Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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EVARTS, Jeremiah, philanthropist, born in Sunderland, Vermont, 3 February 1781; died in Charleston, South Carolina, 10 May 1831. He was graduated at Yale in 1802, and, after some time spent in teaching, studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1806. and practiced that profession in New Haven for about four years. From 1810 till 1820 he edited the "Panoplist," a religious monthly magazine published in Boston. In 1812 he was chosen treasurer of the American board of commissioners for foreign missions, and in 1820, when the "Panoplist" was discontinued and the "Missionarv Herald" was issued by the board in its stead, he took charge of the latter periodical. He was chosen correspond ing secretary of the board in 1821, and retained that office until his death, he died while traveling for the benefit of his health, He wrote twenty-four essays on the rights of the Indians, under the signature of " William Penn," and also edited a volume of "Speeches on the Indian Bill," writing the introduction; and wrote most of the reports of the board of missions, that of 1830 especially being an able document. See "Memoirs of Jeremiah Evarts," by E. C. Tracy (Boston, 1845).
His son, William Maxwell Evarts, lawyer, born in Boston, 6 February 1818. He was prepared for College in the Boston Latin School, graduated at Yale in 1837, and while in College, with four of his classmates, he founded the " Yale Literary Magazine." Choosing the profession of the law, he studied in Harvard Law School, and in the office of Daniel Lord, of New York City, and was admitted to the bar in New York in 1841. He soon established a reputation for learning and acumen, and was often consulted by older lawyers. In 1849'53 he was assistant district attorney in New York City, and in 1851 successfully conducted the prosecution of the Cuban filibusters concerned in the " Cleopatra" expedition. The same year he was selected to argue in favor of the constitutionality of the Metropolitan police act.
In 1857 and 1860 he was retained by the state of New York to argue the Lemmon slave case against Charles O'Conor, the counsel for the state of Virginia, before the Supreme Court and the court of appeals. He became an active and prominent member of the Republican Party, was chairman of the New York delegation in the Republican national convention of 1860, and proposed the name of William H. Seward for the presidency. In 1861 he and Horace Greeley were rival candidates for the U. S. senatorship before the New York legislature, but finally his name was withdrawn to enable his supporters to secure the election of Ira Harris. In 1862 he conducted the case of the government to establish in the Supreme Court the right of the United States in the civil war to treat captured vessels as maritime prizes, according to the laws of war.
In 1865 and 1866 he maintained with success before the courts the unconstitutionality of state laws taxing U. S. bonds or National bank stock without the authorization of congress. In 1868 President Johnson chose him as chief counsel in the impeachment trial before the senate, and from 15 July 1868, till the end of President Johnson's administration, he filled the office of attorney general of the United States. He acted in 1872 as counsel for the United States before the tribunal of arbitration on the Alabama claims at Geneva, and presented the arguments on which the decisions favorable to the United States were to a large extent based. In 1875 he was senior counsel for Henry Ward Beecher in the trial of the suit against him in Brooklyn. For many years his reputation had been national, and he had been among the more famous of which were the Parrish will case and the contest over the will of Mrs. Gardner engaged in a large number of cases involving great interests, among the more famous of which were the Parrish will case and the contest over the will of Mrs. Gardner, mother of the widow of President Tyler.
His services were often sought in cases in which large corporations were parties, and he received in some instances fees of $25,000 or $50,000 for an opinion, such as that on the Berdell mortgage upon the Boston, Hartford, and Erie railroad. The firm of Evarts, Choate & Beaman, of which he is senior partner, has among its clients many of the prominent merchants and bankers of New York City. In 1877 he was the advocate of the Republican Party before the electoral commission, and during the administration of President Hayes he was secretary of state. His administration of the state department was marked by a judicious and dignified treatment of diplomatic questions, and especially by the introduction of a higher standard of efficiency in the consular service, and the publication of consular reports on economic and commercial conditions in foreign countries. In 1881, after the conclusion of his term of service in the cabinet, he went to Paris as delegate of the United States to the International monetary conference. On 4 March 1885, he took his seat in the U. S. Senate for the term expiring 3 March 1891, having been elected as a Republican to succeed Elbridge G. Lapham as senator from New York. Mr. Evarts is known as a brilliant speaker at convivial gatherings, and as a public orator of eloquence and versatility. On many important occasions he has delivered addresses, several of which have been published. Among his public addresses are the eulogy on Chief Justice Chase, at Dartmouth College, in June 1873; the Centennial oration, in Philadelphia, in 1876; and the speeches at the unveiling of the statues of William H. Seward and Daniel Webster, in New York, and of Bartholdi's Statue of Liberty.
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