Governors of Connecticut

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Morgan Gardner Bulkeley

From: The Governers of Connecticut
By: Frederick Calvin Norton
Published: 1905


GOVERNOR Bulkeley is a member of one of Connecticut’s most distinguished families, and his ancestors have taken an important part in the affairs of this commonwealth. Peter Bulkeley was born in England in 1583 and succeeded his father in the ministry at Woodhull, hut was afterwards removed for non-conformity. In 1635, in company with a number of friends, he founded the settlement at Concord and was its first minister. He died in 1659 after a life of great usefulness.

His son, the Rev, and Hon. Gershorn Bulkeley, a leading character in our colonial history, married the daughter of President Chauncy of Harvard College. Their third child and eldest son, John Bulkeley, born at Coichester, April 19, 1705, was graduated from Yale College in 1726. He practiced law and medicine in his native town, and during the forty-eight years of his life held a great number of public offices. For thirty-one sessions he was a member of the General Assembly, a member of the council, judge of the Superior Court, and colonel of the Twelfth Regiment of the militia. His grandson, Eliphalet, was father of John Charles Bulkeley of Coichester, and grandfather of Eliphalet A. Bulkeley who was one of the leading citizens of Connecticut. Studying law, he became interested in finance and politics, was one of the founders of the Republican party in Connecticut, and its first speaker in the House of Representatives. He organized both the Connecticut Mutual and Aetna Life Insurance Companies, being president of the latter at the time of his death in 1872.

His son, Morgan Gardner Bulkeley, was born in the town of East Haddarn on December 26, 1837. He removed with his father to Hartford in 1846, and obtained his education in the district schools and the Hartford High School. His beginnings in life were of a humble nature, as the first position he heki was that of an errand boy in a mercantile house in Brooklyn, New York. This was in 1852, and his progress was rapid, for in a short time he was confidential clerk, and in a few years a partner in the concern. When the Civil War opened Bulkeley enlisted in the Thirteenth New York Regiment and was at the front under General McClellan during the Peninsular campaign. He afterwards served under General Mansfield. The elder Bulkeley died in 1872, and Morgan G. Bulkeley then removed to Hartford.

He immediately entered into the financial and social life of the city, and became one of the most prominent men in Hartford. To the founding of the United States Bank he gave much time and labor, and was its first president. Upon the retirement of Thomas Enders from the presidency of the Aetna Life insurance Company, Bulkeley was elected as his successor, thus becoming its third president. As a financier he always had an enviable reputation and is a director of the Willimantic Linen Company, the Aetna National Bank, and several other successful corporations. The wonderful success of the Aetna Life Insurance Company may be attributed in no small degree to Bulkeley’s rare business ability, both as a manager and financier.

Soon after his removal to Hartford he began to take a keen interest in local politics. During the early seventies Bulkeley was a councilman and alderman from the fourth ward and in 1880 was elected mayor of Hartford. He became so popular in this office that lie was re-elected three times thus serving four terms, from 1880 to 1888.

While mayor he exercised his best ability to transact the business of the city in an economical manner, and was the fearless exponent of measures which he thought to be for the best interests of the city irrespective of partisan feeling. Among the poorer classes he has always been very liberal with his fortune and it is said, that while mayor of Hartford, Buikeley gave away every year more than he received as his salary. His administration as mayor was so successful that his friends thought him a desirable candidate for governor. In 1886 Bulkeley’s name was presented to the Republican State Convention but the enthusiasm over Lounsbury was so great that solely in the interest of good feeling the former withdrew from the gubernatorial contest. He supported Lounsbury in the campaign that followed, and in 1888 was nominated by acclamation for governor of the state amid great enthusiasm. Bulkeley was elected and took his seat January 10, 1889. His administration was characterized by a vigorous determination on the part of the chief executive to serve the state as well as possible. General Merwin was nominated in 1890 arid at the election which followed, the first under the present secret ballot law, the result showed such a close vote that there was considerable doubt as to who was the victor. The returns were not accepted by the officials as conclusive, or by the House of Representatives. A long, dreary contest followed and as the General Assembly failed to settle the question of gubernatorial succession, Governor Bulkeley, acting under the constitution, remained in office and exercised the duties of governor for the next two years. He retired from the office when his successor was duly elected and inducted into office in 1893. Governor Bulkeley was elected United States senator to succeed General Joseph R. Hawley in January, 1905, and took his seat in March of the same year. His speech of acceptance uttered in the hall of the House of Representatives was one of the most appropriate and eloquent efforts heard by a Connecticut General Assembly in many years. Governor Bulkeley is still a resident of Hartford where he is honored as one of the foremost men of the city.

He is a member of Massachusetts Commandery Loyal Legion: Robert 0. Tyler Post, G. A. R.; Sons of the American Revolution: Connecticut Society of the War of 1812; Colonial War Society; Connecticut Historical Society, Union League Club of New York City. and many of the other patriotic and learned organizations of the country.

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