The Harris family here briefly considered — that of some of the descendants of the late Deacon and Hon. William Harris, of East Bridgewater, who for a quarter of a century was town clerk, for several years town treasurer, and a representative in the Massachusetts General Court — is one of the ancient and honorable families of the Bridgewaters. Deacon Harris’s son, the late Hon. Benjamin Winslow Harris, lawyer, statesman and judge through nearly sixty years, had a long, useful and honored public career; and his son, Hon. Robert Orr Harris, has for thirty years held a high place at the bar of his county and State, and been honored in the old home town of the family, being for nine years district attorney (an honor long before bestowed upon his father), a representative in the General Court of the State, later judge of the Superior court of Massachusetts, and now Congressman from the Fourteenth Massachusetts district. Sketches of the careers of these men, together with their family history and Harris lineage from their first known American ancestor, chronologically arranged, follow:
(I) Arthur Harris, of Duxbury as early as 1640, became one of the original proprietors of Bridgewater and was among the first settlers in West Bridgewater. He removed to Boston, where he made his will in 1673, and where he died June 10, 1674. The Christian name of his wife was Martha. His children were (perhaps others):
- Isaac Harris
- Samuel Harris
- Martha Harris
- Mary Harris
(II) Isaac Harris, son of Arthur, married (first) Mercy, daughter of Robert Latham, and (second) Mary, daughter of Robert Dunbar, of Hingham. He and his wife Mary both died about 1707. Children of Isaac and Mercy Harris were:
- Arthur Harris
- Isaac Harris
- Samuel Harris
- Desire Harris
- Jane Harris, born in 1671
- Susanna Harris
- Mary Harris
- Mercy Harris, born in 1680
- Benjamin Harris
Children of Isaac and Mary Harris were:
- Martha Harris
(III) Isaac Harris (2), son of Isaac, married (first) at Scituate Jane, daughter of Caleb Cook, of (probably) that part of Plymouth which became Kingston, and after her death married (second) in 1719 Elizabeth, daughter of Joseph Shaw, and widow of Noah Washburn. Children of Isaac and Jane Harris:
- Arthur Harris, born in 1708
- Abner Harris, 1710
- Anna Harris, 1712
- Elizabeth Harris, 1714
- Jane Harris, 1716
Children of Isaac and Elizabeth Harris:
- Isaac Harris, 1720
(IV) Arthur Harris, son of Isaac (2), born in 1708, married in 1730 Mehetabel, daughter of Samuel Rickard, of Plympton, and after her death (second) in 1741 Bethiah, daughter of Deacon Thomas Hayward. Children of Arthur and Mehetabel Harris:
- Benjamin Harris, born in 1731
- Silas Harris, 1735
- Lucy Harris, 1739
Children of Arthur and Bethiah Harris:
- Mehetabel Harris, 1747
(V) Benjamin Harris, son of Arthur, born in 1731, married in 1751 Sarah, daughter of James Snow. Mr. Harris died in 1803, aged seventy-one years, and his wife passed away in 1807, aged seventy-five years. Benjamin Harris, the father, was a patriot of the Continental army, serving as lieutenant in Capt. Nathan Snow’s company on a secret expedition to Rhode Island, in 1777. Their children were:
- Arthur Harris, born in 1753
- Sarah Harris, 1755
- William Harris, 1762
- Benjamin Harris, 1765
- Samuel Harris, 1768
- John Harris, 1770
(VI) Deacon William Harris, son of Benjamin, born Aug. 11, 1762, married May 14, 1788, in Bridgewater, Alice, daughter of Cushing Mitchell. Mr. Harris died Feb. 23, 1831, in his sixty-ninth year. His children were:
- Jennet Orr Harris, born in 1790
- William Harris, twin, born Feb. 22, 1794, in Charlestown, Massachusetts
- Alice Harris, twin, born Feb. 22, 1794, in Charlestown, Massachusetts
(VII) Deacon William Harris, son of Deacon William, born Feb. 22, 1794, in Charlestown, Mass., married in 1819 Mary W., daughter of Winslow Thomas, and a direct descendant of Kenelm Winslow, a brother of Governor Winslow, of Plymouth Colony. Deacon Harris was a man of remarkable purity of character. He was for twenty-five years town clerk of East Bridgewater, was several years town treasurer, and for four years deputy to the General Court. He died Aug. 4, 1852. His wife was a woman of commanding person, dignified and deeply religious. She possessed a natural gift of language, and a manner which made her society attractive. She was blessed with good health and longevity. Her death occurred in East Bridgewater, Mass., June 20, 1882, when she was aged eighty-five years. The children born to Deacon William Harris and wife were:
- Benjamin Winslow Harris, born Nov. 10, 1823
- Lucia Mitchell Harris, born March 31, 1828, who died unmarried Oct. 4, 1907
- William Thomas Harris, born Dec. 29, 1833, who resided in East Bridgewater
(VIII) Benjamin Winslow Harris, son of William and Mary Winslow Harris, was born Nov. 10, 1823, in East Bridgewater, Mass. He received his education in the public schools of the town, in East Bridgewater Academy, under Daniel Littlefield, and in the classical department of Phillips Academy, Andover, Mass., remaining in the latter institution some two and a half years, teaching school in the meantime in order to procure the means of pursuing his studies. He taught school in Halifax, Hanover, Pembroke, Kingston and East Bridgewater. Entering the Harvard Law School in the spring of 1847, he was graduated therefrom in 1848, when he entered the law office of John Phelps Putnam, Esq., of Boston, and it was upon motion of Judge Putnam in the Supreme Judicial court that he was admitted to the bar April 2, 1850. In June, following, he became a law partner of Hon. Welcome Young, at East Bridgewater, the term of their partnership being for one year. At the expiration of this period Mr. Harris continued the practice of law alone, and, being a scholarly young man, gifted and fluent in debate, he soon acquired a local reputation as an advocate. Among his early efforts and more important cases were an action against his own town for damages, caused by a defective highway, and the case of a Mrs. Gardner, of Hingham, who was indicted for the murder of her husband. This was in 1857, and he was junior counsel with Hon. Charles G. Davis as senior; this case was tried twice, the first trial resulting in a disagreement of the jury, and the second in her conviction of murder in the second degree. Between the first and second trials of Mrs. Gardner the General Court of Massachusetts passed a law permitting second degree murder trials, and under that law she was convicted on the second trial.
In 1858 Mr. Harris entered a new field of professional labor, being appointed in that year by Governor Banks district attorney for the southeastern district of Massachusetts, to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Hon. James M. Keith, of Roxbury. This office called for the exercise of his talent and industry, for at the time there were many able criminal lawyers at the bars of both Norfolk and Plymouth counties, and to these distinguished lawyers he was often opposed; but his popularity with juries and his native tact for managing trials, especially his fidelity in handling unwilling and untruthful witnesses, caused him to be very successful. In fact, it came to be remarked by the lawyers who had often tried their hand in defending criminals that “Harris uniformly got everybody convicted, and that the most judicious course was to advise their clients to plead guilty, and then rely on the district attorney’s good nature to let them down easy, with a light sentence.” One of the most important criminal trials which took place during his incumbency of the office was that of George C. Hersey, of Weymouth, for the murder of Betsey F. Tirrill, in 1860, which culminated in an indictment against Hersey for murder in the Superior court held at Dedham, in April, 1861. In May of that year the trial took place before the Supreme Judicial court; suffice it to say that the trial was long and exciting, and resulted in the conviction of the accused, and also in his execution.
During all of the time that Mr. Harris filled the office of district attorney up to the time of his entering Congress, in 1872, he was actively engaged in general practice, having a large and lucrative business, and trying many important cases in Norfolk, Plymouth and Suffolk counties. During the early winter of 1863-64 he opened an office in Boston, associating with him as partner shortly after Payson E. Tucker, Esq., a learned and able lawyer. Mr. Harris removed to Dorchester in 1866, on June 20th of which year he received from President Johnson the appointment of internal revenue collector for the Second Congressional district, whereupon, July 1, 1866, he resigned the office of district attorney. He held the new office until Jan. 1, 1873.
Returning to East Bridgewater in the early summer of 1872, Mr. Harris ever after made that point his home, and it was at this time that the highest honors of his busy life were awaiting him. Mr. Harris had been identified with the Republican party from its birth, in 1856, taking an active part in its many campaigns. In 1857 he was elected a member of the State Senate, and in 1858 was elected a member of the lower house, representing the Bridgewaters. In October, 1872, he was nominated for Congress and in November following was elected by a majority of 8,662 votes, his opponent being Hon. Edward Avery, of Braintree, the Democratic candidate. He was re-elected in the four succeeding Congressional elections, 1874, 1876, 1878 and 1880, receiving, large popular majorities at each election. At the beginning of his Congressional career at the first session of the Forty-third Congress he was appointed on the committee on Indian Affairs. At the beginning of the Forty-fourth Congress he was appointed a minority member of the committee on Naval Affairs, continuing as such in the sessions of the Forty-fifth and Forty-sixth Congresses. At the first session of the Forty-seventh Congress he was made chairman of the committee on Naval Affairs, a position he had honorably earned by faithful and laborious and highly intelligent service and research. In this Congress Mr. Harris’s work ripened into law. Much was accomplished in behalf of the navy during his service in Congress, for which the whole country owes him the most profound gratitude.
On retiring from Congress, March 4, 1883, Mr. Harris resumed his practice of the law, his son, Robert Orr Harris, becoming a member of the firm of Harris & Tucker. This firm was dissolved Jan. 1, 1889, Mr. Harris and his son each having an office in East Bridgewater, and Mr. Tucker continuing to practice alone. On Sept. 7, 1887, the elder Harris was appointed by Governor Ames judge of Probate and Insolvency for the county of Plymouth.
On June 4, 1850, Judge Harris married Julia A., daughter of Robert Orr, Esq., of Boston, and his wife Melinda (Wilbur) Orr, a lady of rare attainments and great culture. Judge Harris died at his home, Feb. 9, 1907, and was buried in East Bridgewater cemetery. His wife passed away in Boston, Oct. 5, 1872, and she, too, rests in the East Bridgewater cemetery. Judge Harris was president of the old Historical Society of Bridgewater. Four children blessed this union, three of whom survive:
- Mary Melinda Harris, born Feb. 10, 1852, who married Judge Charles H. Edson, of Whitman
- Robert Orr Harris, born Nov. 8, 1854
- Alice Mitchell Harris, born Dec. 5, 1856, now the wife of John D. White, of Louisville, Ky
- George Winslow Harris, born July 13, 1860, who died Nov. 24, 1861
(IX) Robert Orr Harris, son of Hon. Benjamin W. and Julia A. (Orr) Harris, was born Nov. 8, 1854, in Boston, and received his elementary education in the public schools of the town of East Bridgewater, and in the Dwight school, Boston. His father’s family having resided from 1865 to 1872 in Dorchester, Mass., he finished his studies during that period in the Boston Latin and Chauncey Hall schools, then for a time attending the famous Phillips (Exeter) Academy. Entering Harvard from the last named institution in June, 1873, he was graduated therefrom with the class of 1877. Immediately after this event he began the study of law in the office of his father and partner, Harris & Tucker, taking also special courses in the Boston University Law School. He was admitted to the bar at Plymouth, March 4, 1879. He practiced in Brockton, associated with Judge W. A. Reed, under the firm name of Reed & Harris, until the retirement of his father from Congress in March, 1883, when he became a member of the firm of Harris & Tucker. In 1892 he was made district attorney of Plymouth and Norfolk counties, and from 1895 to. 1901 again filled that office. Upon the appointment of his father as judge of Probate he began practice on his separate account, and continued alone. He was appointed June 4, 1902, judge of the Superior court for Massachusetts, by Gov. Winthrop Murray Crane (now United States senator from Massachusetts), which office he filled with dignity and honor until March, 1911, when he resigned. In 1910 Judge Harris was the unanimous choice of the Republican party as the candidate for Congressman from the Fourteenth Congressional district, and at the election which followed he received a majority of the votes cast, defeating his Democrat opponent for the office.
As a lawyer Judge Harris has the reputation of being a sound and safe adviser, and as a trial lawyer stands high. In trial he is cool and ready, and is ever effective with his juries. He has always been interested and active in the public affairs of his town, and has served for a number of years on the school committee, of which he was a member up to very recent years. As district attorney it fell to his lot to be the first affected by the change in the law in regard to the trial of capital offenses, and to have to try two murder cases in his first year without the assistance and counsel of the attorney general. The district which he served is the same as was served by his father in 1858-1865, that of southeastern Massachusetts. Mr. Harris was a member of the Massachusetts Legislature in 1889, and made a reputation as a debater and a man of practical good sense.
Mr. Harris’s political affiliations have been with the Republicans, and for many years he was active in the councils of the party. He has been a frequent and effective platform speaker in important campaigns, having a pleasant manner and a logical and convincing way of presenting his arguments. Mr. Harris is a member of the University Club of Boston, and of the Massachusetts Republican Club, of the Odd Fellows, of the Knights of Honor, and of the local Social and Improvement Association. He is a member of the Society of Mayflower Descendants, and is a member of the board of governors of the national society of the Sons and Daughters of the Pilgrims. Judge Harris numbers among his ancestors many of the “Mayflower” passengers, among them being James Chilton, John Alden, William Bradford, Richard Warren, Peter Brown, Francis Cooke, Stephen Hopkins and William Mullins, and among his Pilgrim ancestors may be mentioned John Winslow, John Faunce, George Morton and Experience Mitchell. While quiet and domestic in his tastes, fond of reading and study, spending much of his spare time in his study, he likes society and has many warm social friends. He has always taken a deep interest in everything pertaining to the Bridgewaters and their history, and during the celebration of the 250th anniversary of the founding of the town of Old Bridgewater took an active and prominent part. He attends the Church of the New Jerusalem.
On April 21, 1880, at Newport, R. I., Mr. Harris married Josephine B. Gorton, daughter of John and Henrietta (Cahoone) Gorton and granddaughter of John Gorton and Captain Cahoone. Their children were:
- Annie Winslow Harris, born in July, 1881, married July 15, 1905, Pliny Jewell (2), of Boston, Mass., and has two children:
- Josephine Jewell, born Nov. 10, 1906
- Pliny Jewell (3) born June 3, 1908
- Alice Orr Harris, born March 18, 1884, is a graduate of the high school, of Bridgewater Academy, and of the State normal school at Boston.
- Elizabeth Cahoone Harris, born Aug. 23, 1887, graduated from the East Bridgewater high school and Bridgewater Academy, and received her musical education in Boston
- One died in infancy
- Louise Chilton Harris was born March 14, 1893
- Grace Howland Harris, born Feb. 8, 1895, is in school
Upon the occasion of the memorial to Judge Benjamin W. Harris held by the Brockton and Plymouth County Bar Associations, at the session of the Superior court at the Brockton courthouse, June 4, 1909, which was also the fifty-ninth anniversary of the marriage of Judge Benjamin W. Harris, and also the seventh anniversary of the appointment to the bench of his son, the present Judge Robert O. Harris, the following memorial was delivered by the Hon. Jonathan White, of Brockton, who as attorney at law had upon frequent occasions been pitted against Judge B. W. Harris, and between them a warm friendship of many years had existed:
“As an acquaintance and friend of the late Benjamin W. Harris, of about the same age, I desire to contribute a few words on this occasion. I speak of him as a lawyer and in his relation to Plymouth county, where only I had the opportunity to know him personally. What I have to say will be in nowise new, even to those now on the stage; a little while ago it would have been simply reminiscent to a wide circle of his contemporaries in eastern Massachusetts.
“It was the good fortune of Mr. Harris to enter upon the practice of the law in the county in which he had his birth and passed his youthful days. Early in his professional life he was appointed prosecuting attorney of this district, appearing, of course, year after year before the grand juries at their sessions in Plymouth and Norfolk counties. It naturally happened, from this, that a large portion of the people of Plymouth county, especially, were already personally acquainted with, and well disposed toward him, quite early in his career as a lawyer. I think it falls to the lot of few lawyers to become so speedily and widely known and favorably regarded in the counties in which they are called upon to practice. As a result of this r I well remember young lawyers who were pitted against him in a contest before a Plymouth county panel were apt to feel that he stood on vantage ground and to have some slight misgiving as to whether they were quite up to the assurance of ‘a square deal,’ as the saying is.
“Brief progress in a trial, however, made it evident that he depended upon his own resources and exertions and needed no adventatious aid. He very soon became a prominent member of the Plymouth bar, with the promise of a successful career in the law before him. That promise I may say, in a word, was realized as he rounded out the years of a long, busy and somewhat eventful life, full of honor and esteem. Mr. Harris was eminently efficient and successful in jury trials. Painstaking in the preparation of a case, artful and vigilant in the presentation and conduct of it in court, shrewd and effective in examining witnesses, he was much more than ordinarily felicitous in addressing the jury.
“Practicing in the same court, we of course – occasionally met as opposing counsel in trials. He was a generous, a chivalrous opponent. Discourtesy and chicane were things foreign to his nature. He enjoyed a victory, but had too high a sense of the dignity of his profession to resort to indirection to obtain it. He was a zealous advocate, apt to entertain full faith in the justice of his case, and more than willing to strike hard blows for his client ‘an the law be on his side.’ It would be useless to deny, in his presence, that in certaminis gaudio, in the stress of a struggle to win, now and then on one side or the other, a blow was delivered, in the slang phrase of the ring, ‘below the belt.’
“I can aver with a clear conscience, however, that we never met out of court but as cordial friends. His habitual good nature, the sterling traits of his mental and moral character, were too conspicuous to be long or much obscured by a momentary feeling of rivalry on the part of anyone. Among members of the bar he was companionable, not given to boasting of his achievements, ready to concede a favor in matters of pleadings, or in the conduct of a case, and no one ever had occasion to be solicitous about his putting in writing the promise of a favor. I may say, in passing, that when the word ‘companionable’ is used in this connection it should be borne in mind that customs have changed since fifty years ago.
“There was then no such convenient process open to the legal fraternity as keeping office and watching the short list by means of the telephone. For one who had cases to try in court and whose home happened to be distant from the only shire town in the county, there was nothing to do but to cram his files into his satchel and proceed to Plymouth with the intent to remain there until his last case was disposed of, which might be a week or two. The custom was continued, perforce, a long time after the stage coaches had given place to the railroad.
“To this seeming hardship there was one important redeeming outcome. It brought together members of the bar, two or three times a year, and gave them leisure, albeit in a measure enforced, for social intercourse. It so conduced much to friendship, to an esprit de corps, which were pleasant features in a vocation well understood to have certain other features of a different tendency. The word ‘companionable’ had a meaning in those days. The word, I judge, is gradually becoming obsolete in the legal vocabulary, and it would not be strange if in the modern experience of the bar a like fate were happening to the things signified by the word.
“Well, to return, Mr. Harris was companionable, old style. His genial manner and hearty way of expressing himself made him a welcome addition to any social circle. He rarely indulged in sarcasm, and for banter of any sort had little time or inclination and almost invariably maintained the earnest bearing of a man of affairs. In truth, it is very probable that all I have to say of him might have been summarized in the single statement that ‘he was one who by temperament as well as by native ability and training was fitted to sustain, during his day, — the prestige of the Old Colony court, in which eminent men had practiced, from time to time, well nigh back to the Pilgrims.’ Later in life, as is well known, he was appointed judge of the court of Probate, and served in that office up to the time of his death. He presided with dignity and affability. No adverse criticisms of him as judge were ever heard even from disappointed litigants.
“But when it is said that Mr. Harris was an able and upright lawyer and judge, all is not said. I am aware that upon occasions like this we are often reminded that law is a jealous mistress, and that much may be urged in praise of concentration of effort, and the wisdom of looking after the main chance; nevertheless I am fain to believe that when, hereafter, we speak of Judge Harris, as he was called, it will be not the least of his claims to grateful remembrance that when he became a lawyer he did not cease to be a citizen. He was of those who in all ages have looked upon the profession as having a mission in the community, as being something higher and nobler than a mere business, a means of gaining a living.
“Upon common report, he was, during his mature years, active and influential in the municipal affairs of his native town; attended town meetings, took part in its discussions and doings, was confided in, looked up to. And when, at the age of eighty-four years, he ceased to live — for he retained his mental powers unimpaired till then — the people of East Bridgewater could not but have felt that they had parted with a loyal citizen, a stanch advocate and a wise counselor.
“I am not forgetting that the sphere of his activity and influence extended far beyond the bounds of his native town. He was a citizen of the State and country. But of that others can speak better than I can. Whether Mr. Harris be regarded as citizen, lawyer or judge, there was one element in his makeup which, on all sides, and always, was seen and felt to be conspicuous in every position in which he was placed, and that was honor, unswerving honor. I am glad, in my survivorship, to bear witness to it. It was a recognized prominent trait in him, in court, on the bench, in the common affairs of life. It secured to him respect, distinction and esteem wherever, in the wide world, he might be, in whatever vocation engaged. It stood him in stead till he died. It may well be the burden of any subsequent eulogy of him.”
Judge Warren A. Reed made an address at the memorial exercises held at the Bridgewater Historical Society building in West Bridgewater, Mass., Nov. 9, ‘1907, in memory of the late Judge Benjamin W. Harris, which we quote in part:
“It was a sad day for the Old Colony when she followed to their last resting place the remains of her well beloved son. She made no showy display of grief. There was no pageantry. She laid her wreath of laurels in silence upon his tomb and went away. That was all. It was the mute suffering of a broken heart. The wintry winds were hushed into a mournful requiem and seemed to answer to each other in antiphonal chant, ‘He is gone, Judge Harris is dead. No more shall ye hear his clear, melodious voice, no more shall ye see that manly beneficent face, never again shall his dignified presence grace the public forum or halls of justice.’
“And now, after the lapse of these months that have followed, the sadness of his parting is still with us, and we would fain linger yet a little while over the sweet’ memories of his life, and recount to each other what he was to us. B. W. Harris was a child of Plymouth county, the bright consummate flower of her best institutions. We must not take him from his surroundings, or think to catch the inspiration of his life without their help. He was of the best blood of the county, and brought up under the best influences which made the Old Colony what it was. All his ancestors lived in the Old Colony and were prominent in working out the great questions of which I have spoken. He carried easily the virtues of his ancestors, while he was remarkably free from their weaknesses.
“His mother was a Winslow, a family which supplied to the Old Colony its thrice appointed governor, and she gave her own name to her illustrious son. She was a devout Christian woman, strong in the faith of her fathers, full of good works, and brought up her boy to be like her. He was his mother’s boy and the magnificent lines of character in his countenance were reflected from hers. His father and his grandfather were each known to all the country around as ‘Deacon Harris,’ devout men of the sort whose influence has been felt in this county for two hundred years. He was born in East Bridgewater, Nov. 10, 1823; was educated in the public schools of the town; in the East Bridgewater Academy, and at Phillips Academy at Andover.
“Like many another poor boy, bent on acquiring a profession, he was obliged to turn aside at the very outset in order to earn the means for continuing his studies, and for several years taught school winters in his native and neighboring towns. In 1849 he graduated from Harvard Law School, and became a student in the law office of Judge Putnam, of Boston, where he remained one year, until he was admitted to the bar in 1850. He fought his way by daily struggle and faithful work, until in eight years he was chosen by Governor Banks to be district attorney for the Southeastern district to fill a then unexpired term.
“He was an impressive and eloquent speaker, and when in the height of his power he was one of the best jury lawyers in the Commonwealth, and his services were sought in many important cases outside the county, especially in Boston, where for many years he was at the head of a law firm doing an extensive business.
“It is to his record for ten years in Congress, from 1872 to 1882, in the prime of his life, that his friends turn with greatest satisfaction and pride. During that period he was put forward by the county as its leading and representative citizen, and he never in any degree fell short in the high commission. At the end of that long period, at his own request, amid the plaudits of his fellow citizens, for able and faithful service, he laid down the charge.
“Inestimable has been the value to the nation of his pioneer work in laying the foundation of the new navy. By men much better able to judge of his work than I, he has been called the ‘father of the modern United States navy.’ There is no doubt that his great speech on the condition and needs of the navy, delivered in the National House of Representatives May 29, 1878, was the first clear note of warning on the subject, and that it aroused the country to action. The first vessel completed in the new navy was fitly named the ‘Boston’ and, as you well remember, sailed with Dewey’s fleet in Manila bay. His son, Hon. Robert 0. Harris, informs me that on the memorable morning, July 4, 1898, when we got the full account of the battle and the list of the ships engaged, he stepped into his father’s library to talk it over with him. As he came into the room and asked his father if he had read the account, he replied, ‘Yes,’ and then after a little pause continued, ‘it looks as if my work for eight years on the navy committee has at last proved to be of some value to the country.’
“I suppose that to most of my hearers, he was best known in his capacity as judge of Probate. Our good judge was the most approachable of men. He unconsciously made it evident that he wanted you to talk with him, and in the most courteous manner let you know that the way was open to you. His charming affability and gallantry impressed you as the bouquet or aroma of his whole being. It is doubtful if he knew that he possessed it and yet it was perceived by all who knew him. His whole life in this community fitted him especially to administer his high office.
“I have intimated that the people of the Old Colony are not always mindful of its splendid past. This was not true of our brother. He never forgot that he was to the manner born, or the part taken by his ancestors in the development of civil liberty. He walked the streets of his native county conscious of the full meaning of her past, and loved her history as a child reveres a parent’s birthplace. He spent the happiest hours in the company of those who, like him, loved to cherish anct review the past for its noble deeds and preserve from oblivion every shred and scrap that would help in future time to weave again the tapestry depicting her early history. Not the least impressive and enduring monuments to his memory are this building dedicated to the history of the Old Colony and the society which occupies it and mourns him here today. They are his work. He was the spirit and inspiration of them both.”
At the memorial exercises in Bridgewater Historical Society building, West Bridgewater, Mass., Nov. 9, 1907, the Hon. James Sidney Allen of Brockton made the following address in memory of Judge Benjamin W. Harris:
“The able men who have already addressed this audience have an advantage over me, in one respect, at least. They have spoken from the standpoint of the legal profession, while my remarks are to be mainly of a reminiscent nature, from the standpoint of a mere citizen and fellow townsman of Mr. Harris, with some reference to our social, educational and political associations.
“My earliest recollection of Benjamin Winslow Harris was in the fall of 1841, when we were together in the East Bridgewater Academy, then under the charge of Daniel Littlefield, a graduate of Dartmouth College. The scholars’ ages ranged from nine or ten to eighteen or twenty years — Harris one of the eldest, I one of the youngest. In disposition most kind and genial, in personality most affable and charming, he was friend and favorite of everyone. He had no equal in reading, elocution and declamation, and excelled as a debater in the school lyoeum. At that time his home was two miles away, near Conant’s Corner, in Eastville, whither his father had removed in 1835 from the ancestral home in the village of Satucket. He soon after attended the Old Bridgewater Academy, walking the distance of five miles daily. His early ambition was to enter public life. He was interested in public men and measures, and delighted in reciting choice gems of oratory, even while at his work.
“E. Frank Field, a near neighbor of the Harris family, told me that Benjamin, while pegging shoes for him, would quote from speeches of Webster and others, and said he meant some time to go to Congress. The child, in this instance, was indeed ‘father of the man.’ For a few years I saw and heard him speak only occasionally, mostly in lyceums and in exercises when he had opportunity for declamation. A favorite selection was the orator Rienzi’s famous address to the Bomans.
“After a few years spent in teaching school and studying law, he was admitted to the bar, began practice in his native town, and quickly came into public notice. One of his first political victories was in a delegate convention— I think in Abington, where he broke into the plans of the ‘machine’ by a speech, electrifying the convention with the call, ‘Give the* boys a chance.’
“The first extemporaneous speech I ever heard him make in a political meeting was at a Fourth of July celebration, in 1855, in the grove on Sprague’s Hill, in Bridgewater. Henry Wilson was orator of the day. He denounced Daniel Webster for subserviency to the South in his noted 7th of March, 1850, speech in Congress in favor of the Compromise Bill. When Wilson had finished, there came a general call from the crowd for Harris, Harris, who had not then left the Whig party. Mr. Harris responded vigorously in praise of Webster, quoting some of his patriotic utterances. When he closed, General Wilson arose, and instead of criticising what Mr. Harris had said complimented him, and trusting that he would remember and follow their great exemplar, Webster, only in his earlier and better days, warmly welcomed Mr. Harris, and such as he, to the new party of liberty and equal rights.
“Mr. Harris soon joined the new Republican party, and was active the following year in the Presidential “campaign for Fremont, and was a delegate in the next national Republican convention.
“He was elected to the State Senate for the year 1857, and was representative the following year. In 1855 or 1856 Mr. Harris organized the Satucket Loan and Fund Association, in East Bridgewater, and was its head during a successful career of seven years. Being one of the directors the entire period, associated with him also in the new political party, I watched with pride his unselfish public spirit, his devotion to the general welfare of the people, his activity in local town affairs, and especially that remarkable and deserved hold of the public confidence which led to his election to Congress.
“Even before the Civil war this call was manifest. In 1862 the great majority of the district in the Congressional convention, held in Bridgewater, was pledged to his support, when, to our surprise, John A. Andrew* the popular war governor, sent a special messenger to the convention, setting forth the great dangers of the war situation, the need in Congress of representatives of the greatest and wisest business and legislative experience. He urged I the nomination of Hon. Oakes Ames, of North Easton, who was one of the governor’s council, and a wealthy business man.
“Governor Andrew’s wishes had almost the force of law, but the delegates would not desert their favorite. Mr. Harris, on being informed of the situation, promptly withdrew in favor of Mr. Ames, and waited ten years longer, meantime holding the responsible office of United States collector of internal revenue. Elected to Congress in 1872, Mr. Harris, after three terms, declined to be a candidate for reelection. He was made president of the convention in North Bridgewater, Oct. 5, 1876, to nominate his successor. After many ballots, resulting in no choice, the convention could no longer be restrained, and amid a tempest of excitement Mr. Harris was nominated by acclamation. He served in Congress two terms more, completing ten years of service in 1883. He resumed the practice of law, not aspiring to higher political honors, although named by leading newspapers for governor or United States senator. He was made judge of Probate, holding that office the remainder of his life.
“It has been truly said that Mr. Harris was a leader, not a dictator. He had rare tact in foreseeing and interpreting public opinion.
“Goethe says: that ‘in reading the life of the greatest genius, we always find that he was acquainted with some men superior to himself, who yet never attained to general distinction.’ Mr. Harris had native genius. He came upon the stage during a period and in a neighborhood of intense mental activity. He saw and heard young men of mature minds, trained to discussion and debate in the lyceums of those years from 1830 to 1845, men of seeming superiority, but who never attained his own later distinction, yet serving as examples and models, inspiring him with high ambition and lofty purpose.
“It was reserved for him to illustrate by his character and career the union of real superiority and high attainment. To me and many others who best knew him, there came courage, cheer and stimulus to the highest endeavor, by reason of associating with our loved and lamented friend, Judge Benjamin Winslow Harris.”