About Aaron Augustus Sargent
Aaron Augustus Sargent (September 28, 1827 – August 14, 1887) was an American journalist, lawyer, politician and diplomat. He was sometimes called the "Senator for the Southern Pacific Railroad".
Born in Newburyport, Essex County, Massachusetts, he attended the common schools and then was apprenticed to a cabinetmaker. In his youth he worked as a printer in Philadelphia and then, in 1847, moved to Washington, D.C., where he was a secretary to a Congressman.
He moved to California in 1849 and settled in Nevada City in 1850. There he was on the staff of the Nevada Daily Journal, eventually becoming that newspaper's owner. He was admitted to the California bar in 1854 and began practicing in Nevada City, becoming district attorney for Nevada County in 1856. He was served in the California Senate in 1856.
California Pacific Railroad
Sargent was elected as a Republican to the 37th Congress. Shortly after his first election to office in Washington, D.C., he found himself on a ship with Theodore Dehone Judah, the man who put together a business plan for the California Pacific Railroad. Judah also raised funds from the "Big Four;" Leland Stanford, Charles Crocker, Collis Huntington and Mark Hopkins. Judah implored Sargent to speak in the House of Representatives on behalf of funding Judah's plan for the railroad. In 1861 he was the author of the first Pacific Railroad Act that was passed in Congress. Sargent skipped several terms and was reelected to the 41st and 42nd Congresses.
He was elected to the United States Senate and served 1873 to 1879. During his time in the Senate he was chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Mines and Mining during the 44th Congress and chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Naval Affairs during the 45th Congress.
In January 1878, Senator Sargent introduced the 28 words that would later become the 19th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, allowing women the right to vote. Sargent’s wife, Ellen Clark Sargent, was a leading voting rights advocate, and a friend of such suffrage leaders as Susan B. Anthony. The bill calling for the amendment would be introduced unsuccessfully each year for the next forty years. Sargent returned to California in 1880. Those 28 words were: 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 sex.
After leaving the Senate he practiced law in San Francisco for three years, leaving to become United States Ambassador to Germany for two years, and held office until the action of the German authorities in excluding American pork from the empire made his incumbency personally distasteful. He turned down the appointment of Ambassador to Russia after William H. Hunt's death and made an unsuccessful attempt for the Republican nomination for the Senate in 1885.
Sargent died in San Francisco in 1887. He was buried at the Laurel Hill Cemetery in San Francisco. In 1940, the City of San Francisco closed the cemetery. In 1949, the Native Sons of the Golden West transferred Sargent's remains to an elevated crypt at the Pioneer Cemetery in Nevada City, California, where he previously served as City Clerk before election to the House of Representatives.
Noteworthy in Washington
Sargent was a noted proponent of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, arguing in Overland Monthly in support of exclusion and for the renewal of the 1882 Exclusion Act after its expiration in 1892. The Chinese Exclusion Act was eventually renewed in 1892, and again - indefinitely - in 1902, staying in effect until 1943.