Serving in the House

Warren County man casts vote in the House of Representatives on bill that became 13th Amendment abolishing slavery

Library of Congress photo/Times Observer photo by Josh Cotton Above, a Congressional portrait of Glenni William Scofield.

Roughly 10,000 people have served in the House of Representatives.

A calculation I found estimates the total number of Americans since the dawn of the republic at approximately 650,000,000.

That gives you a .0015 percent chance of serving in the House.

So how about this:

A Warren County man cast an affirmative vote in the 38th Congress on the bill that ultimately became the 13th Amendment that abolished the institution of slavery. And he was in Congress when bills were approved to create the world’s first national park, the Freedmen’s Bureau and to set the number of Supreme Court justices at nine.

Photo of Scofield’s grave in Oakland Cemetery.

Another cast a dissenting vote to the Kansas-Nebraska Act and served when the U.S. Camel Corps was commissioned.

A third served in Congress when the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed which barred Chinese laborers from entering the country (but also presided over changes to civil service which stripped the power of political appointments and instead based the decisions on merit).

They’re all buried at Oakland Cemetery, though their respective stones make no mention of their service to the nation.

So – this week and next – here are their stories in a nutshell.

Glenni William Scofield was born in Dewittville, Chautauqua County on March 11, 1817, according to the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.

Photo of Scofield’s grave in Oakland Cemetery.

He attended common schools and learned the printing trade prior to graduating from Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y., in 1840.

He taught and read the law and was admitted to the bar in 1842 when he set up a practice in Warren.

Four years later, he served a two-year term as the county’s district attorney and was elected to the state House the following year, where he served for two years. Six years later in 1857, he was elected to a two-year term in the state Senate.

1861 was a good year for Scofield – he was appointed president judge and was elected to Congress for the first time.

He would commence service in the 38th Congress in 1863 and serve in each subsequent Congress through the 43rd in 1875.

Here are some Congressional highlights:

¯ 38th Congress: While votes on specific measures are difficult to find, Scofield is known to have cast an affirmative vote on the Constitutional Amendment that abolished slavery. During that term, the Coinage Act was approved that put ‘In God We Trust’ on our coins for the first time, the Freedmen’s Bureau was created and Yosemite was protected as a wilderness area.

¯ 39th Congress: The 14th Amendment was approved, which brought the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses into the Constitution. Tennessee was re-admitted to the Union and Nebraska was also admitted.

¯ 40th Congress: The 15th Amendment was approved, which stated that “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” Wyoming was organized as a territory and the Military Reconstruction Act set up the process by which seceded southern states could be re-admitted to the Union.

¯ 41st Congress: The number of Supreme Court Justices was set at nine.

¯ 42nd Congress: Yellowstone National Park was founded – the first national park in the history of the war. The Third Enforcement Act which allowed the president to suspend the writ of habeas corpus to combat the Ku Klux Klan.

¯ 43rd Congress: The first officials’

codification of the acts of Congress was approved and the nation was put back on the gold standard after the Civil War (which probably wasn’t a good thing). The nation’s first restrictive immigration law was approved which specifically banned Asian women from entering the country.

He wasn’t a candidate for nomination in 1874 according to his Congressional biography, which explains that he returned to Warren and picked up his law practice.

President Rutherford B. Hayes appointed Scofield Register of the Treasury, a post he held from 1878 until 1881. He then served as an associate justice of the United States Court of Claims from 1881 until 1891.

He died on August 30, 1891.

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