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This man has no principles, public or private. As a politician, his whole spring of action in an inordinate ambition.

If there was a bigger opportunist to come out of Illinois in the nineteenth century it would have to be Lincoln. Although this book is far too fulsome with praise for a political hack who became an operator without peer it does at least provide a timeline and some insights into the worst excesses of the reconstruction era – actually less reconstruction and more the military occupation of the South while the north’s political agenda was imposed.

Black Jack Logan : an extraordinary life in peace and war    Guilford, Conn. : Lyon’s Press, c 2005 Gary Ecelbarger Illinois Politics and government 19th century, Logan, John Alexander, 1826-1886 Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. viii, 391 p. : ill., maps, ports ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 361-374) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

He was a dominant player in the politics of the Gilded Age, a three-term senator who was as popular as he was partisan. He was the vice-presidential candidate in the losing race in 1884. Had he not died unexpectedly at the age of sixty, he likely would have become president in 1888. He entered the political scene in 1859 with controversy, a Northern (Illinois) congressman so committed to enforcing the Fugitive Slave laws that abolitionists dubbed him “Dirty Work” Logan.

The Civil War changed his political and social philosophy. But more than that, the war made him a star. He changed his philosophy, changed political parties, and fought for union and for women’s suffrage. His own Southern-bred mother refused to speak to him for years. He witnessed his first battle as a United States congressman, but sensing an opportunity and seizing it,  he picked up a discarded rifle and marched behind the foot soldiers. Officially entering the war as a colonel, he served under such butchers as Grant and Sherman, and his ostentatious nature and self promoting leadership on the battlefield earned him rapid promotions and well publicized roles in the decisive campaigns of the war. By 1865 he was a major general leading an army and had declared himself the best volunteer soldier that the union produced.

Elected as a Republican to the Fortieth, Forty-first, and Forty-second Congresses and served from March 4, 1867, until his resignation on March 3, 1871, at the end of the Forty-first Congress, having been elected Senator; chairman, Committee on Military Affairs (Forty-first Congress); one of the managers appointed by the House of Representatives in 1868 to conduct the impeachment proceedings against President Andrew Johnson;  elected to the United States Senate as a Republican and served from March 4, 1871, to March 3, 1877; unsuccessful candidate for reelection; chairman, Committee on Military Affairs (Forty-third and Forty-fourth Congresses); resumed the practice of law in Chicago; again elected to the United States Senate in 1879; reelected in 1885, and served from March 4, 1879, until his death; chairman, Committee on Military Affairs (Forty-seventh and Forty-eighth Congresses); unsuccessful Republican nominee for Vice President of the United States in 1884; died in Washington, D.C., December 26, 1886.

The most interesting thing about his post war congressional career was his shared defeat in 1884 with the Republican presidential nominee James G. Blaine. Exhibiting the usual prejudices of the day a presbyterian minister who support Blaine referred to the democrats as the party of, “rum, Romanism and rebellion.” Too strong for even the anti immigrant feeling of the day – and never disavowed by Blaine – this one comment may have done more to make Grover Clevland president than anything else. Like so many other opportunists who change parties at convenience the highest prizes always eluded him.


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