Thomas A. Jenckes

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Thomas Allen Jenckes, I
Thomas A. Jenckes.jpg
Former U.S. Representative from Rhode Island's 1st Congressional District
From: March 4, 1863 – March 3, 1871
Predecessor William Paine Sheffield, Sr.
Successor Benjamin T. Eames
State Representative from Rhode Island
From: 1854–1857
Predecessor ???
Successor ???
Party Republican
Spouse(s) Mary Jane Fuller

Thomas Allen Jenckes, I (November 2, 1818 – November 4, 1875) was a lawyer and Republican from Rhode Island who represented the state's 1st congressional district in the United States House of Representatives from 1863 to 1871. He was previously a legislator in the state House of Representatives.


Jenckes was born in early November 1918 to Thomas B. Jenckes and the former Abigail W. Allen. He attended public schools and graduated from Brown University. Studying law and being admitted to the state bar two years later, he proceeded to commence practice.

He married the former Mary Jane Fuller, and the couple's children were Jeanie Rosalie, Mary Edith, Ida Cornelia, Florence Madeleine, Agnes Fuller, and Thomas Allen, II (or Thomas, Jr.).

Political career

From 1840 to 1844, Jenckes served as a clerk to the state legislature. He was elected to the lower body of the legislature a decade later, and became a commissioner to revise laws during his tenure.

U.S. House of Representatives

Jenckes was first elected to the U.S. House in 1863 as a Unionist, defeating Democrat opponent Charles J. Bradley by seventeen percentage points.[1] He was subsequently re-elected three times by landslide margins.[2][3]

During his House tenure, Jenckes was mostly known for introducing legislation which created the Department of Justice.[4] Contrary to some narratives that suggest this was an effort to bolster Reconstruction policies during the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant and safeguard the constitutional rights of blacks, it was primarily for the purpose of professionalizing legal practice.[5] Indeed, Jenckes "paid little attention" to protecting Southern blacks.[4]

Considered a "reformer," Jenckes was an early advocate of civil service reform[6] and known as "the father of civil service."[4] When he introduced legislation pushing it, fierce opposition was met by Radical Republican colleague John A. Logan of Illinois,[7] who was concerned with the plight of Southern blacks and called the bill "probably unconstitutional."[8] The enactment of a civil service system to replace the traditional spoils system would prevent Republicans from utilizing patronage to benefit blacks, and it was later implemented via the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act years after Jenckes left office.[9]

Having prosecuted fraud implicated in the Credit Mobilier scandal, Jenckes' tenure was also marked by his revisions of bankruptcy law and involvement in cases related to Goodyear rubber, the Corliss steam engine, in addition to patents pertaining to refrigeration and ventilation.[6]

In the 1870 midterms, Jenckes was defeated by fellow Republican Benjamin T. Eames.[10]

Death and interment

Jenckes died in early November 1875 in Cumberland, Rhode Island, and is interred at Swan Point Cemetery, located in Providence.

See also


  1. RI - Eastern District Race - Apr 01, 1863. Our Campaigns. Retrieved November 25, 2021.
  2. Candidate - Thomas A. Jenckes. Our Campaigns. Retrieved November 25, 2021.
  3. April 6, 1865. The Rhode Island Election. The New York Times. Archived version available here. Retrieved November 25, 2021.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Shugerman, Jed H. (March 21, 2013). The Creation of the Department of Justice: Professionalization Without Civil Rights or Civil Service. The University of Texas at Austin School of Law. Retrieved November 25, 2021.
  5. Freilach, Jennifer (April 6, 2017). When Was the Department of Justice Established? History News Network. Retrieved November 25, 2021.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Thomas A. Jenckes Papers: A Finding Aid to the Collection in the Library of Congress. Library of Congress. Retrieved November 25, 2021.
  7. Jones, John Pickett (1982). John A. Logan: Stalwart Republican from Illinois, p. 21. Google Books. Retrieved November 25, 2021.
  8. John A. Logan: Stalwart Republican from Illinois, p. 34
  9. Matthews, Dylan (July 20, 2016). Donald Trump and Chris Christie are reportedly planning to purge the civil service. Vox. Retrieved November 25, 2021.
  10. RI - Eastern District Race - Nov 08, 1870. Our Campaigns. Retrieved November 25, 2021.

Further reading

External links

  • Profile at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
  • Biography at Social Networks and Archival Context
  • Profile at Find a Grave