The lesson which I have learned in life, which is impressed on me daily, and more deeply as I grow old, is the lesson of Good Will and Good Hope. I believe that to-day is better than yesterday, and that to-morrow will be better than to-day. I believe that in spite of so many errors and wrongs and even crimes, my countrymen of all classes desire what is good, and not what is evil.
“Autobiography of Seventy Years,” Vol. 1-2, by George Frisbie Hoar
George Frisbie Hoar was a Republican from Massachusetts: member of the House of Representatives from 1869-1877; United States Senator from 1877-1904.
George Frisbie Hoar: (grandson of Roger Sherman, son of Samuel Hoar, brother of Ebenezer Rockwood Hoar, father of Rockwood Hoar, and uncle of Sherman Hoar), a Representative and a Senator from Massachusetts; born in Concord, Mass., August 29, 1826; attended Concord Academy; graduated from Harvard University in 1846 and from the Harvard Law School in 1849; admitted to the bar in 1849 and commenced practice in Worcester, Mass.; elected to the State house of representatives in 1852; elected to the State senate in 1857; elected as a Republican to the Forty-first and to the three succeeding Congresses (March 4, 1869-March 3, 1877); was not a candidate for renomination in 1876; one of the managers appointed by the House of Representatives in 1876 to conduct the impeachment proceedings against William W. Belknap; appointed a member of the Electoral Commission created by act of Congress to decide the contests in various States in the presidential election of 1876 [Rutherford B. Hayes (R) beat Samuel J. Tilden (D), leading to the Compromise of 1877: in return for the Democrats’ acquiescence in Hayes’ election, the Republicans agreed to withdraw federal troops from the South, ending Reconstruction]; elected as a Republican to the United States Senate in 1877; reelected in 1883, 1889, 1895, and 1901 and served from March 4, 1877, until his death in Worcester, Mass., September 30, 1904; chairman, Committee on Privileges and Elections (Forty-seventh through Fifty-second Congresses), Committee on the Judiciary (Fifty-second Congress, Fifty-fourth through Fifty-eighth Congresses), Committee on the Library (Fifty-second Congress); overseer of Harvard University 1874-1880 and from 1896 until his death; Regent of the Smithsonian for many years; interment in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord, Mass.
George Frisbie Hoar – Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
At an early day, when the feelings generated by the Civil War were but little liberalized, he advocated the just and wise policy of paying the damages inflicted by the war in the cases of institutions of charity, education and religion. This was indeed in the House of Representatives, before he came to the Senate, and while his political associates were in but little sympathy with him, and in that body he moved forward on lines of liberalism as far and as fast as he felt a just regard to all considered would permit. The old College of William and Mary, in Virginia, was the first recipient of the benefit of his doctrine, and it was his course on that subject which many years ago made for him a warm place in the respect and the good-will of the people of Virginia.
Many who viewed the Capitol and its rich surroundings conclude that the members of Congress are rich also.
Once a Pennsylvania editor charged that Mr. Hoar lived on terrapin and champagne, had been an inveterate office-seeker all his life, and had never done a stroke of useful work.
Instead of getting mad, Senator Hoar wrote a letter stating his small inheritance and possessions; how often he had refused office and never dishonored one; how he had gotten poorer and poorer year by year in Washington; that he had never been able to hire a house there; but experienced the varying fortune of Washington boarding-houses, and lived a good deal of the time in a fashion which no mechanic earning two dollars a day would subject his household. “The terrapin is all in my eye; fish-balls and coffee on Sunday morning are my chief luxury.” But said he: “I have a dim glimpse of the beatific vision, and in that hour when the week begins, all the terrapin of Philadelphia and Baltimore, and all the soft-shell crabs on the Atlantic shore, may pull at my trousers legs and thrust themselves on my notice in vain.”
. . .
“I believe that if every man of native birth within our borders were to die to-day, the men of foreign birth who have come here to seek homes and liberty under the shadow of the republic, would carry it on in God’s appointed way.”
Hoar was intimately associated with the planning and early organization of the Republican Party in Massachusetts and continued that work for half a century, presiding over the Republican state conventions in 1871, 1877, 1882, and 1885. In 1852, he was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives and, five years later, served a term in the state Senate. In 1869, he was elected as a Republican to Congress and served in the House until 1877, when he was elected to the Senate. Re-elected four times, Hoar represented Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate until his death.
During his seven years in the House, Hoar served on the Judiciary Committee. He was one of the managers of the House in the impeachment of William Belknap and presented a vigorous argument for conviction, even though Belknap was no longer serving as secretary of war. In 1873, he was chairman of the special committee investigating governmental conditions in Louisiana. He was also a member of the electoral commission that determined the outcome of the Hayes-Tilden controversy in 1877.
In Hoar’s own opinion, his most important service to the country was as a member of the Committee on Claims, where he exercised great influence in determining the Senate’s policies on the Civil War claims of individuals, corporate bodies, and states. For more than 25 years, he served on the committee on privileges and elections, and his opinions are cited as authoritative. For 20 years, he was a member of the committee on the judiciary. He was the author of the 1887 law which repealed a portion of the tenure-in-office act, and of the presidential succession act of 1886, and he had a large part in framing bankruptcy and anti-trust legislation.
Particularly concerned with moral issues, Hoar was the Senate’s chief opposition to lotteries. He also opposed the Republican administration’s policy on the Philippines, but despite disapproval of his position in his home state, he was easily re-elected to a final term in 1901.
For 12 years, Hoar served as overseer of Harvard College. He helped to establish Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Clark University, also in Worcester, and was an influential trustee to both institutions from their organization until his death. He served as a regent of the Smithsonian and president of the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester. He maintained an extensive personal library and took an active interest in the Library of Congress.
Hoar married twice: first to Mary Louisa Spurr in 1853, with whom he had two children, Rockwood and Mary Hoar; and second to Ruth Ann Miller in 1862.
George Frisbie Hoar Papers – Massachusetts Historical Society.
Senator Hoar was an ardent and courageous opponent of the Chinese exclusion laws, deeming them a violation of basic American doctrines. Elected to the Senate in 1876, Hoar would serve until his death in 1905. His career embraced the entire period of Chinese exclusion legislation, beginning with the 1879 Fifteen Passenger bill (which restricted Chinese immigration by limiting the number of Chinese passengers permitted on any ship coming to the U.S.) and ending with the 1904 permanent extension of the Chinese Exclusion Act, as amended. Throughout the many debates on this issue over those years, Hoar was consistent. He stood firmly against excluding the Chinese and denying them naturalization opportunities and other civil rights. Throughout his long Senate career, Hoar would consistently oppose legislation that discriminated against the Chinese. By 1902, his would be a lone voice. This is how he explained his opposition to the Fifteen Passenger Bill:
“I am opposed to it, first, because it violates without necessity and in the absence of danger the public faith. I am opposed to it because if we had the right to accomplish the result by this method, it overthrows the guaranteed rights of so large a portion of our fellow-citizens, on which so much of their wealth and commerce depends. I am opposed to it for another reason. I am opposed to it because it violates the fundamental principle announced in the Declaration of Independence upon which the whole institutions of this country are founded, and to which by our whole history the American people are pledged.
“Wherever God has placed in a human frame a human soul, that which he so created is the equal of every other like creature on the face of the earth, equal among other things, in the right to go everywhere on this globe that he shall see fit to go, and to seek the blessings of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” 8 Cong. Rec. 1312 (1879).
The white supremacy positions his colleagues had expressed dismayed Hoar. He criticized them sternly, dismissing such contentions as “the old argument of the slaveholder and the tyrant over and over again with which the ears of the American people have been deafened and which they have overthrown.” 8 Cong. Rec. 1312 (1879).
. . .
“I do not believe it is necessary for the future of this Republic to prohibit any man who seeks its shores of his own volition the right to enter in the mode and at a time he may choose, and to remain as a citizen or as a laborer or as a resident so long as he may choose.” 8 Cong. Rec. 1314 (1879).
§ 2.23 Senate Debate on the Fifteen Passenger Bill, February 14, 1879: “Wholly unfit to become citizens”, Forbidden Citizens.
In what I have to say this evening I wish to be distinctly understood that I am pleading for no departure from absolute verity anywhere. But I wish to protest against what I deem a prevalent and most pestilent form of historic falsehood to which some writers in this modern time seem to me specially addicted, that of undervaluing, underestimating, falsifying, and belittling the history of their country and the characters of the men who have had a large share in making it.
. . .
I wish to speak to-night of one or two causes of popular discontent with our representative Government. I suppose that the flame of patriotism never burned brighter nor clearer anywhere than it does in the bosom of the youth of America to-day. This is not only true of those who are born and bred on American soil, but, with the exception I am about to state, men of other races and other blood seem to catch the American spirit as soon as they breathe the American air.
Yet when I consider the tone of the press, of men of letters, and even some writers of history when they describe her, I am sometimes astonished that any American youth can love his country at all. Every morning, Sunday and week day, there comes from the press by the million, by the hundred million, what constitutes the staple reading of nearly all of our people who can read at all. These publications are largely the organs of one or another political party. They represent the party to which they are opposed, as base, selfish, intriguing, or at least narrow and wrong headed. Yet it is unquestionably true that nearly all the voting population of the country belongs to one or the other of these political organizations. If those political organizations be base, the American people are base. If the trusted leaders of those political organizations are base and mean, then the country is base and mean.
. . .
The men who despise humanity most, take its worst examples for their heroes. This tone, of the cynic has spread from the newspaper and the poet, to the grave and serious writers of history.
. . .
Did the Pilgrim at Plymouth–did the great-hearted Puritan of Salem and New Haven–did the liberty-loving enthusiast of Rhode Island, the sturdy founders of New York, the Quaker of Pennsylvania, the Catholic of Baltimore, the adventurous cavalier of Jamestown, the woodsmen who, in later generations, struck their axes into the forests of this continent, the sailors who followed their prey in the Arctic and Antarctic seas—did the men of the Revolution, and the men who fought the great sea fights of the war of 1812–did the men who conducted the great debates, in the Senate and in the forum–did the judges who pronounced the great judgments which fixed the limits of constitutional authority and of public liberty–did the splendid youth of 1861 devote themselves–did Washington live–and did Lincoln die–only in order to build and to preserve this noble and stately palace for a den of thieves?
“Popular Discontent with Representative Government,” by George Frisbie Hoar, President of the American Historical Association, 1894–95
His ideals ruled not only his faith but his conduct as well. He held them above party, above friends, above success, above renown. When they were drawn in question he was superb in the intensity of conviction and purpose, which he clothed in speech of surpassing vigor and beauty. To worship God in the manner and form their consciences dictated, to be exempt from all government except of their own choice, to be free and equal before the law, these to this Puritan idealist were the fundamental rights of all men. In defending them in his old age he displayed all the fire and enthusiasm of his youth. He would not compromise, he would not qualify, he would not postpone these great rights. He would not keep them for his own country or his own race, he would bestow them upon all mankind. Let them be denied to whatever race or color, whether Chinese, Negroes or Filipinos, he was always their champion, with a multiplied zeal if he thought they were desolate and oppressed. In the battle for such cause he shone supreme.
Defeat did not dismay or delay discourage him. He remained steadfast. The happiness of his last years was clouded by the difference with his party which on an issue like this his convictions forced upon him. There can be no doubt of the pain which this difference brought to him. “God help me,” he said, “I can do no otherwise.”
This day’s work would be sadly incomplete if it left unnoticed this final chapter of his life, which illustrated so many of his highest qualities. The policy of the Government toward the Philipine Islands was abhorrent to him in all its details. In a series of speeches of great power, he opposed their acquisition for the purpose of governing them, even for a time, without the consent of their inhabitants. He thought the Constitution afforded no warrant for an acquisition for such a purpose; he thought that it violated the spirit of the Declaration of Independence, which to him was “the greatest evangel that ever came to mankind since the story of Bethlehem;” he thought that it was a cruel wrong, unworthy of our people, to crush out a rising republic, to impose upon a people a government to which they had not consented, to give to them as a favor even the best of governments, for to his mind there was no good government except self-government. All questions of the material interest, either of the Filipinos or of our own people, he put aside as unworthy of serious consideration. He stood on higher grounds.
He pleaded for the Filipinos as for Hampdens and Washingtons and Adamses and Jeffersons and Henrys, and he lamented the wound which he believed our departure from the fundamental principles of the Republic had inflicted upon our own people. He lost the fight, but he kept the faith. “I know,” said he, in closing one of the speeches to which I have referred, “how feeble is a single voice amid this din and tempest, this delirium of Empire. It may be that the battle for this day is lost. But I have an assured faith in the future. I have an assured faith in justice and the love of liberty of the American people. The stars in their courses fight for freedom. The Ruler of the Heavens is on that side. If the battle today go against it, I appeal to another day, not distant and sure to come.”
Oration at the dedication of the statue of George Frisbie Hoar in Worcester, MA, by Hon. William H. Moody, Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, June 26th, 1908, pages 57-60.
What purpose had planted these institutions of learning in the American wilderness? What raised up Harvard, that it might become the teacher of Otis and Hancock and the Adamses? What nourished William and Mary, that it might furnish inspiration to Bland, to Wythe, to Nelson, and to Jefferson? These two seminaries had a common benefactor in the famous Robert Boyle. And when the wanton ravages of war reduced this once flourishing institution that had spoken so boldly in the cause of liberty to a state that left little but the vibrant tones of the college bell and the fervent prayers of a devout President, it was a distinguished son of Harvard, Senator Hoar, who plead her just cause with such eloquence in the Halls of Congress that a dilatory Government at last made restitution for a part of the damage done, that this seat of learning might be restored to take its active place again as a citadel of truth and liberty and righteousness. No one can contemplate these events without a deep realization that those who participated in them were guided by an inspired vision.
Address at the College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Va., by President Calvin Coolidge, May 15, 1926
Books and Speeches by George Frisbie Hoar
- “Autobiography of Seventy Years,” Vol. 1-2, by George Frisbie Hoar, at Project Gutenberg (free ebook)
- “James Abram Garfield,” by George Frisbie Hoar. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1882 (free ebook)
- “Justice and humanity, not revenge, the only justification for war.” by George Frisbie Hoar, April 14, 1898
- “Book of Patriotism,” by George Frisbie Hoar. Boston: Hall and Locke Company, 1902. (free ebook)
- “Charles Sumner; his complete works: with introduction by Honorable George Frisbie Hoar,” Volume 16, Boston: Lee and Shepard, 1900. (Google books)
- “The character of Washington,” an address by Senator George Frisbie Hoar, June 17, 1904 (Google books)
- “The Lust of Empire: Senator Hoar’s Speech on the Philippines,” by Hon. George F. Hoar. New York: Tucker Publishing Co., a speech in the Senate, April 17, 1900 (Google books)
- “Old Age & Immortality,” an address delivered before the Worcester Fire Society by George Frisbie Hoar, January 21, 1893 (Google books)
- “Conditions of Success in Public Life,” an address delivered before the students of Harvard University by George F. Hoar, November 21, 1900. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell & Company, 1901 (Google books)
- “Papers relating to the election of senators by direct vote of the people, including a Speech by Hon. George F. Hoar,” delivered in the Senate April 6 and 7, 1893, Senate Document No. 232, 59th Congress, 1st Session (Google books)
- “American Citizenship,” address delivered by Hon. George F. Hoar before the State University of Iowa at the 43rd Annual Commencement, June 17, 1903 (Google books)
- “Woman’s co-operation essential to pure politics,” by Hon. Geo. F. Hoar. c.1885 (The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History)
- “The function of the American lawyer in the founding of states,” an address by Hon. George F. Hoar delivered before the graduating classes at the 57th anniversary of the Yale Law School, June 28, 1881 (Google books)
- George Frisbie Hoar – Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- George Frisbie Hoar – Wikipedia
- George Frisbie Hoar – Britannica Online
- Memorial observances of George Frisbie Hoar (1907) (free ebook)
- Dedication of the statue of the Hon George Frisbie Hoar, Worcester, June 26, 1908 (free ebook)
- George Frisbie Hoar Papers – Massachusetts Historical Society
- American Antiquarian Society (AAS)
- Half-Breed Republicans – Wikipedia
- The History of Louisiana, 1861-1877
- Terms and Sessions of Congress
- “Supreme Court Nominations: Senate Floor Procedure and Practice, 1789-2011,” CRS Report RL33247
Tags: 1876, 1877, AAS, American Antiquarian Society, Autobiography of Seventy Years, Chinese exclusion laws, College of William and Mary, Compromise of 1877, Fifteen Passenger Bill, Forbidden Citizens, George Frisbie Hoar, George Hoar, Half-Breed Republicans, reconstruction, RL33247, Rutherford B. Hayes, Samuel J. Tilden, Senator Hoar, Terms and Sessions of Congress, The Lust of Empire