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ONE OF MRS. EDDY'S BROTHERS

[This is the thirteenth of a series of articles]

From the May 1934 issue of The Christian Science Journal

Bureau of History and Records of The Mother Church


ONE of Mrs. Eddy's brothers was Albert Baker. Born on February 5, 1810, he was eleven years older than she. Among all her relations (including father, mother, three brothers, two sisters, and more distant relatives) her mother and he, in her childhood and girlhood, were closest to her in companionship and in thought. He passed on at the age of thirty-one, after having entered upon a legal and political career of exceptional promise.

As a child and boy, Albert Baker lived with his parents, Mark and Abigail Ambrose Baker, on their five-hundred-acre farm five miles from Concord, New Hampshire. After attending the common school near his home and Pembroke Academy, he entered Dartmouth College in 1830. To pay the cost of a college education, he taught school and did tutoring. For one period he was principal of the Hillsborough Academy.

For "The Bench and Bar of New Hampshire" (published in 1914), Charles Henry Bell, also an alumnus of Pembroke Academy and of Dartmouth College, and afterwards Governor of New Hampshire, contributed a sketch of Albert Baker containing the following statements (p. 161): "In college he was an excellent scholar, and persistent to the extent of sometimes defending his own opinions in the recitation room against the doctrines of the professors. As a lawyer he was well-read, sharp in making points, and unyielding in maintaining them. . . . Though he died in early manhood, he had already made his mark in law and in politics. . . . Young as he was, he was an acknowledged party leader at the time of his decease."

In Dartmouth College, Albert Baker was a member of the United Fraternity from his freshman year. He also became its vice-president and its president in his junior and senior years. Just before graduating, he delivered its anniversary oration. The objects of the United Fraternity were "literary and forensic improvement" (History of Dartmouth College, by John King Lord, p. 514). Before graduating, he was also elected to Phi Beta Kappa. As part of the exercises on commencement day, he delivered the salutatory address. He graduated in 1834, receiving the degree A. B. He also graduated "with the reputation of being one of the finest students who had ever attended that institution" (Browne's History of Hillsborough, published in 1921, Vol. 1, p. 414).

In 1834, the A. B. degree in Dartmouth College required work in the following departments: classical, mathematical, physical, rhetorical, besides intellectual and moral philosophy. Notwithstanding this heavy schedule, many students were absent in winter for the purpose of teaching school, three months being the ordinary length of these school teachings. Instead of ending early in June, the college year extended to the latter part of August. Surely, Albert Baker was able to tutor Mary Baker, his physically frail sister, as she has said. (See "Retrospection and Introspection," p. 10; "The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," p. 310.)

After graduating from Dartmouth College, Albert Baker studied law for nearly three years and then began to practice this profession. For about two years, he studied at Hillsborough, New Hampshire, with Honorable Franklin Pierce, afterward President of the United States. Afterwards, he studied in Boston with Honorable Richard Fletcher, later a justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. At that time, Hillsborough, twenty-seven miles from Concord, was a comparatively important town. There, in 1837, Albert Baker began his legal practice "as successor to the Honorable Franklin Pierce" (Smith's Annals of Hillsborough, published in 1841, p. 45).

Albert Baker's father and Franklin Pierce's father (Benjamin Pierce, Governor of New Hampshire 1827—1829) were personal friends. Both of the Pierces became interested in Albert Baker because of this fact, because of his creditable record at Dartmouth, and because he appeared to be a youth of exceptional promise. In appearance, he was said to resemble Andrew Jackson. The Pierces are mentioned in Mrs. Eddy's writings. (See "Retrospection and Introspection," p. 6;"The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," pp. 308, 309.)

The following excerpt is from the biography of Franklin Pierce by Roy Franklin Nichols (published in 1931). In this quotation, "the general" is Benjamin Pierce, and "the homestead" is the Pierce homestead at Hillsborough.

"Albert Baker was the son of Mark Baker, an old friend of the general's, and while he was at Dartmouth the Pierces had become interested in the boy and had helped him. They invited him, when he graduated in 1834, to live at the homestead and study law with Franklin, the general paying his expenses during his novitiate. This association had rather farreaching influence; the polish and learning of Franklin Pierce and his protege, Albert Baker, so impressed the latter's little sister that she too became anxious for the advantages of an education. Later, when she had become Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy and had successfully founded The First Church of Christ, Scientist, she attributed her initial intellectual stimulus to the example and tutoring of her brother during his vacations from Dartmouth and his visits home from Hillsborough" (pp. 80-81).

A letter from Albert Baker written when he was studying law in Boston indicates that he paid his expenses there by selling his classical books and by borrowing money. The fact that Mary Baker had intellectual impulses of her own in her early years is to be inferred from a letter from him to her dated Hillsborough, March 27, 1837. In this letter, "Abi" is their sister Abigail.

"My dear Sister,

"I have an opportunity of sending a letter by a friend of mine, Mr. Harrison Andrews, who is going to Sandbornton with the intention of attending the academy. I take great pleasure in introducing him to your acquaintance. You will find him a sterling fellow, a little enthusiastick, but none of Sol Wilson about him. What is that poor devil doing? I hope you treat him as he deserves, with entire neglect. Abi will recollect Andrews' sister, a particular friend of hers. He is a very close student, and is as much given to discursive talking as yourself, though he has not quite so much poetry at his command. . . .

"Your affect, br.
"A. Baker"
Incidentally, the foregoing quotation illustrates the closeness of the relation between this older brother (then twenty-seven) and younger sister (then nearly sixteen).

Albert Baker gave friendly advice, not only to his youngest sister Mary, but to his younger brother George. The following instance from a letter dated November 23, 1837, is one of several: "My rule is to do the best I can, and whatever happens, if it cannot be avoided, to submit cheerfully. Is not this true philosophy? Now apply this rule. Have you done all you could do? If so, be content with the event; if not, learn by the past how to regulate the future."

Albert Baker's letters to his brother George included the following references to their sister Mary:

August 24, 1836. "Mary has attended school all summer, and is quite as well as could be expected."

October 16, 1837. "I received a letter from Martha yesterday. Her health is improving and so is Mary's. When I came to Hillsborough, I never expected to see her again. Martha tells me she commenced going to school at your expense but was obliged to abandon it." The Martha mentioned in the foregoing letter was another sister. Presumably the school which called for the payment of expense was an academy, and Mary Baker is known to have attended the Holmes Academy at Plymouth and the Sanbornton Academy at Sanbornton Bridge. The latter must have been the one mentioned in Albert's letter dated March 27, 1837, for the Bakers lived then near Sanbornton Bridge (now Tilton).

Before he decided to settle at Hillsborough, Albert Baker almost yielded to the attractions of the great and promising West. In particular, he gave much thought to Burlington, where one of his friends in Dartmouth College had gone. In 1837, Burlington was a booming town in the Iowa district of Wisconsin territory, and was about to become the capital of the Territory of Iowa, constituted by an Act of Congress in 1838. This friend, James W. Grimes, afterward Governor of Iowa and United States Senator from Iowa, presented the advantages of the West in most attractive terms. But Franklin Pierce was moving to Concord and was to be much in Washington as a senator from New Hampshire; hence, he induced Baker to settle at Hillsborough so that Baker could attend to Pierce's unfinished business and care for his aged parents, to whom Baker was already obligated. As further recorded by Nichols (p. 105), "Pierce had left his Hillsborough practice in the hands of Albert Baker, who, much to his sister Mary's delight, gave up the idea of going west and settled down to law and politics at Hillsborough. Baker also kept oversight of the aged general and his wife, who were pitiable in their helplessness."

Although admitted to practice law in Massachusetts as well as New Hampshire, Albert Baker appears to have practiced only in New Hampshire. His career as a lawyer can be traced by the letters and papers that he left when he passed on. Kept by his brother George, who administered his estate, they were preserved by George's son, and purchased at last by the Longyear Foundation. Among these papers is a closely written book of notes which proves that Albert Baker was careful, discriminating, and methodical as a law student. Twenty-five letters from Franklin Pierce, nearly all of them dated from Washington, show that he regarded Baker as a dependable lawyer, capable of attending to important business or litigation. Other letters and papers indicate that land owners along the line of the railroad being constructed northward to Concord turned to him for the protection of their rights, and that he had a considerable number of clients in Boston.

The reports of decisions by the Supreme Court of New Hampshire from 1838 to 1840 contain five cases in which Baker appeared for different parties, a fact that indicates his immediate success as a lawyer. In one of these cases (Bennett v. Dutton, 10 N. H. 481) he acted for a stage line or combination of such lines, the decision determining an obligation of a stage line as a carrier of passengers. At this time, the stage lines were at the height of their prosperity; hence, they were desirable clients.

The newspapers of his time as well as the letters kept by Albert Baker show that he attained quickly a prominent position in politics and public affairs. Senator Pierce's letters to him dealt with both law and politics. The representative in the United States Congress from the Hillsborough district (Honorable Charles G. Atherton) consulted him as a leading member of their party. Among the letters kept by Baker were two from John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, who had been Vice-President of the United States and continued to be prominent in public life. They corresponded about a dispute between Georgia and Maine concerning the return of slaves to their owners. Another letter kept by Baker was one from a New York politician introducing him to "His Excellency, the Honorable Martin Van Buren, President of the United States." After having been a delegate to several district and state conventions, and a member of the Democratic State Central Committee, Baker, in 1840, was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention, held at Baltimore, which nominated candidates for President and Vice-President.

Albert Baker was elected to the New Hampshire House of Representatives when he was twenty-nine years old. Annual elections enabled him to serve for three years (1839, 1840, and 1841). The New Hampshire papers of that time, particularly the best of them, the New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette, continually depicted Baker as taking a prominent part in the work of each session. He evinced an active interest in all of the more important legislative subjects, was a frequent speaker on debated questions, and evidently was regarded as one of the two or three most influential representatives. In his branch of the legislature he was a member, during each session, of its most important committee (judiciary), and during his last term he was the chairman. His legislative work attracted favorable attention throughout New Hampshire and a degree of favorable notice from other states. In all probability, he was about to be promoted to the United States Congress.

Albert Baker became "an exceedingly popular young man in the town and the State" (Hurd's History of Hillsborough County, published in 1925, p. 409). The reasons were many, but especially they were his admirable motives, his disinterested purposes, his intellectual freshness, and his persistence in the pursuit of fairness, justice, and individual rights. For such reasons, he received and accepted more than a few invitations to deliver lectures and orations, at least one of which was delivered in Boston. There, on January 3, 1840, he delivered a lecture on the legitimate objects of legislation for the Bay State Association of Democratic Young Men. Even his lectures, much more his orations and political speeches, always aroused interest and often evoked enthusiasm.

The subjects to which Baker gave particular attention as a member of the New Hampshire Legislature included the abolition of imprisonment for debt, the revision of election laws, the protection of graves from molestation, the powers to be conferred on corporations, including railroads, whether a town should be authorized to buy stock in a railroad, when actions could be maintained against sheriffs, the holding of courts at convenient times, the relations between states in regard to slavery, the prevention of fraud by bankers, and economy in the administration of government.

Baker's health was dubious for several years before he succumbed. Thus on April 28, 1837, just before he began his legal practice, he wrote to his brother George, "I left the hospital at Boston last Thursday. . . . I have done nothing since the first of March." In a letter dated October 16, 1837, he spoke of his health, with one exception, as "unusually good," but later in the same letter used the words "if my health continues." In the same letter he also said, "I attend constantly at my office and love the work." Some of his friends believed that he overworked.

When Baker passed on, the inventory of his personal property included a number of interesting items. One of them was "Private library 60 volumes." Another item was "Law library 144 bound volumes and lot of pamphlets and reports." It is to be considered that such a library was comparatively large for one in his situation at that time.

Other items of personal property left by Albert Baker included these:

1 Black coat
1 Black dress coat
1 Blue dress coat
1 Blue frock coat
1 Black satin vest
1 Brown satin vest
1 Silk velvet vest
1 Marseilles cloth vest
1 Valencia vest
1 Green surtout
1 Blue surtout
1 Brown surtout
1 Camlet cloak
1 Horse, bridle, halter, saddle,
blanket, etc.

Albert Baker's decease on October 17, 1841, was followed by remarkable tributes. Mrs. Eddy has preserved one of them on page 7 of her "Retrospection and Introspection." It was from the editor of Hill's Daily Patriot, who had been among Baker's political associates but had changed to a contrary position. Other political opponents also spoke in similar terms, notably the editors of the New Hampshire Statesman, an organ of the Whig Party.

The following excerpts are part of a letter from "an intimate friend of Mr. Baker," which was printed and reprinted in several newspapers, including the New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette for November 4, 1841:

"Albert Baker was elected to the state legislature in 1839, and has remained a member of that body for three successive years. The character of his public services while in this situation, where he at once assumed a leading and conspicuous rank, are, it is believed, too well known to the people of this state to require comments.

"He went emphatically for the greatest good of the greatest number. He hated tyranny and despised fraud. He was no stickler for expediency. His only question was — What is right? and that which in his idea was the right, he would pursue fearless of consequences. His maxim was that what is right must be politic. . . .

"He had a strong and a disciplined intellect. In manner he was always forcible, often eloquent, and at times his lips seemed touched with a coal from the very altar of truth. . . . And he did not labor without his reward. He has gone, but his works remain. His name will live after him. In his short life he lived long and effected much."

Mrs. Eddy often spoke of her brother Albert to members of her household. Only a month or so before she passed on, she spoke of him as the most scientific man that she ever knew before the discovery of Christian Science.

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