GOOD PRESIDENTIAL TIMBER. — The Connecticut Ancestry of Senators Sherman, Evarts and Hoar.
“Away up in the bleak hills of Litchfield county there was a young cobbler, a century and a half ago, who made stout boots with home-tanned leather for the hardy men who opened up that country. In this year of our Lord there are in the Senate of the United States three men, each of whom hopes to be the next nominee of the Republican party for President of the United States. What connection is there between these two facts — an obscure Connecticut colony cobbler and three United States Senators who were born a hundred years later? There is the most highly interesting connection, for the young cobbler was Roger Sherman, and the three Senators are William M. Evarts, George Frisbie Hoar, and John Sherman, and they are all related, either in the line of direct descent or collaterally with the blood of the Roger Sherman family. So that it has happened that the talents of the fine old rebel Roger are justified in his blood, and we have the highly interesting spectacle of three cousins of greater or less degree of kin, at this time, with their eyes, and those of their friends for them, fixed upon what Americans believe the most exalted seat of power on the earth.
STUDIOUS HABITS WILL OUT.
While Roger Sherman pegged away on his cobbler’s bench he sat a dreary law book or two before him, and proved that a man could serve two masters, for he mastered law while he was making boots. When the Connecticut colonists were, in 1710, or thereabouts, kicking against the taxation by Great Britain, and were told by the timid merchants that they were kicking against the pricks, Roger Sherman, then about 40 years old, said ‘No,’ and he backed up bis position with such masterly arguments and appeals as not only brought him to the front in the colony, but carried his fame throughout the thirteen colonies. So when the Continental Congress was created, Roger Sherman, of Connecticut, became one of the leading members of it, serving continuously from 1774 to 1788. Four years after the Constitution was adopted Roger Sherman died. The cobbler had become the statesman. He was one of those very remarkable men who, with but little learning, with but scant knowledge of history, shut off from Europe by an unfrequented sea, yet seemed intuitively and almost supernaturally to have grasped and comprehended not only the true principles of popular government, but to have been able to set down the rules by which the principles should be carried out.
What would the rugged old statesman have thought had he contemplated that at the beginning of the second century of successful government under his Constitution two of his descendants and one of his relatives should be placed in line for the Presidency? Poets are born, not made; and if we look through the various branches of the Sherman family we shall find that the aphorism might be changed to ‘here lawyers are born.’
THE SHERMAN FAMILY.
In the generation preceding that of Evarts, Hoar, and John Sherman there was one eminent lawyer of the Sherman blood. That was Gov. Roger Sherman Baldwin of New Haven. He is said to have resembled the cobbler – lawyer physically as greatly as he did mentally. He was a leader at the bar, and possessed that hankering for political life which is a characteristic of the Shermans. He was a Representative iu Congress, Governor of Connecticut, and a Senator in Congress in Taylor’s Administration. He was blunt and aggressive and tactless, like Roger, and he was so incorruptibly honorable that people said he leaned backward. His son, Simeon E. Baldwin, is one of the few really eminent lawyers now at the Connecticut bar with a liking for politics, but utterly without talent for it. We cannot fail to detect, the old Roger Sherman strain in Simeon’s leadership of the Connecticut Mugwumps a year ago. Here was the old cobbler’s tactless bumptiousness, with this difference: that Roger Sherman brought that quality to bear in sympathy with the majority while Simeon let it use him against it. That eminently legal family, the Seymours of l.itchfield, one of whom is now a member of Congress from the Fourth district of this State, was, through intermarriages, related to the Roger Sherman blood. Of this family, Horatio Seymour was a relative, and the late Chief Justice Seymour of this State was a member, while the late United States Judge Woodruff was connected with it by marriage.
THE OHIO SHERMANS.
Tho Ohio Shermans are collaterally connected with the Roger Sherman family, as they claim, though not of his direct blood. They are of the Connecticut Shermans. Of tho two famous brothers Tecumseh, who is the only one of the family who has won renown as a soldier, is the most like Roger Sherman in respect to bluntness, directness, and a sort of rough aggressiveness. The subtle, secretive, and cautious habit of John came to him by some other than the Sherman inheritance, and his talent as a private and pubic financier as well. The Shermans, as a rule, were not money keepers. William T. Sherman hasn’t the most remote notion of the art of accumulating. He knows what his salary is and what his expenses are, and is content to have them balance. George Frisbie Hoar is poor, always has been, probably always will be, and, his friends say, has not escaped embarrassment on that account. He might earn large fees as a lawyer, sometimes does, but is quite likely to put the fee in his trousers pocket, and spend lavishly as long as it lasts. Mr. Evarts earns vast sums, but he is not regarded as a very wealthy man — not near so wealthy as he would have been had he had the moneymaker’s gift of knowing what to do with his money. But John Sherman, unlike his relatives, is a cunning business man. On the other hand, they all outrank him in legal ability. Honest John is a consummate politician, a shrewd financier, but no great account as a lawyer.
Mr. Evarts, on the other hand, inherits the legal ability, and lawyers say has improved his inheritance. But where does he get that interminable, obscure, involved, and highly Latinized diction? That doesn’t come from Roger Sherman, who was clear, blunt, straightforward. Old classmates of Evarts at Yale a half a century ago say that he developed that habit in college, and it is a tradition that he was known among the students as ‘wordy Evarts.’ That nickname could not have been given him in a mocking spirit exactly, for he seems to have attained that prominence in college among his fellows which he very speedily established in the world. He was a great debater, a great essayist, and gathered the prizes for these attainments in a way that brought him the gushing admiration of the students.
LOOKING TO EVARTS.
‘He will be President, some day,’ was the prophecy. There was a quiet, retiring, inconspicuous student at Yale at the same time who was elected President forty years later. His name was Tilden. But it was to young Evarts then that the eyes of his mates were turned in expectation of this honor. Perhaps the pleasant predictions of his classmates have been echoing in his memory ever since. Perhaps if he had a little more political ability even at the expense of his legal gifts, he might have been President ere this. He was prominent before he was forty; was figuring at Chicago in for William H. Seward’s nomination, and made the motion to make the nomination of Abraham Lincoln unanimous. Twenty years later, his cousin, George Frisbie Hoar, presided over the Convention at which another cousin, John Sherman, was a prominent candidate for the Presidency. The coincidence would be more strikingly carried out if at the next convention one cousin, Mr. Evarts, should be Chairman, and two other cousins — Sherman and Hoar — should be nominated for President and Vice-President, or vice versa.
In some respects the Hoar brothers are the most interesting members of this generation of the Sherman family. Some years ago the older brother, Rockwood, seemed to give the greatest promise of a future. When the two brothers were in the House together, Rockwood seemed to shadow George. The younger brother — though his hair was whiter than Rockwood’s — seemed to be a little awed by the older. Rockwood sustained the family reputation as a lawyer, and Grant made him his Attorney-General, and tried to put him upon the Supreme Bench. But there cropped out in Rockwood, while he was Attorney-General, a little of the old Roger Sherman brusqueness, now and then, and several Republican Senators were offended so deeply that they wouldn’t let him go upon the Supreme bench. Then Ben Butler beat him for Congress, and this was adding insult to injury. So Rockwood went back to his law office in Boston, and it is suspected that he was a Mugwump a year ago.
George Frisbie Hoar developed rapidly after he got from under the shadow of Rockwood’s wing, and the Massachusetts people discovered that his face and manner were misleading, for he was no innocent in politics, like Rockwood, Hoar or Evarts, but decidedly adept. As he aimed, however, to cover up this adeptness, some people accused him of a quality which was possessed in an eminent degree by a celebrated creation of Charles Dickens’ brain. Mr. Hoar, unlike all the other Sherman relatives, possesses a curious streak of almost feminine vanity. It is a known fact that he practices his formal speeches before a looking-glass. John Sherman was never accused of that, nor Evarts, nor Rockwood Hoar, and the chances are that old Roger Sherman scarce ever looked at his own reflection. Then, too, while George Hoar was hurt at the fancied resemblance between himself and Mr. Cruikshank’s conception of Dickens’ Pickwick, he was, on the other hand, really pleased when told that he resembled very greatly Horace Greeley. So many people see a resemblance that there must be one. But George Hoar’s face is not a Sherman face, nor is his shrill, piping voice a Sherman voice. John Sherman is said more closely to resemble Roger.
In these three men we unquestionably see the influence of location acting upon inherited qualities. Evarts, the polished, urbane, witty New Yorker; George Hoar, the sharp, petulant, bright, nagging New Englander; John Sherman, the unostentatious, but persistent Westerner. But behind all these mannerisms we see the Sherman imprint upon the mind of each. If one of them becomes President, it will be all in the family.”
-Excerpt and (top) image courtesy of Newspapers.com, The Times (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), Sunday, October 24, 1886