Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Edmund G. Ross: Soldier, Senator, Abolitionist

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Edmund G. Ross: Soldier, Senator, Abolitionist

Article excerpt

Edmund G. Ross: Soldier, Senator, Abolitionist. By Richard A. Ruddy. (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2013. Pp. [xvi], 328. $39.95, ISBN 978-0-8263-5374-0.)

When Kansas senator Edmund G. Ross rose to cast the decisive vote in the 1868 impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson, he recognized the gravity of the moment: "I almost literally looked down into my open grave" (p. 136). The vote to acquit is the main reason for remembering Ross, although his fellow Republican senators and his Kansas constituents scorned him for it. John F. Kennedy rehabilitated Ross's reputation in Profiles in Courage (New York, 1956), depicting the senator as a virtuous assayer of evidence rather than a shameful Republican Judas. In Edmund G. Ross: Soldier, Senator, Abolitionist, Richard A. Ruddy seeks to understand Ross's entire life and not just his infamous vote.

Ohio-born Ross was making his living as a printer in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, when in 1856 he and his family heeded the call for antislavery settlers in Kansas. Ross became embroiled in Bleeding Kansas as a soldier for James H. "Jim" Lane's Free-State Army and as an abolitionist newspaper editor. After serving in the Union army during the Civil War, he returned to newspapers and politics. As an editor, Ross led the criticism of the conservative positions on Reconstruction held by Lane, who had become one of Kansas's first U.S. senators in 1861. When Lane committed suicide in 1866, Ross succeeded him in the Senate. In Washington, D.C., Ross made enemies with connoisseurs of the prevailing culture of corruption and alienated himself from his Republican base with his vote to acquit the impeached Johnson. Ross, soon booted from office, endured the withering ire of fellow Kansans as he struggled to make a living as a printer and editor of several small newspapers. Disaffection from the Republican Party drove him into the Democratic Party, and he ran unsuccessfully as the Democratic candidate for governor of Kansas in 1880. Ross decamped to Albuquerque, New Mexico, engaged in its political circles, and was named territorial governor during Grover Cleveland's administration. …

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