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Fundamental Documents of Ohio







1884 - 1886

Like many of Ohio's statesmen who antedated him, George Hoadly, the state's thirty-sixth governor, was a native of Connecticut. He was born at New Haven on July 31, 1826, to parents of notable lineage. His father was George Hoadly, Yale graduate and one-time mayor of New Haven, and his mother was Mary Ann Woolsey, a granddaughter of Timothy Dwight and a great-granddaughter of Jonathan Edwards.

The family moved to Cleveland around 1830. After attending the public schools there until he was fourteen, George enrolled at Western Reserve College at Hudson. Having determined to enter the legal profession, he studied law at Harvard for a year under the tutelage of Professors Story and Greenleaf, spent another year in the office of Charles C. Converse, a prominent Zanesville attorney who was later a state supreme court justice, and in 1846 became associated with Salmon P. Chase and his partner at Cincinnati. Upon being admitted to the bar a year later, the young lawyer was accepted as a partner in the firm, the name of which was then expanded to Chase, Ball, and Hoadly. The absence of Chase, who was elected to the United States Senate in 1849, enabled Hoadly to appear in many important court cases. The prestige accruing from these appearances had its effect on the legislature, which in 1851 elected him judge of the superior court at Cincinnati. Four years later he became city solicitor.

In 1856 Chase, who had won the gubernatorial election of the preceding year, offered Hoadly a seat on the state supreme court. He declined the appointment, however, as he did six years later when Governor Tod made a similar proposal. Giving up the solicitorship in 1859, Hoadly again was elected judge of the superior court to succeed William Y. Gholson. His victory was repeated five years later, but in 1866 he resigned and established the legal firm of Hoadly, Jackson, and Johnson. He had become a member of the Cincinnati Law School faculty in 1864, commencing an affiliation which lasted, with inter- ruptions, for twenty-three years. During part of this time he was also a trustee of the University of Cincinnati.

Hoadly in his early years was a Democrat, but the series of events leading up to the Civil War led him into the young Republican party. It would have been surprising had he not taken a stand against slavery, in view of his relationship with Chase. The Republican party held him only as long as slavery was the paramount issue. Disgruntled over the reconstruction policy of the party, Hoadly sought satisfaction in the Liberal Republican movement. Here, too, disillusionment was not long in coming, for the choice of the 1872 convention, Horace Greeley, was unpalatable to him.

Reluctantly he supported Grant for reelection, as the lesser of evils, but the Republican tariff policy effectively alienated him from the party itself. Soon, although he frowned on Greenbackism, Hoadly returned to the Democratic fold after an absence of some twenty years. The high regard felt for him by party leaders was evinced by their request that he serve as counsel for Tilden in the dispute following the presi- dential election of 1876. He complied and presented the claims of the Oregon and Florida electors before the electoral commission. In 1880 he was chosen temporary chairman of the Democratic national convention.

As the gubernatorial election of 1883 approached, Hoadly threw his hat into the ring. The only other serious contender for the Democratic nomination was General Durbin Ward of Lebanon. The victory-hungry Democrats-they had been in power only twice in over twenty years- wanted a man who could provide an efficient administration and at the same time deal skillfully with the delicate liquor problem. Both candidates had strong backing, but when on the second round of voting in the convention Hoadly lengthened his first-ballot lead, the Ward forces capitulated.

The hopes of the Republicans were riding on another Cincinnatian, Joseph B. Foraker, a rapidly-rising young man who was little known outside his home town. Illness curtailed Hoadly's campaign activities, but the Republican-dominated general assembly had made his task easier by passing a law taxing all places where liquor was sold at retail and forbidding its sale on Sunday. This alienated a considerable segment of the population, including large numbers of German Republicans, who either crossed the party lines or stayed away from the polls. Judge Hoadly received nearly 360,000 votes, some 12,500 more than his opponent, and carried along with him a Democratic majority in the legislature.

Several incidents which occurred during his term as governor caused Hoadly to lose some of his prestige and popularity. Two of these involved the use of the state militia to quell disturbances early in 1884. In March Cincinnatians, already disturbed over the prevalence of crime in their city, rose in resentment when a cold-blooded murderer was convicted only of manslaughter. A large crowd marched on the jail with the intention of hanging the offender and ,was so incensed at learning that he was already en route to Columbus for imprisonment that it burned the courthouse, destroying valuable records and precipitating street fighting which claimed a number of lives. Pursuing his belief that troops should be employed only as a last resort, Governor Hoadly did not call out the militia to restore order until this course was urgently advocated by a member of his military staff. The long delay inspired much criticism of the governor.

Public opinion was further aroused in the next month when Hoadly dispatched troops to the scene of disturbances resulting from a coal miners' strike in the Hocking Valley. The more conservative element of the electorate again felt that he should have acted more quickly, while labor sympathizers resented the use of the militia at all.

An Ohio political scandal which reacted more against the Demo- cratic party than against Hoadly himself caught the attention of the nation in 1884. The controversy centered upon the election of a United States Senator by the general assembly. George H. Pendleton, the incum- bent, desired reelection, but his candidacy was opposed by Durbin Ward and Henry B. Payne, a 73-year-old Cleveland millionaire. All three were Democrats as was the majority in the legislature at the time. Ward's early elimination resulted in a bitter struggle between the adherents of Payne and Pendleton, with the former emerging victorious. It was widely and openly charged that the Standard Oil Company, through its treasurer who was Payne's son, bought the votes of many of the Democratic legislators. The succeeding Republican-controlled general assembly conducted an investigation, but the United States Senate, to which the evidence was submitted, refused to take any action against Payne.

In the summer of 1884 Governor Hoadly's dreams of higher honors began to crumble around him. As head of an important pivotal state, he had cause to hope for the Democratic presidential nomination. His name was placed before the convention, but whatever chance he may have had was lessened by the presence in the race of another aspiring Ohioan, Allen G. Thurman, and the coveted prize went to Grover Cleveland of New York. Although successful in his quest for renomina- tion for governor in 1885, Hoadly was destined for further disappoint- ment. A series of public debates in which he and his opponent, again Joseph B. Foraker, engaged failed to erase from the minds of the electorate the more unsavory aspects of his administration and Hoadly went down to defeat by a margin of some 17,000 votes.

Thoroughly disgusted, the erstwhile governor renounced politics, in which he had never been very adept, and returned to the practice of law, where he excelled. Although offered a cabinet post by his friend Cleveland during his second term, Hoadly declined, preferring not to reenter public life. Removing to New York in 1887, he established the firm of Hoadly, Lauterbach, and Johnson. They were leading corporation lawyers and handled such important litigations as the Jefferson Davis estate's and Mrs. Davis' suit against the Bedford Publishing Company.

Before he left Cincinnati Hoadly voluntarily paid $50,000 when a man for whom he had signed bond defaulted. This left him a com- paratively poor man, but in fifteen years in New York he more than recouped his wealth. During the summer of 1902 he contracted acute bronchitis and died on August 26. Mary Burnet Perry Hoadly, grand- daughter of the notable early Cincinnatian, Jacob Burnet, and Hoadly's wife for fifty-one years, outlived him by a year. He was also survived by two sons and a daughter. The Ohio Historical Society


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