Samuel Fowler Bigelow.

Biographical sketch of Moses Bigelow online

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to be transformed into the present City Hall, was
his veto disregarded. He exercised a careful super-
vision of all the city offices, observed the deportment
of the clerks, and made regular examinations of
their books, frequently inspected public works in
progress, and ascertained the profits of contractors,
and gave the same care to the public as to his pri-
vate business.

The financial affairs of the city were his special
charge during the war, and although the common
council finance committee always co-operated with
him, his methods were approved and his plans


adopted by them and all public loans were negotia-
ted by him. In this time of general demoralization
there were no embezzlements from the city treasury
and no corrupt practices in the city business.

It is not out of place to narrate an incident in
his official life to which the genial Governor William
Pennington was a party.

The Mayor was very conscientious in the per-
formance of his duties and never shirked any official
responsibility. Believing it necessary to discipline
an unfaithful subordinate, he was doubtful of his
power, and casually consulted the Governor, inquir-
ing whether the mayor had the necessary power.
The Governor replied : " Certainly; certainly ; if the
charter does not give you the power, the common
law does ; the man should be punished." And he
was punished despite the efforts of many politicians.

In his annual message of January 1861 to the
common council, he expressed the views on civil
service reform now held by many statesmen. He
then said : " One of the most important functions
devolving on you is the appointment of the officers
of the city government, who are by law under the
general supervision of the mayor. Capable, faith-
ful and experienced incumbents, who take pride in
an intelligent and faithful discharge of duties, will


lighten your labors and facilitate the transaction of
public business. The object of the establishment
of the several offices is the public good, which cer-
tainly can be best promoted by retaining in the public
service men of capacity, experience, and fidelity.
Claims to public place based on other grounds than
the public good ought not to be recognized. The
experience acquired by a faithful and competent
officer is of great value to the public, and, if the
rule be established, that the tenure of place depends
on a faithful discharge of duty, and on that alone,
the motives to perform that duty are increased and
strengthened and the temptations to engage in
electioneering schemes and to connive at practices
inconsistent with the public interests are greatly
lessened. I respectfully submit these suggestions,
believing that the policy indicated will conduce to
the greatest good of the people and receive their
approbation. 1 '

Before the end of his term the municipal ma-
chinery was in good working order ; laws and
ordinances necessary for the proper exercise of mun-
icipal functions had been obtained, system in direct-
ing the financial affairs established, and capable
officers selected for the several departments. Be
sides, the moral tone of the municipality had been


raised. Upon his induction to office the Mayor
said to the Common Council : " The reputation of
the city depends as much or more upon the charac-
ter of her citizens as upon municipal regulations. 1 '
He thought that a bad people could not be made
good by good laws nor a good people bad by bad
laws ; other and more powerful causes operate to
raise and to lower a people. He believed that laws
to be effective must be representative of the people.
And so, by precept and example he strove for the
moral improvement of the citizens ; and no one
could recall any time in his long term of office when
he had said or done anything unbecoming the
exalted position of chief magistrate.

His influence with officials and people became
very great, as was illustrated in the case of the
latter, when a howling mob of several thousands,
too numerous for the local police and military to
cope with, that had assembled during the war to
oppose the military draft, dispersed after a few
words spoken by him, as he rode on horse-back
among them.



HIS term as mayor extended through the war of
the rebellion. If it were possible to separate
democrats from republicans, it could probably be
demonstrated that as many of the former as the
latter participated in the war on the union side ; but
it served political purposes to denounce all demo-
crats as " copperheads " with rebel sympathies. A
few civil officers of the government in subordinate
positions were particularly offensive in their whole-
sale denunciations, and even the Mayor with his
well known antecedents, did not altogether escape
their vituperations ; indeed, upon one occasion,
refusing to act officially in accordance with the sug-
gestions of a petty United States civil officer, he
was grossly insulted by him, when weak and danger-
ously sick in bed in his own home, where the sub-
servient underling had meanly intruded. This officer
was Falstaffian in all things but physical propor-
tions, and probably enjoyed this manifestation of




undefined power. Such brutal illustrations of exu-
berant patriotism were few, and with this exception,
the Mayor was always treated with the respect that
he demanded and to which he was entitled.

Fortunately many of his public acts and utter-
ances during this period are recorded. In his
annual message to the Common Council on January
3, i860, he said : " You are the representatives of a
city with a national reputation for the superiority
of its mechanical productions, and of the industrial
metropolis of a state, proud of her revolutionary
history, her steady devotion to the constitution, and
the union, and of her individual loyalty to the
rights of every other state. Whatever differences
of opinion may arrise among us on questions of
local policy, our memories of the past, and our
hopes for the future must ever conspire to remind
us, that next to that kind Providence who has ever
watched over us, our speeches, our acts and affec-
tions are due, in all sincerity, to the support of
these principles, which respecting and upholding
the rights of all, will forever preserve us, as one
people, with one constitution, and one destiny."

And again on January 7, 1862, he said : " Every
stipulation of the constitution should be regarded
as sacred by every citizen, until altered or abolished,


because it is the great organic law of our confeder-
acy, the solemn covenant of patriot fathers, and the
political ligature of the nation."

" Whoever assails its authority, by word or
deed, is an enemy of the Union of the States and
the peace and happiness of his country. The gov-
ernment organized under it, is within its prescribed
limits sovereign just as the several states are sov-
ereign, except so far as they have delegated power
to the general government. Both are sovereign
within their respective spheres. It is the duty of
both, as well as of every citizen, to be governed by
and obey the constitution and the laws, as they are
expounded and adjudicated by the appointed trib-
unals. Respect for and obedience to law is the
highest political duty of every American citizen.
If the law or the constitution require alteration, it
is the people's prerogative to make it by the pre-
scribed means."

And again on January 6, 1863, he said : " In my
opinion the provisions of the federal constitution
do not recognize the right of any state to withdraw
from the union at its pleasure ; nor had there arisen
anything in the administration of the government
to justify, in any mode, a separation of the states
and the rupture of our national union, associated


with such precious memories, identified with our
proudest and fondest hopes, and so essential to our
prosperity at home, our respect and dignity abroad."

The Mayor had opposed the election of Presi-
dent Lincoln, but when the chief magistrate, enroute
to Washington, passed through Newark, he was
publicly received and escorted through the streets
of the city by him ; Mr. Lincoln, the Mayor, and
the ill-fated Colonel Ellsworth riding in the same
carriage. This reception was cordial and dignified,
and drew from Mr. Lincoln many expressions of
praise ; and later in the war, then about to begin,
he frequently referred to the ovation given to him
in Newark, at the beginning of his term as the most
cheering incident of his tiresome and dangerous
journey to the capital.

Afterwards the Mayor presided at the great
union meeting at the court house and appointed
the relief committee of which Governor Marcus L.
Ward was the efficient chairman. He also used his
influence to obtain such appropriations of funds by
the common council as were deemed necessary to
properly equip the departing soldiers, and to pro-
vide for their families in their absence ; and under
his supervision a large sum of money was paid to
these families, at slight expense to the city.



IT IS not becoming to dwell upon the home life
of Mr. Bigelow. It is sufficient to say that he
was a most kind and indulgent father and husband,
loved and venerated by his family that he always
maintained in great elegance. He had five sons and
two daughters, Samuel Fowler Bigelow, now a law-
yer of Newark, Moses Bigelow, a manufacturer, who
succeeded to his father's business, and married his
cousin Lila, daughter of Colonel Samuel Fowler, of
Sussex County, Julia F. Bigelow, who died unmar-
ried soon after attaining her majority, Henry Bige-
low, who died in infancy, Frederic Bigelow, who
married Harriet VanRensselaer Bleecker, and died in
his twenty-seventh year, and Josephene Bigelow,
who married John C. Kirtland. Three only of his


children survived him, and his death, which occurred
January 10, 1874, was probably accelerated by his
domestic bereavements.

By his request without ostentation, his body
was carried by his personal friends Beach Vander-
pool, Joseph A. Halsey, Judge David A. Depue,
Dr. J. Marshall Paul, Joseph N. Tuttle, David
Campbell, Jabez P. Pennington, and Jeremiah C.
Garthwaite to a tomb in Mount Pleasant Cemetery
that he had already prepared, and placed in the
same plot with the bodies of his father and mother
and children ; and probably every one of the large
concourse of mourners at his obsequies concurred
in the sentiment expressed by Rev. Jonathan F.
Stearns, who officiated on the occasion. " When
he died a natural gentleman passed away."

0061 6 AON


Online LibrarySamuel Fowler BigelowBiographical sketch of Moses Bigelow → online text (page 2 of 2)