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CONCORD, Mass., 4th Nov., 1856. HERE is a day on which more public good or evil is to be done than was ever done on any day. And this is the pregnant season, when our old Roman, Samuel Hoar, has chosen to quit this world. Ab iniquo certamine in dignabundus recessit.
He was born under a Christian and humane star, full of mansuetude and nobleness, honor and charity; and, whilst he was willing to face every disagreeable duty, whilst he dared to do all that might beseem a man, his self-respect restrained him from any foolhardiness. The Homeric heroes, when they saw the gods mingling in the fray, sheathed their swords. So did not he feel any call to make it a contest of personal strength with mobs or nations; but when he saw the day and the gods went against him, he withdrew, but with an unaltered belief. All was conquered præter atrocem animum Catonis.
At the time when he went to South Carolina as the Commissioner of Massachusetts, in 1844, whilst staying in Charleston, pending his correspondence with the governor and the legal officers, he was repeatedly warned that it was not safe for him to appear in public, or to take his daily walk, as he had done, unattended by his friends, in the streets of the city. He was advised to withdraw to private lodgings, which were eagerly offered him by friends. He rejected the advice, and refused the offers, saying
that“ he was old, and his life was not worth much, but he had rather the boys should troll his old head like a foot-ball in their streets, than that he should hide it.” And he continued the uniform practice of his daily walk into all parts of the city. But when the mob of Charleston was assembled in the streets before his hotel, and a deputation of gentlemen waited upon him in the hall, to say they had come with the unanimous voice of the state to remove him by force, and the carriage was at the door, he considered his duty discharged to the last point of possibility. The force was apparent and irresistible; the legal officer's part was up; it was now time for the military officer to be sent; and he said, “Well, gentlemen, since it is your pleasure to use force, I must go.” But his opinion was unchanged.
In like manner, now, when the votes of the free states, as shown in the recent election in the state of Pennsylvania, had disappointed the hopes of mankind, and betrayed the cause of freedom, he considered the question of justice and liberty, for his age, lost, and had no longer the will to drag his days through the dishonors of the long defeat, and promptly withdrew, but with unaltered belief.
He was a very natural, but a very high character a man of simple tastes, plain and true in speech, with a clear perception of justice, and a perfect obedience thereto in his action — of a strong understanding, precise and methodical, which gave him great eminence in the legal profession. It was rather his reputation for severe method in his intellect, than any special direction in his studies, that caused him to be offered the mathematical chair in Harvard University, when vacant, in 1806. The severity of his logic might have inspired fear, had it not been restrained by his natural reverence, which made him modest and cour
teous, though his courtesy had a grave and almost military air.
He combined a uniform self-respect with a natural reverence for every other man; so that it was perfectly easy for him to associate with farmers, and with plain, uneducated, poor men, and he had a strong unaffected interest in farms, and crops, and weathers, and the common incidents of rural life. It was just as easy for him to meet, on the same floor, and with the same plain courtesy, men of distinction and large ability. He was fond of farms and trees, fond of birds, and attentive to their manness and habits; addicted to long and retired walks; temperate to asceticism, for no lesson of his experience was lost on him, and his self-command was perfect. Though rich, of a plainness and almost poverty of personal expenditure, yet liberal of his money to any worthy use, readily lending it to young men, and industrious men, and by no means eager to reclaim of them either the interest or the principal. He was open-handed to every charity, and every public claim that had any show of reason in it. When I talked with him one day of some inequality of taxes in the town, he said, “it was his practice to pay whatever was demanded; for, though he might think the taxation large, and very unequally apportioned, yet he thought the money might as well go in this way as in
The strength and the beauty of the man lay in the natural goodness and justice of his mind, which, in manhood and in old age, after dealing all his life with weighty private and public interests, left an infantile innocence, of which we have no second or third example the strength of a chief united to the modesty of a child. He returned from courts or congresses to sit down, with unaltered humility, in the church or
in the town-house, on the plain wooden bench, where honor came and sat down beside him.
He was a man in whom so rare a spirit of justice visibly dwelt, that, if one had met him in a cabin, or in a forest, he must still seem a public man, answering as sovereign state to sovereign state; and might easily suggest Milton's picture of John Bradshaw, that," he was a consul from whom the fasces did not depart with the year, but in private seemed ever sitting in judgment on kings.” Everybody knew where to find him. What he said, that would he do. But he disdained any arts in his speech: he was not adorned with any graces of rhetoric;
But simple truth his utmost skill." So cautious was he, and tender of the truth, that he sometimes wearied his audience with the pains he took to qualify and verify his statements, adding clause on clause to do justice to all his conviction. He had little or no power of generalization. But a plain way he had of putting his statement with all his might, and, now and then, borrowing the aid of a good story, or a farmer's phrase, whose force had imprinted it on his memory, and, by the same token, his hearers were bound to remember his point.
The impression he made on juries was honorable to him and them. For a long term of years, he was at the head of the bar in Middlesex, practicing, also, in the adjoining counties. He had one side or the other of every important case, and his influence was reckoned despotic, and sometimes complained of as a bar to public justice. Many good stories are still told of the perplexity of jurors, who found the law and the evidence on one side, and yet Squire Hoar had said, that he believed, on his conscience, his client entitled to a verdict. And what Middlesex jury, con
taining any God-fearing men in it, would hazard an opinion in flat contradiction to what Squire Hoar believed to be just? He was entitled to this respect; for he discriminated in the business that was brought to him, and would not argue a rotten cause, and he refused very large sums offered him to undertake the defense of criminal persons.
His character made him the conscience of the community in which he lived. And in many a town it was asked, “ what does Squire Hoar think of this?” and he was, in political crises, entreated to write à few lines to make known to good men in Chelmsford, or Marlborough, or Shirley, what that opinion was. I used to feel that his conscience was a kind of meter of the degree of honesty in the country, by which on each occasion it was tried, and sometimes found wanting. I am sorry to say, he could not be elected to Congress a second time from Middlesex.
And in his own town, if some important end was to be gained — as, for instance, when the county commissioners refused to rebuild the burned courthouse, on the belief that the courts would be transferred from Concord to Lowell — all parties combined to send Mr. Hoar to the Legislature, where his presence and speech, of course, secured the rebuilding; and, of course, also, having answered our end, we passed him by, and elected somebody else at the next term.
His head, with singular grace in its lines, had a resemblance to the bust of Dante. He retained to the last the erectness of his tall but slender form, and not less the full strength of his mind. Such was, in old age, the beauty of his person and carriage, as if the mind radiated, and made the same impression of probity on all beholders.
His beauty was pathetic and touching in these la