Skip to main content

Full text of "Enoch Louis Lowe, governor of Maryland, 1851-'54"

See other formats

P 185 
Copy 2 


Governor of Maryland, 1851 -'54 



Enoch Louis Lowe. 
GovEKNOR of Maryland, 1851-'54. 
From (III ail pciiiifiiig in the State House, .-iiiiiii/^olis, Muryhiiid. 


Governor of Maryland, 1851 -'54 



Extradled from the 

Year-Book of 

American Clan Gregor Society 

1909 and 1910 



>4 NOV 191 2 


By Caleb Clarke Magruder. 

ENOCH Louis Lowe was the only child of Bradley Samuel Adams 
Lowe and Adelaide Bellumeau de la Vincendiere. His birth oc- 
curred in the manor-house of The Hermitage, an estate of one 
thousand acres lying on the Monocacy River, Frederick County, 
Maryland, August 10th, 1820. 

He descended paternally from the Lowes of Derbyshire, England, 
his immigrant ancestor having settled in Talbot County, Maryland, 
in 1675, and maternally from an aristocratic Parisian family, of 
strong royalist sentiments, M^ho fled from France to escape the hor- 
rors of the Reign of Terror. 

Bradley Samuel Adams Lowe was graduated from the Military 
Academy at West Point in 1814, with the rank of Third Lieutenant, 
at the age of eighteen. He saw service during the last year of 
the War with Great Britain, 1815, and served on the Florida fron- 
tier under General Jackson during the Seminole War of 1817-18. 

Young Lowe's early schooling was under the guidance of the 
Jesuit Fathers at St. John's School, Frederick City. Impressed hy 
his premature mental brilliancy the faculty induced his parents to 
send him abroad to complete his studies. 

At thirteen he entered Clongowas Wood College, Ireland, where 
his instruction was thorough and his advance rapid. Among his 
friends and schoolmates was Francis Meagher, the Irish Patriot, 
whose influence was apparent in Lowe's after life. Three years 
later he matriculated at Stonyhurst, England. Here he was the 
intimate of Francis Mahony — "Father Prout" of Literature — and 
Miles Gerald Kean, the novelist. 

Stonyhurst was proud of her pupil, and he was admittedly her 
most promising student. Graduated first in his class in 1839, he 
merited medals for philosophy and distinction for poetry. A year 
followed in travel through Continental Europe, and upon his return 
home he gave like time to the American states and territories. 

Early in his collegiate years he evinced a decided talent and strong 
desire for the study of jurisprudence. Prepared for his profession 
by Judge John A. Lynch, of Frederick, he was admitted to the bar of 
his native county in 1842. 

Forming a partnership with John W. Baughman, the firm quickly 
commanded a remunerative clientile, Lowe gaining an almost in- 
stantaneous popularity and an enviable prominence. 

The political arena proved attractive and he was elected a member 
of the Legislature in 1845. Governors William Grason, Francis 
Thomas and Thomas George Pratt used their best efforts against 
repudiation by Maryland for interest owed on moneys raised for 


internal improvements. The fruit of their efiforts was realized dur- 
ing the administration of Governor Philip Francis Thomas. This 
executive thereupon determined to secure a ntw Constitution. 

Maryland was living under the provisions of an instrument com- 
pleted in convention November 11th, 1776, and never submitted to 
the people. On twelve occasions it had been changed and it was 
thought too heavy with amendments, and too antiquated for the 
requirements of a progressive state. Lowe ardently advocated the 
policy of Governor Philip Francis Thomas, and by his fluency of 
language and strength of argument won many friends to his cause 
and to himself. 

With the growth of sentiment for a new Constitution there arose 
a pronounced demand to make its ablest champion the chief executive 
of the state. Responding to this demand the Democratic Conven- 
tion of 1850 nominated him for Governor. 

The Whigs were still strong in Maryland, and Lowe had a popu- 
lar opponent in William B. Clark, of Washington County. Occa- 
sionally the gubernatorial candidates met in joint debate, and the 
contest grew in interest and excitement. 

At this time Lowe was described as "strikingly handsome, with classic 
features of the most perfect Grecian type, a forehead that spoke command 
and a chin that meant determination ; lips free enough to denote feeling, 
firm enough to prevent its riotous overflow ; eyes that sparkled with keen 
intelligence." The maturity of his thought was in such striking con- 
trast with his youthful appearance that after a most convincing 
argument he was once asked: "How old are you?" To which he 
quickly replied: "A wife and four children." It was a happy eva- 
sion for he was not then of the constitutional age — thirty — to serve 
as governor. The election was held October 3nd, 1850. A count of the 
votes showed that Baltimore had elected a Whig Mayor by 777, 
but that the city had gone for Lowe by 2,759, giving him the elec- 
tion in the state at large by 1,497. 

The result meant the drafting of a new Constitution for Maryland. 
The convention assembled in Annapolis, November 4th, 1850, and ad- 
journed May 13th, 1851. The proposed Constitution was submitted to 
the people at a special election held June 4th, 1851, and adopted by a 
substantial majority. 

Lowe took the oath of office as Governor of Maryland on Janu- 
ary 6th, 1851. The most important events of his administration were 
the adoption of the Constitution of 1851; the completion of the Bal- 
timore and Ohio Railroad to the Ohio River, its originally surveyed termi- 
nus ; and a reduction of the state tax rate from 25 cents to 15 cents on 
the $100. All fear of repudiation having passed, the state rapidly 
recovered from its financial depression and Lowe boldly advocated 
this decrease in taxation. 

In 1851 Louis Kussuth, the great Hungarian Patriot, was extended 
the honors of the state of Maryland, and most hospitably enter- 


tained by Governor Lowe in the Governor's mansion. Kussuth 
thought Catholics generally antagonistic to his aspirations for Hun- 
gary, and requested Lowe, who was a Catholic, to interest himself 
in the formation of a society favorable to the Magyars. Assuring 
Kussuth of his interest in his people, Lowe kindly but firmly d^e- 
clined to act, saying it was contrary to official precedents. 

After the opening of Chinese ports following the visit of Commo- 
dore Perry to China in 1853, the United States established important 
commercial relations with the Orient. Internal strife was serving the 
selfish ends of several European nations so that with a view of pro- 
tecting American interests President Pierce offered the mission to 
Lowe but he declined it. 

Governor Lowe surrendered his office to Thomas Watkins Ligon 
on January 11th, 1854, but retained the confidence and regard of the 
whole state. His official life saw neither sacrifice of lofty political 
principle nor any taint upon his personal honor and integrity. He 
was a delegate to the national democratic convention which nomi- 
nated Buchanan and Breckenridge in 1856. When Buchanan became 
President Lowe was a second time offered the Ministry to China 
which he again declined. In 1860 he was an elector and active in the 
interest of Breckenridge and Lane. This was his last public service 
in Maryland. 

The pessimist had prophesied a war between the states for nearly 
a score of years. After Chief Justice Taney's decision in the Dred 
Scott case, 1857, the optimist was forced to this belief. Lowe had 
dreaded the possible conflict but had always been friendly to the 

On the 1st of February, 1861, a meeting of prominent citizens was 
held in Baltimore to sound the sentiment of the state toward the 
Confederacy. It was overwhelmingly favorable — in the impassioned 
language of Lowe — "Her heart beat for the South." On the 19th 
of April following there was bloodshed in the streets of Baltimore 
and the fratricidal strife was on. 

As an evidence of his loyalty and faith in the Confederacy Lowe 
sold his patrimony, put the proceeds in Confederate bonds and went 
South. Here his voice and his pen. his heart and his mind, was 
dedicated to her cause. Impressed with his zeal and devotion, the 
Legislature of Virginia entertained him as a guest of honor and 
voted him the privilege of a seat on the floor of its assembly hall. 

Living sometime at Millegeville, Georgia, sometime at Richmond, 
he was bitter in his denunciations of Governor Thomas Holliday 
Hicks who called the Maryland Legislature to assemble in Fred- 
erick, instead of the capital of the state. Knowing the sentiment 
of the state he was confident that Maryland would have seceded 
from the L^nion had Virginia and North Carolina quickly followed 
the lead of South Carolina and the cotton states. 

With the downfall of the Confederacy Lowe returned to Balti- 


more wasted in fortune and crushed in spirit. Feeling that he could 
not take the oath required before resuming the practice of his pro- 
fession he remained but six months and in May of 1866 went to 
live in Brooklyn, New York, carrying letters from his wife's uncle, 
Herschel Johnson, Governor of Georgia. It was a strange exile he 
made for himself leaving the land of his devotion, the state of his 
birth and youthful precedence, to build a new home among strangers 
and old enemies. 

Joining Richard F. Clarke and W. H. Morgan, the firm became 
counsel for the Erie Railroad and James Fiske, the financier, who^ 
considered Lowe the ablest lawyer he had ever known. Apart from 
his professional standing he was little known in Brooklyn, preferring 
the pleasures of famil3' privacy to public prominence. 

Influential friends sought to arouse his interest in national affairs. 
He campaigned for Hancock and English, but office could not 
tempt him; his political heart was dead. His views on popular edu- 
cation were published in the Catholic World and American Educa- 
tional Monthly. 

In June of 1869 he was the orator before the Washington and Jef- 
ferson Society of the University of Virginia. The same year he 
delivered two brilliant lectures on "The Historical Destiny of 
Women and the Influence of the Catholic Church during the Middle 
Ages." These were almost his sole public appearances. Being ad- 
vised to submit to a surgical operation, he was removed to St. 
Mary's Hospital. Brooklyn, where he died at 2 A. M. on the morn- 
ing of August 23rd, 1892, in the seventy-third year of his age. 

His remains were buried from St. John's Church, Frederick City, 
on August 25th following, interment being made by the side of his 
mother in the Catholic cemetery on East Third Street. 

One who knew him, writing editorially in the Baltimore Sun of 
August 24th, said: 

"He was, perhaps, the greatest stump speaker of his day. * * * 
Few j'oung men ever had a more brilliant career in this state than 
Enoch Louis Lowe. * * * He had the advantage of collegiate 
training abroad, with which was combined a pleasing address, win- 
ning speech and clear-cut, States' rights, patriotic principles." 

James McSherry. Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals of Mary- 
land, writing to a member of his family, paid this tribute to Lowe's 

"The superb attainments of your father as a forensic and popular 
orator were perhaps never equalled by anj-^ one who ever lived in 
this countrj'." 

When James Ryder Randall, himself a Marylander, wandering- 
in the Southland wrote his great battle hymn he recognized Lowe 
as a kindred spirit and grouped his name with the state's warriors 
on manj' fields: 

Come! 'tis the red dawn of the day, 

Maryland, My Maryland! 
Come ! with thy panoplied array, 

Maryland, My Maryland! 
With Ringgold's spirit for the fray, 
With Watson's blood at Monterey, 
With fearless Loive and dashing May, 

Maryland, My Maryland! 

A study of the life of Enoch Louis Lowe reveals youthful promise, 
splendid achievement in early manhood and a later crisis which 
"froze the genial current of his soul." His was a peculiarly consist- 
ent devotion to political principle and sectional sentiment. These 
were the tests of his loyalty and the dominating traits of a life and 
character of the loftiest honor. The weakling voice of personal am- 
bition was never heard by him, but rectitude and sentiment claimed 
him as their very own. 

In 1844 Lowe married Esther Winder Polk, of Somerset County, 
Maryland, granddaughter of William Polk, Chief Judge of the Court 
of Appeals of Maryland, and a kinsman of James Knox Polk, eleventh 
President of the United States. Eleven children were born of this 
union, of whom the widow and seven children survived: — Adelaide 
Victoire, married E. Austin Jenkins; Anna Maria, religiense of the 
Sacred Heart, died 1889; Enoch Louis, died at tke age of three; 
Paul Emelius; Vivian Polk; Victoire Vincendiere, married John M. 
Stubbs; Enoch Louis; Alexander Stuart, died at the age of three; 
Esther Polk; Mary Gorter, married Francis de Sales Jenkins; James 
Polk, died at the age of three. 

Governor Lowe was the son of Bradley Samuel Adams Lowe and 
Adelaide Bellumeau de la Vincendiere, grandson of Lloyd Magruder 
Lowe and Rebecca MacCubbin, great-grandson of Captain Michael 
Lowe and Anne Magruder, great-great-grandson of Enoch Magru- 
der and Meek Wade, great-great-great-grandson of James Magruder 
and Barbara Coombs, great-great-great-great-grandson of Samuel 
Magruder and Sarah Beall and great-great-great-great-great-grand- 
son of Alexander Magruder, Maryland immigrant.