Men of Mark in America/Volume 1/William H. Moody


MOODY, WILLIAM HENRY, secretary of the navy in the cabinet of President Roosevelt from May 1, 1902, and attorney-general from July 1, 1904, and representative from the sixth district of Massachusetts in the fifty-fourth, fifty-fifth, fifty-sixth and fifty-seventh Congresses, was born in Newbury, Essex county, Massachusetts, December 23, 1853. He is the son of Henry Lord and Melissa Augusta (Emerson) Moody.

William Moody, his first ancestor in America, a native of Yorkshire, England, immigrated to the American colonies in 1634 and settled in Newbury, Massachusetts Bay colony. Henry Lord Moody was a well-to-do farmer who cultivated farms near Newburyport, Salem and Danvers, and William Henry Moody received all the advantages afforded by the excellent public school system of his native commonwealth, attending the primary and grammar schools of Newbury, Salem and Danvers, and spent his vacations at home, where he became accustomed to farm work which ministered to the development and benefit of his physical condition. He was fond of outdoor sports, but gave much of his leisure time to reading. His parents made provision for him to obtain a classical education and to that end, while residing in Danvers, they entered him at Phillips academy, the celebrated preparatory school at Andover, Massachusetts, and he was graduated in 1872. He then matriculated at Harvard university and was graduated A.B. 1876. After spending some months at the Harvard law school he left before graduating to enter the law office of R. H. Dana in Boston and he was admitted to the Essex bar in 1878. He at once began the practice of his profession at Haverhill, Massachusetts, extending his practice to the higher courts of Massachusetts, and he became known as an eloquent, able and painstaking laTyer. He was city solicitor for Haverhill, 1880-90, and district attorney for the Eastern district of Massachusetts, 1890-95. As district attorney he carried through the prosecution of boodling alderman of the city of Haverhill successfully and also assisted Attorney-General Knowlton in the celebrated
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case of the Commonwealth against Lizzie Borden, indicted for the crime of murder. At a special election held in 1895 to fill the vacancy caused by the death of General William Cogswell, who represented the sixth Massachusetts district in the fifty-fourth Congress, Mr. Moody was elected his successor over Harvey N. Shepard, Democrat, the vote standing 14,970 for Moody, 5,796 for Shepard and 8 votes scattering. He took his seat in the fifty-fourth Congress December 2, 1895, completed General Cogswell's term and was reelected to the fifty-fifth, fifty-sixth and fifty-seventh Congresses, serving 1895-1902. He was a member of the committee on Appropriations. He also served on the committee on Insular Affairs, on Expenditures in the Department of Justice and on the Joint Commission on Transportation of the Mails, etc. His prominence in the House and his thorough knowledge of parliamentary rules led to favorable mention of him as a possible candidate for the speakership to succeed Thomas B. Reed. On the resignation of Secretary Long in March, 1902, President Roosevelt made Mr. Moody secretary of the United States navy, and he resigned his seat as a representative in congress and took his place in the cabinet May 1, 1902. While a representative Mr. Moody visited Cuba in 1901 in order to study the condition of the people who had been so recently relieved from the yoke of Spain and to determine if possible how soon they would be capable of carrying on a republican government for themselves without the aid of the United States army. As secretary of the navy, he had charge of the disburse ment of the largest sum of money ever appropriated by congress during one administration to strengthen the United States naval force, and the vessels built under his administration are a monument to his efficiency and carefulness. He also instituted reforms in the department, notably that of sending shore officers to sea, and providing for the needed recruits for the enlarged navy by enlisting men from the Western states and training them for the sea service instead of depending entirely on men from the seaports. In this way he secured Americans to man the United States vessels instead of filling vacancies with the seamen of various nationalities who could be found in the maritime ports looking for work, as had been the practice of former administrations. He also recommended to congress the elevation of the standard of incentive to recruits by making the duties of the service and chances for promotion and a possible commission as attractive as are those offered by the army. Mr. Moody finds his diversion from the cares of office in the fellowship furnished by affiliation with the Masonic, Odd Fellows, Knight of Pythias and Elks fraternities; in the Pentucket and Wachusot clubs of Haverhill; the Metropolitan club of Washington, District of Columbia, the University club of Boston, Massachusetts, and in outdoor exercise, walking and horseback riding. Secretary Moody affords a striking example of the possibilities open to the ambitious American youth belonging to the well-to-do New England family of the present generation, but seldom accepted by them as desirable or practicable. Born amid surroundings that made his career in its possibilities similar to those of most other boys of his class, he advanced to the head of his chosen profession as a lawyer and as a statesman. He had as a boy found open to him schools, the best afforded in America, and they were at the very door of his home.

The primary, grammar and high public schools; the preparatory academy, the New England college, the Harvard law school, each in turn took him into its experienced care; and a well equipped lawyer left the office of one of the most celebrated advocates and counselors in Massachusetts and took his place at the noted Essex bar. His desire to serve his country rather than to become a rich lawyer prevailed, and promotion came to him in his political life as rapidly and as regularly as it had in his school days. City solicitor for two years, district attorney for five years, representative in congress for seven years, he was then advanced to the secretaryship which made him a member of the official family of the president of the United States. His highest honor came to him before he had been fifteen years in public life. His advancement was due to his sterling integrity, high character and industrious application.