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Conkling, Roscoe,1829–88, American politician, b. Albany, N.Y. On his admission to the bar in 1850, he was immediately appointed district attorney of Albany. The son of Alfred Conkling, Congressman and federal judge, he became a U.S. Representative (1859–63, 1865–67) and Senator (1867–81) and undisputed leader of the Republican party in New York. Conkling's machine was built upon federal patronage, which was entirely his during the Grant administrations. But in 1878, President Hayes, an advocate of civil service reform, removed two Conkling lieutenants, Chester A. ArthurArthur, Chester Alan,
1829–86, 21st President of the United States (1881–85), b. Fairfield, Vt. He studied law and before the Civil War practiced in New York City. In the war he was (1861–63) quartermaster general of New York State.
..... Click the link for more information. and Alonzo B. CornellCornell, Alonzo B.
, 1832–1904, American businessman and politician, b. Ithaca, N.Y. Cornell was a director (1868–69) and vice president (1870–76) of the Western Union Telegraph Company, founded by his father, Ezra Cornell.
..... Click the link for more information. , from the management of the New York customhouse in defiance of Conkling, who claimed that a Senator had the right to control federal patronage in his state. Conkling was reelected, and another lieutenant, Thomas C. PlattPlatt, Thomas Collier,
1833–1910, American legislator and political boss, b. Owego, N.Y. He was president of the Tioga County National Bank and had acquired considerable commercial interests by the time he served in the U.S.
..... Click the link for more information. , became his colleague in the Senate, while Cornell won the governorship. Conkling headed the third-term movement for Grant in 1880 and placed him in nomination at the Republican national convention. Although his Old Guard or "Stalwart" faction was unsuccessful, he prevented the nomination of James G. BlaineBlaine, James Gillespie,
1830–93, American politician, b. West Brownsville, Pa. Early Career
Blaine taught school and studied law before moving (1854) to Maine, where he became an influential newspaper editor.
..... Click the link for more information. , his bitter personal enemy. The deadlocked convention chose James A. GarfieldGarfield, James Abram,
1831–81, 20th President of the United States (Mar.–Sept., 1881). Born on a frontier farm in Cuyahoga co., Ohio, he spent his early years in poverty. As a youth he worked as farmer, carpenter, and canal boatman.
..... Click the link for more information. as a compromise candidate, and Chester A. Arthur was named for Vice President as a sop to the "Stalwarts." Conkling gave Garfield only lukewarm support but claimed afterward that the President-elect had promised him the patronage in return. Garfield denied this and further antagonized Conkling by making Blaine Secretary of State. When an anti-Conkling man was appointed collector of the port of New York, Conkling resigned from the Senate in protest. Platt soon followed his leader, earning for himself the nickname "Me Too." The two expected vindication through reelection by the state legislature, but both were defeated. Conkling then retired to the private practice of law, in which he was highly successful.
See biography by his nephew, A. R. Conkling (1889); study by D. M. Jordan (1971).
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Conkling, Roscoe(1829–1888) U.S. representative/senator; born in Albany, N.Y. Son of a prominent judge and himself a lawyer, he served in the U.S. House of Representatives (Rep., N.Y.; 1859–63, 1865–67) and the U.S. Senate (1867–81). Famed for his florid oratory, he was one of the most influential politicians of his day, leader of the powerful New York Republican machine and an open foe of civil service reform. Nominated and confirmed for a Supreme Court seat after his resignation from the Senate in 1881, he declined and instead became a corporate lawyer.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.