John W. (John Woolf) Jordan.

Encyclopedia of Pennsylvania biography : illustrated (Volume 3) online

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on the steamboat "Ohio;" passed down the
Delaware, through the Delaware and Chesa-
peake canal, on barges ; took passage on the
steamboat "Kentucky," and arrived in Balti-
more the same afternoon. From Baltimore
to Frederick, Maryland, by rail ; thence
across the Alleghenies by stage coach to
Brownsville, on the Monongahela ; thence
to Pittsburgh by boat; from Pittsburgh
across the Panhandle by stage to Steuben-
ville, Ohio; thence down the Ohio river by
steamboat to Wheeling', tying up there for
the night on account of a low water stage.

The next day was spent in making the eight
miles between Wheeling and Marietta, but
then deeper water was reached and better
speed made during the night. Cincinnati
was reached July 9, 1832. In the summer
of 1834 he returned with his family to
"Flushing," the home of his wife's parents
in Bensalem township, Bucks county, Penn-

Having completed his theological studies,
Mr. Jones was ordained a deacon in the
Protestant Episcopal church and on the sev-
enteenth Sunday after Trinity (October 11,
1835) he was ordained to the priesthood, in
Christ Church, New Brunswick, New Jer-
sey, by his warm friend. Bishop George
Washington Doane, one of the most distin-
guished bishops of the American Episcopal

For about three years Mr. Jones devoted
his attention very successfully to the up-
building of several parishes in New Jersey
and then in 1838, at the solicitation of some
friends who had settled in the new Terri-
tory of Florida, embarked in the missionary
undertaking of building a church at Quincy,
in Gadsden county, where there was a
charming social life and great expectations
of a prosperous development of the newly
acquired territory. He succeeded perfectly
in the purpose of his mission, built a church
and established a congregation upon a firm
and enduring foundation ; but he realized in
course of time that he and his family had
made a mistake in the choice of his profes-
sion. He was richly endowed with quali-
ties which far better fitted him for the
arena of the bar and public life than for the
tranquil and less controversial life of the
church. While, therefore, he was earnestly
and faithfully discharging his duties in the
ministry, he began, as best he could, the
study of the law, although the Territory
of Florida where the Spanish Civil Law
then prevailed was not a good field for the
stud}' of the Common Law of England. In
1841 Mr. Jones, having completed the work
of his temporary sojourn in Florida, with-



drew from the ministry and completed his
legal studies in the adjoining State of Geor-
gia, where he was admitted to the bar of the
Superior Court, then sitting at Eatonton in
Putnam county.

He had no intention of remaining in the
South and after his admission returned to
Pennsylvania, and on April 19, 1842, was
admitted to the Pennsylvania bar, taking up
his residence and begining practice in

He rose rapidly at the bar, soon taking a
leading position among the strong men of
the profession. He tried many important
cases and built up a large and lucrative prac-
tice. The fruitful resources of his mind,
his energy, his industry and his power as a
public speaker won recognition, and there
was scarcely a movement of importance in
Easton in which he was not called upon to
take a conspicuous part. He became one
of the foremost advocates of "tariff for rev-
enue only," delivering at Easton, April 19,
1842, by request, to a non-partizan meeting,
a clear, sound and able address elucidating
the subject, which was then new and absorb-
ing the public attention everywhere. He
was a Democrat by inheritance and was
always a supporter of that party, enjoying
the confidence of the leading Democrats of
Pennsylvania, prominent among whom was
James Buchanan, then United States Sen-
ator, an intimate lifelong personal and polit-
ical friend. Mr. Jones was an earnest advo-
cate of Buchanan's nomination for the Pres-
idency in 1844, and took the Senator to task
for withdrawing his name from the conven-
tion; but after the nomination Mr. Jones
warmly supported the nominee of the con-
vention, James K. Polk, and made many
speeches favoring his election, winning
great prominence by his forceful, direct,
eloquent and convincing speeches.

On December 31, 1844, he moved his resi-
dence to Reading, then a town of eight thou-
sand people, and on January 7, 1845, was
admitted to the Berks county bar. On June
25, 1845, at a town meeting held to make

preparations for a fitting memorial service
in honor of the recently deceased ex-Presi-
dent Andrew Jackson, Mr. Jones was unan-
imously chosen to deliver the oration. On
June 30, 1845, the day fixed for these com-
memorative exercises, all business was sus-
pended, and the bells tolled as the funeral
procession moved slowly through the streets
to the Lutheran Church, where Mr. Jones
delivered a most eloquent and fitting ora-

He rose rapidly in influence and position,
writing to a friend in 1847 • "I have as full
a practice as I could wish before me. I
have labored assiduously to effect certain
results here and thank God I have failed in
none, not one."

Although Berks county was strongly
Democratic there were dissensions and at
the election of 1844 the regular Democratic
nominee of the party for Congress, John Rit-
ter, had been elected by the greatly reduced
majority of 517, but Mr. Jones openly
avowed his preference for Mr. Buchanan,
and continued to advocate his claims. He
took lively interest in everything that affect-
ed the public welfare and won the position
of a leader to whom the people turned with
confidence. The subscribers for a new pub-
lic library met in his office. He was one of
the commissioners named to erect city gas
works. He undertook and carried on the
erection of the new county prison as presi-
dent of the board of inspectors. He was a
pastmaster of the Masonic Order, and noble
grand of the Odd Fellows. He supported
the war with Mexico and drafted the reso-
lutions which pledged Reading as a borough
to the support of that war. He took a prom-
inent part in the adoption of a charter cre-
ating Reading a city in 1847 ; was lieutenant-
colonel on the staff of Governor Shunk;
was a delegate to the State Convention that
renominated Shunk and later to the conven-
tion that nominated Morris Longstreth for
governor. The subsequent defeat of Long-
streth was the greatest political sorrow of
Mr. Jones' life, as he had been largely in-



strumental in his nomination, and held his
warmest personal friendship.

Mr. Jones took a deep interest in the com-
pany of volunteers raised for service in
Mexico, served on the committee appointed
to disburse the money given by the city and
county to equip and transport them, and act-
ing on behalf of friends, made a speech pre-
senting a sword to one of the ofificers of the
company. When the body of Lieutenant
Wunder was brought back from Mexico he
delivered the funeral oration and when the
little remnant of the company returned after
the war in 1848, he delivered the address of
welcome. He was one of the vice-presidents
of a town meeting of Germans, held to com-
memorate the revolution of 1848, and spoke
at a meeting of Irishmen called to condemn
the conviction of Mitchell. These activities
give some idea of the full, strenuous and
useful life he led during his first few years
in Reading.

In April, 1847, 'i^ was appointed deputy
attorney-general for Berks county, an office
now known as district attorney. He was a
delegate to the Democratic National Con-
vention which met at Baltimore, May 22,

1848, and was one of the vice-presidents of
the convention. Pennsylvania presented the
name of James Buchanan to the convention
but much to the chagrin of Mr. Jones and
his friends. General Lewis Cass was nomi-
nated. Mr. Jones was chairman of the
Democratic State Committee of July 4,

1849, appointed by the State convention,
and under his management the Democrats
carried Pennsylvania, which the year before
had been carried by General Taylor.

In 1850 the Democrats of Berks county
turned with unanimity to Mr. Jones as their
candidate for Congress, and at the conven-
tion held September 7, he was nominated on
the first ballot, receiving one hundred and
two votes, twenty-five only being cast
against him. He was elected at the succeed-
ing election and took his seat at the opening
of the Thirty-second Congress in December.
185 1. He received instant recognition from

the speaker, Linn Boyd of Kentucky, by an
appointment to the Ways and Means Com-
mittee, the most important committee of the
House. He served with credit throughout
the Thirty-second Congress, although no
measures of special historical importance
were enacted by that Congress, it being the
period of calm that preceded the stormy
agitation of the slavery question. Mr.
Jones, in discussing foreign relations upon
the floor of the House, on December 13,
1852, predicted the establishment of the
Maximillian empire of Mexico and the loss
of Cuba by Spain ; defined his position upon
the United States Bank question; upon the
disposition of the public lands, and the
Fugitive Slave law. He announced his
adherence to the Democratic doctrine of
revenue as the controlling prinicple of all
tariff laws, holding that the incidental tariff
law of 1846 afforded ample protection to
home manufactures, opposing the doctrine
of protection, per se. He opposed a hori-
zontal tariff and looked forward to the time
when American manufacturers would be
able to compete with those of other coun-
tries, and when no protection would be
needed. He held that tariffs must fluctuate
with the laws of trade and the necessities
of the government — denying that a tariff
could be made permanent by legislation or
that legislation could regulate the laws of
supply and demand. His views were those
of his party at that time and have continued
the doctrine of that party.

Mr. Jones declined reelection, desiring to
return to his profession. His successor,
however, only attended the first session of
the Thirty-third Congress and died in Wash-
ington, January 9, 1854. Mr. Jones, being
the nearly unanimous choice of the district,
consented to again become the candidate
and took his seat in the Thirty-third Con-
gress, February 13, 1854. He acted with
his party on the repeal of the Missouri
Compromise and the Kansas-Nebraska Bill,
and advocated in an able speech in reply to
Thomas H. Benton of Missouri, the bill



carrying into effect the Gadsden Treaty
with Mexico. The bill appropriating $io,-
000,000 passed by a vote of 103 to 62. In
1854 Mr. Jones was reelected to Congress
and although the Democratic party had lost
control of the House it was the only national
party, the opposition being divided into four
or five sectional factions, all opposed to the
Democratic doctrine of respect for the vital
principles upon which the government had
been founded, and which had been pro-
claimed in the Declaration of Independence,
the Constitution of the United States and
the laws of the country. Certain that the
Democratic party would be assailed by its
factional opponents it was important that a
leader should be selected who would boldly,
clearly and judiciously define its position
and defend it against hostile attack. This
important and responsible duty was assigned
by the Democratic representatives to Mr.
Jones. This high honor coming from such a
body of men shows the estimate placed by
distinguished and able men upon his ability
as a statesman, his skill as a debater and his
clear understanding of the constitutional
questions involved.

The election of speaker of the Thirty-
fourth Congress required one hundred and
thirty-three ballots and was not effected un-
til February 2, 1856. Nathaniel P. Banks,
of Massachusetts, a Free Soiler, was chosen
over the Democrats and Republicans, the
other candidates being Know Nothings of
various shades of belief, and one the choice
of those who would not support either of
the other five. It had been agreed that if on
the one hundred and thirty-third ballot no
one should receive a majority, the one re-
ceiving the highest vote should be declared
elected speaker. Nathaniel P. Banks was
elected, receiving one hundred and three
votes over his Democratic opponent, Wil-
liam Aiken, of South Carolina.

During the attack that early began in the
House upon the Democratic platform which
Mr. Jones had drawn, he withstood with
readiness, skill and rare ability and success

the fire of a running debate of four days.
The broadminded statesmanship of Mr.
Jones made him a leader of those who stood
fairly upon the Constitution in opposition
to the Abolition attacks upon the institu-
tions of the South. He squarely met their
assaults and in the stormy scenes that fol-
lowed, as leader of the House, was fre-
quently summoned to the White House for
consultation by President Pierce.

In the campaign that followed the nomi-
nation of James Buchanan by the National
Democratic Convention of June, 1856, Mr.
Jones, who had drawn the platform of the
convention, and who led the Buchanan
forces, took an active part, both upon
the stump and in party councils, no man
contributing more than he to the triumph of
the Democratic party in that election. He
was himself returned to Congress for the
fourth time by a majority of six thousand
and four, the largest ever given any repre-
sentative from Berks county. As soon as
Mr. Buchanan was elected, public senti-
ment gave Mr. Jones a place in the cabinet.
His long experience in public affairs, his
thorough knowledge of men, his familiarity
with the public questions of the day, and
his long advocacy of the claims of Mr.
Buchanan to the presidency, all tended to
assign in public opinion, a high place in the
cabinet to Mr. Jones, although it does not
appear that he made any effort to obtain an

Mr. Buchanan indeed promptly invited
Mr. Jones to a seat in his cabinet, but the
dissensions which culminated in the split at
the Charleston convention in i860, had
already begun, and Mr. Jones declined an
appointment in the belief that he could bet-
ter serve the new administration in Con-

During the first session of the Thirty-
fifth Congress Mr. Jones' position as leader
of the House was recognized by his appoint-
ment as chairman of the Committee on
Ways and Means ; and by his ability, labor
and parliamentary skill he overcame the



difficulties of his position, and handled suc-
cessfully the legislative measures necessary
for the administration of the government.
As the recognized leader of his party in the
House, he used his influence in favor of
the admission of Kansas under the Le-
compton Constitution, the bill passing the
Senate with but one Democrat, Stephen
A. Douglass, voting against it, and passing
the House with but few dissenting Demo-
cratic votes. Mr. Jones was engaged in
many debates on various subjects vital to
the period, and maintained his high position
as a clear headed, forceful debater and

In 1858 Mr. Jones was unanimously nom-
inated by the County Convention for a fifth
term in Congress, but at the following elec-
tion the revolution was on, the Democratic
party was overwhelmed and swept from its
moorings and his opponent was returned
elected. The return was not an honest one,
frauds in the City of Reading alone, being
discovered sufficient to reverse the return,
but a contest was not considered. Plis de-
feat was not a personal one, he shared the
fate of his party, to whose principles he had
always been devoted and to which he
adhered faithfully unto the end.

Immediately after the election Mr. Jones
was offered the mission to Austria by Presi-
dent Buchanan, which he accepted, resign-
ing his seat in Congress and ending his
valuable congressional career begim eight
years before. This appointment caused
great rejoicing in Reading.

His residence in Vienna was a most
agreeable and successful one, made espe-
cially so by the cordial treatment he re-
ceived from the Court, the Minister of For-
eign Affairs and the diplomatic corps. That
he was an able and accomplished diplomat,
thoroughly acquainted with international
law and keeping in touch with the moves of
European diplomacy, is shown by his vig-
orous efforts in behalf of the rights of neu-
trals on the high seas and by his able diplo-
matic correspondence. Six months after he

left Vienna, J. Lothrop Motley, his suc-
cessor, wrote to him, "Count Rechberg, (the
Austrian Minister of Foreign Affairs)
always speaks of yourself with the greatest
respect and regard."

President Lincoln first appointed Anson
Burlingame Mr. Jones' successor, but the
Austrian government refused to receive
him. This caused some embarrassment, and
on August 12, 1861, Mr. Seward, Secretary
of State, wrote Mr. Jones that he hoped it
would suit his convenience to await the
arrival of a new minister. Mr. Jones, owing
to the critical conditions caused by the Civil
War, consented and was in charge of the
legation until October, 1861, when he was
relieved by his successor, the noted his-
torian, J. Lothrop Motley. When relieved
of official responsibilities Mr. Jones pre-
sented his letter of recall at an audience
with the Emperor and started on his jour-
ney home. He arrived in Reading, Decem-
ber 30, 1861, and was welcomed with the
same kindly enthusiasm by his neighbors as
when they had bade him godspeed three
years earlier, upon his leaving for Vienna.

Mr. Jones died in Reading, March 24,
1878, and was buried in the family lot in
Charles Evans Cemetery. He received
many tributes of respect from the bar and
press of the country, and over his grave
the highest eulogies were spoken by men
who, though differing from him politically,
could unite in praising the qualities of mind
and character that marked him as the great-
est of Berks county statesmen.

Mr. Jones married, June 23, 1832, at
"Flushing," Bensalem township, Bucks
county, Pennsylvania, Anna Rodman,
daughter of William Rodman. Flushing
was the home of her widowed mother and
had been the home of her immediate branch
of the Rodman family since 1752.

William Rodman was born at Flushing,
October 7, 1757, died there July 27, 1824.
His ancestors had been prominent in the
affairs of the colonies from earliest times,
king's councillors, assemblymen, and mili-



tary officers. He was disowned by the
Society of Friends for affirming allegiance
and fidelity to the State of Pennsylvania, as
directed by the statute of 1777. On Octo-
ber 4, 1 78 1, he was appointed brigade quar-
termaster with the rank of captain, and
served until the militia was disbanded. He
was justice of the peace for Bucks county,
1791-1800, resigning when elected State
Senator. He was four years a member of
the State Senate and was chairman of im-
portant committees. He was elected to Con-
gress in 1810, his service ending with the
Twelfth Congress, March 3, 1813. In 1799
he had served as captain of dragoons in the
service of the United States in suppressing
the "Fries Insurrection," and in 1809 was
presidential elector.

J. Clancy and Anna (Rodman) Jones had
issue : Esther Rodman, William Rodman,
Anna Rodman, Elizabeth, Charles Henry,
Richmond Legh, Mary, Katherine, and
James Clancy.

JONES, Richmond Legh,

Corporation Lavrjer, Man of Affairs.

A descendant of a long line of distin-
guished Colonial and Revolutionary ances-
tors, Mr. Jones in his own career has earned
a position at the Pennsylvania bar and in
the regard of his fellow citizens, that enti-
tles him to be classed with the leading men
of his day. He is a great-grandson of David
Jones, who came to Pennsylvania in 1721,
from Merioneth, Wales, bought a large
tract of land in Caernawon township, Berks
county, and there opened and devoloped
iron ore mines that yet bear his name.

Colonel Jonathan Jones, son of David,
was senior captain of the first regiment
raised in Pennsylvania for the Continental
army, October, 1775; was engaged in the
winter campaign against Quebec after the
death of General Montgomery, and took
part in many of the historical battles of the
Revolution. For "gallant and meritorious"
service in the field. Captain Jones was pro-

moted to major of his regiment, and later
to Heutenant-colonel in the Pennsylvania

J. Glancy Jones, a grandson of Lieuten-
ant-Colonel Jones, and father of Richmond
L. Jones, was an eminent lawyer and a dis-
tinguished member of the National House
of Representatives from Berks county, serv-
ing from 1850 until 1859. He resigned his
seat in Congress to enter the diplomatic
service of his country, accepting the ap-
pointment of envoy extraordinary and min-
ister plenipotentiary to the Austrian Court,
representing this country at Vienna during
the early period of the Civil War, when our
relations with European nations were ex-
tremely delicate and the wisest diplomacy
was necessary to prevent the recognition of
the Confederacy. He married June 23,
1832, Anna Rodman, a daughter of W^il-
liam Rodman, of Bucks county, Pennsylva-
nia, a brigade quartermaster in the Revo-
lutionary army, later a member of the State
Senate andi of the Twelfth National Con-
gress. The Rodman family dates from the
earliest colonial period in the New World,
and contributed to the colonies and states
many of their most distinguished citizens.

Richmond Legh Jones, son of J. Glancy
and Anna Rodman Jones, was born in
Quincy, Florida, February 17, 1840; was
educated in the best schools in his own coun-
try and finished his university training at
Heidelberg, Germany. Prior to entering
that world-famed institution, however, he
accompanied the United States expedition
against Paraguay, sailed one thousand miles
up the Parana river and witnessed the capit-
ulation of Lopez, which was the crowning
success of the expedition. Enroute going
and returning he visited the principal cities
of the eastern coast of South America, and
the Islands of St. Thomas and the Barba-
does in the West Indies. He spent several
years in Europe, later returning to the
United States, and under the preceptorship
of his talented father studied and qualified
for the legal profession. He was admitted



to the Berks county bar April 14, 1863, and
later to all State and Federal Courts of the
district; also to the bar of Philadelphia and
other counties of the State. He rose to emi-
nence in his profession and attained marked
distinction, having tried and won many cases
involving important principles of law, which
are now quoted as precedents. His reputa-
tion as an exponent of the laws governing
corporations is so well established that in
later years he was appointed by the Penn-
sylvania Bar Association to revise the cor-
poration laws of the State. He is counsel
for the Reading street railway system with
its suburban adjuncts and for the electric
and gas companies ; and many other cor-
porations which he represents owe their
marked success to the genius, ability and
learning of Mr. Jones, who wisely guided
their organization and development. He is
general counsel for the United Power and
Transportation Company, and Interstate
Railways Company, two corporations that
control over five hundred miles of street
railways in Pennsylvania, and adjoining
states. As legal adviser, serving well the
corporations that employ him, he has no
less efficiently served the public interests in
both a legal and private capacity. It was
mainly through his efforts that the city of
Reading recovered the tract of land lost for
nearly one hundred years, lying at the foot
of Penn's Mount, now beautifully improved
as a public park and known as Penn Com-
mon. It was also through his efforts that
the public library of which he is president,
was rescued from obscure conditions and
impending disaster, placed upon an endur-
ing foundation by liberal private contribu-
tions, headed by his own generous donation,
and presented to the City of Reading. These
and other substantial benefits due to his
energy and wise counsel are cheerfully
acknowledged by the prosperous community
in which he lives.

Mr. Jones has also given much of his
time and energ}^ to the public of the State

and Nation. In 1862, when Maryland was
invaded, he enlisted as a private and partic-

Online LibraryJohn W. (John Woolf) JordanEncyclopedia of Pennsylvania biography : illustrated (Volume 3) → online text (page 29 of 58)