THE ADMINISTRATION OF GOVERNOR TUCKER.
Source: Lowry, Robert and McCardle, William H. A History of Mississippi, from the Discovery of the Great River by Hernando DeSoto, Including the Earliest Settlement Made by the French Under Iberville, to the Death of Jefferson Davis [1541-1889]. Jackson, Miss.: R. H. Henry & Co., 1891. Pages 299-304.
Tilghman M. Tucker, a native of North Carolina, was the ninth Governor of the State of Mississippi, and the fourth chosen by the people under the Constitution of 1832.
Mr. Tucker came to the State at an early period in its history, and located in Monroe county. He studied law and was regularly admitted to the bar, but upon the formation of Lowndes, which was taken from the territory originally comprised in Monroe county, he located himself at Columbus, the seat of justice of the new county. Here he continued the practice of his profession, and his law firm of Tucker and Butterworth, the latter a bright and educated gentleman from the State of New York, was for a number of years constantly engaged in an extensive and lucrative practice. Mr. Tucker was regarded by his professional associates as a sound, industrious and painstaking lawyer. Not at all brilliant or showy, but with a strong sense of grim humor.
He was an amiable, kind-hearted man, loyal to his friends, and a gentleman of unquestioned honor and integrity. His genial character made him popular with the people, and for several years he represented Lowndes county in the State Senate, and always to the entire satisfaction of his constituents. He was serving as a Senator from Lowndes when nominated for Governor to supply the vacancy occasioned by the abandonment of the ticket as well as of the State, by Mr. Hanson Allsberry, who was his predecessor as the nominee of the Democratic party for the position of Governor. Mr. Tucker entered rather reluctantly upon the canvass, but after a very bitter and exciting contest he was elected over his Whig and bond-paying competitor, Judge David G. Shattuck.
The only memorable public event connected with the administration of Governor Tucker was the deification of Richard S. Graves, the Treasurer of the State, for a large sum of money for that day. Graves had been elected by the people at the general election which resulted in the choice of the anti-bond paying ticket in 1841.
The story of the deification and flight of the Treasurer may be briefly stated. In the autumn of 1842, Richard S. Graves received from Hon. Walter Forward, then Secretary of the Treasury Department of the United States, a draft on the Treasurer of the United States for the two and three per cent. fund due the State of Mississippi, amounting to $165,079. This draft was made payable to U. S. Treasury notes, at a future day with interest, and to Richard S. Graves, in his individual capacity, and not as State Treasurer.
Of this amount, $144,214 was paid him October 6th, 1842. This large sum was received in the treasury without pay warrant or certificate from the Auditor of Public Accounts. This fact, however, did not come to the knowledge of Governor Tucker until the 5th day of January, 1843, when he was advised by a letter from Hon. Jacob Thompson that Graves had drawn the whole amount of the two per cent. fund, which constituted the greater part due the State by the general government. The letter of Mr. Thompson caused Governor Tucker to investigate the power of the Executive, by the laws of the State, over the State Treasurer, as well as the contents in the treasury. After a careful examination, Governor Tucker reached the conclusion, in which he was supported by the Attorney-General and employed counsel, that the State Treasurer could only be removed by impeachment.
There was at that time no statute authorizing the Governor to suspend the State Treasurer, or to remove the funds from his custody. The investigation, however, led to the arrest of Graves, at the instance of the Governor, in March, 1843, charged with the offense of embezzlement. He was arraigned before Chief Justice Starkey, of the High Court of Errors and Appeals, who presided over the committing court.
During the progress of the trial Graves was in the custody of the sheriff of Hinds county, and under guard at his own residence, when Mars. Graves appeared at the door of the room in which her husband was held a prisoner and requested to see him. She was granted the privilege, and in less than one hour a person supposed to be Mrs. Graves came out of the room and passed the guard going to her own apartments. The guard, after considerable time, hearing no noise, looked into the room, and saw, as they supposed, Graves in bed. A nearer approach to the sleeper developed the fact that the occupant of the bed was Mrs. Graves, and that it was the defaulting Treasurer who passed the guards dressed in his wife's apparel. The next heard from Graves he was in Canada, where his wife subsequently joined him.
Soon after his escape, Mrs. Graves requested an interview with Governor Tucker. When the Governor called she delivered to him $69,232.68 in Mississippi treasury warrants, $92,000 in United States treasury notes, and $2,749.68 in foreign gold.
On the 31st of March, 1843, Governor Tucker appointed Hon. Wm. Clarke, Treasurer of the State to fill the unexpired term of R. S. Graves. When the newly appointed Treasurer had qualified and given bond, the Governor paid into the treasury the funds received by him from Mrs.Graves.
The deification of the State Treasurer, together with other reasons, induced the Governor to call a special session of the Legislature which assembled on July 10th, 1843.
On the second day after the convening of the Legislature, Treasurer Clarke submitted a report showing the deification of his predecessor to be $44,838.46.
Graves' dishonesty, betrayal of friends and unfaithfulness brought misery and suffering to many. He was still living four or five years ago.
Suit was brought and judgment was obtained against Elijah Graves, Thomas Hogg, William Perry, H. P. Barnes, Maybray Barfield, R. W. Graves, James Bond, John Middleton, Valentine Hamer and Edward Williams, as sureties on the bond of R. S. Graves, for the sum of $51,865. The Legislature passed an act, approved the 3d day of March, 1848, which authorized the Governor and the Attorney-General to compromise with the sureties on such terms as they could effect.
Some seven or eight years after the passage of the act just referred to, authorizing a compromise with the sureties of the defaulting Treasurer, his wife appeared at Jackson during the session of the Legislature. Mrs. Graves made a pathetic and affecting appeal to the Legislature for an act of amnesty. She begged hard and piteously for permission for the return of her husband. She alleged that he was growing old, was in feeble health, and his only wish was to return to Mississippi to spend the remaining years of his life with the friends of his earlier and happier days, and when the summons came to him, as it must come to all, he desired to be buried in the soil of the State he had so wronged, and to be followed to the grave by the friends to whom he had been so faithless. She represented him as being truly penitent for the wrong he had committed; she alleged that his only hope this side of the grave was to return and spend the remainder of his days surrounded by the friends and the scenes of his early life. She represented him as a broken, care-worn, grief-laden old man, sorrowing over his past misdeeds, and with the ever-present, heart-sickening yearning for the home he had dishonored. The appeal of the wife for the dishonored husband touched the heart of every member of the Legislature, and though it was ably seconded by several influential journals of the day, the members of the Legislature deemed it their inflexible duty to deny her request.
With an additional load of sorrow benumbing her energies and breaking her heart, this devoted wife, after spending a few days at the home of her childhood, sadly and wearily returned to the frigid region where she had left her husband, an exile in the land of strangers. Mrs. Graves was the daughter of a reputable citizen of Carroll county, and her connections were most respectable. She doubtless has realized, in the past forty-eight years of her life, the truth of the scriptural quotation, "the way of transgressor is hard," and many a time and oft, the lines of Moore, while gazing at her gray-haired, feeble husband, have leaped into her woman's heart, if not uttered in spoken words:
"I know not, I ask not, if guilt's in they heart, I know that I love thee whatever thou art."
It is not known certainly whether Richard S. Graves, of his devoted wife, are yet in the land of the living. If so, Graves must be an old, white-haired man, bending under the weight of many winters; and if Mrs. Graves is still a sojourner in this land of sorrow, it may be accepted as a verity, that "her step has lost its lightness," her eyes are now dim with years and tears, and the rosy hue of early youth on her cheeks has been succeeded by white hair and wrinkles.
The only other notable incident during the administration of Governor Tucker was of a more pleasing character. When he was installed as Governor, the executive mansion had just been completed and handsomely furnished, and Tilghman M. Tucker was the first occupant of that pleasant home provided by the people for the residence of their Chief Executive.
Col. Richard M. Johnson, of Kentucky, a former Vice-President of the United States, a distinguished soldier, one of the heroes of the battle of the Thames, and the alleged slayer of the celebrated Indian warrior, the famous Chief Tecumseh, was a visitor to the capital of Mississippi. Thus a visitor, it became the duty and the pleasure of Governor Tucker to extend all hospitality and courtesy to a distinguished gentleman who had won honor on the field of battle, and achieved civic distinction in the council-chamber of the nation. Governor Tucker promptly called on the ex-Vice President, and tendered him an invitation to dine at the Executive Mansion, at a day suiting the convenience of the illustrious stranger. The invitation was accepted for a day fixed, and at the time appointed Col. Johnson sat down to a very elaborate and elegant dinner at the Executive mansion, where the Governor had invited the Judges of the High Court of Errors and Appeals, with sundry prominent gentlemen, to meet the old warrior and former Vice-President. It may well be conceived that the dining was a most pleasant one, and as the company separated, each of the guests felt grateful to the Governor for the opportunity of meeting and dining with the distinguished soldier from Kentucky.
Before he retired from the Executive office, the people elected Governor Tucker a Representative in the twenty-eighth Congress, where he served from some time in January, 1844, to March, 1845.
This closed the political career of Tilghman M. Tucker, and he never held any official position after his retirement from Congress. He lived some fourteen years after he retired from public life, and maintained to the last the high reputation he had always enjoyed, that of being a kind, genial gentleman of unquestioned integrity. He died in Alabama, April 30, 1859. His descendants are quite numerous in the persons of his grand and great-grand children, all of whom are bearing honored names in the records of Mississippi history.
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