John Henninger Reagan - Encyclopedia


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JOHN HENNINGER REAGAN (1818-1905), American politician, was born in Sevier county, Tennessee, on the 8th of October 1818. He removed to Texas in 1839, was deputy surveyor of public lands in 1839-1843, was admitted to the bar in 1846, was a member of the state House of Representatives in 1847-1848, served as district judge in 1852-1857, and in1857-1861was a representative in Congress. His political views were determined by the ultra-democratic influence of Andrew Jackson and the state-sovereignty philosophy of John C. Calhoun. In 1861 he was a member of the Texas secession convention, served in the Confederate provisional Congress, and on the 6th of March was appointed postmaster-general in President Davis's cabinet. He served in this capacity throughout the war, and for a short time before its close was also acting secretary of the treasury. He was captured with the Davis party on the 10th of May 1865, and was imprisoned in Fort Warren, Boston Harbour, until the following October. While in prison he wrote the "Fort Warren letter" (August 11th), in which he urged the people of Texas to recognize their defeat, grant civil rights to the freedmen, and try to conciliate the North. From 1875 to 1887, when he entered the U.S. Senate, he was again a representative in Congress, and from 1877 almost continuously to the close of his service he was chairman of the Committee on Commerce, in which capacity he had a prominent part in securing the passage of the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887. He was a member of the state constitutional convention of 1876. In state politics his sympathies were with the Radicals. In 1891, believing that his first duty was to his state, he resigned from the Senate to accept the chairmanship of the newly established state railway commission. In 1901 he retired from public service. From 1899 until his death he was president of the Texas State Historical Association. He died at his home, near Palestine, Texas, on the 6th of March 1905.

See his Memoirs; with Special Reference to Secession and the Civil War (New York, 1906), edited by W. F. McCaleb.

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