Thursday, June 30, 2011

Luther Bradish of Moira

Luther Bradish was born in Hampshire County, MA in 1783 and served in the U.S. Army during the War of 1812. For six years beginning in 1820, he traveled through the Middle East at the behest of President Monroe and Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, holding one of the first passports issued by the new government, in an attempt to form a treaty between the U.S. and the Ottoman Empire.

An attorney, Bradish moved to Moira, NY about 1826 and shortly thereafter commenced a brief career in politics. He served as a member of the New York State assembly 1827-1830 and 1835-1838 and then as Lieutenant Governor of NYS (1838-1842). Following his service in state government, he led several organizations including the New-York Historical Society (as President 1850-1863) and the American Bible Society (as President 1862-1863). Bradish was also appointed Chair of the NY City Postal Reform Committee and Assistant U.S. Treasurer for NYC.

Bradish was one of the founders of St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Malone and, in 1831, was elected (along with James Duane) as one of the first wardens of the church.  Also in 1831, he joined 73 other men from northern Franklin County in mortgaging personal property to provide the founding capital for Franklin Academy high school in Malone.

Luther Bradish became a target for anti-Whig rhetoric in the 1838 election for his public statements supporting the abolition of slavery.   In an open letter, William Jay and Gerrit Smith of the New York Anti-Slavery Society asked the candidates three questions:
  • 1st. Are you in favor of a law, granting to persons in this State, claimed as fugitive slaves, a trial by Jury?
  • 2nd. Are you in favor of abolishing all distinctions in the Constitutional rights of the citizens of this State founded solely on complexion?
  • 3rd. Are you in favor of a repeal of the law, which now authorises [sic] the importation of slaves into this State, and their detention here as such, for the term of nine months?
Bradish's response, which was to affirm his support of the Abolition position on all three questions, was satirized in a blatantly racist anti-Whig broadside:

What Bradish actually wrote was:

"I am, therefore, in favor of abolishing all distinctions in the Constitutional rights of the citizens of this State, founded solely on complexion."
The base appeal to racist sentiment was not successful in preventing Bradish from being elected in 1838; the Whigs were successful in that gubernatorial election, as well as in the national 1840 election. 

Although Luther Bradish spent his latter years outside of Franklin County, NY, he remains an important part of the history of the county, and his home in Moira is marked with a state historical marker. 

Further Resources:

- NY Times Obituary - Hon. Luther Bradish

- Luther Bradish's Letter to the NY Anti-Slavery Society -- at the Library of Congress

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