American Statesmen: Secretaries of State from John Jay to Colin Powell

By Edward S. Mihalkanin | Go to book overview
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THOMAS F. BAYARD (1828-1898)

Served 1885-1889

Appointed by President Grover Cleveland

Democrat

Thomas Francis Bayard was born in Wilmington, Delaware, on October 29, 1828, to James Asheton Bayard and Anne Francis Bayard. His father served successive terms in the U.S. Senate in 1850, 1856, and 1862. Among his ancestors, his grandfather, great-grandfather, and an uncle were also members of the Senate. Thomas was educated at a private school in Flushing, New York, worked in mercantile houses in New York City and Philadelphia, and in 1851 was admitted to the Delaware bar. A lawyer for 18 years in Wilmington and relatively briefly in Philadelphia, Bayard engaged in a thriving legal practice, particularly being involved in administering estates. In 1853-1854 he served as federal district attorney in Delaware. By then Bayard was a strikingly handsome man, over six feet tall and powerfully built. In October 1856, he married Louise Lee, daughter of a wealthy Baltimore banker. They had nine children. During the Civil War, he, like his father James, was a peace Democrat, opposing secession but preferring peaceful departure of the Southern states to civil war.

When in 1869 James Bayard resigned his Senate seat, the Delaware legislature chose Thomas to succeed him. A member of the electoral commission of 1877, appointed by Congress to decide the contested Hayes-Tilden election, Bayard gave his full support to Democratic presidential candidate Samuel J. Tilden. He fought Radical Reconstruction policies, claiming that they were far too harsh and involved undue centralization of executive power. Racism was by no means absent. For example, in opposing the Force Bill of 1870, he accused the Republicans of maintaining their power by manipulation of “ignorant and semi-barbarous” blacks. Standing firmly in his party's laissez-faire tradition, he opposed as “class legislation” bills fostering ship subsidies, railroad land grants, or tariff protection. A hard-money man, he maintained that all currency must be based on gold or silver. He received some support for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1876 (when Buffalo attorney Grover Cleveland favored his candidacy), 1880, and 1884 as a favorite son. Standing second only to Cleveland as party leader, Bayard ran just

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