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in New Hampshire, as well as the other New England states, to bestow a part of their time upon instruction of these free schools in the country towns. Of her most distinguished sons, a large number have temporarily pursued the business of instruction in this manner. The habits of responsible and circumspect deportment induced by this custom, are in themselves an essential branch of practical education, Mr. WOODBURY was several times thus employed. It
may be mentioned as a striking instance of the confidence placed in his capacity and discretion at an early age, that he was engaged to instruct a large school at Pepperell, Massachusetts, in his fourteenth year, and discharged his duty to the entire satisfaction of his employers.
In 1805, he entered Dartmouth college, and remained connected with this institution until 1809, when he graduated with a high reputation for talents and acquirements. His elevated rank as a scholar while in college, added to his subsequent well known devotion to literature, were probably the grounds which induced his alma mater, as early as 1824, to confer upon him the honorary degree of LL.D.
On leaving college, Mr. WOODBURY attended the law school of Judge Reeve, at Litchfield, Connecticut, for a year, and spent the residue of the usual term of study preparatory to admission to the practice of law, at Boston, Exeter, and his native place. He was admitted to the bar in 1812, and immediately opened an office at Francistown.
The period at which Mr. WooDBURY entered upon the business of active life was a crisis of the deepest political interest. War had just been declared against Great Britain. The whole population was arrayed in opposition, and in support of the policy and expediency of this measure. In the New England states, the discussions of party politics were carried on at this time with unparalleled zeal and intensity. Public meetings were held in every part of New Hampshire, at which speeches were made and resolutions adopted, expressive of the views of the respective parties, and circulated among all classes of society. The immediate friends of Mr. WoodBURY were earnest supporters of the measures of the general government. The early impressions imbibed from that source, appear to have been accordant with his more mature opinions; since, notwithstanding his youth, he came forth publicly and took a high stand in these discussions. At a public meeting held at Weare, in the county of Hillsborough, soon after the declaration of war, a series of spirited and eloquent resolutions, attributed to his pen, were adopted, which produced a decided effect upon the subsequent course of that county. But in all the other counties of the state, the party opposed to the measures of government prevailed, and retained a majority until 1816.
During this interval, Mr. WOODBURY devoted himself to his profession. Few lawyers have so early been engaged in such extensive practice; still fewer have so rapidly attained such high professional reputation.
In 1816, the political friends of Mr. WOODBURY obtained the ascendency in the state elections. On the meeting of the legislature, Mr. WOODBURY was chosen secretary of the senate; and the January following, he was appointed one of the three judges of the superior court.
This appointment to the bench of the highest judicial tribunal of the state at an unprecedented early age, drew general attention to the manner in which the duties were discharged. It is but bare justice to say, that the most sanguine expectations of his friends were fully realized. The readiness of apprehension and reach of thought, combined with great firmness and moral courage, manifested by Mr. WOODBURY in the trial of causes, rendered his conduct upon the bench a model of judicial deportment. His legal opinions evinced extensive research and accurate discrimination. Many of them have been published in the New Hampshire reports, and are held in high estimation by the profession.
In 1823, Mr. WOODBURY was elected governor of New Hampshire. When his term of office had expired, he again returned to the bar, where his assistance was sought from every quarter of the state.
In 1825 he was elected representative from the town of Portsmouth, to which place he had removed in 1819, upon his marriage with Miss Clapp, of Portland. On the meeting of the legislature he was chosen speaker of the house of representatives; and near the close of the session was elected a member of the senate of the United States.
At the commencement of the session of 1825-6, Mr. WooDBURY took his seat in the senate. During the six years succeeding, his name was connected with the most important measures discussed in that body. At his first session, he took a decided part in the debate upon the Panama mission; a subject of universal interest at that time. To enumerate the various subjects upon which he offered his opinions at length, with great force and eloquence, would require us to transcribe the lists of the more important reports and bills before the senate. For four successive sessions, he was chairman of the committee on commerce, in which capacity his report and speeches upon the Delaware breakwater, upon discriminating duties, and upon the West India trade, were considered as displaying uncommon ability. He was also a member of the committee upon agriculture, from which he made a much esteemed report against the salt duty. Upon the committee of naval affairs, he was long an active and useful member.
He was also placed upon various important select committees. Of that upon the petition of the surviving officers of the army of the revolution, composed of Messrs. Webster, Van Buren, Hayne, and Harrison, he was chosen chairman; and his report and speeches upon that subject placed the claims of that gallant band in the strongest light. Upon the report of the select committee raised on the concerns of the general post office, he was distinguished for his eloquence, as well as upon the bankrupt bill, and upon Mr. Foote's resolutions relative to the public lands.
For several sessions, Mr. WOODBURY served upon the joint committee on the library of congress. His extensive acquaintance with general literature peculiarly fitted him for the duties of this situation. To his enlarged and systematic views as to the proper mode of filling up that collection, it is generally understood, it owes much of its utility and prosperity.
During his whole period of service in the senate, important duties devolved on Mr. WOODBURY in his own state. At the intervals of the sessions of congress, he continued to be employed as counsel in the most important causes before the superior court. Such heavy sacrifices, both of pecuniary emolument and of domestic comfort, were demanded by these periodical absences from home, that on the approach of a new election of senator, in 1830, he addressed a letter to the governor, containing a request that it might be communicated to the legislature, declining a reëlection.
The term for which Mr. WOODBURY was elected to the senate of the United States, expired on the 4th of March, 1830. At the annual state election, held on the eighth of March, some days afterwards, he was chosen a senator in the state legislature, for the district in which he resided.
His numerous friends at home, at that time expected that he would thenceforward remain among them. But on the reorganization of the cabinet, in the month of April following, he was invited by President Jackson to become a member of his cabinet, as secretary of the navy. This invitation he found it impossible to decline. He accordingly signified his non-acceptance of the office of state senator, and forth with returned to Washington and entered upon the duties of his office.
In the execution of these duties, Mr. WOODBURY has manifested his characteristic industry, zeal, and spirit of systematic arrangement. The officers of the navy feel assured, that so far as it depends on the head of the department, the most rigid justice will be exercised in the distribution of their proportional burdens and privileges. The whole course of Mr. WOODBURY in public office, whether as judge, governor, senator, or secretary of the navy, has been distinguished for his energetic and fearless discharge of duty,for his unwearied endeavors to ascertain with accuracy what that duty required, and for his disregard of labor, expense, or comfort, in fulfilling his public avocations with promptitude and impartiality.
In a sketch like the present, the agreeable manners and the colloquial powers of Mr. WOODBURY can be but alluded to. In private life, his tastes and habits have led him to the extensive cultivation of science and literature. He was one of the earliest members of the New Hampshire Historical Society, to whose published collections he has been a contributor; he is also a member of several other scientific and literary societies of our country.
In the intercourse of men of letters, as well as in the discharge of those public duties which have devolved upon him, he has exhibited the same admirable traits of character.
To what point soever his attention has been turned, it has been his first object so to view it, that his aim might be directed with a clear
eye and steady hand. He has not looked for success at any time, until he faithfully applied his earnest efforts. Calm reflection, persevering assiduity, a judicious method, both in his private studies and his official engagements, and, above all, a resolute and intrepid adherence to whatever he has conscientiously believed his duty, have enabled him to go forward, with a firm and sure step, to the elevation of honor and public trust where he now stands.
The contemplation of a character like that of Mr. WOODBURY, affords a pleasing evidence, that, at least in our happy land, rich rewards await a course of honorable exertion. In our National Gallery may be found not a few men, who, by dint of talent, under the guidance of integrity and diligence, have risen from obscurity to distinction, and won immortal honors for themselves and our country.
There is an eloquence in such examples, which ought by all means to be consecrated to the public welfare. On every occasion, therefore, as the editors of a national work, we shall cheerfully do our part toward the attainment of this object. And while we faithfully keep in mind the Roman patriot's injunction, we shall zealously urge it also on our fellow-citizens:-Perpetuate the memory of those men who are our nation's pride; and the record of their talents and their toils shall be a precious boon to you and to posterity. “Conservate reipublicæ civem bonarum artium, bonarum partium, bonorum virorum; quem si vobis, si reipublicæ conservatis, addictum, deditum, constrictum vobis ac liberis vestris habebitis : omniumque hujus nervorum ac laborum vos potissimum fructus uberes diuturnosque capietis.”