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The Life of Senator Francis Cockrell

We have a lot of things laying around our shop and today we wanted to delve a bit more into a letter we have here written by Francis Marion Cockrell in which he discusses his reelection as Senator in 1886.

Francis Marion Cockrell was an American politician from the state of Missouri and a Confederate military commander. He served as a United States Senator from Missouri for five terms. He was a prominent member of the famed South–Cockrell–Hargis family of Southern politicians.

Cockrell was born in Warrensburg, Missouri to Nancy (Ellis) and Joseph Cockrell, the sheriff of Johnson County. He had an older brother named Jeremiah Vardaman Cockrell, who was a congressman in the 1890s. Francis Cockrell attended local schools and Chapel Hill College in Lafayette County, Missouri. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1855, practicing law in Warrensburg until the outbreak of the Civil War.

At the beginning of the American Civil War in 1861, Cockrell joined the Missouri State Guard as a Captain. After being mustered into the Confederate States Army in the 2nd Missouri Regiment in early 1862 he was promoted to colonel. Cockrell commanded a brigade in the Vicksburg Campaign. He distinguished himself at the Battle of Champion Hill, launching a counterattack that temporarily ousted troops of XVII Corps off the hill. He also took part in the Battle of Big Black River Bridge. His brigade was able to escape just before federal troops seized the bridge.

Cockrell was promoted to brigadier general on July 18, 1863. He went on to fight in many of the battles of the Atlanta Campaign, and participated in Hood’s Tennessee Campaign later that year. In 1865 Cockrell commanded a division in defence of Fort Blakely, Alabama. On April 9, 1865, shortly before the war ended, Cockrell was captured there but was paroled on May 14. After the war Cockrell returned to his law practice in Missouri.

In 1874, Cockrell, who became a member of the United States Democratic Party, was elected to the U.S. Senate from Missouri by the state legislature. His first and only elected office, he served in the Senate from 1875 to 1905, when he retired. He held several committee chairmanships, including the chairmanships of the Claims Committee, Engrossed Bills Committee and Appropriations Committee during his senate career. He received 42 votes for President of the United States at the 1904 Democratic National Convention, but was defeated by Alton B. Parker.

He was appointed to the Interstate Commerce Commission by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1905, serving in that capacity until 1910. In 1911, he was appointed commissioner to negotiate the boundaries between the state of Texas and the New Mexico Territory, which was about to become a state. In 1913, Woodrow Wilson appointed him as the civilian member on the Board of Ordnance and Fortifications for the War Department, where he served until his death in Washington, D.C.

The letter we have reads:

July 10th 1886

E. M. Davidson, Esq.,

My Dear Sir: –

I shall be detained here till after your nominations are made. I must rely upon friends to care for my interests. I have tried to do my whole duty honestly and faithfully and if reelected shall continue to do so. I will gratefully appreciate and remember the valuable services and influence you and render and exert in securing for my reelection the votes of your County Representative and State Senator. All I ask is a free and fair and full expression of the preferences of our Democratic voters and for them to decide whether it is for their best interests to reelect me or to choose a new man. The people are the sovereigns and have the right to require their agents – their County Representative and State Senator – each by his vote to reflect the preference of those who elect them. I had hoped that the question would have been left to voters at the primaries when and where each Democrat would have declared his will and preference. Please see our Democratic voters and get them actively and earnestly so that they will make known to the candidates their preference and will learn the views of the candidates. I shall be glad to hear from you and to serve you when I can.

With best wishes, your obedient servant and friend,

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