John Davis Long


John Davis Long : biography

October 27, 1838 – August 28, 1915

After a two-year stint as headmaster of the Westford Academy in Westford, Massachusetts, Long went to Harvard Law School, and became a member of the Massachusetts bar in 1861. He practiced law, first without success in Buckfield, and then in Boston, and was active in the state militia during the Civil War.Taylor, pp. 75–76 He settled into a home in Hingham, Massachusetts in 1869, and the following year married Mary Woodford Glover of Hingham. The couple had two daughters (and one stillborn birth) before her death in 1882.Taylor, p. 79

Later years

After McKinley was assassinated in September 1901, Long had a change of heart, and tendered his resignation to President Roosevelt on May 1, 1902. The exact reasons for this are unclear, but several factors probably contributed. First, Roosevelt had a close relationship with Long’s political rival Lodge, was known to disagree with Long on naval matters, and was not welcoming of his presence at the White House. Second, an inquiry into the actions of Admiral Winfield Scott Schley around the July 1898 Battle of Santiago de Cuba had resulted in a significant amount of criticism of Long’s role in the war. Third, one of his daughters died in October 1901, less than a month after McKinley’s assassination.Garrett, pp. 306–308 These matters drove Long into a depression, and the situation was further exacerbated when Roosevelt squabbled with him over the beginning of the war, and then made newsworthy overrides of some of his decisions.Garrett, pp. 308–309 Historian Wendell Garrett notes that Roosevelt took a great personal interest in the Navy, and had difficulty working with subsequent secretaries.Garrett, p. 311

Long returned to Massachusetts, where he resumed his law practice and remained interested in party politics. He sat on a few corporate boards, and served as president of the Puritan Trust Company.Taylor, pp. 91–92 He continued to advocate for women’s suffrage, and served on the boards of several private schools, include his alma mater, Hebron Academy. He regularly spent time in Maine (having in 1882 repurchased the family home in Buckfield), and fell ill there in August 1915. He returned home to Hingham, where he died on August 28.Taylor, pp. 92–94


As author
As editor

Massachusetts politics

Long began his involvement in politics at the local level in Hingham in 1870.Hess, p. 57 Temperance was a major issue which dominated his political beliefs.Hess, p. 59 His early politics was somewhat independent: he supported the reformist Republican Benjamin Butler for governor in 1871, but received an unsolicited Democratic nomination later that year for a seat in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. He did not campaign, and lost the election to Republican William B. Washburn.Hess, p. 58 Nominated by both Democrats and reformist Republicans in 1872, he lost again. He thereafter became more of a Republican stalwart, convinced that reform would be best accomplished from within the party organization.Hess, pp. 58–59

In 1874 Long chaired the state Republican convention, and finally won election to the state legislature. He formed a close relationship with Speaker John E. Sanford, and in a politically calculated move, supported the successful gubernatorial candidate in 1875, Alexander H. Rice, even though Rice supported liberal legislation on alcohol sales that Long opposed. He was able to parlay this support into his own election to the speakership in 1876.Hess, pp. 61–63 He widened his reform views to the national stage by supporting Benjamin Bristow in his unsuccessful bid for the Republican presidential nomination.Hess, p. 63

In 1878 Long unsuccessfully challenged the incumbent Rice for the gubernatorial nomination.Hess, p. 65 When Rice announced his retirement the following year, Long again sought the nomination. It went to former Lieutenant Governor Thomas Talbot, but Long won the lieutenant governor nomination by acclamation. The Democratic opposition was divided by Benjamin Butler’s return to that party, and the Republican ticket won the general election.West, p. 369 Long capitalized on Talbot’s avoidance of public ceremonies to maintain a high profile despite the post’s relative unimportance. He was easily nominated for governor when Talbot announced he would not run for reelection, despite a lack of support from the party leadership.Hess, p. 66 The election was highly divisive, pitting Long against Butler and the divided Democrats.Hess, p. 67 Long was criticized for his lack of Civil War service and attacked for his diversions from the party line, but won a comfortable victory. He was reelected by comfortable margins the two following years.Taylor, p. 82