BY HON. DAVID A. SMALLEY.
Van Ness family, as their name indicates, were of
Dutch origin, and were residents of
John P. Van Ness, the oldest of the sons of Peter Van Ness (for some slight
notice of the other members of this family of eminent men seems due to the
memory of the distinguished subject of our memoir), was educated at Columbia
college in the city of New York, studied law in the office of the late
Brockholst Livingston, and commenced the practice of his profession in his
native county. Subsequently, in the year 1801, he was chosen member of congress
from his district; and having in the following y ear, 1802, married a wealthy
lady of the city of
next son, William P. Van Ness, was also educated at
Cornelius Peter Van Ness, the subject of our present memoir, was the third son of Peter Van Ness, and was born on the 26th of January, 1782, in the town of Kinderhook, Columbia county, and State of New York, on the place, it is said, where Ex-President Van Buren lately resided. He was at first designed for the profession of the law, as his brothers before him had been; and, like them, at the
years before the death of Ethan Allen, or whether having taken place at some earlier period the fact and the result of the visit were communicated to him by his uncle Caleb between 1787 and 1796.
age of fifteen was fitted to enter the junior class (the
mid-way term) of
completed a full course of legal study, he was admitted to the bar in the year
1804, and commenced the practice of his profession in his native
remained in the practice of law at Kinderhook two years, and then, in the year
1806, removed to
have said that the office of
tration, in consequence of the arbitrary measures adopted by both
biographer of Mr. Van Ness, to whom we have above referred, represents the then
collector of the port of Burlington, the late Samuel Buel, Esq., as a gentleman
too high minded and too scrupulously conscientous to
take part in such apparently fraudulent transactions, and therefore that it
became necessary to get him out of the way, and to put a less scrupulous man in
his place. Mr. Buel therefore, it is said, "was removed upon some
frivolous and groundless pretext, and Mr. Van Ness translated to the
But this is not only casting an unjust and undeserved fling at Mr. Van Ness's good name for high-toned integrity, for which, during a long life of public service, no one ever bore a more pure and unsullied reputation, but it also gives the other named gentleman, Mr. Buel, credit for the exercise of conscientiousness where none was specially called for. There was nothing surely that was morally wrong in the transaction, unless it may have been Signor Monzuco's oaths to the Custom House returns, which was a matter, of course,
for himself and his employers alone. As to the main
transaction, nobody was deceived by it, nobody was wronged by it. So far as the
government was concerned in it, either by privity or
consent, it was obviously to be looked upon as an expedient resorted to for
effecting necessary ends without openly, or indeed, in any way really violating
government consistency. It afforded, indeed, to the political opposition party
of that day a fine handle for political sarcasm and affected indignation, which
they did not fail to use. But it carried no moral turpitude with it, and could
justly bring no stain upon the port collector for the acquiescent part which he
was called upon to bear in it. And, indeed, it was well enough understood that
the gentleman named as then filling the office, far from having the nice
scruples attributed to him by the biographer from whom we quote, was himself
only too willing to bear an active part in the transaction, provided it were
for an adequate consideration. But though a good enough man in his way,
and well fitted to the performance of the ordinary duties of his office, the
times and the occasion obviously demanded for the post a man of' more than
ordinary ability, sagacity and aptitude for the place; and hence the
government, with just and discriminating discernment, displaced the former
occupant, and made Mr. Van Ness collector for the port of Burlington in his
stead. Mr. Van Ness held the office until the termination of the war, and then
left it to fill the more important one of commissioner conjointly with the
late Peter B. Porter and John Holmes to settle our national boundaries under
the treaty of
after this, the practice of his profession at Burlington, which, no longer
necessary, "he continued," says his biographer, "from love of
it," he became again wore directly engaged in the affairs and interests of
his own state; and by that leading and masterly influence which he ever
exercised over its people when he chose to do so, he was able to combine
conflicting elements and parties together, and place himself at their head. He
had, indeed, all along for years previously ever since, we may say, his early
appointment to the office of
ablest men of the state," says his biographer, "were in the
legislature, and the circumstances of the state and of the times brought before
it measures and questions of high interest and importance; and Mr. Van Ness
brought with him the habits of labor, industry and deep investigation and
preparation, which he had always manifested. As a parliamentary leader and
debater he assumed the same standing perhaps I should say ascendency
he had possessed at the bar. He mingled in every important debate, and his
influence and talents were usefully exerted and wisely directed. One of those
measures may be mentioned. He brought in a bill to incorporate the Bank of
Burlington, and on the fate of that bill depended the
adoption of the banking system of
During the last year Van Ness's legislative term, 1821, his office of commissioner having ceased by the final disagreement of the British and American commissioners, he was appointed chief justice of the state; which office he held until two years later, when he was withdrawn from it to be placed in the executive chair of the state. He held the office of governor three years, having been twice reelected without opposition, and declining a further reelection in 1826. We need not say that he filled these offices with distinguished ability and eminent success. As chief justice of the supreme court, "his duties," says his biographer, "carried him into every county, and his judicial administration increased, and confirmed his popularity. For while his promptitude, learning and ability were conceded, the bar
and the public admitted that he had not been surpassed in
courtesy, dignity and impartiality." As governor of the state, the same
writer says of him, "he performed his current
duties well, of course, made judicious and popular recommendations, promoted
the adoption of good measures, and maintained the reputation and influence he
had acquired. His reception of
come now to what may be termed a turning point in the political life of Gov Van
Ness, and one which not only his friends but even his political enemies for,
as with every public man, he had such must recall with a shadow of regret,
especially as these latter had so large a share in marring and blighting his aspirations
and all the future of his personal career. The writer of the biographical
sketch to which we have referred, and from which we have so freely extracted,
though himself of opposite and sharply bitter hostile politics to those of Gov.
Van Ness, and one of those most probably who rejoiced for the moment at his
political discomfiture and defeat, has well depicted his standing and position
at that period, and, on the whole, very truthfully and fairly presented the
narrative of the memorable senatorial contest of 1826, and of its untoward and
unexpected result. "At this period," says he, "Gov. Van Ness was
in the prime of life exercised in business his mind trained in the habits
of investigation, and disciplined in the conflicts of forensic and political
life. He was widely known as a most able and rising man, and his extensive
intercourse with society especially his frequent visits to
term of Hon. Horatio Seymour, who was not supposed to contemplate a reelection,
was about expiring, and the election for senator was to take place in October,
1826. The influence of Gov. Van
ten years he had exercised an overruling power being supposed to have control
of all offices of importance under the state and general government in
The writer, in commenting upon the results of the election, and with the asperity of his own political feelings somewhat softened by the flight of time, is pleased to add: "Some injustice was done to Gov. Van Ness, who would doubtless have adhered to the administration during the residue of its existence; but it is quite reasonable to infer that on its termination he would have felt
himself at liberty to adopt the party to which his sympathies and interests both attached him. Stung by a reverse which he felt to be so decisive, he abandoned the administration in a published manifesto, in which he charged his defeat to the interference of Mr. Adams, grounded on the efforts and letters of persons in his special confidence, which involved him in controversy with them, published in the newspapers of the time, and which contributed to swell the tide of unpopularity which was then setting against the administration."
The writer adds: "The reverses of politicians and statesmen are not the griefs for which the world shed many tears. Yet his friends felt sympathy for a disappointment which he felt keenly, and on cool reflection even opponents might regret that the doors of the senate were barred against talents so conspicuous and so qualified to be an honor and ornament to the state and country."
And well might they do so. For through the enmities and jealousies and cabals and vindictive workings, which thus barely succeeded in striking down Gov. Van Ness in the prime and vigor of his political life and influence in Vermont, such was the course of subsequent events, that he became politically an exile from the state; and thus was there lost to it a man whose large experience and ripened abilities would have been for many years employed in fostering its interests and shedding lustre upon its name.
the accession of General Jackson to the presidential chair in 1829 Mr. Van Ness
received the distinguished appointment of minister to
to his own country and state in 1840, he found that
great changes had taken and were taking place in the field of national
politics; old friends and competitors had passed away, to give place to new and
younger aspirants; while his own adopted state of
a short stay in
His biographer, to whom we have so often referred, and to whom we are so largely indebted in the composition of our own biographical sketch of Gov. Van Ness a gentleman intimately acquainted with him, and himself fitted to appreciate and delineate his intellectual and personal character, thus sums up and closes his remarks upon his life:
"Gov. Van Ness," says he, "neither felt nor affected love for literature; troubled himself little with theoretical speculations, or with abstract principles, except, as connected with the kindred sciences of law and politics, which few men more thoroughly studied and understood to which he devoted himself exclusively; and this concentration of mind and effort was the secret and the source of his success. Without imagination, using language plain, but expressing always the precise idea he wished to convey, disregarding decoration, his reasoning, compacted link within link, glowed with the fire of earnestness and conviction or rather his speech was a torrent of impassioned argument, as clear as it was rapid, capable of sweeping away juries and assemblies, and of
moving from their moorings the anchored caution and gravity of the bench. As a speaker, Mr. Van Ness was of a high order indeed.
was a patriot, wishing his country well, and would have hesitated at no
sacrifices if required by its safety or glory. A man of dauntless courage, he
was always ready to meet his enemies, whom he never conciliated; and he did not
love his enemies yet placable, never refusing the
offered hand of reconciliation, and forgetting in a moment the animosities and
injuries of years. And he never deserted a friend. Nothing no alteration of
circumstances, no odium, unworthiness even, could obliterate his
feelings for his friend, or intercept any support or service he could render.
His kindly nature kindled with instant sympathy for bad luck and misfortune
wherever he encountered it, and the story of embarrassment, trouble or
disaster, was not half told when his quick brain was devising expedients of
relief, or his hand nervously exploring his pockets, bare it might be from the
effect of previous credulity or benevolences. His liberality and generosity
were without bounds. He was a gentleman of attractive manners, and his
conversation was full of shrewd remark, practical philosophy and anecdote,
which his varied experience had collected. With great virtues he had some of
the errors and failings incident to strong passions, to his education, his
career and the temptations to which he was exposed. He was singularly
fortunate, and it was quite in course that his retirement from the office he
last held should be followed by a large accession to his wealth, inherited from
his brother, John P. Van Ness of
have mentioned above the early marriage of Sir. Van
Van Ness subsequently married again; his second wife being a Spanish lady of
much beauty and excellence of character, but several years younger than
himself. She still survives him, and is a resident of
Van Ness had three sons, James, Cornelius, and George; and two daughters (by
his first marriage), Marcia (Lady Ouseley), and Cornelia (Mrs. Roosevelt). Of the sons, James, the oldest, is the only
one living. We have not the data of his life. Cornelius, the second son, was
the daughters, Marcia, said by those who knew her to have been a young lady of
fine talents and of brilliant accomplishments, was early married (in March,
1828) to Mr. W. G. Ouseley subsequently made Sir W. G. Ouseley then an
attachι of the British legation at Washington. Cornelia, a native of St.
Albans, the remaining daughter of the first Mrs. Van Ness, was the favorite neice of Gen. John P. Van Ness, and usually a resident
member of his family at
is still living, and since her marriage to Judge Roosevelt has been a resident
Scotchman, who came out here soon after the peace, in 1783, and built a one
story frame house, on the east side of Shelburne bay, about half way between
the shore and the now traveled road to Shelburne, opposite the late residence
of Theodore Catlin, deceased. The situation was considerably elevated above the
lake, and commanded a pleasant view of the bay and the beautiful point
opposite. He owned 100 acres, and set out an orchard of apple trees and other
fruits. The Davidson pear tree must have been the first of the kind in the town
it is not now alive, but is remembered as a large and productive tree.
Davidson was at first engaged in the lumber business he was a bachelor and
lived with a family in his house, generally, until about 20 years before his
decease, when he was supplied and cared for by the family of Theodora Catlin.
He was a great
the early and most successful business men of
It is curious to note that he sets down his capital at that time as amounting to the sum of $1,573.63, viz.: $1,003 in cash, of which $506 was left him from his father, Pownal Deming's estate, and the balance had been made or saved by him, as before mentioned, in New York, and the remainder in some old goods and personal effects which never, as he himself expresses it, were turned to
was called also the "hermit of
Biography furnished by the family.
much use or profit. From that time he was accustomed to inventory his entire property every year, from the record of which, still remaining in his own handwriting, we are enabled to trace his yearly gains, and to notice his steady and uniform success. He continued in business just 20 years; retiring from it in the year 1826, on account of failing health and premonitions of the fatal disease of consumption, which two years afterwards, on the 5th May, 1828, terminated his life: leaving behind him a large estate for those days, and the reputation of having been "the best business man in Chittenden county." We should add, that those who knew him well, speak of him as having been a man of untiring energy and perseverance, always persistently carrying out what he had undertaken; plain and simple in his tastes, having a marked dislike to display; unobtrusive in manner, of quiet humor, and "fond of a good joke;" and of great exactness in business, and of sterling honesty and uprightness in its transactions.
Deming was married to Miss Fanny Follett, daughter of Timothy Follett of
BY REV. JOSHUA YOUNG.
Was born in
the age of' nineteen, after a term of three years' study, he received a degree
with three others at the
He immediately entered the law office of Hon. William C. Harrington (Col. Harrington), in Burlington, and in due course of time was admitted to the Chittenden county bar, where he soon become distinguished in his profession.
In 1814, he married Maria Waite, by whom he had four children, of whom two survive: one, J. S. Adams, Esq., is the present able secretary of the Vermont Board of Education.
For one or more terms Mr. Adams served his fellow citizens at Montpelier as councillor from Burlington as our legislators were then called and in 1825, during the visit of Gen. Lafayette, at the laying of the corner stone of the University building, was aid to Gov. Van Ness, and to him was assigned the duty of introducing strangers who desired to shake hands with that distinguished friend of America, and friend of just and impartial liberty everywhere.
He died on Wednesday morning, Jan. 12, 1861, aged 76 years widely known throughout the state for his eminent ability and public services for more than forty years, and esteemed by his fellow men for the purity of his character, and his generous and earnest public spirit.
The characteristics of Mr. Adams his intellectual qualities and his public merits are well set forth in the following notice of his death, taken from the Burlington Daily Times, and in the resolutions appended:
"He was an able lawyer. In the preparation of his causes industrious and thorough; in their management, acute, ingenious, quick in perception, full of resources, tasking the strength of the strongest opponents, and manifesting an ability of which the reports preserve abundant. evidence.
citizen he was distinguished for his public spirit. In the affairs and
As a son, brother and father, he has left a record of duties nobly performed, which is impressed on the community where he passed his days.
Thus has passed away one of the few remaining men of a past epoch, and the disappearance of Charles Adams is another memento to remind us "what shadows we are, and what shadows we pursue."
The members of the Chittenden county bar net yesterday afternoon at the office of the state's attorney. Jeremiah French, Esq., was chosen president of the meeting, and L. B. Englesby, secretary.
Hon. Geo. F. Edmunds announced the death of Mr. Adams briefly and impressively, and offered the following resolutions:
Whereas, it has pleased God to call from among us our eldest brother in the bar, Hon. Charles Adams, the largest portion of whose life has been spent in the diligent study and honorable practice of the law.
Whereas, in discharge of a public duty as well as in obedience to the dictates of our private feelings, we think it proper to mark this occasion by some record of our estimate of his abilities and his character; therefore
Resolved, That the public character and services of Mr. Adams demand commendation; that through his long life whether as a private person or in public office, he maintained a wide and various intercourse with public men, and cherished a constant and deep interest in public affairs: and by his wisdom and sagacity, the fruit of large intellectual endowments, matured thought, and extensive observation, and by the soundness of his judicial opinions, he exerted at all times a most salutary influence upon the sentiments and progress of his community.
Resolved, That in his practice as a counsellor and advocate of this bar we would record their sense of his integrity, prudence, learning, knowledge of men and affairs, and power of persuasion, and that when he died there was extinguished one of the few remaining lights of the "old common law."
Resolved, That the state's attorney be requested to present these resolutions to the County Court at its next term, and request the Court to order them to be placed upon its record.
Resolved, That as a token of respect for the deceased we will attend his funeral in a body, wearing the appropriate badge of mourning.
Resolved, That the Secretary transmit to the family of Mr. Adams a copy of these resolutions, together with an expression of the sympathy of the members of this bar, appropriate to this mournful occasion.
The resolutions were unanimously agreed to; and the meeting adjourned till Friday morning at half past nine o'clock, to attend the funeral.
From the Sermon on the death of Mr. Adams.
To our aged brother, whose remains we followed to the grave last Friday, death came when death seems fitting not in green spring, when life is in its blossom; not in golden summer, when ambition and labor are fast ripening their fruits; but in late autumn, when the mature fruits fall from the trees, and the yellow grain bends to the sickle, and the full harvest is gathered in. At first, true to the instinct, I alluded to in the beginning of these remarks, timid, shrinking, he was scarcely willing to depart. "I am very feeble," he said to me one day, "but it seems to me that never in my life had I so much to do as now." And his trembling hand pulled out the drawer which contained, in various manuscripts, the evidences of his literary plans and unfinished labors, and all of them of public interest and utility. But, as his waning strength assured him that his time was come, that it was God's will he soon should go, he took to his heart the consolations of the religion of Jesus, to which his mind although somewhat skeptical, perhaps, by nature; and critical by habit ever yielded an intelligent and grateful assent; received the sacraments of the church, and, happy in listening day by day to the sacred songs of the psalmist, and the blessed words of Jesus, gently breathed his last; and his end was peace. It was a part of my original purpose to say something, at this time, respecting the professional and public services of the able lawyer, the studious scholar, the devoted and public-spirited citizen, the upright man, whose death we commemorate; but the press, speaking from a longer acquaintance, and to a larger audience has already discharged this office of respect, and therefore it only remains for me simply to express my appreciation of the kind friend and attentive parishioner he ever was to me. The occasional evening visit; the pleasant conversation, always on topics worthy and of high public concern; the book or paper sent to me, now and then, as a gift, or for instructive perusal; the kind words spoken from the experience of age, and from the sympathies of congenial opinions these things I shall remember and think of as I look and see him no more in his place in this house he was so constant to occupy every Sunday, morning and evening, till health and strength failed." J. Y.
[And here, at the foot of this biography, we may be permitted to gratefully record, this work enlisted his sympathy and coφporation already had he taken in charge the
preparation of the history of the town with whose annals he was so familiar and which he had done so much to illustrate, and aided in selecting a board of town historians for the county, when sudden paralysis met the valuable old man journeying with so much seeming leisure and quietude down to his grave and Burlington and Chittenden county lost the man most preeminently qualified to gather up the records of her past and write the biographies of her public men. Ed.]