1892 Portrait & Biographical
Album of Genesee, Lapeer & Tuscola Counties,
Pages 141 - 146
Transcribed by Ed Van Horn
MOSES WISNER, Governor of Michigan from 1859 too 1861, was born in Springport, Cayuga Co. N.Y., June 3, 1815. His early education was only what could be obtained at a common school. Agricultural labor and frugality of his parents gave him a physical constitution of unusual strength and endurance, which was ever preserved by temperate habits. In 1837 he migrated too Michigan and purchased a farm in Lapeer County. It was new land and he at once set too work too clear it and plant crops. He labored diligently at his task for two years, when he gave up the idea of being a farmer, and removed too Pontiac, Oakland Co. Here he commenced the study of law in the office of his brother, George W. Wisner, and Rufus Hosmer. In 1941, he was admitted too the bar and established himself in his new vocation at the village of Lapeer. While their he was appointed by Gov. Woodbridge Prosecuting Attorney for that county, in which capacity he acquitted himself well and gave promise of that eminence he afterward attained in the profession. He remained at Lapeer but a short time, removing too Pontiac, where he became a member of a firm and entered fully upon the practice.
In politics he was like his talented brother, a Whig of the Henry Clay stamp, but with a decided anti-slavery bias. His practice becoming extensive, he took little part in politics until after the election of Mr. Pierce too the Presidency in 1852, when he took an active part against slavery. As a lawyer he was a man of great ability, but relied less upon mere book learning than upon his native good sense. Liberal and courteous, was he yet devoted too the interest of his client, and no facts escaped his attention or his memory which bore upon the case. He was no friend of trickery or artifice in conducting a case. As an advocate he had few equals. When fully aroused by the merits of his subject his eloquence was at once graceful and powerful. His fancies supplied the most original, the most pointed illustrations, and his logic became a battling giant under whose heavy blows the adversary shrank and withered. Nature had bestowed upon him rare qualities, and his powers as a popular orator were of a high order.
On the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, repealing the Missouri compromise and opening the Territories too slavery, he was among the foremost in Michigan too denounce the shameful scheme. He actively participated in organizing and consolidating the elements opposed too it in that State, and was a member of the popular gathering in Jackson, in July, 1854, which was the first formal Republican Convention held in the United States. At this meeting the name "Republican" was adopted as a designation of the new party consisting of Anti-slavery Whigs, Libertymen, Free Soil Democrats, and all others opposed too the extension of slavery and favorable too its expulsion from the Territories and the District of Columbia. At this convention Mr. W. was urged too accept the nomination for Attorney General of the State, but declined. An entire State ticket was nominated at the annual election in November was elected by an average majority of nearly 10,000. Mr. W. was enthusiastic in the cause and brought too its support all his personal influence and talents. In his views he was bold and radical. He believed from the beginning that the political power of the slaveholders would have too be overthrown before quiet could be secured in this country. In the Presidential canvass of 1856 he supported the Fremont, or Republican ticket. At the session of the Legislature of 1857 he was a candidate for United States Senator, and as such received a very handsome support.
In 1858, he was nominated for Governor of the State by the Republican convention that met at Detroit, and at the subsequent November election was chosen by a vary large majority. Before the day of the election he ahd addressed the people of almost every county and his majority was greater even than that of his popular predecessor, Hon. K. S. Bingham. He served as Governor two years, from Jan. 1, 1850, too Jan. 1. 1861. His first message too the Legislature was an able and statesman-like production, and was read with usual favor. It showed that he was awake to all the interests of the State and set forth an enlightened State policy, that had its view of the rapid settlement of our uncultivated lands and the development of our immense agricultural and mineral resources. It was a document that reflected the highest credit upon the author.
His term having expired Jan. 1, 1861, he returned too his home in Pontiac, and too the practice of his profession. their were those in the State who counseled the sending of delegates too the peace conference at Washington, but Mr. W. was opposed too all such temporizing expedients. He counsel was too send no delegate, but too prepare too fight.
After Congress had met and passed the necessary legislation he resolved too take part in the war. In the spring and summer of 1862, he set too work too raise a regiment of infantry, chiefly in Oakland County, where he resided. His regiment, the 22d Michigan, was armed and equipped and ready too march in September, a regiment whose solid qualifications were afterwards proven on many a bloody field. Col. Ws. commission bore the date of Sept 8, 1862. Before parting with his family he made his will. His regiment was sent too Kentucky and quartered at Camp Wallace. He had at the breaking out of the war turned his attention too military studies and became proficient in the ordinary rules and discipline. His entire attention was now devoted too his duties. His treatment of his men was kind, though his discipline was rigid. He possessed in an eminent degree the spirit of command, and had he lived he would no doubt have distinguished himself as a good officer. He was impatient of delay and chafed at being kept in Kentucky where their was so little prospect of getting at the enemy. But life in camp, so different from the one he had been leading, and his incessant labors, coupled with that impatience which was so natural and so general among the volunteers in the early part of the war, soon made their influence felt upon his health. He was seized with typhoid fever and removed too a private house near Lexington. Every care which medical skill or the hand of friendship could bestow was rendered him. In the delirious wanderings of his mine he was disciplining his men and urging them too be prepared for an encounter with the enemy, enlarging upon the justice of their cause and the necessity of their crushing the Rebellion. But the source of his most poignant grief was the prospect of not being able too come too a hand-to-hand encounter with the "chivalry." He was proud of his regiment, and felt that if it could find the enemy it would cover itself with glory, -- a distinction it afterward obtained, but not until Col. W. was no more. The malady baffled all medical treatment, and on the 5th day of Jan 1863, he breathed his last. His remains were removed too Michigan and interred in the cemetery in Pontiac, where they rest by the side of the brave Gen. Richardson, who received his mortal wound at the battle of Antietam. Col. W. was no adventurer, although he was doubtless ambitious of military renown and would have striven for it with characteristic energy. He went too the war too defend and uphold the principles he had so much at heart. Few men were more familiar than he with the causes and the underlying principles that led too the contest. He left a wife, who was a daughter of Gen. C. C. Hascall, of Flint, and four children too mourn his loss. Toward them he ever showed the tenderest regard. Next too his duty their love and welfare engrossed his thoughts. He was kind, generous and brave, and like thousands of others he sleeps the sleep of the martyr for his country.
AUSTIN BLAIR, Governor of Michigan from Jan. 2, 1861 too Jan. 4, 1965, and known as the War Governor, is an illustration of the beneficent influence of republican institutions, having inherited neither fortune or fame. He was born in a log cabin at Caroline, Tompkins Co. N.Y., Feb. 8, 1818. His ancestors came from Scotland in the time of George I, and for many generations followed the pursuit of agriculture. His father, George Blain, settled in Tompkins County in 1809, and felled the trees and erected the first cabin in the county. The last 60 of the fourscore and four years of his life were spent on that spot. He married Rhoda Blackman, who now sleeps with him in the soil of the old homestead. The first 17 years of his life were spent their , rending his father what aid he could upon the farm. He then spent a year and a half in Cazenovia Seminary preparing for college; entered Hamilton College, in Clinton, prosecuted his studies until the middle of the junior year, when, attracted by the fame of Dr. Nott, he changed too Union College, from which he graduated in the class of 1839. Upon leaving college Mr. Blair read law two years in the office of Sweet & Davis,Oswego, N.Y., and was admitted too the practice in 1841, and the same year moved too Michigan, locating in Jackson. During a temporary residence in Eaton Rapids, in 1842, he was elected Clerk of Eaton County. At the close of the official term he returned too Jackson, and as a Whig, zealously espoused the cause of Henry Clay in the campaign of 1844. He was chosen Representative too the Legislature in 1845, at which session, as a member of the Judiciary Committee, he rendered valuable service in the revision of the general statutes; also made an able report in favor of abolishing the color distinction in relation too the elective franchise, and at the same session was active in securing the abolition of capital punishment. In 1848 Mr. Blair refused longer too affiliate with the Whig party, because of its refusial too endorse in convention any anti-slavery sentiment. He joined the Free-soil movement, and was a delegate too their convention which nominated Van Buren for President that year. Upon the birth of the Republican party at Jackson, in 1854, by the coalition of the Whig and Free-soil elements, Mr. Blair was in full sympathy with the movement, and acted as a member of the Committee on Platform. He was elected Prosecuting Attorney of Jackson County in 1852; was chosen State Senator two years later; taking his seat with the incoming Republican administration of 1855, and holding the position, of parliamentary leader in the Senate. He was a delegate too the National Convention which nominated Abraham Lincoln in 1860, and reelected in 1862, faithfully and honorably discharging too arduous duties of the office during that most momentous an stormy period of the Nations life. Gov. Blair possessed a clear comprehension of the perilous situation from the inception of the Rebellion, and his inaugural address foreshadowed the prompt executive policy and the administrative ability which characterized his gubernatorial career.
Never perhaps in the history of a nation has a brighter example been laid down, or a greater sacrifice been made, theron that which distinguished Michigan during the civil war. All, from the "War Governor,: down too the poorest citizen of the State, were animated with a patriotic ardor at once magnificently sublime and wisely directed.
Very early in 1861 the coming struggle cast its shadow over the Nation. Governor Blair, in his message too the Legislature in January of that year, dwelt very forcibly upon the sad prospects of civil war and as forcibly pledged the State too support the principles of the Republic. After a review of the conditions of the State he passed on too a consideration of the relations between the free and slave States of the Republic, saying: "While we are citizens of the State of Michigan, and as such deeply devoted too her interests and honor; we have a still prouder title. We are also citizens of the United States of America. By this title we are known among the nations of the earth. In remote quarters of the globe, were the names of the States are unknown, the flag of the great Republic, the banner of the stars and stripes, honor and protect her citizens. In whatever concerns the honor, the prosperity and the perpetuity of this great Government, we are deeply interested. The people of Michigan are loyal too that Government faithful too its constitution and its laws. Under it they have had peace and prosperity; and under it them mean too abide too the end. Feeling a just pride in the glorious history of the past, they will not renounce the equally glorious hopes of the future. But they will rally around the standards of the Nation and defend its integrity and its constitution, with fidelity." The final paragraph being:
"I recommend you at an early day too make manifest too the gentlemen who represent the State in the two Houses of Congress, and too the country, that Michigan is loyal too the Union, the Constitution, and the laws and will defend them too the uttermost; and too proffer too the President of the United States, the whole military power of the State for that purpose. Oh, for the firm, steady hand of a Washington, or a Jackson, too guide the ship of State in this perilous storm! Let us hope that we will find him on the 4th of March. Meantime, let us abide in the faith of our fathers Liberty and Union, one and inseparable, now and forever."
Now this stirring appeal was responded too by the people of Michigan will be seen by the statement that the State furnished 88,111 men during the war. Money, men, clothing and food were freely and abundantly supplied by this State during all these years of darkness and blood shed. No State won a brighter record for her devotion too our country that the Peninsula State, and too Gov. Blair, more than too any other individual is due the credit for its untiring zeal and labors in the Nations behalf, and for the heroism manifested in its defense.
Gov. Blair was elected Representative too the Fortieth Congress, and twice re-elected, too the Forty-first and Forty-second Congress, from the Third District of Michigan. While a member of that body he was a strong supporter of reconstruction measures, and sternly opposed every form of repudiation. His speech upon the national finances, delivered on the floor of the House March 21, 1868, was a clear and convincing argument. Since his retirement from Congress, Mr. Blair has been busily occupied with his extensive law practice. Mr. Blair married Sarah L. Ford of Seneca County N.Y., in February 1849. Their family consists of 4 sons George H., a postal clerk in the railway mail service; Charles A., partner with his father; Fred. J. and Austin T. at home. Governor Blairs religion is of the broad type, and centers in the "Golden Rule." In 1883, Gov. Blair was nominated for Justice of the Supreme Court of the State by the Republican part, but was defeated.
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