MICHIGAN TRAILS
GENEALOGY and HISTORY
 

Charles M. Croswell
Governor (1877 - 1881)

 Charles M. Croswell, Governor of Michigan from 3 January 1877 to 1 January 1881 was born at Newburg, Orange Co., N.Y. He 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 Knickerbocker 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 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 established the important ruling that the truth light 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. Croswell was seven years of age, his father was accidently 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 Adrian, Michigan. At sixteen years of age, he commenced to 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 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 took part in the first movements for the formation of the Republican party, and was a member and Secretary of the convention 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 1866, during each term filling the positions 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 proposed 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 collection 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 indicated 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 he 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 prepared his addresses with care; and, as his diction is terse, clear, and strong, without excess of ornament, and his delivery impressive, he is a popular speaker; and many of his speeches have attracted favorable comment in the public prints, and have a permanentt 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 Adrian. 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 career 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 of late 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 Croswell 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. Croswell's 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 bribery in elections; the State House of Corrections at Ionia and the Eastern Asylum for the Insane at Pontiac were opened ant 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 occurred 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

OBITUARY

Adrian, December 13, -- Ex-Gov. Charles M. Croswell died at his residence in this city this morning after a brief illness. He had been confined to his bed but a few days, but continually grew weaker and Sunday his case was hopeless.

He has ever been regarded as one of our ablest and worthiest citizens, and for several years past has been the President of the Lenawee County Savings Bank. He has, without doubt, assumed too many responsibilities and has worked himself to death. The sad event is keenly felt by all classes of citizens, and there is universal sorrow in the city, where he has so long been held in the highest esteem and respect for his high worth as a man and a citizen.

A bar meeting was held at the Court House this afternoon and passed resolutions of regret.

Hon. Chas. M. Croswell was born at Newburg, Orange Co., N.Y., October 31, 183254. He was the only son of John and Sallie (Hicks) Croswell. HIs father was of Scotch-Irish descent and his ancestors on his mother's side were of Knickerbocker descent. When but 7 years of age his father was accidently drowned in the Hudson River, 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 Adrian, Mich. At 16 years of age he commenced to 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 which office he performed for four years, when he was elected Register of Deeds, and was re-elected in 1852. In 1854 he took part in the first movements for the formation of the Republican party, and was a member and Secretary of the convention held at Jackson in that year, which put in the field the first Republican State ticket in Michgan.

In 1855 he formed a law partnership with Judge Cooley, which continued until the latter's removal to Ann Arbor. In 1862 Mr. Croswell was appointed City Attorney of Adrian, and was also elected Mayor of the city in the spring of the same year. In the fall of 1862 he was chosen to represent Lenawee County in the State Senate, where the compliment of Chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary was paid him. He was re-elected to the Senate in 1864 and again in 1866. IN 1867 he was elected a member of the Constitutional Convention , and was chosen its presiding officer. In 1868 he was chosen an elector on the Republican Presidential ticket; in 1872 he was elected a Representative to the Legislature from Lenawee County, and was chosen Speaker of the House. In 1876 he was elected Governor of Michigan, and was re-nominated and re-elected in 1878.

Gov. Croswell was a man of broad culture, and in intellectual ability had few superiors in the State. He was an eloquent and polished speaker and strong in argument. In his personal intercourse he was always courteous, affable and pleasant, and no person ever knew him to be rude or harsh.

published in The Detroit Free Press (Detroit, Michigan) 14 Dec 1886

 

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