Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Elihu E. Jackson (1837-1907)
MSA SC 3520-1472

Governor of Maryland 1888-1892

The following essay is taken from Frank F. White, Jr., The Governors of Maryland 1777-1970 (Annapolis:  The Hall of Records Commission, 1970), 211-213..

"ELIHU EMORY JACKSON, chosen governor for 'his commercial success and his business reputation,' was born near Delmar, then in Somerset County, but now in Wicomico County, on November 3, 1837, the son of Hugh and Sarah (McBride) Jackson.1 The eldest of seven children, he received his education in the neighborhood country school, but he had to forego further studies in order to aid his father on the farm. About 1859, he chose a business career. He left the farm for the growing mercantile center at Delmar, the terminus of the Delaware Railroad, and remained for four years in Delmar.

"In 1863, after the railroad had reached Salisbury, he moved his business there, opening a general merchandise, lumber and grain, and dry goods establishment. His father and eldest brother soon joined him in Salisbury, forming a partnership known as the E. E. Jackson & Co. 'The history of this firm is the story of Governor Jackson’s advance from a very humble merchant to one of the largest lumber dealers in the country.'2

"In 1869, Jackson was married to Nannie Rider, the daughter of Dr. William H. Rider of Salisbury. They had five children, two daughters and three sons. In 1881, he was nominated and elected to the House of Delegates from Wicomico County. From that date until the State Convention of 1887 his political rise was almost phenomenal. In 1883, he was elected to the State Senate, and on April 5, 1886, the final day of the Session, he was chosen as its President to succeed Edwin Warfield who had resigned.

"With the approach of the Democratic Convention of 1887, Jackson emerged as the most powerful leader on the Eastern Shore and a political force to be reckoned with. Each of the other sections of the State supported its own candidate for the gubernatorial nomination. Western Maryland delegates favored L. Victor Baughman, who in the following year would become Comptroller of the Treasury. Central Maryland, including Baltimore City, advanced James Hodges, the Mayor of Baltimore. For a time, the convention appeared deadlocked, but on the sixth ballot the Baltimore [p. 212] County delegation threw its weight behind Jackson to break the stalemate. All of Hodges’ supporters soon followed, a move which gave Jackson the nomination. His nomination almost created a Democratic party split, but in spite of the bitter campaign, party leaders preached unity, so the threatened party split was averted for another four years. In the election of November 8, 1887, Jackson defeated his Republican opponent, Walter B. Brooks, by a large majority. He took his oath of office on January 11 1888. 'As Governor,' commented Andrews, 'Jackson expended much energy in vainly striving to secure peace between the irreconcilable factions [of the Democratic Party] then fighting for political and business control.'3 'Governor Jackson during the four years that he directed State affairs made a good record for efficient and businesslike administration,' stated the Wicomico News.4

"Jackson attempted to have the large corporations bear their fair share of taxation, and with that thought in mind, the Legislature passed a law which repealed the provisions for exemption from taxation for other than religious and charitable organizations. A law was passed in his administration which taxed foreign corporations doing business in Maryland. He directed the Legislature’s attention to the need for prohibiting any railroad company from consolidating with another, and also for forbidding the assignment of a railroad’s charter to another company without the permission of the Legislature. In this, he endeavored to erect a barrier to prevent widespread consolidation of railroad interests, because of the two-fold danger of these becoming too formidable factors in State affairs and of stifling competition. Jackson recommended a reassessment of property to insure the equality of taxation. To make the State’s government operate more efficiently and smoothly, he urged the Legislature to practice the strictest economy. In his inaugural address, he warned that body that 'all . . . expenditures ought to be judicious and thoroughly considered.'5

"During Governor Jackson’s administration, the system of inspecting tobacco was changed. In the past, the management of the tobacco warehouses was so costly that it had reduced the efficiency of the system. The Legislature changed the system to a fee basis in compliance with Jackson’s belief that the warehouses should be self-sustaining. He also instituted a far-reaching change in the voting laws of the State. During Governor Jackson’s term, the Australian Ballot law was passed, which provided for the printing of an official ballot and the appointment of election officials by the Governor. This innovation resulted in less cost and more efficiency in the conduct of elections.

"Jackson’s highest political ambition was that of being chosen for a seat in the United States Senate, an ambition he never realized. He was a candidate for that office in 1890, again in 1892, and in 1904. In his first attempt, he suffered because of the defalcations of State Treasurer Steven- [p. 213]  son Archer who had been accused of misappropriating over $125,000 of State Funds to pay off some private debts. Governor Jackson, as soon as he learned of Archer’s embezzlement, removed him from that office, but the resulting scandal definitely removed Jackson from consideration as a senatorial candidate. During the campaign of 1892, Senator Arthur Pue Gorman and the Baltimore Democratic leaders opposed Jackson and instead sent Charles H. Gibson to Washington.

"On January 13, 1892, when he left office, Jackson once more temporarily concentrated on his business enterprises. He served as President of the Salisbury National Bank and the Seaford National Bank and became a director in numerous corporations such as the Fidelity and Deposit Company and the International Trust Company. He returned to the political area by participating actively in the 1895 campaign, but the Republicans were victorious Statewide. In the same year, he again sought a seat in the State Senate and was one of the few Democrats to be elected. At the Session of 1896, he served as chairman of the Finance Committee which accomplished several meritorious reforms.

"In 1902 he was mentioned for Congress and in 1904 he was again a candidate for the United States Senate. He openly announced his candidacy primarily to prevent the election of John Walter Smith, another powerful Eastern Shore Democratic Party leader, who had opposed Jackson’s candidacy for Congress in 1900. Jackson never forgave Smith for blocking him in that year, so many years passed before there was a reconciliation between the two men. In the campaign of 1907, Jackson played an important part in the convention which nominated Austin L. Crothers for Governor. He was largely responsible for the stampede which gave the deciding vote to Crothers rather than to his primary opponent, Henry Williams. This action lined up Jackson on the same side with his political enemy Smith, allaying the animosity between the two and the factions controlled by each.

"The Wicomico County Democrats nominated him for the State Senate again in 1907, after a bitter party fight. After the nominating convention, Jackson thanked his supporters, but declined the nomination partly because of ill health and partly for political reasons.

"Elihu Jackson was a staunch member of the Southern Methodist Church and he gave most generously to the various church enterprises. He liberally endowed several colleges of the church and participated actively as a member of the board of Trinity Church in Salisbury. He also contributed generously to the rebuilding of Salisbury when that city was destroyed in the fire of 1885.

"Elihu Jackson died at his winter home in Baltimore on December 27, 1907. His body was returned to Salisbury, where after the funeral services held at his home 'The Oaks,' he was buried in the Jackson family lot in Parsons Cemetery."

Notes on sources

Return to Elihu E. Jackson's introductory page


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