John Albion Andrew

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John Albion Andrew
JohnAAndrew byJWBlack.jpg
25th Governor of Massachusetts
In office
January 3, 1861 – January 4, 1866
Lieutenant John Z. Goodrich
John Nesmith
Joel Hayden
Preceded by Nathaniel P. Banks
Succeeded by Alexander H. Bullock
Personal details
Born (1818-05-31)May 31, 1818
Windham, Maine
Died October 30, 1867(1867-10-30) (aged 49)
Boston, Massachusetts
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Eliza Jane Hersey
Children John F. Andrew
Profession Lawyer

John Albion Andrew (May 31, 1818 – October 30, 1867) was an American lawyer and politician in Massachusetts. He was elected in 1860 as the 25th Governor of Massachusetts, serving between 1861 and 1866, and led the state's contributions to the Union cause during the American Civil War. He was a guiding force behind the creation of some of the first African-American units in the United States Army, including the famed 54th Massachusetts Infantry.

Early life and career[edit]

John Albion Andrew was born in Windham, Maine (then a part of Massachusetts) on May 31, 1818, the eldest of four children. His father, Jonathan Andrew, was descended from an early settler of Boxford, Massachusetts, and ran a small but prosperous merchant trade in Windham. His mother, Nancy Green Pierce, was a teacher at Fryeburg Academy.[1]

Andrew received his primary education first at home, and then at several area boarding schools. After his mother's death in 1832, he attended Gorham Academy in nearby Gorham.[1][2] During his youth he exhibited talent for both memory and public speaking, memorizing church sermons and recounting them with the same oratorical style in which they were delivered.[3] He was introduced to early abolitionist writings of William Lloyd Garrison and others.[4] He entered Bowdoin College in 1833.[1] Although he was studious and popular with other students, he did not shine academically and was ranked near the bottom in his class.[5]

After his graduation in 1837, Andrew moved to Boston to study law under Henry H. Fuller, with whom he became close friends.[1] He was admitted to the Massachusetts bar in 1840, and began the practice of law.[6]

Antislavery legal and political advocate[edit]

After his admission to the bar, Andrew joined the Whig Party and became actively involved in the anti-slavery movement. As a Conscience Whig, he opposed the election of "Cotton Whig" Robert Charles Winthrop in the 1846 election for Congress, [7] and promoted Charles Sumner (over the latter's objection) as an independent candidate.[8] He sat on the executive committee of Boston's first vigilance committee, an anti-slavery organization established in 1846 that was devoted to assisting escaped slaves.[9] Andrew participated in the establishment in 1848 of the Free Soil Party, whose principal political goal was ending the expansion of slavery.[10] The Free Soilers nominated Martin Van Buren for president; he placed third in the election, but the party was somewhat more successful at the state level, gaining seats in the state legislature.

In 1847 Andrew, then 29 and with his law practice underway, met Eliza Jane Hersey of Hingham at an anti-slavery fair. They were engaged that year and married on Christmas evening in 1848.[11] They had four children: John Forrester, born November 26, 1850; Elizabeth Loring, born July 29, 1852; Edith, born April 5, 1854; Henry Hersey, born April 28, 1858.

Following Congressional passage of the federal Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which required law enforcement officials and citizens of free states as well as slave states to aid in the recovery of fugitive slaves, the Boston Vigilance Committee attracted many new members determined to resist the law. Andrew sat on a sub-committee that handled the legal defense of men accused of being fugitive slaves.[12] He was also a regular attendee at meetings of the "Bird Club", organized by businessman Francis Bird. Its members were mainly anti-slavery ex-Whigs, described by Samuel Gridley Howe as "straight & impractical republicans".[13] Bird Club members would dominate the state's political establishment into the 1870s.[14]

Andrew's political activity was otherwise minimal, as he was devoted to his growing law practice and family, which was settled in Hingham. By 1855 his practice was sufficiently successful that he also purchased a house on Charles Street in Boston.[15]

Andrew used this house at 110 Charles St., Boston, as a city residence from 1855 to 1867[16]

In 1854 Andrew became personally involved in the highly publicized fugitive slave case of Anthony Burns, defending one of the men who was arrested for trying to rescue Burns from the ship in which he was being held.[17] Anger over passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act (which overturned the limitation of slavery's expansion under the Missouri Compromise of 1820) revitalized the Free Soil movement.

Andrew was elected chair of a committee to manage a nominating convention for the 1854 elections.[18] He chaired a meeting that resulted in the first organization of the Republican Party in Massachusetts. Its slate was undermined by Henry Wilson's joining the Know Nothing movement, which swept the state's elected offices that year.[19] The Republicans reorganized in 1855, but Andrew was not involved in the party processes that resulted in the eventual election of Nathaniel Prentice Banks to the governorship in 1857. He continued legal activity on behalf of anti-slavery interests.[20]

In 1857 Andrew won election as a representative in the Massachusetts General Court, as part of a complete Republican takeover of the Massachusetts government.[21] He was quickly promoted as a leading abolitionist voice (filling a void left after Sumner was severely injured in an attack in Congress). Andrew led the debate in favor of removing Judge Edward Loring from office over his actions in the Burns case, and in opposition to the proposed repeal of the state's stringent anti-slavery personal liberty law.[22] Although he did not run for reelection, Andrew gained popularity as his actions became known in the state Republican party. He was selected to chair the 1858 state convention.[23] In anticipation of gaining an electoral office, Andrew refused Governor Banks' offer of a seat on the Superior Court bench in 1859.[24]

I pause not now to consider ... whether the enterprise of John Brown and his associates in Virginia was wise or foolish, right or wrong; I only know that, whether the enterprise itself was the one or the other, John Brown himself was right.

—Andrew, in his 1859 fund-raising appeal for John Brown's defense[25]

Following John Brown's 1859 raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia, Andrew helped organize legal aid for Brown.[26] He expressed sympathy with Brown's position, if not his deeds.[25] Andrew's efforts on behalf of Brown brought him statewide notice, and also drew the attention of Southern interests in the United States Senate. They were seeking evidence to tie Northern interests to the funding and arming of Brown's force.[27] Andrew was questioned and eventually cleared of any direct involvement by the Senate committee that investigated the raid.

Andrew's popularity made him the choice to head the Massachusetts delegation to the 1860 Republican National Convention.[28] He was nominated for governor at the state convention that year, despite an attempt by the more moderate Governor Banks to secure the nomination for Henry L. Dawes. (Banks sought to put off the announcement of his retirement until the last possible moment, but state Republican chairman William Claflin leaked the news to Andrew supporters.)[29] Andrew won the nomination by a wide margin, and defeated Constitutional Union Party candidate Amos A. Lawrence in the general election.[30]

Governor of Massachusetts[edit]

When Andrew took office on January 2, 1861, on the eve of the Civil War, the Albany Argus called him "a lawyer of a low type and a brutal fanatic" who "proposes to maintain the condemned [personal liberty] statutes of [Massachusetts], and to force upon the South by arms, an allegiance to the Constitution thus violated."[31] Andrew immediately began to ready the Massachusetts militia for duty. He also asked the governors of Maine and New Hampshire to prepare for war. Among his early actions were to accept recruits from other states to serve in Massachusetts regiments, including 500 men from California who he encouraged to join the 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry in 1862 and early 1863.

An historical election poster promoting Andrew for governor

Andrew's strong feelings about emancipation are clearly expressed in the following quote from an 1862 speech:

Andrew was receptive to the concept of using black men as uniformed soldiers in the Union Army. In April 1862 he began working closely with the Federal government and with Frederick Douglass on this issue. He wrote letters to different states and to Lincoln trying to get support. He authorized the formation of two regiments of black infantry, the 54th and 55th Massachusetts, composed of blacks recruited not just from Massachusetts, but also Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, and other states. Shortly after the Battle of Antietam, Andrew was one of the leading state executives at the Loyal War Governors' Conference in Altoona, Pennsylvania, which ultimately backed Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation and the war effort.

In 1864, Andrew wrote a letter to his close friend and distant cousin President Abraham Lincoln, describing a woman named Lydia Bixby who lost five sons in battle and asking Lincoln to express his condolences. Lincoln sent a letter to Mrs. Bixby, who turned out not only to dislike Lincoln, but was found to be a Confederate sympathizer. It was later determined that Mrs. Bixby had lost two sons.

Andrew left the office of governor in 1866 and again took up the practice of law, although he intended to remain active in politics. Having associated with the Radical Republicans during the war, Andrew took a more conciliatory tone towards Reconstruction. He did not favor some of the Radical Republicans' more extreme measures.

After the war he was elected a 3rd Class Companion (ie. honorary member) of the Pennsylvania Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States in recognition of his support of the Union during the Civil War.

Governor Andrew died in 1867 of apoplexy after having tea at his home in Boston. He is buried in the Hingham (Old Ship) Cemetery in Hingham, Massachusetts.

Honors and memorials[edit]

Statue of Governor Andrew, Old Ship Burying Ground, Hingham, Massachusetts
  • In 2007, governor Deval Patrick hung Andrew's portrait over the fireplace in his office, calling him an inspiration.
  • A full-size statue of Andrew on a pedestal is at his grave in Hingham.
  • John A. Andrew St., in the Jamaica Plain section of Boston, is named in his honor, and his name is one of four on the Soldier's Memorial in the same community.
  • Andrew Square in South Boston and the associated MBTA Red Line subway station Andrew Station also were named in his honor.
  • John Andrew Hospital at Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Alabama is named for him.[32]


  1. ^ a b c d Reno, p. 377
  2. ^ Pearson, pp. 1:7–9
  3. ^ Pearson, pp. 1:10–12
  4. ^ Pearson, p. 1:13
  5. ^ Pearson, pp. 1:15–23
  6. ^ Reno, p. 378
  7. ^ Donald, pp. 144–149
  8. ^ Pearson, pp. 1:43–45
  9. ^ Trent, pp. 158–159
  10. ^ Pearson, p. 1:47
  11. ^ Pearson, pp. 1:50–54
  12. ^ Cumbler, p. 71
  13. ^ Trent, p. 184
  14. ^ Mohr, p. 3
  15. ^ Pearson, pp. 1:54–57
  16. ^ State Street Trust Company. Forty of Boston's historic houses. 1912.
  17. ^ Pearson, p. 1:57
  18. ^ Pearson, pp. 1:61–63
  19. ^ Pearson, pp. 1:64–65
  20. ^ Pearson, pp. 1:65–67
  21. ^ Pearson, pp. 1:68–69
  22. ^ Pearson, pp. 1:73–92
  23. ^ Pearson, pp. 1:92–93
  24. ^ Pearson, p. 1:95
  25. ^ a b Pearson, p. 1:100
  26. ^ Pearson, pp. 1:73–96
  27. ^ Pearson, p. 1:105
  28. ^ Pearson, pp. 1:111–113
  29. ^ Pearson, pp. 1:119–120
  30. ^ Pearson, pp. 1:123–128
  31. ^ Cited in the Brooklyn (New York) Daily Eagle, January 10, 1861, p.2.
  32. ^ Watson, Wilbur H (1999). Against the Odds: Blacks in the Profession of Medicine in the United States. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers. p. 68. ISBN 978-0-585-32416-6. OCLC 45843812. 


External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Nathaniel P. Banks
Governor of Massachusetts
January 3, 1861 – January 4, 1866
Succeeded by
Alexander H. Bullock