Oliver Hazard Perry Throck Morton
Morton was born in Salisbury, Indiana, on August 4, 1823. After the death of his mother, his father sent him to live with 2 staunch Presbyterian aunts, who imbued in him a degree of inflexibility that marked his long career in politics. Morton had some formal elementary schooling and studied 1 year at Wayne County Seminary, though he acquired most of his education by reading. Dissatisfied with brief careers as a clerk and in the hatters trade, he attended Miami University for 2 years, read law, and became a highly respected corporate lawyer whose services were in demand by the railroads.
In 1848 he failed in a bid to become prosecuting attorney on the Democratic ticket. Holding no elective office, he remained active in the party. Rather than see Democrats weakened by internal disagreement, he lent his support to the Wilmot Proviso, legislation that would have prohibited slavery in any territory won during the Mexican War. But in 1854 he took a firm stand against the Kansas-Nebraska Act and Popular Sovereignty, thereafter associating himself with the Peoples party, the forerunner of the Republicans in Indiana.
Republicans nominated Morton for governor in 1856, campaigning on a platform in favor of protectionism for U.S. industry and homestead legislation. Though he was not elected, he expected to win the nomination again in 1860. Instead, party leaders gave former Whig Henry S. Lane the first slot on the ticket and Morton the second slot. When this moderate slate gave the Republicans a majority in the legislature, they elected Lane to the U.S. Senate and Morton succeeded to the governorship.
A skillful political opportunist, Morton emerged as the most powerful and, by some estimates, the best of the war governors. He answered Abraham Lincoln's call for troops by raising twice the number requested for Federal service. Certain the war would be brief, he labored to keep in uniform every Indianan who volunteered, so that none would be prevented from serving when the War Department began refusing troops it was unprepared to feed and equip. Largely because of his efforts to encourage volunteerism, Indiana provided 150,000 enlistments to the Federal army with little resort to the draft.
The governor generally backed Lincolns war measures, though he complained about excessive military arrests, resisted the draft, and opposed freeing Southern slaves until the president issued his emancipation proclamation 1 Jan. 1863. Jealous for his states prestige in the Union, he also clashed repeatedly with Federal authorities in his determination to prevent other states from being treated more favorably. He waged a bitter campaign against Copperheads (Peace Democrats) and when growing peace sentiment pitted him against a legislature threatening to limit his military powers, rather than call the hostile representatives into session Morton kept the state government running with loans from Washington, advances from the private sector, and profits from the state arsenal he had established. In 1864 he was reelected along with a Republican legislature, in part by arranging to have 9,000 sick and wounded Indiana soldiers furloughed home in time to vote.
Worn by long hours and stress, in summer 1865 Morton suffered a stroke that left him paralyzed. He nonetheless stayed in politics as an uncompromising foe of the Democrats. Initially a proponent of Lincolns lenient plan for reconstructing the seceded states, in the postwar years he allied with Radical Republicans. After being elected to the U.S. Senate in 1867, he led the movement to pass the 14th Amendment providing for black suffrage.
Felled by a second stroke Aug. 1877, Morton traveled to Indiana to recuperate, dying at his home in Indianapolis 1 Nov. in the middle of his second congressional term.
Source: "Historical Times Encyclopedia of the Civil War" Edited by Patricia L. Faust
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