Jacob Dolson Cox

Jacob Dolson Cox
28th Governor of Ohio
In office
January 8, 1866  January 13, 1868
Lieutenant Andrew McBurney
Preceded by Charles Anderson
Succeeded by Rutherford B. Hayes
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Ohio's 6th district
In office
March 4, 1877  March 3, 1879
Preceded by Frank H. Hurd
Succeeded by William D. Hill
10th United States Secretary of the Interior
In office
March 5, 1869  October 31, 1870
President Ulysses S. Grant
Preceded by Orville Hickman Browning
Succeeded by Columbus Delano
Member of the Ohio Senate
from the 23rd district
In office
January 2, 1860  January 5, 1862
Preceded by Robert Walker Tayler, Sr.
Succeeded by Samuel Quinby
Personal details
Born (1828-10-27)October 27, 1828
Montreal, Canada
Died August 4, 1900(1900-08-04) (aged 71)
Gloucester, Massachusetts
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Helen Clarissa Finney Cox
Alma mater Oberlin College
Profession Lawyer
Military service
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Union Army
Years of service 1861–1866
Rank Major General
Commands Kanawha Division

American Civil War

Jacob Dolson Cox, (Jr.) (October 27, 1828  August 4, 1900) was a statesman, lawyer, Union Army general during the American Civil War, and later a Republican politician from Ohio. He served as the 28th Governor of Ohio and as United States Secretary of the Interior. As Governor of Ohio, Cox sided with President Andrew Johnson's Reconstruction plan and was against African American suffrage.[1] Due to his support of Johnson's reconstruction policy, Cox was not reelected Governor, and for a year remained out of politics. Both Sherman and Grant advocated that Cox be Secretary of War but Johnson declined. When Ulysses S. Grant became President he nominated Cox Secretary of Interior and Cox immediately accepted. Secretary of Interior Cox implemented civil service reform into the Department of Interior. Grant initially supported Cox and civil service reform creating America's first Civil Service Commission. However, Cox was opposed by Republican Party managers. President Grant and Secretary Cox were at odds over the fraudulent McGarahan Claims and the Dominican Republic annexation treaty.[2] Secretary Cox advocated a lasting, honest, and comprehensive Indian policy legislated by Congress after the Piegan Indian massacre. Cox resigned as Secretary of Interior having been unable to gain Grant's support over the fraudulent McGarrahan claims controversy. Although Cox was a reformer, Grant had believed Cox had overstepped his authority as Secretary of Interior and had undermined his authority as President. Cox for his part admired Grant and was upset at not retaining Grant's favor. In 1872 Cox joined the Liberal Republicans in opposition to Grant's renomination. In 1876 Cox returned to politics and was elected to and served one term as United States Congressman of Ohio. Congressman Cox supported President Hayes's reform efforts, but his term as Congressman was unsuccessful at establishing permanent Civil Service reform.[2] Cox retired and did not return to active politics, using his time to write several books on Civil War campaigns.

Early years and education

Jacob Dolson Cox was born in Montreal, Canada on October 27, 1828.[3] His father and mother respectively were Jacob Dolson Cox and Thedia Redelia (Kenyon) Cox, both Americans and residents of New York.[3] His father Jacob was of Dutch origin, descended from Hanovarian emigrant Michael Cox (Koch) who arrived in New York in 1702.[4] His mother Thedia was descended from Revolutionary War Connecticut soldier Payne Kenyon who was there when British General John Burgoyne surrendered at Saratoga in 1777.[4] Thedia also was descended from Revolutionary War Connecticut soldier Freeman Allyn, who fought against Benedict Arnold at Groton.[4] The Allyns were the early settlers of Salem and Manchester, Massachusetts.[4] Thedia was additionally descended from the Elder William Brewster who emigrated to the Plymouth Colony on the Mayflower in 1620.[4]

The elder Jacob was a New York building contractor and superintended the roof construction of the Church of Notre Dame.[1] Cox returned with his parents to New York City a year later. His early education included private readings with a Columbia College student. His family suffered a financial setback during the Panic of 1837, and Cox was unable to afford a college education and obtain a law degree. New York State law mandated that an alternative to college would be to work as an apprentice in legal firm for seven years before entering the bar.[1] In 1842, Cox entered into an apprenticeship for a legal firm and worked for two years. Having changed his mind on becoming a lawyer, Cox worked as bookkeeper in a brokerage firm and studied mathematics and classical languages in his off hours.[1] In 1846 he enrolled at Oberlin College in the preparatory school having been influenced by the Reverends Samuel D. Cochran and Charles Grandison Finney, leaders of Oberlin College.[1] Oberlin College was a progressive educational facility that was coeducational and admitted students of different races. He graduated from Oberlin with a degree in theology in 1850[5] or 1851.[6][7] He became superintendent of the Warren, Ohio, school system as he studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1853.[1]

Marriage and family

While attending Oberlin, Cox married the eldest daughter of college president Finney in 1849; at age 19, Helen Clarissa Finney was already a widow with a small son.[1] The couple lived with the president, but Cox and his father-in-law became estranged due to theological disputes. Cox was the father of the painter Kenyon Cox; his grandson, Allyn Cox, was a noted muralist. His son Kenyon painted a portrait of Augustus Saint-Gaudens a noted sculptor. Saint-Gaudens had made a marble bust of another of Grant's cabinet Attorney General Edwards Pierrepont.

Political and military career

Cox was a Whig and had voted for Winfield Scott in 1852, having strong family abolitionist ties. As the Whig party dissolved, in 1855 Cox helped to organize the Republican Party in Ohio and stumped for its candidates in counties surrounding Warren. Cox was elected to the Ohio State Senate in 1860[5] and formed a political alliance with Senator and future President James A. Garfield, and with Governor Salmon P. Chase. While in the legislature, he accepted a commission with the Ohio Militia as a brigadier general and spent much of the winter of 1860–61 studying military science.[8]

Civil War

Major General Jacob D. Cox

At the start of the war, Cox was in poor health and was the father of six children (of the eight he and Helen eventually had), but he chose to enter Federal service as an Ohio volunteer.[5] His first assignment was to command a recruiting camp near Columbus, and then the Kanawha Brigade of the Department of the Ohio. His brigade joined the Department of Western Virginia and fought successfully in the early Kanawha Valley campaign under Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan. In 1862 the brigade moved to Washington, D.C., and was attached to John Pope's Army of Virginia, but did not see action at the Second Battle of Bull Run with the rest of the army. At the beginning of the Maryland Campaign, Cox's brigade became the Kanawha Division of the IX Corps of the Army of the Potomac. When corps commander Maj. Gen. Jesse L. Reno was killed at the Battle of South Mountain, Cox assumed command of the IX Corps. He suggested to Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside, formally the commander of IX Corps, but who was commanding a two-corps "wing" of the Army, that he be allowed to return to division command, which was more in keeping with his level of military expertise. Burnside refused the suggestion, but kept Cox under his supervision at the Battle of Antietam. The poor showing of the corps around "Burnside Bridge" at Antietam is generally attributed to Burnside, not Cox.

After Antietam, Cox was appointed major general to rank from October 6, 1862, but this appointment expired the following March when the United States Senate felt that there were too many generals of this rank already serving. He was later renominated and confirmed on December 7, 1864. Most of 1863 was quiet for Cox, who was assigned to command the District of Ohio, and later the District of Michigan, in the Department of the Ohio.

During the Atlanta, Franklin-Nashville, and Carolinas campaigns of 1864–65, Cox commanded the 3rd Division of the XXIII Corps of the Army of the Ohio, under Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield. His 3rd Division provided the main effort in the assault at the Battle of Utoy Creek, August 6, 1864. After the fall of Atlanta during Hood's Tennessee Campaign, Cox and his troops narrowly escaped being surrounded by Hood at Spring Hill, Tennessee, and he is credited with saving the center of the Union battle line at the Battle of Franklin in November 1864. Cox led the 3rd Division at the Battle of Wilmington in North Carolina then took command of the District of Beaufort and a Provisional Corps, which he led at the Battle of Wyse Fork, before it was officially designated the XXIII Corps.

Governor of Ohio

Before mustering out of the Army on January 1, 1866, Cox was elected governor of Ohio. He served from 1866 to 1867, but his moderate views on African-American suffrage and his endorsement of President Andrew Johnson's Reconstruction policy caused the Ohio Republicans to reject him for renomination. He then moved to Cincinnati to practice law.

Secretary of the Interior (1869-70)

President Ulysses S. Grant

Cox was appointed Secretary of the Interior by President Ulysses S. Grant upon his inauguration in March 1869, serving until November 1870. He was an effective advocate of civil service reform and introduced a merit system for appointees. However, after Grant failed to back him up against Republican politicians who thrived on the patronage system then rampant in the Interior Department, and following a dispute over the McGarrahan claims, Cox resigned. As Secretary of Interior Cox was considered an independent thinker.[2] This countered Grant's instincts as a military general believing Cox was acting insubordinate to his presidency.[2] Grant's own view on Cox's resignation, possibly unfairly, was that, "The trouble was that General Cox thought the Interior Department was the whole government, and that Cox was the Interior Department."[9]

Civil service reform

Secretary Cox was an enthusiastic advocate of civil service reform and upon assuming office he implemented a merit system in the Department of Interior. Secretary Cox resisted the efforts of Republican party spoilsmen to collect campaign assessments and dictate who would be appointed to various employment positions within the expanding Department of Interior. Secretary Cox and Attorney General Ebenezer Rockwood Hoar were considered strong reformers on Grant's Cabinet.[2] Cox made assessments of clerks voluntary rather than mandatory believing that the assessment of some clerks would distress their families financially.[10]

Dominican Republic annexation treaty

Secretary of State Hamiltion Fish

Even before Grant became president, an annexationist faction in American politics desired control over the Caribbean islands. William H. Seward, Secretary of State under Lincoln and Johnson, having purchased Alaska from the Russians and attempted to buy the Danish West Indies from the Danes, began negotiations to purchase the Dominican Republic, then referred to as Santo Domingo.[11] These negotiations continued under Grant, led by Orville E. Babcock, a confidant who had served on Grant's staff during the Civil War.[11] Grant was initially skeptical, but at the urging of the Admiral Porter, who wanted a naval base at Samaná Bay, and Joseph W. Fabens, a New England businessman employed by the Dominican government, Grant examined the matter and became convinced of its wisdom.[12] Grant believed in peaceful expansion of the nation's borders and thought the majority-black island would allow new economic opportunities for freedmen. The acquisition, according to Grant, would ease race relations in the South, clear slavery from Brazil and Cuba, and increase American naval power in the Caribbean.[13] Grant sent Babcock to consult with Buenaventura Báez, the pro-annexation Dominican president, to see if the proposal was practical; Babcock returned with a draft treaty of annexation in December 1869.[12] Secretary of State Hamilton Fish told Cox in a private meeting that Babcock had no authorization to make such a treaty. Going against his normal protocol of listening to each Cabinet member, Grant revealed Babcock's unauthorized treaty to his cabinet without discussion.[14] Grant casually told his Cabinet he knew Babcock had no authority to make the treaty but he could remedy this by having the treaty authorized by the United States Dominican Republic Consul.[14] All of the Cabinet kept quiet, until Secretary Cox spoke up and asked Grant, "But Mr. President, has it been settled, then, that we want to Annex Santo Domingo?"[14] Grant blushed and was embarrassed by Cox's direct questioning. Grant then turned to his left looking at Secretary Fish and then turned to his right looking at Secretary of Treasury George S. Boutwell, puffing hard on his cigar. The uncomfortable silence continued until President Grant ordered another item of business.[14] The assembled Cabinet never again spoke on Santo Domingo.[14] Grant personally lobbied Senators to pass the treaty, going so far as to visit Charles Sumner at his home.[15] Fish out of loyalty to Grant authorized and submitted the treaty. The Senate, led by opposition of Sumner, refused to pass the treaty.[16][17]

Indian policy

After the Piegan Indian massacre in January 1870, Secretary Cox in March 1870 demanded that Congress implement definitive and lasting legislation on Indian Policy.[18] President Grant who desired that Indians become civilized, created the Board of Indian Commissioners in 1869 under his Peace policy. Cox defended the integrity of the Commissioners appointed by President Grant.[18] The massacre indirectly helped keep the Bureau of Indian Affairs under the Department of Interior, rather than be transferred to the Department of War. Cox believed that industrial progress such as railroads and telegraph lines were no excuse to break treaties with the Indians. Cox believed that Native Americans derived no benefits from frontier towns that took away pasture lands from the buffalo herds, an Indian food staple. Cox believed that keeping promises to the Indians, rather than breaking treaties, was essential for peace. Cox, however, viewed Indians had low intelligence, were conceited, and made poor diplomats.[18] In 1871, after Cox had resigned office, Congress and President Grant created a comprehensive law that ended the Indian treaty system; the law treated individual Native Americans as wards of the federal government, rather than dealing with the tribes as sovereign entities.[19]

McGarrahan claims and resignation

In August 1870, Secretary Cox came into conflict with President Grant over the fraudulent McGarrahan claims. Grant wanted the McGarrahan claims either settled by Congress or if Congress failed to do so then his administration. Although Grant believed there was fraud in the matter he wanted the McGarrahan claims settled. Cox, however, in a letter to the President, told Grant that he wanted nothing to do with the McGarrahan claims, believing that McGarrahan was entirely fraudulent in asking for a patent on land claims in California. Cox stated that one of McGarrahan's attorneys was instructed to bribe Cox $20,000 for him to approve that patent. McGarrahan had applied for a patent on California agriculture land to be bought up at a low price. However, the land was actually used for gold mining purposes. Cox appealed to Grant not to have Cox appear before a District Court in regards to the McGarrahan claims and to hold a Cabinet meeting over the matter. Cox was unable to directly contact Attorney General Amos T. Akerman who was in Georgia and the newly created Department of Justice was not fully set up. Cox believed that the District Court had no jurisdiction over that matter and that the Department of Interior had sole jurisdiction. When Grant gave no support to Cox over not appearing before the court, Cox resigned his office.[20]

Later years

Cox's home in Cincinnati

After leaving the Interior Department, Cox was considered as a U.S. Senate candidate in the 1872 election, but the Ohio legislature selected a less conservative candidate. From 1873 to 1878 he served as president and as receiver of the Toledo and Wabash Railroad. He was elected as a reform Republican to the United States House of Representatives from Toledo in 1876. He served a single term from 1877 to 1879 and declined to be renominated. He then returned to Cincinnati, serving as Dean of the Cincinnati Law School from 1881 to 1897 and as President of the University of Cincinnati from 1885 to 1889. After retiring from his position as dean, he was urged by President William McKinley to accept the position of U.S. ambassador to Spain, but declined.

Built in 1880, Cox's home in Cincinnati is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[21]

During his later years, Cox was a prolific author. His works include Atlanta (published in 1882); The March to the Sea: Franklin and Nashville (1882); The Second Battle of Bull Run (1882); The Battle of Franklin, Tennessee (1897); and Military Reminiscences of the Civil War (1900).

Death and burial

Cox died on summer vacation at Gloucester, Massachusetts. He is buried in Spring Grove Cemetery, Cincinnati.

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Hockett 1930, p. 476.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Hockett 1930, p. 477.
  3. 1 2 The Biographical Dictionary of America (1906), p. 21.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 The Biographical Dictionary of America, p. 21.
  5. 1 2 3 Ohio Historical Society.
  6. Eicher & Eicher, p. 187.
  7. Warner, p. 97.
  8. Ohio Historical Society. Military records quoted by Eicher and Warner show his appointment to the militia as of April 23, 1861, a couple of weeks following Fort Sumter. His commission as a brigadier general of U.S. Volunteers was May 17, 1861.
  9. Warner, p. 98.
  10. New York Times 1870-10-10.
  11. 1 2 McFeely 1981, pp. 336–338.
  12. 1 2 Smith, pp. 500–502.
  13. Brands 2012a, pp. 455–456.
  14. 1 2 3 4 5 Cox, p. 166-167.
  15. McFeely 1981, pp. 339–341.
  16. Hidalgo, p. 51-66.
  17. McFeely 1981, pp. 349–352.
  18. 1 2 3 New York Times 1870-03-18.
  19. Waltmann, p. 327.
  20. New York Times 11-10-1870.
  21. National Park Service (2009-03-13). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.


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