Edmund G. Ross
Soldier, Senator, Abolitionist
Publication Year: 2013
Thanks to John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage, most twenty-first-century Americans who remember Edmund G. Ross (1826–1907) know only that he cast an important vote as a U.S. senator from Kansas that prevented the conviction of President Andrew Johnson of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” allowing Johnson to stay in office. But Ross was also a significant abolitionist, journalist, Union officer, and, eventually, territorial governor of New Mexico. This first full-scale biography of Ross reveals his importance in the history of the United States.
Ross’s life reveals a great deal about who we were as Americans in the second half of the nineteenth century. He was involved in the abolitionist movement as both a journalist and a participant, as well as in the struggle to bring Kansas into the union as a free state. His career also involved him in the expansion of railroads west of the Mississippi, the Civil War, Reconstruction and the impeachment of Andrew Johnson, the Gilded Age with its greedy politicians and businessmen, and the expansion of the United States into the Southwest. In short, Ross’s career represents the changes that the whole country experienced in the course of his lifetime. Moreover, Ross was an interesting character, resolute and consistent in his beliefs, who often paid a price for his integrity.
Published by: University of New Mexico Press
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My interest in Edmund G. Ross began in part with John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage. Even before knowing about the Ross chapter in Kennedy’s book, I was introduced to a collection of photographs of the Ross family kept in the photo archive at the Albuquerque Museum, where I volunteered...
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The years of researching and writing this biography brought me in touch with many new friends and into a closer relationship with old friends. I will attempt to acknowledge the help I received from those who are so deserving of recognition and appreciation, and extend my sincere apologies...
1: Young Man Working at the Case
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Joshua Glover was a runaway slave from Missouri who, in 1854, made his way north to Racine, Wisconsin, a community known for its sizeable abolitionist population. He was able to secure employment at a mill and presumably was enjoying life until the night of March 10, 1854, when...
2: The Abolitionists: A Call to Action
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Lillian Ross Leis, in recollections of her childhood, gives a glimpse into the life of her family in Milwaukee, no doubt with the help of stories passed on to her by her parents, aunts, uncles, and family friends. Although these may not be altogether her own clear memories, they are nonetheless...
3: Joining the Battle for a Free Kansas
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The essential reason Free-Staters were able to stop the extension of slavery into the new territories of the West is embodied in the words of Sara Robinson: men and women deeply committed to ending the spread of slavery had a greater will to succeed than their proslavery counterparts....
4: Fighting Slavery with Words
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When John Geary arrived in Kansas in September 1856 to take on the job of territorial governor, fighting between pro- and antislavery forces had reached its peak; he was determined that it must end. More than his predecessors, Geary quickly gained the respect of the U.S. Army in Kansas...
5: Ross, the Record, and the Railroads
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The return to Topeka in the fall of 1859 was a new beginning for the Edmund G. Ross family. For a time they lived in a rented house until Ross purchased half a block of property on Sixth Avenue, where he built a stone cottage with the interior finished in black walnut. This may sound like an...
6: The Civil War and the Kansas Volunteers
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Henry C. Lindsey was a twelve-year-old boy when he went to Kansas with his father in 1856. Elza Lindsey was a stonemason and a widower who no doubt believed Kansas offered a better future for himself and his young son, but it is safe to assume that their life was no better in Kansas than it...
7: Major Ross: Return to Civilian Life
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At the end of the Civil War Edmund Ross had simple goals, the same goals he had before the war: to be with his family, to operate a printing business, and, better yet, to once again publish his own newspaper. In a letter to Fannie a few months before he mustered out of the army, Ross...
8: Southern President, Radical Congress
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In 1896, when Edmund Ross was seventy years old, he wrote The History of the Impeachment of Andrew Johnson, the first book-length account of the impeachment trial of 1868, and the only one written by a participant in the trial. Ross introduces the account with known information...
9: A Surprising Death, an Unexpected Appointment
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June and July 1866 were crucial months both in Washington and in Kansas. On June 13 the extraordinary Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution was passed and sent to all states, including all seceded states, for ratification. It secured the right of citizenship, both state and national,...
10: Reconstruction: The Lines Are Drawn
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The problems of Reconstruction were unprecedented in United States history. There was no model to follow, and the solutions, in general, of Radical Republicans and the southern-born Democratic president differed greatly. By the middle of 1866 Radicals generally believed that seceded states...
11: The 1867 Election: Pomeroy and Ross
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Edmund Ross’s appointment to the Senate by Governor Crawford after the death of Senator Lane was official but temporary. At the first meeting of the Kansas State Legislature following his appointment, Ross had to stand for election. Ross was running to fill out the remainder of Jim Lane’s...
12: Congress Declares War on the President
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The Reconstruction Acts were the most important measures enacted by Congress in 1867. Passed on March 2, March 23, and July 23, these far-reaching statutes reflected the extreme frustration felt in the House and Senate with President Johnson’s anemic Reconstruction policies...
13: The Impeachment Trial of Andrew Johnson
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Although the 1868 move to impeach Andrew Johnson became tied to Johnson’s defiance of the Tenure of Office Act, the impeachment always was more about politics than it was about a violation of law. It was inextricably linked to the Reconstruction Acts and Johnson’s obstructionist policies....
14: Empty Accusations: Ross Fights Back
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Edmund Ross gave a speech before the Senate on May 27, 1868, the day following the collapse of the impeachment trial; it was a speech that began a new phase in his political life. He was no longer a quiet, low-profile member of the Senate. Now Ross was an angry and outspoken fighter...
15: The Last Two Years: A Working Senator
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Edmund Ross continued to have difficulty with his fellow senators and fellow Kansans in the fall of 1868, but a strong, albeit smaller, base of Kansans still admired him. The months between May and October seemed to heal some of the wounds brought about by the impeachment and trial. While...
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16: The Campaign to Expose Pomeroy
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Edmund Ross arrived in Washington for the third session of the Forty-first Congress in December 1870, a little more than one month before the Kansas Legislature would meet to either return him to office for another term or select a new senator to replace him. Ross was under no illusion...
17: Liberals Versus Radicals: Shifting Alignments
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The early 1870s were among the most difficult of years for Edmund Ross. Ross did not easily release the anger he felt from poor treatment by fellow Kansans for his vote to acquit Andrew Johnson. His anger was understandable. Seemingly few Kansas Republicans ever understood why Ross...
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When Edmund Ross stepped off the train in Albuquerque in October 1882, he discovered an emerging town with buildings scattered about in various stages of construction, mostly wood framed, some built with brick, a few with adobe, and none more than two years old. Tents occupied some lots....
19: Understanding New Mexico
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Two centuries after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, the land that Don Diego de Vargas reconquered could still be considered “remote.”1 But with the railroad reaching New Mexico in the first few years of the 1880s, the territory rapidly emerged from its isolated past. Historian Howard R. Lamar...
20: Governor Ross and the Court of Private Land Claims
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Lew Wallace’s observation about New Mexico was at the same time humorous and, although cynical, mixed with a degree of truth. New Mexico was a unique place with problems unlike those of any other state or territory. While Wallace could throw up his hands at New Mexico’s problems...
21: The Santa Fe Ring and the Territorial Legislature
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In March 1887, when Ross had been in office for nearly two years, he wrote to a friend, John O’Grady, in St. Louis, Missouri. The letter appears to be in response to an inquiry by O’Grady about the general condition of affairs in New Mexico. Ross’s reply ran to sixteen pages. It was essentially...
22: The Final Years
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In August 1889 an article appeared in the New York Times titled “Ross’s Varying Fortune.” It was well written, without a byline, seemingly by someone who knew Edmund Ross well and who thought highly of him. The article had a Topeka dateline of August 17. The writer commented: “Kansas...
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Page Count: 352
Publication Year: 2013