Hall, Hiland, Hon, L.L.D.
as found in
HISTORY OF
BENNINGTON COUNTY, VT


WITH ILLUSTRATIONS AND BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES
OF SOME OF ITS PROMINENT MEN AND PIONEERS.

EDITED BY
LEWIS CASS ALDRICH
1889



HALL, HILAND Hon, L.L.D., ex-Governor, ex-Member of Congress and ex-Controller of the United States Treasury, was born in Bennington July 20, 1795. Nathaniel Hall, his father, was an industrious farmer, and his wife, whom he married in Norfolk, Conn., October 12, 1794, Abigail (Hubbard) Hall, a worthy companion. The ancestors of both, John Hall of the father and George Hubbard of the mother, were from England, who after being over fifteen years at Boston and Hartford became in 1650 large landholders, and the first settlers of Middletown, Conn. Nathaniel Hall was a deacon of the Baptist Church in North Bennington. He and his wife were worthy communicants of that church, and respected members of society. Of their seven children, two sons and five daughters, all of whom lived to be married, Hiland, the subject of this sketch, was the oldest. His education was obtained in the common schools of the day when he could be spared from the labor upon the farm, with a finishing term of three months at the academy in Granville, N. Y. He early exhibited a taste for reading, and any books he could borrow in the neighborhood were read, and on many occasions by the use of the light from coals on the hearth of an old fashioned fireplace, candles being at that time among the often forbidden luxuries. History and biography were his choice, and as soon as his age would allow he began teaching during the winters in the districts schools. When eighteen he was interested in the formation of the "Sons of Liberty," a society of the young men of Bennington for a vigorous prosecution of the War of 1812 with England. He was admitted to the Bennington county bar in 1819, and always resided in Bennington, only as he was absent on official positions of trust. He began his political life as a national Republican, voting for John Quincy Adams for president in 1824 and 1828. The party afterwards took the name of "Whig," with which he acted until it became merged in 1856 in the new Republican party, the name under which he began his political career. He represented the town in the General Assembly of the State in 1827, and was chiefly instrumental in obtaining a charter for the first bank located in the county. In 1828 he was clerk of the Supreme and County Court for Bennington county, and was elected State's attorney for the county, and reelected the three succeeding years. Mr. Hall was naturally generous, and his sympathies sometimes led him in answering the claims of the needy to be more liberal than his income would allow, and he was for years in straitened pecuniary circumstances. In later life, however, after his family had grown so as to care for themselves, his income was ample for his mode of living and for expressing in a tangible way many of his benevolent desires. In January, 1833 he was elected to Congress to fill the vacancy made by the death of Hon. Jona Hunt, and at the same election was chosen a member of the Twenty-third Congress. He represented this district for ten successive years as a Republican and Whig, when he declined longer to be a candidate, and closed his Congressional course the 3d of March, 1843. In Congress Mr. Hall served upon several important committees, and being a working rather than a talking member his services were often laborious and severe, especially on that of post-office and post-roads, and afterwards on that of Revolutionary claims, his printed reports upon the latter covering several volumes of public documents. In May, 1834, he made a speech against General Jackson's removal of the government deposits from the United States Bark, and another in May, 1836, in favor of the distribution of the proceeds of the public lands among the States, by which Vermont received nearly seven hundred thousand dollars as her portion, to be added to the school fund of the towns. Both the speeches were printed as campaign documents, and extensively circulated by his political friends, and the former was reprinted in New York prior to the succeeding election. In March, 1836, while a member of the post office committee, he presented a minority report on "incendiary publications," in opposition to the message of the president and the advice of the postmaster-general and in answer to a re report made in the Senate by Mr. Calhoun of South Carolina. but as the majority of the committee failed to present theirs it did not become a public paper, but was published in the National Intelligencer at Washington, and other papers through the country. He took an active part in procuring the act of July 2d, 1836, by which in the reorganization of the post-office department a system for the settlement of accounts was established, which inaugurated an economical administration of its affairs.

Mr. Hall was successful in putting a stop to the payment of claims which had for years been made by Virginians, called commutation claims, half pay and bounty land claims. These had been numerous, and had passed through Congress with little opposition, as many influential Virginians, governors, and members of Congress were and had been interested in them, and were founded on alleged promises of the State of Virginia or of the Continental Congress to Virginia officers of the Revolutionary army. There had been over three millions of dollars paid by the United States on fictitious claims for supposed services of deceased officers, and their numbers were continually increasing. By patient examination of Revolutionary archives at Washington, and information gleaned from public records at Richmond, he prepared a report as chairman of a select committee for the purpose of such investigation, which was approved by the committee and presented to the house on the 27th of February, 1839. By dilatory motions and efforts in obstructing the action of the house, participated in by Mr. Wise and others of the Virginia delegation, it being near the close of the session, the designed object was effected of smothering the report for that Congress. At the next session, on the 24th of April. 1840, Mr. Hall made a report as a member of the committee on Revolutionary claims, upon these claims of the Virginians, which showed by authentic evidence that every one was unfounded. The efforts of the Virginians to obtain allowances being continued, Mr. Stanly, of North Carolina, on the ground that the claimants could not otherwise have a fair hearing, on the 10th of June, 1842, offered a resolution that a select committee be appointed to examine and report on their validity. On the 16th Mr. Hall spoke an hour, vindicating his course and showing that the claims were, every one, either gotten up in fraud or were clearly unfounded on any service to sustain them, and closed by giving a list of sixty-four of the latest of such claims, amounting to over two hundred thousand dollars, which were before the house, and had been recommended for payment by the executive of Virginia. He offered to withdraw his opposition to the claims if any member would satisfy the house that any single claim was well founded. His speech was commented upon by many of the Virginians, some of whom were personally interested in the payment of them, among them Messrs Goggin, Goode, and Gilmer, the latter of whom while governor of Virginia, had already received over twelve thousand dollars by a law of the State entitling him as agent of the half-pay claimants, to one per cent on all that should be paid by the United States on this class of claims. The debate occupied the morning hour, of several days, and having the large delegation of Virginia on one side and a single member from another State on the other, and being in a great degree of a personal character, it attracted very general attention. Members of both houses of Congress were present during much of the debate, and the lobbies and galleries were filled with spectators. Mr. Hall triumphantly sustained every position he had taken in debate, and so discomfited his assailants that besides being highly complimented by many senators and members of the house, among them ex President Adams, his vindication was the subject of general newspaper notice through the country. This thorough exposure of these claims, followed soon after by a report in detail of the select committee, prepared by Mr. Hall, operated as a final suppression of them. May it not be said this capturing of the Virginia delegation was really the first taking of Richmond by evidence, much of which was taken from the State archives and brought to bear with irresistible force upon the fortified plans and schemes of its greedy speculators.

He was president of the large "Whig" Convention held in Bennington in 1840, and made the opening speech introductory to his presenting Hon. Daniel Webster at the famous "Stratton Whig Convention," held on the top of the Green Mountain on the 16th of August of the same year.

He was bank commissioner of Vermont for four years, from 1843, judge of the Supreme Court for the like period until 1850, when he was appointed Second Controller of the United States Treasury. While acting as controller, he took the ground that he should, if satisfied of the illegality of an expenditure, though ordered by the head of a department representing the president, reject it, although in opposition to a labored written argument and sanctioned by the published opinion of three former Attorney-Generals. He showed conclusively that judicial authority had been designedly conferred on the accounting officers as a check upon lavish expenditures in the several departments, and a second edition of his published opinion, which has since been followed in the department, has recently been printed for government use.

In 1851 he was appointed by President Fillmore with General James Wilson, of New Hampshire, and Judge H. I. Thronton, of Alabama, a land Commissioner for California, resigning his position as controller, and recommending for his successor Hon. E. J. Phelps, a prominent lawyer of Burlington, and since United States minister to England. Mr. Hall was chairman of the commission, and wrote the opinion in the famous Mariposa claim of General J. C. Fremont, which included, almost without exception, all points that would be liable to arise in the adjusting of land claims under the treaty with Mexico. After the election of President Pierce he remained for a time in San Francisco with the law firm of Halleck, Peachy, Billings & Park as general adviser and to assist in the preparation of important papers.

In the spring of 1854 he returned to Vermont, and, resuming his residence on the farm in North Bennington on which he was born, retired from the further practice of his profession.

Mr. Hall was possessed of the qualities which go to make up a statesman; a good mind stored with good common sense, a retentive memory and a practical mode of thinking. His flow of language as an extemporaneous speaker was deficient, but at the desk he excelled, as formulated thoughts and correctly molded ideas flowed as freely as could be readily written; and in whatever position he was placed lie was found equal to any exigency which arose, as his fund of information extended to all branches of national, constitutional or international research.

Mr. Hall was a member of the convention which met in Philadelphia in 1856, and gave the Republican party a national character by nominating candidates for the presidency and vice presidency, and he presided at the Republican convention held in North Bennington on the 16th of August of the same year.

In 1858 he was elected by that party governor of the State, and re-elected the next year by a like large majority. In his first message, after calling the attention of the Legislature to the local affairs of the State and speaking in condemnation of the attempt by a decision of the Supreme Court to legalize slavery in the Territories, he pronounced the decision in the "bred Scott" case as "extra judicial, and as contrary to the plain language of the constitution, to the facts of history and to the dictates of common humanity:" and in his last message in 1859 he announced his determination to retire from further public service. He, however, acted as chairman of the delegation from Vermont to the fruitless "Peace Congress," which on the call of Virginia met in Washington in February, 1861, on the eve of the rebellion. On the breaking out of the rebellion in April, 1861, he felt it his duty to do all in his power to up hold the unity and integrity of the government, and his tine, energies, and means to a large extent were devoted to aid in crushing it out. His association and intimate relations with such men as Webster, Clay, Adam, Giddings, Stevens, and others, when the doctrine of nullification or disunion was being advocated by Calhoun and his associates, that slavery and States rights might be sustained and perpetuated, had prepared him for immediate action, and his anxiety ceased only on the final surrender of Lee to Grant.

Mr. Hall always took a deep interest in the history connected with the territory and State of Vermont. He delivered the first annual address that was made before the Vermont Historical Society, and for six years, from 1859, was its president, and was afterwards active in the preparation of the materials for a number of the volumes of its collections, and otherwise promoting its success. He read several papers at the meetings of the society, some of which were published; among them one in 1869 in vindication of Colonel Ethan Allen as the hero of Ticonderoga, in refutation of an attempt made in the "Galaxy Magazine" to rob him of that honor. He has contributed papers to the "New York Historical Magazine," to the Vermont Historical Gazetteer," to the "Philadelphia Historical Record," and also to the "New England Historic Genealogical Register." In 1860 he read before the New York Historical Society a paper showing "why the early inhabitants of Vermont disclaimed the jurisdiction of New York and established a separate government."

In 1868 his "Early History of Vermont," a work of over five hundred pages, was published, in which is unanswerably shown the necessity of the separation of the inhabitants from the government of New York; their justification in the struggle they maintained in the establishment of their State independence, and their valuable services in the cause of American liberty during the Revolutionary War. In it the loyalty of all the important acts of the leaders is so firmly established by documentary evidence, that he was confident no aspersion could be maintained reflecting upon the patriotism of any of the early heroes.

Governor Hall was prominent in forwarding the centennial celebration of the battle of Bennington during the week of the 16th of August, 1877; in securing for it the aid of the State Legislature, and in advancing its successful accomplishment. He had a little before prepared a full and concise description of the battle, with an account of its far-reaching consequence, which was extensively published, and has also a place in the official record of the celebration.

Being deeply interested in the erection of a suitable monument for commemorating the battle of Bennington, he was sorrowfully surprised at the report of the committee on design, of which Hon. E: J. PHELPS was chairman, made in December, 1884, of an artistic structure about sixty feet high, and in June, 1885, having reached the age of ninety, he addressed an open letter of twelve printed pages to the Bennington Battle Monument Association, giving his views of monuments and their form in relation to different historic events, critically reviewing the design of the committee recommending the small, low structure, and advised the erection of a tall, large, bold and commanding shaft. The letter, written with the vigor of earlier years, was extensively circulated and read, and as a result at the annual meeting of the association the same year at Bennington, which was very largely attended, the "report of the committee on design" was withdrawn, and it was unanimously voted to erect a monument of magnitude and grandeur.

The honorary degree of L.L.D. was conferred on him by the University of Vermont in 1859. He was a life member and vice-president for Vermont of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, a member of the Long Island Historical Society, an honorary member of the Buffalo and corresponding member of the New York Historical Societies.

He married in 1818 Dolly Tuttle Davis, of Rockingham, Vt., who, after over sixty years of happy and useful married life, died January 8, 1879, having been a consistent member of the Congregational Church in Bennington about fifty years. Their golden wedding, with "no presents received," was celebrated October 27, 1868. There were about three hundred present; of the gentlemen forty-five were over sixty years old, and one, a former teacher of his, aged eighty-five years. Mrs. Hall's parents, Henry DAVIS and Mary TUTTLE, lived together sixty years lacking three days. He was at the battle of Bunker Hill under Colonel Stark at the line of rail fence, and also served at West Point at the time of Arnold's treasonable attempt to surrender it to the enemy, being in the Revolutionary service over three years. At a family reunion in North Bennington July 20, 1885, in honor of Mr. Hall, at the residence of his granddaughter, on which day he was ninety years of age, there were present fifty-one of his descendants, there being five others who were detained from the interesting gathering. The difference in the ages of the oldest and youngest was eighty-nine years and four months. He had eight children, six sons and two daughters. Of the sons there are now living, viz.: Henry D., of Bennington; Nathaniel B., of Jackson, Mich.; and Charles, of Springfield, Mass. The deceased were, Eliza D., wife of Adin THAYER, who died in 1843; Hiland H., in 1851; Laura V., wife of Trenor W. PARK, in 1875; M. Carter, in 1881, and John V. in 1888.

Governor Hall died in Springfield, Mass, at the house of his son, with whom he was spending the winter. December 18, 1885. Retiring on the 17th in usual health, he was heard in the morning to open the register for more warmth, as was his custom, when a fall called the family to his room. He was unable to rise, but gave directions for the care of himself, living about two hours, the machinery of the body seemingly having worn out, he being in his ninety first year. The funeral was in North Bennington, the services being largely attended by the people of the vicinity, with the county bar; also friends from Manchester and Rutland, and other parts of the State were in attendance. Rev. Isaac Jennings, the pastor of the First Church, officiated, and the casket was borne and lowered into the grave by his remaining children, Henry D., Nathaniel B., John V., and Charles, who had a few years before in like manner, gently laid away the loved form of the wife and mother. The interment was at Bennington Center in the family lot he had prepared years before, anal where his beloved wife and many of his descendants are buried.


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