Joseph Hodges Choate

Joseph Hodges Choate
Joseph Hodges Choate

Joseph Hodges Choate, 1898
Born Salem, Massachusetts
January 24, 1832(1832-01-24)
Died May 14, 1917(1917-05-14) (aged 85)
Parents 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.



He was born in Salem, Massachusetts on January 24, 1832. He was the son of physician George Choate and the brother of George C. S. Choate. His father's first cousin was 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.[1]

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 Republican Party on its organization, being a frequent speaker in presidential campaigns, beginning with that of 1856. He never held political office, although he was a candidate for the Republican senatorial nomination against Senator 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.[2]


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


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 now open as a nonprofit museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

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


  1. ^ "Joseph H. Choate, 80, Married 50 Years. Celebrates Golden Wedding with Mrs. Choate and Relatives at Naumkeag in Berkshires." (PDF). New York Times. 1911-10-16. Retrieved 2008-12-17. 
  2. ^ "Joseph Hodges Choate Dies Suddenly.". New York Times. May 15, 1917. Retrieved 2009-02-16. "Joseph H. Choate died suddenly late last night at his residence, 8 East Sixtythird Street, of a heart attack. He had complained of feeling ill during the day and had retired early, but there was no physician with him when the end came. He breathed his last at 11:30. Mrs. Choate and their daughter, Miss Mabel, were at his side." 


Further reading

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