Civil War Blog

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Galusha A. Grow – Speaker, U.S. House of Representatives

Posted By on August 9, 2011

Galusha Aaron Grow (1822-1907)  was the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives in the 37th Congress and served in that capacity from 1861 through 1863.  He represented the 14th Congressional District of Pennsylvania, of which Gratz and Dauphin County were a part.  At the time of his re-election in 1860, he was a Republican, but had previously served in the 32nd through the 34th Congresses as a Democrat, switching sides when President Franklin Pierce signed the Kansas-Nebraska Act.  In the 35th and 36th Congresses he served as a Republican.  In 1858, he was physically attacked by Democrat Representative Laurence M. Keitt in the House Chambers which led to an all-out brawl between northerners and southerners.

When the 37th Congress was called into session on 4 July 1861 by Abraham Lincoln, there were 60 fewer members in the House as a result of the secession of the southern states.  Grow was nominated by Pennsylvania’s Thaddeus Stevens for the position of Speaker.  The only other candidate was Francis Preston Blair.  Grow easily won election.

In addition to the war which took a great deal of the Congressional attention, two major acts were passed under Grow’s leadership:  The Pacific Railway Act, which authorized land grants to encourage the construction of a transcontinental railroad, and the Homestead Act, which resulted in the establishment of more than a million and a half homesteads.  The transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869.

In addition to those well known acts, the Revenue Acts of 1861 and 1862 established the first federal income tax, which was used to finance the war.  The National Banking Act, passed in 1863, established a one national currency.  Slavery was abolished in the District of Columbia in 1862 by Congressional action.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture was also created in 1862.   Another achievement was the Morrill Land-Grant College Act which set aside land for the establishment of agricultural and technical schools.  This led to the creation of Penn State University.  And, near the end of its term, the False Claims Act helped to curb the abuses of the wartime profiteers.  Arguably, it was one of the most effective Congressional terms ever… and did a great deal to firmly establish powers of the central government at a time when the question of Union was also being decided on the battlefield.

Grow sided often with the Radical Republicans during his term as Speaker, and perhaps for that reason, was defeated for re-election in 1862.  His replacement from the 14th Congressional District representing Gratz and Dauphin County was the Democrat William Henry Miller (1829-1870) who only served one term before he was defeated in 1864 by Republican George Funston Miller (1809-1885) who served a total of three terms through the 40th Congress.

Galusha A. Grow was born in Ashford, Connecticut, and received his basic education at the Franklin Academy in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania.  Later he studied at Amherst College and became a lawyer in 1847.  In 1864 and again in 1868 he was a delegate to the Republican National Conventions.  He was a railroad executive in Texas in the 1870s before returning to Pennsylvania to practice law between 1875 and 1894.  In 1894, he won an at-large seat from Pennsylvania to again serve in the U.S. House of Representative until 1903.

Grow resided in Glenside, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia, after he left Congress in 1903 until his death in 1907.  It is not known whether he ever traveled to Upper Dauphin County to meet his constituents who he served during the early years of the Civil War.

Galusha A. Grow (1822-1907)

Information for this post was taken from Wikipedia.


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