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Henry Clay Warmoth (1842-1931) was a Republican governor of Louisianamarker from 1868 until his impeachment and removal from office in December, 1872. An Illinoismarker native, Warmoth was widely regarded as a carpetbagger; his administration was also deemed one of the most corrupt in Louisiana history.

Early life and military career

Henry Warmoth was born on May 9, 1842, in McLeansboro, Illinoismarker, to parents of Dutch extraction.

His early education was attained in the public school system of Illinoismarker. He studied law, was admitted to the Missourimarker bar in 1861, and then established his legal career, serving as the district attorney of the Eighteenth Judicial District. During the Civil War, Warmoth served as Lieutenant Colonel of the 32nd Missouri Infantry. He was at the capture of Arkansas Postmarker and was wounded in the Battle of Vicksburgmarker. But he was dishonorably discharged for spreading exaggerations of Union losses. After President Abraham Lincoln reinstated his military status, Warmoth was commissioned judge of the Department of the Gulf Provost Court in June 1864 by General Nathaniel Banks. In November 1865, Warmoth resigned from the military to run for Congress.

Political career

Arriving in Union-occupied New Orleansmarker, penniless but resourceful, Warmoth focused on the newly freed black men, easily convincing them that he was the man to represent them in government. He entered private law practice in New Orleans, ran for Congress as a Republican and was elected. After the assassination of President Lincoln, none of the southern elected Representatives were seated by the Radical Republican majority; Warmoth returned to New Orleans. The next year a riot broke out by newly-freed slaves demanding the franchise. According to the account authored by Warmoth, who witnessed the riot, many blacks and Republicans were killed.

In 1868, General Winfield Scott Hancock was removed as Military Commander of the 5th Military District (encompassing Texasmarker and Louisiana) and his hand-picked Governor, Joshua Baker, resigned. This paved the way for a special election in April, 1868. Warmoth decided to run for Governor as a Republican and after being selected as the nominee over Major Francis E. Dumas, he narrowly defeated Louisiana Supreme Court Justice James G. Taliaferro, who ran as a Democrat. Warmoth was sworn into office on July 13, 1868. Elected at twenty-six, Warmoth is believed to have been one of the youngest governors, perhaps the youngest, in United Statesmarker history.

Also elected with Warmoth was Oscar Dunn as Lieutenant Governor, who was an African-American painter. When Dunn died in office, he was succeeded by P.B.S. Pinchback, who was President of the State Senate.

In the 1868 presidential election, Democrat Horatio Seymour carried Louisiana, but Ulysses Grant was elected President. As a result of electoral anomalies in that election, Warmoth created the State Returning Board. All election returns were reported to the State Returning Board for validity and approval.

Under Warmoth, the state’s bonded debt rose from $6 million to $25 million and at one time reached over $100 million. He is reputed to have been very cautious and reputedly never appointed anyone before they signed a blank resignation form.

Legislation was sanctioned that permitted blacks in railroad coaches, as well as in schools and in restaurants; however, a more liberal bill was vetoed by Warmoth. Also, political turmoil developed when Warmoth aggressively endorsed the Democratic ticket of John McEnery in the 1872 election. The election results were contested, and ultimately President Grant ensured that William P. Kellogg took office. Impeachment charges were brought against Warmoth by his Republican allies for his actions during the 1872 election. 35 days before the end of his term, he was suspended from office as called for by Louisiana law at the time for impeached officials pending the outcome of a senate trial, which led to the swearing-in of P.B.S. Pinchback as the first black Governor in the United States. An impeachment trial was not held.

After the Governorship

In 1877, Warmoth married heiress Sally Durand of Newark, New Jerseymarker. They had two sons and a daughter and resided at Magnolia Plantation in Plaquemines Parishmarker. Warmoth helped establish a sugar refinery and led a campaign for a higher tariff to protect the sugar industry. After the tariff passed, Warmoth sold his plantation.

In 1888, Warmoth ran for and lost a race for Governor to Francis T. Nicholls. He was appointed Collector of Customs in New Orleans by President Benjamin Harrison in 1890 while Warmoth was living in the St. Charles Hotel.

Warmoth died in New Orleans at age of eighty-nine, a largely forgotten figure.

Henry Warmoth in Popular Culture

Henry Warmoth is the pseudonym of a New Orleans service industry writer and Quarter Rat columnist

References

  1. http://www.lib.unc.edu/mss/inv/w/Warmoth,Henry_Clay.html
  2. http://quarterrat.net/Issue-5.html


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