Augustus W. Cutler
Morris Co. Up


Biographical and Genealogical History of Morris County New Jersey. Illustrated. Vol. I., Lewis Publishing Company, New York and Chicago, 1899

No compendium such as the province of this work defines in its essential limitations will serve to offer fit memorial to the life and accomplishments of the honored subject of this sketch- a man remarkable in the breadth of his wisdom, in his indomitable perseverance, his strong individuality, and yet one whose entire life had not seen one esoteric phrase, being an open scroll inviting the closest scrutiny. True, his were "massive deeds and great" in one sense, and yet his entire accomplishment but represented the result of the fit utilization of the innate talents which was his, and the directing of his efforts along those lines where mature judgment and rare discrimination lead the way. There was in Mr. CUTLER a weigh in character, a native sagacity, a far-seeing judgment and fidelity of purpose that commanded the respect of all. A man of indefatigable enterprise and fertility of resource, he carved his name deeply on the record of New Jersey as an eminent lawyer and statesman, and to-day he is honored throughout the commonwealth by those who recognize his able efforts in her behalf.

Augustus W. CUTLER was born in Morristown, October 22, 1827, and died in his native city January 1 1897. A representative of a prominent old New England family that originated in the mother country, he claimed among his ancestors those whose force of character made them leaders in public life, and whose acts form a part of thie history of the nation. His great-grandfather, Silas CONDICT, who built the CUTLER mansion in Morristown, was a member of the first continental congress, was president of the committee of safety of New Jersey during the war of the Revolution, and was speaker of the house of the state legislature of New Jersey for several years, the republic having been established in the meantime. The old CUTLER home, which was erected in 1798, was at the time one of the finest residences in New Jersey. The mantels were all carved hard wood with marble slabs, which were brought long distances on horseback. Five generations of the CUTLER family have been born in that residence. The grandfather of our subject, Abijah CUTLER, was one of the heroes of the Revolution who valiantly fought for the independence of the American colonies. His father was a brigadier-general of the cavalry forces of New Jersey. He was born in Morris County and became a prominent and influential citizen of Morristown. In early life he was connected with the building interests, but later turned his attention to farming. He married a daughter of Silas CONDICT, and they became the parents of three sons and a daughter; Silas C., who engaged in the practice of medicine; Abbie S., wife of Rev. James HYNDSHAW of New York; James P., a Presbyterian minister, who died in early manhood; and Augustus W. The father died about 1854 and his wife passed away in 1846.

Upon his father's farm near Morristown, Augustus W. CUTLER spent his boyhood days, and pursued his education in the district schools preparatory to entering Yale College, but was obliged to leave school before the senior year on account of ill health. He acquired his professional education under the direction of Governor HAINES, of Sussex County, and was admitted to the bar in 1849, while in 1852 he became counselor-at-law. Later he was made special master and examiner in chancery, and in the line of his chosen calling he won distinctive preferment, by reason of his marked ability, his keen analytical power and his comprehensive and accurate understanding of the principles of jurisprudence.

A close student of the political situation of the day and viewing broadly the needs of the country, he became deeply interested in the work accomplished by the political parties, and from 1850 was a recognized leader in his party's counsels. He first supported the Whig party, and on its dissolution joined the ranks of the Democracy. In 1856 he was elected prosecutor of pleas of Morris County, which position he filled until 1861. He served as state senator from 1871 until 1874, and was a member of the state constitutional convention in 1873, his knowledge of constitutional law and his unselfish devotion to the best interests of the commonwealth making him a most valued member of that body. For twenty-one years he was a member, and for several years president, of the Morristown board of education, but resigned that position in 1875 to take his seat in congress, to which he had been elected in 1874, over the late William Walter PHELPS. In 1876 he was re-elected, and in 1878 declined a third nomination. In 1896, however, he was once more nominated, but in that year was defeated by Mahlon PITNEY. His name was often mentioned in connection with gubernatorial honors, and he was organized as one of the foremost statesman of New Jersey, honored and respected by persons of all political faiths by reason of his unquestioned devotion to duty and his fidelity to the principles in which he so firmly believed. Any measure which he thought would prove of benefit to the majority was not slow in eliciting his support, nor did he hesitate to condemn those which he believed would prove detrimental.

In 1861 he drafted the original free-school bill, and was often called "father of the free-school system of the state." In 1864 he made a fight against the railroads in the state, and secured the proceeds of the sales and rental od riparian lands for the benefit of the free-school trustees. In 1874 he introduced into the senate the general railroad bill of New Jersey, which authorized any person or persons se desiring, to build railroads in New Jersey, thus taking the exclusive right of railroad building from those who wished to monopolize it and use their right for their own selfish ends. Mr. CUTLER was also always active in upholding the rights of the colored people, and was largely instrumental in securing the passage of the civil-rights bill. While in congress he introduced and advocated a bill for the appropriating of the proceeds of the sales of the public lands to the different states and territories, according to their population, for the benefit of free schools. During his first term in congress he introduced a bill providing for the creation of a department of agriculture, introduced it during a second term, and in a third term it became a law, and the secretary of agriculture became a member of cabinet. Mr. CUTLER secured the passage of a bill providing back pensions to soldiers, and thus various ways left the impress of his strong individuality upon the legislation of the country. He was an earnest, sincere and honorable in all respect of all students of legislation.

In the intervals when not engaged with official labors he practiced law with eminent success in Morristown, and devoted all of his leisure time to agricultural interests. He owned farms in eighteen states, and was always a close student of agricultural interests, doing all in his power to advance the welfare of the farming class, and throughout New Jersey was known as the "farmers friend". He was a member of the State Grange and Farmers Alliance, and also belonged to the State Geological Society and the Masonic fraternity. In accordance with the teachings of the last named institution he recognized the brotherhood of man, and his deep interest in humanity was manifest by his earnest efforts for the advancement of educational, social and moral interests. His charity was of the practical kind that enabled others to help themselves, and he not only provided means of improvement along material lines but opened to many the border channels of intellectual advancement. Through the various and arduous cares that came to him in professional and political life, he never neglected the holier duties that rest upon every individual, and his church work was ever near and dear to his heart. While in Washington he conducted Bible class for men, and every Sunday afternoon he went to the Reform school, where he addressed the boys. He made a personal acquaintance of many of them and largely influenced then toward a better future. He was a member of the reform school committee of the District of Columbia, and his labors in connection therewith so improved the school that it became almost self-sustaining. During the time he passed in Morristown he conducted a Bible class in Morris Plains. He was very charitable and benevolent, and was entirely free from ostentation in his beneficence. A helping hand was ever extended to the poor and needy, and often times food and fuel was sent to the homes of the poor, when the recipients knew not who was the donor. He truly followed the spirit of the teaching "Let not your left hand know what your right hand is doing", and while the labors of his noble life are immeasurable, we know that his influence remains as a blessed benediction and that memory is enshrined in the hearts of all who know him.

Pleasant, indeed, were the home relations of Mr. CUTLER, who was happily married, in 1854, to Miss Julia R. Walker, of Albany, New York, a descendant of Peregrine White, the first white child born in New England after the landing of the Pilgrims from the Mayflower. Mrs. CUTLER is a most refined and cultured lady, and with her husband has shared the acquaintance and friendship of many of the nation's most prominent people. She still resides in Morristown, and has a family of three sons who are occupying prominent positions in honored walks of life: the eldest is Judge Willard W. CUTLER, of Morristown; Condict W., a practicing physician of New York city, is the second; and the youngest id Frederick W., a clergyman of the Presbyterian church.

Transcribed by Ida King


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