James Warren Nye

James Warren Nye, (1815 – 1876)

Born in De Ruyter, Madison County, New York on June 10, 1815. Nye attended the common schools, Homer Academy, and law school in Troy, N.Y. Nye then practiced law in Madison County, N.Y., in Syracuse, and New York City. Nye was known as the Golden Eagle for his flowing mane – then called General after he was commissioned in the New York militia. Politics became a part of Nye’s life – especially once his dominance as a stump speaker became known. Nye’s anti-slavery speeches became well known throughout New York.

Nye served as a judge in Madison County, then on to become the first president of the Metropolitan Board of Police for New York City. Nye was on the speakers’ platform with Greeley and Judge Culver when William Cullen Bryant led Lincoln to the rostrum for the Cooper Union Speech. Nye had shared platforms with Lincoln before in Illinois, when Nye was stump speaking for John C. Freemont in the 1856 election. In 1860 Nye was a New York delegate to the Republican convention in Chicago and was a Seward supporter. Nye agreed to speak at the wigwam on the eve of the convention to help raise money for the wigwam’s construction costs of over $7,000. Tickets for the series of speakers cost .25 cents.

Nye traveled with the defeated Seward and helped stump for Abraham Lincoln. Nye could amuse an audience with home spun humor – as when the New York senator sat on his hat Nye quips “I could have told you it wouldn’t fit before you tried it on”. Seward, once in Lincoln’s cabinet, recommended Nye for a position in New York – but instead Nye secured a position as governor of the newly created Nevada Territory. This would be no easy task, as many who poured into this mining region were of Confederates. Nye’s first legislature that he worked with banned black suffrage, black and Indian court testimony – which Nye publicly proclaimed as wrong.

As governor, Nye began to position his Nevada territory for statehood. The possibility of 3 additional electoral votes was tempting to the Republicans, but Lincoln was cautious about bringing this about. Lincoln insisted on seeing the proposed State Constitution – which Nye telegrammed to Washington D.C. at the tremendous cost of $4,303.27. Upon Nevada becoming a state, Nye then became a US senator – serving from 1864 – 1873.

Nye had a front row seat at the second Lincoln inaugural. Upon hearing of Lincoln’s assassination, Nye returned to Washington from an upstate visit. Nye was a part of the funeral at the White House, as he led a delegation of westerners into the east room of the White House and laid a single white japonica on the martyr’s coffin. Nye would be one of the first prominent politicians to denounce President Johnson – and later voted to convict him. Nye’s health began to fail once he was gone from the Senate. A stroke limited him, and eventually his mental state required him to be bound at a mental institution. Nye died on Christmas day, 1876 – and he is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, New York City.

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