Levi P. Morton

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Levi P. Morton
Levi Morton - Brady-Handy portrait - standard crop.jpg
22nd Vice President of the United States
In office
March 4, 1889 – March 4, 1893
President Benjamin Harrison
Preceded by Thomas A. Hendricks
Succeeded by Adlai E. Stevenson
31st Governor of New York
In office
January 1, 1895 – December 31, 1896
Lieutenant Charles T. Saxton
Preceded by Roswell P. Flower
Succeeded by Frank S. Black
United States Minister to France
In office
March 21, 1881 – May 14, 1885
Appointed by James A. Garfield
Preceded by Edward Follansbee Noyes
Succeeded by Robert Milligan McLane
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New York's 11th district
In office
March 4, 1879 – March 21, 1881
Preceded by Benjamin A. Willis
Succeeded by Roswell P. Flower
Personal details
Born Levi Parsons Morton
(1824-05-16)May 16, 1824
Shoreham, Vermont, U.S.
Died May 16, 1920(1920-05-16) (aged 96)
Rhinebeck, New York, U.S.
Nationality American
Political party Republican
Spouse(s)
Children 7
Religion Episcopalian
Signature Cursive signature in ink

Levi Parsons Morton (May 16, 1824 – May 16, 1920) was a Representative from New York and the 22nd Vice President of the United States (1889–93). He later served as the 31st Governor of New York.

Early life[edit]

Morton was born in Shoreham, Vermont. His parents were the Reverend Daniel Oliver Morton (1788–1852), a Congregationalist minister and Lucretia Parsons (1789–1862). His older brother, Daniel O. Morton (1815–59), was Mayor of Toledo, Ohio from 1849 to 1850.[1]

Morton's family moved to Springfield, Vermont in 1832 when his father became the minister of the Congregational church there. Rev. Morton headed the congregation during the construction of the brick colonial revival style church on Main Street that is still in use today. Levi P. Morton was considered by his Springfield peers to be a "leader in all affairs in which schoolboys usually engage." The family moved away when Rev. Morton was reassigned in 1836.[2]

Morton left school early and worked as a clerk in a general store in Enfield, Massachusetts, taught school in Boscawen, New Hampshire, engaged in mercantile pursuits in Hanover, New Hampshire, and moved to Boston to work in the Beebe & Co. importing business. He eventually settled in New York City, where he entered the dry-goods business, became a successful cotton broker, and established himself as one of the country's top investment bankers in a firm he founded, Morton, Bliss & Co. He was an unsuccessful candidate for election in 1876 to the 45th Congress, and was appointed by President Rutherford B. Hayes to be an honorary commissioner to the Paris Exhibition of 1878.

Political career[edit]

Member of Congress[edit]

Morton was elected, as a Republican, to the 46th and 47th Congresses representing Manhattan. He served from March 4, 1879, until his resignation, effective March 21, 1881. The 1880 Republican presidential nominee, James A. Garfield, asked Morton to be his vice presidential running mate, attempting to win over disappointed supporters of Ulysses S. Grant's candidacy for a third term. Morton was loyal to Senator Roscoe Conkling, who was Grant's campaign manager; unhappy that Grant had not been nominated, Conkling advised Morton to decline; Morton followed Conkling's advice. Garfield's supporters then turned to Chester A. Arthur, another Conkling supporter. Conkling advised Arthur to decline, but Arthur accepted; Garfield and he were narrowly elected over their Democratic opponents.

Minister to France[edit]

After Garfield's election, Morton asked to be appointed United States ambassador to either the United Kingdom or France. He was U.S. Minister Plenipotentiary to France from 1881 to 1885. (A deluded Charles J. Guiteau, reportedly decided to murder Garfield after he was "passed over" as minister to France.)

Morton was very popular in France. He helped commercial relations between the two countries run smoothly during his term, and, in Paris on October 24, 1881, he placed the first rivet in the construction of the Statue of Liberty. (It was driven into the big toe of Lady Liberty's left foot.)

Vice President[edit]

From 1889 until 1895, Morton lived at this residence in Washington, D.C.

Morton was elected Vice President of the United States, on the Republican ticket with President Benjamin Harrison, in which capacity he served from March 4, 1889, to March 4, 1893. During his term, Harrison tried to pass the Lodge Bill, an election law enforcing the voting rights of blacks in the South; the billed failed because Morton did little in his role as the Senate's presiding officer to support the bill against a Democratic filibuster.[3] Harrison blamed Morton for the bill's eventual failure, and, at the Republican convention prior to the 1892 election, Morton decided not to run for a second term and was replaced by Whitelaw Reid as the vice-presidential candidate.[4] Harrison and Reid went on to lose the 1892 election, to Grover Cleveland and Adlai E. Stevenson, the Democratic candidates.

Governor of New York[edit]

Gubernatorial portrait of Levi P. Morton.

Levi Morton was Governor of New York in 1895 and 1896. He was considered for the Republican presidential nomination in 1896, but the Republican Party chose William McKinley instead. After his public career was over, he became a real estate investor.

Marriages and personal life[edit]

Morton married his first wife, Lucy Young Kimball (July 22, 1836 – July 11, 1871) on October 15, 1856, in Flatlands, Brooklyn. They had one child, a daughter who died in infancy, in 1857.

His first wife died in 1871, and in 1873 Morton married Anna Livingston Reade Street. She was Second Lady of the United States during her husband's vice–presidency, and often handled entertaining duties for the administration due to First Lady Caroline Harrison's ill health. She had five daughters with Morton, and a son who died in infancy.

In 1890 he became one of the first members of the District of Columbia Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. He was assigned national society membership number 1838 and district society number 38.[5] He was also a member of the General Society of Colonial Wars.

In retirement, he served as President of the Metropolitan Club at One East Sixtieth Street, New York, between 1900 and 1911. He was preceded in that office by J. Pierpont Morgan; and succeeded by Frank Knight Sturgis.[6] He was also a member of the Union League Club of New York, and served as President of the New York Zoological Society from 1897 to 1909.

Death[edit]

Morton died on May 16, 1920, at Rhinebeck, in Dutchess County, New York.[7] He died on his 96th birthday, the only Vice President to have died on his birthday. He is interred in the Rhinebeck Cemetery.

Legacy[edit]

The Village of Morton Grove, Illinois, is named after Morton. He provided the funding necessary to allow Miller's Mill (now Lincoln Avenue) to pass through the upstart neighborhood, and provide goods to trade and sell. Morton Grove was incorporated in December 1895.

Morton owned property in Newport, Rhode Island, spending his summers on fashionable Bellevue Avenue in his mansion called "Fairlawn," a building currently owned by Salve Regina University, housing the Pell Center of International Relations and Public Policy. He left a nearby property to the city of Newport for use as a park. The park is at the corner of Coggeshall and Morton avenues (the latter formerly Brenton Road), and is named Morton Park.

Morton sold or donated property he owned in Hanover, New Hampshire, to Dartmouth College, and the college built Webster Hall on the land. Morton was considered an honorary alumnus at alumni gatherings in New York. He also owned a summer retreat in the Adirondack Park, on Eagle Island.[8] The architecture is of the Great Camps style, designed by the notable architect William L. Coulter. Over the years, the island found its way into the ownership of the Girl Scouts of the USA, where it remains today as Camp Eagle Island.[9]

Morton was the second longest-lived Vice President of the United States, dying on his 96th birthday. Only Franklin D. Roosevelt's first Vice President, John Nance Garner (who died 15 days before his 99th birthday) lived longer. Morton survived five of his successors in the vice presidency: Adlai E. Stevenson, Garret Hobart, Theodore Roosevelt, Charles W. Fairbanks and James S. Sherman.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Partial Genealogy of the Mortons of New York, Plymouth, and Ohio" (PDF). 
  2. ^ Hubbard, Charles Horace (1895). History of the Town of Springfield, Vermont. G.H. Walker & Co. pp. 40, 75, 236. 
  3. ^ "Levi Parsons Morton, 22nd Vice President (1889-1893)". Senate Historical Office. Washington, DC: Historian of the United States Senate. Retrieved December 19, 2016. 
  4. ^ "Vice Presidents of the United States, 1789-1993" (PDF). United States Senate Historical Office. 1997. Retrieved 2008-10-25. 
  5. ^ Sons of the American Revolution Application, Levi P. Morton, accessed via Ancestry.com
  6. ^ Club Members of New York. New York, NY: Club Members of New York, Inc. 1940. p. 136. Seven presidents have presided over the club: J. Pierpont Morgan, L. P. Morton, F. K. Sturgis... 
  7. ^ "Morton A Resident Of Washington. Only Part of His Estate Will Be Taxable in This State. But Suit Will Be Brought. Test Was Attempted In the Case of Mrs. Morton, but Never Reached Conclusion". New York Times. May 18, 1920. Retrieved 2015-05-16. The estate of ex-Governor Levi P. Morton will probably Day to the State of New York only the inheritance tax due from the estate of a non-resident, as Mr. Morton had made Washington, D.C., his residence for ten years. 
  8. ^ "National Historic Landmark Nomination, Eagle Island Camp" (PDF). www.nps.gov. National Park Service. August 18, 2004. p. 13. 
  9. ^ "National Historic Landmark Nomination, Eagle Island Camp"

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Roswell P. Flower
Governor of New York
January 1, 1895 – December 31, 1896
Succeeded by
Frank S. Black
Preceded by
Thomas A. Hendricks
Vice President of the United States
March 4, 1889 – March 4, 1893
Succeeded by
Adlai Stevenson
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Benjamin A. Willis
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 11th congressional district

March 4, 1879 – March 4, 1881
Succeeded by
Roswell P. Flower
Party political offices
Preceded by
John A. Logan
Republican nominee for
Vice President of the United States

1888
Succeeded by
Whitelaw Reid
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Edward F. Noyes
United States Minister to France
1881–1885
Succeeded by
Robert Milligan McLane