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Jacob Dolson Cox


IT has always seemed to us that Plutarch was guilty of holding up to undeserved scorn, that Athenian citizen whom he represents as having applied to Aristides to inscribe on his shell his own name, that he might vote to banish that eminently just magistrate. Plutarch says that the judge asked him if he knew anything against Aristides. "No," he replied; " but he was tired with hearing everyone call him the Just." The man was not so far out of the way, after all. Aristides was undoubtedly an upright and just ruler, but he lacked sympathy with humanity, and that personal attraction or magnetism which made many worse men more popular and better loved than he, and the poor fellow who wanted him banished, really revolted not against his being called the "Just," but at his not being also the " merciful" and the sympathizing magistrate.

Something of this same feeling has always prevented General Cox from being a popular idol. He is eminently a correct, just, upright man; he is a fine scholar, accomplished in all directions; he was a good though not a great soldier, always safe but never daring; he had the respect of his troops, though not their love; he was an able and judicious legislator; he made a good record as Governor, though he was never popular. His administration of the Department of the Interior was skilful and successful, but he made no friends, and when he withdrew on the alleged ground that he could not be a party to corrupt and fraudulent disposition of the public lands, his protest, though admirably written, was so cold and formal that it carried very little weight with it He was "the just," undoubtedly, but people had become weary of a justice which lacked soul, which had no sympathies with the living, throbbing, and oft-times sinning heart of humanity.

The Germans have a legend that the Frost King found one night that a daring traveller had invaded his dominions. Though very angry, he did not, as he might have clone, destroy the intruder; he only touched his breast with his icy finger, and thenceforward the man wherever he went bore a frozen heart in his bosom. We incline to the belief that this man with the frozen heart had a numerous progeny. But to our biographical sketch.

JACOB DOLSON COX was born in Montreal, Canada, October 27th, 1828, during the temporary residence of his parents (who were citizens of New York) in that city. His mother was a lineal descendant of Elder William Brewster of the Mayflower. He removed to Ohio in 1846, graduated from Oberlin College in 1851, and commenced the practice of the law at Warren, Ohio, in 1852. Not long after he married a daughter of Rev. Charles G. Finney, D.D., the eloquent and able president of Oberlin College.

A man of scholarly habits, Mr. Cox soon distinguished himself by his attainments in literature, history, philosophy and military and political science. He was withal a well read and very able lawyer, a fine horseman, a good fencer, and for a militia officer, remarkable for his knowledge of the practice as well as the theory of military manoeuvres. He had been commissioned Brigadier-General in the Ohio militia before he had attained his thirtieth year, and was so able a politician as to be sent to the Ohio Senate from the Trumbull and Mahoning District in 1859. Here he and James A. Garfield, one of the leading members of the last three Congresses, and himself subsequently a general of Volunteers, were reckoned the leaders of the Radical wing of Ohio Republicans.

When the President's proclamation of April 15th, 1861, was received, Senator Cox entered with a great deal of spirit into the work of organizing the Ohio contingent, and was at once commissioned, by Governor Dennison, Brigadier-General of Ohio Volunteers, that he might do this work more effectually. He organized and prepared the Ohio troops for the field at Camp Dennison, and reenlisted most of them as three years regiments.

About the 1st of July General Cox was commissioned, by President Lincoln, Brigadier-General of Volunteers, ante-dating from May 15th, 1861, and soon after was called into the field.  We have not space to go over his war record in any great detail; but as we follow him through the campaign in Western Virginia under McClellan and Rosecrans, now advancing and accomplishing what he had been directed to do, carefully and well; now compelled to fall back by the greatly superior force of the enemy; but always doing so, in good order and without serious loss; as we review his movements under Fremont's unfortunate campaign in the Shenandoah, his subsequent connection with the Army of Virginia, just as it was merged in the Army of the Potomac, his bravery and good conduct at South Mountain, at Antietam, and subsequently in his old command of West Virginia, we find him always cautious, always discreet and safe, but never bold, daring, or dashing; always commanding the respect of his men, never winning their admiration by his fearlessness ; never gaining their warm love by his personal magnetism. In the spring of 1863, he was ordered back to Ohio, and commanded the District of Ohio under General Burnside. In December he took part in the defence of Knoxville, and in the Atlanta campaign commanded the Third Division of the Twenty third Corps, or as it was oftenest called "the Army of the Ohio."

He had been nominated as Major-General of Volunteers by President Lincoln, in the winter of 1862-3, but dropped before confirmation, through no fault of his own, but because, through a misunderstanding, the President had nominated too many. He went through the Atlanta campaign with great credit, though still only a Brigadier, never originating a measure, but obeying orders silently, firmly and effectively ; had returned to Nashville with Thomas and Schofield in pursuit of Hood, and had a conspicuous and honorable part in the fierce battle of Franklin; and one as creditable though less bloody in the crowning two days' fight at Nashville, and the subsequent pursuit of Hood. On the strong recommendation of Generals Sherman and Schofield he was commissioned a Major-General, to rank from December 7th, 1861. Transferred with General Schofield to the Atlantic coast, he took an honorable part in the battles about Wilmington and Kinston, North Carolina, and effected a junction with General Sherman at Goldsboro.

He had charge of the mustering out of the Ohio troops till near the close of the year, when having been elected Governor of Ohio, he resigned his military to accept his civil office.

He had the reputation of a prudent, skilful and safe military commander, as well as his literary, professional and scientific attainments to serve as capital for his candidacy for the office of Governor; but he had well-nigh defeated himself by that cold heart of his. Some of his old Oberlin friends addressed certain inquiries to him relative to. the status of the African, and the then vexed question of negro suffrage. He had been reared and educated an Abolitionist, had been trained in an Anti-slavery College, had married the daughter of one of the most fearless anti-slavery men of our time; he had represented in the Ohio Senate the strongest Anti-slavery district in Ohio, and there had distinguished himself as a Radical of the Radicals, and in the army had always been sternly just as the defender of the African against his numerous foes. Yet now, when all Ohio was ablaze with a feeling of sympathy for the down-trodden race, and a desire to lift them up, he coldly expressed in his reply his belief that the nation would not tolerate negro suffrage, and that, probably, the best thing which could be done for the race would be to deport them to Africa or Hayti, and colonize the whole three or four millions. This letter greatly reduced the Republican majority in the State, and caused him to run considerably behind the rest of the ticket.

Soon after his inauguration he did another foolish thing. He espoused the cause of Andrew Johnson, advocated some of his worst acts, and addressed an urgent and well-written letter to the Ohio Senators and Representatives in Congress to bring them over to his views. Mr. Johnson before long went so far that the cautious Governor was unwilling to follow; but the whilom radical had become intensely conservative. He declined a renomination, which would have been an inevitable defeat, and returned to the practice of his profession at Cincinnati, where he was soon in the enjoyment of a large and lucrative business.

On General Grant's election to the Presidency, he called ex-Governor Cox to the Cabinet as Secretary of the Interior. The appointment was not a bad one, for he was fully competent for 
its duties, and might have made that department much better in every respect than it ever had been. But his evil genius again prevailed. He was not in sympathy with the other members of the Cabinet, and perhaps not with his chief, and his rulings very soon began to conflict with those of the other secretaries. A California mining claim relating to a great quicksilver deposit had been in litigation before the Government for twelve or fifteen years, and after the most careful examination by the law officer of the Government and the Committee on Claims of Congress, had been decided. To their ruling Secretary Cox took exception, and proposed to reverse it. Finding this impossible, he addressed a caustic letter to the President, denouncing the fraud and corruption which he said was rife in the Government, and resigned his office, November 1, 1870. The occasion for this diatribe was one where he was so evidently in the wrong that his resignation lost much of the force and dignity which might otherwise have pertained to it. He returned to Cincinnati and resumed his practice. At the "Liberal Republican" National Convention held at Cincinnati, May 3d and 4th, 1872, ex-Secretary Cox was a member, and received some votes for the Presidential nomination. He was very active in his advocacy of the free-trade doctrines, and, we believe, thus far refuses to support the nominees of that convention.

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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