Roscoe Conkling looked out the window of his Wall Street Law Office & cursed the weather. His home was three miles away. The Great Blizzard of 1888 was enveloping New York City, with 40 inches of snow piling up. I will walk home, he thought. And out into the tempest he went. The date was March 12th.
By SJYWNY, a Trail Mix Contributor
This March 11th marks the 130th Anniversary of the start of the Great Blizzard of 1888. This was a horrible event that claimed over 400 lives in the Northeast, 200 in New York City alone. Drifts of snow were recorded over 30 feet high. The storm finally subsided on the 14th.
Trudge, trudge, thank goodness you kept yourself in shape, Mr. Conkling.
Roscoe Conkling was a fascinatingly complex figure in our political history, being a kingpin in 1870’s – 1880’s government. He was a Stalwart Republican. Patronage was mother’s milk & he was fighting against the Half-Breed Republicans, who favored Civil Service reforms. Conkling et al supported Ulysses Grant for President. Stalwarts were a political machine.
This storm is very bad. I am having trouble moving forward. Was going out a mistake? Too late now – I must keep going. I do not give up.
Roscoe Conkling & Chester Arthur were very close. Conkling helped Arthur get plum positions in the government. The Election of 1880 saw Arthur being placed on the ticket with eventual Presidential winner James Garfield. After the President’s assassination Arthur assumed office & Conkling thought his old friend would help him out politically. However things had changed. Chester Arthur, a Stalwart, had evolved into a Half-Breed reformer. Their friendship ended – as eventually did the Stalwarts & Conkling’s influence.
Onlookers saw the distinguished man collapse in the snow at Union Square. Please take me home, the stricken man said. I live near Madison Square.
The decision to venture out into the Great Blizzard eventually cost Roscoe Conkling his life. He died of pneumonia on April 18,1888. As with most everything in his life he believed himself to be unstoppable. This time a more powerful force of nature won out.
His breathing labored on, growing slower. Ghosts of long dead friends & enemies visited his brain, James Blaine, Ulysses Grant, James Garfield, old Chet Arthur. Will I be remembered? Of course I will. I shaped those men, brought them great fame, glory, infamy. Power was mine.
Breathe in, breathe out. In …. out.
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