Levi P. Morton

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Levi P. Morton
Levi Morton - Brady-Handy portrait - standard crop.jpg
22nd Vice President of the United States
In office
March 4, 1889 – March 4, 1893
President Benjamin Harrison
Preceded by Thomas A. Hendricks
Succeeded by Adlai E. Stevenson
31st Governor of New York
In office
January 1, 1895 – December 31, 1896
Lieutenant Charles T. Saxton
Preceded by Roswell P. Flower
Succeeded by Frank S. Black
United States Minister to France
In office
March 21, 1881 – May 14, 1885
Appointed by James A. Garfield
Preceded by Edward Follansbee Noyes
Succeeded by Robert Milligan McLane
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New York's 11th district
In office
March 4, 1879 – March 21, 1881
Preceded by Benjamin A. Willis
Succeeded by Roswell P. Flower
Personal details
Born Levi Parsons Morton
(1824-05-16)May 16, 1824
Shoreham, Vermont, U.S.
Died May 16, 1920(1920-05-16) (aged 96)
Rhinebeck, New York, U.S.
Nationality American
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Lucy Young Kimball (1st wife) «1840-1887»
Anna Livingston Reade Street (2nd wife)
Children 6
Religion Episcopal
Signature Cursive signature in ink

Levi Parsons Morton (May 16, 1824 – May 16, 1920) was a Representative from New York and the 22nd Vice President of the United States (1889–1893). He later served as the 31st Governor of New York.

Early life and career[edit]

Morton was born in Shoreham, Addison County, Vermont. His parents were the Rev. Daniel Oliver Morton (1788–1852), a Congregationalist minister of old New England stock, and Lucretia Parsons (1789–1862). His older brother, David Oliver Morton (1815–1859), was Mayor of Toledo, Ohio from 1849 to 1850.[1]

He left school early and worked as a clerk in a general store in Enfield, Massachusetts, taught school in Boscawen, New Hampshire, engaged in mercantile pursuits in Hanover, New Hampshire, moved to Boston, entered the dry-goods business in New York City, and engaged in banking there. He was an unsuccessful candidate for election in 1876 to the 45th Congress, but he was appointed by President Rutherford B. Hayes to be an honorary commissioner to the Paris Exhibition of 1878.

Political career[edit]

Morton was elected, as a Republican, to the 46th and 47th Congresses. He served from March 4, 1879, until his resignation, effective March 21, 1881. The 1880 Republican presidential nominee, James A. Garfield, asked Morton to be his vice presidential running mate, but Morton declined the offer. If he had accepted and history continued on the same course, Morton would have become the 21st President, instead of Chester A. Arthur, after Garfield's assassination.

He asked to be appointed Minister to Britain or France instead. He was United States Minister to France from 1881 to 1885. (A deluded Charles J. Guiteau, reportedly decided to murder Garfield after he was "passed over" as minister to France.)

Morton was very popular in France. He helped commercial relations between the two countries run smoothly during his term, and, in Paris on October 24, 1881, he placed the first rivet in the construction of the Statue of Liberty. (It was driven into the big toe of Lady Liberty’s left foot.)

Vice President[edit]

From 1889 until 1895, Morton lived at this residence in Washington, D.C.

Morton was elected Vice President of the United States, on the Republican ticket with President Benjamin Harrison, in which capacity he served from March 4, 1889 to March 4, 1893. During his term, Harrison tried to pass the Lodge Bill, an election law enforcing the voting rights of blacks in the South, but Morton did little to support the bill against a Democratic filibuster in the Senate. Harrison blamed Morton for the bill's eventual failure, and, at the Republican convention prior to the 1892 election, Morton was replaced by Whitelaw Reid as the vice-presidential candidate.[2] Harrison and Reid went on to lose the 1892 election, to Grover Cleveland and Adlai E. Stevenson, the Democratic candidates.

Governor of New York[edit]

Gubernatorial portrait of Levi P. Morton.

Levi Morton was Governor of New York in 1895 and 1896. He was considered for the Republican presidential nomination in 1896, but the Republican Party chose William McKinley instead. After his public career was over, he became a real-estate investor.

Death and legacy[edit]

He died at Rhinebeck, in Dutchess County, New York, on his 96th birthday, the only Vice President to have died on his birthday. He is interred in the Rhinebeck Cemetery.

The Village of Morton Grove, Illinois is named after Morton. He provided the funding necessary to allow Miller's Mill (now Lincoln Avenue) to pass through the upstart neighborhood, and provide goods to trade and sell. Morton Grove was incorporated in December 1895.

Morton owned property in Newport, Rhode Island and lived on tony Bellevue Avenue, in the mansion called "Fairlawn," a building currently owned by Salve Regina University, housing the Pell Center of International Relations and Public Policy. He left a nearby property to the city of Newport for use as a park. At the corner of Coggeshall and Morton avenues (the latter formerly Brenton Road), this land became Morton Park. Morton sold or donated property he owned in Hanover, New Hampshire to Dartmouth College, and the college built Webster Hall on the land. Morton was considered an honorary alumnus at alumni gatherings in New York. He also owned a summer retreat in the Adirondack Park, on Eagle Island.[3] The architecture is of the Great Camps style, designed by the notable architect William L. Coulter. Over the years, the island found its way into the ownership of the Girl Scouts of the USA, where it remains today as Camp Eagle Island.[4]

Morton was the second longest-lived Vice President of the United States, dying on his 96th birthday. Only John Nance Garner lived longer. Morton survived five of his successors in the vice presidency: Adlai E. Stevenson, Garret A. Hobart, Theodore Roosevelt, Charles W. Fairbanks and James S. Sherman.

Marriages, social life and other activities[edit]

Morton married his first wife, Lucy Young Kimball (July 22, 1836 – July 11, 1871) on October 15, 1856 in Flatlands, Brooklyn. They had one child together.

After her death, he married Anna Livingston Reade Street in 1873. They had five daughters.

In retirement, Morton served as President of the Metropolitan Club at One East Sixtieth Street, New York, between 1900 and 1911. He was preceded in that office by J. Pierpont Morgan; and succeeded by Frank Knight Sturgis.[citation needed]

Morton served as President of the New York Zoological Society from 1897 to 1909.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Sources[edit]

  • National Contest, Containing Portraits and Biographies of Our National Favorites, Darling Bros. & Co., Detroit, Michigan, 1888.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Roswell P. Flower
Governor of New York
January 1, 1895 – December 31, 1896
Succeeded by
Frank S. Black
Preceded by
Thomas A. Hendricks
Vice President of the United States
March 4, 1889 – March 4, 1893
Succeeded by
Adlai Stevenson
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Benjamin A. Willis
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 11th congressional district

March 4, 1879 – March 4, 1881
Succeeded by
Roswell P. Flower
Party political offices
Preceded by
John A. Logan
Republican vice presidential nominee
1888
Succeeded by
Whitelaw Reid
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Edward F. Noyes
United States Minister to France
1881–1885
Succeeded by
Robert Milligan McLane