Theodore Dwight (1764 - 1846)

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Hon. Theodore Dwight, M.C.'s Geni Profile

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Birthplace: Northampton, Hampshire, MA
Death: Died in New York City, NY
Occupation: Journalist; Lawyer (law partner of cousin Aaron Burr)
Managed by: Vance Barrett Mathis
Last Updated:

About Theodore Dwight

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodore_Dwight_(elder)

Theodore Dwight (1762-1846) was a lawyer and newspaper man in Hartford, CT. He represented his district in the US Congress (1809-15), then moved to New York, where he founded "The New York Daily Advertiser" (1817-36), and wrote a well-received biography, "The Life and Character of Thomas Jefferson."

Theodore Dwight was an outspoken opponent of slavery. He wrote poems and delivered public addresses advocating emancipation at a time when almost every one around him was asleep upon this great matter. One of his poems begins:

Help! oh help! thou God of Christians!

Save a mother from despair!

Cruel white men steal my children:

Lord, have mercy on my prayer.

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Hon. Theodore Dwight (son of Major Timothy Dwight of Northampton and Mary Edwards), b. Dec. 15, 1704, was not quite 12 years old when the revolutionary war broke out, and when also his father went to Natchez never to return. For both of these reasons the finances of the family became utterly deranged; and all thought of giving like educational facilities of a superior kind to those previously furnished to the eldest son Timothy, must be forever abandoned in respect to all the younger sons. When of sufficient age and strength he took his place by the side of his two elder brothers, Timothy and Jonathan, as an earnest worker each day on one of the two family farms, in order that by their united industry they might work out of the willing soil a worthy support for their mother and her large family. That mother was zealously devoted to the best educational development of her children; and what she could do, with her many and great household cares, for each and all of them, she did. But "circumstances alter cases" every where; and all that could be done for her son Theodore was to give him, beside the earnest instruction of his mother at home, the further advantages of a district school kept near at hand by "Master King." He was not old enough then to enjoy, like his brother Jonathan, the educational training given by his brother Timothy to a class of young men, whose recitations he heard twice daily at that time at Northampton. If he could have enjoyed the full benefits of collegiate study, he would have acquired, it is believed, a name for his talents and his usefulness quite akin to that of his more distinguished brother.

He might have been induced to have limited his energies for life to agricultural toil; but happily for him in the end he broke his left arm near the wrist, and quite as luckily perhaps, it was so badly set by an ignorant surgeon as to be ever afterwards inadequate for manual toil. It was therefore determined, in conformity alike with his own tastes and with traditional if not inherited instincts in the family, that he should turn his attention to the law, which he pursued in the office of his cousin Pierrepont Edwards in New Haven. He established himself at Haddam, Connecticut, but in 1791 removed to Hartford, Connecticut, and for 24 years (1791-1815) practiced his profession there with success.

He early came very near being the law-partner of his cousin Aaron Burr. A proposal to that effect had been made to him to which lie had acceded, and actually removed his family to New York and rented a house there for their accommodation. But, while the partnership papers were yet unsigned, he was at a dinner-party given by Burr to some of his political friends; at which opinions were expressed upon public matters, that were decidedly distasteful to him. lie expressed his dissatisfaction with them in indignant terms; and Burr treated him from that time onwards with such excessive coldness of manner, as to make at once any terms of co-partnership between them impossible. He returned soon accordingly back to Hartford and resumed anew the professional business which he had as he supposed forever relinquished there to others. A man of such genuine virtue of soul as he, could have little in common at any time with the corrupt and wily elements of character which Aaron Burr so plainly showed himself in after years to possess.

While at Hartford he edited "The Connecticut Mirror" and "The Hartford Courant." In 1806, he was chosen to fill the vacancy made in Congress, in the House, by the resignation of Hon. John Cotton Smith, and ran full tilt while there, at different times, against John Randolph — proving himself to be quite an even match with him in wit and irony. At the close of his term of office he declined being a candidate at any future election. He was for 6 years (1809-15) a member of "The Council of the State." Of the celebrated "Hartford Convention," which met in that city, Dec. 15, 1814, he was the secretary; and in 1833 he published "The History of the Hartford Convention."

He abounded at all times in anecdote, pleasantry and sparkling humor, and excelled in satire. He was very fond of his pen, and, while practicing his profession, kept it ever busy in various prose and poetical effusions. With his brother-in-law, Richard Alsop and others, he published "The Echo," which was a very taking set of travesties, some 60 years ago and more, upon the bombastic productions of the day.

In 1815 he gave up legal practice (act. 51), and removed to Albany, New York, and established there "The Daily Advertiser," publishing the first number Sept. 25th, of that year. In Feb. 1817 he removed to New York, and founded there "The New York Daily Advertiser;" which, after many years of able management by him (1817-36), lapsed in the end into the present "New York Express" — which is of quite different ideas in politics, not to say elsewhere, from his own most cherished opinions and aims. He wrote also "The Life and Character of Thomas Jefferson." In 1836 he left New York and returned again, after 21 years, to Hartford, to spend his last days there when 72 years old.

He was a man of unbending integrity, and his opinions, religious and political, were as sacred to him as his very life. While a thorough Christian in principle and practice, and given to habits of prayer, he remained all his life, like many other religious persons of his day, out of formal connection with church-privileges and church-duties as such. The Edwardian system, then so prevalent, of continual, critical self measurement, in respect to all one's religious experiences, cast its normal and terrible blight upon his natural joy of faith, as upon that of so many others.

An outline of "Mr. Dwight's Life and Writings" was published by the N. Y. Historical Society, soon after his death (1846); as was afterwards "A Sketch of his Character and Success as an Editor," by Dr. Francis of New York, under the auspices of the same Society. In "Peter Parley's Recollections of a Life Time," may be found an animated notice of him. He says of him (vol. ii. p. 123): "Though known as a somewhat severe but able political writer, he was in private life one of the most pure, disinterested and amiable of men. He had an almost womanly sensibility to human suffering. He had great abilities, and only missed a permanent reputation by setting too light a value upon his performances and so not bringing them up to a higher standard of criticism, lie virtues too much and too rapidly for lasting fame? "The Connecticut Mirror" was distinguished all over the country for its vigilant and spicy vindication of Federalism, at a time when metropolitan papers had no such overshadowing influence as now. His "New Year's Verses" were always looked for with eagerness for their sketchy review of passing events with dashes of humor, in which the doings of the "Democracy" were set off in the strongest colors within the reach of the most effective Hudibrastic ridicule. He followed up his political game with the vigilance of a falcon in pursuit of its prey.

He was of a tall, large, fine-looking presence, standing 5 feet 11 inches in height, with a portly bearing, having an open, radiant face, with clear, black, flashing eyes, and was universally considered a very handsome man. He is the only one of his great uncles that the writer ever saw; and well does he remember his fine, impressive face and figure in his old age.

He was a most earnest and outspoken opponent of slavery at all times, and not only wrote poems full of the spirit of immediate emancipation, at a time when almost every one around him was asleep upon this great matter, but delivered also public addresses upon the subject. "He dashed off verses almost by improvisation." In a work called "American Poems," a specimen of his anti-slavery verse may be found, beginning:

"Help! oh help! thou God of Christians! Save a mother from despair! Cruel white men steal my children: Lord, have mercy on my prayer."

He m. Sept. 9, 1792, Abigail Alsop, b. Nov. 18, 1765 (dau. of Richard Alsop,* a W. I. merchant in Middletown, Ct., and Mary Wright, dau. of Joseph Wright and Hannah Gilbert). He retained his powers of mind to the last, and died of general debility at New York, June 12, 1846, aet. 82. She d. there, April 2, 1846, aet. 81. She was a lady of small but full figure, intelligent and sprightly. Her early intellectual advantages were of a superior kind; and she was always very fond of belles lettres and poetry, and evinced a good deal of relish for points of taste and matters of culture and gentility. [Seventh Generation.] Children:

251. i. Mary Alsop Dwight, b. at Hartford, Ct., June 24, 1793, m. April 27, 1833, Capt. Matthew Alexander Patrick of the First Regt. U. S. Artillery (son of Samuel Patrick of Windsor, Vt., and Isabella Alexander). No issue. He d. March 6, 1834, at Williamsport, Md., whither he had gone with his command from Fort McHenry, to suppress an Irish riot. He d. suddenly of bilious fever.

Said Major John Williamson, U. S. A., of him (National Intelligencer, March 11, 1834): "Open, generous and candid, he was with

  • Richard Alsop (son of John Alsop and Abigail Sackett), b. in 1727, m. April 27, 1760, Mary Wright. He d. April 10, 1776, aet. 49.

His children were:

i. Richard, Jr., the author, b. Jan. 23, 1761, who m. Mary Wyllis, dau. of Samuel Wyllis. He d. at Flatbush, L. I., Aug. 20, 1815. She m. for a 2d husband Hon. Samuel W. Dana, M. C., of Middletown.

ii. Mary Alsop. b. May 27, 1762.

iii. Fanny Alsop, b. Jan. 22, 1764.

iv. Abigail, b. Nov. 18, 1765, m. Hon. Theodore Dwight.

v. Hannah, b. June 20, and d. June 21, 1767.

vi. Hannah, 2d, b. Oct. 6, 1768, d. Nov. 12, 1773.

vii. Clarissa Alsop, b. July 31, 1770.

viii. Joseph Wright Alsop, b. March 2, 1772.

ix. Hannah Alsop, 3d, b. Feb. 3, 1774.

x. John Alsop, b. Feb. 5, 1776.

out reproach. He never intentionally wounded the feelings of the humblest individual, or deviated from the strict observance of affability and courtesy to all."

He was a large and fine-looking man, 6 feet and an inch high, and was said to be the strongest man in the army. It was said of him that " he never did a mean act himself, and that no one would have the hardihood to do one in his presence." His widow resides now (1874) in Flushing, L. I., aet. 80.

Source: The History of the Descendants of John Dwight, of Dedham, Mass, Volume 1, by Benjamin Woodbridge Dwight, J. F. Trow & son, printers and bookbinders, 1874, pages 261-265. Downloaded 2011 from http://books.google.com/books

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Hon. Theodore Dwight, M.C.'s Timeline

1764
December 15, 1764
Northampton, Hampshire, MA
1793
June 24, 1793
Age 28
1795
February 3, 1795
Age 30
September 9, 1795
Age 30
Middletown, Middlesex, CT
1796
March 3, 1796
Age 31
Hartford, CT, USA
1798
January 26, 1798
Age 33
Hartford, CT, USA
1846
June 12, 1846
Age 81
New York City, NY
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