Yesterday's Person-of-Mystery was Galusha Grow!
After my post on redistricting, I received a couple letters from people saying that I was discouraging people from voting. I hope this wasn't the case. I have voted in every election I could. I just think that having politicians from both parties draw boundaries that give an almost assured win for all incumbents is bad form.
So I figured I'd put forward a Person-of-Mystery where one vote did make a difference.
Galusha Grow was a politician from Pennsylvania first elected to Congress at age 26 in 1850. He first ran as a Democrat, but joined the Republican party in 1856 and remained a member of the GOP for the rest of his life.
Galusha Grow was one of those people who should have been remembered (particularly with a name like Galusha), but isn't today. You probably have all heard of the beating of Senator Charles Sumner by Representative Preston Brooks in 1856 in the Senate itself. What you probably never knew was that one of the reasons Brooks could continue beating Sumner unrestrained is because another representative, Laurence Keitt (one of the so-called "Fire-Eaters"), kept everyone at bay with a drawn pistol.
Keitt, two years later, caused a separate altercation in the House of Representatives when Galusha Grow stepped over to the Democrat side of the House chamber. Keitt cursed at Grow and went for his throat starting a fight involving about 50 members of the House. It only ended when Rep. Cadwallader Washburn threw a misplaced punch at Rep. William Barksdale taking his wig off instead. Barksdale accidentally put his wig on backwards causing both sides to start laughing and the fight ended.
Grow was a strong proponent of free land. He had a vision of an entire continent settled by independent family farmers (primarily Northerners and European). Of course, the Southern faction fought the idea of settling shared territorial land in this slave-free fashion.
As the Southern States seceded, their Representatives left Congress and the free soilers saw their chance. In a now half-empty House, Galusha Grow, was chosen as the new Speaker of the House. Seeing his chance to advance his land giveaway before the Southern members returned Grow pushed through free land legislation. Because of his strong advocacy, Grow is often called the "Father of the Homestead Act."
Grow was defeated for reelection in 1862, but remained very active in politics. In the run-up to the 1864 election, it was widely believed that Lincoln would probably lose. During the 1864 Presidential Election, the Republicans were looking for a dramatic move to give new life to the ticket. Many thought a new Vice Presidential running mate might garner more votes for Lincoln. Galusha Grow was strongly considered as a potential VP, losing the initial selection to Senator Andrew Johnson by one vote.
As is known, Andrew Johnson was installed Vice President in March, 1865, and Lincoln was dead the next month, making Andrew Johnson the new President.
Therefore, one vote in the earlier selection process may have changed history by giving us a President Grow and a President who would have likely strongly supported the agenda of the Radical Republicans.
Grow would later become President of the International-Great Northern Railroad and eventually return to the House from 1894 to 1903, but has become mostly a footnote in our modern history books. His name surfaced shortly in 1994 news reports announced that Tom Foley had become the first sitting Speaker of the House since Galusha Grow to lose his seat in an election.