Colonel Llewellyn Baber
Article from The Biographical Encyclopaedia of Ohio of the 19th Century.
Colonel Llewellyn Baber Lawyer, Representative in the General Assembly and Delegate to the Constitutional Convention, was born at Roxton, a country seat in Jefferson county, Virginia, near Summit Point, on August 3d, 1824, being the only son of Rev. James Baber, an Old School Presbyterian minister, and of Maria Jordan Llewellyn, a woman of sincere piety and rare intelligence. She was one of four daughters of Richard Llewellyn and Philippa Bate, of St. Mary's county, Maryland, where the Llewellyn family settled at the organization of the Maryland colony. John Llewellyn came to America with Lord Baltimore in 1634, and was the custodian of the land records of the colony. Richard Llewellyn removed from Virginia to Kentucky in 1818, and died at Louisville, August 6th, 1832. Colonel Baber's father was born in Hanover county, Virginia, in 1794, and was a descendant of the earliest English settlers in that colony. He died at Columbus, Ohio, August 19th, 1863, his wife having died in Virginia, October 6th, 1850. The education of Colonel Baber, until nine years of age, was conducted by his mother with skill and devotion, his father's pastoral engagements preventing him from giving that superintendence to his son's studies which he so much desired. When nine years of age he was sent to the academy at Carmichaeltown, Greene county, Pennsylvania, where his father was officiating as a clergyman, and in that institution received the thorough drilling in the classics and the leading English branches which contributed so much to his success as a collegian. In 1837 he returned with his father to Jefferson county, Virginia, and his preparation for college was completed at Battletown Academy and in private schools. In 1841 he entered Princeton College, New Jersey, becoming a member of the sophomore class, and graduated in September, 1843, with the honors of Greek orator. Upon leaving this institution he went to Columbus, Ohio, and commenced to read law in the office of Hon. Noah H. Swayne, now Associate-Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, to whom he is related by marriage. His removal to Ohio, instead of to Tennessee, was at the earnest solicitation of his mother, who belonged to the old school of Virginia Emancipationists, and, under the belief that civil strife must follow eventually in the slaveholding States of the South, desired her son's destiny to be with the free West. Columbus was a small place when he entered upon the study of law with Swayne & Bates; but the holding of the United States District and Circuit Courts there, Judge McLean being upon the bench of the Circuit Court, brought to that place the Ewings, the Stansburys, the Walkers and other distinguished lawyers of the State. Under these circumstances the capital afforded Colonel Baber most excellent opportunities for thoroughly preparing himself for practice. At the December term, in 1845, of the Supreme Court of Ohio, at Lancaster, he was admitted to the bar, after a most critical and searching examination, conducted by Mr. Brazee, Mr. Ewing, and Mr. Stansbury, who subsequently became Attorney-General for the United States. He settled in Piqua, Miami county, and after a year's residence in that place removed to Xenia, where he made his home until 1850, when he returned to Columbus. In these localities he had discharged his professional duties with skill, and was gradually earning a standard reputation for excellence as an advocate and counsel. In January, 1853, he became the law partner of Judge Swayne, on the election of the latter's old associate, J. L. Bates, Esq., to the Common Pleas bench. For seven years Colonel Baber continued in the laborious practice of the profession in a firm which had the largest business at the capital, assisting Judge Swayne, one of the strongest advocates and most diligent preparers of briefs in the State. In addition to controlling the office business he took part in the trial and argument of every case in court. In the spring of 1860 this partnership was dissolved, and in the campaign of the fall of that year Colonel Baber was mainly engaged in stumping the State as one of the electors on the Lincoln ticket. At the outbreak of the civil war he was appointed Paymaster, and acted as such until November, 1865, when he was mustered out and brevetted as Lieutenant-Colonel for faithful and meritorious services. From boyhood he had always manifested a decided taste for politics. In 1854, upon the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, Colonel Baber, who had been Secretary of the Whig State Committee, actively labored to produce a co-operation of all the opponents of the repeal in the anti-Nebraska movement. In 1855 he declined to vote for Chase for Governor, on account of his course when elected United States Senator in 1849 under the Morse-Townshend bargain and sale in the Legislature. He refused to affiliate with the Know-Nothing movement, and was one of the few hundred Whigs of Franklin county who stuck to their old allegiance to the last. In 1856 he supported Fremont and Dayton for the Presidency and Vice-Presidency, and stumped the State for them. In June, 1859, when the rivalry for the Presidential nomination was keenest among Governor Chase, Hon. William H. Seward, Judge Bates and Simon Cameron, the thought occurred to Colonel Baber, after a careful reading of the Douglas-Lincoln debate, reported in the Chicago Tribune, that Abraham Lincoln would make the most available candidate for that nomination. He communicated this opinion to the Hon. Samuel Galloway, of Ohio, and it was agreed that the latter should write to Mr. Lincoln on the subject, which he at once did. The response to this very tersely and very forcibly discusses the issues at stake in the political contest of that time as follows:
This was the first letter which he wrote in reference to the Presidency. In response to the invitation of the Republican State Central Committee, of which Colonel Baber was a member, Mr. Lincoln spoke in Columbus on September 16th, 1859, and subsequently in Cincinnati. These speeches, which were published and scattered over the State, contributed greatly to the success of the Republicans in the gubernatorial contest, and in the election of a Republican Legislature. The State Board of Equalization met early in December, and furnished a favorable opportunity for requesting Mr. Lincoln to send on a copy of his debates with Senator Douglas, to be used in the ensuing Presidential campaign. On Colonel Baber's proposition, the Republican members of the State Board on Equalization, the State officers and State Central Executive Committee united, on December 7th, 1859, in letters of request to Mr. Lincoln, and under his instructions his private secretary, Mr. John G. Nicolay, personally visited Columbus and delivered to the Republican State Executive Committee a copy. The correspondence was withheld so long from publication, though the committee had ordered it immediately printed, that Mr. Lincoln wrote Mr. Galloway on the subject, declaring that the delay was placing him in an unpleasant and unfavorable position. It was asserted that this delay was caused by the friends of Mr. Chase; but, however far this may be true, it is certain that it was to Colonel Baber's energy, enterprise and personal influence that this important correspondence saw the light of day in printed form on January 23d, 1860, in the Ohio State Journal. The proceedings of the Chicago Convention, at which Colonel Baber was an active friend of Lincoln, are matters of history. During the campaign which followed, being one of the electors on the Lincoln ticket, he was one of the most effective speakers and active canvassers in securing in the State a Republican majority of over forty thousand. At the commencement of the war he was appointed Paymaster, United States army, and stationed first at Washington, whence he was ordered to Louisville and Cumberland Gap, with General George W. Morgan. He proceeded then successively to Cincinnati, Memphis, St. Louis and New Orleans, arriving at the latter place in October, 1863, and remaining on duty there until June, 1864. A great portion of his time was spent with the army in the field, accompanying General Washburne in his campaign up the Bayou Teche country, and General Banks in his Red river campaigns. From New Orleans he was transferred to Cincinnati, and put in charge at Camp Dennison until mustered out, in November, 1865. While in the field he aided his friends at home in the Lincoln and Johnson movement, by public correspondence and by his effective co-operation among the soldiers. The result was the sending of a delegation from Ohio to the Baltimore Convention which cast a solid vote for Lincoln and Johnson as the standard-bearers of the party. Colonel Baber was appointed one of the five members on the new Union State Central Committee, to represent the army interest, and rendered great services in this capacity. He sympathized with the bolters of the Philadelphia Convention of August, 1866, believing that the only wise plan was to adhere to the old Lincoln policy, and upon the ignoring of this policy he sided with others who had formerly acted with the Union organization, and in 1867 supported the Democratic ticket, aiding in the defeat of negro suffrage in Ohio by a popular vote of 50,000, and securing the return of Allen G. Thurman to the United States Senate in the place of Benjamin F. Wade. On the meeting of the Legislature he drafted the resolution, which was adopted, withdrawing the former assent of Ohio to the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Federal Constitution, on the ground that the State had the right to do so at any time prior to the acceptance of that amendment by three-fourths of the States. He attended the Democratic and the Soldiers' National Conventions in New York, in 1868, and again had the satisfaction of aiding in the defeat of Chase's nomination. During the ensuing Presidential campaign he stumped for the Democratic ticket, and his speeches were circulated far and wide as the ablest of the campaign documents of the party. In the winter of 1869 he wrote the report of the Committee on Federal Relations, submitted to the Senate of Ohio, setting forth the reasons for the rejection of the Fifteenth Amendment. In the Democratic State Convention, which was held in 1869, he was instrumental in procuring the nomination of General Rosecrans for Governor, a nomination which unfortunately was declined. In the Ohio General Assembly, which met on the first Monday in January, 1870, Colonel Baber, who had been elected a representative from Franklin county in October, 1869, was appointed on the Committees on Federal Relations and Elections, whose proceedings mainly concerned the exciting party issues which were debated in that session. He was soon recognized as one of the keenest and most logical of debaters, analyzing the political issues of the day with such readiness and perspicacity as to establish his reputation not only as a man familiar, even to infinite detail, with our past history, but as a statesman capable of tracing the effect of that history upon the grave political questions of reconstruction then agitating the nation. His was, perhaps, the clearest argument delivered in the Legislature against the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment, which passed by a majority of one only in each house. He introduced a law to protect political organizations from fraud in their primary nominations, which passed the House but was defeated in the Senate. It was reintroduced at the succeeding session, passed both branches, and became a law on February 24th, 1871. Its familiar title is "The Baber Law." During his service in the General Assembly he secured the personal good will of his opponents, and became consequently most successful as a local member in the interests of his constituents. Colonel Baber supported the Greeley movement, in 1872, and in September of that year he spoke, by special invitation, with Hon. E. D. Campbell, General Gordon, Governor Vance and Hon. Benjamin Hill, at the reunion, at Louisville, of the supporters of the Greeley ticket in the Southern and Western States. In 1873 he was chosen by the Democratic party as a delegate from Franklin county to the State Constitutional Convention, and proved one of its most energetic, laborious and influential members. He has, in company with Senator Thurman and other leading Democrats, repeatedly stumped the State. In addition to the manifold variety of labors performed by him he has been one of the ablest and most constant contributors to the press. His first article was a searching review of the speech of the celebrated Hon. Thomas Hamer, delivered during the Clay campaign of 1844. It was published in the Ohio State Journal, then conducted by Mr. Follett, and was generally commended. Since then he has written a great deal that has invariably been instructive in matter and entertaining in form relative to the issues of the times, his productions having been published in the leading journals of the country. He is now engaged in the practice of his profession, occupying the oldest law office in Columbus. It was once used by Mr. Wilcox, with whom Attorney-General Pierrepont read law. Colonel Baber was appointed, at a meeting of the bar of the State, at Columbus, in the winter of 1875, a member of the executive committee of six to secure the passage of judicial reforms asked for, and the submission by the General Assembly to the electors of the State of the constitutional amendment for the creation of a Judicial Commission of five, with like powers as the Supreme Court, to be appointed by the Governor, to dispose of the business of that court, then five years in arrears. Most of the reform legislation was obtained, and the proposed constitutional amendment, drafted by Colonel Baber, passed the Legislature, through his activity, with only two dissenting votes, and was indorsed by all the Judges of the Supreme Court in a correspondence with the committee. The amendment was printed on both party-tickets, and ratified by the electors at the last October election with only 93,000 votes against it out of 600,000 votes cast. It is universally believed to be a most salutary relief in the judicial system of the State. On the resignation by the Hon. Hugh J. Jewett of his seat in Congress from the Columbus district, Colonel Baber, at the Democratic Nominating Convention to fill the vacancy, in 1874, received 73 votes against 75 for Hon. William E. Fink, the nominee, an old and distinguished member of former Congresses, residing in another county of the district. Franklin, his own county, voted solid for him, the first time it has done so for any candidate since it was represented by the Hon. S. S. Cox. The circle of Colonel Baber's influence is not confined to his own city, county, or the State. He is well and popularly known to all the leading men of the country. His thorough legal training, his eloquence and powers of argument in political controversy, his career as a public officer, in civil and military service, have secured for him a lasting reputation. He is still a bachelor.
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