Thursday, November 11, 2021

William Blount: The First Test of the Senate's Impeachment Powers


William Blount's early biography suggests a man destined for a renowned role in the early history of the United States. Born into privilege, he served in the Revolutionary War, was one of 39 men to sign the U.S. Constitution, and became one of Tennessee's first two Senators.

At the same time, Blount was dogged with serious financial troubles that caused him to make a unwise decision during his time in office. The result was the destruction of his career in the federal government, the creation of the sergeant-at-arms position in the Senate, and the chamber's first test of the nascent nation's impeachment processes.

Early life

Blount was born near Windsor, North Carolina, on March 26, 1749. He was part of a wealthy colonial family of merchants and planters with extensive property holdings along the Pamlico River. This status enabled him to pursue preparatory studies through private tutors and become active in the family's mercantile business.

Anticipating that the colonies would expand beyond the Appalachian Mountains, Blount began purchasing land in the region. He would ultimately acquire more than a million acres of western properties.

In 1771, a populist movement of settlers in the western part of North Carolina began agitating for better economic parity with eastern residents. Blount joined a militia to counter a group of 2,000 of these "Regulators." While the group was largely unarmed and the confrontation was bloodless, the movement's leaders were subsequently executed (although many of their proposed reforms were later adopted).

During the Revolutionary War, Blount became a purchasing agent. He soon became a paymaster for the Continental troops, serving in this capacity until 1780 and seeing active service at the Battle of Camden in South Carolina on August 16, 1780.

Role in early U.S. government

From 1780 to 1784, Blount was a member of the North Carolina state house of commons. He also served as a member of the Continental Congress in 1782 and 1783. He was briefly out of service in 1785, although he became a special agent for North Carolina at the Hopewell Treaty. Returning to the Continental Congress in 1786 and 1787, he became a delegate to the Federal Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787 and was one of the signatories of the U.S. Constitution. Blount returned to North Carolina to serve in the state senate between 1788 and 1790. 

President George Washington then appointed Blount governor of the Territory South of the Ohio River. The territory comprised lands west of North Carolina, including all of present day Tennessee. Blount held this role through 1796, with the associated title of Superintendent of Indian Affairs. He oversaw the Treaty of Holston, signed in July 1791, which resolved a dispute over the boundary Cherokee lands (although militant members of tribe continued to launch attacks on territory).

A depiction of the Treaty of Holston (Source)

There were rumors that Blount misappropriated funds while in his official position, but a formal investigation turned up no evidence supporting the allegations. In 1796, he chaired the convention which framed the first state constitution of Tennessee. The process essentially circumvented the usual routine of requesting statehood from Congress, which had opted not to take up the issue due to the belief that the state would oppose the Federalist candidate in the upcoming election. 

Tennessee was admitted as a state in June 1796. Blount was elected to one of the two new Senate seats, beginning his term on August 2.

The "Blount Conspiracy"

Blount's term in the Senate began at about the same time that he was facing serious financial difficulties due to his land speculation. He was far from the only who who had thought the lands would be valuable, but instead it proved to be a real estate bubble that prompted the Panic of 1796-1797 when it collapsed. While a 1795 treaty between the United States and Spain had guaranteed Americans free navigation of the Mississippi River, and Great Britain had agreed to the same condition after the Revolution, demand for western lands plummeted due to concerns that France would offer no such guarantee. 

Creditors began to bring suits against Blount. Only his protected status as a U.S. senator protected him from arrest.

Meanwhile, Knoxville tavern keeper John Chisholm had developed a questionable scheme to keep southeastern territories in friendlier hands. He hoped to convince Britain to provide Creek and Cherokee Indians with weapons to establish a force that, when united with white frontiersmen, would be able to launch attacks on Florida. In return, Britain would award him the post of superintendent of Indian affairs and keep Pensacola as an open port. 

The plan was presented to both the British ambassador to the United States and to the British government. While both rejected it, Blount became involved in the plot and expanded its scope to include an attack on New Orleans, which Blount vowed to personally lead. By transferring the city and Florida to Britain, free navigation of the Mississippi would be guaranteed and the value of western lands would likely rise.

On April 1, 1797, Blount made the ill-advised decision to send a letter, which "thinly disguised his desire to arouse the Creek and Cherokee Indians," to Indian interpreter James Carey. The communication included an instruction to read the letter three times before burning it. Instead, the letter wound up in the hands of David Henley, an Indian agent and rival of Blount's.

David Henley (Source)

Henley shared the letter with President John Adams, who recognized that the proposed scheme would violate the U.S. treaty with Spain and could easily lead to war with both that nation and France. On July 3, Adams sent the letter to Congress along with a message informing lawmakers that Attorney General Charles Lee had given the opinion that Blount had committed a crime and was liable to impeachment. As such, Blount's action would be the first test of the impeachment powers granted to Congress in the Constitution.

Each chamber convened special committees to examine the "Blount Conspiracy." On July 6, the Senate committee voted in favor of expelling Blount, saying his conduct was "entirely inconsistent with his public trust." Blount, who had been absent from Congress during this time, reappeared soon after but refused to answer questions on the matter, instead retaining counsel.

One day after the Senate committee's decision, the House of Representatives voted 41-30 along party lines that a senator was an impeachable figure. They informed the Senate that they planned to draft articles of impeachment against Blount, and asked that he be suspended from his seat in the interim but present to answer the charges.

The Senate opted for a harsher action. On July 8, after two of Blount's colleagues testified that the letter was in his handwriting and Blount's defense counsel made his presentation, the Senate voted 25-1 to expel Blount. Six senators, including Blount, didn't vote on the matter, and the only vote against expulsion was due to technical reasons.

Blount sought to return home to Tennessee after posting a $20,000 bond, but instead diverted to North Carolina to tend to his wife after she was injured in a carriage accident. He was nevertheless ordered on July 10 to appear before Congress to answer to the House's impeachment charges, a demand Blount ignored. The Tennessee legislature named Joseph Inslee Anderson, a federal judge, to serve the remainder of Blount's term.

The issue dragged into the new year. On January 14, 1798, the House voted five impeachment articles against Blount. With the embattled ex-senator still refusing to answer the charges, the Senate voted on February 5 to create the position of sergeant-at-arms for the express purpose of compelling Blount's return. The newly established official was still unsuccessful after arriving in Tennessee, in part because they realized that no one in Knoxville was willing to join the posse to bring Blount back to Washington.

In January 1799, Blount was tried in absentia. The debate largely focused on whether the Senate had the authority to prosecute a senator who had already been expelled. Members narrowly defeated a resolution asserting that Blount was an impeachable officer, leaving it unclear whether senators could not be impeached or if Blount specifically couldn't be impeached because he was no longer in office.

On January 14, the Senate voted 14-11 that it lacked jurisdiction and the case against Blount was dismissed.

Later life

The scandal did little to dent Blount's reputation in Tennessee. In fact, it made him more popular since the state's residents regarded him as fighting for the state's economic interests in the face of a disinterested federal government. During the Senate trial, he was elected to the the Tennessee state senate and chosen as its speaker after fellow state senator James White resigned in order for Blount to step into the role.

The Blount Mansion in Knoxville (Source)

Blount managed to resolve his financial troubles by transferring his assets (including the handsome Blount Mansion, a 200-acre farm, 27 slaves, and all of his land investments) to his half-brother. The transfer enabled him to declare himself bankrupt with no personal assets, thus escaping his creditors. While this ruined Blount's credit, his half-brother was able to retain most of the holdings for Blount's children to inherit.

Blount died in Knoxville on March 21, 1800.

The Blount family remained politically active. Blount's son, William Grainger Blount, served as a Tennessee congressman from 1815 to 1819, while his brother Thomas Blount intermittently served as a North Carolina representative. 

Curiously, another member of the Blount family would also take an active role in military operations that sought to accomplish a similar goal to the "Blount Conspiracy." Willie Blount, one of Blount's half-brothers, served as governor of 1809 to 1816. During the War of 1812, he was called on to organize an expedition against West Florida and muster a garrison under Andrew Jackson to defend New Orleans.

Sources: Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, Tennessee Bar Association, William Blount Mansion, NCPEdia, "Expulsion Case of William Blount of Tennessee" at, Soldier-Statesmen of the Constitution by Robert K. Wright Jr. and Morris J. MacGregor Jr., The Creek War by Richard Blackmon

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Thomas J. Lane: Jailhouse Incumbent Overcomes Tax Evasion Conviction


Thomas Joseph Lane spent more than two decades in the House of Representatives, but failed to make much of a mark on the history of the chamber. Little information remains about Lane's work, and he wasn't one to generate headlines - with one glaring exception. In 1956, CQ Almanac would refer to Lane as only the second known person to be elected to Congress after serving a prison sentence.

Lane was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, on July 6, 1898. Following his graduation from high school, he worked as a retail clerk until he was accepted at Suffolk Law School in Boston in 1921. After earning his law degree from this school in 1925, he opened a private practice and later served in the U.S. Army.

Lane's political career began in 1927, when he was elected as a Democrat to the Massachusetts house of representatives. He served in this chamber for a decade, then became a member of the state senate in 1939. He left state politics at the end of 1941 after winning a special election called due to the death of Representative Lawrence J. Connery. 

Lane would win the next nine general elections to the House as well. Representing an economically distressed textile manufacturing region, Lane was known as a labor supporter and New Deal backer who worked to secure federal economic assistance for his district.

On March 5, 1956, Lane was indicted on charges that he had evaded his income taxes between 1949 and 1951. The indictment charged that the congressman had seriously underreported his income in returns filed jointly with his wife, who was not charged. In 1949, the couple's joint income was $57,497 but Lane only reported $14,311, resulting in an income tax of $2,673 instead of $21,206. He reported income of $20,991.03 in 1950 instead of the actual figure of $43,198, resulting in a tax of $4,708 instead of $14,193. The couple earned $50,470 in 1951 but Lane said they had only taken in $30,956.43, giving them a tax bill of $9,515 instead of $20,039. All told, he had skipped out on $38,542 in taxes.

After indictment, Judge Charles E. Wyanski Jr. warned the press that he didn't want a "repetition of what happened in United States versus Delaney." It was a reference to the case of Denis J. Delaney, a former Massachusetts collector of internal revenue who happened to be a cousin of Lane's. Delany's first trial on charges of  bribery and falsifying tax liens in 1951 was scrapped due to unfavorable publicity before trial, though he later pleaded guilty at a second trial.

Lane tried unsuccessfully to change his plea to nolo contendere before pleading guilty on April 30. In a tearful plea for leniency, he declared that "deep down in my heart I know there has never been a willful evading of the tax law." He was sentenced to four months in prison and a $10,000 fine.

He was still behind bars on July 20 when he filed his nomination papers to run for re-election to the House. After being released on September 4, he received twice as many votes as his nearest challenger, state senator Andrew P. Quigley, in the Democratic primary. He defeated his GOP challenger, Robert T. Breed, by a similar margin in the general election.

After being defeated in the 1962 election, Lane returned to private practice. He served as a member of the Governor's Council for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts from 1965 to 1970, was an active member of the American Legion, and a vocal advocate for veterans' rights and benefits.

Lane died on June 14, 1994, in Lawrence.


Biographical Directory of U.S. Congress, Suffolk University Early Law School Student Profiles, "Lane is Indicted on Tax Evasions" in the New York Times on March 6 1956, "Legislator Gets Jail in Tax Case" in the New York Times on May 1 1956, "85th Congress Potpourri" in the CQ Almanac 1956The Almanac of Political Corruption, Scandals, and Dirty Politics by Kim Long

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Charles L. Robinson: The First U.S. Governor Impeached

In the years leading up to the Civil War, the Kansas Territory quickly earned a reputation as a violent and dangerous place where pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions frequently came to blows. While Charles Lawrence Robinson was first attracted to Kansas by its agricultural opportunities, he was also an avowed abolitionist committed to seeing the territory enter the Union as a free state. He was also no stranger to violence, having suffered it and meted it out during a brief residency in California.

Robinson had been active in the Squatter's Association, which advocated for the rights of newcomers to the California Territory who had been drawn there by the discovery of gold in 1849. The influx of fortune seekers led to conflicts with earlier settlers who held claims to land in the area, who in turn enlisted local government officials to aid them. After several months of tensions, including the destruction of squatters' homes and the jailing of squatter leader James McClatchy, two days of riots erupted in Sacramento in August 1850.

Mayor Hardin Bigelow arranged an armed posse after fearing that a squatters' march intended to free McClatchy from a prison ship. When the groups clashed, three squatters and a city assessor were killed; Bigelow was seriously wounded, and later had to have his arm amputated. On the second day of riots, Sheriff Joseph McKinney and several others were killed.

Accounts on Robinson's actions during this violence differ, though it's generally agreed that he was shot in the chest and narrowly avoided a fatal wound. One story holds that he subsequently managed to beat his assailant to death with an iron bar. Another version suggests that he was able to return fire and fatally wound the man who shot him.

Despite this willingness to partake in violence, Robinson was regarded as a more moderating force in Kansas who helped defuse situations that might otherwise have erupted into bloodshed. He would later get him elected governor of the state, though an ongoing feud with a more notorious anti-slavery figure and a questionable war bonds arrangement resulted in an impeachment hearing against him and other state officials.

Early life

Charles Lawrence Robinson was born on July 21, 1818, in Hardwick, Massachusetts. He found his career path while attending Amherst College, where vision troubles interfered with his studies. He decided to walk on foot to Keene, New Hampshire, to visit a celebrated physician named Dr. Twichell for help. Robinson was so impressed with Twichell's work that he decided to leave Amherst to pursue a medical career.

After studying as a student of Twichell's for awhile, Robinson returned to Amherst to work for another doctor. He earned a medical degree from Berkshire Medical School in 1843 and began practicing in Belchertown. He later moved to Springfield, where he opened a hospital, and then to Fitchburg.

Robinson joined the 1849 gold rush to California, though this decision was motivated at least in part by a breakdown in his health. Believing a change in climate would be beneficial, he headed west. Passing through Kansas along the way, he was struck by the fertile prairie soil. The observation would stay with him, helping to motivate a more permanent relocation within a few years.

Although he tried his hand at panning gold, Robinson gave up the effort after a couple of weeks. He instead opened a boarding house and restaurant in Sacramento, which proved successful until it was destroyed by a flood. Robinson continued to practice medicine, and also introduced and edited a newspaper called the Settler's and Miner's Tribune. He was vocal in his criticism in how local officials and land speculators treated the new arrivals to California, and also expressed his disdain for the proposal to split California into two states - one slave, one free.

Following his involvement in the squatter's riot, Robinson was arrested and charged with murder, assault, and conspiracy. While recuperating on a prison ship, he issued a manifesto blaming local speculators for the deaths caused by the riots. After 10 weeks behind bars, Robinson was tried and acquitted. His reputation elevated by his advocacy for Californian settlers, and Robinson was elected to a single term in the California house of representatives in 1850.

During his time in California, Robinson became a strong advocate of John C. Fremont and supported him as a pick for U.S. Senator - a position then named by the legislature. Fremont later returned the favor when Robinson was governor of Kansas, kicking off his 1856 presidential campaign with an open letter to Robinson published in the Free State newspaper in Kansas. "As you stood by me firmly and generously, when we were defeated by the Nullifiers in California, I have every disposition to stand by you in the same way in your battle with them in Kansas," Fremont declared.

Settlement in Kansas

Robinson decided to return to Massachusetts in 1851. He experienced some adventure on the way, when his ship wrecked on the Mexican coast about 80 miles from San Francisco. Robinson helped guard the cargo of gold dust until the crew and passengers were rescued a couple of weeks later.

Showing some reluctance to return to the medical field, Robinson became the editor of the Fitchburg News. However, he soon became concerned that the Kansas-Nebraska Act could lead to Kansas being admitted as a slave state. In 1854, he joined the New England Emigrant Aid Company as a financial agent and accompanied it as it established its first colony in the territory. While the organization ostensibly aimed to capitalize on the financial opportunities available in Kansas, it also made no secret of the fact that it sought to bring Kansas into the Union as a free state.

By the time he arrived in Kansas, Robinson's passion for the medical field had cooled completely. Though his friends still referred to him as "Doctor," he focused his efforts on farming and serving as an agent for the New England Emigrant Aid Company. He later worked as a real estate promoter.

Robinson, along with other members of the New England Emigrant Aid Company, took an active role in establishing the free settlement of Lawrence and bolstering its defenses.  He was among those expressing opposition to the Kansas Territorial Legislature, which was named after elections on March 30, 1855. Pro-slavery forces led by former U.S. Senator David R. Atchison crossed into Kansas from Missouri to take part in the territory's elections and pack the legislature with pro-slavery candidates. The fraud was obvious enough that in some places the vote tally exceeded the entire voting populace, but the legislature was still recognized by the federal government.

Free staters denounced the body as the "Bogus Legislature" and sought to establish their own governing bodies. Robinson became a founder and leader of the Free State Party, and later in 1855 served as a delegate to the Topeka Constitutional Convention, which created a state constitution prohibiting slavery and named Robinson governor. This constitution, along with the convention's petition to be granted statehood, was rejected by Congress.

The year came to a tumultuous end with the Wakarusa War in December. Following the murder of free state settler Charles Dow in Douglas County due to a land dispute, the proslavery sheriff ordered the arrest Jacob Branson, of the land owner who had recovered Dow's body, but not the proslavery man who had killed him. Outraged free staters formed a posse to rescue Branson from prison and bring him to Lawrence, prompting the sheriff to request Governor Wilson Shannon to bring out a militia. The result was an enormous group of pro-slavery men, swelled by volunteers from Missouri, who stood ready to raze Lawrence.

Following several days of tensions, the conflict was peacefully resolved. Robinson and James Lane signed the peace treaty for the free staters, and each man had kind words for the other. Robinson praised Lane for "the thorough discipline of our forces and the complete and extensive preparations for defense," while Lane in turn describes Robinson as a "clear-headed, cool and trustworthy commander." This friendly state of affairs between the two would prove temporary.

On May 10, 1856, Robinson was indicted for treason and usurpation, the charges stemming from the fact that he was the head of a government counter to the pro-slavery one that had been recognized by the federal government. Later in the month, he was arrested, along with other free state advocates, while attempting to travel east to seek aid from anti-slavery governors and other sympathizers. Robinson's wife continued in his stead, and the couple's house in Kansas was burned to the ground.

A depiction of Charles Robinson's arrest. (Source)

Robinson's incarceration wasn't too burdensome. One story suggested that he was held by a cordial judge who, when a pair of men arrived trying to stir up a lynch mob, offered to turn an equally armed Robinson into the street, at which point the duo fled. By chance, his arrest also ensured that he would be incarcerated during some of the most notorious acts of violence during the "Bleeding Kansas" time period, namely the Pottawatomie Massacre led by John Brown and the sack of Lawrence.

In September, Robinson was acquitted after a jury concluded that since Kansas was not a state, he could not have actually usurped power. Though his mission had been delayed by several months, Robinson nevertheless traveled to New York City to pursue the business of the New England Emigrant Aid Company. He resigned his claim to the Kansas governorship in October due to his absence.

After returning to Kansas, Robinson became active in the establishment of the Republican Party in the territory. He also took part in efforts to create a port at the settlement of Quindaro, although this initiative was ultimately unsuccessful.

Free staters had generally boycotted the territorial legislature elections, considering them corrupt and illegitimate, but in October 1857 they mustered their forces and elected the first ever free state majority. They returned to their usual abstinence when a constitutional convention, which had been recessed until after the election, met at Lecompton and decided that the only question that would be sent to voters would be whether the constitution would be accepted with or without slavery. Since free staters considered that a vote for "without" would still allow Kansas residents to retain existing slaves, they refused to participate. The "with" option won handily, 6,226 to 569, in a vote on December 21.

Free staters called their own constitutional convention in Leavenworth in March 1858, though their work demonstrated how those opposed to the extension of slavery weren't always in favor of equal rights for black citizens. Many delegates wanted to limit voting rights to white men only, and the final Leavenworth constitution called for the exclusion of free blacks from Kansas.

The ratification of the Lecompton Constitution also prompted a rancorous debate over the document's legitimacy in Washington. President James Buchanan urged Congress to approve the Lecompton Constitution, which would admit Kansas as a slave state. A majority of the Senate concurred, but the House preferred to resubmit the constitution for a popular vote. A compromise between the two chambers agreed that if the Lecompton Constitution was approved in a fair up-or-down vote, Kansas would be a slave state. On August 2, the constitution was overwhelmingly defeated in an 11,812 to 1,926 result.

Free staters had ratified the Leavenworth constitution in May, but serious efforts to pursue it ended after the Lecompton Constitution was defeated. Yet another convention, held in Wyandotte in July 1859, prohibited slavery and granted citizenship rights, but not voting rights, to blacks. Robinson backed some more radical elements, including women's suffrage, that failed to make the final document. On October 4, 1859, Kansas citizens approved the Wyandotte Constitution in a 10,421 to 5,530 vote.

Kansas governor and conflict with Lane

In the gubernatorial election held in December 1860, Robinson was named the Republican candidate and faced off against Samuel Medary, the incumbent Democratic territorial governor. Despite efforts by Democrats to frame Robinson and the Republicans as radicals in the mold of John Brown, who had led the Pottawatomie Massacre before heading east and raiding Harper's Ferry in October 1859, Robinson won the race with 7,908 votes to Medary's 5,395.

Kansas was formally admitted to the Union as a free state on January 29, 1861. By this time, six Southern states had already seceded in response to Abraham Lincoln's election as President. When Robinson took office on February 9, Texas had joined the list of seceders. Two months after he began his duties, the attack on Fort Sumter prompted the departure of four more states and kicked off the Civil War.

Robinson oversaw efforts to establish the new state government and judicial system, as well as a relocation of the state capital to Topeka, but the conflict quickly became his primary focus. Although Missouri remained in the Union fold, tensions between slave state and the newly admitted free Kansas remained; Robinson had to dedicate considerable attention to the frequent raids and counter-raids across the state line. Although Kansas was not included when Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to help put down the rebellion, Robinson organized a state militia to aid the cause. When a second call for volunteers allotted a quota of 5,006 to Kansas, the state sent more than twice that number.

Meanwhile, the relationship between Robinson and Lane had deteriorated considerably. Despite the praise the men had for each other after the Wakarusa War, they had fundamentally different backgrounds and temperaments. Lane, a former Democratic congressman, was hot-tempered, vulgar, and militaristic; since he had supported pro-slavery legislation in the past, he was also seen as something of an opportunist. Robinson was generally regarded as more levelheaded and ambitious.

James Lane, who became a fierce rival of Robinson. (Source)

One of the earlier conflicts between Robinson and Lane occurred on October 5, 1857, when Lane called for a military movement against pro-slavery settlers and the destruction of the legislature. While this proposal was rejected, he did manage to create a military board at a meeting of the legislature on January 4, 1858, and have himself appointed to lead it, whereupon he continued to advocate for violence against pro-slavery camps. When Robinson was called before the board, he effectively undercut it by saying the entity had no authority to summon him.

Lane, who was active in mustering Kansas troops, lobbed a variety of accusations at Robinson during the war. He went so far as to accuse the governor of treason, and of willfully depriving him of necessary artillery. Late in 1861, Lane and his allies in the legislature tried to oust Robinson on a technicality, claiming that his term ended in January 1862, not 1863. They staged an election that named George A. Crawford as Robinson's successor, but the result was declared illegitimate by the state supreme court.

Lane would finally land a disabling blow against Robinson with a fairly obscure issue: whether state bond sales had been carried out correctly.


As part of their effort to fund and sustain a militia, as well as get the state institutions up and running, the Kansas legislature authorized the issuance of $150,000 in state bonds. Under previously established guidelines, the bonds were to be sold at no less than 70 cents on the dollar.

John W. Robinson, Robinson's unrelated secretary of state, and George S. Hillyer, the state auditor, didn't abide by this stipulation when they set up an agreement with bond agent Robert Stevens. The two men promised to effectively deliver bonds at 60 cents on the dollar, since Stevens would purchase $50,000 at 40 cents on the dollar and $37,000 at 70 cents on the dollar. Governor Robinson claimed that while he thought it was good state policy to sell the bonds at a lower rate if they were unable to get a better one, he recognized the problem with doing so and declined to sign a paper authorizing the transaction. However, he had given his secretary of state and state auditor approval to make the bond arrangements, and they ultimately finalized the agreement and attached his name without his approval.

Although it wasn't ideal, the arrangement wasn't necessarily corrupt. None of the officials involved benefitted personally from selling the bonds at a lower return, and there was also the risk that refusing to sell to Stevens would result in no bond sale and thus no proceeds at all. Still, selling the bonds below the stipulated amount was a violation of state legislation, and therefore a violation of the law.

Lane's allies in the legislature pounced on the opportunity to take down Robinson, and the house of representatives authorized an investigation at the end of January 1862. Lane was one of the people deposed, and alleged that the money from the bond sales was being sought "for use against my friends and myself in Kansas, and that it would not go into the State Treasury." On February 15, the state house of representatives approved five impeachment charges against Robinson, as well as eight charges against John W. Robinson and seven against Hillyer. Robinson was the first U.S. governor to be impeached.

After a lengthy debate over how to proceed, the trial went forward in June. John W. Robinson's impeachment trial was the most comprehensive, and resulted in his removal from office following conviction on a single count of the "high misdemeanor" of selling bonds below the rate set by the legislature. The state senate immediately began the proceedings against Hillyer, with the agreement that the evidence introduced in John W. Robinson's trial (with the exception of Hillyer's own testimony) would be applicable to the new trial. Hillyer was also convicted of the same charge.

Governor Robinson's charge was perfunctory, starting and concluding on June 16. The testimony suggested that the governor was not directly involved in the bond sale, since he was in Kansas while John W. Robinson and Hillyer sought to make the transaction in Washington, D.C. General J.C. Stone, quartermaster general, testified that he had told Robinson several times that he thought the bonds could be disposed of for 100 cents on the dollar, but also realized that the governor had no control over the bonds. John W. Robinson and Hillyer also took the stand, saying there had been no real arrangement with Robinson on how the bonds would be disposed of.

Wilson Shannon, arguing for the defense, proclaimed that the prosecution had advanced no evidence showing that the governor was complicit in the bond sales. The state treasurer had the duty to issue them, while the governor and auditor could only sign them. The mere signing of the bonds, he noted, had not been upheld as a high misdemeanor in Hillyer's trial.

Davies Wilson, leading the prosecution, praised Robinson's character and lamented that he was facing removal from office, but said it was nevertheless the duty of the state senate to carry out their duty. "Precious may be our tried friends and trusted leaders, yet more precious should be purity and integrity," he declared. "And when, in these venal days, it is given us the privilege of proving our allegiance to virtue, and honor and truth, even at so great a price, let us be bold to set an illustrious example, and declare that here at least there are none so exalted, none so protected from process of law, none so powerful as to do wrong, yet fear no penalty."

Robinson was acquitted on all five counts. There were only three votes to convict scattered across two charges, and on three articles the vote to clear him was unanimous.

Although the result was a rather decisive exoneration, the impeachment proved crippling to Robinson's political career. At the Republican state convention on September 17, he lost the gubernatorial nomination to Thomas Carney, who subsequently succeeded him in office. Robinson left office on January 12, 1863, having completed a single term.

Later life

Robinson followed a variety of pursuit after his time as governor. In addition to maintaining his farm, he was a regent at the University of Kansas for several years as well as director of the Leavenworth, Lawrence & Galveston Railroad Company. He also served as the president of the Kansas Historical Society from 1879 to 1880 and superintendent of the Haskell Institute at Lawrence from 1887 to 1889.

Robinson didn't abandon politics entirely. Starting in 1873, he served eight years as an independent in the Kansas state senate. He also ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1886 and governor of Kansas in 1890. Becoming estranged from the Republican Party, he left it in 1886 and worked with both Democrats and Populists, helping back fusion candidate of Lorenzo D. Lewelling as governor of Kansas in 1892.

Contemporary accounts have credited Robinson with being a moderating force that helped to keep the antebellum violence in Kansas from spiraling out of control. He wrote about these prewar tensions in 1891 in a book entitled The Kansas Conflict.

Robinson died in Lawrence on August 17, 1894.

Sources: Kansas Historical Society, Lecompton Historical Society, National Governors Association, Territorial Kansas Online, The Kansas City Public Library, Dickinson College's "House Divided" Search Engine, The United States Biographical Dictionary: Kansas VolumeThe Twentieth Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable AmericansThe California Gold Rush and the Coming Civil War by Leonard L. Richards, The Pursuit of Public Power: Political Culture in Ohio 1787-1861 edited by Jeffrey P. Brown and Andrew R.L. Clayton, Kansas's War: The Civil War in Documents edited by Pearl T. Ponce, Man of Douglas, Man of Lincoln: The Political Odyssey of James Henry Lane by Ian Michael Spurgeon, The Life of Charles Robinson: The First Governor of Kansas by Frank Wilson Blackmar, Proceedings in the Cases of the Impeachment of Charles Robinson, Governor; John W. Robinson, Secretary of State; George S. Hillyer, Auditor of State, of Kansas

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

William A. Clark: A "Copper King" fails to buy a Senate seat

As the mining ventures in the West gained steam, the businesses of three Butte men grew powerful enough that they were popularly dubbed Montana's "Copper Kings." One, F. Augustus Heinze, had been born into wealth and managed to establish the multi-million dollar United Copper Company. The other two - Marcus Daly and William A. Clark - shared a similar background: hardscrabble beginnings followed by success in the mining industry that allowed them to establish a foundation for their empires.

The two men also despised each other. It's unclear what sparked the feud between Daly and Clark, though several theories have been advanced. The most likely story seems to be that Clark interfered with the business of the Anaconda Company, Daly's business, by buying up the water rights Daly needed to operate a copper smelter. It was also suggested that Clark had offended Daly by making a racist remark about his Turkish-American business partner, James Ben Ali Haggin.

Regardless of what started the fight, the two titans would find themselves pitted against each other on a number of state political issues. One pitched battle occurred after Montana gained statehood in 1889. As the state government was organized, Daly sought to have the capital located in Anaconda, a community he founded; Clark was a vociferous advocate of Helena for the state capital. Clark would later estimate that more than $1 million had been poured into the capital fight, and that his spending had accounted for about $100,000.

The unchecked spending in the matter spurred the state legislature to try to reign in campaign finances. A newly minted law held that a candidate couldn't give more than $1,000 to any committee in one county, or pay more than $1,000 out of their pocket for any lawful campaign purposes.

About a decade later, Clark would be accused of blatantly disregarding this law in an attempt to win a seat in the U.S. Senate.

Early life

Clark was born near Connellsville, Pennsylvania, on January 8, 1839. He attended the common schools, as well as the Laurel Hill Academy, and demonstrated his entrepreneurial qualities at a young age. Toting farm produce from Connellsville to the community of New Haven in the west, he bargained with customers in an effort to secure the highest prices.

In 1856, Clark moved with his parents to Van Buren County, Iowa, after his father sold the struggling family farm. He studied law at Iowa Wesleyan University at Mount Pleasant, but never practiced. He also taught school, moving to Missouri to do so between 1859 and 1860. Some accounts suggest that he briefly joined the Confederate military during the Civil War, though these claims appear dubious.

Clark first got into the mining business in 1862, when he drove a team to Central City, Colorado, and stayed to work in the quartz mines near this town. A year later, he purchased and drove another team with three companions and wound up in Bannack, Montana, where he found work in the gold placer mines.

In one of his early successful enterprises, Clark found that he could realize more success in supplying the mining operations rather than working in them. He started by traveling to Salt Lake City, returning to Montana loaded up with groceries and supplies such as tobacco that he could sell at a profit. In 1869, on a trip east to establish additional supply lines, he stopped off in Pennslyvania and ended up marrying childhood friend Kate Stauffer.

An empire grows

By 1872, most of the easily accessible gold in the Butte region has been mined. What was left of the precious material was locked up in quartz ore. Clark responded by purchasing a foreclosed mill, with which he was able to reap significant profits processing the quartz. He then purchased four mining claims at a deep discount. These actions formed the nucleus of what would become a vast fortune.

Clark followed numerous mercantile pursuits in Blackfoot and Helena. His name would ultimately be associated with 28 companies, none of which were publicly traded. A glowing biographical sketch declared that this arrangement left his businesses "entirely untrammeled by boards of directors, stockholders with their numerous interests and constant liability to produce embarrassing situations, and of all stock market conditions." He purchased copper, coal, and silver mines in Arizona, Colorado, Montana, and Utah. As his mining interests grew, he was said to be the largest individual owner of copper mines and smelters in the world.

As he became more invested in this business, Clark studied at the Columbia School of Mines. One of his more profitable mines was the United Verde copper deposit in Jerome, Arizona. He acquired 70 percent of the stock after the Phelps Dodge Corporation concluded the claim was too remote to yield much revenue. Just a few years later, Clark had reaped $60 million from it.

The empire forged by Clark went well beyond mineral wealth, though. He secured a mail contract between Missoula and Walla Walla, Washington. He opened a newspaper and bank in Butte, worked with two partners in wholesale and retail merchandising, bought up gold dust from panners to sell to banks on the East Coast, and acted as the purchasing agent for several Helena merchants by extending loans with 2 percent interest. Clark's holdings would eventually spread nationwide, including a blasting powder plant in Pennsylvania, a wire plant in New Jersey, and a beet sugar plantation near Los Angeles.

A contentious Senate race

Clark's first became involved in politics in 1884, when he served as president of a state constitutional convention. He supported the Democratic Party's desire for lower tariffs, and in 1888 the party chose him as their nominee for Montana's territorial delegate seat in Congress.

The feud between Clark and Daly was already underway at this point, with both men using newspapers they owned to lash each other in editorial broadsides. Daly was credited with sabotaging Clark's bid by having his own employees oppose the candidate, even if they agreed with his positions. The secret ballot was not yet in place in Montana, so it was a simple matter for the shift bosses at the Anaconda Company to inspect the ballots and make sure the workers had complied with Daly's wishes. In the final tally, Clark earned 17,360 votes to the 22,486 that went to his Daly-backed challenger, Republican candidate Thomas Henry Carter.

Marcus Daly (Source)

Clark didn't have to wait long for a larger prize to be available. While Congress had rejected Montana's attempt at statehood in 1884, it accepted it five years later after another constitutional convention that Clark again presided over. The Montana legislature at the time was firmly divided between Democrats and Republicans. The split was so bad that the house of representatives effectively broke into two separate chambers, with the parties meeting and acting separately. The state senate failed to pass any of the laws submitted by either half of the house, effectively preventing the state legislature from accomplishing any business in its first session.

This deadlock didn't bode well for the legislative responsibility of appointing two U.S. senators. Each party named its two picks and sent them to Congress in 1890 for the Senate to sort out; the partisan divide was just as pronounced in the nation's capital, and the Senate kept the Republican nominees while sending the Democratic ones (Clark included) back home.

Both Daly and Clark ran for the Senate in 1893, but neither was able to get the necessary majority support in the legislature. As a result, Montana simply didn't name a senator that year.

Again running for the Senate in 1899, Clark was finally appointed to a seat with his six-year term set to begin in March of that year. Fifty-four legislators voted for him, while 39 voted against. However, accusations of bribery quickly emerged. One of the most dramatic examples came when state senator Fred Whiteside brought $30,000 in cash into the legislature, announcing that the sum had been advanced to him and three others to win their support for Clark. Whiteside declared, "I know that the course I have pursued will not be popular, but so long as I live, I propose to fight the men who have placed the withering curse of bribery upon this state."

Fred Whiteside (Source)

Clark launched a vicious offensive against Whiteside, saying the accusation was part of an attempt by Daly and his cohorts to undermine his appointment to the Senate. He and his allies than challenged Whiteside's own close election to the legislature, managing to invalidate it by having any ballots where an X was marked after his name instead of before it thrown out.

Before departing, Whiteside delivered a speech which included a sarcastic toast to crime. The Senate matter, he said, reminded him of "a horde of hungry, skinny, long-tailed rats around a big cheese." He invited the legislators who had switched their votes to support Clark to stand up and explain why they had done so. However, he suggested it would be "much more clear and to the point if they would just get up and tell us the price and sit down."

"I never bought a man..."

When Clark arrived in Washington and presented his credentials, he was seated in the Senate without delay. However, his opponents filed a petition on the same day accusing him of winning the election though outright bribery. Clark, they said, had also far exceeded the $2,000 cap on campaign spending set by the 1895 state law in Montana.

The matter was referred to the Committee on Privileges and Elections, which held hearings on the issue between January and April of 1900. Ninety-six witnesses would be heard, including Clark, Daly, Whiteside, and Montana state legislators who had voted in favor of Clark's appointment to the Senate.

The investigation uncovered a scheme, overseen by Clark's son, to funnel bribes of between $240 and $100,000 to support Clark's election bid. A committee had been set up with the understanding that Clark would provide them with unlimited sums of money to be used to sway legislators to his side. In some cases, the bribes had been subtle measures, such as paying mortgages and debts or purchasing land from a legislator at a vastly inflated price. Other bribes had been more straightforward, including instances where a recipient was simply handed an envelope full of cash. The larger bribes were usually paid in $1,000 bills.

It was estimated that Clark has spent about $431,000 to nail down 47 votes in the legislature, including 11 crucial Republican ones. Clark himself admitted to only paying $139,000 toward his campaign, though of course this vastly exceeded the state cap. He reportedly quipped, in private, "I never bought a man who wasn't for sale." He didn't help his case before the Senate committee when he admitted that he had destroyed all records of his campaign finances, raising doubts as to the honesty of his Senate run.

The testimony of Whiteside and three other legislators who directly accused Clark of attempted bribery proved damning. The committee ultimately determined that their testimony could only be false if they had entered into a lengthy "conspiracy of the basest character, to be followed up by perjury of the worst sort," with the sole purpose of depriving Clark of his seat in the Senate.

On April 10, the committee unanimously concluded that Clark was not entitled to sit in the Senate. It declared his election null and void due to "briberies, attempted briberies, and corrupt practices by his agents," as well as violations of Montana state law. The committee noted how Congress had previously refused to seat elected members in cases of bribery even if the beneficiary was unaware of these efforts. It cited a similar case from 1873, when the Senate had reviewed the elections of Samuel C. Pomeroy and Alexander Caldwell in Kansas. In the Pomeroy case, the Senate had concluded that a candidate should not be seated if they had clearly participated in any one bribe or attempted bribe, even if it didn't change the result of the election.

Two committee members agreed with the conclusion, but sought to blunt the seriousness of the matter. They noted that Daly had also violated Montana's state law by channeling unlimited amounts of his own cash into the race to oppose Clark. Daly had even spent about $40,000 in lawyer's fees and other expenses to assist in the prosecution of the case before the Senate. The committee report acknowledged Daly's machinations, but said there was no evidence to support Clark's charge that Daly had concocted a conspiracy against him.

On May 15, on the eve of a vote before the full Senate, Clark rose to deliver a speech listing his grievances. He criticized the committee procedures, charging that the Senate had not granted him the presumption of innocence and had withheld certain evidence. He also said the committee had not proved any bribery sufficient to alter the results of the legislature's appointment and denounced Daly, saying his rival ruled the town of Anaconda like a despot and wasn't above trying to control politics on a larger stage.

But Clark said he was aware that he likely didn't have the support to keep his seat and thus resigned on the spot. In a letter to the governor of Montana, he said he was convinced his supporters did not result to corrupt means to secure his election. Nevertheless, he was "unwilling to occupy a seat in the Senate of the United States under credentials which its Committee has declared rest for their authority upon the action of a legislature which was not free and voluntary in its choice of a senator."

As it happened, both the governor and lieutenant governor of Montana were not in the state at the time of Clark's resignation. In a bizarre illustration of the state's divided loyalties, Lieutenant Governor Archibald E. Spriggs traveled 800 miles to get back within state lines and name Clark to fill the vacancy created by his own resignation. Governor Robert B. Smith, a Daly supporter, returned to Montana three days later. Outraged by Spriggs' action, he telegraphed the Senate to tell them that he would be naming Martin Maginnis, a former territorial delegate, to the Senate.

The Senate was presented with the credentials for both men. Exhausted, they tabled both of them and left one of Montana's seats unfilled. The sordid affair would be just one more piece of evidence reformers would use to argue that U.S. senators should be chosen by popular vote instead of legislators; this change would finally come about with the ratification of the Seventeenth Amendment in 1913.

Senate and sex scandals

Clark could easily fall back on his burgeoning business empire. By 1900, his fortune was estimated at about $50 million and he was considered one of the richest men in the world.

The Montana legislature convened again in January 1901, and again were tasked with choosing a senator. Clark had financially supported the campaigns of many of the legislators to help improve his goodwill in the body. He had won the support of the miners' union for promising to support an eight-hour day as well as legislation allowing miners to sue the company for damages caused by a coworker's negligence and to shop freely instead of being obligated to purchase goods at overpriced company stores. Perhaps more importantly, a major roadblock to his political ambition had been removed: Daly had died in November of the previous year.

The legislature again named Clark to the Senate, and this time he was seated without issue. His six-year term was unremarkable. He favor the construction of a canal through Nicaragua instead of Panama. He also supported a policy allowing mining companies to cut timber on federal lands without reimbursing the government; Clark and others used this policy to enrich themselves through logging as well as mining.

The famous humorist Mark Twain was none too impressed with Clark. In a 1907 essay, he declared, "He is as rotten a human being as can be found...he is a shame to the American nation, and no one has helped to send him to the Senate who did not know that his proper place was the penitentiary, with a ball and chain on his legs." He added, "By his example he has so excused and so sweetened corruption that in Montana it no longer has an offensive smell."

Clark's romantic life also gained attention during his Senate term. He had maintained a distant relationship with his wife and children; since 1878, they had been living in Europe and Clark had traveled to visit them every winter. Katherine had died in 1893. Clark later started a relationship with a young actress named Anna Eugenia La Chapelle; he had sent her from Montana to France when she was 16 years old to study music. Anna became pregnant in 1901 and again in 1903.

Anna Eugenia La Chapelle (Source)

The Anaconda Standard, a paper that Daly had owned, gleefully exposed this relationship with an article headlined "They're Married and Have a Baby" on July 12, 1904. Clark claimed that he and Anna had secretly been married on May 25, 1901. It was a dubious claim, since it conveniently put Clark in France at the same time as Anna and more than nine months before the birth of her daughter, Louise Amelia Andree Clark. No newspapers in Europe had mentioned a wedding, despite extensive coverage of Clark's trip; his itinerary also failed to mention such an event. The "secret" wedding was widely regarded as a flimsy excuse to try to sidestep any scandal.

Throughout 1904, Clark would be buffeted with charges that he was fond of seducing young women. Hattie Rose Laube, a noted campaign speaker, claimed that Clark had promised to marry her while the two traveled in Europe. There were questions over Clark's "sponsorship" of Kathlyn Williams, a Butte woman 40 years his junior whom he had sent to New York City to study opera; Clark had also supported her decision to switch to acting, where she became a well-known star. A woman named Mary McNellis sued him for $150,000, claiming that Clark had seduced and impregnated her and falsely promised her marriage; a judge later ruled against her, though the matter also included a questionable transaction where McNellis's lawyer sold his interest in a Canadian mine to Clark.

After serving one term, Clark retired from the Senate.

Later years

Clark's business ventures had continued apace while he was in the government. One of the more prominent accomplishments was the 1,100-mile San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake Rail Line. He had financed the construction of this line, although its construction was largely overseen by younger brother J. Ross Clark. The railroad, completed in 1905 and now part of the Southern Pacific Railroad, is credited as the only railroad to be built with funding from a single person rather than a corporation.

One unintended consequence of this railroad was the creation of Las Vegas. Clark purchased and subdivided a ranch in the Nevada desert to create a community where the trains could be serviced and his employees could live. The small settlement eventually grew into the modern day gambling mecca, while Clark County was named in the tycoon's honor.

Meanwhile, Clark has been working to establish an opulent mansion on Fifth Avenue in New York City. The home itself would not be completed until 1911, following 14 years of construction and planning. The rambling 121-room residence included four art galleries as well as an underground railroad line to bring in coal for heating. As part of the construction, Clark has purchased a quarry in New Hampshire to supply stone and a bronze foundry to cast its fittings.

Clark's mansion on Fifth Avenue in New York City (Source)

Clark would live the rest of his life in the mansion. Despite his diminutive political career, he had made numerous charitable donations supporting organizations such as the YMCA and First Presbyterian Church. He helped establish a Girl Scout camp in New York and numerous organizations in Butte, including an orphanage, homeless shelter, and a 68-acre amusement park called Columbia Gardens. Clark also established an electric trolley line to this site, which children were permitted to ride for free on Thursdays.

On March 2, 1925, Clark died of pneumonia. His children received assets worth about $200 million, all of which has been sold off by 1935. La Chapelle received $2.5 million. Clark's vast art collection was donated to the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C., after the original recipient, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, balked at the requirement that exclusive galleries be maintained in perpetuity for the works. The paintings were transferred to the National Gallery of Art after the Corcoran dissolved in 2014.

The immense New York City mansion briefly remained as a monument to Clark's wealth while struggling to find someone willing to buy it. Finally, in 1927, it was purchased and quickly demolished to make way for luxury apartments. His comparably modest 34-room residence in Butte survives today as a bed and breakfast called the Copper King Mansion.

Some of Clark's children also earned recognition. William Andrews Clark Jr. was a notable philanthropist who founded the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1919. A daughter, Huguette Clark, was a reclusive heiress who preferred to live the last 20 years of her life under assumed names in hospital rooms despite owning a palatial 42-room apartment on Fifth Avenue. She also owned mansions in California, Connecticut, and New York which she kept in good repair but never visited.

Huguette died in 2011 at the age of 104, leaving behind an estate worth $300 million. Her will quickly became the subject of a prolonged court battle. Despite the stipulation that her relatives wouldn't receive a cent, her heirs were eventually granted $34.5 million. One of the main results of the probate process was the establishment of the Bellosguardo Foundation, which is located within Hugette's former estate in California and aims to be an arts and cultural destination.


Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, The National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum, Museum of the City of New York, Online Nevada Encyclopedia, The William Andrews Clark Memorial Library at UCLA, The Copper King Mansion Bed & Breakfast, "The Right and Title of William A. Clark to a Seat as Senator from the State of Montana" report from The Committee on Elections and Privileges, "The Election Case of William A. Clark of Montana" at, "William Andrews Clark" in the Las Vegas Review Journal on Feb. 7 1999, "Daughter of Connellsville's Controversial Billionaire Dies" in the Tribune-Review on May 28 2011, "Huguette Clark's $300 Million Copper Fortune Is Divided Up" on CNBC on Sep. 24 2013, "A Familiar Scandal: Teenage Girls, A U.S. Senate Hopeful and a Century-Old Montana Story" in the Billings Gazette on Nov. 16 2017, McClure's Magazine Vol. 28The Battle for Butte: Mining and Politics on the Northern Frontier 1864-1906 by Michael P. Malone, Fire and Brimstone: The North Butte Mining Disaster of 1917 by Michael Punke, Copper for America: The United States Copper Industry from Colonial Times to the 1990s by Charles K. Hyde, The Cyclopaedia of American Biography Vol. VIII,

Monday, August 19, 2019

William Adams Richardson

Throughout the two terms Ulysses S. Grant spent as President of the United States, his administration was beset by various scandals. Several officials were accused of wrongdoing, with lax oversight contributing to the general air of corruption and wrongdoing.

Although it attracted less attention than some of the other Grant Administration scandals, the Sanborn Incident would ultimately end the Cabinet service of William Adams Richardson, the Secretary of the Treasury. While Richardson had enjoyed a sound reputation before this matter wasn't accused of directly benefiting the questionable actions in this affair, he was strongly condemned for failing to stop the scandal in its tracks.

Early life

Richardson was born on November 2, 1821, in Tyngsborough, Massachusetts. He graduated from Harvard University in 1843, and three years later he was admitted to the bar. He began practicing law from a firm he established in Lowell; he would move it to Boston in 1860.

Early in his career, Richardson dabbled in banking and politics. He briefly served as the president of a Wamesit bank, and held the role of director at other banks in the area. He was elected to the city council of Lowell in 1849, re-elected in 1853, and made president of the council a year later. Initially a Whig, he later joined the Republican Party.

Richardson also held a number of judicial roles, serving as a justice of the peace for Middlesex County from 1847 to 1854. He became a judge for the county's probate court from 1856 to 1858, and its probate and insolvency court from 1858 to 1872.

Richardson also found time to compile and publish the state statutes for Massachusetts, completing this project in 1855 and revising it annually through 1873. He would launch a similar undertaking for the legislation of the U.S. Congress, issuing supplements on these laws from 1874 until his death.

Treasury Department

In 1869, Grant named Richardson as Assistant Secretary of Treasury. The appointment was made at the request of Treasury Secretary George S. Boutwell, a former Massachusetts congressman. Richardson had been offered a judicial role on the Massachusetts Superior Court, but turned it down in order to join Grant's administration. Richardson also briefly served as the acting Attorney General in 1870.

When Senator Henry Wilson of Massachusetts became Vice President on March 3, 1873, Boutwell resigned his post to fill the vacancy in the Senate. Richardson moved up to become Secretary of the Treasury, though he continued Boutwell's policies aimed at reducing the public debt and building up a federal reserve.

One of the most significant transactions Richardson handled while at the Treasury was the Geneva Award, which in 1872 transferred $15.5 million from British coffers to the United States. Several Confederate raiding ships, most notably the CSS Alabama, had been constructed in British shipyards during the Civil War and gone on to wreak havoc on Union shipping during the conflict. The "Alabama Claims" sought to collect damages for the British role in the matter, and the settlement was finally agreed upon after an international commission met in Switzerland.

The award caused some nervousness in the financial sector, since the transport of such an extraordinary amount of money over the Atlantic Ocean carried a good deal of risk. Richardson instead managed the transaction through a process of receiving and canceling bonds to move the money in a safe manner.

Richardson also played a key role in the federal response to the Panic of 1873. This recession occurred when the European stock market crashed, prompting a selloff of American investments. Railroad bonds were a particularly popular item in these transactions, and as a result the market was flooded with bonds. The railroad companies weren't able to find lenders willing to extend them loans, and many went bankrupt. In the United States, about one in four railroads (89 out of 364) failed.

An illustration of the Panic of 1873. (Source)

The full force of the Panic hit the U.S. on September 18, 1873, when Jay Cooke & Company in New York City collapsed. The bank had overextended itself, with heavy investments in railroads sealing its fate. Two days later, the New York Stock Exchange suspended trading for the first time in its history after economic conditions failed to improve.

A day later, Richardson and Grant traveled to New York to meet with several prominent businessmen. The federal government had promised to buy $10 million in bonds to try to restore confidence in the financial system, and quickly increased this sum to $13 million. The businessmen said it wasn't enough; money was in tight supply, thanks to several commercial banks calling in their loans. To avoid plunging the entire nation into ruin, they argued, the government would need to increase currency in any way possible. Richardson was pressured to release the Treasury's entire reserve of $44 million in order to ease the money market.

Richardson resisted these calls, saying it was unclear if he had legal authority over the disposition of the reserve. He asked Congress to make a judgment, but legislators dithered on the issue. In the last two months of 1873, receipts fell below expenditures and Richardson was forced to act. Although he didn't release the entire reserve, he issued $26 million in greenbacks to help meet the budget.'

While the move was of questionable legality, Congress didn't intervene to challenge it. The cyclical expansion and contraction of the economy, with its accordant panics, would persist for several decades until the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1913.

Richardson was generally praised for his action. The injection of cash into the economy was seen as helping to ease the crisis, while the decision not to empty the reserve was seen as a prudent way to keep the government from getting too heavily involved in the financial sector's woes. Secretary of State Hamilton Fish wrote him, "I assure you and he reached on Sunday last. I hear from every one, except those interested in speculative stocks or bonds, one universal approval of the 'heroic action of the President and Secretary of the Treasury.'"

Nevertheless, the economy would remain depressed for another four years. The bankruptcy of Jay Cooke & Company caused a nationwide run on banks, and more than 100 financial institutions failed. This caused a ripple effect of business crashes; about 18,000 closed their doors in the two years following the start of the Panic, with the unemployment rate reaching 14 percent. A collapse in farm prices hurt the agricultural sector as well, while skyrocketing interest rates made it harder for Americans to get a loan or escape debt.

The Sanborn Incident

One year before the Panic, Congress has passed legislation ending the practice of allowing private individuals to pursue the collection of delinquent taxes. However, Representative Benjamin F. Butler, a Republican from Massachusetts, managed to add a rider allowing the Secretary of the Treasury to employ not more than three men to assist the Bureau of Internal Revenue with its duties.

Four people had secured contracts under this rider, but they only managed to collect about $5,000 over a two-year period. Another private collector, John D. Sanborn, would be much more successful. Sanborn had been working as a special agent with the Treasury Department since 1869; a Massachusetts resident, he was personally acquainted with both Boutwell and Butler. He had also been an agent in Butler's cotton speculation around the time of the Civil War, and the congressman strongly supported his appointment.

Richardson was the Acting Secretary of Treasury when he approved Sanborn's contract on August 13, 1872, with a mandate to collect illegally withheld excise taxes and other revenue from 39 whiskey distillers and entities. Whiskey had a steep excise tax, but it was often evaded. In his work with the Treasury Department, Sanborn had been credited with helping to secure indictments against several tax dodgers, including a small whiskey ring operating in New York City, in the spring of 1872.

Sanborn started his work by pursuing the delinquent taxes recorded at the Boston office of the Bureau of Internal Revenue. On October 25, he asked that his contract be expanded so he could go after 760 people who were delinquent on their estate or income taxes. This request was approved five days later, and in early 1873 this mandate was further enlarged with another 2,000 names. On July 7, he was approved to collect delinquent taxes from 592 railroad companies. As stipulated in his contract, he was able to keep half of whatever revenue he collected.

By entrusting Sanborn with tax collection on such a large number of people and entities, the Treasury Department had essentially flipped the intended relationship between private tax collectors and internal revenue authorities on its head. Instead of assisting the Bureau of Internal Revenue with its work, agents frequently found themselves helping with Sanborn's duties. This began to attract some negative attention among the agents, who feared that the scope of Sanborn's work had grown too large. They also noted that his work was essentially unnecessary, since they would have been able to collect the full value of the delinquent taxes without Sanborn's intervention; his involvement merely ensured that the amount going to the government would be halved while Sanborn would be able to enrich himself. A formal complaint was sent to the Treasury Department, but it was ignored.

Sanborn ultimately collected about $427,000 - a minor sum compared to the $102 million in total internal revenue in 1874, but a vastly greater amount than private collectors had typically been able to collect. Not all of the money had been collected in the most above-board way. He was often abetted by corrupt Treasury officials who encouraged those with tax liabilities not to pay up, giving Sanborn an opening to collect and take his fee. Sanborn also reportedly went after some entities that weren't actually delinquent at all.

The questionable practice eventually resulted in Sanborn's indictment for revenue fraud and the scrapping of his contract. The House Committee on Ways and Means opened an inquiry into the matter between February and May of 1874. The investigation was eagerly supported by Boston financiers and others opposed to Richardson's policies. The Treasury was nearly bankrupt at the time, and had allowed Sanborn's conduct to proceed unchecked; the sordid affair had the look of a conspiracy to defraud the government and enrich a select few. The incident offered the prospect that Richardson would be ousted and replaced with someone more in light with the financial sector's views.

The committee investigation included testimony from Sanborn himself. Since he was entitled to half of what he collected, he said he had received $213,500 for his work; however, he agreed that the citizens he collected from would have likely paid on their own, or that revenue agents would have collected the money as part of their regular duties. Sanborn claimed that more than $150,000 of his share went to Richardson, with much of the rest going to various campaign funds.

Richardson also appeared before the committee, but proved less than helpful. He said he couldn't recall signing Sanborn's contract, and admitted that he often signed documents without actually reading them.

The committee issued its report on May 4, concluding that the Treasury Department had utterly failed to supervise Sanborn's activities. Boutwell had followed the law in requiring that Sanborn set forth a written oath for each claim he proposed to recover, including the specific violation and the person or entity he wished to collect money from; he just hadn't enforced this rule. Richardson had been even more lax, demonstrating "an entire want of knowledge" on the laws regarding private collectors and their contracts. "His only connection, so far as he could remember, with these transactions, was in affixing his signature to the various papers presented to him as a mere matter of office routine, without knowing their contents," the committee declared.

Sanborn, meanwhile, had used his contract to go after a wide range of targets and bilk the country of revenue. The committee concluded that Sanborn's last contract was "substantially the entire list of railroads within the United States." He had simply gotten the 592 names from a register of railroad companies, and only 150 were actually delinquent on their taxes. Moreover, "a very large percentage, if not all" of the money Sanborn raked in would have been collected by the Bureau of Internal Revenue in their usual duties; as a result, the Treasury had gotten only half of what it should have received, with Sanborn pocketing the other half.

The committee was highly critical of Richardson as well as the Treasury Department's assistant secretary and solicitor. The three officials had essentially passed the buck among themselves. The assistant treasury also admitted that he signed documents without reviewing them, and said these had been prepared by the solicitor. The solicitor testified that he was simply a law officer acting on the directions of his superiors, which naturally would include Richardson and the assistant secretary. All three officials, the committee said, "deserve severe condemnation for the manner in which they have permitted the law to be administered."

The committee advised that any contracts made with Sanborn and the other private collectors should be revoked, and that no further claims should be made on them. It also declared the outsourcing of delinquent revenue collection "fundamentally wrong" and advocated that it should be stopped immediately.

The report stopped short of advising punishment for any of the Treasury officials, saying there was nothing "impeaching the integrity" of either Boutwell or Richardson. Sanborn himself would ultimately be acquitted, since he had been under contract to collect delinquent taxes and hadn't actually broken any laws in the course of this work.

Nevertheless, the assistant treasury secretary would resign and the incident brought swift calls for Richardson to be removed from the Treasury. Representative James Burney Beck, a Kentucky Democrat, declared the collection contracts to be "reeking and buoyant with corruption." Wilson wrote to Grant saying, "Since I have been in Washington the past few days, I have heard the strongest condemnation of [Richardson's] unfitness."

Grant was reluctant to dismiss Richardson, going so far as to appeal to individual House committee members in an attempt to keep them from issuing a report condemning the Treasury Secretary. Though he finally asked Richardson to step down, he also made sure that Richardson would have a soft landing. On June 1, just three days before Richardson's resignation, Grant nominated him for a vacant seat on the U.S. Court of Claims, a body settling claims against the United States. He was quickly confirmed by the Senate.

Later life

Benjamin H. Bristow, a Kentucky lawyer, succeeded Richardson as Treasury Secretary. Grant appointed him with some reluctance, since his opposition to inflationary policy and other monetary views were virtually opposite to Richardson's. However, he considered that the choice would help shore up Republican chances in the upcoming election.

It was not to be. Angered by the depressed economy and scandals in the Grant administration, Democrats more than doubled their presence in the House of Representatives in the 1874 midterm elections and regained a majority in the chamber for the first time since 1856; they would hold control of the House for another six years. The party also gained several seats in the Senate, although the Republican Party retained control.

Richardson would hold a seat on the U.S. Court of Claims for the rest of his life. In January of 1885, President Chester A. Arthur promoted him to the court's chief justice position to replace Charles D. Drake. He also busied himself with other work, including a plan for the enlarged jurisdiction of the Massachusetts probate courts which the state legislature subsequently passed. Between 1879 and 1894, he taught law at Georgetown University.

Richardson died in Washington, D.C. on October 19, 1896.


U.S. Department of the Treasury, The Miller Center at the University of Virginia, Federal Judicial Center, "The Panic of 1873" on American Experience at, "Discovery and Collection of Monies Withheld From the Government" report by the House Ways and Means Committee on May 4 1874, "Historical Perspective: The Unhappy History of Private Tax Collection" at the Tax History Project on Sep. 20 2004, "New York and the Panic of 1873" in the New York Times on Oct. 14 2008, The Twentieth Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable Americans, The New England Historical and Genealogical Register Vol. 53, The New Encyclopedia of American Scandal edited by George C. Kohn, Biographical Directory of United States Secretaries of the Treasury 1789-1995 edited by Bernard S. Katz and C. Daniel Vencill, Monetary Policy in the United States: An Intellectual and Institutional History by Richard H. Timberlake, A Sketch of the Life and Public Services of William Adams Richardson by Frank Warren Hackett, The Reconstruction Years by Walter Coffey, Grant by Ronald Chernow

Friday, June 21, 2019

Mike Lowry: Sexual Harassment Claims End Political Career of "Governor Mayhem"

While the #MeToo movement has recently spotlighted the issue of sexual harassment and encouraged victims to report it, a concerted effort to combat the problem began several decades earlier. Legislation in the 1960s prohibited employers from discriminating based on sex in their hires, and other laws helped codify sexual harassment and provide remedies for victims.

In the early 1990s, a memorable series of public service announcements marked an early effort to empower women to fight back against harassers. The videos show women enduring innuendos and lewd remarks from their boorish employers, but ultimately calling out the behavior as sexual harassment, adding, "And I don't have to take it!"

These PSAs were airing at approximately the same time that Governor Mike Lowry of Washington was under fire for sexual harassment claims. Several women accused him of unwanted touching and inappropriate remarks, although some did not want to come forward publicly.

While an investigation concluded that it was impossible to confirm the claims or exonerate Lowry, the accusations were enough to torpedo the governor's already ailing political career.

Early life

Lowry was born in St. John, Washington on March 8, 1939 and moved to Endicott as a child. He grew up in a family of "New Deal Democrats" who admired President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his relief efforts during the Great Depression.

In 1961, while attending Washington State University, Lowry signed up to join the Navy. He was rejected due to high blood pressure, and graduated from the university the next year.

Mike Lowry's senior year high school portrait (Source)

Lowry held a variety of jobs in the ensuing years, including brief stints working for a financial information company and a Seattle building contractor. He also spent three years working as a salesman for the textbook publisher Allyn & Bacon.

During the late 60s, Lowry volunteered on a number of political campaigns including Robert F. Kennedy's presidential bid and Karl Hermann's run for state insurance commissioner. He also worked on the gubernatorial campaign of state senator Martin Durkan Sr. While Durkan failed to win the office, he was impressed enough with Lowry's work to offer him a job on the senate's ways and means committee. Lowry worked as a chief financial analyst and staff director for this committee between 1969 and 1973.

Lowry also managed Durkan's 1972 bid for the governor's office, when he lost the Democratic primary. After leaving the state senate job, he served as the governmental affairs director for the Puget Sound Group Health Cooperative from 1974 to 1975. That year, he was elected to the Metropolitan King County Council, two years after an unsuccessful campaign for this agency. He was also elected president of the Washington State Association of Counties in 1978.


In 1978, Lowry won the Democratic nomination for Washington's 7th Congressional District and challenged Representative John E. Cunningham III in the general election. While the district leaned Democratic, Cunningham had captured it in a 1977 special election after the resignation of Brock Adams, a Democrat who resigned to become Secretary of Transportation.

The gay community of Seattle was starting to become a more powerful voting bloc, and Lowry's campaign wasn't averse to courting supporters at the city's gay bars. When the ballots were counted, Lowry had comfortably defeated Cunningham by about 7,500 votes out of nearly 127,000 cast.

Lowry's congressional portrait (Source)

Lowry would serve in the House of Representatives for the next decade, championing universal health care, the Woman Infants and Children program, and a variety of other liberal causes. Following up on a campaign promise, he introduced a bill to pay reparations to more than 110,000 Japanese-Americans and Aleuts who were imprisoned in federal camps during World War II. While this effort failed, it was credited with helping to launch the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians. It also paved the way for a 1988 bill offering the former inmates $20,000 apiece and a formal apology declaring their imprisonment a "grave injustice."

The proposal rankled some who misunderstood the intent of the bill. Lowry was known for frequently holding community meetings in his district, as many as 50 a year, and at one such town hall he was confronted by angry World War II veterans. Staying more than two hours beyond the scheduled end time of the event, Lowry explained that his proposed bill would support Japanese-American citizens who had been rounded up as potential security risks and native Alaskans who had been evacuated in advance of a military effort in the Aleutians, not Japanese soldiers who had fought against the United States.

His visits to the district included also included an annual shrimp feed, which served as a Democratic fundraiser. It soon became a must-attend function for anyone hoping to seek office on the party's ticket.

Lowry's time in office roughly corresponded with Ronald Reagan's years in the White House, and he was a sharp critic of the President. He accused the White House of making budget cuts that he said would primarily harm the poor, criticized the administration's aid to Nicaraguan Contras, and opposed policies such as abortion restrictions and arms buildup.

In 1987, Lowry spearheaded a lawsuit joined by more than 100 congressmen against the Reagan Administration. The Lowry v. Reagan suit sought to compel the President to file a report under the War Powers Resolution after Reagan directed American ships to provide protective escorts to reflagged Kuwaiti oil tankers during the war between Iran and Iraq. The case was later dismissed in federal court.

Lowry championed environmental initiatives for his home state, including the Washington Wilderness Act in 1984. He also supported legislation to establish the Cougar Lakes Wilderness, create a wildlife refuge at Grays Harbor, and designate the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary to forestall any attempt at offshore oil drilling near Washington. He opposed a proposal for a naval base at Everett, acknowledging that the development would be good for the region's economy but harmful to Puget Sound. Lowry was also part of a cooperative effort by the Washington and Oregon delegations that successfully contested the Department of Energy's efforts to restart the nuclear station at Hanford.

Since international trade was highly beneficial to Washington State, Lowry was supportive of measures that would assist it. He was credited with helping to save direct loans to buyers of international products, which were offered by the Export-Import Bank. These loans were especially helpful to Boeing, one of Washington's major employers, since the aircraft manufacturer was the bank's largest customer. However, the support also earned Lowry criticism among liberals who derided the loans as a form of corporate welfare.

At the same time, Lowry earned a reputation of having a strong commitment to his values, unlike other elected officials who were willing to sell them out for political expediency. He was one of just 16 Democrats opposed to the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, which allocated funding to fight narcotics trafficking and increased federal penalties for drug crimes. The legislation passed shortly before the year's congressional elections, in which the Democrats maintained their majority in the House and recaptured the Senate. Even some of the bill's supporters acknowledged that the legislation was not a viable solution to the problem of drug trafficking, but felt it was a good way to demonstrate that they were tough on crime. Lowry, by contrast, denounced it as "legislation by political panic."

Lowry was described as a "demonstrative politician," who engaged in various stunts to highlight certain issues. At one point, he hiked the Greenwater River to show how a proposed wilderness bill would exclude salmon spawning grounds. In another incident, he and a few other congressmen camped out on a D.C. subway grate to raise awareness of homelessness in the nation's capital.

On two occasions, Lowry sought to leave the House to move over to the Senate. His first opportunity came in 1983, in a special election called to finish the term of Democratic Senator Henry M. Jackson, who had died on September 1. Lowry lost to Republican candidate Dan Evans, a former Washington governor.

Evans quickly became frustrated with the job. In a scathing article published in the New York Times Magazine on April 17, 1988, he said the Senate "had lost its focus and was in danger of losing its soul." He announced that he could not "face another six years of frustrating gridlock," and so would not seek re-election.

Lowry again sought the seat. Unlike the special election, Lowry had to give up a more secure bid at holding his House seat in favor of a statewide contest. While he was leading in the polls in the days leading up to the election, a last-minute negative ad campaign against Republican opponent and former senator Slade Gorton backfired. Facing criticism and accusations of mudslinging, Lowry lost the race by about 40,000 votes out of 1.85 million cast.

Governor of Washington

After leaving Congress, Lowry took a job as professor of government at Seattle University's Institute of Public Service. In a show of bipartisanship, he joined with Evans in the summer of 1989 to help found the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition. The men served as co-chairs of the organization, which has a goal of preserving wilderness and farmland in Washington as well as founding new local and state parks.

Mike Lowry, at right, with Dan Evans (center) and Elliott Marks, co-founders of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition (Source)

Lowry re-entered the political scene in 1992, when he joined the gubernatorial race to succeed retiring incumbent Booth Gardner, a Democrat who had served two terms. Lowry easily won the Democratic primary, defeating state house speaker Joe King in a 337,783 to 9,648 landslide. Having learned his lesson from his Senate defeat, he refused to campaign negatively and instituted a self-imposed $1,500 maximum on campaign contributions. In the general contest, he earned 1.18 million votes and bested Republican opponent and state attorney general Ken Eikenberry by about 100,000 ballots.

As governor, Lowry quickly committed himself to a slew of reform efforts. These included expanding aid to low-income families, protections for migrant workers, and a universal health care bill. He frequently issued press releases to avow his support for liberal causes such as gay rights, environmental initiatives, and abortion rights. On June 27, 1993, he became the first governor to address Seattle's annual gay pride parade. There, he called on the legislature to protect the LGBT community from discrimination in housing and employment, declaring that "if one persons's civil rights are being abused, then everyone's civil rights are endangered."

The onslaught of policy earned Lowry the nickname "Governor Mayhem" as critics, including some from his own party, charged that he was moving too quickly, angering too many constituents, and depleting too much of his political capital to effectively make change. Yet he also earned grudging respect from foes for his energy and unflinching devotion to his ideals. "When Mike Lowry says something, you always know exactly where he stands," said Clyde Ballard, a Republican who would serve as speaker of the house during Lowry's term in office.

One of Lowry's most controversial moves was an effort to close a $1.8 billion state budget gap by raising taxes. He supported a state income tax, despite an economic recession and the failure of previous administrations to put one in place. Lowry also favored a gas tax to fund a light rail system aimed at alleviating traffic in the Puget Sound region, and sought to extend the sales tax to professional services.

The taxes provided Republicans with an easy platform to contest the governor at the next statewide election. In 1994, the GOP made the strongest gains in the state legislature in nearly 50 years. The following year, they began working to undo the governor's work, including a rollback of the tax increase that passed over his veto. The legislature also repealed the central tenet of the health care bill, the individual health insurance mandate, which effectively neutered the reform. Lowry's accomplishments soon became limited to what he could stop by veto, which included Republican efforts to bar death row inmates from eligibility for organ transplants or other medical assistance.

In 1995, Lowry named Annette Sandberg to head the Washington State Patrol. Just 33 years old, she was the first woman in the country to lead a state police force. It was a controversial pick; Sandberg vowed to reform the agency by breaking up the "good old boys" network, promising that some officers would be demoted or reassigned. Her term resulted in a number of accomplishments, including the introduction of a K9 program, efforts to combat racial profiling, and a commitment to increasing the racial diversity of the force. Nevertheless, she was blamed for a drop in morale among the agency's patrolmen. Sandberg resigned in 2000; Lowry would later stick by his choice, saying he thought she had done a good job.

Lowry's rocky time in the governor's office was further complicated by his strained relationship with the Democratic Party and its traditional supporters. Many Democrats in the state house had gravitated to the right in order to weather the Republican surge, and some declared their outright refusal to support parts of Lowry's agenda. State unions were outraged when he backed reforms making it easier to fire under-performing public employees, and when he supported contracting out some state services to private companies.

A review of Lowry's time in office by the Spokesman-Review acknowledged that Lowry's tax increases were made in tandem with efforts to cut government spending. The growth of the state employee payroll slowed dramatically under his watch, while the growth of state spending fell by more than half between the start and end of his four-year term. He made cuts to travel expenses and workers compensation insurance rates for state employees. Lowry even extended the austerity to his own expenses, slashing his salary by $31,000 and covering several of his own expenses, including groceries, the telephone service at the governor's mansion, and $100 a month of his vehicle's gas and maintenance costs.

The newspaper's analysis also credited Lowry with supporting business tax breaks and overseas trade that helped spur the creation of 174,600 new jobs in the state, scrapping the waiting list for state-subsidized child care, and extending health insurance to 140,000 adults and 195,000 low-income children. He had also backed a successful effort to build a new stadium for the Seattle Mariners in 1995 after fears that the decrepit state of their field would cause the baseball team to leave the city. In a 2002 retrospective, Lowry said he was proud that he had helped maintain social services and environmental commitments in the midst of budget difficulties, while also working to build up a surplus of about $500,000 by the end of his term.

Despite these successes, Lowry remained a fairly unpopular figure as the 1996 election approached. He had a contentious relationship with the press, accusing them of being "unwitting subsidiaries of the right wing of the Republican Party" after several stories on his tax proposals, and had stopped granting one-on-one interviews with the media. A poll by the Spokesman-Review and TV station KHQ-TV found that only one in four voters in Washington approved of his performance, with just 14 percent say they'd vote for him again.

By this time, however, Lowry was facing a new challenge: several women, including his former deputy press secretary, had accused him of sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment accusations

On March 29, 1994, Washington State Patrol employee Becky Miner complained that Lowry had inappropriately pressed his body against hers while she took his fingerprints for security clearance to the White House. Christine Gregoire, the state's attorney general, reviewed the matter and concluded that Miner's claim could not be proven or refuted. She recommended sexual harassment training for the governor, which he completed in September.

Two months later, Miner's complaint became public after it was leaked to the press. Lowry's deputy press secretary, Susanne Albright, was reportedly so upset by the accusation that she went on medical leave. It soon emerged that Albright, who would opt to resign her position, had her own claims against the governor.

Albright said she had been subjected to routine harassment, touching, and groping during her time in Lowry's employ. She also said the governor made frequent lewd or offensive comments, such as asking if she had brought along a bikini during a business trip and answering one of her phone calls by questioning whether she was the Susanne "with the beautiful long legs."

Two former Lowry aides would also say they were sexually harassed during Lowry's time in congress, though they would remain anonymous. One said that Lowry kissed her on the mouth on one occasion "in a matter that she felt was clearly sexual;" a friend corroborated this account and said Lowry had kissed her as well. The aide said Lowry had also engaged in touching she found offensive, including an unsolicited neck rub, a hug that touched her breast, and rubbing her knees and legs.

The other aide made similar allegations, saying Lowry's behavior had included lingering hugs, kisses on the mouth, a neck rub, and rubbing her leg while she was driving. In response, she asked that her office be relocated to a more open location and that she not be assigned to chauffeur Lowry.

The women's attorney, Judith Lonquist, said a Lowry supporter told her during the gubernatorial campaign that the women might bring up their accusations. Lonquist said she had initially supported Lowry's candidacy, but opted not to vote for him after hearing from the former aides.

On January 17, 1995, Lowry's lawyer wrote to chief deputy attorney general Kathleen Mix saying it was unlikely that Albright would file a lawsuit. The letter also said that Albright had "consistently declined to make a complaint under our office policy." Nevertheless, Lowry ordered an independent investigation into the matter. Two days later, Seattle attorney Mary Alice Theiler was appointed to head the inquiry.

While the investigation was initially conducted in private, Lowry disclosed it after the Seattle Post-Intelligencer made a public records request regarding the matter. Albright said she had not intended for her allegations to become public, but stressed that she had left her job because of "a clear, and I repeat, very clear, and persistent pattern of unacceptable behavior toward me." Lowry denied that he had ever done anything intentionally offensive to Albright, and that she had never voiced any concerns to him.

On February 16, 1995, Lowry sat down for a televised interview in which he apologized to any women he may have offended. "I have learned that some people are uncomfortable. I feel bad about that," said Lowry. "I don't want anybody to feel uncomfortable with me. Whoever that might be, anybody I have ever made feel uncomfortable, I apologize to."

He was joined by his wife, Mary, would prove to be a staunch supporter; he vehemently denied that he had ever been unfaithful to her in any way. Lowry also denied suggestions that the alleged conduct may have stemmed from a drinking problem, though he conceded that this had once been a concern and he had cut back on his alcohol consumption about a decade earlier.

Theiler's investigation concluded on March 23, when she released a 51-page report detailing her findings. Lowry said he often hugged, kissed, or patted his employees in what were intended to be friendly gestures, and that he was unaware that they had sometimes caused offense. Theiler also noted that Albright's story changed over the course of different interviews, and that she may have had a grievance against Lowry for other reasons. Some employees in the governor's office recalled that when she discovered she was not getting an expected promotion, Albright threatened, "If I don't get this job, he doesn't know what he's getting into." Theiler concluded that there wasn't sufficient evidence to support Albright's accusations.

The women who had accused Lowry were quick to voice their displeasure with Theiler's findings. Albright said the investigator had downplayed some incidents, taken others out of context, and ignored the allegations of other women since the investigation had only been called to look into Albright's claims. The two congressional aides also said they were disappointed with Theiler's report, believing that she had largely ignored them.

In response, Theiler stressed that her report had not exonerated the governor. She had concluded that Lowry "touched [Albright] in ways she found offensive," and that he "clearly engaged in conduct that offended one valuable employee and likely others." Theiler also suggested that Lowry's temper may have prevented Albright from confronting him about his behavior.

The investigation led to some scrutiny of Lowry's character in press reports, where associates suggested that the governor's affable public persona concealed a more volatile private one. One social service advocate recalled that when they met with Lowry in 1993 and suggested that his health care reform excluded migrant workers, the governor became livid and berated them for bringing up the criticism, saying he had long advocated for migrant workers on other occasions. Anne Fennessy, his former press secretary, said Lowry was quick to anger but also had a good sense of humor and recovered quickly.

Walt Crowley, one of the governor's advisers, said he was passionate about his beliefs, and sometimes stubborn or impatient. Other associates said Lowry was most likely to express anger if his advisers tried to manage him or steer him away from his principles. However, this also led to criticism that he was too cloistered, ignoring input from his aides or hiring loyalists who wouldn't challenge him. "Mike's inner circle is Mike," one former aide declared.

The press also found that Lowry's drinking had caused some concerns in the past, and that he was more likely to lose his temper when he was not sober. Lowry's potential alcoholism was reportedly worrying enough to his 1992 campaign staff that they held a meeting to discuss it.

Lowry maintained that the actions that had prompted the sexual harassment allegations were meant to be friendly. "I want people to feel comfortable with me," he said. "I don't want people to think that I think I'm a big shot." Tricia Wilson, Lowry's executive assistant, said she had never been offended by the governor's actions but could understand how it would make other women feel uncomfortable. "It didn't bother me and a lot of people just took it as the way he was," she said. "But maybe the younger generation is more sensitive."

Albright's case was the only one which would be formally resolved. In an agreement signed on July 14, 1995, Lowry agreed to pay her $97,500 from his own personal funds in exchange for Albright's promise not to file a lawsuit. Albright said she was satisfied with the settlement, suggesting that the sum indicated that Lowry's behavior constituted "more than a pat on the back."

The fallout from the scandal made Lowry's re-election prospects even more daunting. Several women's groups publicly declared that they would not endorse him if he ran again. Two top female aides, Fennessy and chief legal counsel Jenny Durkan, resigned while Theiler's investigation was underway, although both insisted that their departures were unrelated to the sexual harassment charges. Fennessy said she had been thinking of leaving her position for some time due to the stress of a job "that never ends."

Nevertheless, the turmoil gave Republicans an easy opportunity to score political points. "If the governor cannot maintain a stable office and put ethical questions behind him, he should consider resigning rather than spending the next year and a half as a lame duck," advised Eikenberry, who had become the GOP state chairman after his defeat in the 1992 election.

On February 22, 1996, Lowry announced that he would not seek re-election, in part so he could help care for his elderly mother and father-in-law. While he initially denied that the sexual harassment accusations played a role in the decision, he later admitted that they had been a "major factor;" he said he didn't want his family to see the issue brought up again during the race.

Lowry's term ended in January 1997. The Democrats held the governor's office by a comfortable margin, with party candidate Gary Locke taking 58 percent of the vote in the general election.

Later life

Lowry is introduced during Governor Chris Gregoire's State of the State speech on January 15, 2013. (Source)

Lowry made one more political bid after his time as governor, running for state lands commissioner in 2000. The commission oversees approximately five million acres of state-owned lands. Lowry lost to GOP candidate Doug Sutherland by about 100,000 votes out of roughly 2.32 million cast.

The bulk of Lowry's post-political career was spent volunteering. He worked with Washington Agricultural Families Assistance to help build homes for migrant farm workers, as well as Enterprise Washington to support job creation in the economically depressed parts of the state. He was also active in organizations dedicated to ending homelessness.

Lowry retired to a small ranch near Kettle Falls. In 2003, he brokered a deal to convert a former sugar beet factory to an ethanol plant.

He died on May 1, 2017 in Olympia following complications from a stroke.

Sources: Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, "Michael Edward 'Mike' Lowry" on, "Governor Mayhem?" in the Seattle Times on Apr. 25 1993,  "Lowry Accused of Sexual Harassment" in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on Feb. 4 1995, "Lowry Apologizes For Behavior" in the Kitsap Sun on Feb. 17 1995, "Spokeswoman Lowry's Third Aide to Quit" in the Kitsap Sun on Feb. 18 1995, "Mike Lowry's Other Side" in the Seattle Times on Feb. 26 1995, "Friendly Touch or Grope? It's Hard to Know For Sure, Lowry Investigator Concludes" in the Seattle Times on Mar. 24 1995, "Ex-Lowry Aides Say Incidents Ignored" in the Spokesman-Review on Mar. 28 1995, "Lowry Agrees to Pay Ex-Aide $97,500" in the Seattle Times on Jul. 14 1995, "Lowry Declares He's Out of Running" in the Spokesman-Review on Feb. 23 1996, "The Liberal Legacy of Mike Lowry" in the Spokesman-Review on Jan. 15 1997, "Controversial State Patrol Chief Resigns" in the Daily Herald on Nov. 20 2000, "Former Washington Gov. Mike Lowry, Table-Pounding Liberal, Dies at 78" in the Seattle Times on May 1 2017, "Mike Lowry, Proudly Progressive Ex-Governor, Dies Early on May Day" on on May 1 2017, "Mike Lowry, Ex-Congressman and Washington State Governor, Dies at 78" in the New York Times on May 3 2017, "Former Washington Gov. Mike Lowry Remembered As Proud Liberal, Quietly Generous" in the Seattle Times on May 30 2017, The First Civil Right: How Liberals Built Prison America by Naomi Murakawa, The Intersection of Law and War Vol. 126, Gay Seattle: Stories of Exile and Belonging by Gary Atkins