Oliver Perry Morton

OLIVER PERRY MORTON (1823-1877), American political leader, "war governor" of Indiana, was born in Salisbury, Wayne county, Indiana, on the 4th of August 1823. After studying for two years (1843-1845) at Miami University, he practised law at Centerville, Indiana, and in 1852 was judge of the sixth judicial circuit of Indiana. In February 1856 he was a member of the Pittsburg convention which led to the organization of the national Republican party, and in the same year he was a candidate for governor of Indiana; he was defeated, but his campaign resulted in the effective organization of the new party in his state. He was elected lieutenant-governor in 1860, and when Henry S. Lane (1811-1881), the governor, resigned, on the 16th of January 1861, Morton became governor. In 1864 he was re-elected. In meeting all the extraordinary demands resulting from the Civil War he displayed great energy and resourcefulness, and was active in thwarting the schemes of the secessionists in the neighbouring state of Kentucky, and of the Knights of the Golden Circle, the Order of American Knights, and the Sons of Liberty (secret societies of Southern sympathizers and other opponents of the war) in Indiana. In 1863 a hostile legislature sought to deprive him of all control over the militia, and failing in this, adjourned without making the appropriations necessary for carrying on the state government. In this predicament Morton appointed a bureau of finance, and appealed for financial aid to private individuals, bankers, the counties, and even the Federal government. The response was so prompt that he was able to conduct affairs practically single-handed until 1865, when a legislature more favourable to his policies assembled. In 1865, when Morton had a paralytic stroke and went to Europe for treatment, the president entrusted him with a confidential mission to Napoleon III. concerning the withdrawal of the French troops from Mexico. Morton resigned as governor in January 1867 to accept a seat in the United States Senate, in which he served during the rest of his life. He was recognized as one of the leaders of the Radical wing of his party, voting in favour of Johnson's impeachment, and being especially active on behalf of negro suffrage. In 1870 Grant offered to appoint him minister to Great Britain, but he declined the honour on perceiving that a Democrat would succeed him in the Senate.

1 His earliest ancestor in America was George Mourt, or Morton (d. 1624), a merchant of York, England, who seems to have been in London in1621-1622as financial agent for the Plymouth colonists. He published Mourt's Relation, or Journal of the Beginning and Proceedings of the English Plantation at Plimoth (1622), apparently written by William Bradford and Edward Winslow, and went to Plymouth, Mass., in the "Anne" in 1623.

He was a candidate for the Republican nomination for the presidency in 1876, and at the national convention of his party received 124 votes on the first ballot; the nomination, however, finally went to Rutherford B. Hayes. He died at Indianapolis on the 1st of November 1877.

See William D. Foulke, Life of Oliver P. Morton (2 vols., Indianapolis, 1899).

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