Bay State Monthly, Volume I, No. 2, February, 1884 by Various


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Page 1

During this time he was a member of the Mercantile Library Association,
in company with such men as Edwin P. Whipple, James T. Fields, Thomas R.
Gould, afterward the distinguished sculptor, and many others who were,
active participants in its affairs, and who have become eminent in
literature or in public life. Young Rice was a careful student in the
association, though sharing less frequently in its exercises than some
others. His decided literary tastes finally led him to resolve upon the
enlargement of his education by a collegiate course of study. He
accordingly entered Union College, Schenectady, New York, then under the
presidency of the venerable Dr. Eliphalet Nott, where he was graduated
in 1844, receiving the highest honors of his class on Commencement Day.
His classmates bear testimony to the fact that his career in college was
in the highest degree honorable to himself and to the institution of
which he was one of the most respected and popular members.

At the time of his graduation his purpose was to study law and to pursue
it as a profession; but soon afterward delicate health interposed a
serious obstacle, and a favorable offer of partnership in business with
his former employers induced him to join them in the firm which then
became known as Wilkins, Carter, and Company, the senior member of which
was a graduate of Harvard College, and, at one time, a member of its
Faculty. The present firm of Rice, Kendall, and Company, of which he is
the senior member, is its representative to-day, and is widely known as
one of the largest paper-warehouses in the country.

In 1845, Mr. Rice married Miss Augusta E. McKim, daughter of John McKim,
Esq., of Washington, District of Columbia, and sister of Judge McKim,
of Boston, a highly-educated and accomplished lady, who died on a
voyage to the West Indies, in 1868, deeply lamented by a large circle of
acquaintances and friends, to whom she had become endeared by a life of
beneficence and courtesy.

After his graduation from college, Mr. Rice, having again engaged in
mercantile business, pursued it with great earnestness, fidelity, and
success. These qualities, together with his intellectual culture and his
engaging address, eminently fitted him for public service, and early
attracted favorable attention. He first served the city of Boston as
a member of its school-board, in which capacity he gave much personal
attention to the schools in all their various interests. To his duties
in connection with the public schools were soon added those of a trustee
of the lunatic hospital and other public institutions.

In 1853, Mr. Rice was elected a member of the common council, and a year
later he was president of that body. In 1855, he received, from a large
number of citizens of all parties, a flattering request that he would
permit them to nominate him for the mayoralty of Boston. He reluctantly
acceded to their request, and, after a sharply-contested campaign,
was elected by a handsome majority. His administration of city affairs
proved so satisfactory that he was re-elected, the following year, by
an increased majority. By his wisdom, energy, and rare administrative
ability, Mayor Rice gained a wide and enviable reputation. He was
instrumental in accomplishing many reforms in municipal administration,
among which were a thorough reorganization of the police; the
consolidation of the boards of governors of the public institutions,
by which much was gained in economy and efficiency; the amicable and
judicious settlement of many claims and controversies requiring rare
skill and sagacity in adjustment; and the initiation of some of the most
important improvements undertaken since Boston became a city. Among
these may be mentioned the laying out of Devonshire Street from Milk
Street to Franklin Street, which he first recommended, as well as the
opening of Winthrop Square and adjacent streets for business purposes,
the approaches to which had previously been by narrow alleys. The
magnificent improvements in the Back Bay, which territory had long been
the field of intermittent and fruitless effort and controversy, were
brought to successful negotiation during his municipal administration,
and largely through the ability, energy, and fairness with which he
espoused the great work. The public schools continued to hold prominence
in his attention, and he gave to them all the encouragement which his
office could command; while his active supervision of the various
charitable and reformatory institutions was universally recognized and
welcomed. The free city hospital was initiated, and the public library
building completed during his administration.

Endowed with gifts of natural eloquence, his public addresses furnished
many examples of persuasive and graceful oratory. Among the conspicuous
occasions that made demands upon his ability as a public speaker was the
dedication of the public library building. On that occasion his address
was interposed between those of the Honorable Edward Everett ard the
Honorable Robert C. Winthrop, both of whom were men of the highest and
most elegant culture, possessing a national reputation for finished
eloquence. The position in which the young Boston merchant found
himself was an exceedingly difficult and trying one; but he rose
most successfully to its demands, and nobly surpassed the exacting
expectations of his warmest admirers. It was agreed on every hand that
Mayor Rice's address was fully equal, in scope and appropriateness of
thought and beauty of diction, to that of either of the eminent scholars
and orators with whom he was brought into comparison. It received
emphatic encomiums at home, and attracted the flattering attention of
the English press, by which it was extensively copied and adduced as
another evidence of the literary culture found in municipal officers in
this country, and of American advancement in eloquence and scholarship.

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