Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Conkling, Alfred

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CONKLING, Alfred, jurist, b. in Amagansett, Suffolk co., N. Y., 12 Oct., 1789; d. in Utica, N. Y., 5 Eeb., 1874. He was graduated at Union in 1810, studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1812. He was district attorney for Montgomery county three years, and was elected to congress as an anti-Jackson democrat, serving from 1821 till 1823. He then removed to Albany, and in 1825 was appointed by President John Quincy Adams judge of the U. S. district court for the northern district of New York, which office he held till 1852, when President Fillmore appointed him minister to Mexico. On his return from that mission, in 1853, he settled at Genesee, N. Y., devoting himself mainly to literary pursuits. Union college gave him the degree of LL. D. in 1847. He published “Treatise on the Organization and Jurisdiction of the Supreme, Circuit, and District Courts of the United States” (3d ed., 1842); “Admiralty Jurisdiction” (2 vols., 1848); “The Powers of the Executive Department of the United States” (Albany, 1866); and the “Young Citizen's Manual.” — His son, Frederick Augustus, b. in Canajoharie, N. Y., 22 Aug., 1816; d. in New York city, 18 Sept., 1891. He received a classical education, became a merchant, and was for three years a member of the New York legislature. In June, 1861, he organized, at his own expense, the 84th New York regiment, serving as its colonel. During July, 1863, the regiment did duty as provost-guard at Baltimore, Md., and in 1864 it saw several months' service in Virginia. Col. Conkling served one term in congress, from 1861 till 1863, and in 1868 was the Republican candidate for mayor of New York. He changed his politics, however, and spoke in various parts of the Union in favor of Mr. Tilden's election to the presidency in 1876, and of Gen. Hancock's in 1880. He was a trustee of the College of physicians and surgeons, a member of the geographical and historical societies, and the author of various reports to the New York legislature, and numerous political, commercial, and scientific pamphlets. —

Appletons' Conkling Alfred - Roscoe.jpg
Appletons' Conkling Alfred - Roscoe signature.jpg

Another son, Roscoe, senator, b. in Albany, N. Y., 30 Oct., 1829; d. in New York, 18 April, 1888, received an academic education, and studied law under his father. In 1846 he entered the law-office of Francis Kernan, afterward his colleague in the senate, and in 1850 became district attorney for Oneida county. He was admitted to the bar in that year, and soon became prominent both in law and in politics. He was elected mayor of Utica in 1858, and at the expiration of his first term a tie vote between the two candidates for the office caused him to hold over for another term. In November, 1858, he was chosen as a Republican to congress, and took his seat in that body at the beginning of its first session, in December, 1859 — a session noted for its long and bitter contest over the speakership. He was re-elected in 1860, but in 1862 was defeated by Francis Kernan, over whom, however, he was elected in 1864. His first committee was that on the District of Columbia, of which he was afterward chairman. He was also a member of the committee of ways and means and of the special reconstruction committee of fifteen. Mr. Conkling's first important speech was in support of the fourteenth amendment to the constitution. He vigorously attacked the generalship of McClellan, opposed Spaulding's legal-tender act, and firmly upheld the government in the prosecution of the war. Mr. Conkling was re-elected in the autumn of 1866, but in January, 1867, before he took his seat, was chosen U. S. senator to succeed Ira Harris, and re-elected in 1873 and 1879. In the senate he was from the first a member of the judiciary committee, and connected with nearly all the leading committees, holding the chairs of those on commerce and revision of the laws. Senator Conkling was a zealous supporter of President Grant's administration and largely directed its general policy toward the south, advocating it in public and by his personal influence. He was also instrumental in the passage of the civil-rights bill, and favored the resumption of specie payments. He took a prominent part in framing the electoral-commission bill in 1877, and supported it by an able speech, arguing that the question of the commission's jurisdiction should be left to that body itself. Mr. Conkling received 93 votes for the Republican nomination for president in the Cincinnati convention of 1876. In the Chicago convention of 1880 he advocated the nomination of Gen. Grant for a third term. In 1881 he became hostile to President Garfield's administration on a question of patronage, claiming, with his colleague, Thomas C. Platt, the right to control federal appointments in his state. The president having appointed a political opponent of Mr. Conkling's to the collectorship of the port of New York, the latter opposed his confirmation, claiming that he should have been consulted in the matter, and that the nomination was a violation of the pledges given to him by the president. Mr. Garfield, as soon as Mr. Conkling had declared his opposition, withdrew all other nominations to New York offices, leaving the ob- jectionable one to be acted on by itself. Finding that he could not prevent the confirmation, Mr. Conkling, on 16 May, resigned his senatorship, as did also his colleague, and returned home to seek a vindication in the form of a re-election. In this, however, after an exciting canvass, they failed; two other republicans were chosen to fill the vacant places, and Mr. Conkling returned to his law practice in New York city. In 1885-'6 he was counsel of the State senate investigating committee, appointed for the purpose of disclosing the fraud and bribery in the grant of the Broadway horse-railroad franchise by the board of aldermen in 1884. After the taking of testimony, lasting about three months, Mr. Conkling, together with Clarence A. Seward, made an argument which resulted in the repeal of the Broadway railroad charter. — Alfred's daughter, Margaret Cockburn (Mrs. Steele), b. 27 Jan., 1814, d. 1890, has published “Memoirs of the Mother and Wife of Washington” (Auburn, N. Y., 1851-'3); “Isabel; or, Trials of the Heart”; a translation of Florian's “History of the Moors of Spain,” and has contributed to current literature. — Alfred Conkling's grandson, Alfred Ronald, b. in New York city, 28 Sept., 1850, was graduated at Yale in 1870, pursued his studies at Harvard and in Berlin, Germany, and on his return to this country was employed on the U. S. geological survey. He then studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1879, and became assistant U. S. attorney in 1881-'2. He was an unsuccessful Republican candidate for congress in 1884, and made many addresses in favor of the election of James G. Blaine during the presidential campaign of that year. He is the author of “Appletons' Guide to Mexico” (New York, 1884).