Levi Lincoln, Jr. bigraphy, stories - Massachusetts Governor and Congressman

Levi Lincoln, Jr. : biography

October 25, 1782 - May 29, 1868

Levi Lincoln, Jr. (October 25, 1782 – May 29, 1868) was an American lawyer and politician from Worcester, Massachusetts. He was the 13th Governor of Massachusetts (1825–1834) and represented the state in the U.S. Congress (1834–1841). Lincoln's nine-year tenure as governor is the longest consecutive service in state history; only Michael Dukakis (12 years), John Hancock (11 years) and Caleb Strong (10 years) served more years, but they were not consecutive.

Born to a prominent Worcester lawyer, Lincoln studied law and entered the state legislature in 1812 as a Democratic-Republican. He supported the War of 1812 (a minority position in Federalist-dominated Massachusetts) and opposed the Hartford Convention. Over the next ten years his politics moderated, and he was elected governor in 1825 in a nonpartisan landslide after serving one year on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. Lincoln oversaw significant economic development in Massachusetts during his tenure and issued the first-ever veto by a Massachusetts governor. Lincoln and Daniel Webster were leading forces in the foundation of the National Republican (later Whig) Party in Massachusetts, which dominated state politics until the 1850s.

Lincoln was elected to Congress in 1835, serving in the House of Representatives until 1841, when President William Henry Harrison appointed him collector of the Port of Boston. He was a major civic and philanthropic force in Worcester, owning and developing land in the city, and serving as its first mayor in 1848.


In 1825 Lincoln was approached by Republican party leaders about running for governor. Adopting a firmly centrist stance, he refused to run as the candidate of a single party. When a Federalist caucus seconded the nomination, he agreed to stand and won the election in a landslide against insignificant opposition. For the next five years, he ran virtually unopposed, only occasionally facing opposition from what were basically single-issue candidates and the weak perennial Democratic candidate Marcus Morton.Formisano, p. 82 Historian Ronald Formisano characterizes Lincoln's administration as "basically a National Republican, proto-Whig administration."Formisano, p. 83 In 1832, opposition parties began to gain strength, and he won a narrow majority over Democratic and Anti-Masonic opposition.Darling, pp. 47, 58, 74–75, 93, 104

Economic development issues dominated Lincoln's tenure in office. He was a regular supporter of development initiatives and worked to change state laws to limit the liability of corporate investors.Formisano, p. 193 He ordered the state's first geographical and topographical surveys.Brauer, p. 678 The opening in 1825 of the Erie Canal (connecting New York City to the Great Lakes) and the Blackstone Canal (connecting Worcester to Providence, Rhode Island) in 1828 presented challenges to Boston's dominance as a shipping hub. Lincoln early on proposed a canal connecting Boston to the Connecticut River, but this idea never caught on.Washburn, p. 60 His government eventually approved plans for the construction of a railroad connecting Boston to Albany, New York,Formisano, p. 195 chartering its first stage, the Boston and Worcester Railroad, in 1831.Dalzell, p. 87

The railroad charter was issued in the wake of a controversy over the nature of state-issued corporate charters that led to the first-ever veto by a Massachusetts governor. In 1826, after several years of lobbying by its proponents, the legislature granted a charter to the Warren Bridge Company for a second bridge connecting Boston to Charlestown. The proprietors proposed that the bridge would charge tolls for only six years and then become free.Formisano, p. 192 The proprietors of the competing Charles River Bridge, which also charged tolls, objected, claiming that the state had granted it an exclusive charter for that crossing, and prevailed on Lincoln to veto the new charter. This he did; the veto was overridden in the House but not the Senate. The veto brought in a storm of criticism from populist supporters of the new bridge, who established the Free Bridge Party and ran William C. Jarvis against Lincoln in the 1827 election. Lincoln approved the charter when it was resubmitted in 1828, after which the Charles River Bridge proprietors initiated a lawsuit.Formisano, p. 194 With Daniel Webster as their attorney, the case Charles River Bridge v. Warren Bridge made its way to the United States Supreme Court, which in 1837 ruled that the state had not granted exclusive privileges to the Charles River Bridge proprietors.Johnson, pp. 344–348

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