MICHIGAN TRAILS -
GENEALOGY and HISTORY

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Charles M. Croswell
Michigan Governor 1877 - 1881

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Charles M. croswell. Governor of Michigan from 3 January 1877 to 1 January 1881 was born at Newburg, Orange Co N.Y. is the only son of John and Sallie (Hicks) Croswell. His father, who was of Scotch-Irish extraction, was a paper-maker, and carried on business in New York City. His ancestors on his mother’s side were of Knicker- Bocker descent. The Croswell family may be found connected with prominent events, in New York and Connecticut, in the early existence of the Republic. Harry Croswell, during the administration of President Jefferson, published a paper called the Balance, and was prosecuted for libeling the President under the obnoxious Sedition Law. He was defended by the celebrated Alexander Hamilton, and the decision of the case establised the important ruling that truth might be shown in cases of libel. Another member of the family was Edwin Croswell, the famous editor of the Albany Argus; also, Rev. William Croswell, noted as a divine and poet.

When Charles M. Crpswell was seven years of age, his father was accidentally drowned in the Hudson River, at Newburg; and, within three months preceding that event, his mother and only sister had died,— thus leaving him the sole surviving member of the family, without fortune or means. Upon the death of his father he went to live with an uncle, who, in 1837, emigrated with him to Adrain, Michigan. At sixteen years of age, he commenced lo learn the carpenter's trade, and worked at it very diligently for four years, maintaining himself, and devoting his spare time to reading and the acquirement of knowledge.

In 1846, he began the study of law, and was appointed Deputy Clerk of Lenawee County. The duties of this office he performed four years, when he was elected Register of Deeds, and was re-elected in 1852. In 1854, he look part in the first movements for the formation of the Republican party, and was a member and Secretary of the convetion held at Jackson in that year, which put in the field the first Republican State ticket in Michigan. In 1855, he formed a law partnership with the present Chief-Justice Cooley, which continued until the removal of Judge Cooley to Ann Arbor.

In 1862, Mr. Croswell was appointed City Attorney of Adrian. He was also elected Mayor of the city in the spring of the same year; and in the fall was chosen to represent Lenawee County in the State Senate. He was re elected to the Senate in 1864, and again in i860, during each term filling the poositions above mentioned. Among various reports made by him, one adverse to the re-establishment of the death penalty, and another against a proposition to pay the salaries of State officers and judges in coin, which then commanded a very large premium, may be mentioned. He also drafted the act ratifying the Thirteenth Amendment to the Federal Constitution, for the abolishment of slavery, it being the first amendment to the instrument ratified by Michigan.

In 1863, from his seat in the State Senate, he delivered an elaborate speech in favor of the Proclamation of Emancipation issued by President Lincoln, and of his general policy in the prosecution of the war. This, at the request of his Republican associates, was afterwards published. In 1867, he was elected a member of the Constitutional Convention, and chosen its presiding officer. This convention was composed of an able body of men; and though, in the general distrust of constitutional changes which for some years had been taking possession of the people, their labors were not accepted by the popular vote, it was always conceded that the constitution they pro|>osed had been prepared with great care and skill.

In 1868, Mr. Croswell was chosen an Elector on the Republican Presidential ticket; in 1872, was elected a Representative to the State Legislature from Lenawee County, and was chosen Speaker of the House of Representatives. At the close of the session of that body his abilities as a parliamentarian, and the fairness of his rulings were freely and formally acknowledged by his associates; and he was presented with a superb collodion of their portraits handsomely framed. He was, also, for several years. Secretary of the State Board for the general supervision of the charitable and penal institutions of Michigan; in which position, his propositions for the amelioration of the condition of the unfortunate, and the reformation of the criminal classes, signalize the benevolence of his nature, and the practical character of his mind.

In 1876, the general voice of the Republicans of the State indicted Mr. Croswell as their choice for Governor; and, at the State Convention of the party in August of the same year, he was put in nomination by acclamation, without the formality of a ballot. At the election in November following, he was chosen to the high position for which lie had been nominated, by a very large majority over all opposing candidates. His inaugural message was received with general favor; and his career as Governor was marked with the same qualities of head and heart that have ever distinguished him, both as a citizen and statesman.

Governor Croswell has always predated his addresses with care; and, as his diction is terse, dear, and strong, without excess of ornament, aiul his delivery impressive, he is a popular speaker; and many of his speeches have attracted favorable comment in the public prints, and have a permanent value. He has always manifested a deep interest in educational matters, and was for years a member and Secretary of the Board of Education of Adrain. At the formal opening of the Central School building in that city, on the 24th day of April, 1869, he gave, in a public address, an “ Historical Sketch of the Adrian Public Schools.”

In his private life, Governor Croswell has been as exemplary as in his public carcer he has been successful and useful. In February, 1852, he was married to a daughter of Morton Eddy, Lucy M. Eddy, a lady of many amiable and sunny qualities. She suddenly died, March 19, 1868, leaving two daughters and a son. Governor Croswell is not a member of any religious body, but generally attends the Presbyterian Church. He pursues the profession of law, but oilate has been occupied mainly in the care of his own interests, and the quiet duties of advice in business difficulties, for which his unfailing prudence and sound judgment eminently fit him. Governor Cromwell is truly popular, not only with those of like political faith with himself, but with those who differ from him in this regard.

During Gov. Croswells administration the public debt was greatly reduced; a policy adopted requiring the State institutions to keep within the limit of appropriations; laws enacted to provide more effectually for the punishment of corruption and bribreiy in elections; the State House of Correction at Ionia and the Eastern Asylum foi the Insane at Pontiac were opened, and the new capital at Lansing was completed and occupied. The first act of his second term was to preside at the dedication of this building The great riot at Jackson occured during his administration, and it was only by his promptness that great distruction of both life and property was prevented at that time.

Portrait and Biographica - Jackson Co MI

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