Copyright
James Rees Ewing.

Public services of Jacob Dolson Cox, governor of Ohio and secretary of the interior online

. (page 2 of 3)
Online LibraryJames Rees EwingPublic services of Jacob Dolson Cox, governor of Ohio and secretary of the interior → online text (page 2 of 3)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


action. He urged that the financial laws of the State be revised^
to secure a correct estimate of taxable real and personal property.
On March 16, 1867, a law was passed empowering the Governor
to appoint a board of commissioners to revise all the laws of the
State relating to the assessment and taxing of property.- On
March 30 and May 8, laws were passed in accordance with the
recommendations of the commissioners.^ He recommended the
founding of a reform school for girls.* On April 30, 1868, a com-
mittee was appointed by the General Assembly, authorized to
examine sites for the establishment of a reform school for girls,^
and in 1869 the school was founded.*'

He recommended the creation of a State Board of Charities, to
act in an advisory capacity to the Legislature, and to supply
information relating to the improvement of public charities. '^ On
April 17, 1867, a law was passed authorizing the Governor to
appoint a committee of five persons constituting the State Board of
Charities, who should annually make such suggestions to the Legis-
lature as might be deemed wise.* He recommended the creation
of Boards of Health in cities and villages, whose duty it should be
to enforce regulations in regard to cleanliness, the sale of unwhole-



^Executive Documents, part i, 1866, p. 265.

*Laws of Ohio, 1867, p. 61.

'Laws of Ohio, 1868, pp. 38, 166, 171.

*Executive Documents, part i, 1866, p. 270.

=Laws of Ohio, 1868, p. 298.

^Senate Journal, i860, pp. 556, 722, 744.

■'Executive Documents, part i, 1866, p. 270.

*Laws of Ohio, 1867, p. 257.



i8 Public Services of Jacob Dolsoii Cox

some food and the care of the sick and the poor.^ On March 29,
1867, a law was passed that the City Council of any city shall have
power to create a board of health,^ and later another law was passed
that the Council of any incorporated village could, according to
the Act for Cities, create a board of health." He recommended the
ratification of the proposed 14th amendment to the Constitution.*
On January 11, 1867, the General Assembly ratified the amend-
ment on the part of Ohio.^ Governor Cox exercised the functions
of Chief Executive of the State of Ohio with credit to himself and
satisfaction to the people.

His views on the solution of the negro problem" and his vindica-
tion of President Johnson, in which he strove to soften the antag-
onism between the President and Congress, placed him in ques-
tionable favor with the Republican party in the State. Although he
was urged at last to permit his name to be presented to the conven-
tion for renomination, he firmly declined, having several months
previously expressed a determination not to be a candidate a second
time.



'Executive Documents, part i, 1866, p. 270.

-Laws of Ohio, 1867, p. 76.

^Laws of Ohio, 1867, p. 147.

■•Executive Documents, part i, 1866. p. 281.

^Laws of Ohio, 1867, p. 320.

^Letter of Sherman to Grant, North American Review, Vol. 143. p. 83.



Public Services of Jacob Dolsoit Cox 19



COX SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR.

While General Grant was acting as Secretary of War ad interim^
Mr. Stanton having been suspended by President Johnson, a sug-
gestion for his successor was made by General Sherman. The
latter thought that the restoration of Mr. Stanton would not be
acceptable to the President and the Army, and he believed that
Governor Cox of Ohio, whose term would close in a short time,
would be confirmed by the Senate as General Grant's successor.
He did not know that the position would be acceptable to Governor
Cox, if it were tendered to him. Senator Reverdy Johnson, with
whom he talked, joined with him in approval, and the next day
saw the President. Several Senators whom General Sherman
addressed encouraged him in the idea. General Grant assured
General Sherman that both he and the Army would agree to
Governor Cox. When General Sherman obtained an interview
with the President, the latter informed him in answer to his inquiry
that Senator Reverdy Johnson had seen him in regard to Governor
Cox, but the President gave General Sherman no further assur-
ance than that he had a good opinion of him.^

When General Grant become President he was already familiar
with Mr. Cox's ability and the excellent services which he had
rendered during the war. He, therefore, tendered him the Secre-
taryship of, the Interior, and the position was accepted.

The annexation of San Domingo was the first important aim of
President Grant in his first Administration.^ To this the Cabinet,
as well as Congress was " consistently opposed." The discussion
of the subject at Cabinet meetings had been free, and the members
were agreed with Mr. Fish, Secretary of State, that the Adminis-
tration should adopt " a cordially friendly attitude to the actual
government^ in San Domingo, with decided discouragement to all



^ North American Review. Vol. 14,3, pp. 8.3-84.

•For the account of the San Domingo affair, I have used the article by
J. D. Cox, in the Atlantic Monthly. August, 1895. pp. 165-167.

•Cabral, at the head of an insurrectionary force in the island, \va> the
rival of Baez, who was the leader of the established government.



20 Public Services of Jacob Dolson Cox

intervention and filibustering." The asserted desire of the Navy
Department that the United States should have the Bay of Samana,
in the eastern part of the island, as a coaling station, having been
brought to the attention of the Cabinet by a casual observation of
the President, was followed by Grant's declaration that he would
send Colonel Babcock^ in a confidential way to inspect the bay. It
was understood in the Cabinet that the preliminary investigation
was known only to the intimate circle around the President, but
events occurred- before the departure which proved that the project
had acquired a degree of pubUcity. When Babcock's return was
announced by the press, Secretary Cox repaired to the Department
of State. When they were alone, Secretary Fish turned to Cox and
said : " What do you think ! Babcock is back, and has actually
brought a treaty for the cession of San Domingo ; yet I pledge you
my word he had no more diplomatic authority than any other casual
visitor to the island." The two Secretaries agreed at the end of
their discussion that the wisest pohcy, when the President next
met the Cabinet, was " to insist upon burying the whole in oblivion
as a state secret." In the meantime, the Cabinet members had
expressed themselves in agreement with Mr. Fish's suggestion. It
now rested upon the Secretary of State to present this item of his
portfolio, when called upon by the President in regular Cabinet
meeting. The President, " contrary to his custom, took the initia-
tive," when they next met. " Babcock has returned, as you see,"
he said, " and has brought a treaty of annexation. I suppose it is
not formal, as he had no diplomatic powers, but we can easily cure
that. We can send back the treaty, and have Perry, the consular
agent, sign it, and as he is an officer of the State Department, it
would make it all right." After a moment of embarrassing silence.
Secretary Cox said : " But, Mr. President, has it been decided,
then, that we ivant to annex San Domingo?" The direct question
evidently embarrassed General Grant. He colored and smoked hard
at his cigar. He glanced at Mr. Fish at his right, but the face of
the Secretary was impassive, and his eyes were fixed on the port-
folio before him. He turned to Mr. Boutwell on his left, but no



^Assistant Private Secretary to the President.

'^ Some merchants trading with the island offered Babcock free passage
on one of their vessels, and it was reported that a United States Senator
was to accompany him.



Public Services of Jacob Dolson Cox 21

response met him there. As the silence became painful, the Presi-
dent called for another item of business, and left the question unan-
swered. The subject was never again brought up before the assem-
bled Cabinet.

Secretary Cox was at the head of the Interior Department, when
a new era was entered, in the policy of the National Government,
tow^ard the Indians.^ He saw the satisfactory results of President
Grant's " peace policy," and interpreted the definite movement as an
attempt to secure " co-operation between the Government and the
active benevolence of the people in the work of civilization."- The
policy of the Government had for a long time been that Indian
tribes in the vicinity of white settlers should live upon definite
reservations.

The conditions of travel were suddenly changed in 1869, when
the Pacific Railroad was completed. " Instead of a slowly advanc-
ing tide of immigration making its gradual inroads upon the cir-
cumference of a great interior wilderness, the very centre of the
desert had been pierced."^ The white population had been slowly
but surely inclosing and invading the Indian settlements, and now,
when the numbers of the white people suddenly increased, the
tendency w^as accordingh'' aggravated. A remedy appeared to lie
in a change in the Indian territories. Instead of assigning a sepa-
rate reservation to each tribe, as the National Government had been
accustomed to do " in most instances," Secretary Cox advocated
the aggregation of tribes upon large reservations.* He also was in
favor of allotting land in severalty when the Indians were prepared
for it.^

During this Administration the people of the United States
became aroused over the need of removing the abuses of the Civil
Service, and Secretary Cox, in his annual report for 1869, expressed
a hope that there would be reform in the near future. He advo-
cated raising the standard of qualification for appointment, making
merit the ground of promotion, and securing permanence of tenure
of office to the incumbent who should prove efficient.*' The useful-



^The Indian Office was included under the Interior Department.

^International Review, Vol. 6, p. 630.

'Report of the Secretary of the Interior, 1869, p. 7.

*Report of the Secretary of the Interior, 1869, p. 8.

^Report of the Secretary of the Interior, 1869, p. 9.

^Report of the Secretary of the Interior, 1869, p. 24.



22 Public Services of Jacob Dolson Cox

ness of an efficient clerk he regarded as increased by the increasing
duration of his incumbency. He later added the conviction that the
standard of qualification would be raised by admitting to the Civil
Service aspirants by competitive examination open to all.^

The vast army of officers of the Government ranking below the
members of the Cabinet, and their functions being purely clerical,
their selection should be made irrespective of their political affilia-
tions. He believed that thus an advantage would be gained by the
growth in the personnel of the National Government of a feeling
that they were the servants of the people."

In August, 1870, a formal notice was served upon Secretary
Cox that Justice D. C. Humphreys, of the Supreme Court of the
District of Columbia, would hear a motion for contempt of an
injunction. It was not asserted that the motion could be against
the Secretary of the Interior, but Secretary Cox in his course of
action assumed such to be the fact. The stage of the case hinted at
by the notice of the Court grew out of certain past events.

In 1868 William McGarrahan,^ alleging himself to be the pur-
chaser of a claim of land in California, filed a petition in the
Supreme Court of the District of Columbia for a mandamus com-
manding the Secretary of the Interior to issue to him a patent for
the land.

The Court ordered Secretary Browning to show why the man-
damus should not be issued; he answered that the Court did not
have jurisdiction over the subject-matter of the case. However,
a mandamus was issued directing Secretary Browning or his suc-
cessor in office to convey to McGarrahan the land in question. Four
months before, Secretary Browning had been succeeded in office by
Mr. Cox, and the mandamus was served upon Secretary Cox. The
latter sued out a writ of error against McGarrahan and removed
the case into the Supreme Court of the United States.

The Court rendered the following in its decision : " A judgment
in mandamus ordering the performance of an official duty against



^North American Review, Vol. 112. p. 98.
''North American Review, Vol. 112, pp. 105-106.

^Wallace's Reports of the Decisions of the Supreme Court of the
United States, Vol. 9, p. 298, et seq.



Public Services of Jacob Dolson Cox 23

an ofificer as if yet in office, when, in fact, he had gone out after the
service of the writ, and before the judgment, is void; such a judg-
ment cannot be executed against his successor."

" A mandamus to compel either the Commissioner of the Gen-
eral Land Office or the Secretary of the Interior to issue the patent
cannot be sustained under the statutes as now existing. The grant-
ing of a patent for lands in cases where proof, hearing, decision
are required, and where the exercise of judgment and discre-
tion is thus necessary, is not a matter wherein the action of the
Department of the Interior is subject to re-examination by the
Supreme Court of the District."

Secretary Cox was proceeding with the application of the New
Idria Mining Company for a patent for land in California, and
McGarrahan brought suit for injunction against the company and
against Secretary Cox for contempt of injunction. Secretary Cox
addressed to Humphreys a letter^ asking if the Secretary were
trenching upon the jurisdiction of the Court in executing the trust
committed to him, or whether the Court were not trenching upon
the Secretary's jurisdiction, if the injunction were intended to
obstruct the order of business before him. Assuming that the
Department of the Interior had been made a party to the record,
and that an injunction had been asked for, as it had not, to forbid
their proceeding with application of the New Idria Mining Com-
pany for a patent for land, the Secretary further asked if the
Court could have interfered by injunction to prevent him from
acting upon the application. Secretary Cox defended his own posi-
tion successfully by presenting the decision of the Supreme Court of
the United States in the case to which he was himself a party
against McGarrahan. He removed the opportunity of a reply from
the opposite side by proving that the duties involved were not
merely ministerial,- but discretionary, and that there was no



^ Letter of Honorable J. D. Cox, Secretary of the Interior, to Honor-
able D. C. Humphreys, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the
District of Columbia.

^The Supreme Court of the United States, in The Secretary of the
Interior vs. McGarranan, decided that the Secretary's duties in McGarra-
han's case were discretionary.



24 Public Services of Jacob Dolson Cox

distinction between proceeding for a mandamus and an injunc-
tion.^

Secretary Cox was almost the only member of the Cabinet who
retained his position for a longer duration than the first year of
the Administration, and before Grant's first term had half expired
every original member of the Cabinet, with the exception of Bout-
well, had been succeeded by another. Some of the resignations
were, in fact, due to causes disconnected wirh the Administration,
and whatever embarrassment was felt it was consistent with the
situation that it should not have been borne wholly by anyone.
But the resignations which occurred when the President and his
advisers had for some time been together at the head of the Govern-
ment arose out of different conditions. The San Domingo- affair
had unfortunate effects in the Cabinet, and the persistent efforts
of Grant to bring his annexation scheme to a successful issue in the
confirmation of it by the Senate illustrate his lack of fitness at
that time for civil business.

President Grant, in military fashion, conceived in his mind an
object to be attained and instinctively regarded every officer of
the Government as a subordinate who should acquiesce in the com-
mands of a chief. Mr. Fish, Secretary of State, who stood in cor-
dial relations with Senator Sumner, an ardent opponent of the
annexation, found his attitude toward the Senator open to the
false interpretation of duplicity, and was persuaded only by strong
personal influences and a sense of duty from resigning.

Attorney-General Hoar made a modest and courteous avowal of ■
his willingness to yield his Cabinet position to meet any need of
President Grant for the success of his Administration, and found
his official connection with the President curtly ended when the
latter resorted to a bargain with Southern Senators for their sup-
port of the annexation scheme.

The quality which specially fitted Grant for a superior military
commander reacted with injurious effect when he carried on the
affairs of the state. His Cabinet officers felt that they were deprived



^ Announced in the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States,
in LitcMcld vs. The Register and Receiver of the Land Office at Fort Dodge. —
Wallace's Decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States, Vol. g,

pp. 576-577.

*J. D. Cox, in the Atlantic Monthly, August, 1895, pp. 164-173.



Public Services of Jacob Dolson Cox 25

of the tie which bound them to the President when they could not
serve him with a cordial and confidential interchange of opinion.
Secretary Cox could not be reconciled to retain his portfolio, and
resigned in November, 1870.^



^ Secretary Cox made three recommendations which received affirma-
tive legislative action in Congress. He recommended the creation of a
court in Washington, D. C, " for the summary trial of minor offenses."
Acting upon this suggestion, Congress enacted, June 17, 1870, that there
should be established in the District of Columbia a court to be called
The Police Court of the District of Columbia, with jurisdiction over mis-
demeanors. He recommended, also, that the penitentiaries in the Terri-
tories be put under the charge of United States Marshals. Congress
agreed to this and to the erection of a new jail in the District of Columbia.
See Report of the Secretary of the Interior, 1869, p. 24; 1870, p. 20, 22;
United States Statutes at Large, Vol. 16, pp. 153-157; p. 398, Vol. 17,
p. 211.



26 Public Services of Jacob Dolson Cox



COX IN CONGRESS.

Mr. Cox's nomination by the Republicans of the Toledo district
for Representative in the Forty-fifth Congress was tendered to him
unexpectedly on his part, and he accepted the honor, which he had
not sought. He was duly elected, and took his place in a Congress
which was distinguished for placing the country again on a
bi-metallic basis, and for witnessing the operation of the resumption
of specie payments. By this time a reactionary sentiment against
the Resumption Act had arisen for various reasons, and was having
its effect in Congress. On October 31, 1877, in the special session
a bill was introduced for the repeal of the third section of the
Resumption Act. Among other amendments offered was one by
Mr. Cox.^ The distinctive features of the original law and of
Cox's proposed amendment were that the Resumption Act required
for every issue of national bank notes eighty per cent, of the legal
tender notes to be retired, while, by Cox's proposed amendment,
legal tender notes were redeemed, with the regular increase of the
value of the paper dollar one-half per cent, semi-annually, until its
value was at par with coin.^ The legal tender notes in excess of
three hundred millions of dollars were redeemed by the Resumption
Act, with the contingency of re-issue, while by Cox's proposed
amendment they were canceled after redemption.

The Resumption Act left open the question of the re-issuing of
the three hundred millions of dollars of notes after their redemption.
The proposed amendment settled the disputed point by keeping the
notes in circulation. Mr. Cox affirmed that his amendment would
avoid a forced contraction by gradually reducing the premium on
coin, while the holder's confidence in his currency would be in-
creased, and there would be no temptation to hoard the legal
tender notes.

Paper money enough, he believed, would be floated to gauge the
actual volume of business.^ When it was decided by the passage-



*Congressional Record, 45th Congress, ist Session, p. 257.
'Beginning at the ratio of 97 to 100 on January ist, 1878.
•Congressional Record, 45th Congress, ist Session, pp. 266-269.



Public Services of Jacob Dolson Cox 21

of the Resumption Act to resume specie payments, interest began
to be aroused as to whether a single or double standard would be
issued to redeem the legal tender notes, and when the Bland bill
was introduced, Mr. Cox voted^ for it, as he did also when it was
returned to the House with the Senate's amendment.^

He had declared himself previously in favor of bi-metallism ;
and his attitude did not at any time change except that, regarding
the question as a purely practical one, he held that whenever the
policy of the civilized world in this respect should become practi-
cally settled or evidently tending to a practical settlement, it would
be right and wise to acquiesce in such settlement.



^Congressional Record, 45th Congress, ist Session, p. 241
•Congressional Record, 45th Congress, ist Session, pp. 1284-1285.



28 Public Services of Jacob Dolson Cox



CONCLUSION.

In 1873, when Mr. Cox had in full resumed legal practice in
Cincinnati, friends and clients of his in New York were the owners
of a controlling interest in the stocks of the Toledo and Wabash
and Western Railroad Company. The panic of that year, which
began with the failure of Jay Cooke & Co., involved these gentle-
men, and when the time for the annual meeting of the company
came they had been obliged to part with portions of the stock
after the closing of the stock-book prior to the election, according
to law. They asked Mr. Cox to attend the annual meeting at
Toledo and to manage their interests there, in view of an effort
which they learned would be made to prevent their voting upon the
stock as it stood upon the transfer book. They anticipated that
injunctions might be asked for to interfere with the course of the
meeting. Mr. Cox attended, therefore, as their counsel, with their
proxies, and became chairman of the stockholders' meeting. The
hostile efforts were, in fact, made, but the course which he pursued
was in the main successful, and led to a proposition from the
adverse party that if Mr. Cox would himself accept the presidency
of the road they would withdraw all opposition, make his election
unanimous and assist him in saving the property from wreck.
Under these circumstances, he accepted the election, and when it
became necessary for the company to go through a foreclosure
the Court appointed him the receiver, and he controlled the prop-
erty until the reorganization in 1876-77. Mr. Cox took the com-
plete general management of the road personally and administered
its affairs during that period. At the close of Mr. Cox's term in
Congress, on March 4, 1879, he returned again to Cincinnati and
resumed legal practice. In 1881 the Hon. Rufus King, desiring to
retire from the deanship of the Cincinnati Law School, Mr. Cox
was invited to take that position, which he accepted, and remained
in it till the close of the academic year of 1897, This position
required, of course, a larger amount of lecturing than any other
member of the faculty performed, and under the rule adopted by
the board of trustees the dean did not engage in court practice,



Public Services of Jacob Dolson Cox 29

as that would interfere with the constant administration of the
school necessary, but he confined himself, besides attending the
duties of the school, to what is known as chamber practice, includ-
ing action as referee and master in cases referred to him out of the
courts. During a portion of the time from 1881 to 1897 Mr. Cox
also acted as president of the University of Cincinnati.

Mr. Cox devoted himself at intervals during his later life to
microscopical science. His papers in this sphere of knowledge
have been printed in microscopical journals and have gained for
him wide recognition. He was elected corresponding member of
the Belgian Microscopical Society and fellow of the Royal Micro-
scopical Society. For more than twenty years Mr. Cox reviewed
books for The Nation, chiefly those relating to the military and
civil history of our civil-war period.

Dr. Cox had conferred upon him the following academic de-
grees : A.B. and A.M., by Oberlin College, in the years 1851 and


2

Online LibraryJames Rees EwingPublic services of Jacob Dolson Cox, governor of Ohio and secretary of the interior → online text (page 2 of 3)