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About Elias H. Cheney
Elias H. Cheney (1832–1924), New Hampshire State Representative 1867, New Hampshire State Senator 1885–1886, U.S. Consul in Matanzas, Cuba 1892–1894; U.S. Consul in La Paz, Bolivia 1895; U.S. Consul in Curaçao 1899–1914.
He worked in early boyhood in his father's paper mill, but was given better educational advantages than his older brothers had been permitted to receive in their early days.
He went to school first at the New Hampton Institute, in New Hampton, N. H., and later to Phillips Exeter Academy at Exeter, N. H., where he fitted for college.
He married Susan W. Youngman of Peterborough. Her father was a millwright. She was a lady widely recognized as of rare taste and unusual accomplishment. He early became a printer, and purchased the Peterborough Transcript in 1853, which he published for two years. In 1855 he took up his residence in Concord, and took charge of the New Hampshire Phoenix. In 1861 he moved to Lebanon, N. H., and purchased the Granite State Free Press, in the publication of which he was later assisted by his son Fred W. Cheney.
He represented the town of Lebanon in the legislature in 1867 and 1868, and later in the state senate.
The paper under his ownership and management was very highly regarded throughout New Hampshire. His editorials were always exceedingly good, reflecting a comprehensive knowledge of affairs, keen perception and wise judgment. The paper was always maintained upon a high and dignified plane by him and his sons.
He was, in politics, originally a "Free-Soiler," his first vote being cast in March, 1853, in Peterborough, which was a strong Democratic town. At that time one of his brothers was a Democrat in Peterborough, and another a Whig in the same town. The Democrat was Charles Gilman Cheney and the Whig was Person C. Cheney, whose histories have been reviewed. Thus it will be seen that the three brothers, in early manhood, had definitely divergent views concerning the political situation at that time, although living in the same community, but were all radically opposed to slavery and in favor of the Temperance movement.
He soon became very influential in the town of Lebanon, and acquired a well-deserved reputation for fair dealing and fair thinking. He was mild mannered but determined and always just. He was most kindly and benignant by nature, and possessed a mind and memory of remarkable vigor.
He was an earnest student of political affairs, and to the end of his life manifested the utmost interest in the affairs of his country. His health, always delicate, became seriously impaired, and as a result it was necessary for him to avoid the severe New England winters. He went to Florida for several winters and derived substantial benefit from the favorable climatic conditions in that state.
He was later appointed by President Harrison United States Consul at Matanzas, Cuba, where he remained several years, during 1892, 1893 and 1894, and became actively interested in Cuban affairs. His sympathies were given without stint to the cause of the oppressed population. Matanzas was later the very hotbed of the Cuban Revolution. A similar appointment was offered to him in 1895, at La Paz, the seaport capital of Lower California, Mexico. He subsequently received the appointment of United States Consul at Curaçao, Dutch West Indies, in 1899, where he remained more than fifteen years, and discharged the duties of his office to the entire satisfaction of his Government and the commendation of Holland.
Some years after the death of his wife, he married Mrs. Clara May (Harding) Smith, who during the remainder of his life lovingly ministered to his comfort and happiness, to the great joy of his children.
Upon relinquishing his post at Curaçao, he returned to New England, where he passed the rest of his life in Lebanon, N. H., with the exception of one or two winters in Florida.
He died at the age of ninety-two, retaining to the end his mental faculties.
The following newspaper tribute at that time expresses a conservative review of his manly virtues:
Elias Hutchins Cheney was a remarkable man. To reach the advanced age of ninety-three is accounted remarkable. To retain to that age the full vigor of a fine mind, is still more remarkable.
He belonged to a family whose name is written through the annals of our state, prominent for the men it has given to scholarship, business pursuits, but above all to statecraft. The Cheney's have possessed a singular clarity of mind. We find them for generations influential in the state, shaping the course of politics, politics in the broad way, policies more than politics, policies which men followed, not so much shaping men who for political reasons adopted clever politics.
Elias Cheney in an eminent degree exhibited perspicacity that has been an outstanding trait of his line, that X-ray quality of mind that has enabled the Cheney men to see right through things at a flash. Politically weatherwise, the Cheney's have ever been able to scan the political sky and unerringly forecast how the weather will break. Dean of his family and dean of newspaper men up to the very close of his long life, Elias Cheney continued to be a power in the state.
Reasoning is with most people a slow process, to be pursued in quiet. But as it is given to some men to speak extemporaneously, free from the compulsion of having to set down their thoughts, marshal and arrange them before delivery, he inherited the attribute of reasoning with strange swiftness, of seeing instantly all the dimensions of acts, swiftly arranging and rearranging them and drawing the conclusions that subsequent events always show to have been correct.
A student of international affairs, from his experience as Consul at the Dutch West Indian Island of Curaçao, entrepôt of Venezuelan trade, years before the Great War, Elias Cheney predicted a great war which should be waged by Germany. He had become familiar with the Kaiser's intrigues in South America and knew his hostility towards us, his desire to bring us low, as obstacles to a conquest of South America.
Born in 1832, voting at ten annual state elections when slavery was still the paramount issue, at his prime in the close of the eighteen-seventies, he did not even hark back to the past, did not devote his pen to recounting reminiscences. While full of the precedents and with a store of past lessons to be applied to contemporary problems, this man in his eighties and nineties lived in the present, wrote of current questions and contemporary men. He kept his eyes on history in the making and his pen dealt with it in a style that for lucidity of diction, clarity of thought, unerring good judgment and constant good temper, will not soon be seen again in New Hampshire.