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David B. Hill

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David B. Hill
Gubernatorial portrait of Hill
United States Senator
from New York
In office
January 7, 1892 – March 3, 1897
Preceded byWilliam M. Evarts
Succeeded byThomas C. Platt
29th Governor of New York
In office
January 6, 1885 – December 31, 1891
LieutenantDennis McCarthy (acting)
Edward F. Jones
Preceded byGrover Cleveland
Succeeded byRoswell P. Flower
Lieutenant Governor of New York
In office
January 1, 1883 – January 6, 1885
GovernorGrover Cleveland
Preceded byGeorge Gilbert Hoskins
Succeeded byDennis McCarthy (acting)
13th Mayor of Elmira, New York
In office
March 8, 1882 – December 27, 1882
Preceded byAlexander S. Diven
Succeeded byStephen T. Arnot
Member of the
New York Assembly
from Chemung County
In office
January 1, 1871 – December 31, 1872
Preceded byEdward L. Patrick
Succeeded bySeymour Dexter
Personal details
David Bennett Hill

(1843-08-29)August 29, 1843
Havana, New York
DiedOctober 20, 1910(1910-10-20) (aged 67)
Albany, New York
Political partyDemocratic

David Bennett Hill (August 29, 1843 – October 20, 1910) was an American politician from New York who was the 29th governor of New York from 1885 to 1891 and represented New York in the United States Senate from 1892 to 1897.

In 1892, he made an unsuccessful bid for president on a platform of bimetallism, but lost the nomination to Grover Cleveland, his longtime political rival and former running mate.

Early life and career[edit]

David B. Hill was born on August 29, 1843, in Havana, New York. He was educated locally, studied law, and began a practice in Elmira in 1864.

In 1864, he was named Elmira City Attorney.

Hill represented Chemung County in the New York State Assembly in 1871 and 1872. Hill was elected an alderman of Elmira in 1880, Mayor of Elmira in 1882, and was President of the New York State Bar Association from 1886 to 1887.

Governor of New York[edit]

Hill was elected lieutenant governor in 1882, with more votes than the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, Grover Cleveland.[1]

Hill became governor in 1885, when Cleveland resigned to take office as President of the United States. Hill won election to the office of governor in his own right in 1885 and 1888 despite Cleveland losing the state in the concurrent presidential election.[1]

While Cleveland had publicly advocated for civil service reform, Hill embraced the role of patronage in politics and built up a strong following. During Hill's tenure as governor, the Democratic Party organization in New York polarized between those loyal to Hill and those who favored Cleveland.[2]

David B. Hill in 1885 cartoon "The Only Plumber Busy In The Hot Season" by Eugene Zimmerman about Mugwumps, Tammany Hall and Irving Hall

As governor, Hill opposed attempts to enact civil service reform and tax liquor. He supported regulation of tenement housing and labor reforms such as maximum work hours.[3] On May 15, 1885, Hill signed "a bill establishing a 'Forest Preserve' of 715,000 acres that was to remain permanently 'as wild forest lands.'"[4] This tract soon became the Adirondack Park.

During his tenure as governor, William Kemmler was executed in the electric chair, the first inmate in the country ever to be put to death in this manner. On April 23, 1889, Hill vetoed a bill from the state legislature that would block the street construction at the Polo Grounds. He also vetoed two attempts at ballot reform by the Republican legislature.[5]

United States Senate[edit]

1890 political cartoon featuring Hill and Grover Cleveland

After the 1888 elections, which saw the defeat of Cleveland and the re-election of Hill, Hill established effective control over the state Democratic Party. Democratic gains in the 1890 elections gave the Democratic Party a majority in the legislature. The legislature elected Hill to the U.S. Senate.[2] Hill was meant to take office in the U.S. Senate on March 4, 1891, but decline to resign the governorship so that Roswell P. Flower, a member of his political machine, could take the governorship.[6]

In 1892, Hill sought the Democratic nomination for President of the United States, running as a supporter of bimetallism. At the 1892 Democratic National Convention, Cleveland defeated Hill and Governor of Iowa Horace Boies on the first ballot. Cleveland went on to defeat President Benjamin Harrison in the general election.[7]

As Senator, Hill blocked President Cleveland's two appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court, William B. Hornblower and Wheeler H. Peckham, both New York judges who had opposed Hill's political machine.

In 1894, Hill was defeated by Republican Levi P. Morton when, as a sitting U.S. senator, he ran again for governor again.

In 1896, Hill initially opposed the nomination of William Jennings Bryan for president, but supported Bryan in the general election against the Clevelandite Gold Democrats.

1892 editorial cartoon from Judge, depicting Hill as a threat to Grover Cleveland's presidential ambitions

In 1897, Hill was defeated for re-election by Republican Thomas C. Platt.

Later career and death[edit]

Hill received significant support for the vice presidential nomination at the 1900 Democratic National Convention, but the party nominated former Vice President Adlai Stevenson I. Hill served as the campaign manager of Democratic presidential nominee Alton Parker in the 1904 presidential election.[3]

Hill died at Wolfert's Roost, his country home near Albany on October 20, 1910, from the effects of Bright's Disease and heart disease.[8] He was buried in Montour Cemetery in Mountour Falls.


  1. ^ a b Knoles 1971, pp. 11–14.
  2. ^ a b Bass, Herbert (July 1960). "JOURNAL ARTICLE DAVID B. HILL AND THE "STEAL OF THE SENATE," 1891". New York History. 41 (3): 299–311.
  3. ^ a b Kennedy, Robert C. (2001). "On This Day". New York Times. Retrieved October 22, 2017.
  4. ^ Nash, Roderick F. 2001. Wilderness and the American Mind, 4th ed. New Haven: Yale University Press, p. 119.
  5. ^ William M. Ivins: "On the Electoral System of the State of New York". A paper presented at the twenty-ninth annual meeting of the New York State Bar Association. New York 1906.
  6. ^ Knoles 1971, pp. 14–15.
  7. ^ "The Democratic Nomination". Harper's Weekly. Retrieved October 22, 2017.
  8. ^ "Death Suddenly Calls D.B. Hill". The Los Angeles Herald. October 21, 1910.

Works cited[edit]

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by Democratic nominee for Governor of New York
1885, 1888
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Roswell P. Flower
Democratic nominee for Governor of New York
Succeeded by
Wilbur F. Porter
New York State Assembly
Preceded by
Edward L. Patrick
New York State Assembly
Chemung County

Succeeded by
Seymour Dexter
Political offices
Preceded by Lieutenant Governor of New York
Succeeded by
Preceded by Governor of New York
Succeeded by
U.S. Senate
Preceded by U.S. senator (Class 3) from New York
Served alongside: Frank Hiscock, Edward Murphy Jr.
Succeeded by