Henry Dawes

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Henry L. Dawes
Henry L. Dawes Massachusetts.png
Former U.S. Senator from Massachusetts
From: March 4, 1875 – March 3, 1893
Predecessor William B. Washburn
Successor Henry Cabot Lodge, Sr.
Former U.S. Representative from Massachusetts's 11th Congressional District
From: March 4, 1873 – March 3, 1875
Predecessor (district created)
Successor Chester W. Chapin
Former U.S. Representative from Massachusetts's 10th Congressional District
From: March 3, 1863 — March 3, 1873
Predecessor Charles Delano
Successor Alvah Crocker
Former U.S. Representative from Massachusetts's 11th Congressional District
From: March 4, 1857 – March 3, 1863
Predecessor Mark Trafton
Successor (district eliminated)
Former State Representative from Massachusetts
From: 1852
Predecessor ???
Successor ???
Former State Senator from Massachusetts (Berkshire District)
From: 1850
Predecessor John Z. Goodrich
William A. Phelps
Successor Richard P. Brown
Asa G. Welch
Former State Representative from Massachusetts
From: 1848–1849
Predecessor ???
Successor ???
Party Republican
Spouse(s) Electa Sanderson

Henry Laurens Dawes, Sr. (October 30, 1816 – February 5, 1903), was an attorney and Republican senator from Massachusetts who served from 1875 to 1893. He was previously a congressman for nearly two decades, and served in the state legislature prior to that.


Dawes was born near Cummington, Massachusetts[1] to Mitchell Dawes and the former Mercy Burgess. After enrolling in public schools and receiving additional learning in preparatory schools, Dawes attended Yale College, where he graduated in 1839. After admission to the bar three years later, he commenced practice.

Political career

U.S. House of Representatives

Dawes ran for U.S. House in 1856, facing Democrat Josiah D. Weston and Know Nothing incumbent Mark Trafton in the general election. He emerged victorious garnering a plurality of 44% of the vote, while his opponents each polled around 28%.[2] He continued to be re-elected eight times, solidifying double-digit victory margins except for the 1870 midterms.[3]

In the House, Dawes would over time solidify seniority powers, which he utilized to spearhead anti-slavery bills.[1] He also strongly backed protective tariffs to bolster the domestic textile industry, and pushed for legislation that provided weather reports.[1]

U.S. Senate

In the 1874 midterm elections, Dawes successfully ran for U.S. Senate,[4] where he was re-elected twice.[3]

Half-Breed strategist

During the presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes (spanning 1877–81), the main beneficiary of the Compromise of 1877 who abandoned Southern blacks and paved for the rise of Jim Crow, Dawes was a prominent member of congressional Half-Breeds within the Republican Party allied with Hayes' support for civil service reform.[5] Along with fellow Massachusetts senatorial Half-Breed George F. Hoar and Rep. John D. Long, he became one of the faction's leading strategists.[6]

During the 1880 presidential election, the agreed strategy planned was to prevent either former Ulysses S. Grant, the leader of Stalwarts, nor Half-Breed leader James G. Blaine of Maine,[note 1] from obtaining the nomination at the Republican National Convention.[6] Instead, the Half-Breeds would push to nominate faction member George F. Edmunds, a senator from Vermont.

However, Sen. Hoar admonished Half-Breed supporters that Republican delegates should not make their preferences clearly visible to others.[6] Although the Massachusetts delegation did support Edmunds, the Vermont Half-Breed failed to garner enough support, and the faction ultimately formed an alliance with Blaine supporters in successfully nominating James A. Garfield of Ohio.

Dawes accepts Blaine into Half-Breed ranks

When President Garfield took office, Blaine was made United States Secretary of State for the administration. The Maine Republican's credentials as a Half-Breed were spotty due to his opposition towards civil service reform, though nonetheless were welcomed by Hoar and Dawes as a member of the faction.[6][note 2]

However, Edmunds, who Half-Breeds supported in 1880, broke from Dawes and Hoar in refusing to accept Blaine as a genuine convert.[6] Indeed, the Vermont senator refused to support Blaine when the latter was nominated by the Republican National Convention in the 1884 presidential election.

Support for civil service reform

Like all early Half-Breeds who were relatively prominent during the Hayes presidency, Dawes supported civil service reform. During the presidency of James Garfield, he wrote two letters at separate occasions in July 1881 on the matter.[7][8]

Dawes Act of 1887

The chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs,[1] he is known for introducing the Dawes Severalty Act of 1887 which permitted the federal government to seize tribal lands and compel Native Americans to assimilate into American society.[9] The bill was signed into law by President Grover Cleveland.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Henry Laurens Dawes. Encyclopedia.com. Retrieved December 5, 2021.
  2. MA District 11 Race - Nov 04, 1856. Our Campaigns. Retrieved December 5, 2021.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Candidate - Henry Laurens Dawes. Our Campaigns. Retrieved December 5, 2021.
  4. MA US Senate Race - Nov 03, 1874. Our Campaigns. Retrieved December 5, 2021.
  5. Welch, Richard E., Jr. (1968). George Edmunds of Vermont: Republican Half-Breed, p. 65. Vermont History. Retrieved December 5, 2021.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 George Edmunds of Vermont, p. 67–68.
  7. July 22 1881. CIVIL SERVICE REFORM; SENATOR DAWES WRITES A LETTER ON THE SUBJECT. The New York Times. Retrieved December 5, 2021.
  8. July 30, 1881. CIVIL SERVICE REFORM; ANOTHER LETTER FROM SENATOR DAWES. The New York Times. Retrieved December 5, 2021.
  9. The Dawes Act. National Park Service. Retrieved December 5, 2021.


  1. Blaine emerged as a leader of the Half-Breeds during the 1880 presidential election, though didn't lead the faction before or after this period.
  2. Contrary to popular assumption that Blaine was a loyal and consistent Half-Breed, the Maine senator's views on patronage actually aligned more with the Stalwarts.

Further reading

External links

  • Profile at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
  • Profile at Find a Grave