John Albion Andrew

As governor of Massachusetts during the Civil War, John Albion Andrew (1818-1867) energetically organized the state's resources in support of the Union and pressed for vigorous prosecution of the war.

John Andrew was born on May 31, 1818, in Windham, Maine, where his father was the manager of a general store. After graduating from Bowdoin College in 1837, he moved to Boston to study law. A man of deep religious convictions, he became involved in public affairs as a supporter of humanitarian reform movements and then of antislavery. He entered politics as a Whig but helped organize the antislavery Free Soil party in Massachusetts in 1848; its failure left him politically stranded until the emergence of the Republican party in the mid-fifties. He was elected to a single term in the Massachusetts Legislature in 1857; 2 years later he helped organize legal aid for John Brown, an activity which brought him favorable public notice in his home state.

In 1860 Andrew was elected to the first of his five terms as governor of Massachusetts. From the beginning the problem of fighting the Civil War dominated his administration. The Federal government was generally ill equipped at the beginning to organize and carry on the war. The states, therefore, carried a major share of the burden, especially in the war's early years. Andrew readily accepted the challenge. Massachusetts-raised troops were the first to reach Washington after the firing on Fort Sumter, and in the following years Andrew created a state organization that raised emergency funds and enlisted, equipped, and supplied thousands of troops to the Federal cause. His energy and efficiency clearly marked him as one of the leaders of an unusually gifted group of men, the Northern war governors.

Deeply committed to the war, Andrew bombarded President Lincoln with both military and political advice. He was a supporter of Radical Republicanism and favored the speedy emancipation of the slaves and the extensive use of African American troops in the Union Army. Angered by Lincoln's slow response to such ideas, Andrew joined other Radicals in seeking another presidential candidate in 1864. But when it became clear that such a change would only benefit the Democrats, he supported the President. A superb politician, Andrew always retained a sense of the possible, once remarking, "in respect to principles I am always radical. In respect to measures I am always conservative."

After the war Andrew changed course to favor a relatively moderate Reconstruction policy. For example, he wanted the government to deal directly with former Confederate leaders and not, as the Radicals desired, politically proscribe them. He believed that Reconstruction necessitated the support of the South's normal leaders who alone could persuade other Southerners to accept the minimum demands of the North: emancipation, guarantees of civil rights for African Americans, disavowal of secession, and repudiation of the Confederate debt. In 1866 Andrew retired as governor, intending to remain active in politics. He died suddenly of a stroke in 1867 at the age of 49.

Further Reading on John Albion Andrew

The only full-length biography of Andrew is Henry G. Pearson, The Life of John A. Andrew, Governor of Massachusetts (2 vols., 1904), which is useful for its detail. Eric L. McKitrick, Andrew Johnson and Reconstruction (1960), contains a sketch of Andrew stressing his political pragmatism and analyzing his attitudes on Reconstruction. A useful book on the Radicals is Hans L. Trefousse, The Radical Republicans (1969).