The Peace Democrat
B Y late 1862, unaccustomed financial pressures lay more heavily on Wood's mind than politics. He had underwritten Mozart, spent his own funds in administrating the mayoralty beyond its yearly salary of $5,000, and subsidized his congressional campaign. Ordinarily, Wood could afford such outlays, but not in an era of wartime inflation which cut into even his considerable wealth. Chancy investments escalated his woes. Wood carried $57,475 in new mortgages, mainly $45,000 on a just-purchased office building at 115 and 117 Nassau Street near city hall for which he found few renters. Legal reverses compounded his troubles. The supreme court ordered him to pay several policemen injured in the 1857 riots, and the court of appeals finally sustained the referees' finding in the Marvine case. While he had originally repaid Marvine $5,000, the court ordered an additional $17,000 consisting of the remainder, plus interest and costs. For the moment, Wood evaded the verdict. His friend and former attorney, Supreme Court Justice George C. Barnard, was in charge of disbursements, and Wood trusted him to schedule payments in depreciated greenbacks instead of gold. In this emergency, Wood sold his San Francisco property, but the proceeds apparently were not enough. A soft city real estate market made further selling unfeasible. On top of everything else, Alice Wood had expensive habits. Little is known of the figures involved, but her grandiose spending for finery and jewels came at a time when he had little disposable income.1
As his large debts became larger, Wood worried that some creditors might transfer his notes to unfriendly Republican bankers. In desperation, Wood reverted to tawdry habits. For years, his image as a grafter who sold appointments and then resold them to the highest bidder had grown commonplace. Since proof did not exist, maybe because the men involved never complained fearing arrest for bribery, the Hackley contract served as a handy substitute. During the spring of 1862, New Yorkers read a daily diet of court testimony linking him and brother Ben to a $40,000 payoff for signing the contract.2
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Publication information: Book title: Fernando Wood:A Political Biography. Contributors: Jerome Mushkat - Author. Publisher: Kent State University Press. Place of publication: Kent, OH. Publication year: 1990. Page number: 133.