1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Depew, Chauncey Mitchell

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

DEPEW, CHAUNCEY MITCHELL (1834-), American lawyer and politician, was born in Peekskill, New York, on the 23rd of April 1834, of a Huguenot family (originally Du Puis or De Puy). He graduated at Yale in 1856, entered politics as a Whig—his father had been a Democrat—was admitted to the bar in 1858, was a member of the New York Assembly in 1861-1862, and was secretary of state of New York state in 1864-1865. He refused a nomination to be United States minister to Japan, and through his friendship with Cornelius and William H. Vanderbilt in 1866 became attorney for the New York & Harlem railway, in 1869 was appointed attorney of the newly consolidated New York Central & Hudson river railway, of which he soon became a director, and in 1875 was made general counsel for the entire Vanderbilt system of railways. He became second vice-president of the New York Central & Hudson river in 1869 and was its president in 1885-1898, and in 1898 was made chairman of the board of directors of the Vanderbilt system. In 1872 he joined the Liberal-Republican movement, and was nominated and defeated for the office of lieutenant-governor of New York. In 1888 in the National Republican convention he was a candidate for the presidential nomination, but withdrew his name in favour of Benjamin Harrison, whose offer to him in 1889 of the portfolio of state he refused. In 1899 he was elected United States senator from New York state, and in 1904 was re-elected for the term ending in 1911. His great personal popularity, augmented by his ability as an orator, suffered considerably after 1905, the inquiry into life insurance company methods by a committee of the state legislature resulting in acute criticism of his actions as a director of the Equitable Life Assurance Society and as counsel to Henry B. Hyde and his son. Among his best-known orations are that delivered at the unveiling of the Bartholdi statue of Liberty enlightening the World (1886), an address at the Washington Centennial in New York (1889), and the Columbian oration at the dedication ceremonies of the Chicago World’s Fair (1892).