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Matthew Tlale Carpenter

CARPENTER, Matthew tlale, senator, born in Moretown, Vermont, 22 December, 1824; died in Washington, District of Columbia, 24 February, 1881. He entered the United States military academy in 1843, and two years later he returned to Vermont and studied law with Paul Dilling-ham (subsequently governor), whose daughter he married. At the age of sixteen he tried a suit in a justice's court in Moretown, against his grandfather, and gained it. He received a gold ring valued at five dollars as his first fee. In November, 1847, he was admitted to the bar of Vermont, and, attracted by the splendor of Rufus Choate's fame, set out at once for Boston, to enter his office. Early in 1848 he left Boston and settled in Beloit, Wisconsin He soon became prominent, and first attracted attention by a land suit involving several millions of dollars, which he tried against James R. Doolittle, Daniel Cady, and Abraham Lincoln. His appearance in the quo-warranto proceedings that removed William A. Barstow from the gubernatorial chair of Wisconsin, in January, 1856, added materially to his reputation, and he then settled in Milwaukee. At the beginning of the civil war he left his law practice and espoused the cause of the Union as a war democrat, making recruiting speeches throughout the west. He was also appointed judge-advocate-general of Wisconsin. In March, 1868, by invitation of Sec. Stanton, Carpenter represented, with Lyman Trumbull, the govern- ment in the McCardle case, brought to try the validity of the reconstruction act of 7 March, 1867, for the government of the states lately in rebellion. This, up to that time, was the most important case, not excepting that of Dred Scott, that had ever come before the United States Supreme Court. Carpenter gained it, though Jeremiah S. Black was on the other side; and, when he completed his argument, Stanton clasped him in his arms and exclaimed, " Carpenter, you have saved us." Later he was spoken of by Judge Black as " the finest constitutional lawyer in the United States." His success in this case led to an appeal to the republicans in Wisconsin by Stanton and Grant, advocating his election to the United States senate. The advice was taken, and he served from 4 March, 1869, till 3 March, 187,5, during which time he was a member of the committees on judiciary, patents, and revision of laws, also becoming president pro tern. At the end of his term he received the caucus nomination for re-election, but was defeated in the legislature by a coalition of a " bolting" minority with the democrats. He then retired to his law practice, which had become very great. Among other important eases, he appeared as counsel for William W. Belknap, then late secretary of war, who was charged by the house of representatives with "high crimes and misdemeanors." Belknap's acquittal was due to Carpenter's masterly management and great ability, as a political campaign was pending and the secretary's sacrifice was demanded to appease the cry of corruption. In February, 1877, he appeared before the electoral commission as counsel for Samuel J. Tilden, although he had been partially engaged by Zachariah Chandler to represent the other side, and would have done so had not the republican managers failed to complete their arrangement within the period agreed upon. In 1879 he was again chosen to the United States senate, and served from 4 March until his death. His greatest speeches in the senate are those on the French arms case; his defense of President Grant against the attack of Charles Sumner ; on so-called loyal claimants in the south; on the ku-klux act; on Charles Sumner's second civil-rights bill; on Johnson's amnesty proclamation; on the bill to restore Fitz John Porter; on the iron-clad oath; and on consular courts. For logic, that on Porter stands foremost; while for eloquence and passion, that on Grant against Sumner is considered the greatest. Senator Carpenter opposed the fugitive slave-law, and, although a democrat, was an advocate of emancipation in 1861. In 1864 he declared that the slaves must be enfranchised, and up to his death insisted that they must be protected at every cost. As early as 1865 he advocated state and government control of railway and semi-public corporations, and he had the satisfaction of seeing all his theories in that direction finally affirmed by the highest courts and recognized as settled law. He was christened Decatur Merritt Hammond, but, his initials having frequently led to the belief that his name was Matthew Hale, he adopted that form about 1852. See the "Life of Matthew Hale Carpenter," by Frank A. Flower (Madison, Wisconsin, 1883).

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