Daniel Azro Ashley Buck, the eldest son of Honorable Daniel and Content (Ashley) Buck, was born at Norwich, Vt, April 19, 1789. He received a collegiate education, graduating at Middlebury in 1807, in the same class with William Slade and Stephen Royce, a class which is said to have contained more eminent men in proportion to its numbers than can be matched in the record of any American college.
The following year he graduated from West Point Military Academy, and was appointed second lieutenant of engineers, to date from January 25, 1808. Oliver G. Burton, a native of Norwich but at that time a resident of Irasburg, was also a graduate from West Point of the same year.
D. A. A. Buck served on the northern frontier during the second war with England. He was commissioned a captain in the Thirty-first Regiment of United States Infantry, an organization composed wholly of Vermonters, April 30, 1813, raised for one year’s service. Ethan Burnap of Norwich was captain of a company of the Thirty-first and his brother, Calvin Burnap, lieutenant. At other times during the war, Mr. Buck served as an officer of artillery, and in November, 1812, was appointed major in a volunteer corps by the Vermont legislature, though it is doubtful if he ever accepted this appointment.
At the close of the war he left the military profession, studied law with his father at Chelsea, Vt., and for the ensuing twenty years was a prominent figure in public affairs in Vermont. During this period he represented Chelsea fourteen years in the state legislature, five years of which he served as speaker of the house. He twice resigned his position as speaker to accept an election to the national legislature, in which he represented Vermont in the Eighteenth and Twentieth Congresses (1823-25 and 1827-29). He is said to have been one of the best presiding officers that ever sat in the chair of the Vermont assembly. Out of twenty-one consecutive years following 1815 there were but two (1830-31) in which he was not a member of some legislative body. He was also, during this time, state’s attorney of Orange County five years, presidential elector in 1820, a general in the militia, and a high official in the Masonic order in the state. In 1836, he removed with his family to Washington, and accepted an appointment as clerk in the Indian bureau of the War department, in which city he died December 22, 1841.
Daniel A. A. Buck is remembered as a gentleman of the old school, of graceful and easy manners, popular address and a fluent speaker. He probably was less eminent as a lawyer than his father and as a congressman relatively less prominent. He served in the Eighteenth Congress on the committee for public expenditures, and in the Twentieth on that of military affairs. He made a speech in the house in favor of abolishing the office of major-general of the army, and against the appointment of a Board of Visitors to West Point, and detailing the history of that institution. It would seem as if his military training and experience had not impressed him favorably to-wards the academy or its management. On the election of President by the House of Representatives, in 1825, he voted with the Vermont delegation in giving the vote of the state to John Quincy Adams.
Like his father, he was a Federalist in politics, and favored protective duties, voting for the tariff of 1828, although taking no part in the debates over that measure in the house. Like his father, too, he was addicted to strong drink, became dissipated in later life, and finally filled a drunkard’s grave. Although hardly come to middle age and the time at which most men reach the maturity of their powers, he had doubtless seen the height of his influence and reputation some time before his removal to Washington in 1836. When Mr. Buck first went to Congress in 1824, his college classmate at Middlebury, William Slade, was serving as clerk in the State department at Washington. Soon after the expiration of Mr. Buck’s congressional life, Mr. Slade began (in 1831) a period of twelve years’ continuous service in the same body. In 1836, therefore, the respective positions of the two men were exactly reversed, Mr. Buck being at that time a government clerk, a position he soon lost because of incorrigible intemperance, while Slade was just beginning a course of wide and honorable public service to state and country, continuing thenceforward for a full quarter of a century.
In sketching thus briefly the career of these two men, the elder and the younger Buck, one cannot fail to note the sad commentary furnished in their lives on the strength of the passion for drink to wreck the prospects and blast the happiness of the strongest minds. The father, imprisoned for debt, dies in poverty and disgrace upon the jail limits of Orange County. The son, expelled for drunkenness from a petty government office, is supported by his faithful wife in his last years, by keeping boarders at the capital of the nation, where both himself and father had for many years represented Vermont in the halls of Congress. Vermont, that loved to honor them in their younger and better days, will yet drop a tear of sorrow over their untimely and dishonored graves.1
Of the large family of children born to Daniel Buck in Norwich, nothing further is known. So far as ascertained, none of his descendants have remained in the vicinity as permanent residents. Four children at least, we are told, of D. A. A. Buck survived him at Washington, two sons and two daughters. One of the sons, of brilliant promise, died while comparatively a young man. The second, Daniel by name, was many years a clerk there, where he was remarkably efficient and useful to congressional committees as he was able to find readily anything wanted belonging to the library or archives of Congress. For his valuable services in this direction he was kept in office by the Vermont delegation when he would otherwise have lost his place; for he, too, inherited or possessed the fatal family appetite for spirituous liquors. He lived for many years with a maiden sister in Washington, but both are now deceased. The other sister, married and residing somewhere in the West, is supposed to be still living.
D. A. A. Buck was buried in the Congressional burying ground at Washington, the Vermont delegation in a body attending his remains to the grave. By the influence of the Vermont delegation in Congress, he was more than once restored to his clerkship, after dismissal on account of his intemperate habits, on his solemn promise to reform. [So wrote Honorable Hiland Hall in February, 1885, almost ninety years old, and member of Congress from Vermont 1833-1843]. ↩