Rowland G. Hazard

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For other persons named Rowland Hazard, see Rowland Hazard (disambiguation).
Rowland G. Hazard in portrait of 1880

Rowland Gibson Hazard (October 9, 1801 – June 24, 1888) was an American industrialist, politician, and social reformer.

Early life[edit]

Hazard was born in South Kingstown, Rhode Island in 1801. His parents were Rowland Hazard (sometimes referred to as Rowland Hazard I[1]), founder in 1802 of the Peace Dale Manufacturing Company in Peace Dale, Rhode Island, and the former Mary Peace. He grew up in Bristol, Pennsylvania, in the home of his maternal grandfather, Isaac Peace. He was educated in a Quaker boarding school in Burlington, New Jersey, where he developed a particular interest in mathematics.[2][3][4] In 1819 he returned to Rhode Island to join his elder brother Isaac in the management of the Peace Dale Manufacturing Company.[2][5]

In 1828 he married Caroline Newbold of Bucks County, Pennsylvania. The couple had two sons, Rowland II and John.[2][4]

Peace Dale textile mills[edit]

A third brother, Joseph P. Hazard, became a partner in the Peace Dale operation in 1828, and the business took the name "R.G. Hazard & Co." One of Rowland Hazard's responsibilities was selling the company's products to plantation owners in the southern United States, particularly Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi. He spent winters in New Orleans from about 1833 to 1842 to sell goods that included cotton bagging cloth, pre-cut garments, low-priced shoes, and raw "Negro cloth" for use by African-American slaves.[3]

After an 1845 fire destroyed one of the mill buildings,[5] the brothers built new facilities, including expanded hydropower systems and a fireproof stone factory.[1]

In 1848 the partnership incorporated, becoming the Peace Dale Manufacturing Company, with Isaac P. Hazard as president and Rowland Hazard as secretary/treasurer.[3][5] In 1849 the business started a transition into making woolen shawls and other high-quality woolens instead of cheaper fabrics.[1]

Carolina Mills Company[edit]

In 1843, Hazard acquired a textile mill complex at the village now known as Carolina, Rhode Island, and renamed the mill and its surrounding village in honor of his wife. The Carolina Mills Company remained in family ownership until 1863 and was operated by his son Rowland II until at least 1877.[6]

Activity related to slavery[edit]

The activity that Hazard considered "as the greatest effort of his life" (according to his granddaughter) began when he was in New Orleans on business in the winter of 1841. After he learned that a free African-American man from Newport, Rhode Island was in custody in Louisiana as an escaped slave, his investigations found that many free African-Americans were being detained under the assumption they were escaped slaves. He worked with Jacob Barker, then a New Orleans lawyer, to obtain freedom for nearly 100 people being held as slaves. The action later led to charges being filed against several public officials who were responsible for the illegal detentions.[2]

His involvement with abolitionist causes and in the Republican Party eventually caused his company to lose favor with its markets in the southern United States.[3] This helped to prompt the Peace Dale mills' transition from making cheap cotton products to selling higher quality woolens.[3][5]

Political career[edit]

Hazard served three one-year terms in the Rhode Island House of Representatives, winning election as a state representative in 1851, 1854 and 1880. He also was a state senator from 1866 to 1867. In 1856 he was one of Rhode Island's delegates to the founding convention of the Republican Party.[3] Four years later he was a delegate to the 1860 Republican National Convention.[1]

In 1854, while serving in the state legislature, he made a speech criticizing the Stonington Railroad Company for charging discriminatory rates for both freight and passengers. Shortly thereafter, the railroad company retaliated by refusing to let Hazard ride on one of its trains. Resolutions passed by the South Kingstown Town Council in reaction to his treatment are said to have formed "the germ of" the Interstate Commerce Law of 1886.[4]

Retirement and death[edit]

Hazard retired from the textile business in 1866 and invested in the Union Pacific Railroad. After Union Pacific fell into financial disarray and became a party to the Crédit Mobilier scandal of 1872, Hazard spent much time dealing with the company's financial affairs.[3]

He died in Peace Dale on June 24, 1888.[2]

Writings[edit]

Hazard was a prolific writer in the fields of philosophy, economics, and politics. Among his published works were:[1][2]

  • Language or Essay on Language (1835)
  • Causes of Decline of Political Morality (1841)
  • Freedom of Mind in Willing (1866)
  • Causation and Freedom in Willing (1869)
  • The Duty of Individuals to Support Science and Literature (essay; 1885)

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Peace Dale History and Historic Sites, Peace Dale Neighborhood Revitalization, Inc., 2007
  2. ^ a b c d e f Rowland Gibson Hazard, Rhode Island Manufacturer, Politician, and Philosopher, University of Rhode Island Library, Special Collections and University Archives, 2007
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Rowland G. and Caroline (Newbold) Hazard Papers, Rhode Island Historical Society, Manuscripts Division
  4. ^ a b c Caroline Elizabeth Robinson (1896). The Hazard family of Rhode Island, 1635-1894. pp. 122–123. 
  5. ^ a b c d Peace Dale Manufacturing Company Records, Rhode Island Historical Society, Manuscripts Division
  6. ^ Carolina Mills Records, Rhode Island Historical Society, Manuscripts Division

Further reading[edit]

  • Peter H. Hare (1972), "Rowland G. Hazard (1801-88) on Freedom in Willing", Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 33, No. 1 (Jan. - Mar., 1972), pp. 155–164