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From: April 2001 FORGE: The Bigelow Society Quarterly Vol. 30, No.2
Moses 6 Bigelow, Mayor of Newark, son of Timothy 5 ( John 4, John 3, Jonathan 2, John 1) Part II

Blue Gray Line

Moses Bigelow; Politician, Manufacturer, Financier, and a man of many ideas.

An Officer of Corporations

     One of the wonders of this enterprising and changing country has been the multiplication of private and quasi public corporations. These corporations were so few and unimportant in their operations at the time of the creation of the Federal and State governments that they had slight consideration in framing the constitutions. It has been by legal fictions that the Federal Courts have obtained a complete and essential jurisdiction over them. Now that they may be organized under the general laws, they are so numerous and powerful as to fetter individual enterprise, and to divide with the legislatures the power of government. ..
     Mr .Bigelow always found time amid his business cares for attention to matters that concerned the general welfare. He shirked none of the responsibilities of citizenship, and both in private and public matters cared for the general good. He was thus among the foremost in creating and maintaining substantial business institutions, and none of which he was an officer ever failed in its public obligations. He was energetic in promoting the construction of the Morristown, now the Morris & Essex Railroad, and in 1835, with J. P. Jackson and J. M. Meeker, a committee of citizens, successfully sought its incorporation by the legislature. He also obtained the charter of the Mechanics' Fire & Marine Insurance Company, long a leading institution. He likewise was an incorporator and a most active director of the Howard Savings Institution, and of the Firemen's Insurance Company, and for some time the latter's President. He also was an incorporator and a director of the Republic Trust Company, the Citizens' Gaslight Company, and other institutions not now recalled. ..
     Benevolence was well developed in Mr. Bigelow, and he sought those positions wherein he could assuage pain. He was an incorporator and first President of The New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and by appointment of the Supreme Court, served faithfully for many years without compensation, as a trustee of the Trenton Asylum for the Insane, and was constant in attending the meetings of the Board and making inspections of the Asylum.

Political Parties and Associations

     At no period in our country's history has political excitement been greater, and has party animosity been more bitter, than from the beginning of the century to 1845. The perennial questions about national banks, revenue tariffs, internal improvements, and the respective powers of the State and Federal governments were warmly, intelligently and exhaustively discussed. The Congressional reports of those days are political encyclopaedias for the politicians of these days, and in the comprehensiveness of their arguments on these subjects verify to a certain extent the truth of the adage, "there is nothing new under the sun." Every man was then a politician, and every one, with superior intelligence, a student of political economy.
     Developing into manhood during this period, Mr . Bigelow early formed opinions on these questions that were never changed.
     Political lines in Essex County have been very closely drawn ever since the foundation of the government. There are few sons that have left their fathers' party. Federalist families produced Whigs; and they, the later Republicans. The earlier Republican families produced Democrats. There are a few exceptions to the rule, that serve to emphasize its significance. This continued family divergence in party associations is due in some degree to intellectual processes, but, in a greater degree, to sentiment. The influential men in Essex County of the revolutionary era accepted the doctrines of Adams and Hamilton and were Federalists; and their power transmitted was sufficient to keep the people in accord with the succeeding parties maintaining similar doctrines for many generations. It was not until 1856 that a Democrat was elected Mayor of Newark.
     Mr. Bigelow accepted the doctrines of Jefferson and was a Republican and a Democrat all his life. In his fidelity to these doctrines and these parties, he never wavered under the most trying conditions.
     His intimate associates were of the opposite parties, and his business interests and political ambitions would have been advanced by a change, but he never wavered even during the hot times of the war of the rebellion. ..In his older days [he co-operated in politics] with [those] who were local leaders of the democratic party, without seeking or desiring public office; but frequently representing his party in local, state and national conventions.
     Mr .Bigelow was in some respects well equipped to be a successful politician. He had a fme presence, benevolent manner, great sincerity, superior intelligence and an unsullied reputation. He was also cautious, reticent, independent, truthful, dignified, firm and ambitious. His disposition and conduct were uniform in the privacy of home life and the publicity of affairs. He had, however, a personal pride that withheld him from unseemly efforts to advance his fortunes. He also abhorred bribery in politics, and upon one occasion, spurned a gubernatorial nomination, to be obtained irregularly, and suffered a defeat in the state convention by a few votes. His popular strength was not unappreciated by his associates, but he was never a candidate for, and never held any popular office but that of Mayor of Newark.

Elected Mayor of Newark

     The republican party was in its formative state in 1856, and divided into two factions, one of which nominated Theodore P. Howell, and the other Henry N. Parkhurst, for mayor. The democratic party nominated Mr . Bigelow, who was elected. He was the first democrat to be mayor of Newark, and took office in January 1857. He was elected several times until 1864, and then succeeded by ex-Chancellor Theodore Runyon, another democrat, who held office for one term, when a republican was again installed.
     Mr. Bige1ow took office January 6, 1857. The city then had a population of 57,000, and a variety of manufacturing industries in successful operation, and promised to be what it has since become, a most important and populous manufacturing centre. The imperfections in the government were understood, and the necessity of changing its village forms realized. An improved charter, prepared by the common council and citizens, was obtained the same year, and it was necessary for him to recommend and supervise such changes in the city ordinances as would promote homogeneity between them and the charter .
     To this work he devoted himself with a zeal and intelligence worthy of the highest praise. To facilitate taxation, he suggested the preparation of block maps of the city lots and streets, and re-numbering the houses; to extinguish the public debt, he procured the establishment of sinking funds, saying: "It is unwise to create a debt without making at the same time some provision for its extinguishment, and unjust to burthen posterity with the whole debt." To procure better water, he induced the purchase of the rights of an old private water company, and the formation of the Newark Aqueduct Board, saying: "For an element so indispensable as water we ought not to depend on the pecuniary interest of a private company." He advocated and procured a reorganization of the police department, established the office of auditor, and fixed its methods of business, organized a dispensary of medicines for the poor and a board of health, and obtained a codification of the city ordinances. It would be a work of supererogation to continue the enumeration of his efforts to improve the business methods of the city, to maintain its financial standing and to promote the health and comfort of the citizens. These efforts were unceasing and effective and were estimated at their full value by his fellow citizens who, without distinction of party, awarded him full praise for his faithfulness and intelligence.
     He was an aggressive mayor and exercised freely his right of veto, and in only one instance, when he opposed the purchase of the City Hotel, to be transformed into the present City Hall, was his veto disregarded. He exercised a careful supervision of all the city offices, observed the deportment of the clerks, and made regular examinations of their books, frequently inspected public works in progress, and ascertained the profits of contractors, and gave the same care to the public as to his private business.
     The financial affairs of the city were his special charge during the war, and although the common council finance committee always co-operated with him, his methods were approved and his plans adopted by them and all public loans were negotiated by him. In this time of general demoralization there were no embezzlements from the city treasury and no corrupt practices in the city business.
     It is not out of place to narrate an incident in his official life to which the genial Governor William Pennington was a party .
     The Mayor was very conscientious in the performance of his duties and never shirked any official responsibility. Believing it necessary to discipline an unfaithful subordinate, he was doubtful of his power, and casually consulted the Governor, inquiring whether the mayor had the necessary power. The Governor replied, "Certainly; certainly; if the charter does not give you the power, the common law does; the man should be punished." And he was punished despite the efforts of many politicians.
     In his annual message of January 1861 to the common council, he expressed the views on civil service reform now held by many statesmen. He then said: "One of the most important functions devolving on you is the appointment of the officers of the city government, who are by law under the general supervision of the mayor. Capable, faithful and experienced incumbents, who take pride in an intelligent and faithful discharge of duties, will lighten your labors and facilitate the transaction of public business. The object of the establishment of the several offices is the public good, which certainly can be best promoted by retaining in the public service men of capacity, experience, and fidelity. Claims to public place based on other grounds than the public good ought not to be recognized. The experience acquired by a faithful and competent officer if of great value to the public, and, if the role be established, that the tenure of place depends on a faithful discharge of duty , and on that alone, the motives to perform that duty are increased and strengthened and the temptations to engage in electioneering schemes and to connive at practices inconsistent with the public interests are greatly lessened. I respectfully submit these suggestions, believing that the policy indicated will conduce to the greatest good of the people and receive their approbation."
     Before the end of his term the municipal machinery was in good working order; laws and ordinances necessary for the proper exercise of municipal functions had been obtained, system in directing the fmancial affairs established, and capable officers selected for the several departments. Besides, the moral tone of the municipality had been raised. Upon his induction to office the Mayor said to the Common Council: "The reputation of the city depends as much or more upon the character of her citizens as upon municipal regulations." He thought that a bad people could not be made good by good laws nor a good people bad by bad laws; other and more powerful causes operate to raise and lower a people. He believed that laws to be effective must be representative of the people. And so, by precept and example he strove for the moral improvement of the citizens; and no one could recall any time in his long term of office when he had said or done anything unbecoming the exalted position of chief magistrate.
     His influence with officials and people became very great, as was illustrated in the case of the latter, when a howling mob of several thousands, too numerous for the local police and military to cope with, that had assembled during the war to oppose the military draft, dispersed after a few words spoken by him, as he rode on horseback among them. be continued

Related Forge articles: Vol. 11, No.2 (April 1982), p.24.
This biography of Moses Bigelow, written by his son, Samuel F. Bigelow, at the request of the Newark Common Council, is reprinted from the book, Biographical Sketch of Moses Bigelow, published in Newark, NJ in 1890.
Part I appeared in Forge, Vol. 30., No.1 (January 2001).

Blue Gray Line

Rod Bigelow

8 Prospect Circle
Massena, N.Y. 13662 Rod Bigelow at SLIC 
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