Prof. Theodore W. Dwight, LL.D.

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Theodore William Dwight

Birthdate: (69)
Birthplace: Catskill, NY, United States
Death: June 29, 1892 (69)
Clinton, Oneida, NY, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Benjamin W. Dwight, MD and Sophia Woodbridge Dwight
Husband of Mary Bond Dwight
Father of William Olmstead Dwight; Gertrude Elizabeth Dwight and Nellie Theodora Dwight
Brother of Benjamin W. Dwight, PhD; Sophia Dwight; Mary Anthony; Edward W. Dwight and Elizabeth Anthony

Occupation: Jurist
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Prof. Theodore W. Dwight, LL.D.

Prof. Theodore William Dwight, LL.D. (son of Dr. Benjamin W. Dwight and Sophia Strong), b. at Catskill, N. Y., July 18, 1822, grad. at Hamilton Coll., N. Y., in 1840, became classical teacher in the Utica Academy; studied law (1841-2) in the Yale Law School, under Prof. Samuel J. Hitchcock — whose merits as a teacher he has always rated most highly; — was tutor at Hamilton College for four years (1842-6); and Prof, there, for 12 years (1846-58) of Law, History, Civil Polity and Political Economy. In connection with his professorship, which was limited by the very terms of its endowment to undergraduate courses of study and instruction, he established a distinct department for the education of law-students as such; and procured the passage of a statute by the N. Y. legislature, admitting the graduates of his school to practice at the bar, on the simple basis of their diploma. The same provision has been since extended to the graduates of the Columbia Coll. Law School, by special state-law. The Supreme Court decided some years since, that such a statute was unconstitutional, as interfering with the inherent powers of the Court to grant admission to its practitioners. But, on an appeal to the Court of Appeals, Prof. Dwight made an elaborate, historical argument, showing the power of the legislature from time immemorial to control the whole subject. The decision of the Supreme Court was reversed, and the law maintained. His argument was published afterwards in a thick pamphlet by the Trustees of the College. See N. Y. Law Reports in the matter of Cooper. N. Y. Reports. In 1858 he was elected Prof, of Municipal Law in Columbia College, N. Y. A law-school was soon organized, of which he was made Warden, which numbered, in the year of its inception, 35 pupils, and has steadily grown, in 16 years past, to its present height of 425 students in daily attendance upon his instructions, during seven months of the year from the first week in October. The course embraces two years of study, and is made up of recitations and lectures in continual alternation throughout the whole period of instruction, with a moot-court each week for the senior class, for practice in the application of legal principles to a great variety of supposable cases. Thorough, earnest, animated drill is the law of life and work in the school. Most of the attendants upon it are graduates of college ; and great is their admiration for the didactic excellence of their accomplished, labor-loving and spirited professor. The atmosphere of the institution which is one, in its whole style and strength, of itself and by itself, and but an outward expression of its author's own inward ideas and ideals, is charged to the full with the sense of intellectual power and progress.

His great success in giving legal instruction has attracted attention very widely in this country, and even also in England. Prof. James Bryce, of the University of Oxford, Eng., author of "The Holy Roman Empire," having visited his school and witnessed the style of intellectual workmanship conducted there, wrote, on his return to England, an article entitled, "The Legal Profession in America," for "Macmillan's Magazine," vol. 25, pp. 206-18, in which he says: "Columbia College in New York is fortunate in possessing a professor of great legal ability and an extraordinary gift of exposition, whose class-rooms, like those at Harvard, are crowded by large and highly intelligent audiences. Better law-teaching than Mr. D wight's, it would be hardly possible to imagine. It would be worth an English student's while, to cross the Atlantic to attend his course."

Albert Venn Dicey, Esq., also an English counsellor at law and a legal writer of repute, says, in the same magazine, in advocating the establishment in England of systematic courses of legal instruction (in an article, entitled," Legal Education," pp. 115-27, vol. 25, year 1872): "New York possesses the best Law-school in the United States, and one quite unlike any institution existing in England, where constant classes, filled with ardent pupils, are taught the elements of English law, by one of the ablest professors that any school of law ever possessed. The only force that keeps them full is the force exercised by a man of genius, who knows how to teach what his pupils need to learn. Prof. Dwight has a reputation throughout the whole Union, as the greatest living American teacher of law."

In 1869 Prof. Dwight became a non-resident professor of Constitutional Law in Cornell University, at Ithaca, N. Y., giving a course of 12 lectures there each year upon that subject, in the month of June, at the end of his course of instruction at his law-school in New York. Since 1870 he has given the same course of lectures at Amherst College, Mass., immediately after finishing his course at Ithaca.

He was a member of the N. Y. Constitutional Convention of 1867, and of its judiciary committee. He was active in the deliberations and debates of that body, and of his own special committee in it, and was the author and promoter of a number of provisions which now form a part of the judiciary article of our State Constitution.

In the recent reform-movements in the city of New York, he was an earnest and efficient actor; and was a member of the now historic "Committee of Seventy," and in 1873 was the chairman of its legislative committee, which so successfully resisted partisan legislation before the legislature, as to secure in the present city-charter some of its most useful provisions.

He has been greatly interested for many years in the labors of the N. Y. State Prison Association, having been most of the time chairman of its executive committee, and being now (1874) its President. He has prepared quite a number of its published reports. In conjunction with Rev. Dr. E. C. Wines then Secy, of the Association he visited, a few years since, by its appointment, a large number of state-prisons and penitentiaries in this and other neighboring States, and in Canada. The results of their investigations were published in a thick volume, which was received with marked favor in this country and in Europe.

He has argued many important law-cases in the N. Y. courts. The whole law of charitable foundations as they have existed in England from time immemorial, was investigated by him in the case of " Rose against the Rose Beneficent Association" in 1803, in so thorough a way as to clear up permanently a subject previously obscure in its judicial aspects in this country. He maintained conclusively for the first time, that charitable or public trusts are recognized, and enforced by the court of chancery, as a part of its original jurisdiction. See remarks of the N. Y. Court of Appeals, in the case of Bascom and Albertson, N. Y. Reports. His researches in the Rose case were published in two octavos entitled, " Dwight on Charitable Uses," and made him extensively known, as specially versed in the law of charities. He has been much engaged since that time in the administration of charitable affairs in the State; and has been, from the beginning, Vice-President of the N. Y. Board of State Charities. He was the author of its first elaborate report on the condition of the almshouses of the State, which was printed by authority of the State, and so clearly exhibited the abuses of our poor-law system, as to induce a strong, public demand for their removal; and great have been the reforms which have, since that time, been accomplished in respect to them.

He has been, for several years, an Associate Editor of "The American Law Register," a legal periodical published in Philadelphia. Some of the articles in it from his pen have been published afterwards in a separate form; one of which especially drew much public attention to itself, that on "Trial by Impeachment," which was called out by the proceedings in the case of Prest. Andrew Johnson. He is also the legal editor of "Johnson's Cyclopaedia of Literature and Science," (A. J. Johnson, New York, 1874), now in course of progressive publication, and is a large contributor of articles on many legal subjects — his name being subjoined to those of any special value.

The latest public duty and honor conferred upon him has been his appointment (Dec. 30, 1873) by Gov. John A. Dix, afterwards ratified by the State Senate, as a member of "The Commission of Appeals" of the State, a judicial tribunal, sharing the duties and honors of "The Court of Appeals," the highest court in the State. His services as a judge are demanded at times compatible with the continuance of his labors in his law school, and he is now filling both spheres of high action with honor to himself, and advantage to those whom in such large numbers he serves.

He has always had strong literary tastes, and still reads the classics and leading German, French, and Italian authors with ease and relish. His memory is remarkably comprehensive and retentive in its grasp.

He is a member of "The Madison Square Presbyterian Church," and has been since 1873 an elder in it.

He m. Aug. 24, 1847 Mary Bond Olmstead, b. Feb. 26, 1823, (dau. of Asa Olmstead, Esq., of Clinton N. Y., previously of Northfield, Ct., and Mary Proctor Bond). He is 5 feet 10 inches high, of florid complexion, light auburn hair (originally), dark hazel eyes and of a sanguine temperament and broad frame and weighs 200 pounds. She has light auburn hair, blue eyes and a fair complexion and is of a full figure standing 5 feet 3 inches high.

[Asa Olmstead was the son of Asa Olmstead of Enfield, and Charlotte Dwight, dau. of Seth Dwight of Somers, Ct., and Joanna Kellogg. See subsequent page.

Mary Proctor Bond, b. at Plainfield, Mass., Nov. 16, 1792, was the dau. of Dr. Solomon Bond of Enfield, Ct., and Sarah Hinckley.

The genealogy of the Hinckley Family:

I. Samuel Hinckley, the settler, came from Tenterden, Kent, Eng., in the ship Hercules, in the spring of 1635, and settled at Scituate, removing in 1640 to Barnstable, Mass., where he spent the rest of his days. His wife's name was Sarah, and they brought with them four children to this country, viz: Gov. Thomas Hinckley, b. in 1621 and d. 1700, aet. 85. 2. Susanna, who m. in 1643 Rev. John Smith of Barnstable. 3. Sarah, who m. Dec. 12, 1649, Elder Henry Cobb. 4. Mary, He had also children b. in this country, viz: 5. Elizabeth, b. in Scituate, who m. July 15, 1657, Elisha Parker. 6. Samuel, b. in Barnstable, July 24, 1642, m. Oct. 7, 1661, a dau. of John Gorum of Plymouth. 8. John, b. May 24, 1644. The mother of these children d. Aug. 18, 1656, and he m. for 2d wife Bridget, widow of Robert Bobfish of Sandwich. He d. Oct. 31, 1662.

II. Geo. Thomas Hinckley, b. in 1621, m. Dec. 4, 1641, Mary, dau. of Thomas Richards of Weymouth, who d. June 24, 1659, and he m. for 2d wife, March 16, 1660, Mary Glover, nee Smith, b. in Lancashire, Eng., 1630, widow of Nathaniel Glover, son of Hon. John Glover of Dorchester, Mass. She d. July 29, 1703, aet. 73. He d. April 25, 1706, aet. 87. He was an "assistant" in the Govt. of Plymouth, Colony (1658-81), and Govr. most of the time from 1681 to 1692. He had a son, Thomas, Jr.

III. Thomas Hinckley, son of Gov. Thomas Hinckley, settled in Plymouth, and afterwards removed to Haverhill, where he died, leaving a son, Thomas, 3d.

IV. Thomas Hinckley, 3d, settled at Brookfield, Mass., about 1737, and d. there, leaving four sons, Samuel, John, Thomas and David, all of whom but Samuel d. in early life.

V. Samuel (son of Thomas 3d), m. Abigail Welsh of Charlestown, Mass., and lived at Brookfield, and had 9 children; Judge Samuel, b. Dec. 1757, Job, Abigail, John, Elizabeth, Thomas, David, Sarah b. Aug. 10, 1708, and Rebecca.

VI. Judge Samuel Hinckley b. Dec. 22, 1757, grad. at Yale, 1781, studied law with Gov. Caleb Strong of Northampton. He was Judge of Probate (1786-1834), and in 1820 member of the State Constitutional Convention. He m. in 1780 Dorothy Strong, dau. of Gov. Caleb Strong.

His sister, Sarah Hinckley, b. Aug. 16, 1708. m. Feb. 2, 1792, Dr. Solomon Bond of Boylston, Mass, b. May 1704, son of Dea. Jonathan Bond and Ruth Tyler — see, for further Bond lineage, "Bond's Genealogies of Watertown, Mass." For descendants of Judge Samuel Hinckley, see History of Strong Family by the author [of this volume].

The other children of Dr. Bond and Sarah Hinckley (beside Mrs. Asa Olmstead above mentioned, who was the eldest born) were, 2. Rebecca, b. Nov. 17, 1794, who m. Levi Bliss of Brimfield, Mass., a merchant, and d. March 7, 1871. 3d. Solomon, b. March 13, 1797, d. March 15, 1812. 4. Hon. Thomas Hinckley Bond, b. Jan. 14, 1804, grad. at Yale, 1825, a lawyer by profession, was a merchant and miller for some years in Oswego, N. Y., and Collector of the Port under Pres. Harrison, and member of the State Senate (1849-50). Since 1859 he has resided at New Haven. He was member of the Conn. Legislature in 1803, and of the State Senate in 1866. He m. Sept. 28, 1828, Elizabeth, dau. of James Goodrich of New Haven, Ct., who d. March 16, 1804, and for 2d wife, June 10, 1808, Mary E., dau. of Hon. Royal R. Hinman of Hartford, Ct. 5. Eliza Ann, b. March 22, 1807, m. Sept. 4, 1837, Francis B. Stebbins of Ware, Mass., a lawyer. He d. May 11, 1845. ]

[Ninth Generation.] Children of Prof. Theodore W. Dwight. 167. i. William Olmstead Dwight, b. at Clinton, April 10, 1854, d. of diphtheria, Aug. 18, 1859.

168. ii. Gertrude Elizabeth Dwight, b. Sept. 21, 1850.

169. iii. Helen Theodora ("Nelly") Dwight, b. March 2, 1861.

These children have all had light complexions, light auburn hair, and blue eyes.

167. i. William Olmstead Dwight, b. April 10, 1854, was a boy of superior mould and promise in his physical and mental endowments. Of no other child in the whole range of the family-history is any such extended notice taken as is here indulged in of him. The account here given of some of his leading characteristics was written, at the time of his decease, by his greatly bereaved father and published in a local paper. The hearts of many similarly afllicted parents will, it is believed, yield readily a sympathetic response to the tender touches of this prose-poem.

This little boy had a thirst for knowledge which it seemed difficult to satisfy. His mind was open to all impressions of beauty, He was passionately fond of that noble animal the horse, and of flowers, poetry and music. Having a very ready and retentive memory he had learned a great many poems and snatches of verse, which he declaimed, or repeated more quietly, with a propriety of tone and manner which showed his true appreciation of them. His father on returning at any time from a lengthened absence, could think of no way of pleasing him so well as by repeating to him a number of new verses, full of sweet sense and rhythm. He selected at one time for this purpose one of Goethe's exquisite ballads, although hesitatingly, fearing that it was beyond his years. He found to his surprise that the poem though 50 lines long was much relished by Willie, and was learned mainly by him after one recital of it, and quite perfectly after he had heard it a second time. It was a fairy ballad and was continually afterwards upon his tongue when at play alone by himself. The closing lines, which ho most loved to repeat, seemed suggestive of his own fate:

"They rattled and prattled for ever so long,

And then disappeared in a chorus of song."

Willie's nature was altogether sunny. His large blue eyes seemed to be always overflowing with fun and frolic, expressing an intelligence superior to his age. He was never sad, nor even sullen or morose. He had no inclination to deceive; and if he found at any time that he had done anything forbidden or which he had come to feel, for the first time, was wrong, he ran in all haste to his parents to tell them of it in penitence. His temper was constitutionally quick, and he had not yet sufficient age to control it; but his anger passed away with the hot breath of the moment, and was swiftly succeeded by a sweet smile of affection. The wealth of love that was in his nature, and which none but his dearest friends knew, they can never forget. He was fearless of danger almost to seeming recklessness. His quick step, open face, winning smile, and earnest words and deeds attracted at once the notice of all beholders.

He was keenly alive to a sense of injustice. If he thought himself wrongly treated, it was almost impossible to pacify him for the moment. Independent in spirit, impetuous in action, of a determined will, and full of an irrepressible love of frolic, he could not be governed by rules which are easily successful with those of weaker constitutional elements. He was always most easily managed by an appeal to his conscience and his affections.

He seemed to have a native aptitude for making nice legal discriminations. Other instances might be given: one will suffice. When told of the destruction of Sodom for the wickedness of its people, he replied: "Why did God burn the houses? They were not wicked: I should have thought that he would have piled the wicked people up and burned them, but have left the houses." He could only be partially satisfied by being told that they were bad and dirty houses from having been so long lived in by wicked people.

This dear little boy, so fond of all enjoyments in the open air, of sunlight, flowers and music; so tender of heart and sweet of voice, could not bear to think of being placed in the cold, damp, dark ground. "God would take him," ho said, "straight up to heaven."

When but little more than five years old he was seized with diphtheria in its most virulent form. His vigorous constitution struggled long but unavailingly against this dread disease, and at last succumbed to its fatal power, and he dropped almost without a moment's warning to his anxious parents into the arms of angels who were ready to welcome him joyfully to their bosoms.

In the words of his own favorite lines:

He had rattled and prattled through all his life long,

And then disappeared in a chorus of song."

Source: The history of the descendants of John Dwight, of Dedham, Mass., Volume 1 (Google eBook), Benjamin Woodbridge Dwight, J. F. Trow & son, printers and bookbinders, 1874, pages 189-196. Downloaded 2011.

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Prof. Theodore W. Dwight, LL.D.'s Timeline

July 18, 1822
Catskill, NY, United States
Age 31
September 21, 1856
Age 34
Age 38
June 29, 1892
Age 69
Clinton, Oneida, NY, United States