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Joseph Hodges Choate

Joseph Hodges Choate
Joseph Hodges Choate, 1898
Born Salem, Massachusetts
(1832-01-24)January 24, 1832
Died May 14, 1917(1917-05-14) (aged 85)
Manhattan, New York City
Resting place Stockbridge Cemetery, Stockbridge, Berkshire Co., Massachusetts
Alma mater Harvard College, Harvard Law School
Spouse(s) Caroline Dutcher Sterling
Parent(s) George Choate
Relatives George C. S. Choate, brother
Rufus Choate, first cousin once removed
"United States Embassy". Caricature by Spy published in Vanity Fair in 1899.

Joseph Hodges Choate (January 24, 1832 – May 14, 1917) was an American lawyer and diplomat. Choate was associated with many of the most famous litigations in American legal history, including the Kansas prohibition cases, the Chinese exclusion cases, the Maynard election returns case, the Income Tax Suit, and the Tilden, Stanford, and AT Stewart will cases. In the public sphere, he was influential in the founding of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.[1]


  • Life and career 1
  • Works 2
  • Legacy 3
  • Notes 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Life and career

Choate was born in Rufus Choate. After graduating from Harvard College in 1852 and Harvard Law School in 1854, he was admitted first to the Massachusetts (1855) and then (1856) to the New York bar, and entered the law office of Scudder & Carter in New York City.

His success in his profession was immediate, and in 1860 he became junior partner in the firm of Evarts, Southmayd & Choate, the senior partner in which was William M. Evarts. This firm and its successor, that of Evarts, Choate & Beaman, remained for many years among the leading law firms of New York and of the country, the activities of both being national rather than local.

On October 16, 1861 he married Caroline D. Sterling.[2]

During these busy years, Choate was associated with many of the most famous litigations in American legal history, including the Tilden, AT Stewart, and Stanford will cases, the Kansas prohibition cases, the Chinese exclusion cases, the Maynard election returns case, and the Income Tax Suit. In 1871 be became a member of the Committee of Seventy in New York City, which was instrumental in breaking up the Tweed Ring, and later assisted in the prosecution of the indicted officials. He served at president of the American Bar Association, the New York State Bar Association, and the New York City Bar Association. In the retrial of the General Fitz-John Porter case he obtained a reversal of the decision of the original court-martial.

His greatest reputation was won perhaps in cross-examination. In politics he allied himself with the Thomas C. Platt in 1897. In 1894 he was president of the New York state constitutional convention.

He was appointed, by President McKinley, U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom to succeed John Hay in 1899, and remained in this position until the spring of 1905. In England he won great personal popularity, and accomplished much in fostering the good relations of the two great English-speaking powers. He was one of the representatives of the United States at the second Peace Congress at the Hague in 1907.

Upon the outbreak of the World War I, he ardently supported the cause of the Allies. He severely criticized President Wilson's hesitation to recommend America's immediate cooperation, but shortly before his death retracted his criticism. He was chairman of the mayor's committee in New York for entertaining the British and French commissions in 1917. His death was hastened by the physical strain of his constant activities in this connection.

He died on May 14, 1917 in Manhattan.[3]


  • Abraham Lincoln and Other Addresses in England (1910)
  • American Addresses (1911)


He was awarded an honorary doctorate (LL.D.) by Yale University in October 1901, during celebrations for the bicentenary of the university,[4] and an honorary doctorate (D.C.L.) by the University of Oxford in June 1902.[5]

Several of his notable public addresses have been published. The Choate Story Book (1903) contains a few of his addresses and after-dinner speeches, and is prefaced by a brief biographical sketch. His country house, Naumkeag, was designed by Stanford White and is open to the public as a nonprofit museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.


  1. ^ "Address of Joseph H. Choate: At the Opening of the Museum Building March 30, 1880". The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 12 (6): 126. 1917.   "To him in large degree the Museum owes the breadth of its original scope, embracing all arts and embracing art in its relation to education and practical life as well as to the enjoyment of the beautiful."
  2. ^ "Joseph H. Choate, 80, Married 50 Years. Celebrates Golden Wedding with Mrs. Choate and Relatives at Naumkeag in Berkshires." (PDF).  
  3. ^ "Joseph Hodges Choate Dies Suddenly.".  
  4. ^ "United States" The Times (London). Thursday, 24 October 1901. (36594), p. 3.
  5. ^ "University intelligence" The Times (London). Saturday, 7 June 1902. (36788), p. 9.


    • Edward Sandford Martin, The Life of Joseph Hodges Choate (1920)
    This work in turn cites:  

External links

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
John Hay
U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain
Succeeded by
Whitelaw Reid
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