One day in 1860, Henry Cabot Lodge was sitting on the porch of the little school he attended in Nahant, Mass., when a buggy came roaring down the road followed by two men in a trap.
The carriages stopped in front of the school, the men jumped out and rushed into the building. Moments later they came out carrying 8-year-old Allen Rice, followed by the headmaster and screaming children.
One of the men had muttonchop whiskers. He threw Allen into the buggy and off they galloped.
Henry Cabot Lodge wouldn’t see his classmate Allen Rice for another 20 years, when he was a rising U.S. congressman and Rice was editor of the North American Review, the first U.S. literary magazine.
The Back Story
Allen’s mother was the former Miss Elizabeth Thorndike of Boston, a wealthy young lady who married Henry Rice of Baltimore. Before Allen was born she suffered such poor health her survival was questionable.
Her husband drew up a will for her that gave all her property to him and, upon his death, his heirs. She refused to sign the will. He began to abuse her. She claimed at one time he tried to poison her. Finally, she went to Indiana and got a divorce. When she returned to Boston she was stunned to find a Massachusetts court had given custody of 8-year-old Allen to her husband.
The Rices drew up an agreement that Allen would stay with them alternately on his vacations from school. But then Henry wouldn’t let Elizabeth see her son.
So Elizabeth kidnapped the boy and spirited him away to Europe, dressed as a girl.
When Allen was abducted, 10-year-old Henry Cabot Lodge was the only one who got a good look at the kidnappers. He was the scion of the Cabots, a Brahmin family that inspired the doggerel:
And this is good old Boston,
The home of the bean and the cod,
Where the Lowells talk to the Cabots,
And the Cabots talk only to God.
Two days after Henry saw the abduction, his father took him to the Charles Street Jail in Boston. There they met Allen’s father and some detectives. Henry had to walk down the jail’s corridors and look through the iron bars to see if he could identify the men who took Allen.
Henry Cabot Lodge stopped at the last jail cell and said, “That is the man who took Allen.”
The boy testified twice before grand juries and the panel indicted the kidnapperer.
The boy enjoyed the grand jury proceedings and the attention that came with it. But when called to testify in open court, he got nervous – especially because his father had taken ill and couldn’t go with him to the courtroom. John Ellerton Lodge promised his son a gold watch if he told the truth and behaved well.
On the day of the trial, Henry Cabot Lodge waited nervously in the witness room until he took the stand. Hundreds of eyes watched him as he swore to tell the truth. Despite the butterflies in his stomach, he told the story clearly and well.
Then attorneys hired by Elizabeth Rice cross-examined him. They badgered him with questions, but he stuck to his story. Then they tried to confuse him. Finally the judge told the lawyers, “I think that will do. It is perfectly evident that the boy is telling the truth.”
Young Henry left the stand and went to sit with his mother in the witness room. Suddenly he started crying and said, “Oh! I made a mistake, I must go back.” He ran back into the courtroom and stood in front of the judge. “I made one mistake,” he said. “May I correct it?”
The judge said, “Certainly,” and the boy corrected his slight error.
Nickerson went to jail. Henry Cabot received a gold watch engraved with the date of the trial, which he wore for the rest of his life.
To read about how Elizabeth Rice abducted her son, click here. This story was updated in 2021.
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