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1866 - 1868

Jacob Dolson Cox, twenty-eighth governor of Ohio, was born October 27, 1828, in Montreal, Canada, where his father, a well-known New York contractor, was superintending the roof construction of the Church of Notre Dame. The father, American-born, was of German descent; his wife, Thedia Redelia Kenyon, was a New Englander who counted Elder William Brewster among her ancestors. At home they encouraged a feeling for art and music, a strong religious sentiment, and an almost Puritanical sense of conscience and integrity. Young Jacob's education was less well-ordered than his home life: he spent a few terms at a private school and a year with a classically educated minister, and then did private reading with a Columbia College student. At fourteen he began his practical education as an articled clerk in a law office, and at sixteen entered a brokerage firm to learn bookkeeping and business procedures.

About this time Jacob thought of going to sea. His plans were changed, however, by the arrival of the Rev. Samuel D. Cochran, an Oberlin College graduate, who came to New York to establish a Congregational church. Jacob's mother and oldest sisters joined the church, and soon after, during a series of the Rev. Charles G. Finney's revival meetings at Niblo's Theater, Jacob joined too and decided to study for the ministry. Through the influence of Cochran and Finney, young Cox then began his long relationship with Oberlin College, terminated by his service as a trustee, 1876-1900. After a year in the academy and three years in the college he was graduated in 1850. Part of his expenses he earned by baking bread at the college boarding house, and during one year he received 183/4 cents an hour for teaching algebra. Literary societies and musical organizations claimed his extracurricular time, although he apparently socialized, too, for an Oberlin co-ed wrote a friend to report: "There is some good folks here, and some slick fellers too, one in particular, a Mr. Cox from New York City."

During his college career, Cox fell in love with President Finney's eldest daughter, at nineteen a widow with a small son. On Thanksgiving Day, 1849, they were married, and Cox moved into his father-in-law's house, while Finney made a preaching tour of England. Upon Finney's return he was distressed to find Cox, now a graduate student of theology, viewing the strict Oberlin doctrines somewhat more critically than was customary, and the two exchanged words that made it awkward for Cox to remain in Oberlin.

Thereupon he took a position as superintendent of schools in Warren, resumed his study of law, and in 1853 was admitted to the bar. Soon he developed an extensive practice and became a popular citizen of the community, leading the Choral Union, as well as the Presbyterian church choir, and organizing a literary society. By 1855 he was helping organize the Republican party in Warren and stumping through Trumbull and nearby counties; four years later he reluctantly accepted a nomination for the Ohio Senate and was elected.

In Columbus, Cox joined James Monroe, an old Oberlin friend, and James A. Garfield to form the "Radical Triumvirate," a potent trio, which, together with Cox's good friend Governor William Dennison, helped shape legislation on the eve of the Civil War. In the spring of 1860 Cox was appointed brigadier general of the Ohio militia, and with Garfield made an intensive study of military science during the 1860-61 session of the legislature.

When the war broke out in 1861, for Cox there was hardly a moment of indecision; though he was in poor health, heavily in debt, and the father of six children (he was to have two more), he determined to take an active part in the conflict, and accepted an appointment as brigadier general of the Ohio Volunteers. He was first made commander of Camp Jackson, a recruit depot near Columbus, where among his charges were many college boys, including one company under the colonelcy of President Lorin Andrews of Kenyon and the "praying company" from Oberlin.

Within a few months Cox began his field service and a record as one of the most brilliant volunteer officers, serving in the Kanawha Valley campaign and at South Mountain, commanding the 9th Army Corps at Antietam and the 23d Army Corps late in the Atlanta, Franklin, and Nashville campaigns, and being commissioned major general in 1864. In later years General Cox became widely known as a military historian, writing several volumes, including two in the Campaigns of the Civil War series, and serving as military book critic for The Nation. His two-volume Military Reminiscences of the Civil War was completed just a few weeks before his death in 1900.

In 1865 the coalition Union party elected its last candidates in Ohio. With a core of 143 soldier delegates, the convention met in Columbus and named three military men among the nine on the state slate, with General Jacob D. Cox at its head. The platform was generally conservative, and endorsed President Johnson's policies toward the seceded states. Although the party ignored the Negro suffrage question, considered vital on the Western Reserve, Cox spoke boldly on the issue, astounding his prewar radical friends by opposing Negro voting and proposing to separate the two races in the South by establishing a large Negro reserve in contiguous territory in South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Florida. Despite Western Reserve opposition, these views apparently reflected the attitudes of returned soldiers, and Cox was easily elected over the still Copperhead-tainted Democratic candidate, General George W. Morgan of Licking County.

Cox's administration was not notable, for the radicals and con- servatives within the Republican ranks, with Cox favoring the latter, were badly divided on critical postwar issues, and the result was inaction. Aside from his sponsorship of a centralized board of charities, Cox's chief administrative efforts were to bridge the gap between Ohio radicals and President Johnson. By the time of the 1867 state convention the radicals were in control, and Cox refused to try for renomination.

After his term as governor, Cox moved to Cincinnati to practice law until March 1869, when President Grant appointed him secretary of the interior. Cox resigned after eighteen months, protesting the political assessments levied upon federal employees and general "spoils" practices. The next year there was a brief flurry of interest in the Ohio senatorship, but the legislature reelected the less conservative John Sherman. In 1872 Cox joined the Liberal Republican movement and supported the nomination of Greeley; in 1876, running as a reform Republican, he was elected to congress from the Toledo district, served one term, and then retired from politics. From 1873 to 1878, meanwhile, he had served as president and as receiver of the Toledo and Wabash Railroad Company.

Always a man of scholarly interests, it was while he lived in Toledo that Cox developed an interest in microscopy, studied photomicrography, and began contributing papers to professional journals. In 1881 he was elected a fellow of the American Microscopical Society, and in 1884 and again in 1892 was named president. At the Antwerp Exposition in 1891 his achievements were rewarded with the gold medal for excellence in microphotography.

After his congressional term, Cox returned to Cincinnati and in 1881 became dean of the Cincinnati Law School, a post he held until 1897, meanwhile serving from 1885 to 1889 also as president of the University of Cincinnati. Upon Cox's retirement from the deanship, President McKinley urged him to accept the critical post of minister to Spain, but he refused and moved to Oberlin to write his memoirs. He died on August 4, 1900, at Magnolia, Massachusetts. Personally attractive and a man of great integrity, a skilled speaker and writer, an effective administrator, a noted scholar, and an able field general, Jacob Dolson Cox enjoyed one of the most versatile and successful careers of his time. University of Virginia


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