Academic journal article The Historian

Edmund G. Ross: Soldier, Senator, Abolitionist

Academic journal article The Historian

Edmund G. Ross: Soldier, Senator, Abolitionist

Article excerpt

Edmund G. Ross: Soldier, Senator, Abolitionist. By Richard A. Ruddy. (Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press, 2013. Pp. xv, 328. $39.95.)

The author of this book has written a standard biography of Edmund G. Ross covering the major events of his life. Born in Ohio in 1826, Ross spent his early years learning the printing trade before moving to Wisconsin where Sherman Booth, a litigant in Ablentan v. Booth, hired him onto the staff of the Milwaukee Free Democrat. In 1855, Ross moved his family to the Kansas Territory where he became associated with several territorial newspapers before the outbreak of the Civil War. He served as a captain in the Eleventh Kansas Infantry and within a year of his discharge was appointed to the US Senate to replace James H. Lane, who had committed suicide. Failing in his bid for reelection in 1871, Ross returned to journalism until Grover Cleveland selected him to be governor of the New Mexico Territory [1885-1889], He remained a resident of New Mexico until his death in 1907.

Basing his assertions on the unpublished memoirs of Ross's daughter Lillian Ross Leis [1849-1945], written during the last years of her life, Richard A. Ruddy claims throughout the book that Ross was an abolitionist. Considering Ross's antislavery efforts, this seems an exaggeration. Apparently, the first activity in which he participated was the riot organized by Sherman Booth to protest the return of Joshua Glover, a fugitive slave, to his Southern master. Ross was never a member of an abolition society, and despite Ruddy's statement that Ross "repealed] his outrage at slavery and slaveholders in issue after issue" of the Kansas State Record, he does not cite any of these statements (45). True, Ross opposed slavery, but like most Midwesterners his opposition centered on halting the expansion of the institution rather than abolishing it where it existed. Next, Ruddy contends that Ross "wanted to live to see the day former slaves could enjoy equal freedom and equal opportunity under the law" (19). Ruddy informs his readers that Ross wrote editorials favoring equal rights in his newspapers, but, again, Ruddy offers no direct quotations. Indeed, he contradicts his own assertion when he points out that Ross spoke out against the Reconstruction Acts because they imposed black male suffrage on the former Confederacy and "voting rights for former slaves should not be made a condition of the readmission of seceded states" (97). …

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