Bay State Monthly, Vol. I, No. 3, March, 1884 by Various


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Page 1

"The rank is but the guinea's stamp,
The man's the gowd for a' that."

In this country, while it is not necessary to success to be able to lay
claim to an aristocratic descent, it is certainly a satisfaction,
however democratic the community may be, for any person to know that his
grandfather was an honest man and a public-spirited citizen.

Judge Abbott was born in Chelmsford on the first of November, 1814. He
was fitted for college under the instruction of Ralph Waldo Emerson. He
entered Harvard College at the early age of fourteen and was graduated
in 1832. After taking his degree, he studied law with Nathaniel Wright,
of Lowell, and was admitted to the bar in 1837. In 1840, he formed with
Samuel A. Brown a partnership, which continued until he was appointed to
the bench in 1855.

From the very first, Judge Abbott took a leading position in his
profession, and at once acquired an extensive and lucrative practice,
without undergoing a tedious probation, or having any experience of the
"hope deferred which maketh the heart sick." In criminal cases his
services were in great demand. He had, and has, the advantage of a fine
and commanding person, which, both at the bar and in the Senate, and, in
fact, in all situations where a man sustains the relation of an advocate
or orator before the public, is really a great advantage, other things
being equal. As a speaker, Judge Abbott is fluent, persuasive, and
effective. He excites his own intensity of feeling in the jury or
audience that he is addressing. His client's cause is emphatically his
own. He is equal to any emergency of attack or defence. If he believes
in a person or cause, he believes fully and without reservation; thus he
is no trimmer or half-and-half advocate. He has great capacity for
labor, and immense power of application, extremely industrious habits,
and what may be called a nervous intellectuality, which, in athletic
phrase, gives him great staying power, a most important quality in the
conduct of long and sharply contested jury trials. After saying this, it
is almost needless to add that he is full of self-reliance and of
confidence in whatever he deliberately champions. His nerve and pluck
are inherited traits, which were conspicuous in his ancestors, as their
participation in the French and Indian wars, and in the war for
Independence, sufficiently shows. Three of Judge Abbott's sons served in
the army during the war of the Rebellion, and two of them fell in
battle, thus showing that they, too, inherited the martial spirit of
their ancestors.

Judge Abbott had just reached his majority, when he was chosen as
representative to the Legislature. In 1841, he was elected State
senator. During his first term in the Senate he served on the railroad
and judiciary committees; and during his second term, as chairman of
these committees, he rendered services of great and permanent value to
the State. At the close of his youthful legislative career he returned
with renewed zeal to the practice of his profession. His ability as a
legislator had made him conspicuous and brought him in contact with
persons managing large business interests, who were greatly attracted by
the brilliant young lawyer and law-maker, and swelled the list of his

At this period General Butler was almost invariably his opposing or
associate counsel. When they were opposed, it is needless to say that
their cases were tried with the utmost thoroughness and ability. When
they were associated, it is equally needless to say that there could
hardly have been a greater concentration of legal ability. In 1844,
Judge Abbott was a delegate to the National Democratic Convention at
Baltimore, which nominated James K. Polk as its presidential candidate;
and he has been a delegate, either from his district or the State at
large, to all but one of the Democratic National Conventions since,
including, of course, the last one, at Cincinnati, which nominated
General Winfield S. Hancock. His political prominence is shown by the
fact that he has invariably been the chairman of the delegation from his
State, and, several times, the candidate of his party in the Legislature
for the office of United States senator.

Judge Abbott was on the staff of Governor Marcus Morton. In 1853, he was
a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, which consisted so largely
of men of exceptional ability. In the debates and deliberations of this
convention, he took a conspicuous part. In 1835, he was appointed judge
of the superior court of Suffolk County. He retired from the bench in
1858, having won an enviable reputation for judicial fairness and
acumen, and suavity of manner, in the trial of cases, which made him
deservedly popular with the members of the bar who practised in his
court. In the year following his retirement from the bench, he removed
his office from Lowell to Boston, where he has since resided, practising
in the courts, not only of this Commonwealth, but of the neighboring
States and in the Supreme Court of the United States. In 1874, he was
elected a member of Congress, from the fourth congressional district of
Massachusetts. He was chosen by his Democratic colleagues of the House a
member of the Electoral Commission, to determine the controverted result
of the presidential election. When the gravity of the situation, and the
dangers of the country at that time, are taken into account, it is
obvious that no higher compliment could have been paid than that
involved in this selection; a compliment which was fully justified by
the courage and ability which Judge Abbott manifested as a member of
that commission. It should have been mentioned before, that, in 1838,
Judge Abbott married Caroline, daughter of Judge Edward St. Loe
Livermore. After what has been said, it is scarcely necessary to give a
summary of the prominent traits of Judge Abbott as a man and a lawyer.
The warmth and fidelity of his friendship are known to all such as have
had the good fortune to enjoy that friendship. He is as conspicuous for
integrity and purity of character as for professional ability. As a
citizen, he is noted for patriotism, liberality, and public spirit.
As a politician, he is true to his convictions. As a business man,
he has brought to the aid of the large railroad and manufacturing
interests, with which he has long been, and is still, connected, large
intelligence, great energy, and sound judgment. His physical and mental
powers are undiminished, and it may be hoped that many years of honor
and prosperity are still in store for him.

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