Link to Online Collection Catalog
Link to OHS HOME page
Link to CONTACT OHS page
Link to OHIO HISTORY STORE website
Link to OHS CALENDAR page
Link to OHS PLACES page
Link to OHS RESOURCES page
Link to the ABOUT OHS page
Link to SEARCH OHS page
OHS Online Home
Fundamental Documents of Ohio







1864- 1865

Born on September 17, 1811, at Marietta, the son of an English immigrant and a Pennsylvania mother, John Brough rose on the tide of Jacksonian democracy. Left an orphan at eleven, he apprenticed himself to a printer for his board and room and in the office of the American Friend first smelled the printer's ink which was to bear him into the political arena. The Marietta schools and three years as a part- time student at Ohio University were the extent of his formal schooling. While attending the latter institution, he worked as a reporter on the Athens Mirror.

The Western Republican of Marietta, which he owned from 1831 to 1833, was his first newspaper. Strongly Jacksonian in its editorial accents, it helped to crystallize his political views. In 1833 he and his brother Charles purchased the Ohio Eagle at Lancaster which carried on the Democratic tradition.

In 1835 Brough gained election as clerk of the Ohio Senate by a margin of one vote. While holding this position he was capitol corres- pondent for his own paper and for the Ohio Statesman. In 1837 the Whigs deposed him, though he continued to have the strong support of Samuel Medary and the Democratic party. His stand in 1837 paralleled that of the national administration. He denounced the Whig attitude toward banks as a betrayal of the people and a. surrender to moneyed interests. As a result he was elected to the general assembly from the Fairfield-Hocking district in 1838 and immediately became chairman of the committee on banks and currency in the house.

Governor Shannon's inaugural address sounded the alarm on the over-issue of bank notes and speculation. Brough's committee immediately offered resolutions in the house which would stabilize the finances of the state. It also requested the auditor to report on conditions in state banks, and asked for power to investigate irregularities in banking practices. Brough himself introduced a bill which would have prohibited the establishment of any national bank, corporation, or agency of the federal government in Ohio which was not incorporated under its laws. He also offered what he felt were constructive solutions to the currency problems. He proposed a broader application of individual liability on the part of directors and stockholders of banks, but his bill failed passage as did his recommendations to outlaw the national bank, usury, and currency speculation. He successfully defeated the Whig scheme to establish state banks with state capital, and expressed the view that banking growth should be in relation to the expansion of trade and commerce.

His firm stand on financial affairs won him the state auditorship in 1839. As auditor he tried to carry out a policy of strong banks, financial honesty and integrity, and hard currency. The effects of the Panic of 1837 were still evident. There was a steadily increasing state debt, which mounted from $12,500,000 to nearly $20,000,000 during his auditorship. In spite of this, Brough fought to stay speculation and inflation, to punish dishonesty, to defeat the sentiment for repudiation, and to secure payment of the indebtedness. In all of these he succeeded. The canals were completed and began to produce revenue, banks were saved from failure by close examination, and taxes were increased five mills per dollar with safety. However, the sweeping victory of the Whigs in 1844 numbered the days of John Brough as auditor.

From the end of his last term as auditor until his election to the governorship, Brough played no direct role in politics. In 1841 he and his brother had bought the Cincinnati Advertiser and renamed it the Enquirer. After his political retirement he was its editor until he became president of the Madison and Indianapolis Railway in 1848.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Brough broke from strictly Democratic politics, though he continued his opposition to the Republican party. A speech at Marietta on June 10, 1863, again brought him into the political limelight. Backed by William Henry Smith of the Cincinnati Gazette, Brough became the standard-bearer against growing copper- headism, and was elected governor in the fall of that year over Clement L. Vallandigham.

As governor, he pledged his support to the Union and the successful prosecution of the war. He secured the passage of a levy of two mills on the dollar for public support of servicemen's families, and of the right of an additional one and one-half mills to be levied by city and county administrations as they saw fit. He helped to furnish troops for the army, sent the national guard into federal service for the "good of the nation," brought into effect a fair system of officer promotion among Ohio troops, and provided for inspection of field hospitals and better medical care.

When Salmon P. Chase resigned as secretary of the treasury, Brough was offered the position but declined it. In the election of 1864 he opposed McClellan and the "Peace Democrats" and threw his support to Lincoln, not as a Republican, but as a symbol of union.

In the spring of 1865 Brough announced that because of failing health he would not seek renomination. In August, four months before the expiration of his term of office, he died in Cleveland. Governor Brough was twice married and had seven children.

Whatever may be said of Brough's partisanship and his lack of personal dignity, one must assess in his favor the qualities of integrity, perseverance, and public spiritedness. At two of the most trying periods of nineteenth century Ohio history, John Brough worked avidly to bring problems to solution. As newspaperman, state auditor, railway executive, and governor, Brough performed his duties with ability and tireless effort. Anthony Wayne Parkway Board


Back to the Ohio Governors index


OHIO HISTORY STORE || CALENDAR || PLACES || RESOURCES || ABOUT || SEARCH || PRIVACY POLICY || Last modified Tuesday, 26-Jul-2005 12:23:37 Eastern Daylight Time
Ohio History Center 800 E. 17th Ave. Columbus, OH 43211 © 1996-2012 All Rights Reserved.