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S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.

Rufus Choate

  • [One of the most eminent of American advocates; born in Ipswich, Mass., Oct. 1, 1799; member of Congress, and Senator of the United States, 1841–45; died at Halifax, N.S., July 13, 1858.]
  • There was a state without king or nobles; there was a church without a bishop; there was a people governed by grave magistrates which it had selected, and equal laws which it had framed.

  • Speech in New York at the dinner of the New-England Society, Dec. 22, 1843.
  • Junius had already written: “The Americans equally detest the pageantry of a king, and the superstitious hypocrisy of a bishop.”—Letter 35.
  • A remark in a letter to the Maine Whig Convention, Aug. 9, 1856, caused much discussion and protest: speaking of a government based on Northern, or anti-slavery ideas, he called “its constitution, the glittering and sounding generalities of natural right which make up the Declaration of Independence.” Emerson said in reply, that these “generalities” were “blazing ubiquities.”
  • In a letter to the Massachusetts Whig State Convention of 1855, he wrote: “We join ourselves to no party that does not carry the flag, and keep step to the music of the Union.”
  • Then you are a dipped, but I hope not a wick-ed candle.

  • When a witness described himself as “a candle of the Lord,—a Baptist minister.”
  • He once said to one of his daughters at the opera, “Interpret to me this libretto, lest I dilate with the wrong emotion.”
  • When a friend asked him of what he supposed a certain lawyer whom they had just met was thinking, Choate is said to have replied, “He is wondering whether he made God, or God made him.” Another attorney he called “a bull-dog with confused ideas.” Of a distinguished chief-justice of Massachusetts, he remarked, that the bar regarded him as the East-Indians did their wooden god: “They know that he is ugly, but they feel that he is great.” When told that the next edition of Worcester’s Dictionary would contain twenty-five hundred new words, the same chief-justice exclaimed, “For Heaven’s sake, don’t let Choate get hold of it!” alluding to the extraordinary amplitude of the great advocate’s style.