He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1842 and practiced law in Springfield, Massachusetts from 1847–1875.
He was elected to the Massachusetts legislator as a senator in 1857 and served two terms. He was elected again as a representative in 1868, serving a single term. He was instrumental in bringing the National Banking System to Massachusetts.
He resigned his presidency of the bank in Massachusetts to become involved in banking in New New York
In 1871 he became vice president of Western Union Telegraph Company and subsequently vice president of the Gold and Stock Telegraph Company. He was a noted bimetallist, regularly corresponding with United States. Senator William B. Allison and possibly providing the draft language for the international conference provision of the amendments the Senator made to the Bland–Allison Bill.
He was twice sent to Europe on diplomatic missions to investigate the possibility of an international bimetallic agreement, first in 1865 by Treasury Secretary Hugh McCulloch, then in 1879 by Secretary of State William M. Evarts. He was appointed Consul-General at Paris by President Hayes in 1880 where he served until his resignation in June 1887.
In November he moved to Washington, District of Columbia where he resided at 1306 Connecticut Avenue.
He had intended for his stay in Washington, District of Columbia to be only temporary, having purchased a farm in Exeter, New Hampshire, but early in January contracted pneumonia and died a week later, on 15 January 1888. He is buried in the family plot in Springfield.