Swann, Thomas


Controversial 1856-60 Baltimore Mayor and 1866-69 Maryland Governor


Autograph ID: 7026
Condition: Very good, trivial light stray ink marks
Description: “(1809-1883) Virginia-born Maryland Know-Nothing and Democratic politician, Mayor of Baltimore 1856–60, 33rd Governor of Maryland 1866–69, US Rep 1869–79. Named Secretary of US Commission to Naples by President Jackson, moved to Baltimore 1834 to be director & president of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad 1847-53, then president of the Northwestern Virginia Railroad. Elected Mayor of Baltimore 1856 from the Know-Nothing (American) Party in one of the bloodiest elections in state history, defeating Democrat Robt. C. Wright. During the mid-1850s public order in Baltimore was threatened by the election of Know-Nothing candidates. In Oct. 1856, Know-Nothing Mayor Samuel Hinks was pressed to order the state militia in readiness during the mayoral elections. Hinks gave militia general George H. Steuart the order, but rescinded it. Violence broke out on election day, with shots exchanged by competing mobs, several killed and many wounded; in the 6th Ward, artillery was used, and a pitched battle between Know-Nothings and Democrats raged for hours. The election, in which voter fraud was widespread, was a victory for Swann. In 1857, fearing similar violence at upcoming elections, Governor Ligon ordered General Steuart to hold the 1st Light Div., Maryland Vols. in readiness. However, Mayor Swann, running for re-election, successfully argued for special police forces to prevent disorder, and the militia stood down. Although there was less violence, voting results were again compromised, and the Know-Nothings took many state offices in a heavily disputed ballot. Swann was re-elected in 1858 again with widespread violence prevalent, and won by 19,000+ votes due to large voter intimidation. While he was Mayor, Baltimore volunteer firefighters were replaced with paid firefighters, and were given steam-powered fire engines and a better emergency telegraph system. His office also oversaw creation of the streetcar system, creation of Druid Hill Park, and the beginnings of 2 water-sewage construction projects. The Police and Water Departments were also reorganized, and the office of Superintendent of Lamps was created. While Mayor, Governor Ligon sought Swann's help to avoid riots during the 1856 presidential election, but riots ensued that night wounding and killing many. Ligon criticized Swann for not taking necessary precautions and did not cooperate with Swann during 1857 state elections, immediately imposing martial law upon Baltimore before elections began. In 1864, Swann was elected Governor as a Republican by 9,000+ votes, took the oath of office Jan. 11, 1865, but did not become Governor de facto until a year later. In his inaugural address, he encouraged union in the state following the Civil War. He voiced opposition to slavery, encouraged immigration and the immediate emancipation of slaves following the War. Swann was opposed by state Radical Republicans as he supported the Reconstruction policies of Andrew Johnson. He eventually joined the Democratic Party while Governor. In 1867, the Assembly nominated him to succeed John A. J. Creswell in the US Senate. However, Radical Republicans refused to allow Swann admittance into the Senate and he was persuaded by Democrats to remain as Governor. US Rep 1869-79, chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs 1875-79.

Signature on 3 1/2 x 5 ¼ piece from an autograph album page, adds “Baltimore/Maryland” under signature, likely while US Senator; ca. 1878.”
Type: Signature

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