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  Name:  David Tod
  Born:  February 21, 1805
  Died:  November 13, 1868

  Complete HarpWeek Biography:

Tod, David (February 21, 1805 – November 13, 1868)

David Tod was a U.S. minister to Brazil (1847–1851) and a War Democrat during the Civil War who served as governor of Ohio (1862–1864).

He was born on February 21, 1805, Youngstown, Ohio, to Sarah Isaacs Tod and George Tod, a prominent judge.  He was educated at Burton Academy before reading law and being admitted to the state bar in 1827.  Five years later he married Maria Smith; the couple late had seven children.

In 1838, Tod was elected as a Democrat to the Ohio State Senate, where he supported banking regulation and a bill requiring runaway slaves to be returned to their masters in the South.  Tod did not seek a second term in 1840, but campaigned tirelessly for other Democratic candidates.  He did attempt to return to the state senate in 1844 and 1846, but was narrowly defeated both times.

In March 1847, President James K. Polk named Tod as U.S. minister to Brazil, where he served until 1851.  Back in Ohio, Tod became wealthy by investing in railroads, coal mines, and iron foundries.  In 1858, he was soundly defeated for congress in a race in which he exhibited little interest.  In 1860, he served as chairman of the Northern Democratic National Convention in Baltimore, and then campaigned actively for its presidential nominee, Senator Stephan A. Douglas of Illinois.

When the Civil War began in April 1861, Tod became a War Democrat who joined with the Republicans in united support for the Union war effort.  That summer, the Union Party, a coalition of Republicans and War Democrats, nominated Tod for governor of Ohio, and he easily defeated his Democratic opponent in the fall.  Tod worked hard as a war governor to supply troops for the Union military and to provide for their needs, including adequate equipment, rations, transportation, pay, and health care.  In 1862, however, the Peace Democrats, who favored a ceasefire and negotiated settlement, won control of Ohio’s other state offices and most of its congressional seats.

In 1863, Tod maneuvered to secure his gubernatorial renomination by the Union Party.  Salmon Chase, however, was not pleased by the idea.  Like other Ohio Republicans, the U.S. treasury secretary did not like how Tod had appointed so many of his old Democratic allies to state posts, and was concerned about the governor’s lack of commitment to the Emancipation Proclamation (which had just gone into effect).  At the Union Party’s convention that summer, Chase’s surrogates blocked Tod and nominated John Brough, instead.  It is uncertain whether they were acting directly on instructions from Chase, which he denied, but Tod and his supporters blamed the treasury secretary.

When Lincoln accepted Chase’s resignation as secretary of the U.S. Treasury in June 1864, the president nominated Tod to the cabinet post.  Besides rewarding an important electoral state by naming another Ohioan, Lincoln considered Tod a friend who had served the Union cause well:  “Governor Tod has aided me more and troubled me less than any other Governor.”  The president may also have intended it as an implicit insult to Chase, who had unsuccessfully tried to replace Lincoln as the Republican presidential nominee in 1864.  

The announcement of the nomination, however, brought criticism from influential politicians and the press.  The president was quickly saved from further embarrassment when Tod telegraphed that he had to decline the offer because of poor health.  Senator William Fessenden reluctantly accepted the position.  Tod continued to pursue his business interests and never served in public office again.  He died on November 13, 1868.

Sources consulted;  Delmer J. Trester, “David Tod,” in “The Governors of Ohio, 1803–1971,” The Ohio Historical Society (online); Phyllis F. Field, “Tod, David,” American National Biography (online).


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