Oliver Perry Morton

Photo of Oliver Morton
Oliver Morton

Library of Congress

Quick Facts

Significance:
Wartime governor of Indiana, U.S. Senator and a leader of the Radical Republicans
Place Of Birth:
Wayne County, IN
Date Of Birth:
August 4, 1823
Place Of Death:
Indianapolis, IN
Date Of Death:
November 1, 1877
Place Of Burial:
Indianapolis, IN
Cemetery Name:
Crown Hill Cemetery

Oliver Hazard Perry Throck Morton began embarked on a career as a hat maker but soon was drawn to the law. He was a circuit court judge for a time and active in Democratic politics, but was expelled from the state party in the mid-1850s for his anti-slavery stance. He ran for Governor of Indiana unsuccessfully under the banner of the short-lived Know-Nothing Party, then became a founding member of the Republican Party and delegate to its first convention in Pittsburgh in 1856.

Morgan was elected Lieutenant Governor of Indiana in 1860 and then ascended to the governor's office after Henry S. Lane was elected U.S. Senator. Morton became a fierce Union partisan during the war as he attempted to circumvent the will of Indiana's more conservative legislature. Relations between Morton and the assembly gradually deteriorated until, in 1862, the legislature attempted to remove the state militia from his command and transfer it to a state board of Democratic commissioners. Morton immediately dissolved the General Assembly and announced his intent to administer the state without its representatives. As the state approached bankruptcy, Morton successfully solicited the donation and loan of millions of dollars in private money that were then used to fund the government. He continued to harass and suppress the activities of his political opponents whom he occasionally accused of treason.

It is thought that because of his scrupulous honesty during this period of one-man rule he was able to escape post-war retribution for his actions. He was reelected governor in 1864 and served until his appointment to the U.S. Senate in 1867. In the Senate, Morton joined the most radical faction of the Republican Party as it attempted to punish the South and reconstruct its culture and politics. He was elected to a second term in 1873 and died in office in 1877.