Biography of Governor Charles M. Croswell

Governor Charles M. Croswell
Governor Charles M. Croswell

Charles M. Croswell, Governor of Michigan from Jan. 3, 1887 to Jan. 1, 1881, was born at Newburg, Orange County, N.Y., Oct. 31, 1825. He is the only son of John and Sallie (Hicks) Croswell. His father, who was of Scotch-Irish extraction, was a paper-maker, and carried on business in New York City. His ancestors on his mother’s side were of Knickerbocker descent. The Croswell family many be found connected with prominent events, in New York and Connecticut, in the early existence of the Republic. Harry Croswell, during the administration of President Jefferson, published a paper called the Balance, and was prosecuted for libeling the President under the obnoxious Sedition Law He was defended by the celebrated Alexander Hamilton, and the decision of the case established the important ruling that the truth might be shown in shown in cases of libel. Another member of the family was Edwin Croswell, the famous editor of the Albany Argus; also, Rev. William Croswell, noted as a divine and poet.

When Charles M. Croswell was seven years of age, his father was accidentally drowned in the Hudson River, at Newburyl and, within three months preceding that event, his mother and only sister had died, — thus leaving him the sole surviving member of the family, without fortune or means. Upon the death of his father he went to live with an uncle, who, in 1837, emigrated with him to Adrian, Michigan. At sixteen years of age, he commenced to learn the carpenter’s trade, and worked at it very diligently for four years, maintaining himself, and devoting his spare time to reading and the acquirement of knowledge. In 1946, he began the study of law, and was appointed Deputy Clerk of Lenawee County. The duties of this office he performed four years, when he was elected Register of Deeds, and was re-elected in 1852. In 1854, he took part in the first movements for the formation of the Republican party, and was a member and Secretary of the convention held at Jackson in that year, which put in the field the first Republican State ticket in Michigan. In 855, he formed a law partnership with the present Chief-Justice Cooley, which continued until the removal of Judge Cooley to Ann Arbor.

In 1862, Mr. Croswell was appointed City Attorney of Adrian. He was also elected Mayor of the city in the spring of the same year, and in the fall was chosen to represent Lenawee County in the State Senate. He was re-elected to the Senate in 1864, and again in 1866, during each term filling the positions above mentioned. Among various reports made by him, one adverse to the re-establishment of the death penalty, and another against a proposition to pay the salaries of the State officers and judges in coin, which then commanded a very large premium, may be mentioned. He also drafted the act ratifying the Thirteenth Amendment to the Federal Constitution, for the abolishment of slavery, it being the first amendment to the instrument ratified by Michigan. In 1863, from his seat in the State Senate, he delivered an elaborate speech in favor of the Proclamation of Emancipation issued by President Lincoln, and of his general policy in the prosecution of the war. This, at the request of his Republican associates, was afterwards published.

Source: Chapman Brothers. Portrait and biographical record of Genesee, Lapeer and Tuscola counties, Michigan. Chicago: Chapman brothers, 1892.

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