Makers of America Series: Biographies of Leading Men of Thought and Action. Vol. I

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Lucas, Daniel Bedinger

Makers of America Series: Biographies of Leading Men of Thought and Action. Vol. I


Lucas, Daniel Bedinger






Vol. I, pp. 28-38




B.F. Johnson Publishing Company Washington, DC 1/1/1915

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Google Books, Inc.

Geertsema Number


Topics Law,Biography,Literature,Poetry

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THE late Judge Daniel B. Lucas was born in the old "Kennedy House," Charles Town, Va. , on March 16, 1836 , and died at Rion Hall on the 24th of July, 1909 .

The seventy years of his life covered the most eventful period of our national history, up to the present, and in his generation he played an important part.

His father, William Lucas, was a lawyer by profession and a member of Congress in the 40's of the last century. His mother, Virginia A. Bedinger, was a daughter of Daniel Bedinger, a noted Revolutionary soldier, and his wife, Sarah (Rutherford) Bedinger.

Bedinger name, variously spelled, Budinger, Budingen, Beidinger, originated in Germany, and is found there surviving in the two villages of Biidingen, in Alsace, and once again, in Hesse-Cassel. Of the German family, at least one branch was noble. Of the American branch, nothing definite is known, until Adam Beidinger, from Dorschel, Alsace, with Anna Margarthe Hansknecht, his wife, and several children, sailed from Rotterdam, in the good ship "Samuel," and landed in Philadelphia on the 30th of August, 1737 . Adam's son Henry, the first of the Virginia Bedingers, married Magdalene Von Schlegel, a relative of the Schlegel brothers, poets and philosophers. It is a matter of record that three of Henry Bedinger's sons, then living in Shepherdstown, Berkeley County (now Jefferson), Va., were Revolutionary soldiers. The two older brothers, George Michael and Henry, were members of the famous company, commanded by Capt. Hugh Stevenson, which, with Daniel Morgan's, was the first of the Southern troops to reach General Washington at the siege of Boston in 1775 . Daniel Bedinger, a younger brother, ran off at the age of fifteen to join his brothers in the army. He was captured and confined in one of the old prison ships; was exchanged, rescued in an almost dying condition, and promoted. After the war he was made paymaster of the Gosport Navy Yard at Norfolk, Va. He was a man of ability and poetic gifts, and wrote the famous "Cossack Celebration," a Hudibrastic satire on the British sympathizers, in the days of 1812 . Daniel Bedinger married Sarah Rutherford, whose father, "Robin" Rutherford, was a member of the Virginia Assembly for twenty.five years, and afterwards represented the Valley in Congress. Of the daughters of Daniel Bedinger and Sarah Rutherford, one married William Lucas; one, Edmund Jennings Lee, and another John Thornton Augustine

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<a target="_blank" href="/portals/0/zoomify/URLDrivenPage2.htm? zImagePath=/portals/0/images/Makers_of_America_Lucas_D_B&zSkinPath=Assets/Skins/Default"> Portrait and Signature of Daniel Bedinger Lucas</a>

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Washington, all of Virginia. Cornwall, Ellsworth, Foster, Lawrence and Berry were other family alliances.

The Lucas family is credited to three countries, Germany, France and England. The name, dating back to the Beloved Physician, is common to all romance languages. The ancient English coat of arms of the Lucas family, which comes down from the fifteenth century, is described as "argent chevron gules between three hurts."

In England, as early as the fifteenth century, the family occupied an honorable station and had become numerous. When the civil war broke out between Charles First and Parliament, the Lucas family were stout Royalists, and one of the most noted ftgnres of that bloody war was Gen. Sir Charles Lucas, who commanded at the heroic defense of Colchester, and immediately after the fall of the city, was shot by the enraged Cromwellians upon whom he had infticted tremendous losses. Before the outbreak of the civil war in England, the Lucas family had already become represented in America. The first authoritative record that we have shows one Richard Lucas, who came over in 1635 . He was followed by Robert and Roger in 1636 . In the year 1654 , members of the Lucas families had established themselves in Virginia. Favorite names among them were WiJJiam, Thomas, Edward, Samuel, Richard and Robert.

Daniel Bedinger Lucas traces his descent direct from Robert Lucas, who came over from Deverall, Lingbridge, Wiltshire, on the 4th of the fourth month, 1679 , in the good ship "Elizabeth and Mary," and settled in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. In 1683 he was a member of the Assembly, and again in 1687 and 1688 . His son, Edward Lucas, was Supervisor of Falls Township in the year 1730 . Two years later, Edward Lucas, surveyor, with his wife, Elizabeth Corn, migrated to Mecklenburg, Frederick County, Virginia. The boundary stone marked "E. L. 1732 ," still remains on land taken up by him.

A second marriage united him with Mary Darke, sister of the noted Revolutionary and Indian fighter, Gen. William Darke. There is, in General Washington's handwriting, a paper still extant, certifying that Edward Lucas, Gentleman, is First Lieutenant of Volunteers in the company commanded by Gen. William Morgan" in 1777 .

During the Revolution, the Virginia records show that forty-five members of the Lucas families served in various Virginia commands. These range from private to colonel, about half of them being officers, the remainder privates. It is probable that no other family in Virginia of equal numbers furnished so many soldiers to the Revolutionary armies. Later, they were great Indian fighters, and in the Confederacy, from one family, there were five Lucas brothers in the army.

There are two traditions of this branch particularly to be

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recorded: One, that they kept hounds and always delighted to follow the hunt; the other, that this was "that noble family of which it has always been said that 'all the sons were brave and all the daughters virtuous,'" an inscription in Westminster recorded with admiration by Hume and by Irving in his English sketch.

From this brief statement it will be seen that Judge Lucas had a creditable ancestry on both sides of the family; and this ancestry was to him, as it should be to every one, an inspiration, inciting him to live well and conduct himself in all ways as a good and patriotic citizen.

Virginia Bedinger, his gifted and beautiful mother, died in 1840 , and his boyhood was spent largely in boarding schools; his brother and sisters were scattered and the home life broken up. A constant reader, he kept midnight vigils over his books, thus impairing an already frail constitution. He attributed his improved health in later life, which always characterized him, and that vast capacity for work, to his faculty for sleeping at all times and to his life in the open air.

A man of great attainments and the widest information, Judge Lucas was not a classical scholar in the strict sense of the term. He knew "little Latin and less Greek," but was versed in English and French literature. The turn of his mind was towards literary works, rather than science. He revelled in the humor of Cervantes, and imagination of the Arabian Nights. The English poets were bis daily companions; Poe and Tennyson he considered the great poets of their generation. An able lawyer he was also profoundly trained in political science.

When Judge Lucas was not quite sixteen years old, in 1851 , he entered the University of Virginia where he remained four years as a student. He graduated in a number of subjects, but his health failed, and he did not secure the ten diplomas necessary to win the title of "Master of Arts."

Leaving the University in 1856 , he entered the famous law school at Lexington, Va., maintained by Judge John W. Brockenbrough , and from that school was graduated a lawyer in 1858 .

Returning home, he began the practice of his profession at Charles Town in the spring of 1859 . He remained there about a year, and in the spring of 1860 moved to Richmond, where he was established when the Civil War broke out. A Virginian, and loyal to the State, as his forebears had always been, he accompanied General and ex-Governor Henry A. Wise on his campaign in the Kanawha Valley in the summer and fall of 1861 , acting in the capacity of aide and private secretary. The first of the many poetical compositions of Daniel Bedinger Lucas were written during the war. They have the true martial ring and are rated as perhaps, his most perfect work.

In the latter part of the war, his neighbor and classmate, Capt. John Yates Beall, had been captured by the Federals near

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the Canadian border and was to be tried by court martial on the charge of being a spy and guerilla. Judge Lucas determined to run the blockade with a view of assisting in the defense of his old friend.

On January 1st, 1865 , he left Richmond, carrying on his person Beall's commission and other official papers. Beginning this dangerous undertaking by cutting his way through the ice-bound Potomac in a small skiff, at a point where the river was nine miles wide, Mr. Lucas made his way to Montreal. Sad to relate, his efforts for Beall, however, proved futile, as General Dix, the commander in New York, would not permit him to return to the United States to take part in the defense. Captain Beall was defended by James T. Brady, the ablest lawyer at that time, but in vain, his fate had already been decided. He was convicted by court martial, condemned and executed on January 4th, 1865 .

Once in Canada, Mr. Lucas remained there for several months, and at Chamblis, after the surrender of General Lee, was written his celebrated poem, "The Land Where We Were Dreaming." This was first published in the Montreal Gazette; it was copied in many papers in our own country and England and everywhere called forth most flattering notice. A little later, he brought out a memoir of John Yates Beall, giving a dramatic and official report of the trial (John Lovell, Montreal, 1865 ).

The men who fought secession previously did not hesitate to violate all law in order to create the new State of West Virginia; and so when Judge Lucas returned home he found himself a resident, not of Virginia, but of West Virginia, to which Jefferson County had been attached. The extreme radical Republicans of that day had West Virginia completely under their domination. Among other things a political "test oath" was formed to exclude all ex-Confederates from professional practice or official position. Five years passed before the sober second thought of the people began to prevail, and in 1870 a more conservative element in the legislature was able to defeat the Radicals and sweep away the obnoxious and unjust "test oath."

Judge Lucas then formed a law partnership with the late Judge Thomas C. Green, who also was an ex-Confederate, and had a distinguished career in West Virginia, first as a member of the legislature, and later as presiding judge of the Court of Appeals, but all this was much later.

In 1869 and 1870 , just before taking up his professional work, Judge Lucas served as co-editor of the "Southern Metropolis," a weekly paper published in Baltimore, owned and conducted by J. Fairfax McLaughlin, LL. D. Of this paper the celebrated Alexander H. Stephens said : "I have read the Southern Metropolis from its first appearance, and have often said, and now repeat, that it comes nearer filling the place of the 'London Saturday Review' than any other paper on this continent."

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The hindrances which bad kept Judge Lucas from the active practice of his profession finally proved helpful to him when the time came to enter upon it seriously, because all these years had been years of preparation and experience; so that when, at the age of 34, he settled down to law he became within a short while not only an able, but, fortunately, a successful lawyer. Many strong lawyers are not fortunate in getting results; but the West Virginia reports which record a great many of Judge Lucas's cases, show that he won decisions on an average of two out of three.

Judge Lucas took that keen interest in politics that one might expect from such a man. He was twice defeated in Democratic primaries for Congressional nomination; first in 1876 by Hon. John Blain Hoge and again by a political combination which landed the Hon. William L. Wilson in the National House of Representatives. In 1872 he was a Democratic Presidential elector from his Congressional district, and again in 1876 . In 1884 , he was elector-at-large for West Virginia on the Cleveland ticket. He was very active during these campaigns, and his preaching was always of Jeffersonian Democracy, for to the Jeffersonian standard he had pinned his faith.

Judge J. Fairfax McLaughlin of New York, brother-in-law and intimate friend, said of Judge Lucas: "Wendell Phillips during the days of the abolition movement, never displayed more resolute purpose or inflexible devotion to his cause than Daniel B. Lucas has shown in his rigid adherence, both in practice and in oratorical appeals, to the Jeffersonian Democracy." The young lawyer again won prestige when, after six years at the bar, in July, 1876 , he was unanimously elected Professor of Law in the University of West Virginia, an honor which he felt moved to decline because of the demands made upon his time by his practice which he did not care to sacrifice. For the same reason, in the same year, he also declined to accept the position of judge of the Circuit Court tendered him by Governor Matthews to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Judge John Blair Hoge.

In 1884 the university of West Virginia conferred upon him the degree LL. D., and never was an honor more worthily bestowed. It was indeed creditable to the institution that the men in charge of it were able to recognize the notable abilities and attaiments of Judge Lucas. Judge Lucas had declined such political honors as bad been tendered him, but in 1884 , when the opportunity came to enter the legislature, he became a member of that body, and there made a most notable record. He combined two qualities which do not always go together -- a profound thinker of logical mind, he was imbued with poetical sentiment and had the gift of poetical expression. Such men are always dangerous to their opponents in the forum of debate.

Judge Lucas became one of the most forceful leaders of the legislature. He opposed sumptuary laws and the co-education of

[page 35] the sexes in the State University. He favored high license as relating to the liquor business and the equalization of taxes on all property, whether real or personal, corporate or individual. He maintained that inequality of taxes in various forms had been the bane of all republics, and proved it by history. His first term proving satisfactory to his constituents, he was re-elected to the House of Delegates in the fall of 1886 . So long had he borne the standard of the people's rights, that by this time his sincerity, gifted eloquence and ardent enthusiasm received recognition. It was apparent that he was not to be drawn from his conviction by any specious argument; a reformer who could not be driven nor led, and a man to be feared by those dangerous elements which are always seeking legislative favors. In his second term he led the fight against railway privileges and domination with wonderful persistency and force. He introduced a bill against the issuance of free passes to legislators and officials. He succeeded in passing a bill compelling railroads to fence their tracks. Naturally all this put him in opposition to Johnson N. Camden, the United States senator, who was a candidate for re-election. There were five candidates. Besides Camden, S. C. Burdett, W. H. Flick, Nathan Goff and James H. Brown had each considerable strength. The contest which followed was one of the most exciting and dramatic in the political history of the State. The balloting extended from the 25th of January to the 25th of February , with no result, and the legislature adjourned. On February 28th, Governor Wilson appointed Judge Lucas as senator ad interim. Judge Lucas resigned as a member of the House on March and accepted the appointment. Two days later, the governor called an extra session of the legislature, which assembled April 20th and recommended balloting and continued voting until May 5th , when Judge Charles James Faulkner of the Third District was elected senator. On the ground that a called legislative session could not elect, Lucas contested the seat. In view of Judge Faulkner's longer tenure of office, six years as against the two years' appointment of Judge Lucas, the United States Senate decided the case on the question of expediency, refusing to take it up on its own merits. In the meantime, Mr. Lucas's former partner, Judge Thomas C. Green, who had been serving as a member of the Supreme Court of Appeals, died in November, 1889 . Judge Lucas, as his nearest friend, prepared a biography and address upon his career, which was read before the Bar Association of West Virginia. The governor appointed Judge Lucas as the successor to Judge Green. In 1890 Judge Lucas was nominated for the Supreme Court of Appeals, and in November of that year was elected by an overwhelming majority. On January 1st following (1891 ), he was elected president of the court.

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He had never been a strong man physically. He had led a lite of strenuous activities in many ways. His health had become impaired, and so in 1893 he resigned his position as presiding judge of the Court of Appeals, and never again entered public life. His remaining fifteen years were spent in the privacy of his home near Charles Town.

In 1869 , Judge Lucas married Miss Lena T. Brooke, daughter of Henry Lawrens and Virginia (Tucker) Brooke of Richmond. His wife was a great-niece of John Randolph of Roanoke, and of Governor Robert Brooke of Virginia. Of this marriage two children were born. One daughter, Virginia Lucas, is the surviving member of the family at this time (1913 ).

Judge Lucas's affiliations have already been shown. His temperament did not lead him into the joining of societies, although he was eligible to all the patriotic societies of the country. The Protestant Episcopal Church and the Delta Kappa Epsilon college fraternity covered the extent of his membership in church and society. He loved chess, whist, horseback riding, fishing, travel and was a moderate smoker. In the latter years of his life he enjoyed an evening game of cards.

His literary work has been slightly touched upon, and yet it was a very important part of his work in life. Busy early and late as he was, be found or made time to do an amount of literary work that would be creditable to a professional man of letters. His Memoir of Captain Beall has been mentioned and one of his poems. There were also "The Wreath of Eglantine" (Kelly, Piett & Co., Baltimore, 1869 ), a volume of poems written by him, and also containing the beautiful pastoral poetry of his deceased sister, Virginia Bedinger Lucas; "The Maid of Northumberland," a drama of the Civil War (Putnam's Sons, New York, 1879), dedicated to his friend, Henry Kyd Douglas, of Maryland; "Ballads and Madrigals" (Pollard & Moss, New York, 1884 ); "Fisher Ames, Henry Clay," a collaboration with James Fairfax McLaughlin, LL. D. (Charles L. Webster & Co., 1891 ); "Nicaragua" (B. F. Johnson Co., Richmond, Va., 1896 ); and there were also numerous addresses and poems composed for special occasions or patriotic meetings, and delivered by him on such occasions. The greatest of these was his oration on Daniel O'Connell. O'Connell was so powerful and unique a figure that in order to prepare such an address it was necessary for the author to have a thorough and complete grasp of the character of the Irish liberator, and also of the day in which he lived and the forces with which he had to contend. It was prepared originally upon an invitation from the Parnell Club of Wheeling, and was delivered at the opera house in that city on the evening of August 6th, 1886 . He was invited to repeat it at the Norwood Institute, Washington, D. C., April 30, 1888, and again in the room of the House of Delegates in the State capitol at Charleston, W. Va., January 20, 1889 .

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Judge William Matthew Merrick of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia, who heard the lecture on O'Connell when he delivered it in Washington, declared that "for power of statement, originality of thought, and gift as an orator, Mr. Lucas was surpassed by no one that he had ever heard."

Judge Lucas generously lent his great ability to his fellows, and thus was in constant demand for poems and orations for special occasions. Among some of his notable poems of this class may be mentioned the one at the dedication of the Confederate Cemetery at Winchester in 1865 ; at the semi-centennial of the University of Virginia in 1879 ; at the unveiling of the Confederate monument at Charles Town in 1882 ; at the convention of the Delta Kappa Epsilon Literary Society for the Northwest, Chicago, October 19, 1887 , and at the annual banquet of the New York Southern Society, February 22, 1888 . At Winchester in 1865 , and at New York in 1888 , the poems he read were unusually happy and are among .his best productions.

Among his lectures may be mentioned that on John Brown at Winchester in 1865 ; that on John Randolph at Hampden-Sidney College in 1884 ; his study of Henry Clay in Louisville in 1891 , and the one on Daniel O'Connell above referred to. All of these are admirable specimens of American learning and eloquence.

Very inadequate would be any sketch which should fail to do justice to Judge Lucas's personal charm. Men who knew him in his college and early days speak of him as a singularly bright personality, the pure soul full of high ideals and rare mental and spiritual qualities. And so in later years it was his genial humor of a peculiarly gentle and lovable nature that, adding grace to rich mental endowments, made him beloved of all acquaintances and the idol of his family circle.

To quote an intimate acquaintance and relative in the introduction of his poems (complete West Virginia edition, published recently from the Gotham Press, Boston, U.S.A.): "Readers fortunate enough to remember Judge Lucas from actual association will doubtless feel the impress of his rare mind and personality -- less in the handling of plot and incident, clever as these sometimes are, than in the lofty poetry of many speeches and in the comic matter which he has introduced with a luxuriance and variety almost Elizabethan -- there is hardly a line of comedy which seems to have come slowly from the author's pen. Even when most fantastic, it is hardly less spontaneous or more brilliant than was his table talk."

Perhaps no honor ever attained by Judge Lucas gave him more real happiness than his selection as valedictorian of the University of Virginia in 1856 . Even then the bright youth was foreshadowing that oratorical power which made him such a notable figure in later years. Living all his life in one county, he was yet a citizen of two states. Descended from honored families

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of the "Mother of States and Statesmen," he represented in his own person the qualities that had made the old State great, and to the new State of which by the fortunes of war he became a citizen he contributed the best service that his strength and abilities permitted.

Judge Lucas's title to eminence does not rest so much upon his distinction in any one direction as upon the significance of his whole life. Great as was his eminence at the bar, important and distinguished as were his services to pure politics, and popular rights, brilliant as were his achievements as an orator, all taken together are inadequate to account for the affection in which he was held by many of those of the younger generations who cherish high ideals and who hope for the attainment of a purer and a higher public life. He constantly furnished to such men faith and strength, in the face of discouragement and doubt which everyday experience spread about them by the inspiration of his unwavering devotion to the noble ideals of the fathers of the republic. The very ideal of the "scholar and gentleman," he was an example of a type that has been rare at all time, and which is becoming rarer than ever in our day of hurry and rapid material progress. The presence of such a man was an elevating influence to the thousands who had not the privilege of his acquaintance. The modest simplicity of his life, the total lack of ostentation with which he devoted himself to the welfare of his country, the steady pursuit of duty, whether in public or private life; all these traits distinguished Judge Lucas from many of his contemporaries.