Conkling, Roscoe (1829–1888)

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CONKLING, ROSCOE (1829–1888)

A New York attorney, congressman (1859–1863, 1865–1867), and senator (1867–1881), Roscoe Conkling in 1861 initiated legislation creating the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War. In 1865, as a member of the joint committee on reconstruction, Conkling supported civil rights for blacks. In 1867 he sponsored military reconstruction legislation. Conkling and other supporters of the bill argued that the South was still in the "grasp of war" and only a military occupation and reconstruction would insure protection of the freedmen. After Reconstruction Conkling continued to support civil rights and helped Frederick Douglass become the first black Recorder of Deeds in Washington, D.C. Douglass placed Conkling alongside ulysses s. grant, charles sumner, and benjamin f. butler as a protector of freedmen. In 1880 Conkling led a movement to renominate Grant because of disagreements with President rutherford b. hayes over Reconstruction and patronage. In 1881 Conkling resigned his Senate seat to protest james a. garfield's appointments in New York State. As the undisputed leader of the New York Republican party, Conkling thought he, and not the President, should dispense patronage in the Empire State. Earlier he had opposed Hayes's attempts to remove federal officeholders in New York and had defended chester a. arthur from corruption charges. In 1873 Conkling declined Grant's offer of the Chief Justiceship of the United States; in 1882 the Senate confirmed him for an Associate Justiceship, but he declined to serve.

Paul Finkelman


Jordon, David M. 1971 Roscoe Conkling of New York: Voice in the Senate. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.