Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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BRIGGS, George Nixon, governor of Massachusetts, born in Adams, Massachusetts, 13 April, 1796; died in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, 12 September, 1861. His father served under Stark and Allen at Bennington. In 1809 he was apprenticed to a hatter at White Creek, New York, but was taken from the shop in 1811 by an elder brother and given a year's schooling, he then began the study of law, and in October, 1818, was admitted to the bar of Berkshire County, Massachusetts, where he soon became prominent, practising in Adams, Lanesborough, and Pittsfield. In 1827, by his de-fence of a Stockbridge Indian, who was tried for murder at Lenox, he established his reputation as one of the best criminal lawyers in the state. From 1824 till 1831 he was register of deeds for his county, and in 1830 was elected to congress as a Whig, serving six successive terms, and being at one time chairman of the post-office committee. He was known as an eloquent debater. From 1843 till 1851 he was governor of Massachusetts. During his administration the murder of Dr Parkman by Prof. Webster occurred, and the most extraordinary efforts were made to induce the governor either to pardon the offender or to commute his sentence; but, believing that the good of the community required the execution of the murderer, he refused to interpose. Governor Briggs was appointed one of the judges of the court of common pleas in 1851, which office he continued to fill till the reorganization of the courts of the state in 1856. In 1853 he was a member of the state constitutional convention. In 1861 he was one of a commission to adjust the claims between the United States and New Granada; but his death, which resulted from the accidental discharge of a fowling piece, occurred before he had entered upon his duties. He had taken a deep interest in the great struggle upon which the nation had just entered, and one of his last public acts was to address a regiment of Massachusetts's volunteers, of which his son was the colonel. Governor Briggs had taken through life an active interest in religious and benevolent enterprises, and at the time of his death was president of the American Baptist missionary union, of the American tract society at Boston, the American temperance union, and the Massachusetts Sabbath-school union, and director in several other benevolent societies. He was also, for sixteen years, a trustee of Williams College. A memoir of him, with the title "Great in Goodness," was published by the Rev. William C. Richards (Boston, 1866).--His son, Henry Shaw, soldier, born 1 August, 1824, was graduated at Williams in 1844, and became a lawyer. At the beginning of the civil war he joined the army as colonel of the 10th Massachusetts volunteers, and distinguished himself at the battle of Fair Oaks, where he was wounded. On 17 July, 1862, he was made a brigadier-general. At the close of the war he was a member of the general court-martial in Washington, District of Columbia--Joseph William, postal reformer, nephew of George Nixon, born in Clermont, New York, 5 July, 1813; died in Cleveland, Ohio, 23 February, 1872. He was left an orphan in infancy, was brought up in the family of his uncle, received a common-school education, and followed the trade of a harness-maker. In 1864, having become an enthusiastic advocate of the free-delivery letter system, he received from Postmaster-General Blair the appointment of superintendent of the system throughout the country. He organized it in fifty-two cities, and literally wore himself out in the service. Mr. Briggs was a man of more than ordinary mechanical genius. In 1838 he patented a stitching-machine, and claimed that he was the first to use a grooved-eye pointed needle that made a lock-stitch.
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