About William Pitt Kellogg
William Pitt Kellogg (December 8, 1830 – August 10, 1918) was an American politician and a governor of Louisiana from 1873-1877 during Reconstruction. He was one of the most important politicians in Louisiana during and immediately after Reconstruction. He was notable for being reelected after most other Republican officials had been defeated when white Democrats regained control of state politics. Kellogg is also notable as one of few senators to be elected to the House of Representatives immediately after leaving the Senate. He was the state's last Republican governor until David C. Treen in 1980.
Early life and education
Kellogg was born in Orwell in Addison County in western Vermont near the New York boundary, where he spent his childhood. After completing his education in the common schools, he moved to Peoria, Illinois, at the age of eighteen and taught school for several years.
Kellogg became a lawyer, likely "reading the law" and studying with practicing lawyers, as was typical for many then. He moved to Canton, Illinois and started a practice. There he joined the Republican Party and eventually came to know Abraham Lincoln, a fellow lawyer. When Lincoln became President in 1861, he appointed Kellogg as chief justice of the Supreme Court of the Nebraska Territory. Kellogg moved to Nebraska and started in the position.
With the outbreak of the American Civil War, he soon resigned, returned to Illinois and joined the Seventh Illinois Cavalry. By 1862, he had risen to the rank of colonel and played an important role at a small battle near Sikeston, Missouri. Later in the war, Kellogg resigned because of ill health.
In 1865, at the end of the civil war, days before his assassination, Lincoln appointed Kellogg as the federal collector of customs of the port of New Orleans. This launched Kellogg's notable 20-year political career in Louisiana. He remained collector of New Orleans until 1868, when he was appointed to the United States Senate. That year "reconstructed" Louisiana was readmitted to the federal Union.
In 1872 Kellogg ran on the Republican ticket and was elected governor. He resigned from the Senate to take office. In the election of 1872 John McEnery, a Democrat, ran against Kellogg. The Sitting Governor Henry Clay Warmoth, although a Republican, opposed the Republican Party faction that was loyal to President Ulysses S. Grant, who was supporting Kellogg. Warmoth supported McEnery.
The results of the election were disputed by the Democrats. The politics of the state was in turmoil for months, as both candidates held inauguration celebrations, certified their local candidate slates and tried to gather political power. Political tensions broke out in violence, including the Colfax Massacre in April 1873. As Governor, Warmoth controlled the State Returning Board, the institution which administered elections. With the election challenged, Warmoth's board named McEnery the winner. A rival board claimed Kellogg to be the victor.
Warmoth was impeached for allegedly stealing the election. A black Republican, P. B. S. Pinchback, became Governor for 35 days until Grant seated Kellogg as Governor with Federal protection. McEnery's faction established a "rump legislature" in New Orleans to oppose Kellogg's actions. McEnery urged his supporters to take up arms against Kellogg's fraudulent government. In 1874 the anti-Republican White League sent 5,000 paramilitary men into New Orleans, where in the Battle of Liberty Place, they defeated the 3500-man Metropolitan Police and state militia. They took over the state government offices for a few days but retreated before the arrival of federal troops sent as reinforcements. President Grant had finally sent US troops in response to Kellogg's request for help.
Kellogg's lieutenant governor was Caesar Carpetier Antoine, an African-American native of New Orleans. He had been a state senator from Shreveport before running as lieutenant governor. Despite the intense backlash against the Republican Party among white Democrats in the South, Kellogg was elected to the United States Senate in 1876. He served in the Senate until 1883. He did not seek reelection, for his party was too weak in the South to be competitive. He was the chairman of the Senate Committee on Railroads from 1881 to 1883.
Kellogg was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1882 and served one term from 1883 to 1885. He continued to live in Washington, D.C., but retired from political life. He died in Washington and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
Kellogg was one of the most important politicians in Louisiana during and immediately after Reconstruction. He was able to maintain power for much longer than most Republican elected officials who had come to the area from the North. He is also notable as one of few senators to be elected to the House of Representatives immediately after leaving the Senate.
The late Claude Pepper, a 20th-century Florida Democrat, was similarly elected to the House after having served in the Senate. But, he did not begin his long House tenure until 12 years after the end of his Senate service.
William Pitt Kellogg, a native of Vermont, spent most of his adult career in Illinois until Lincoln appointed him Collector of Customs in New Orleans in 1865.
As the Republican nominee for governor in 1872, Kellogg faced Louisiana native and Democrat John McEnery. McEnery was supported by Acting Governor Henry Clay Warmoth who controlled the State Returning Board, the institution which supposedly regulated returns. Both sides claimed victory; it took an executive order from President Ulysses Grant to seat Kellogg.
Kellogg's term, marred by the refusal of many to recognize him as Governor, was largely a failure because the legislature refused to enact his measures to bring economic stability to the state. Kellogg received armed support from Federal troops after a group of former Confederates tried to overthrow his administration in 1874. The Louisiana House of Representatives voted to impeach Kellogg in 1876, but the Senate did not convict him. Besides the considerable political turmoil, the national depression of the 1870's hampered Kellogg's initiatives.
He remained in politics, and was elected by his former Democratic enemies to the U.S. Senate. He also served in the U. S House of Representatives. Kellogg died in Washington, D. C. in 1918.
William P. Kellogg, Governor, U.S. Senator's Timeline
December 8, 1830
Orwell, VT, USA
June 6, 1865
Fulton, Whiteside, Illinois, United States
August 10, 1918
Washington, DC, USA
Northfield, Vermont, United States
Arlington, VA, USA