David C. Broderick
|David Colbreth Broderick|
|United States Senator
March 4, 1857 – September 16, 1859
|Preceded by||John B. Weller|
|Succeeded by||Henry P. Haun|
February 4, 1820|
|Died||September 16, 1859
San Francisco, California
|Political party||Democrat, Free Soil|
|Profession||Politician, stonecutter, smelter, assayer|
Broderick was born in Washington, D.C., the son of an Irish stonecutter who had immigrated to the United States in order to work on the United States Capitol. Broderick moved with his parents to New York City in 1823, where he attended public schools, and was apprenticed to a stonecutter.
Broderick became active in politics as a young man. In 1846, he was the Democratic candidate for U.S. Representative from the 5th District of New York, but lost the election with 38% to 42% for the winning Whig candidate. 
In 1849, Broderick joined the California Gold Rush. He moved to San Francisco, where he engaged in smelting and assaying gold. Broderick began the minting of gold coins, with less value of gold in them than their face value. His $10 coins, for example, only had $8 worth of gold in them. He used the profits to finance his political aspirations.
State senator career
Broderick was a member of the California State Senate from 1850 to 1851, serving as its president in 1851. From then on, he was effectively in absolute control of San Francisco, which under his "utterly vicious" rule soon became notorious for vast municipal corruption. In the words of his biographer Jeremiah Lynch:
In San Francisco he became the dictator of the municipality. His political lessons and observations in New York were priceless. He introduced a modification of the same organization in San Francisco with which Tammany has controlled New York for lo! these many years. It was briefly this. At a forthcoming election a number of offices were to be filled; those of sheriff, district attorney, alderman, and places in the legislature. Several of these positions were very lucrative, notably that of the sheriff, tax-collector, and assessor. The incumbents received no specified salaries, but were entitled to all or a certain proportion of the fees. These fees occasionally exceeded $50,000 per annum. Broderick would say to the most popular or the most desirable aspirant: 'This office is worth $50,000 a year. Keep half and give me the other half, which I require to keep up our organization in the state. Without intelligent, systematic discipline, neither you nor I can win, and our opponents will conquer, unless I have money enough to pay the men whom I may find necessary. If you agree to that arrangement, I will have you nominated when the convention assembles, and then we will all pull together until after the election.’ Possibly this candidate dissented, but then someone else consented, and as the town was hugely Democratic, his selections were usually victorious.
Enriched by the vast income earned from this, Broderick was elected as a Democrat to the United States Senate and served there beginning March 4, 1857.
Later life and death
At that time, just prior to the start of the American Civil War, the Democratic Party of California was divided between pro-slavery and "Free Soil" factions. Broderick led the Free Soilers. One of his closest friends was David S. Terry, formerly the Chief Justice of the California State Supreme Court, an advocate of the extension of slavery into California. Terry lost his re-election bid because of his pro-slavery platform, and he blamed Broderick for the loss.
Terry, considered even by his friends as caustic and aggressive, made some inflammatory remarks at a party convention in Sacramento, which Broderick read. He took offense, and sent his former friend, Terry, an equally vitriolic reply which proclaimed:
'Terry to be a "damned miserable wretch" who was as corrupt as President James Buchanan and William Gwin, California's other senator. "I have hitherto spoken of him as an honest man--as the only honest man on the bench of a miserable, corrupt Supreme Court--but now I find I was mistaken. I take it all back. He is just as bad as the others."'
The pistols chosen for the duel had hair triggers, and Broderick's discharged prior to the final "1-2-3" count, firing prematurely into the ground. Thus disarmed, he was forced to stand as Terry shot him in the right lung. Terry believed the shot to be only a flesh wound; but in fact, it proved mortal. Broderick died three days later. He was buried under a monument erected by the state in Lone Mountain Cemetery in San Francisco.
"His death was a political necessity, poorly veiled beneath the guise of a private quarrel. . .What was his public crime? The answer is in his own words; 'I die because I was opposed to a corrupt administration and the extension of slavery.'"
Some maintain that his death made him a martyr, and the episode represents another small contribution to the spiral towards civil war.
The town of Broderick, California, and Broderick Street in San Francisco were named in his honor.
- Congressional Quarterly's Guide to U. S. Elections. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly Inc. 1985. p. 739. ISBN 0-87187-339-7.
- San Francisco, a History of the Pacific Coast Metropolis, by John P. Young; Volume 1, page 214.
- Asbury, Herbert. The Barbary Coast, Chapter 4. 1933: New York. From the middle of 1851 to his death, in 1859, Broderick was, for all practical purposes, in absolute control of San Francisco’s political machinery. ... And not even his most adoring worshippers have been able entirely to conceal the plain fact that in the final analysis he must, more than any one man, shoulder responsibility for the municipal corruption which was the basic cause of the second uprising of a tormented and enraged citizenry.
- A Senator of the Fifties, David C. Broderick of California, by Jeremiah Lynch; pages 68-9.
- Asbury, Herbert. The Barbary Coast, Chapter 4. 1933: New York. Broderick’s political income from these and other sources was probably several hundred thousand dollars a year, and with such sums at his disposal he not only maintained his hold upon the city but furthered his ambition to be United States Senator, despite the slashing onslaughts of several of the newspapers.
- Richards, Leondard. The California Gold Rush and the Coming of the Civil War, Prologue pg. 2, 2008
- Richards, Leonard. The California Gold Rush and the Coming of the Civil War, Prologue pg. 3, 2008
- Richards, Leonard. The California Gold Rush and the Coming of the Civil War, Prologue pg. 4, 2008
- David C. Broderick at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress Retrieved on 2008-01-14
- Arthur Quinn, The Rivals: William Gwin, David Broderick, and the Birth of California, (Crown Publishers, Inc.: The Library of the American West, New York, 1994), ISBN 0-517-59537-0 (1997 reprint: ISBN 0-8032-8851-4)
|Acting Lieutenant Governor of California
1851 – 1852
|United States Senate|
John B. Weller
|U.S. Senator (Class 1) from California
March 4, 1857 – September 16, 1859
Served alongside: William M. Gwin
Henry P. Haun