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John A. Andrew

For other people named John Andrew, see John Andrew (disambiguation).
John Albion Andrew
25th Governor of Massachusetts
In office
January 3, 1861 – January 4, 1866
Lieutenant John Z. Goodrich (1861)
John Nesmith (1862)
Joel Hayden (1863–1866)
Preceded by Nathaniel P. Banks
Succeeded by Alexander H. Bullock
Personal details
Born (1818-05-31)May 31, 1818
Windham, Maine
Died October 30, 1867(1867-10-30) (aged 49)
Boston, Massachusetts
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Eliza Jane Hersey
Children John F. Andrew
Profession Lawyer
Signature John Albion Andrew's signature

John Albion Andrew (May 31, 1818 – October 30, 1867) was an American lawyer and politician from Massachusetts. He served as the 25th Governor of Massachusetts between 1861 and 1866, leading the state's contributions to the Union cause during the American Civil War. He was a guiding force behind the creation of some of the first African American units in the United States Army, including the famed 54th Massachusetts Infantry.

Early life and career

John Albion Andrew was born in Windham, Maine on May 31, 1818, the eldest of four children. His father, Jonathan Andrew, was descended from an early settler of Boxford, Massachusetts, and he was a small but prosperous merchant in Windham. His mother, Nancy Green Pierce, was a teacher at Fryeburg Academy.[1]

Andrew received his primary education first at home, and then at several area boarding schools, and finally (after his mother's death in 1832) Gorham Academy in nearby Gorham.[1][2] During his youth he exhibited talent for both memory and speaking, memorizing church sermons and recounting them with the same oratorical style in which they were delivered.[3] He was also exposed to early abolitionist writings of William Lloyd Garrison and others.[4] He entered Bowdoin College in 1833.[1] Although he was studious and popular with other students, he did not shine academically and was ranked near the bottom in his class.[5]

After his graduation in 1837, he moved to Boston to study law under Henry H. Fuller, with whom he became close friends.[1] He was admitted to the Massachusetts bar in 1840, and began the practice of law.[6]

Antislavery legal and political advocate

After his admission to the bar, Andrew joined the Whig Party and became actively involved in the anti-slavery movement. As a Conscience Whig he opposed the election of "Cotton Whig" Robert Charles Winthrop in the 1846 election for Congress,[7] promoting Charles Sumner (over the latter's objection) as an independent candidate.[8] He sat on the executive committee of Boston's first vigilance committee, an anti-slavery organization devoted to assisting escaped slaves first established in 1846.[9] Andrew participated in the establishment in 1848 of the Free Soil Party, whose principal political object was ending the expansion of slavery.[10] The Free Soilers nominated Martin Van Buren for president; he placed third in the election, but the party was somewhat more successful at the state level, gaining seats in the state legislature.

In 1847 Andrew met Eliza Jane Hersey of Hingham at an anti-slavery fair. They were engaged in 1847 and married on Christmas evening, 1848.[11] They had four children: John Forrester, born November 26, 1850; Elizabeth Loring, born July 29, 1852; Edith, born April 5, 1854; Henry Hersey, born April 28, 1858.

Following passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, the vigilance committee was greatly expanded, and Andrew sat on a sub-committee that handled the legal defense of accused fugitive slaves.[12] He was also a regular attendee at meetings of the "Bird Club", organized by businessman Francis Bird. Its members were mainly anti-slavery ex-Whigs, described by Samuel Gridley Howe as "straight & impractical republicans".[13] Andrew's political activity was otherwise minimal, as he was devoted to his growing family and building up his law practice. His family was settled in Hingham, and in 1855 his practice was sufficiently successful that he also purchased a house on Charles Street in Boston.[14]

In 1854 Andrew became personally involved in the highly publicized fugitive slave case of Anthony Burns, defending one of the men who was arrested for attempting to rescue Burns from the ship in which he was being held.[16] Anger over passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act (which overturned the limitation of slavery's expansion by the Missouri Compromise of 1820) revitalized the Free Soil movement, and Andrew as elected chair of a committee to manage a nominating convention for the 1854 elections.[17] The meeting Andrew chaired resulted in the first organization of the Republican Party in Massachusetts, although its slate was undermined by the actions of Henry Wilson in joining the Know Nothing movement which swept the state's elected offices that year.[18] The Republicans reorganized in 1855, but Andrew was not involved in the party processes that resulted in the eventual election of Nathaniel Prentice Banks to the governorship in 1857. He instead continued legal activity on behalf of anti-slavery interests.[19]

In 1857 Andrew won election as a representative in the Massachusetts General Court. Following John Brown's 1859 raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia, Andrew helped organize legal aid for Brown, generating favorable responses amongst the people of Massachusetts. In 1860, he was elected governor of Massachusetts by a wide margin.

Governor of Massachusetts

When Andrew took office on January 2, 1861, on the eve of the Civil War, the Albany Argus called him "a lawyer of a low type and a brutal fanatic" who "proposes to maintain the condemned [personal liberty] statutes of [Massachusetts], and to force upon the South by arms, an allegiance to the Constitution thus violated."[20] Andrew immediately began to ready the Massachusetts militia for duty. He also asked the governors of Maine and New Hampshire to prepare for war. Among his early actions were to accept recruits from other states to serve in Massachusetts regiments, including 500 men from California who he encouraged to join the 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry in 1862 and early 1863.

Andrew's strong feelings about emancipation are clearly expressed in the following quote from an 1862 speech:


Andrew was receptive to the concept of using black men as uniformed soldiers in the Union Army. In April 1862 he began working closely with the Federal government and with Frederick Douglass. He wrote letters to different states and to Lincoln trying to get support. He authorized the formation of two regiments of black infantry, the 54th and 55th Massachusetts, composed of blacks recruited not just from Massachusetts, but also Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, and other states. Shortly after the Battle of Antietam, Andrew was one of the leading state executives at the Loyal War Governors' Conference in Altoona, Pennsylvania, which ultimately backed Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation and the war effort.

In 1864, Andrew wrote a letter to his close friend and distant cousin President Abraham Lincoln describing a woman named Lydia Bixby who lost five sons in battle and asking Lincoln to express his condolences. Lincoln then sent the famous letter to Mrs. Bixby, who turned out to not only dislike Lincoln, but was also a Confederate sympathizer.

He left the office of governor in 1866 and again took up the practice of law, although he intended to remain active in politics. Having associated with the Radical Republicans during the war, Andrew took a more conciliatory tone towards Reconstruction, and did not favor some of the Radical Republicans' more extreme measures.

He died in 1867 of apoplexy after having tea at his home in Boston. He is buried in the Hingham (Old Ship) Cemetery in Hingham, Massachusetts.

Honors and memorials

In 2007, governor Deval Patrick hung Andrew's portrait over the fireplace in his office, calling him an inspiration.

John A. Andrew St., in the Jamaica Plain section of Boston, is named in his honor, and his name is one of four on the Soldier's Memorial in the same community. Andrew Square in South Boston and the associated MBTA Red Line subway station Andrew Station also bear his name.

John Andrew Hospital in Tuskegee, Alabama is named for him.[21]



  • The Bay State Monthly, Volume 3, No. 3 by Various at Project Gutenberg
  • Pearson, Henry. The Life of John A. Andrew (Volume 2)

External links

  • Official Commonwealth of Massachusetts Governor Biography
  • Biography by Jamaica Plain Historical Society
  • -logo.svg 
  • Library of Congress. Photo of John A. Andrew statue, State House, Boston, Mass.
Political offices
Preceded by
Nathaniel P. Banks
Governor of Massachusetts
January 3, 1861 – January 4, 1866
Succeeded by
Alexander H. Bullock

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