Page images

or how, Shakespeare obtained his education. Elihu Burritt, the learned blacksmith, acquired the rudiments of his education while working at the anvil.

We are indebted to the discipline and statesmanship of the early settlers of Ohio, and especially of the Western Reserve, for our system of common schools, which places within the reach of all children within the State, rich or poor, the means of a good education. The support of common schools in Ohio, by taxation, did not become fully crystallized into a system till after the adoption of the Constitution in 1851. The attention of the people had been repeatedly called to the subject by most of the governors of Ohio, and the Legislature had sparingly made provision for the support of schools by taxation, but their support by taxation met with strenuous opposition. Acts were passed in 1821 and in 1825 by the Legislature providing means for the support of schools, and may be said to be initiatory steps to the present system, but the amount raised by them and amendatory laws had not been uniformly assessed and had not been systematically administered. In 1830 and 1831 John W. Willey, one of the early and distinguished settlers of Cleveland, and Harvey Rice, now your President, were elected members of the Legislature-Mr. Willey to the Senate and Mr. Rice to the House and through their exertions and influence a law was passed authorizing the sale of the lands which had been granted by Congress to the inhabitants of the Western Reserve for school purposes. Mr. Willey drew up the bill, and Mr. Rice was appointed agent to sell the lands. The amount realized from their sale was about $150,000, which was loaned to the State as an irreducible fund, the interest of which is to be annually paid to the counties of the Western Reserve according to the enumeration of children of school age in each county. The Constitution of 1851 made it the duty of the General Assembly to “ make such provision by taxation or otherwise, as with the income arising from the school trust fund will secure a thorough and efficient system of common schools throughout the State.”

Many, very many of the early settlers were members of the convention which framed this constitution. Peter Hitchcock, Jacob Perkins, and R. P. Ranney, were members from the counties of Trumbull and Geauga, and Sherlock J. Andrews and Reuben Hitchcock from the county of Cuyahoga. It devolved upon tủe General Assembly of 1852–3 to make provision by law for the establishment of a system of common schools in obedience to this provision of the constitution I have quoted. Harvey Rice, your President, was elected a Senator from this county in that Legislature, and was appointed chairman of the Senate Committee to which the subject of “common schools and school lands" was committed. On the 29th day of March, 1852, he introduced a bill “ to provide for the reorganization and maintenance of common schools” and it became a law March 1, 1853. This law has been amended and changed, but the system which it organized has not been changed. Perhaps the modesty of your President may lead him to object to the introduction of his name in referring to our school laws, but he must consider, and I am sure you will agree that the omission of the name of Harvey Rice, when referring to the law of 1853, entitled “an act to provide for the reorganization and maintenance of common schools," would be “the play of Hamlet with the part of Hamlet omitted.”

I have referred to some of the tendencies of the times as suggestions for consideration. Evils, to be avoided, must be understood and their location marked, as the dangers of navigation are indicated by buoys in our rivers and lakes. When American slavery raised its rebellious arm against the Government which protected it, its true character was seen, and it was swept away by the angry waves of public opinion; and all the Mrs. Partingtons with their mops and brooms were powerless to prevent it. I am not one of those who believe that our civilization is receding, or that our government is threatened with overthrow. If the fountains of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the government are kept pure, we are safe. It is the duty of the people to keep them pure, and I have confidence they will faithfully perform it, and that the government which the industry and wisdom of the early settlers have established will be preserved in the vigor of its youth, and in the strength of its manhood.



MR. PRESIDENT: Descended from English parentage, Reuben Wood, the twenty-second Governor of Ohio, was born in the village of Middletown, Rutland County, Vt., in the year 1792.

He was the eldest son of Nathaniel Wood, a minister, and during the war a chaplain in the revolutionary army. The family were distinguished for their devotion to the patriot cause. Three of his father's brothers were participants in the battle of Bennington. Maybe from their patriotic example in those stirring times were derived the principles, and devotion to democratic, as distinguished from monarchial, institutions, that characterized the man during his long life.

Arriving at a suitable age for study, he was sent by his father to a cousin named Fairfield, in Ernestown, Upper Canada, where he studied law with the Hon. Barnabas Bidwell, and at the same time began his classical and other studies with an English clergyman, with all the ardor of youth, thus laying the foundation of the education and culture that were to be of benefit to him in his future aspirations. To his dying day his constant companions were well-thumbed editions of the Greek Testament and Cæsar's Commentaries, which he read in the original with facility.

At the commencement of the war in 1812, Reuben Wood, still a student, and while residing in Canada, was drafted into the Royalist. militia, then mustering under General Brock for

the defence of the coast against the American fleet. He was tall, of powerful frame, and was detailed to a company of grenadiers; but being determined not to bear arms against his native land, he took advantage of a stormy night and the excitement incident to a village ball, and in company with Bill Johnson, afterwards so notorious as an American spy and the “Hero of the Thousand Isles,” made his way to a birch-bark canoe, concealed for the purpose under a barn, and started for the American shore.

The wind blew a gale, the rain fell in torrents, the lake became momentarily rougher; finally the adventurous spirits were obliged to seek shelter on an island, where for three days they lay secreted, suffering for food and drink: a bottle, supposed to contain brandy, which they had brought with them in their hurried flight, proving to be full of liquid blacking! At last, nearly famished, they reached Sacketts Harbor, then occupied by the fleet under Com. Chauncey, where they were arrested by the patrol boats and imprisoned four days as spies. At the expiration of that time an uncle from the neighboring town of Woodville, hearing of the capture, gave satisfactory assurances of their loyalty, when they were released, Wood going to his mother's at Woodville, New York, for a time, afterwards to Middletown, and Johnson entering the American service as a spy.

At the time of the movement of the English forces by water and by land for the invasion of the Eastern States by way of Lake Champlain, young Wood raised a company of which he was chosen captain, and marched to assist in the defense of his country, but before they reached the American army the battle of Lake Champlain had taken place, resulting in the defeat of the English; the company returned home and disbanded.

Wood, then at Middletown, entered the office of Gen. Jonas Clark, a distinguished practitioner, where he continued the study of law. In 1816 he married Miss Mary Rice, of the neighboring town of Ira, the next year removed with her to his mother's house in Woodville, and in September, 1818, came to Cleveland, in those days farther away than Oregon or Alaska are now, literally to seek his fortune.

It is not for us to tell his aspirations for position, wealth and honors, nor how high his hopes rose or fell as he stepped ashore in the scattering, straggling hamlet of that day. A few houses standing here and there on the river's bank, the clearings scarcely encroaching on the · virgin forest that came to the water's edge; only a few years back the aborigines had hunted in those woods, and fished in the waters soon to bear the fleets of an empire.

Although he had been admitted to practice in the Vermont courts, he was compelled for lack of means to go on foot to Ravenna, where the Supreme Court was in session, to secure the diploma that enabled him to practice in the courts of the State. He afterwards brought his wife and infant daughter to Cleveland, coming from Buffalo on the Walk-in-the-Water, the first steamer ever on Lake Erie. In the absence of piers, and owing to the sand-bars then across the river's mouth, the passengers were landed in small boats. When he thus finally made his residence in Ohio, his wife walked at his side; he carried his infant daughter in his arms; he had a silver quarter of a dollar in his pocket ; that was all.

In 1825 he was elected to the State Senate, filling the position three consecutive terms of two years each. He was afterward elected President Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of the district of which Cuyahoga was one of the counties. This position he occupied six years, and was then chosen to the bench of the Supreme Court of Ohio, and twice re-appointed—the last three years as Chief Justice. His entire term of judicial service was about twenty years.

The data are not at hand from which to give an analysis of his judicial decisions, it must suffice to say that his influence had a marked effect in shaping the judiciary of the State, some of his opinions being given on important questions of the day and receiving great attention; and that as a judge he was inflex

« PreviousContinue »