Friday, May 10, 2013

John Sherman, born May 10, 1823

John Sherman was born in Lancaster, Ohio to Mary Hoyt Sherman and Charles Robert Sherman, a justice in the Ohio Supreme Court. 

Birthplace of John Sherman in Lancaster, Ohio
He was the eighth child in the family that would eventually number eleven children: six sons and five daughters.

Charles Robert Sherman

When his father died in 1829 , Mary was left with no income to support her large family, and  relied on friends and family to help raise her children. Keeping three daughters, a toddler son and infant daughter in the home with her, she sent her three middle sons, William, Tecumseh, John and Lampson, to be raised by friends and family. His older brother, William, went to live with Maria and Thomas Ewing, who were friends of the Sherman family.

Thomas Ewing
The two oldest sons, Charles and James, had already left home, and the oldest daughter Mary Elizabeth soon married.

When John was eight years old, he was sent to Mount Vernon, Ohio to live with 

his father’s cousin, John Sherman; from that time, he did not live in one place longer than four years. Young John lived with his cousin and his family until he was twelve years old. John himself said; “I was a troublesome boy, frequently involved in controversies with the teachers and sometimes punished with the switch.” He also referred to himself as a “rather wild and reckless boy at the disagreeable age of eight to twelve years.”  

At the age of twelve he returned to his mother’s home in  Lancaster, where he remained until the age of fourteen.  At that time, he left school and went to Beverly, Ohio to take a job as a junior rodman on the Muskingham River Improvement. While there he lived with the Paul Fearing family. John worked at that job for two years but then lost his job due to a change in state government.  He stayed with his mother for a year, and then lived with his older brother Charles, a lawyer who practiced in Mansfield, Ohio. John studied law for four years under Charles, and at twenty one, he passed the Ohio Bar Exam.

Charles Sherman
He was 39 years old when the Civil War began.

John Sherman became partners with his brother, Charles Sherman, in 1844 and practiced out of Mansfield, Ohio. In addition to practicing law in Ohio, Sherman was involved in lumber and real estate there.

He married Cecilia Margaret Stewart in 1848, the only daughter of a prominent and wealthy Ohio judge.  
In 1853, he moved to Cleveland, Ohio. 

After his marriage, Sherman took up an interest in politics. He was a delegate to the 1848 Whig National Convention which nominated General Zachary Taylor for the presidency, and again to the 1852 Whig National Convention which nominated General Winfield Scott.

Sherman entered politics as a Whig but, angered by the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, became a founder of the Republican Party.  In 1854, he was elected a Republican to the United States House of Representatives for Ohio thirteenth district.  He soon stood out for his legislative skills and clear sense of purpose. Passing over more senior members, the Speaker in 1856 chose Sherman and two other lawmakers to investigate conditions in Kansas. With Sherman doing most of the work, the committee produced a 1,300-page report that excoriated the pro-slavery forces and provided an extraordinary source of information for Republican partisans inside and outside Congress. In the ensuing debates, Sherman distinguished himself by his passionate opposition to the spread of slavery and the clarity of his vision for the economy.

John Sherman in 1859
When the thirty-sixth Congress convened in December 1859, Sherman was the overwhelming choice of the Republicans for Speaker. But the Ohioan had signed a memorial endorsing Hinton Rowan Helper's controversial book, The Impending Crisis of the South and on a series of ballots fell three votes short of a majority. After two months of fruitless divisions, Sherman withdrew. 

Hinton Rowan Helper
He became chairman of the Ways and Means Committee (the second most important position in the House) and helped guide the Morrill tariff through Congress.

After Senator Salmon P. Chase resigned to become the Secretary of the Treasury in 1861, Sherman was elected to fill his seat.  He took the lead in pushing through legislation for the National Banking System, income tax, and the new greenback currency.

John and his brother William had a close and supportive relationship, but John was more temperate and reserved than his tempestuous brother.  The differences between the two men were illustrated when Senator Sherman took his brother to the White House in the spring of 1861.  As William Tecumseh Sherman recalled in his memoirs, the meeting was a disaster:
One day, John Sherman took me with him to see Mr. Lincoln. He walked into the room where the secretary to the President now sits, we found the room full of people, and Mr. Lincoln sat at the end of the table, talking with three or four gentlemen, who soon left. John walked up, shook hands, and took a chair near him, holding in his hand some papers referring to, minor appointments in the State of Ohio, which formed the subject of conversation. Mr. Lincoln took the papers, said he would refer them to the proper heads of departments, and would be glad to make the appointments asked for, if not already promised.
John then turned to me, and said, "Mr. President, this is my brother, Colonel Sherman, who is just up from Louisiana, he may give you some information you want." "Ah!" said Mr. Lincoln, "how are they getting along down there?" I said, "They think they are getting along swimmingly-they are preparing for war." "Oh, well!" said he, "I guess we'll manage to keep house."
I was silenced, said no more to him, and we soon left. I was sadly disappointed, and remember that I broke out on John, d-ning the politicians generally, saying, "You have got things in a hell of a fig, and you may get them out as you best can," adding that the country was sleeping on a volcano that might burst forth at any minute, but that I was going to St. Louis to take care of my family, and would have no more to do with it. John begged me to be more patient, but I said I would not; that I had no time to wait, that I was off for St. Louis; and off I went.
Senator Sherman himself admitted of his brother: "Cump is like a fine machine with every screw one half turn loose."

William Tecumseh Sherman
During the Civil War, Senator Sherman was a staunch supporter of Lincoln and the Union. He helped organize Union Army volunteers from Mansfield, and contemplated resigning his office to enlist in the Union army, but President Lincoln convinced him that his services as a politician would greater serve the union. 

During Reconstruction,  he was a strong supporter of the Fourteenth Amendment and helped author the Reconstruction Act of 1867.

In 1877, newly elected President Rutherford B. Hayes appointed Sherman Secretary of the Treasury. He served in the position through the entire Hayes administration, 1877 to 1881.

Rutherford B. Hayes
In 1880, he sought the Republican nomination for the presidency hoping to become a compromise candidate between Ulysses Grant and James Blaine, but lost the nomination to his campaign manager, James Garfield.  

James Garfield
When his term as Treasury Secretary expired, Sherman was elected back to the Senate. 

James Blaine
He ran for the presidency two more times, in 1884 and 1888, but again lost the bids, to James Blaine and Benjamin Harrison.  This was a great disappointment to him and a sharp contrast between him and his famous brother, General William Tecumseh Sherman, who was sought after by both the Republican and Democrat parties but refused because of his great distaste for politics. 

Sherman in 1890

In 1890, Sherman wrote and introduced the Sherman Antitrust Act, the first United States Federal Government action to limit monopolies.  

Sherman Anti-Trust Act
It was signed by President Benjamin Harrison that year.

Benjamin Harrison
Sherman wrote a book of memoirs, Recollections of Forty Years in the House, Senate and Cabinet: an Autobiography; it was published in 1895.

Sherman in 1896
In 1897, newly elected President William McKinley appointed Sherman Secretary of State.  He served in that position from March 6, 1897 until April 27, 1898, when he resigned days after the outbreak of the Spanish-American War.  His bitterness toward President McKinley and his administration continued until his death.

William McKinley
Sherman retired from public life after resigning as Secretary of State. After a lingering illness, he died in Washington, D.C. on October 22, 1900, at the age of 77.  He was buried in Mansfield City Cemetery in Mansfield, Ohio. 

Sherman Family Gravesite

Tombstone of John Sherman

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