HON. ROSCOE CONKLING.
WHEN, some years since, the Representative of the twenty first Congressional District of New York was declared, by a majority of his peers, to have been guilty of corruption, and to be unworthy of a seat with them, the Republican voters of that district, one of the most intelligent and refined in the state, looked about them for a man of integrity and purity of character who should fully represent their sentiments in the national legislature. Such a man they found speedily; a young man but little more than thirty years of age, but of highly cultivated intellect, staunch integrity, an eminent advocate, and at that time mayor of Utica, the chief city of the district. They elected him ; and, young as he was, he speedily made his mark, in three Congresses of remarkable ability, taking a position with the foremost, in the fervor of his patriot-ism, the clearness of his perceptions, the soundness of his judgment, and his eloquence as a debater, and at the close of his six years' service in the House of Representatives, though re-elected from his district, he was transferred by the Legislature of his native State, to a seat in the United States Senate, previously occupied by one of the most eminent jurists of New York.
He was chairman of the Committee on the District of Columbia, and on a Bankrupt Law. In 1862, New York was so far faithless to her principles as to elect a Democratic Administration, Horatio Seymour, Mr. Conkling's brother-in-law, being chosen governor; and a professed war Democrat, but real Copperhead, elected to Congress from the twenty-first district to the XXXVIIIth Congress. But the people of that district were dissatisfied, and, in 1861, they re-elected Mr. Conkling by a heavier majority than ever before. During the two years that he was out of Congress, Mr. Conkling was requested by the attorney-general to aid in the prosecution of some gross frauds which had been committed in that district, in regard to the enlistments and bounties to soldiers. He entered upon the work with his usual ardor and zeal, and succeeded in unearthing a most astounding system of frauds. By this act, he rendered a great service to the nation, for which he received the thanks of the War Department, but he bad incurred the hostility of the "Ring," which determined thenceforward to crush him. The opportunity did not occur until the summer of 1866, when, as he was nominated again for Congress, a man of large wealth, previously a Republican, determined to run in opposition to him, and to defeat him, if it could be accomplished by money. Mr. Conkling at once announced his intention to canvass the district in person, and did so, speaking in every village and town of the county, and was reelected by an increased majority. The Republican Legislature which met in January, 1867, elected Mr. Conkling United States Senator for six years, from March 4, 1867, to succeed Hon. Ira Harris.
I move, sir, that the joint resolution be laid on the table." It was laid on the table, by a vote of eighty-eight to thirty-one; and the same day, Judge Patterson, having discovered that he could take the test oath, was sworn in by the Vice-President, and the joint resolution laid over forever.
Sudden and rapid promotion to the highest places in the people's gift has before now turned the heads of many otherwise estimable men, and if Mr. Conkling has failed to fulfill in all respects the promise of his earlier years in Congress, as very many of his former friends believe, it is doubtless due in part to his rapid promotion, in part to the grateful but not always healthful influence of the profuse flattery he has received, and to the overweening sense of his own gifts, talents and power, which have been thus bred in him. Mr. Conkling is a man of remarkably fine appearance, and a great favorite of the ladies; he is a man of scholarly tastes and of considerable eloquence; but since he has been in the Senate, he has lost that modesty which so well became him, and by his imperious and dictatorial manner, and his fierce invective against men who, to say the least, were in all respects his peers, he has lost influence in the nation, and has recalled the traditions of the old days when the slave holder's whip cracked ominously in the Senate against all who failed to do its behests. It grieves us to say such things of a man of so much real ability as Mr. Conkling; and we cannot but hope that in the coming years he may see that the power which is founded on love and respect is infinitely greater than that which is reared on force and brutality, and may be led to unite, as he certainly does not now, the suaviter in modo to the fortiter in re.
Source: Source: Men of Our Day; or Biographical Sketches of Patriots, Orators, Statesmen, Generals, Reformers, Financiers and Merchants, Now on the state of Action: Including Those Who in Military, Political, Business and Social Life, are the Prominent Leaders of the Time in This Country, by L. P. Brockett, M. D., Published by Ziegler and McCurdy, Philadelphia Penna; Springfield, Mass; Cincinnati, Ohio; St. Louis, Mo., 1872
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