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He never came; for in June, 1852, the Wbig convention at Baltimore rejected his name as a Presidential candidate, and he went home to Marshfield to die. The tone of sadness in this note was due, in part, perhaps, to the eloquent denunciation of Webster by Mr. Emerson in a speech at Cambridge in 1851, and to the unequivocal aversion with which Webster's contemporary, the first citizen of Concord, Samuel Hoar, spoke of his 7th of March speech, and the whole policy with which Webster had identified himself in those dreary last years of his life. Mr. Hoar had been sent by his State in 1846 to protest in South Carolina against the unconstitutional imprisonment at Charleston of colored seamen from Massachusetts, and he had been driven by force from the State to which he went as an envoy. But, although Webster knew the gross indignity of the act, and introduced into his written speech in March, 1850, a denunciation of it, he did not speak this out in the Senate, nor did it appear in all the authorized editions of the speech. He could hardly expect Mr. Hoar to welcome him in Concord after he had uttered his willingness to return fugitive slaves, but forgot to claim reparation for so shameful an affront to Massachusetts as the Concord Cato bad endured.
Mr. Webster was attached to Concord as most persons are who have ever spent pleasant days there — and used to compli. ment his friend on his house and garden by the river side. Looking out upon his great trees from the dining-room window, he once said : “I am in the terrestrial paradise, and I will prove it to you by this. America is the finest continent on the globe, the United States the finest country in America, Massachusetts the best State in the Union, Concord the best town in Massachusetts, and my friend Cheney's field the best acre in Concord.” This was an opinion so like that often expressed by Henry Thoreau, that one is struck by it. Indeed, the devotion of Thoreau to his native town was so marked as to provoke opposition. “ Henry talks about Nature," said Madam Hoar (the mother of Senator Hoar, and daughter of Roger Sherman of Connecticut), “just as if she'd been born and brought up in Concord.”
THE EMBATTLED FARMERS.
It was not the famous lawyers, the godly ministers, the wealthy citizens, nor even the learned ladies of Concord, who interested Henry Thoreau specially, — but the sturdy farmers, each on his hereditary acres, battling with the elements and enjoying that open-air life which to Thoreau was the only existence worth having. As his best biographer, Ellery Channing, says : “He came to see the inside of every farmer's house and head, his pot of beans, and mug of hard cider. Never in too much hurry for a dish of gossip, he could sit out the oldest frequenter of the bar-room, and was alive from top to toe with curiosity.”
Concord, in our day, and still more in Thoreau's childhood, was dotted with frequent old farm-houses, of the ample and picturesque kind that bespeaks antiquity and hospitality. In one such he was born, though not one of the oldest or the best. He was present at the downfall of several of these ancient homesteads, in whose date and in the fortunes of their owners for successive generations, he took a deep interest; and still more in their abandoned orchards and door-yards, where the wild apple tree and the vivacious lilac still flourished.
To show what sort of men these Concord farmers were in the days when their historical shot was fired, let me give some anecdotes and particulars concerning two of the original family stocks, - the Hosmers, who first settled in Concord in 1635, with Bulkeley and Willard, the founders of the town; and the Barretts, whose first ancestor, Humphrey Barrett, came over in 1639. James Hosmer, a clothier from Hawkhurst in Kent, with his wife Ann (related to Major Simon Willard, that stout Kentishman, Indian trader and Indian fighter, who bought of the Squaw Sachem the township of Concord, six miles square), two infant daughters, and two maid-servants, came from London to Boston in the ship “ Elizabeth,” and the next year built a house on Concord Street, and a mill on the town brook.
From him descended James Hosmer, who was killed at Sudbury in 1658, in an Indian fight, Stephen, his great-grandson, a famous surveyor, and Joseph, his great-great-grand-, son, one of the promoters of the Revolution, who had a share in its first fight at Concord Bridge. Joseph Hosmer was the son of a Concord farmer, who, in 1743, seceded from the parish church, because Rev. Daniel Bliss, the pastor, had said in a sermon (as his opponents averred)," that it was as great a sin for a man to get an estate by honest labor, if he had not a single aim at the glory of God, as to get it by gaming at cards or dice.” What this great-grandfather of Emerson did say, a century before the Transcendental epoch, was this, as he declared : “ If husbandmen plow and sow that they may be rich, and live in the pleasures of this world, and appear grand before men, they are as far from true religion in their plowing, sowing, etc., as men are that game for the same purpose.” Thomas Hosmer, being a prosperous husbandman, perhaps with a turn for display, took offense, and became a worshipper at what was called the “ Black Horse Church,” — a seceding