Source: National Intelligencer - Washington D. C.
Dated: July 12, 1831
BENEDICT, Noah B., age 60, a member of the bar at Litchfield, Co.,
Conn., died July 3, in Woodbury, Conn.
Source: Springfield Republican - Massachusetts
Dated: April 22, 1905
DEATH OF SENATOR O. H. PLATT. - CONNECTICUT'S GREAT LOSS.
End came at His Country Home in Washington, Ct.,
Where he Was Born - A Pen Picture of the Man.
The death of Senator Orville H. Platt of
Connecticut at his country home in Washington, the beautiful little
Connecticut hill town in which he was born nearly 78 years ago,
takes from public life and the Senate chamber a commanding figure
that can ill be spared. The chief fact which his passing
brings into strong relief is that never in his public service,
despite its length and the age to which he lived, was he held in
such regard nor were his opinions of so great influence as at the
day of his death. The fact is significant because it suggests
the character of the man and indicates the predominant feature of
his career - the steady growth and broadening self-development which
made of this hard-headed "Yankee" lawyer, who retained his ancestral
traits to the last, one of the few leading figures of the Senate.
He has died thus in the fullness of his powers, as a man might wish
to die, spared the pain that has come to his smaller-calibered
colleague and namesake, Senator Plat of New York, of seeing
his hold and influence decay. But the public loss is great.
There seems no one in the Senate to quite fill the place he had made
for himself, no one to exercise the restraining and deliberative
influence, almost authority, which he had come unofficially to
exercise. Much less does there appear any one in Connecticut
who can even measurably take his place in the national councils.
He was a partisan, the republican stamp and seal were as much to him
as to any man, but his principles were high, and he held them high;
he was cautious with all the caution and shrewdness of the native
Yankee, and he grew in breadth with the years.
Senator Platt's death was not unexpected by his
friends. The strain of the winter in Washington had told upon
him. During all of the Swayne trial he conscientiously
insisted on presiding, although much of the time he was not well and
should have spared himself. The visitors in the galleries who
were critical because they could not near each word that he uttered
had little idea of what at times it cost him physically to perform
his office. And finally the exposure and fatigue he suffered
at the funeral of his friend and colleague, the late Gen. Hawley,
whose eulogy he delivered, was more than his age and weakened health
could withstand. From the first of his attack of pneumonia his
friends have feared that it would end as it now has.
Orville Hitchcock Platt was born in Washington,
Litchfield county, Ct., July 19, 1827, so that he would have been 78
on his next birthday. He was the son of a farmer, Daniel G.
Platt, and worked upon his father's farm until he was 20 years
old. His education was gained in the common schools of
Washington and in the academy where of Frederick W. Gunn, the
still famous "Gunnery," from which were graduated so many men who
afterward made their mark in the world. It is "The Gunnery"
which appears in J. G. Holland's novel. "Arthur
Bonnicastle," as "The Bird's Nest," Mr. and Mrs.
Gunn appearing as "Mr. and Mrs. Bird." Mr. Platt
studied law at near-by Litchfield, in the office of Gideon H.
Hollister, the Connecticut historian, and was admitted to the
bar in 1849. After spending six months in law practice in
Pennsylvania he returned to Connecticut in 1851 and located as a
lawyer in Meriden, where he retained his city residence to the time
of his death. In 1855-6 he was clerk of the Connecticut
Senate, and was elected secretary of state in 1857. In 1861-2
he was a member of the state Senate, and in 1864 and 1869 was
elected to the House - the latter year serving as speaker.
In 1877 he was chosen state attorney for New Haven county, and
held that place until elected in 1879 to the United States Senate to
succeed William H. Barnum, democrat.
Mr. Platt was the first candidate for the Senate
in 1868, when a sharp contest occurred in the Connecticut
Legislature between the supporters of ex-Gov. William A.
Buckingham and the late Gen. Joseph R. Hawley. He
had conducted no canvass, but steadily received the votes of a
minority of the republicans, who finally ended the contest by voting
for Gov. Buckingham. In the contest of 1879 the chief
candidates at the start were Gen. Hawley again and Gov.
Jewell. Mr. Plat coming in once more with a strong
balance of power., but with a larger prestige and greater influence
than before. At one time Gen. Hawley came within two
votes of the necessary majority, while Mr. Platt on the same
ballot had only three votes, and on three other ballots only five
votes. But Mr. Platt's strength grew from that low ebb
and he was finally made the party nominee, equivalent to election,
after a memorable contest. He was re-elected in 1885, 1890,
1897 and 1903, and his term of service would have expired March 3,
1909. He had thus actually served 26 years in the Senate, and
had been elected for five full terms, or for 30 years.
During his long term in the Senate Senator Platt
served on various different committees and did a large service.
In his earlier years he was a narrow partisan, albeit, an always
honest one, but while he was never moved to independence of
action, as was Senator Hoar, he took an increasingly broader
view. He was for 10 years and more a member of the committee
on territories. During that time the western states of North
and South Dakota, Idaho and Wyoming among others were admitted to
the Union. For whatever part, he may have had in this
Senator Platt was assailed on the grounds that these states had
insufficient population to warrant their admission, and that they
were admitted from purely partisan motives in the expectation that
they would add to the republican strength in Congress.
Senator Platt served for a considerable
period and with much value as a member of the judiciary committee of
the Senate, and after Senator Hoar's death succeeded him as
chairman of that committee. But the single act in Senator
Platt's career that will be longest remembered and with which
his name will be longest associated, was his introduction in 1901 of
the famous "Platt" amendment. Through it the
clear independence, which we stood morally obligated by the Teller
resolution adopted at the opening of the Spanish war to grant to
Cuba when the war came to an end, was essentially qualified.
The controversy over the "Platt amendment" is too fresh in
memory to call for detailed reference. But the fact remains,
however successfully Cuba may have existed under the constitution
into which the amendment was injected by overawing force, that the
amendment was a breath of our word as given to the world in the
Teller resolution. While the amendment was introduced by
Senator Platt, was defended by him, doubtless somehow with full
conviction o fits justice, and bears his name; there is reason to
attribute its original authorship to Elihu Root, then
secretary of war, who had embodied provisions similar to,
though not exactly coextensive with the amendment, in an official
letter to Gen. Leonard Wood outlining what the Cuban
constitutional convention "should" do in regard to relations with
the United States.
Second in historic important to the introduction of the
"Platt amendment" is the duty performed by Senator
Platt in presiding over the Senate when convened as a
court in the recent impeachment trial of Judge Swayne of
Florida. This was the first impeachment trial to come before
Senate in 29 years, and for the reason that the ponderous machinery
of impeachment is so seldom put in motion, rather than for any
noteworthy features of the trial itself, Senator Platt's
position as presiding officer of the court is lent a permanent
distinction. His conduct of the proceedings was
characteristically simple and businesslike, betraying no effort to
lend unnecessary impressiveness to the trial and by so much was a
disappointment to the mere spectators.
Physically Senator Platt was no less noteworthy
than mentally. In his later years he used to be likened to a
Hebrew Prophet. Once suggested that thought was never
forgotten as one looked at him. There was a rugged strength in
the sharp cut features, strong and individual as though chiseled in
hard gray stone, and austerity in the molding of the mouth, in the
outline of the jaw beneath the short gray beard, in the whole pose
of the man - he must have stood six feet two inches tall that
stamped him a ruler. He was slender and graceful, too, in his
carriage, despite the slight bend that came with the years, and his
head was ever erect. His attitude as he addressed the Senate
was always the same - with one foot slightly advanced and with one
hand pressed on the desk beside him so that he leaned with his head
thrown back and speak slowly and briefly, entirely without gesture,
speaking distinctly but in a quiet tone, looking upward rather than
at his listeners, and weighing each word as he uttered it, as if he
had fused all the factors of the problem in the crucible of his mind
and were but reporting in the minimum of words the conscientious
result. There was no borrowed effect of impressiveness; he was
naturally impressive or austere in the severe simplicity of his
manner. He often or commonly qualified his statements with a
slow "It seems to me" that added rather than subtracted weight.
Beneath the outward austerity of the man there was a
kindly warmth on which those who learned its existence could always
count. As a source of information for newspaper men, he was
one of the best in their capitol; not because he would talk freely,
but because whatever he said could be absolutely depended upon as
fact and not as belief or hope. What he forecasted when he did
forecast, which was seldom, and he never allowed his name to be
used, was used exactly as he said it, even though sometimes it
seemed improbable. Events turned out invariably as he had
predicted. But while he did not like "those modern things
called interviews," did not care for publicity, he would willingly
talk at length, explaining knotty points of constitutional law or
other problems, when he had confidence in the man who questioned
him. Even during the Swayne trial he would further tax
his strength in this way, and one often found it harder to leave his
committee-room than to get in.
When asked one day what position he had taken on an
issue soon to some to decision, he answered characteristically that
he never took a position until the time came to vote. A moment
later he began an elucidation of the points under question that few
men in the Senate could have approached for comprehensiveness or
clarity. A younger man was sitting in his room one day when a
deputation of congressmen called on Senator Platt to learn
how he stood on an important issues. He questioned them quite
as much as they questioned him, and they went away evidently rather
dissatisfied. "I suppose they're hot against me," said Senator
Platt, turning to the younger man who had witnessed the
proceedings, "because they think I'm against them. Well, the
fact is, I'm with them, but I've got to make sure about this thing,"
The incident illustrates why Senator Platt's word
stood for what it did in big things and little.