Benjamin T. Frederick

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Benjamin Todd Frederick (October 5, 1834 – November 3, 1903) was a miner, businessman, real estate agent, and (during the 1880s) a Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives from Iowa's 5th congressional district.


Born in Fredericktown, Ohio, he attended district schools, completed preparatory studies and later moved to Marshalltown, Iowa. He moved to Marysville, California, in 1857 and engaged in placer mining. He returned to Marshalltown in 1859 and engaged in the foundry and machine business from 1865 to 1888.

Frederick was a member of the Marshalltown City Council from 1874 to 1877, was a member of the school board for three terms.

In 1882 he was the Democratic nominee for the U.S. House seat representing Iowa's 5th congressional district in the Forty-eighth Congress. In the immediate aftermath of a very close general election race, his Republican opponent, James "Tama Jim" Wilson, was certified by the State of Iowa as the winner,[1][2] leading Frederick to file an election contest in the U.S. House. Although the House was controlled by Fredrick's own party, the contest was not resolved until the last hours of the second session.[3] On the morning of inauguration day (March 4, 1885), Frederick was declared the winner of the 1882 race, and was seated minutes before the Forty-eighth Congress ended. Until that day, Republicans had successfully filibustered to prevent a vote by the House on the contest,[4] until continuation of the filibuster would have prevented the House from acting in a popular bill to permit former President Ulysses S. Grant, then on the verge of death, to retire with the benefits of a general. Indeed, that was exactly what opponents of the Grant retirement bill had in mind. By drawing out debate on every contested election case as long as possible, they could prevent the bill from coming to a vote, where the pressure to vote in its favor would be irresistible.[5] Well aware of this, Wilson rose amid intense silence. Since the rules could not be suspended to bring up the Grant bill until his own case had been determined, he announced, he resigned his claim to Frederick immediately. At that the House rose to its feet cheering. The Grant bill sailed through almost instantly.[6]

Frederick had been re-elected in 1884 by defeating Milo P. Smith,[7] so he was able to remain in Congress for two years after his contest victory. He arrived just in time to have a share in passing out the patronage posts for the Fifth District: a Democratic president had just been elected. In fact, his was an empty honor. Iowa's two Republican senators insisted on being consulted about nominations and blocked the confirmation of postmasters they disliked. Iowa Democrats, clamoring for offices, could never find enough to satisfy them, and when they were denied appointments, complained bitterly. In Grundy County, the Times editor sought an $800-a-year post office. When Frederick refused to help him to it, the Times decided to quit publishing, but only after it had seen to Frederick's defeat for re-election in 1886.[8] In 1886, he did seek and accept the Democratic nomination for re-election,[9] but was defeated in the general election by Republican Daniel Kerr.[10] Exulting that Frederick "has been relegated back to his junk-shop," the Grundy County Times then closed its doors.[8] Quarreling with the Cleveland Administration over appointments, Frederick quit his seat within a month of the election. Disgustedly, fellow Democrats pronounced him "a chump from Chumpville."[11]

In 1887, Frederick moved to San Diego, California, where he engaged in the real estate business and was collector of internal revenue for San Diego from 1893 to 1902.

Frederick died at age 69 in San Diego. He is interred in Mount Hope Cemetery.

External links[edit]

  1. ^ "Wilson's Majority 53," Davenport Daily Gazette, 1882-11-10 at p. 1.
  2. ^ 'The November Vote - Official," Iowa State Reporter, 1882-12-13 at p. 6.
  3. ^ "History of Iowa From the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the Twentieth Century," Vol 4 at p. 95.
  4. ^ "On the Eve of Adjournment," St. Petersburg (VA) Daily Index-Appeal, 1885-03-04 at p. 1.
  5. ^ "The Grant Retirement Bill," New York Times, 1885-03-03 at p. 4.
  6. ^ Washington Evening Star, May 8, 1897; "'Tama Jim' Bounced," Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette, 1885-03-05 at p. 1.
  7. ^ "Frederick Probably Elected," Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette, 1882-11-06 at p. 1.
  8. ^ a b Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette, November 26, 1886.
  9. ^ "Mere Mention," Cedar Rapids Times, 1998-09-16 at p. 3.
  10. ^ "Large Gains in the East," Perry Chief, 1886-11-06 at p. 4.
  11. ^ Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette, December 4, 1886.
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
James Wilson
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Iowa's 5th congressional district

March 4, 1885 – March 3, 1887
Succeeded by
Daniel Kerr