Last modified on December 21, 2021, at 19:16

Levi P. Morton

Levi Parsons “L. P.” Morton
L. P. Morton portrait.png
Former Governor of New York
From: January 1, 1895 – December 31, 1896
Lieutenant Charles T. Saxton
Predecessor Roswell P. Flower
Successor Frank S. Black
22nd Vice President of the United States
From: March 4, 1889 – March 4, 1893
President Benjamin Harrison
Predecessor Thomas Hendricks
Successor Adlai E. Stevenson
Former U.S. Representative from New York's 11th Congressional District
From: March 4, 1879 – March 21, 1881
Predecessor Benjamin A. Willis
Successor Roswell P. Flower
Information
Party Republican
Spouse(s) Lucy Young Kimball (died 1871)
Anna Livingston Reade Street (died 1918)
Religion Episcopalian

Levi Parsons Morton (May 16, 1824 – May 16, 1920), also known as L. P. Morton,[1] was a U.S. representative from New York who served as Benjamin Harrison's vice president from 1889 to 1893. Originally aligned with the Stalwart wing of the Republican Party as a strong pro-business conservative, he later betrayed the party's priorities by doing little to advance the Lodge Bill in addition to eventually supporting civil service reform.[1] Morton was subsequently shunned by his party and soundly rejected for renomination as vice president when up for re-election.

Morton was later elected Governor of New York, serving from 1895 to 1896.[1]

Background

Morton was born in Vermont to Daniel Oliver Morton and the former Lucretia Parsons. He was named after his uncle, the first missionary from the U.S. to Palestine.[1] His father was a Congregationalist minister. During Morton's youth, his family's poverty proved to be a hindrance to his hopes for entering college, though an older brother assured him:[1]

...a self-taught man is worth two of your college boys.

Political career

During the 1870s, Morton was part of the Republican "Stalwarts" led by New York senator Roscoe Conkling,[1] a Radical Republican and supporter of machine politics who fiercely opposed civil service reform that would replace the spoils system the GOP had utilized to safeguard constitutional rights of blacks during Reconstruction.

U.S. House of Representatives

Following an unsuccessful bid for Congress in 1876 against incumbent Tammany Machine-aligned Democrat Benjamin A. Willis,[2] he successfully defeated Willis in the 1878 midterms by a landslide[3] and would be re-elected in 1880.[4]

Morton viewed his own interests as no different from that of his constituents.[1] A newspaper reporter described him as:

...not a loquacious man, and yet an interesting talker, and one of the pleasantest expressions of his face is that of the respectful, intelligent listener.

—George Alfred Townsend

Morton was also considerably wealthier than most colleagues, and he also became friends with future president James A. Garfield during his House years.[1]

Conkling machine, declining vice presidential nomination

Levi morton.jpg

During the 1880 presidential election, Morton served as a lieutenant to Sen. Conkling and his machine, which supported a third non-consecutive term for former Radical Republican president Ulysses S. Grant over the nomination of Half-Breed Sen. James G. Blaine.[1] The Half-Breeds ultimately successfully pushed for the dark-house candidate James Garfield for the party nomination.

Garfield attempted to unite the Conkling and Blaine factions as a gesture of party unity vowing to support the Stalwarts' patronage.[1] When approached by Morton about potentially being on the party ticket as Garfield's vice presidential pick, Conkling declined, and the New York representative's similar subsequent turning down of the idea led to Stalwart Chester A. Arthur being handed the position.[1]

Garfield's betrayal

Although promising to back the demands of the Conkling Stalwarts including Morton during his campaign, President Garfield turned his back on party conservatives when appointing Half-Breed William Robertson as New York port of the collector.[1]

An angered Conkling and his New York senatorial colleague Thomas C. "Tom" Platt effectively resigned from their positions as a gesture of protest while expecting to be immediately reinstated to their positions, only to be shunned by the state legislature.[1] Morton was absent during this period for some time, sailing for France. When returning to the United States, Garfield had been assassinated by a disgruntled Stalwart.

Morton supports Half-Breed Blaine for president

During the Republican primaries in the 1884 presidential election, Morton along with Thomas C. Platt supported Half-Breed leader James G. Blaine, who became the GOP nominee.[1] Blaine's campaign was derailed when a supporting Protestant minister at a dinner called the Democrats the party of:

...rum, Romanism, and rebellion.

Democrats, seizing on the remark, riled up Irish voters, and Blaine ultimately lost New York in his election defeat to Bourbon DemocratGrover Cleveland.[1]

Vice presidency

Blaine did not seek the presidency in the following 1888 race due to declining health, prompting Platt to support the nomination of Benjamin Harrison, a U.S. senator from Indiana.[1] The former Maine senator supported William W. Phelps for vice president, though Platt gave support to Morton, who was nominated for the party ticket.[1] The Harrison/Morton ticket successfully denied President Cleveland a second consecutive term.[note 1]

Morton turns his back on the Lodge Bill

President Harrison, a staunch supporter of civil rights, adamantly backed measures to protect black voting rights in the South, where Democrat election fraud and voter suppression tactics were prevalent. Conservative Republican senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Sr. of Massachusetts subsequently introduced the Lodge Bill (also known as the Force Bill) aimed at safeguarding constitutional rights of blacks.[1]

Portrait of Sen. Lodge, who spearheaded the bill.

The Lodge Bill narrowly passed the House and faced opposition in the Senate from Jim Crow Democrats who started a filibuster. Although Vice President Morton, who presided over the Senate, ensured it reached the floor by providing the crucial tie-breaking vote, it faced another blockade.[1] Morton then did nothing to push for its Senate passage as liberal, opportunist, pro-inflation Western Silver Republicans sought Southern support for their agrarian populist causes by opposing the Lodge Bill.[1]

Republican senators concerned with the plight of Southern blacks pleaded with the stubborn, entrenched Morton to vacate his position for another GOP member to preside over the Senate in hopes of passing the Lodge Bill.[1] Morton stubbornly refused to even temporarily vacate and insisted that his role was to maintain a neutral stance when presiding. Sen. George F. Hoar retorted that the vice president:[1]

...asserted their authority with as little show of force as if they were presiding over a company of guests at their own table.

—Sen. George Frisbie Hoar of Massachusetts

The Lodge Bill was effectively killed when the U.S. Senate on a 35–34 vote passed a resolution in late January 1891 substituting it with separate legislation.[1][note 2] President Harrison did not forgive Morton for the latter's blatant inaction, and the New York Republican was not selected for renomination on the Republican ticket in the 1892 presidential election.

References

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 1.19 1.20 1.21 1.22 About the Vice President | Levi Parsons Morton, 22nd Vice President (1889-1893). United States Senate. Retrieved November 11, 2021.
  2. NY District 11 Race - Nov 07, 1876. Our Campaigns. Retrieved November 11, 2021.
  3. NY District 11 Race - Nov 05, 1878. Our Campaigns. Retrieved November 11, 2021.
  4. NY District 11 Race - Nov 02, 1880. Our Campaigns. Retrieved November 11, 2021.

notes

  1. Cleveland served for a second term, though non-consecutively and being the only president to have done so.
  2. Although it likely had not been a roll call vote, the yeas on the motion were presumably supplied by Democrats and Silver Republicans.

External links

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