MICHIGAN TRAILS -
Michigan Governor 1846-1874
His intention was to join his friend, Sargent S. Prentiss, then living at Vicksburg, Mississippi; but, on his arrival at Cincinnati, Mr. Felch was attacked by the cholera, and, after recovering sufficiently to resume his journey, found that the danger from that disease was too great to permit a voyage down the river. He therefore determined to return to the North, and came to Michigan. In this State he first commenced the practice of his profession at Monroe, and continued there until 1843, at which time he removed to Ann Arbor. He was elected a member of the State Legislature, from Monroe County, in 1835, and continued a member of that body during the years 1836 and 1837. While he held this office, the general banking law of the State was enacted, and went into operation. After mature deliberation, he became convinced that the proposed system of banking could not prove beneficial to the public interests; and that, instead of relieving the people from the pecuniary difficulties under which they were laboring, it would result in still further embarrassment. He, therefore, opposed the bill, and pointed out to the House the disasters which, in his opinion, were sure to follow its passage. The public mind, however, was so favorably impressed by the measure that no other member, in either branch of the Legislature, raised a dissenting voice, and but two voted with him in opposition to the bill. Early in 1838, he was appointed one of the Bank Commissioners of the State, and held that office for more than a year. During this time, the new banking law had given birth to that numerous progeny known as "wild-cat" banks. Almost every village had its bank. The country was flooded with depressed "wild-cat" money. The examinations of the Bank Commissioners brought to light frauds at every point, which were fearlessly reported to the Legislature, and were followed by criminal prosecutions of the guilty parties, and the closing of many of their institutions.
The duties of the office were most laborious; and, in 1839, Mr. Felch resigned. The chartered right of almost every bank had, in the meantime, been declared forfeited and the law repealed. It was subsequently decided to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of the State. In 1842, Mr. Felch was appointed Auditor-General of the State; but, after holding the office only a few weeks, was commissioned, by the Governor, as one of the Judges of the Supreme Court, to fill a vacancy occasioned by the resignation of Judge Fletcher. At the session of the Legislature held in January, 1843, Mr. Felch was nominated, by the Governor, to the Senate, and was confirmed by that body, both for the unexpired term of his predecessor and for the next ensuing full term of six years. In 1845 he was elected Governor of the State, and entered on the duties of the office at the commencement of the following year. At the session of the Legislature held in 1847, he was elected a Senator in Congress for six years; and at once retired from the office of Governor, by resignation, which took effect on the 4th of March, 1847, when his Senatorial term commenced. While a member of the Senate, he acted on the Committee on Public Lands; and, during four years, was its chairman. At the close of his Senatorial term, in March, 1853, he was appointed, by President Pierce, one of the Commissioners to adjust and settle the Spanish and Mexican land claims in California, under the treaty of Gaudalupe Hidalgo, and an act of Congress passed for that purpose. He went to California in May, 1853, and was made President of the Commission. The duties of this office were of the most important and delicate character. The interest of the new State, and the fortunes of many of its citizens, both the native Mexican population and the recent American immigration; the right of the Pueblos to their common lands, and of the Catholic Church to the lands of the Missions,--the most valuable of the State,--were involved in the adjudications of this Commission.
In March, 1856, their labors were brought to a close by the final disposition of all the claims which were presented. The record of their proceedings,--the testimony which was given in each case, and the decision of the Commissioners thereon,--consisting of some forty large volumes, was deposited in the Department of the Interior at Washington. In June, 1856, Mr. Felch returned to his home in Ann Arbor, where he has been engaged principally in the legal profession. Since that time, he has been once nominated for Governor, once for the office of United States Senator, twice for that of Judge of the Supreme Court of the State; but, the Democratic party, to which he has always been attached, being in the minority, he failed of an election. In 1873 he withdrew from the active practice of law, and, with the exception of a tour in Europe, in 1875, has since led a life of retirement at his home in Ann Arbor. In 1877 the University of Michigan conferred upon him the degree of LL. D. Mr. Felch is the oldest surviving member of the Legislature from Monroe County; the oldest and only surviving Bank Commissioner of the State; the oldest surviving Auditor-General of the State; the oldest surviving Governor of the State; the oldest surviving Judge of the Supreme Court of Michigan; and the oldest surviving United States Senator from Michigan.
American Biographical History of Eminent and Self-Made Men with Portrait Illustrations on Steel, Vol. I-II 1878