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Henry Laurens Dawes, LL. D.



IN Western Massachusetts, "the Switzerland of America," there is a small town perched upon the summit and slopes of some of the higher hills which constitute the outlying spurs of the Green Mountain range. It is called Cummington, a bleak, barren region, where the deep snows settle in the later autumn, and last till May, so deep, that some years ago, the member of the State Legislature from that town could only reach Boston by travelling forty miles on snow-shoes, and drawing his trunk on a hand-sled.

It is pleasant after its fashion in the summer time, but the summer is short, and altogether it is one of those towns from which the stranger would expect very little. Yet this little mountain town has raised much more than an average crop of men. Some of the most illustrious names in our history and literature were born there : clergymen, poets, philosophers and statesmen, all acknowledge this mountain hamlet as their birth-place. In one of its farm-houses, HENRY LAUREN'S DAWES was born, October 30th, 1816, and on its sterile and ungenerous soil the labor of his boyhood and early youth was bestowed. But the boy had his ambition. He desired above all things to obtain an education, and though like most farmer boys he had a hard struggle to attain it, yet he accomplished his purpose, acquiring sufficient preparatory training to enable him to enter Yale College in 1835 whence be graduated with a creditable standing in 1839.

After his graduation, he went to Greenfield, Massachusetts, where he commenced the study of the law, editing at the same time the Greenfield Gazette.   In 1842, he was admitted to the bar, and removed to North Adams, Massachusetts, where he settled in the practice of his profession, but while seeking business busied himself with the editorship of the North Adams Transcript. Mr. Dawes makes no pretension to genius, he is not a man who divines all knowledge by intuitions, without study or research; but he is an industrious, painstaking worker, of sound, clear mind, a good deal of tact, and a faculty of insight into apparently intricate matters, which is worth much more than genius. These traits of character were ere long perceived by the enterprising, intelligent people of North Adams, and the young lawyer was after awhile compelled to relinquish the Transcript into other hands by the pressure of his legal business. In 1848, and again in 1849 and 1852, he was elected to the State Legislature; in 1850 he was a State Senator; in 1853 he was a member of the State Constitutional Convention. In all these positions he was so able, clear-headed and industrious, that his constituents were fully satisfied with him, and would have been glad to have retained him longer in the legislature. But in 1853 he was appointed District Attorney for the Western District of the State, and removed to Pittsfield, the county seat. Here he soon had a circle of warm friends, and continued to be fully occupied with his professional duties till 1857, when having been elected the previous autumn to Congress from the tenth or western district of Massachusetts, he took his seat in that body.

He has been continued in that place of honor by his constituents to the present time, a period of sixteen years. In congress he has proved one of the most useful members of that body; never domineering, never neglectful of his duties, but always punctual, prompt and painstaking,, whatever work is assigned to him will be always well done. He was for several terms chairman of the important Committee on Elections, and in the XLIId Congress was made chairman of the Committee of Ways and Means, which gives him the virtual leadership of the House. He was a delegate to the Philadelphia "Loyalists" Convention of 1866.

Mr. Dawes is thoroughly committed to the Republican party and its measures, but he is not a bitter partisan, and retains the respect and esteem of all parties in the House. At home, he has the reputation of being an estimable citizen in all the relations of life, and is greatly honored by the very intelligent constituency he has served so long.

Source: Source: Men of Our Day; or Biographical Sketches of Patriots, Orators, Statesmen, Generals, Reformers, Financiers and Merchants, Now on the state of Action: Including Those Who in Military, Political, Business and Social Life, are the Prominent Leaders of the Time in This Country, by L. P. Brockett, M. D., Published by Ziegler and McCurdy, Philadelphia Penna; Springfield, Mass; Cincinnati, Ohio; St. Louis, Mo., 1872   

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