Ichabod Goodwin by Frank Goodwin

Mr. Goodwin is the eldest son of Samuel Goodwin and Nancy Thompson Gerrish, and was born in that part of Berwick which is now North Berwick, in the state of Maine. He is descended, on both father's and mother's side, from families of very great colonial importance. The great-grandfather of Mr. Goodwin, Capt. Ichabod Goodwin, is said, by the writer of the genealogy of the Berwick Goodwins, in the Historical Magazine, to have been the most remarkable man who ever lived in that town. He distinguished himself at the battle of Ticonderoga, and we learn from the London Magazine that he was especially mentioned in Maj.-Gen. Abercrombie's report to Secretary Pitt.

On his father's side, his ancestors figured conspicuously in the wars before the Revolution, and up to the period of the Revolution were of the families upon whom devolved the magisterial work and honor of the times. On his mother's side he is likewise descended from families which for a century, and up to the time of the Revolution, performed a large share of the duties of public office; and some of the most conspicuous names in the colonial history of Maine and New Hampshire are to be counted among his maternal ancestors.

To mention the names of Champernoun, Waldron, and Elliot, none more familiar to those informed upon colonial history, is but to recall the persons from whom, on the maternal side, he is lineally descended, or with whom his maternal ancestors were closely allied by ties of family connection. The ante-revolutionary importance of the people from whom he comes is well illustrated by the fact that the name of his maternal grandfather, Joseph Gerrish, stands first on the triennial catalogue of Harvard College in the list of graduates of the year 1752, a class which numbered a Quincy among its graduating members. The significance of this fact, as bearing upon the status of his mother's family at that time, is, that the names of the members of the classes of that day are published in the triennial catalogue of Harvard in the order of the social importance of the families to which the members respectively belonged.

At the time of Mr. Goodwin's birth, which was just before the beginning of the present century, the state of things which the Revolution had brought about had had ample time to crystallize. Whether it was through the great changes that under the new order of things had taken place in the political, social, and commercial affairs of the country, or whether from those inherent causes under the operation of which families conspicuous and influential in one period drop out of notice and are lost to the eye of the historian, the annalist, and perhaps even of the town chronicler, Mr. Goodwin's family, at the time of his birth, were simply plain farming people, highly respected within the limits of the little country town in which they lived, but no longer among the noted, or influential, or wealthy people of Maine. The country had, by the close of the last century, taken a considerable stride onward in prosperity as well as in numerical growth, and the bustle and hum of industry, pouring itself into new channels of prosperity, had passed by many of the families which in the earlier era had been the foremost in developing the resources of the country, in leading the yeomanry in war, in presiding over the tribunals, and sitting in council as civic magistrates.

Mr. Goodwin's academic education consisted of several years of study at the academy at South Berwick, an institution having at that time a good deal of local importance, and then, as now, the only school in the vicinity of his birthplace where a fitting for college could be obtained. Shortly after leaving that academy he entered the counting-house of Samuel Lord, Esq., then a very prominent merchant and ship-owner of Portsmouth, N. H., and he became a member of Mr. Lord's family. He here displayed qualities which had been quite conspicuous in his earlier boyhood,—those of energy and assiduity and a very marked capacity for affairs. These qualities, which at the early age of twelve had made him quite a competent and satisfactory manager of the farm of his widowed step-grandmother, who was the grandmother of Mr. Lord, showed later in his conduct as a clerk in the commercial business of the then very thriving shipping port of Portsmouth. Mr. Lord, finding that Mr. Goodwin's business abilities were more comprehensive than the mere duties of a clerk required, placed him as a supercargo in charge of the business of what was then the largest ship owned in the port, the "Elizabeth Wilson." In the present days of railroads, sea-going steamers, oceanic cables, and the commercial complement of these foreign correspondents or agents, it may seem a trivial sign of a young man's capacities to name the fact of his being made the business manager of a ship, especially as ships then went in regard to size; but it is the introduction of these very modern appliances for conducting business which has rendered the responsibility of the delegated management of this species of property comparatively easy. In the days of Mr. Goodwin's early voyaging, the whole discretion as to the conduct of the ship's affairs was vested in the supercargo, except in the brief period of her being in the home port, when the owner resumed his authority and control. In foreign places, among strangers, beyond the reach of opportunity for consultation with his owner, the young man must rely upon himself; must decide upon what voyage his ship shall go, and must be ready to account to his principal upon his return for the results of a prosperous enterprise or a disastrous adventure. It was not long before Mr. Goodwin had learned enough of seamanship to enable him to add to the duties of the supercargo the further business of navigating his ship, so that for several years he was both ship-master and business manager, offices then, as now, rarely combined in one person; for the ship-master is to-day chiefly the navigator and head seaman of his ship, while the business, involving the chartering and the rest, is attended to by a merchant in the port of destination, who is in ready communication with the owner, both by the fast-going mail of the steamship and the quicker method of the ocean cable. Mr. Goodwin's sea life lasted for about twelve years. During that time he had been so far successful as to become a part owner, and to be enabled to begin business at home.

In the year 1832 he established himself as a merchant at Portsmouth. Portsmouth has been his home ever since that time; and there he for many years conducted an extensive mercantile business, his chief business interests lying in the direction of the foreign carrying-trade. Upon leaving the sea he soon became foremost in matters that were of public concern. He was one of the early projectors of the railroad interests of New England; and, until within a few years, he has taken a large part in all the enterprises of public import in the vicinity of his home, including, besides railroads, the enterprises of manufacturing and banking; and he has been vested always with a large share of the local trusts, both public and private, which devolve upon the public-spirited and trusted citizen. He has of late years been inclined to withdraw from these responsibilities; but of those which he still retains, the presidency of the Howard Benevolent Society, a position he has held for over thirty years, and the presidency of the Portsmouth Bridge Company may be mentioned. He has, however, within the last two years, assumed the presidency of the First National Bank of Portsmouth, in which he is largely interested as a stockholder, and in which institution he had been a director from its incorporation as a state bank. He was for many years and at different periods a director in the Eastern Railroad Company, and was the first president of the Eastern Railroad in New Hampshire, which position he held for twenty-five years. He was also of the first board of direction of the Portland, Saco, & Portsmouth Railroad Company, and was the president of that corporation from the year 1847 to the year 1871. But it is unnecessary to mention all the public trusts of a corporate nature which have been confided to his care. His chief claim to public esteem, and that which will secure to him its most enduring recognition, is derived from his services as the first "war governor" of New Hampshire.

Upon Mr. Goodwin's settling as a business man in Portsmouth, he did not confine his energies to his private business and to corporate enterprises, but soon acquired a large interest and influence as a member of the Whig party. He served in the legislature of New Hampshire, as a member of that party, in the years 1838, 1843, 1844, 1850, 1854, and 1856. He was also a delegate-at-large from that state to the conventions at which Clay, Taylor, and Scott were nominated by the Whigs for the presidency, and was a vice-president at the first two named conventions; and he has twice served in the constitutional conventions of New Hampshire. He was the candidate of the Whigs for congress at several elections before the state was divided into congressional districts. New Hampshire was in those days one of the most powerful strongholds of the Democratic party in the country; and a Whig nomination for any office, determined by the suffrages of the whole state, was merely a tribute of esteem by that party to one of its most honored members. Upon the establishment of congressional districts, Mr. Goodwin received a unanimous nomination of the Whig party for congress at the first convention held in his district. This nomination bid fair to be followed by an election, but the circumstances of his private business prevented his acceptance of the candidateship. In the great political convulsions which preceded the war of the rebellion, the power of the Democratic party in New Hampshire began to decline, while the ties which through years of almost steady defeat in the state at large had been sufficient to hold together the Whig party, now came to be loosened, and out of the decadence of the former and the extinction of the latter party there was built up the Republican party, which gained the supremacy in the state, and which has ever since, with a brief exception, maintained that supremacy. Mr. Goodwin, while in full sympathy with the cause of the Union, which he believed the politicians of the South were striving to dismember, yet felt that perhaps the impending crisis could be arrested through the means of the old political organizations; and he remained steadfast to the organization of the Whig party until he saw that its usefulness, both as a state and as a national party, was gone. He was the last candidate of the Whigs for the office of governor of New Hampshire, and received in the whole state the meager amount of about two thousand votes. This lesson did not require to be repeated. He immediately did all in his power to aid in the establishment of the Republican party in this state; for, although the old-time issues between the Democrats and Whigs had gone by, and new questions had arisen involving the very integrity of the nation, he did not regard the Democratic party as one capable of solving or disposed to solve those questions in a patriotic and statesmanlike way. He was chosen the governor of New Hampshire, as the Republican candidate, in the year 1859, and was re-elected in the following year, his second term of office having expired on June 5, 1861.

The military spirit of the people of New Hampshire had become dormant, and the militia system of the state had fallen pretty much to decay long before the election of Mr. Goodwin to the office of governor. A slight revival of that spirit, perhaps, is marked by the organization in his honor, in January, 1860, of the "Governor's Horse-Guards,"—a regiment of cavalry in brilliant uniform, designed to do escort duty to the governor,—as well as by a field muster of several voluntary organizations of troops which went into camp at Nashua in the same year. But when the call of President Lincoln for troops was made, in the spring of 1861, the very foundation of a military system required to be formed. The legislature was not in session, and would not convene, except under a special call, until the following June. There were no funds in the treasury which could be devoted to the expense of the organization and equipment of troops, as all the available funds were needed to meet the ordinary state expenditures. The great confidence of the people of New Hampshire in the wisdom and integrity of Mr. Goodwin found in this emergency full expression. Without requiring time to convene the legislature so as to obtain the security of the state for the loan, the banking institutions and citizens of the state tendered him the sum of $680,000, for the purpose of enabling him to raise and equip for the field New Hampshire's quota of troops. This offer he gladly accepted; and averting delay in the proceedings by refraining from convening the legislature, he, upon his own responsibility, proceeded to organize and equip troops for the field; and in less than two months he had dispatched to the army, near Washington, two well equipped and well officered regiments. Of this sum of $680,000, only about $100,000 was expended. On the assembling of the legislature, that body unanimously passed the "enabling act," under which all of his proceedings as governor were ratified, and the state made to assume the responsibility.

During the period of this gubernatorial service, there was a reconstruction of the bench of the highest judicial tribunal of the state; and during that time nearly every position upon that court was filled by his appointment. It is sufficient to say that the exalted rank which that tribunal has ever held among the courts of last resort of the states of the nation, suffered no diminution from his appointments to its bench, such was the good sense and discernment of Mr. Goodwin in making the selections, although himself not versed in the law.

"Waite's History of New Hampshire in the Rebellion" says of him:—

"His administration of state affairs met with universal approval, and he left the office (that of governor) with the respect of all parties. As a member of the legislature and of the constitutional convention, he took a leading part on committees and in debate. His speeches were never made for show. He spoke only when there seemed to be occasion for it, and then always to the point, and was listened to with great respect and attention; for his conservatism and practical wisdom in all matters of public policy were well known. In all public positions he has discharged his duties with fidelity, industry, and marked ability. As a citizen and business man he is public-spirited, liberal, high-minded, and enjoys the unbounded confidence and respect of all."

Mr. Goodwin has always been noted for his kindness to young men, aiding them without stint, both with his purse and his advice in their business difficulties; and he has ever been ready to extend to all his townsmen who needed aid the assistance of his influence, his counsel, and his pecuniary means.

In 1827, Mr. Goodwin married Miss Sarah Parker Rice, a daughter of Mr. William Rice, a wealthy and prosperous merchant of Portsmouth. Of seven children, one son and two daughters survive.