that age he had manifested an industry at his books which promised well for his future. He taught school on "the ridge" West of Cleveland, walking out to the school house and back before and after school hours, and at the same time prosecuting his own studies. He prepared for College under Rev. S. B. Canfield and W. D. Beattie, of Cleveland, and when nearly eighteen was admitted to Western Reserve College at Hudson. He graduated in 1848, with the highest honors of his class. For two years after graduation he was principal of the High School in Akron, and the next year a tutor in Western Reserve College. Coming to Cleveland again after this, he studied law in the office of Judge Foote, and was admitted to the Bar in the Fall of 1853. In the Spring of the following year he made his first success in political life, being elected to the City Council. In the Spring of 1859, he was elected city attorney. The duties of this office he discharged satisfactorily to all, and found the practice it brought a material help in his profession. In the Fall of 1863, Mr. Palmer was elected prosecuting attorney for the county. Here he was brought very prominently into notice by the successful prosecution of several important cases.
In his profession, Mr. Palmer has been a constantly rising man, until now he is on one or the other side of most of the important cases in our courts. His reputation as a criminal lawyer is especially high. In 1865, he prosecuted the celebrated Hughes murder case successfully. Two years afterwards he defended McConnell, the murderer, and in 1868, defended Mrs. Victor, in one of the most remarkable poisoning cases ever brought into court. His argument in the latter case was a masterpiece of legal acumen, forcible exposition, and polished speech. Mr. Palmer began the practice of law in Cleveland in the firm of Palmer & Austin. Afterwards he was associated with R. B. Dennis, Esq., and at present he is senior in the firm of Palmer & De Wolf.
In July, 1819, Mr. Palmer married Miss Sabrina Parks, of Hudson, Ohio. This estimable lady died in little more than a year after the marriage, leaving a son but a few weeks old. The son still survives. In 1855, Mr. Palmer married Miss Minerva Stone, a sister of Mr. S. S. Stone, of Cleveland. This second wife died in childbed eleven months after marriage, and in 1858, Mr. Palmer married his present wife. She was Miss Lucy Hubbell, a daughter of Calvin Hubbell, Esq., of New York. By this marriage there is a son now about ten years old.
In politics, Mr. Palmer has been a member of the Republican party since its organization. He gave the war for the Union an earnest, active and powerful support. No man appreciated more thoroughly the principles involved in that contest, and few indeed have the power to present those principles so well as he. His party services have been numerous and efficient. A man of fine personal appearance, with a fair, open face, which carries with it the conviction of sincerity in all he says, possessed of a grace of manner which makes it a pleasure to hear him on any subject, and having such a command of language as to enable him to put his thoughts in the fittest words, he is of course a favorite speaker always. He has a conscientiousness in all he does, which never allows him to treat carelessly any matter, even in an unexpected public speech. There are few men in Cleveland who carry so much weight in speaking, whether it be before a court and jury, or to a general assembly of people. Taking an intelligent interest in all public affairs, he yet devotes himself studiously to his profession, in which he has as bright prospects as any man at his age need wish for.
William Collins was born at Lowville, New York, the county seat of Lewis county, February 22, 1818. He was a son of Ela Collins, who was a son of General Oliver Collins, of Oneida county, New York, and Maria Clinton, daughter of Rev. Isaac Clinton, of Lowville.
Mr. Collins read law with his father, and was admitted to practice in the courts of New York, at Rochester, in September, 1813. In October, 1843, he formed a copartnership with his father, under the firm name of E. & W. Collins. They continued in active and successful practice until the death of his father, in 1849. Immediately after Mr. Collins' admission to the Bar, he was elected, as the successor of his father, public prosecutor. This office he held until 1846, when he resigned, having been elected, by the Democratic party, in November, 1846, at the age of twenty-seven, a member of the House of Representatives, in the Thirtieth Congress. The district represented by him was composed of Lewis and St. Lawrence counties. He was in Congress in the years 1847-8-9, during the first agitation of the question of extending slavery to the free territories. Mr. Collins opposed the proposed extension with much zeal and ability. Among his speeches will be found one delivered July 28, 1848, on the "Bill to establish the territorial government of Oregon," advocating the Wilmot Proviso. Apart from its merit as a brilliant literary production, it contains many passages that will be read with much interest by the general reader, as showing the beginning of the end at which we have arrived. Slavery itself having now become a matter of history, we think it will be of interest to introduce the following extracts from the Congressional Globe of July, 1848:
I shall assume, then, sir, that the institution does not exist in our late Mexican acquisitions, but that it has been effectually prohibited. The real question, then, is shall the laws securing freedom in these Territories be abolished, and slavery established? This is indeed, sir, a question of the gravest magnitude. To millions of the oppressed and degraded children of Africa, it is an issue upon which depends all that is dear to them in life—all that is bitter in the hour of death. It seems to me, sir, that they are even now stretching forth their dark hands, and beseeching us, in the name of the God of liberty whom our fathers worshipped, to remove from them the poisoned cup of bondage—to forge for them no more chains. The termination of this question also involves the dearest interests of every person in this country who desires to sustain himself by honorable labor. It intimately concerns our national honor, reputation, and progress in the great family of nations. The two hundred and fifty thousand immigrants who annually land upon our shores are in pursuit of 'free soil and free labor.' Can we pronounce in favor of slavery, without danger to our experiment at self-government? If we thus decide, what will become of the cherished hopes of the friends of civilization, Christianity, and human progress?
Those who insist upon preserving freedom in the Territories, have no desire to disturb the institution of slavery in the States. The Constitution confers upon them no such authority. They could not interfere with it if they would, and they would not if they could. They have ever heretofore been, and still are, ready strictly to fulfil the constitutional provisions upon this subject.
I shall aim to discuss this question with a proper regard for the most sensitive feelings of our brethren of the slave States, but also, sir, with a plainness commensurate with its profound importance. The legislatures of thirteen of the States of the Union, including Delaware, which still has two thousand slaves, have passed resolutions instructing their Senators and requesting their Representatives in Congress to oppose any further extension of slavery. There is but one sentiment upon this subject throughout the free States—it is that of eternal and uncompromising hostility to the project. They will never consent that the free and virgin soil of the Territories shall be blighted and cursed by the tears of the slave, while they have a will to determine, or a muscle to resist.
The proposition to make this Government the instrument for planting slavery upon soil now free, is regarded by a few at the North as so improbable and monstrous, that they have refused to believe that it is seriously entertained. Startling as the proposal is, it is nevertheless true.
* * * * *
Another argument employed by these apologists is, that the 'Proviso,' or a law prohibiting slavery in these Territories, is unnecessary; that it is an abstraction—a 'firebrand' employed by demagogues and factionists to kindle strife in the Democratic party; that the Territories are now free, and that they will so continue, unless an act of Congress is passed establishing slavery. It is impossible to avoid asking ourselves why, if these gentlemen are sincere—if they truly believe that slavery can not and will not go there, and they do not desire that it should—why they so strenuously oppose the passage of such a prohibition? If their views are correct, then such a law would be a mere harmless superfluity. But, sir, this 'firebrand of freedom' is a thing more exalted and noble than a mere abstraction. It is wielded by men of strong arms, adamantine will, and hearts animated by the divine impulses of patriotism and liberty. They have registered a vow in Heaven to employ every lawful and constitutional means to roll back the dark tide of slavery from the temple of Freedom, and vindicate the character of the Republic from the disgrace and reproach of establishing slavery in a free territory. We are no abstractionists. The Representatives in this Congress from the fifteen slaveholding States of the Union, without an exception, and without distinction of party, avow an intention to carry their slaves into these Territories, and there hold them in bondage. They assert, with passionate vehemence, that they have such a constitutional right. They have even told us, sir, that, regardless of the remonstrances of the people of the North—heedless of any prohibitory law of Congress upon the subject, they would invade the free soil of the Pacific, and take with them their slaves, and weapons of defence! Are these declarations abstractions? Do they make no appeal for immediate, energetic and prohibitory legislation?
When driven from every other argument, gentlemen of the South threaten, that if the 'Proviso' or a law prohibiting slavery in free territory, is passed, they will dissolve the Union. At the North, the dissolution of the Union is not regarded as among possible events. Its value is never calculated. It has been cemented by too many common and glorious sacrifices and struggles; it is protected by too many pious invocations of its magnanimous founders, to be easily severed. The cause by which these fraternal bonds are sundered must be other than a refusal on the part of the free States to allow the Government to establish slavery in free territory. A submission to the will of the majority is a fundamental principle of our institutions. If the North are overborne in this contest, they must and will submit. If the demands of the South are denied by the decision of the majority, a like cheerful and ready acquiesence is expected. Until, however, the majority have decided, no legal and constitutional efforts to exclude slavery from these Territories will be abated by passionate threats against the peace and perpetuity of the Union. The Union would never have been formed had the present demand of the slave States been made and insisted upon. A proposition in the Constitutional Convention to make the Government a propagandist of slavery in free territory, would have been indignantly rejected.
Whilst we stand here, upon the floor of the American Congress, at the noon of the nineteenth century, gravely discussing whether or not we will extend and perpetuate slavery, the monarchical governments of Europe are striking off shackles and 'letting the oppressed go free.' Slavery has been abolished by the French colonies. Portugal, Spain, and Russia, are moving in the work of emancipation. Within a few years England has given liberty to eight hundred thousand slaves. She has expended, within the last forty years, one hundred millions of dollars in suppressing the slave trade. Is it reserved for the Government of 'free, happy America,' in the midst of examples like these, to be fastening corroding chains upon human beings? Sooner than be involved in such stupendous guilt, let our name and existence perish among the nations.
On the part of the North no 'compromises' can be made. But one answer— a stern, unyielding NO—will be given to all such proposals. We have made all the concessions that we can make, or ought to make. If a law under the name of a 'compromise' is passed, planting slavery upon a single square mile of free territory, it will have no rest. REPEAL! will be shouted from the mountain tops of the North, and reverberated in thunder tones through the valleys. The preservation of 'free soil for free men,' will alone be satisfactory. For this purpose, the passage of an act of Congress prohibiting slavery in free territory, will be unceasingly urged, until the great measure is consummated.
During this Congress, although the anti-slavery-extension men were in a minority in both branches, all compromise bills were defeated, and their defeat was due in a good degree to the industrious and vigilant efforts of Mr. Collins, and a few associates in the House.
Mr. Collins was tendered a renomination to the thirty-first Congress, but having determined to remove to the West, he declined, and Preston King was elected in his stead. He continued, with much success, the business of the late firm of E. & W. Collins, until December, 1853, when he removed to Cleveland and opened a law office. He was soon elected a director of the Merchants Bank of Cleveland, and of the Lake Shore Railway Company. Subsequently he became a director in the Bellefontaine Railway Company; the Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Indianapolis Railway Company; the Jamestown and Franklin Railway Company, of Pennsylvania; the East Cleveland Street Railroad Company; the Mercer Iron and Coal Company, of Pennsylvania, and the Merchants National Bank, of Cleveland, the active duties of which positions have absorbed very much of his attention and time. He has occasionally appeared in the courts here in litigated cases, but has mainly confined his professional work to his office. Mr. Collins had a high standing as a lawyer in New York, and has fully sustained his early reputation here. He is most remarkable for an admirably fair and clear way of stating and arguing to the court and jury, the questions both of law and fact. This contributed greatly to his success, not only as a forensic advocate, but as a political orator, and legislative debater.
The sympathies of Mr. Collins having always been on the side of freedom, he joined the Republican party on its organization, and has remained faithful to its principles. When the Rebellion broke out he threw himself heartily into the cause of the Union, and contributed freely with money and labor in every available way for the furtherance of the Union cause. He served on the local military and other committees, working faithfully and energetically, and contributing largely to the excellent record Cleveland and the county made during the war, by repeatedly and promptly filling the quota of troops required, and by liberal contributions in aid of the sick and wounded soldiers. Whenever an effort was needed, the voice of Mr. Collins was heard exhorting the people earnestly to energetic action and liberal contributions, and his exhortations were promptly and efficiently seconded by his own example. With him precept and practice went together.
Such men as Mr. Collins would do the people valuable service were they chosen to fill responsible places in the legislative councils and executive departments of the State and Nation. But in these days something more than—or it may too often be said—something different from abilities of the description possessed by Mr. Collins, seems to be required to secure the favor of the people, or rather of the political managers. He is of too ingenuous a nature to yield to the intrigues and servility, too often, now-a-days, demanded of political candidates by the managers.
On November 20th, 1816, Mr. Collins was married at Columbus, to Jane, second daughter of the late Alfred Kelly—the two families having been early neighbors and friends in New York. Two children of this marriage survive, Frederick and Walter, the former seventeen years of age at the present time, and the latter fourteen.
Rufus Percival Ranney.
Rufus P. Ranney, one of the most profound jurists this country has produced, was born at Blandford, Massachusetts, October 30, 1813. His father, Rufus Ranney, was an honest, industrious farmer, of Scotch descent. His mother, whose maiden name was Dottie D. Blair, came from revolutionary stock.
About the year 1822, Rufus Ranney removed with his family to Ohio. After a short stay at Fairport, Lake county, they finally located at Freedom, Portage county, where they made a permanent settlement upon a farm. It was there that Rufus P. Ranney spent the years of his early manhood, and there his parents lived until their decease. Judge Ranney's father was highly respected in the neighborhood where he lived, and, though in humble circumstances, did all within his power for the education of his children, training them in the pathway of honesty and integrity—traits of character which have marked the public and private career of his distinguished son. His mother, an amiable woman who had received a good education, was very attentive to her children, and her son, Rufus P. doubtless owes much of whatever he has been in life to her early teachings.
Until he became of age, Rufus P. Ranney was engaged upon his father's farm, obtaining, during the winter season, a few weeks education at such schools as a country village then afforded. He attended the college at Hudson for a season, but circumstances prevented his remaining long enough to graduate with his class.
In the year 1835, having determined to make a start in life for himself, he left his home and traveled on foot to Jefferson, Ashtabula county. In a speech made by him at Ashtabula in September, 1868, he referred to the time of his arrival at Jefferson, his worldly goods consisting of the clothing upon his person, and one extra shirt, which he carried in the top of his hat.
Entering the office of Benjamin F. Wade, he applied himself with diligence to the study of the law, and after a clerkship of one year was admitted to the Bar. Soon afterward he entered into partnership with his preceptor. The firm of Wade & Ranney was a powerful one, and "ruled the circuit" of North Eastern Ohio. For several years it enjoyed an extensive practice. The firm was dissolved upon the removal of Judge Ranney to Warren, (1844,) and Mr. Wade was soon afterward chosen President Judge of the Third Judicial District, from which position he was transferred to the Senate of the United States.
In 1846, and again in 1848, Judge Ranney was an unsuccessful candidate for Congress. In the Trumbull district the Whig party was largely in the majority, and though Judge Ranney was defeated, he ran considerably ahead of the general ticket, reducing the Whig majority to hundreds, when before, that party had triumphed by thousands.
The people having determined that a convention be held to form a new constitution, Judge Ranney was chosen to represent the counties of Trumbull and Geauga. The convention was held in 1850. It was composed of the first men of the State; both parties seem to have vied with each other in sending their ablest representatives. There were William Medill, its President, who afterwards became Governor of the State; the venerable Ex-Governor Vance; Henry Stanbery, late Attorney General of the United States; Peter Hitchcock, for thirty years a judge of the Supreme Court; Benjamin Stanton, long a member of Congress; Judges Joseph E. Swan, Sherlock J. Andrews, Simeon Nash and William Kennon; Charles Reemelin, D. P. Leadbetter, William Sawyer, and others not less prominent in the Judicial and political annals of Ohio.
In that convention, Rufus P. Ranney greatly distinguished himself. Although but thirty-six years of age he commanded the respect and admiration of all its members, and won for himself a high reputation as a sound lawyer and ready debater. No one was more looked to for advice, and none more generally correct in giving it. He was, in fact, a leader, whose council, in almost every instance, was acceded to by the convention. All the propositions which he introduced were for the welfare and benefit of the people. In the official report of the debates will be found his views upon nearly or quite all of the questions which agitated the convention. He was the champion of the people against monopolies, and many of the most important provisions in the constitution are the work of his hand.
The course which he pursued met the hearty approval of the people and made his name prominent throughout the State. In response to the wishes of the members of the legal profession, and the general desire of the public, he was, by the legislature of 1851, chosen one of the judges of the Supreme Court. When the new constitution went into effect, he was elected to the same position by a large majority.
Judge Ranney occupied a place upon the Supreme Bench until 1856, when he resigned on account of ill health. That year he was a member of the Cincinnati National Convention, which nominated James Buchanan for President.
In March, 1857, Judge Ranney, unsolicited on his part, received from President Buchanan the appointment of United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. This position he held until July, when he resigned. He then removed to Cleveland, where he resumed the practice of his profession, as a member of the firm of Ranney, Backus & Noble.
In 1859, Governor Chase tendered him the appointment of commissioner to examine and report upon the condition of the State Treasury, this being soon after the Gibson-Breslin defalcation, by which the State lost several hundred thousand dollars. Judge Ranney declined this appointment. The same year he was unanimously nominated by the Democratic State convention as the candidate of that party for Governor—his opponent on the Republican ticket being the Hon. William Dennison, of Franklin county, late Post-Master General of the United States. After a most gallant canvass, Judge Ranney failed of an election, though he ran ahead of the other candidates on the ticket in all parts of the State.
In 1862, against his personal wishes, he was nominated by the Democracy for Judge of the Supreme Court. He consented to be a candidate only after the convention had positively refused to accept his declination. The Republican nominee was his law partner, the Hon. Franklin T. Backus, one of the most prominent members of the Cuyahoga Bar. The result was the election of Judge Ranney by a decided majority, and although party lines were closely drawn, he again ran ahead of his ticket several thousand votes.
He held the position of judge of the Supreme Court until 1864, when he resigned. Some months afterwards he resumed the practice of his profession in connection with his son-in-law, Mr. T. Kelley Bolton.
During the same year, (1864) he was chosen one of the delegates at large to the Democratic National Convention, which nominated George B. McClellan for President, and was selected by the Ohio delegation as the member from Ohio of the Democratic National Committee, holding that position until 1868. In the late Presidential campaign, his name headed the Democratic electoral ticket. This closes his public record. It is an interesting one, and though briefly given, exhibits this fact, viz.: the confidence and regard in which he has ever been held by the Democracy of Ohio. Year after year his voice has been heard throughout the State in defence of the Constitution and laws, and the honors which his party have bestowed upon him, are but a merited tribute to his energy, ability, and integrity of character.
As a lawyer, Judge Ranney has ever held the front rank in his profession. His practice has been extensive and important; probably no attorney in the State has, during the past ten years, been retained in as many cases. Possessed of a strong, discriminating mind, capable of enduring long continued mental labor, he unites with activity and energy a determined spirit, which enables him to overcome obstacles which would appal most men.
Judge Ranney is as logical as eloquent, and when his great reasoning powers are brought into full sway, formidable must be the opponent to overcome him. His arguments in court are peculiarly appropriate, clear, calm, and strong; without wordy declamation, vehement gesture, or passionate appeal; he seldom fails to carry his point, even when the odds seem overwhelmingly against him.
Judge Ranney has a mind richly stored with not only the treasures of his profession, but of ancient and modern classics, and the best literature of the day. He is a great reader, and though he writes but little, whatever proceeds from his pen is marked by elegance and culture.
As a Judge, he was courteous, affable and indulgent. His decisions are his best monuments. They exhibit profound learning, sound judgment and extensive research. No judge was more popular upon the Bench. Dignified and benevolent, he enjoyed in an eminent degree the confidence of the Bar and the public. He had the constant respect of those who differed from him in opinion, and when he resigned his seat upon the Bench, the best men of all parties expressed regret at his retirement from a position which he had so much adorned. Pre-eminent in legal knowledge, Rufus P. Ranney has reflected honor upon the judiciary of our country, and is one of the ablest of the many learned men who have graced the Supreme Bench of our State with their presence.
Charles Taylor Sherman.
The Sherman family was among the earliest settlers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. They and their descendants were men of note in their respective Colonies, of strong, practical minds, pure and lofty in moral tone and character.
They were early actors in the settlement and development of Ohio. Taylor Sherman, the grandfather of the subject of this sketch, was a judge of one of the Superior Courts of Connecticut, and was one of the trustees of the Fire Land Company, to whom was granted, by the State of Connecticut, the lands now comprised by the counties of Huron and Erie, in Ohio. As early as 1800, he was in Ohio, and also in subsequent years, attending to the surveying and allotting the lands to the owners, who suffered from fire in the excursions of Arnold and Tryon, in Connecticut, in the Revolutionary war.
His son, Charles R. Sherman, and father of Charles T. Sherman, emigrated to Ohio in 1810, and settled in Lancaster, Fairfield county, Ohio. He early became distinguished at the Bar, among the strong and able lawyers then practicing in Central Ohio. In 1824, he was elected one of the judges of the Supreme Court of Ohio, and died in 1830, whilst in the performance of his duties.
Charles T. Sherman, of whose life these notes are made, was born in Lancaster, February 3, 1813, and is Ohio born and reared. He was educated and graduated at the Ohio University, in Athens, Ohio, in 1832, and admitted to the Bar in 1835. He settled in Mansfield, Richland county, and continued in the practice of his profession until he was appointed judge of the United States Court for the Northern District of Ohio, in Mardi, 1867.
He never sought to obtain any public office, but rather carefully avoided it. He always esteemed it fortunate that he resided in a county and section in which the majority was opposed to him in political sentiments. He however took a leading part in developing and forwarding public improvements in his county. He contributed liberally by his labors and influence in locating and constructing through his county the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago Railroad, and the Mansfield & Sandusky Railroad. For many years he was a director in both roads, and general soliciter of the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago Railroad, and a leading spirit in its management.
He was also appointed by Mr. Lincoln to serve four years as one of the Government Directors of the Pacific Railroad, and largely contributed to its success in its early days.
The Bar of Richland county always ranked among the first in Northern Ohio. Among the oldest members who were in full practice when Judge Sherman went there, were Jacob Parker, afterwards Judge of the Common Pleas, Andrew Coffinberry, one of the most genial and kind hearted men, and, withal, an excellent lawyer, John M. May, who commenced the practice of the law in 1815, and is still living, and James Purdy, Orris Parrish of Columbus, William Stanbery, of Newark, Hosmer and Henry B. Curtis, of Mt. Vernon, and Edward Avery, of Wooster, afterwards Judge of the Supreme Court, all practiced in that county. In later days and cotemporaneous with Judge Sherman, were Thomas W. Bartley, Jacob Brinkerhoof, and Josiah Scott, all of whom occupied the Bench of the Supreme Court of Ohio, James Stewart, Judge of the Common Pleas, S. J. Kirkwood, afterwards Governor of Iowa, and U. S. Senator from that State, together with R. G. Hurd and Columbus Delano, of Mt. Vernon, and C. L. Boalt and J. M. Root, of Norwalk.
Judge Sherman ranked with those later and younger members of the Bar, and enjoyed a practice equal to any, and more lucrative probably, than any of them. He was quiet and unostentatious in his profession, and, seemingly, only sought to do his whole duty to his clients and obtain the good will of his fellow citizens.
A short time after the breaking out of the rebellion, he was appointed Provost Marshal of some twenty counties in Northern Ohio, by the War Department, and organized four regiments that went into the service, and subsequently served on a commission to settle and adjust claims on the Government arising in the West.
Upon his appointment to the Bench he resigned his position on the Railroads, with the intention of devoting his whole time to the duties of his judicial office. For more than two years he has presided with entire satisfaction to the public and the members of the Cleveland Bar, proving himself to be a strong, capable, common-sense, business judge; and by his habitual courteous demeanor has made a host of legal and other friends during his short residence in this city.
Rufus P. Spalding.
In a work professing to deal with the "representative men" of Cleveland, it is eminently proper that he who has represented the interests of Cleveland in Congress for six years with a fidelity unsurpassed by any of his predecessors in the national councils, and who won for the district he represented a prominence hitherto not accorded to it, should find a conspicuous place. The six years' service of Judge Spalding in Congress as the Representative from the Eighteenth Ohio District forms a period in the history of the city of which the citizens, irrespective of party predilections, have reason to be proud.
Rufus Paine Spalding is a native of Massachusetts, having been born on the 3rd of May, 1798, at West Tisbury, on the island of Martha's Vineyard. The remote ancestor of the Spaldings was Edward Spalding, who is recorded as having been "made a Freeman" at Braintree, Massachusetts, in 1640. Edward Spalding's son Benjamin emigrated from Massachusetts to Connecticut about fifteen years after that date, and settled in Plainfield, Windham county. The great grandson of Benjamin Spalding, and the father of Rufus Paine Spalding, Dr. Rufus Spalding, had in 1798, been for some time a resident of West Tisbury, where he practiced medicine.
When his son was fourteen years old Dr. Spalding removed to Connecticut and resided in Norwich. Rufus P. Spalding, having been prepared for college, entered Yale at the proper time, and graduated in 1817, with the degree of Bachelor of Arts. The class in which he graduated contained names that afterwards acquired lustre in judicial, legislative, and ecclesiastical circles.
From the first Mr. Spalding's tendency was towards the legal profession, and immediately on leaving college he prepared himself by study for the practice of the law. He was fortunate in the choice of an instructor, having entered the office of the Hon. Zephaniah Swift, Chief Justice of Connecticut, who is known to the profession as the learned author of the "Digest." He profited so well by the instructions he received, that, on his leaving the office, Judge Swift complimented him highly on his proficiency, and predicted for the young lawyer a successful career, if he remained true to his profession. On completing his term of reading law, and being admitted to the Bar, he left New England to push his fortune in the West, and in December, 1819, reached the old "Post of Arkansas," removing soon after to Little Rock, where he put out his shingle as a lawyer, in partnership with Samuel Dinsman, who has since reached the gubernatorial chair of New Hampshire. Here he remained about a year and a half, when he turned his face eastward, and in passing through Ohio, stopped at Warren, the county town of Trumbull county. Here he was induced to remain, the chances of practice being represented as good, and his profound knowledge of law, ability in making that knowledge serviceable, and unwearied industry, enabled him to soon build up an extensive legal connection, which he retained and increased during his sixteen years stay in Warren.
From Warren he removed to Ravenna, in the adjoining county of Portage. He had not long been in the county before the people recognized the abilities and power of Mr. Spalding, and he was chosen to represent that county in the State Legislature. The contest for the position was sharp, for Mr. Spalding was a new man in the county, and it was considered by many proper that older residents should represent so important a constituency. But the recognized ability of Mr. Spalding outweighed all objections on the ground of recent residency, and he was elected by a majority of one.
During his term in the Legislature, and mainly through his efforts, the county of Summit was erected, and Mr. Spalding at once became a resident of the new county by removing his place of residence to Akron. At the next election he offered himself as a representative of Summit in the legislature, and was accepted. On the organization of the House of Representatives he was chosen speaker, and won the approbation of the whole body by the ability and impartiality with which he presided over the proceedings. During this term of office the question of repudiating the State debt was broached. Mr. Spalding took strong ground against such a course, holding it not only disgraceful but suicidal. In this he was supported by the late John Brough, then Auditor of State, and largely through the bold and persistent opposition of these gentlemen the scheme was dropped.
In the Legislative session of 1848-9, the two houses of the General Assembly united in electing Mr. Spalding a judge of the Supreme Court of the State for the constitutional term of seven years. But when four years of the term remained unexpired, the operation of the new constitution ended the pending terms of all offices, and devolved the election of Supreme Court judges upon the people instead of on the General Assembly. Judge Spalding declined being a candidate for the office in a popular canvass, and so the advantages of his ripe legal and judicial knowledge was lost to the Bench of the State. Concurrent testimony shows that no decisions were held in greater respect by the lawyers and the public, for their uprightness and justice, whilst to the legal fraternity in particular, they commended themselves by their logical force, and terse, clear, emphatic style and precision of expression that rendered them models of judicial literature. His judicial opinions are contained in volumes 18, 19 and 20 of the Ohio Reports.
On his retirement from the Bench of the State, Judge Spalding returned to the practice of the law with renewed ardor. Cleveland, presenting a wider field for the exercise of his abilities, he removed to that city and at once took front rank among the many able members of the profession. His profound knowledge of the law, power as a debater, and his ability of creating a strong impression on both courts and juries, built up for him an extensive and lucrative practice. When he spoke he carried conviction, it being all but impossible to resist the solid array of arguments and terse, incisive style. The same characteristics that made him afterwards so powerful in Congress had great effect on the most intelligent juries, and exercised a marked influence on the judges engaged in trying the causes in which he was interested as advocate.
Although the law claimed his first attention, and was his choice, Judge Spalding was no indifferent spectator of the course of politics. He had been trained a Democrat, and was a powerful worker in that party. But all his convictions were on the side of justice and freedom, and when, in 1850, the Fugitive Slave Law wedded Democracy to slavery, Judge Spalding, in common with thousands of others, broke through the party traces, and joined the "Free Soil" party, opposed to the extention of slavery. At the Free Soil convention of 1852, he was an active and prominent delegate, and on his nomination, John P. Hale was made the candidate for the Presidency.
On the formation of the Republican party, pledged to the restriction of the slave power, Judge Spalding took an active part in carrying out the principles of that organization. He was a member of the Pittsburgh Convention of 1856, at which the party was organized, and was a delegate at large for the State of Ohio at the Philadelphia Convention that nominated John C. Fremont. From that time he labored earnestly for the success of Republican principles, and the good effect of his efforts were frequently acknowledged by the party.