Friday, December 17, 2010

Sculpted to Inspire: John Davis Long

This sculpture of John Davis Long by Pierre Millet is the featured piece of art work in the Library's Main Reading Room through Dec. 24.

Long was born October 27, 1838 in Buckfield, ME, which was then part of Massachusetts. He attended the common schools of Buckfield and Hebron Academy in Maine. In 1857 he graduated from Harvard University at the age of 19. For the next two years, he taught school and was the principal at Westford Academy.

Long studied law at Harvard Law School from 1860 to 1861 and in the private law offices of Sidney Bartlett, dividing his time between Boston and Maine. Admitted to the bar in 1861, he began practicing law in Buckfield, ME. In 1863 he moved to Boston and, in 1869, to Hingham.

He was a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1875 to 1878, serving as Speaker from 1876 to 1878. In 1879 he advanced to the office of Lieutenant Governor. Long was elected Governor on the Republican ticket and served from 1880 to1882 after winning by an overwhelming majority. During his term, Long shrank state government, reduced taxes on mortgages and local shipping, and opposed the Commonwealth’s capital punishment laws. He supported women’s suffrage and, as a lifelong abstainer of alcohol, advocated temperance legislation.

His political career continued in the U.S. Congress from March 1883 until March 1889 when he resigned to devote himself to the legal profession.
Presidents McKinley and Roosevelt appointed him to serve in their Cabinets as Secretary of the Navy; he held this position from March 5, 1897 until May 1, 1902 leaving once again to resume his law practice.

Long delivered a speech to the men’s club at North Abington’s church after he retired from active life.
This speech, noted in an Aug. 29, 1915 Boston Herald article, summarizes his simple philosophy. “Wealth alone does not make a man happy. It is not a necessity. The man with a dime in his pocket can be just as happy as the man with his pockets filled with golden coins.” As a member of the Unitarian Church, he believed in peace even though he was Secretary of the Navy during the Spanish American War.

Known to be prolific writer, he published a volume of poems entitled
Bites of a Cherry, a memoir Reminiscences of my Seventy Years’ Education, and a treatise about the Navy in 1903 entitled The New American Navy. While serving as Lt. Governor, he translated Virgil’s Aeneid. He was President of the Overseers of Harvard University and the Authors’ Club of Boston. Long died in Hingham on August 28, 1915 and is buried in Hingham Cemetery.

His books:

America of Yesterday, as Reflected in the Journal of John Davis Long. B L848

Bites of a Cherry. 821 L84b

The New American Navy. 359.9 L84n

Reminiscences of my Seventy Years’ Education. 906 M41p 1908-1909

The Republican Party: its History, Principles and Policies. He was the editor of this volume of articles by leading U.S. Senators and Representatives. 329R421 L84r