By R. M. Washburn
Campaign Biographer of Calvin Coolidge for President in 1924
Candidate for the Republication Nomination for Lieutenant-Governor of Massachusetts 1932
His Essence, As I Have Long Known Him
His Mother and his Father made of him a man, and his military and political life made of him a mixer.
There are few if any men of his years in the public service who, in personal appeal and the scholarly study of public questions, give more promise of successful statesmanship than he.
Gaspar Griswold Bacon
Son of Robert and Martha W. Cowdin Bacon
1886 Born, Jamaica Plain, Boston.
1908 Graduated, Harvard College. Captain Varsity Four.
1912 Graduated, Harvard Law School.
1912 Admitted to practice law.
1912 Campaigned for Theodore Roosevelt for President.
1916 Private, Cavalry, Mexican Border.
1916 Campaigned for Theodore Roosevelt for President.
1916 President, T. R. Non-Partisan League.
1917-18 Field Artillery. At Fort Oglethorpe, Camp Jackson, Fort Sill, and Camp Kearney. Private. Captain. Major. Now a Lieutenant Colonel, 26th Division, M. N. G.
1919 A Founder of the Military School at Harvard College.
1920 Campaigned for Leonard Wood for President.
1920 District Delegate to the Republican National Convention.
1924-32 Massachusetts Senate.
1927 Boston University. Lecturer on Constitutional Law.
1927 Published: “The Constitution of the U.S. in some of its Fundamental Aspects.”
1928-32 President of the State Senate.
1931 Published: “Government and the Voter.”
Married Priscilla Toland of Philadelphia on July 16, 1910. Three sons: William Benjamin, Gaspar Griswold, Jr., and Robert Bacon.
Not long since I was standing on the street at the Parker House corner in Boston. With me was an employee in a large factory in the suburbs of the city. Then I saw Gaspar Bacon approaching. He joined us. I introduced him to my friend. Gaspar greeted him with characteristic cordiality and with a firm grip of the hand. We talked for a time, and then Gaspar went on his way. My friend then turned to me and exclaimed, enthusiastically: “I have heard a lot about that man, and a lot that is good, but I had never met him. He fills my eye. Tell me about him.” “You show discrimination,” I replied, “and are a good judge of men.” Then I told him this story, not of fiction, but of fact.
Gaspar Bacon has always lived in Boston. He was born in the house of his ancestors, on the western side of Jamaica Pond. Three generations of Bacons have been born in this house, also his father and his children. The house is a simple one, with a good deal of land about it. There is not a touch of ostentation about the place, although there is every reasonable comfort. All this is appropriately so, for the Bacon family since its inception has always been characterized, more by purpose and effect than by show. It has always believed that a man’s standing should be determined, not by those possessions he has been successful in accumulating about him, but by his ability to advance the public welfare.
The Bacon family for generations lived on the seas. The Spartans and the Swiss live among the mountains. Such peoples, because of these atmospheres, naturally develop independence and resourcefulness. These are qualities of the Bacons. The family has long been prominent in the public service: — a Legislator in the days of the Colony, a Governor, Judges, a Secretary of State, an Ambassador to France, a Congressman and a State Senate President.
The Bacon name is an old one and has always been noted in the varied activities of life. And that the family has been long and firmly established is a significant assertion for the purposes of this estimate. For Gaspar Bacon, because of the atmosphere into which he was born, that of a reasonable material independence with command of his time, might easily have drifted along serenely and securely on the momentum of his family. But, like the faithful steward of the Scriptures, he has not been content to do this, but has set out to augment the talents which are his. Because of which he has given up his energies completely to the public service.
The Bacons have always been doers. They have never been content to clutter up the divans of the club houses. They have a certain advantage over some in the public service. For such as the Bacons are not diverted from the demands of the public service by the cares of life that oppress many, and they are immune from the financial temptations which beset the needy in politics. Because of which, when one considers what Gaspar Bacon has already made of his life, it is to his credit, that he has been stirred to do this, not by necessity but by the spur of a patriotic spirit.
There are few Americans who have shown the ability, not only to go in but also to go through, as did Robert Bacon, the father of Gaspar Bacon. This characteristic has always marked the Bacon family. By way of illustration of this quality, it might be said, that they have always been active in athletics at Cambridge. They have taken not only to football but also to rowing. The last three generations of Bacons have rowed on the Varsity Crew. And on one day in one year on the Thames at New London, in the races between Harvard and Yale, it was three Bacons who captained the Varsity Crew, the Varsity Four and the Freshman Crew, respectively. In this spirit of going in and going through, Robert Bacon threw himself into the Great War. He rendered conspicuous service on Pershing’s staff in France. And because of the cause, he overdid and died.
This same quality of going through, Gaspar Bacon has always shown. He has always been quick to plunge into the currents of intense and diverse activities, whether in his studies, in his sports, in military or in political life. He went into the war a private and he came out a major. He went onto the floor of the Senate in 1924, and has been twice unanimously elected its President, and by both parties. The Bacon family has always been a symbol of good compasses, good engines and effective clutches. A brother of Gaspar Bacon is a Congressman from Long Island, Robert Low Bacon.
Three men have had a marked influence over the life of Gaspar Bacon. These three men, in chronological order, have been his father, Robert Bacon, Theodore Roosevelt and Leonard Wood. As Robert Bacon was the spur behind Gaspar Bacon, so was Theodore Roosevelt the spur behind Robert Bacon. Thus it was natural, whenever there was a crisis in the political exigencies of Theodore Roosevelt, and there were many, that then Gaspar Bacon should have thrown himself into the fray. Robert Bacon sat in the cabinet of Theodore Roosevelt as Secretary of State. Taft made him Ambassador to France. Thus is was natural that Gaspar Bacon, and immediately upon leaving the Law School, should have made his political debut upon the stump, in 1912, when Theodore Roosevelt was a candidate for the Presidency. He was for him again in 1916. He was President of the T. R. Non-Partisan League. It was Roosevelt who said of Gaspar Bacon: “He represents precisely the type we think of when we speak of an officer and a gentleman.”
It was Leonard Wood who was the spur behind Robert Bacon in the Great War. It was Leonard Wood who led Robert Bacon to become with him a pioneer for preparedness. And Robert Bacon brought Leonard Wood and his son Gaspar into the same close relations. So it was Leonard Wood who was the immediate stimulus whereby Gaspar Bacon went into the military service. He went to the Mexican Border. He went into the Great War. Thus it was natural that Gaspar should have espoused the cause of Leonard Wood for the Presidency in 1920.
The influence of Robert Bacon over his son Gaspar, and the power of the son to respond, prepared the latter for the public service. Gaspar took a high stand at Harvard. The father and the son doubtless foresaw a political future for the latter, for in his college days Gaspar Bacon specialized in history and in government. But he did not forget the human side of his academic days. He was for one year President of his class at Cambridge, and when one considers the size of these classes, of about 800, and that they include men of all sorts, this election is strong evidence of the democracy of Gaspar Bacon, and of his likability.
He is a lawyer by profession. But the war came and the public service called. Intense by nature, which is apparent to anyone who has met him, he yearned for activity. Because of the spirit of service and the sense of duty which he had inherited, it was natural for him to enlist in the war. It was also natural for him to turn to the paths of politics. He took the stump for Roosevelt in 1912 and 1916, for Calvin Coolidge for Governor in 1919, and for Leonard Wood in 1920. He went into the military service. He was a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1920 for Leonard Wood. He went to the State Senate in 1924.
Of Bacon’s service in the Senate, on the floor and in the chair much can be said. He is an individualist, virile and determined, and yet a cooperator. He is first sincere and never a sham. He is always to be found somewhere, unlike many men who are often to be found nowhere. His legislative attention and energies he has directed, first toward the defeat of proposed bad legislation rather than toward adding to the innumerable and unnecessary laws which already clutter up the statue books. He believes, as does Calvin Coolidge, that the country is over-governed, and that administration is already busy enough in attempting to keep up with legislation, and that new laws should be enacted only with deliberation and discrimination.
He is keen to protect on Beacon Hill those citizens who are preoccupied in earning their living. He believes that the success of industry depends upon the protection and the encouragement of employee and employer, alike, and on the prosperity of each. He has a bent for statesmanship. This interests him as much in the machinery of law-making as in the product of the legislative mill. There is no one quicker to effect economy, in the waste of public service. As presiding officer of the Senate, he has not been content, simply to preside, but he has always been ready to steer, whenever duty directed.
Some men are fitted best to campaign for an office, and least to perform its duties. With other it is the opposite. They are more fitted to perform the duties of the office than to make a campaign. Some men could serve capably, but cannot be elected. Others are qualified to win at the polls but not to serve. Gaspar Bacon, as much as any man, combines not only the qualities of arriving, but also those of serving. There are few men of wider and closer personal and political contacts, with all sorts of people.
Some men are interested in public questions simply as vote-getting steps in their political progress. Gaspar Bacon is fond of the study of these questions, apart from the harvest of public office. His first interest is in constitutional law. He has lectured at Boston University, and these lectures have been published by the Harvard University Press. Homer Albers, Dean of the Boston University Law School, says of them: “They should be read by everyone.” He has written a book entitled: “The Government and the voter.” This includes thirty addresses, showing a wide scope and a scholarly treatment of diverse public questions.
Gaspar Bacon is forty-six years old. He is well built and over six feet tall. He comes right at you. And he is quicker to come than to go. Some men when they call look first for their hats. He looks first for a chair. He has a voice that cheers and a grip that binds, and he is a symbol of sympathy. He is keen for a pleasantry, to listen to and to initiate one. He is genial and genuine. All this is natural to him. For his mother and father made of him a man, and his military and political life made of him a mixer. A Republican, he has carried his close district, overwhelmingly. Men believe in his personality and in his political principles. His next door neighbor votes for him. This is the last, hardest vote to get.
And now, by way of recapitulation and finale, the essence of Gaspar Bacon is re-emphasized. Not necessity, but a patriotic spirit and a desire to serve urge him on. He has ambition, fidelity and effect. There are few if any men in the public service who, in personal appeal and the scholarly study of public questions, give more promise of successful statesmanship than he. This is the pre-eminent essence of Gaspar Bacon. This is his story. It is a short story, but it is a good deal of a story.