By Richard A. Ruddy. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2013. ix + 328 pp. Illustrations, notes, bibliography, index. $29.95 paper.
When Americans think of Edmund Gibson Ross, if they think of him at all, they remember him as the junior senator from Kansas who cast the decisive vote of “not guilty” in the gut-wrenching trial of the impeached President Andrew Johnson in 1868. Ross is also recalled as one of the senators featured in the 1956 Pulitzer Prize–winning, error-riddled Profiles in Courage by John F. Kennedy and Theodore Sorensen. Or Americans may think of Bradford Dillman’s able portrayal of the brave young senator in the 1965 tv series based on the Kennedy and Sorensen book.
A leading abolitionist, Ross was in the forefront of the “holy war” for “Bloody Kansas,” arriving in the territory shortly after the proslavery sacking of Lawrence in 1856. To help promote the free-state cause, the Ohio-born Edmund and his brother William purchased the Topeka-based Kansas Tribune and editorialized against the proslavery Lecompton Constitution. With the coming of civil war, Ross became a captain in the Eleventh Kansas Infantry.
After the suicide of James H. Lane in 1866, Ross was appointed and then elected to the United States Senate. Largely as a result of his vote to acquit President Johnson, Ross was vilified with trumped-up charges of bribery, and he lost reelection in 1870. Fifteen years later, he was appointed by President Grover Cleveland to serve as governor of New Mexico Territory.
In his research on Ross’s Civil War career, Ruddy does not appear to have consulted Ross’s Compiled Service Record, or even the invaluable 128-volume Official Records of the War of the Rebellion.
Ruddy seems most comfortable when writing about Ross’s time as territorial governor, especially his struggles with the Santa Fe Ring, an infamous alliance of politicians, lawyers, and businessmen. Unlike his predecessors, Ross devoted considerable time and effort to his work as governor, often laboring well past midnight. Ross later worked as editor of the Deming Headlight, where he spoke out against statehood on the grounds that the legislature would be in the hands of scoundrels and the people would be victims of an “incompetent and venal judiciary” (169). Ross returned to Santa Fe in 1895 as secretary of the Bureau of Immigration and managed to write a less than objective history of Andrew Johnson’s impeachment trial. With his eyesight and hearing failing, Ross spent the last few years of his life in Albuquerque, where he died of pneumonia in 1907.
A commercial photography specialist by profession, Ruddy spent six-years studying the life of the overlooked Ross. The result is a first-rate, balanced biography of a gallant and admirable individual. Anyone interested in the history of Civil War and Reconstruction, or the history of New Mexico or Kansas, will want this well-crafted, indispensable, and definitive biography of the intrepid Ross. [End Page 392]
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