Autobiography of Seventy Years - Vol. 1

By George F. Hoar | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XV
THE NATIONAL HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES IN 1869

THE House, when I entered it, contained many very able men. Some of them remained long enough in public life to fill a large and prominent place in the history of the country. Others retired early. I will mention only a few:

I do not think his countrymen have estimated Nathaniel P. Banks at his true value. When he left office at the ripe age of seventy-five a public service ended surpassed in variety and usefulness by that of few citizens of Massachusetts since the days of John Adams. He bore a great part in a great history. Men who saw him in his later life, a feeble, kindly old man, with only the remains of his stately courtesy, had little conception of the figure of manly strength and dignity which he presented when he presided over the Constitutional Convention in 1853, or took the oath of office as Governor in 1858. He raised himself from a humble place, unaided, under the stimulant of a native and eager desire for excellence. He was always regarded by the working people of Massachusetts as the type of what was best in themselves and as the example and representative of the great opportunity which the Republic holds out to its poorest citizens and their children. He was a natural gentleman, always kindly and true. From this trait and not because of want of fidelity to his own convictions he found as warm friends among his political opponents as among his political associates.

Gen. Banks was Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations in 1869. He was then beginning to lose somewhat his oratorical power and the splendid qualities which made him so important a force in the history of Massachusetts and of the country. But still on fit occasions he showed

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