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Edwin D. Morgan


THE ability which is developed in an active business life, in great commercial transactions, and the rapid changes and fluctuations of trade and finance, have proved in practice as valuable in the management of the public affairs of the State and nation, as that which comes from the exclusive study of law. The accomplished merchant, banker, or financier, is, indeed, more likely to take a plain, common-sense view of the questions of state, and to be unembarrassed by the quibbles, chicanery and superfine distinctions and definitions of the lawyer, than the man who has been trained in the school of precedents, authorities, and legal hair-splitting. To this class of business-men, Ex-Gov. Morgan belongs, and the signal services he has rendered to the State and nation, are due, in perhaps equal measures, to the eminently practical and sensible constitution of his mind, and to the thoroughness and carefulness of his business training.

EDWIN DENNISON MORGAN was born in Washington, Berkshire county, Massachusetts, February 8th, 1811. In early childhood, he developed a fondness for mathematics, and an aptitude for trade, which indicated very plainly his future vocation. At the tender age of eleven years, he became clerk to a, grocer in Hartford, Connecticut, and was so faithful and attentive to his employer's interests, and so courteous as a salesman, that, in 1831, when he was but twenty years of age, he was offered a partnership in the store, which he accepted. These nine or ten years of boyhood and youth had not been confined merely to the drudgery of the grocery; the hours of leisure had been diligently employed in the culture of his mind, and the next year he was chosen a member of the city council of Hart-ford, at a time when it was composed of intelligent and able men.

The little city of Hartford did not long furnish a sufficiently wide sphere of action for the aspiring young grocer ; so, in 1836, he removed to New York city, and engaged in mercantile pursuits with his brother, and the firm grew and prospered, till in a few years it attained a high rank among the safest and most extensive commercial houses of the metropolis, its trans-actions reaching to all parts of the United States and Europe. In 1849, Mr. Morgan was chosen an alderman of New York, and the same year elected to the State Senate, and served there for two terms (four years). In 1855, he was appointed commissioner of emigration, and held the office until 1858. His early political affiliations were with the Whigs, though he was strongly opposed to slavery. When the Republican party was formed, he gave it his adhesion, as representing his views, and at the National Republican Convention, in Pittsburgh, in 1856, was one of its vice-presidents, and from that time till 1864, chairman of the National Republican Committee.

In 1858, Mr. Morgan was nominated by the Republicans as their candidate for Governor of the State of New York, and elected by a handsome majority. His administration was one of the ablest which the State had had for years, and commanded such general approval, that he was nominated for a second term without opposition in his party, in 1860, and elected by a very heavy majority. This second term was one of immense labor, care, and responsibility to the governor. He promptly responded to the President's call of April 15th, 1861, and regiment after regiment went forward to Washington, and other points on the border, and among them, the gallant New York seventh, at whose coming loyal citizens of Washington, for the first time, felt safe; the twelfth and seventy-first; the fighting sixty-ninth (Irish) ; and the stately seventy-ninth (Scotch) ; the Brooklyn fourteenth, composed, as some writers said, of boys who looked as if they ought to be in school, but who fought with all the steadiness of veterans; the twenty-sixth, a Utica regiment of great gallantry; and others of perhaps equal merit, all of whom participated in the bloody field of Bull Run. The militia could only be required to serve out of the State for three months at a time, and Governor Morgan had no sooner dispatched these to the seat of war, than he commenced organizing, as rapidly as possible, volunteer regiments to serve for three years, or the war. 

President Lincoln had commissioned him, in the spring of 1861, major general of volunteers, in order to facilitate his labors in raising and organizing regiments. He held this rank till the close of his term of office as governor, (January, 1863,) but declined all compensation. No officer under his command was, however, more constantly and laboriously engaged in his duties, than the governor. Yet with his systematic business habits, the ability acquired by long practice to manage and control great enterprises, he was never flurried, but maintained constantly the most perfect order, and quietly performed his duties, as they required his attention. 

In the twenty months of his administration, during the war, he raised, organized, and sent forward from his State, two hundred and twenty-three thousand troops. In the gubernatorial election of 1862, Governor Morgan was not a candidate, having withdrawn from the canvass to give place to the gallant soldier, General James S. Wadsworth, who, however, was not elected, the Democracy prevailing by the popular cry of  "a more active prosecution of the war," in electing a man who was wholly opposed to the war. The Legislature was, however, Republican, and at its session, Governor Morgan was elected United States Senator, for the term ending March 4th, 1869.

His course in the Senate was uniformly dignified and honorable to the State which he represented. He seldom spoke ; never unless on important questions, and was then always listened to with attention. During his entire Senatorial career, he held an important position on the Committees on Commerce, Manufacturing, the Pacific Railroad, Military Affairs, Finance, and Mines and Mining, and on all these great national interests he rendered material and permanent service to the country. On the retirement of Secretary Fessenden from the office of Secretary' of the Treasury, President Lincoln offered Senator Morgan the position, but he declined it, much to the regret of the President.

Since the expiration of his Senatorial term, Ex-Gov. Morgan has taken no active part in political affairs, but has been occupied with his extensive commercial and financial enterprises. He still maintains an interest, however, in the measures and progress of the Republican party.

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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