Archive:The Descendants of John Whitney, page 633
The Descendants of John Whitney, Who Came from London, England, to Watertown, Massachusetts, in 1635, by Frederick Clifton Pierce (Chicago: 1895)
Transcribed by the Whitney Research Group, 1999.
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8001. HON. WILLIAM COLLINS WHITNEY (James S., Stephen, Josiah, Josiah, Richard, Richard, Richard, John), b. Conway, Mass., July 5, 1841; m. Flora PAYNE, b. in 1848; d. Feb. 5, 1893. William Collins WHITNEY was born in Conway, Mass., in 1841. He comes from stanch Democratic stock. His father was Gen. James S. WHITNEY, for half a century a Democratic leader in Massachusetts and collector of the port of Boston under President BUCHANAN. Like his son, Gen. WHITNEY was an Independent Democrat. In 1851 he was a member of the Massachusetts house; Charles SUMNER was a candi- date for United States senator, and a single Democratic vote would elect him. Gen. WHITNEY was asked to give that vote. A Democrat could not be elected, and if SUMNER should fail, then some pro-slavery Whig would probably win the prize. Gen. WHITNEY was a stanch friend of human freedom. He asked for time for consideration, returned to Conway, and addressed his constituents upon the question. They de- cided that he should vote for Mr. SUMNER. He did so, and his vote gave Charles SUMNER to the country for twenty-three years. Gen. WHITNEY survived until 1878, and was able as late as 1876 to preside over the Democratic state convention in Massa- chusetts and take an active part in the TILDEN campaign. William C. WHITNEY entered Yale college in 1859, after having been graduated from Williston seminary, Easthampton, Mass. At Yale he had for a classmate William G. SUMNER, since well known as a writer and teacher upon economic sub- jects. The two divided the prize for English essays, and Mr. WHITNEY delivered the class oration on being graduated. Leaving the Harvard Law school in 1865 he went to New York City and continued the study of the law in the office of Abraham R. LAWRENCE, now a justice of the supreme court of that state. It was but a short time after his admission to the bar that he attracted consider- able attention by his stanchness to his clients. Nothing could swerve him from what he believed to be his duty to them. This characteristic was indicated in several instances. One of them was that in which Charles H. SWEETSER, a classmate of Mr. WHITNEY, was concerned. SWEETSER founded and edited the Evening Gazette. He sold out a half interest in his property, and then, losing control of it, he started the Evening Mail. His former partner in the Evening Gazette preferred a criminal charge against him. The partner had the support of many influential men, and SWEETSER found it impossible on that account to secure the services of any of the lawyers of prominence. He went to Mr. WHITNEY, who upon hearing his tale, offered to take charge of his case, notwithstanding that such action involved the possible unfriendliness of certain men with whom, as was quite natural, it was desirable that he should stand well. Perhaps if had lost his case the unfriendliness would have been his. It is easy to pass by on the other side of a man who is unsuccessful. But he conducted the matter so skillfully that the charge against SWEETSER was dismissed. And when Charles READE sued SWEETSER for libel because of unfavorable criticisms of the novel "Griffith Gaunt," Mr. WHITNEY again defended him successfully. So much publicity attached to these two cases - and so far as Mr. WHITNEY was con- cerned the sort of publicity that is beneficial - that his professional position became equal to those in the foremost ranks. Mr. WHITNEY soon showed that he had inherited his father's taste for politics. Young, handsome and ardent, he naturally took the lead among his companions. As early as 1871, in company with Peter B. OLNEY, Henry HAVEMEYER, Herbert O. THOMPSON, William A. PELTON, Edward L. PARRIS, Thomas Cooper CAMPBELL, Wil- liam C. WICKHAM, and others of the same sort - courageous, independent, and resourceful - Mr. WHITNEY established the Young Men's Democratic club of New York. This club from its very foundation took its stand in behalf of honest govern- ment and reform, and aided materially in rescuing the city from the clutches of the TWEED ring. Its members soon attracted the attention of Mr. TILDEN, and Mr. Whit- ney and others became famous as his "boys." Mr. WHITNEY took and active part in the campaign which resulted in the election of Mr. TILDEN as governor and William C. WICKHAM as mayor. The Young Men's Democratic club gave a reception to Gov. TILDEN in 1874 and Mr. WHITNEY was one of the principal speakers. He pro- tested against the continuance of an inflated money policy, and made a plea for "hard money." In the light of current events it is not inappropriate to give a brief extract, from this speech made almost a generation ago. He said: "It is always easier to pay with a promise than to pay down ready cash. History shows what the fruit of such policy is and must be. This was one road: before us lay an easy path of apparent prosperity, plenty of money and good times generally. This was the path the Republican party chose deliberately and with knowledge of what the result would be. "The other path was one of struggle and difficulty, the narrow and thorny path, if you please, of economy and taxes, of the payment of the national debt and the setting of the country as soon as
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