||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (September 2010)|
|33rd Governor of Maryland|
January 10, 1866 – January 13, 1869
|Lieutenant||Christopher C. Cox|
|Preceded by||Augustus Bradford|
|Succeeded by||Oden Bowie|
|Born||February 3, 1809
|Died||July 24, 1883 (aged 74)
|Alma mater||The George Washington University|
Thomas Swann (February 3, 1809 – July 24, 1883) was an American politician. Initially a Know-Nothing, and later a Democrat, he served as mayor of Baltimore (1856–1860), as the 33rd Governor of Maryland (1866–1869), and as U.S. Representative from Maryland's 3rd congressional district and then 4th congressional district (1869–1879).
Early life and career
Swann was born in Alexandria, Virginia, and attended Columbian College (now George Washington University) in Washington, D.C., and the University of Virginia at Charlottesville. He studied law and was admitted to the bar. A Democrat, he was appointed by President Andrew Jackson as secretary of the United States Commission to Naples.
In 1834, Swann moved to Baltimore, Maryland in 1834, where he engaged in business in the new railroad industry. Swann rose to be director and president of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad in 1847, serving in that position until his resignation in 1853. He was chosen as president of the Northwestern Virginia Railroad.
Mayor of Baltimore
Swann was first elected Mayor of Baltimore in 1856 as a member of the Know Nothing (American Party) in one of the bloodiest elections in state history. He defeated Democratic challenger Robert Clinton Wright by over a thousand votes.
During the mid-1850s public order in Baltimore had been threatened by the election of candidates of the Know Nothing party. In October 1856 the Know Nothing Mayor Samuel Hinks was pressed by Baltimorians to order the state militia in readiness to maintain order during the mayoral elections, as violence was anticipated. Hinks duly gave Militia general George H. Steuart the order, but he soon rescinded it. As a result, violence broke out on polling day, with shots exchanged by competing mobs. In the 2nd and 8th wards several citizens were killed, and many wounded. In the 6th ward artillery was used, and a pitched battle fought on Orleans St between Know Nothings and rival Democrats, raging for several hours. The result of the election, in which voter fraud was widespread, was a victory for Swann by around 9,000 votes.
In 1857, fearing similar violence at the upcoming elections, Governor Thomas W. Ligon ordered General Steuart to hold the First Light Division, Maryland Volunteers in readiness. However, Mayor Swann, this time running for re-election, successfully argued for a compromise measure involving special police forces to prevent disorder, and Steuart's militia were stood down. This time, although there was less violence than in 1856, the results of the vote were again compromised, and the Know-Nothings took many state offices in a heavily disputed ballot.
He was re-elected in 1858, again with widespread violence prevalent, and won by over 19,000 votes due to a large amount of voter intimidation.
There were a great deal of internal improvements during Swann's tenure as mayor. The Baltimore volunteer firefighters were replaced with paid firefighters, and were given steam-powered fire engines and a better emergency telegraph system. His office also oversaw the creation of the streetcar system in Baltimore, the creation of Druid Hill Park, and the beginnings of two water-sewage construction projects at Jones Falls and at the Lake Roland Reservoir. The Baltimore Inner Harbor was dredged at 20 feet during his term as governor, and several new schools were added to the city. The Police and Water departments were also reorganized, and, to provide better street lighting, the offices of Superindendents of Lamps was created.
Violence was prevalent during Swann's term as mayor. Governor Thomas W. Ligon sought Swann's assistance to try to avoid riots during the 1856 Presidential elections, but little was resolved during the meeting, and riots ensued during the night of the election wounding and killing many. Ligon criticized Swann for not taking the necessary precautions, recalling the event as partisans "engaged; arms of all kinds were employed; and bloodshed, wounds, and death, stained the record of the day, and added another page of dishonor to the annals of the distracted city". Ligon did not cooperate with Swann during the state elections of 1857, and immediately imposed martial law upon Baltimore before election day had begun. Swann was angered, and insisted this was not necessary, but, recalling the events one year earlier, Ligon refused to lift the martial law status.
Governor of Maryland
In 1860, Swann left the American Party, which dissolved, and joined the Union Party. In 1864, he was unanimously nominated as governor during its nomination convention. He won election with lieutenant-governor running mate Christopher C. Cox by over 9,000 votes. He took the oath of office on January 11, 1865, but did not become governor de facto until one year later. In his inaugural address, he encouraged union in the state following the American Civil War, and voiced his opposition to slavery, deeming it a "a stumbling block in the way of [our] advancement".
Radical Republicans of Maryland criticized Swann for supporting the reconstruction policies of Andrew Johnson, and refusing to adopt their proposals. He eventually parted with the Republicans and joined the Democratic party during his term as Governor. He had strongly opposed requiring the loyalty oath and registration laws promoted by the Radical Republicans for former Confederates in the state.
In 1867, the Maryland General Assembly nominated Swann to succeed John A. J. Creswell to the United States Senate. But, Radical Republicans had gained control of Congress in 1867, and refused to allow Swann admission to the Senate because he had switched parties. The Democrats in Maryland began to fear that, if Swann left, the Maryland lieutenant governor, a Radical Republican, might place Maryland under a military, Reconstruction government and temporarily disfranchise whites who had served in the Confederacy. Also, they did not want to lose reforms made by Swann with other voting rights. Rather than fight the Radicals in Congress to gain a seat, Swann was convinced by Democrats to remain as governor and turn down the Senate seat.
Swann supported internal improvements to state infrastructure, especially after the war, and he is credited with greatly improving the facilities at the Baltimore Harbor. He also encouraged immigration, and the immediate emancipation of slaves following the War. By 1860, 49% of blacks in Maryland were already free, giving them a substantial position and economic strength in the years following the war.
U.S. Congressional career and final years
In 1868, Swann was elected to Congress from Maryland's 3rd congressional district, gaining re-election and serving until 1873. With redistricting changes, he was elected in 1873 from Maryland's 4th congressional district, serving three terms until 1879. In Congress, Swann was chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs (Forty-fourth and Forty-fifth Congresses).
Swann died on his estate, Morven Park, near Leesburg, Virginia. He is interred in Greenmount Cemetery of Baltimore. In eulogy, the Baltimore Sun criticized his early political errors, but credited him as "a great mayor, conferring inestimable benefits on the city he governed; not only was he a wise and beneficient governor to the oppressed portion of the citizens of the State, but he was one of the most useful and influential Congressmen this State or city ever had."
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Thomas Swann.|
- University of Virginia. A Catalogue of the Officers and Students of the University of Virginia. Fourth Session, 1827-1828. Charlottesville, VA: Chronicle Steam Book Printing House, 1880, p. 9.
- Stover, pp. 63, 78
- Andrews, p.475
- Andrews, p.476
- Andrews, p.477
- Andrews, p.478
- STEPHEN TUCK, "Democratization and the Disfranchisement of African Americans in the US South during the Late 19th Century" (pdf), Democratization, Vol. 14, No. 4, Aug. 2007, pp. 580-602
- Andrews, Matthew Page, History of Maryland, Doubleday Doran & Co, New York City (1929).
- Frank F. White, Jr., The Governors of Maryland 1777-1970 (Annapolis: The Hall of Records Commission), 165-170.
- Wilbur F. Coyle, The Mayors of Baltimore (The Baltimore Municipal Journal, 1919), 93-98.
- Thomas Swann at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- John F. Stover, History of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (Google eBook), Purdue University Press, 1987, ISBN = 0-911198-81-4
- Benjamin Tuska, "Know-Nothingism in Baltimore 1854-1860", The Catholic Historical Review', Vol. 11, No. 2 (Jul., 1925), pp. 217–251
- Jean H. Baker, Ambivalent Americans: The Know-Nothing Party in Maryland (1977). Describes Swann's career in the American Party in the 1850s.
- Tracy Matthew Melton, Hanging Henry Gambrill: The Violent Career of Baltimore's Plug Uglies from 1854 to 1860 (2005). Details the relationship between American Party politicians and the rowdy clubs affiliated with them in Baltimore during Swann's tenure as mayor. It includes a great deal of information on Swann and his accomplishments in office.
|Mayor of Baltimore
George William Brown
|Governor of Maryland
|United States House of Representatives|
Charles E. Phelps
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Maryland's 3rd congressional district
William J. O'Brien
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Maryland's 4th congressional district
Robert Milligan McLane