John Henninger Reagan

John Henninger Reagan

Infobox US Cabinet official
name=John Henninger Reagan

title=United States Senator
from Texas
term_start =March 4, 1887
term_end =June 10, 1891
preceded =Samuel B. Maxey
succeeded =Horace Chilton

title2=Member of the U.S. House of Representativesfrom Texas's 2nd district
term_start2 =March 4, 1883
term_end2 =March 3, 1887
preceded2 =David B. Culberson
succeeded2 =William H. Martin

title3=Member of the U.S. House of Representativesfrom Texas's 1st district
term_start3 =March 4, 1875
term_end3 =March 3, 1883
preceded3 =William S. Herndon
succeeded3 =Charles Stewart

title4=Confederate States Secretary of the Treasury
term_start4=April 27, 1865
term_end4=May 10, 1865
predecessor4=George A. Trenholm
successor4="Office abolished"

title5=Confederate States Postmaster General
term_start5=March 6, 1861
term_end5=May 10, 1865
predecessor5="Office instituted"
successor5="Office abolished"

title6=Member of the U.S. House of Representativesfrom Texas's 1st district
term_start6 =March 4, 1857
term_end6 =March 3, 1861
preceded6 =Lemuel D. Evans
succeeded6 =George W. Whitmore(1)

birth_date=birth date|1818|10|8|mf=y
birth_place=Sevier County, Tennessee
death_date=death date and age|1905|3|6|1818|10|8|mf=y
death_place=Anderson County, Texas
spouse=Edwina Moss Nelms Reagan
profession=Politician, Lawyer, Surveyor

John Henninger Reagan (October 8, 1818 – March 6, 1905), was a leading 19th century American politician from the U.S. state of Texas. A Democrat, Reagan left the U.S. House of Representatives when his state seceded from the Union to join the Confederate States of America. During the American Civil War, he served in the cabinet of Jefferson Davis as Postmaster General. After the Confederate defeat, he called for cooperation with the federal government and became unpopular, but returned to public office when his predictions of harsh treatment for resistance were proved correct.

Early life

Reagan was born in Sevier County, Tennessee, to Timothy Richard and Elizabeth Lusk Reagan. (Some sources say he was born in the county seat, Sevierville.) He left Tennessee at nineteen and like many from Tennessee traveled to Texas. There he worked as a surveyor from 1839 to 1843, and afterward was a farmer in Kaufman County until 1851. He studied law on his own and was licensed to practice law in 1846, opening an office in Buffalo.

The same year he obtained his license, he was elected a probate judge in Henderson County and in 1847 he went to the state legislature but was defeated for a second term in 1849. He returned to his law practice and was elected a district judge in Palestine, serving from 1852 to 1857. His labors in defeating the American Party (Know-Nothings) in Texas led to his election to Congress in 1857 from Texas's First District.

In Congress, he was a moderate and a supporter of the Union, but resigned from Congress on January 15, 1861 and returned to his home state when it became clear that Texas would secede. There he participated in the secession convention that met at Austin on the last day of January. The convention voted for Texas to leave the union and for Reagan to represent the state in the Provisional Confederate Congress, but within the month he was in the Cabinet instead.

Civil War

President Jefferson Davis named him to head the new Confederate States of America Post-office Department and he accepted. Reagan was an able administrator, presiding over the only cabinet department that functioned well during the war. Despite the hostilities of the Civil War, the United States Post Office Department continued operations in the Confederacy until June 1, 1861, whereupon the new Confederate service assumed its functions. Reagan's masterstroke in establishing his department was sending an agent to Washington, D.C., with letters asking the heads of the United States Post Office Department's various bureaus to come work for him. Nearly all did so, bringing copies of their records, contracts, account books, etc. "Reagan in effect had stolen the U.S. Post Office," historian William C. Davis wrote. When President Davis asked his cabinet for the status of their departments, Reagan reported he had his up and running in only six weeks. Davis was amazed.

Reagan cut expenses by eliminating costly and little-used routes and forcing the railroads that carried the mail to reduce their rates. Despite the problems the war caused, his department managed to turn a profit, "the only post office department in American history to pay its own way" wrote William C. Davis. Reagan was the only member of the cabinet to oppose Robert E. Lee's offensive into Pennsylvania in June-July 1863. He instead supported a proposal to detach the First Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia to reinforce Joseph E. Johnston in Mississippi so that he could break the Siege of Vicksburg. Historian Shelby Foote noted that, as the only Cabinet member from west of the Mississippi, Reagan was acutely sensitive to the consequences of Vicksburg's capture.

When Davis fled Richmond on April 2, 1865, before the Army of the Potomac under George G. Meade, Reagan accompanied the president on his flight to the Carolinas. On April 27, Davis made him Secretary of the Treasury after George A. Trenholm's resignation and he served in that capacity until he, Davis, and Texas Governor Francis R. Lubbock were captured near Irwinville, Georgia on May 10.

Reagan was imprisoned with Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens at Fort Warren in Boston. On August 11, he wrote an open letter to his fellow Texans urging cooperation with the Union, renunciation of the secession convention, the abolition of slavery, and letting freed slaves vote. He warned of military rule that would enforce these policies if Texans did not voluntarily adopt them. For this, he was denounced by Texans. He was released from prison later that year and returned home to Palestine in December.

Return to public life

To those who felt that the Reconstruction was unduly harsh, his prescience was hailed—he became known as the "Old Roman," a Texas Cincinnatus. He was part of the successful effort to remove the Republican Edmund J. Davis from the governorship in 1874, after he attempted to illegally remain in office. That year he returned to the Congressional seat he held before the war, serving from March 4, 1875 to March 3, 1887. In 1875, he served in the convention that wrote a new state constitution for Texas. In Congress, he advocated federal regulation of railroads and helped create the Interstate Commerce Commission. He also served as the first chairman of the Committee on Post Offices and Post Roads. [] Though he had been elected to the Senate in 1887 (serving March 4, 1887 to June 10, 1891), he resigned to become chairman of the Railroad Commission of Texas at the behest of his friend, Governor James Stephen "Jim" Hogg, chairing it until 1903.

Conscious of the importance of history, he was a founder of the Texas State Historical Association and attended reunions of Confederate veterans in his state. He wrote his "Memoirs, With Special Reference to Secession and the Civil War", published in 1905, and died at his home in Palestine in Anderson County later that year, the last surviving member of the government of the Confederacy.

Historian Ben H. Procter included Reagan in his list of the "four greatest Texans of the 19th century," along with Sam Houston, Stephen F. Austin, and James Stephen Hogg.


ee also

* Postage stamps and postal history of the Confederate States

ources and further reading

*Peter A. Branner. "The Organization of the Confederate Postoffice Department at Montgomery". Montgomery, Alabama: The Author, 1960.
*August Dietz. "Confederate States Post-office Department". Richmond, Virginia: Dietz Press, 1962.
*August Dietz. "The Postal Service of the Confederate States of America". Richmond, Virginia: Dietz Printing, 1929.
*John Henninger Reagan. [ "Memoirs, With Special Reference to Secession and the Civil War"] . New York: Neale, 1905. (Reprinted subsequently)
*Ben H. Procter. "Not Without Honor". Austin: University of Texas Press, 1962.
*Theron Wirenga, editor. "Official Documents of the Post-office Department of the Confederate States of America". Holland, Michigan: The Editor, 1979. Two volumes.

External links

*Handbook of Texas|id=RR/fre2|name=John Henninger Reagan
* [ John Henninger Reagan] at Find A Grave

###@@@KEY@@@###USRepSuccession box
before=Lemuel D. Evans
after=George W. Whitmore(1)
years=March 4, 1857 – March 3, 1861

-USRepSuccession box
before=William S. Herndon
after=Charles Stewart
years=March 4, 1875 – March 3, 1883
USRepSuccession box
before=David B. Culberson
after=William H. Martin
years=March 4, 1883 – March 4, 1887
U.S. Senator box
before=Samuel B. Maxey
after=Horace Chilton
alongside=Richard Coke
years=March 4, 1887 – June 10, 1891

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