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About Franklin Israel Moses, Jr.
Franklin Israel Moses, Jr. (1838 – December 11, 1906) was a lawyer, editor and Republican politician. His middle initial was confused for the letter J and thereafter he became known simply as Franklin J. Moses, Jr.
Early life and career
Moses was born in Sumter District, South Carolina, to Franklin J. Moses, Sr. (who became the chief justice of the South Carolina supreme court in 1868) and Jane McLellan. His father was born a Jew and his mother a Methodist; Moses was raised as an Episcopalian and was never affiliated with Judaism. He enrolled at South Carolina College (now the University of South Carolina) in 1855, but was honorably dismissed from the freshman class the same year. After being admitted to the bar in South Carolina, he became the private secretary of Governor Francis Wilkinson Pickens in 1860. With the outbreak of the Civil War, Moses was given the rank of Colonel in the Confederate Army and served as an enrolling officer for the Confederate Conscription Acts. Moses gained the notoriety for having personally lowered the United States flag from over Fort Sumter in 1861.
In 1868, during Reconstruction, Moses was elected for the statewide office of Adjutant and Inspector General on the Republican ticket. In addition, he was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives from Charleston and became the speaker of that body. The legislature made him a trustee for the University of South Carolina in 1869, and he expressed his intentions of integrating the university.
Moses was reelected in 1870 to the House and continued to serve as the speaker, but his tenure was marked by rampant corruption and bribery. The state debt in 1868 stood at $5,407,306.27 and by 1872 it had risen to $18,350,000, a tripling of the debt in just four years. When Moses was nominated by the Republicans to be the candidate for governor, an opposition within the Republican party organized to block his election. Nonetheless, with overwhelming black support he was elected in 1872 to be the 75th governor of South Carolina.
As Governor, he was well-known for his extravagant display of money. He spent $40,000 to buy the Preston mansion to use as his official residence. During his two years as governor with a salary of only $3,500, he spent $50,000 solely on his living expenses. In 1874, Governor Moses was indicted for misappropriation of state funds, but he called for three companies of the black militia in Columbia to prevent his arrest. The court ruled that Moses could not be prosecuted while governor and could be charged only through impeachment.
Upon leaving office in 1874, Moses was chosen by the General Assembly to a seat on the circuit court, but Governor Chamberlain blocked his appointment. His wife, Emma Buford Richardson, filed for divorce in 1878 and Moses left the state shortly thereafter. He arrived in Winthrop, Massachusetts, and became the editor of the local newspaper as well as the moderator of the town meetings. He was sentenced to three years in the Massachusetts State Prison in 1885 for committing petty theft and fraud several times. Governor Oliver Ames pardoned Moses in 1887 on the basis that he did not have long to live. Moses died twenty years later, disgraced from his family on December 11, 1906, and was buried in Winthrop.
Known as the Robber Governor and often called Franklin Judas Moses.
As Adjutant General, bought one thousand Winchester rifles for about $38,000, and one million central fire copper cartridges at a cost of $37,000. On the order of the Governor, the Adjutant General went to Washington, D.C. and procured ten thousand Springfield muskets from the general government, thus anticipating for years in advance the state's quota of arms. These he had changed to breechloaders, which, with alterations in the accoutrements and the purchase above referred to, cost $180,750. Of which Moses, by his own confession, through fraud, was to get $10,000. It was all charged to the state at $250,000. As a trustee for the University of South Carolina, encouraged the lowering of admission standards to such a point that the institution was closed in 1877 by the General Assembly.