Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Cushman K. Davis Papers, 1886-1900

Finding aid created by
Susan Swasta, October 1995

Summary Information
Title: Cushman K. Davis papers
Creator: Davis, Cushman Kellogg, 1838-1900
Inclusive dates: 1886-1900
Extent: 150 items (0.5 linear feet)
Abstract:
Cushman Kellogg Davis's letters provide insights into state-level Minnesota politics, as well as the national political scene, from the perspective of a U.S. senator in the late 1800s.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site: www.clements.umich.edu


Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1991. M-2743.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.

Copyright:

Copyright status is unknown.

Preferred Citation:

Cushman K. Davis Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


Biography

Cushman Kellogg Davis relocated with his family from New York state to Waukesha, Wisc., as a young boy. After graduation from the University of Michigan in 1857 he studied law and opened a practice in his home town. Commissioned first lieutenant in the 28th Wisconsin Infantry in 1862, Davis's Civil War career included service as judge-advocate and adjutant-general on the staff of Gen. Willis Gorman. In 1864 he returned to Wisconsin, married, and relocated to St. Paul, Minn., to join his former commanding officer in law practice.

Davis's political career began with 1867 election to the state legislature, and he subsequently served as United States district attorney from 1868 to 1873. Though a Republican, Davis supported the Granger movement, speaking out against business abuses by the railroads, and gaining a reputation that won him the governor's seat in 1873 due to his influence over the Granger vote. Losing a bid for U.S. Senator in 1875, he settled back into legal work until 1887, when a successful Senate race resurrected his political career. Davis served in the Senate, keeping a law practice on the side, for the rest of his life.

As a Senator he concentrated on committee work and focused primarily on pensions and foreign relations. He went to Paris as a peace commissioner following the Spanish American War, and used the position to advance American expansionism. Although his early political career had been characterized by anti-monopoly and pro-agriculture sentiments, Davis came to espouse the basic ideals of the Republican party, though moderated by a sympathy for farmers in his agricultural state. He was an ardent imperialist, an advocate of strict law and order in the face of labor unrest, and a tariff advocate. An early marriage, to Laura Bowman of Waukesha, ended in divorce, and in 1880 Davis married Anna Malcolm Agnew of St. Paul. They had no children.


Collection Scope and Content Note

The bulk of this collection consists of 132 letters in a bound volume written by Davis to his friend, Samuel R. Thayer, while Thayer was Minister to the Netherlands from 1889 to 1893. All the letters coincide with Davis' Senatorial terms, although most were written between 1892 and 1898. Davis kept Thayer, a lawyer from Minnesota, abreast of both state-level Minnesota politics and the national political scene. The two were close friends, and Davis's letters are highly opinionated and revealing (and frequently scathingly humorous) in their discussion of fellow-politicians. He is particularly critical of Minnesota Senator William Washburn, Minnesota Governor William Merriam, and Secretary of the Treasury William Windom.

Davis's letters are full of pre-election political intrigue and his views on Republican prospects. The relationship between James Blaine and Benjamin Harrison is a major focus; Davis clearly felt Blaine to be the more accomplished statesman and considered Harrison, although competent as President, so unpopular as to be a liability to his party. As an old-school Republican and a long-established politician, Davis became increasingly disenchanted by machine politics. He comments disapprovingly on the power of Mark Hanna over William McKinley. He also looked sadly upon social changes in his country, seeing labor unrest, the rise of the various farmers' political movements, and increased European immigration as contributing to a social fragmentation which government could not hope to successfully address.

The Davis Papers are also of value for their insider's view of Congress. Davis discusses various legislative bills -- especially those related to pensions, monetary matters, and the tariff --and their prospective chances of passage. He laments the constant solicitations of office-seekers, although he himself obviously used political patronage as a means of dispensing favor and building support. Davis's letters from Paris following the Spanish-American War, while secretive about the actual peace negotiations, offer his opinions of the Spanish delegation, Paris and Parisians, and the maddeningly slow pace of the proceedings. He reveals himself as a hard-liner who insisted on Spanish cession of the Philippines, and even objected to any payment for them.

The collection contains 17 unbound letters to Samuel R. Thayer, from 16 different writers. None of the letters are from Davis. This is mostly minor official correspondence concerning diplomatic chores in the Netherlands. One letter of December 1895, from Oregonian Solomon Hirsch, contains interesting information about Davis's possible prospects as a presidential candidate and opinions on Oregon politics and the Armenian-Turkish conflict.

Also included are 13 photographs (mostly unidentified) of various members of Samuel Thayer's family and The Thayer Memorial, a genealogical history of the Thayer family starting in 1767 and continuing until 1852. The Memorial has eleven appendices with information about Thayer family events.

Subject Terms

    Subjects:
    • Bills, Legislative.
    • Blaine, James Gillespie, 1830-1893.
    • Cleveland, Stephen Grover, 1837-1908.
    • Farmers--Political activity.
    • Harrison, Benjamin, 1833-1901.
    • McKinley tariff.
    • Merriam, William Rush, 1849-1931.
    • Minnesota--Politics and government.
    • Nelson, Knute, 1843-1923.
    • Patronage, Political.
    • Republican Party (U.S. : 1854- )
    • Tariff--Law and legislation--United States.
    • United States. Congress. Senate.
    • Washburn, William Drew, 1831-1912.
    • Windom, William, 1827-1891.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   1  
    Cushman K. Davis papers,  1886 December 23-1900 May 21 [series]
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Alternate Locations

    The Cushman K. Davis photographs have been transferred to the Graphics Division.

    Related Materials

    The bulk of Cushman K. Davis's papers are located in the Minnesota State Historical Society.

    Partial Subject Index
    Alger, Russell Alexander, 1836-1907
    • 1888 October 3
    • 1889 September 1
    • 1892 February 25
    Allison, William Boyd, 1829-1908
    • 1895 December 7
    American Copyright League
    • 1892 December 19
    Armenian massacres--1894-1896
    • 1895 December 7
    Bills, Legislative
    • 1887 December 25
    • 1888 January 11
    • 1888 June 16
    • 1888 August 11, 22, 28
    • 1888 October 10
    • 1890 January 19
    • 1890 February 1
    • 1890 March 24
    • 1890 May 22
    • 1890 July 18
    • 1890 August 12
    • 1890 September 9
    • 1891 February 12
    • 1896 January 8
    Blaine, James Gillespie, 1830-1893
    • 1888 June 16
    • 1888 August 22
    • 1888 October 3
    • 1889 November 16
    • 1890 July 18
    • 1890 August 12
    • 1890 November 13
    • 1890 December 9
    • 1891 February 12
    • 1891 March 23
    • 1891 April 29
    • 1891 August 11
    • 1892 January 13
    • 1892 March 13
    • 1892 April 15
    • 1892 May 12
    • 1892 June 23
    Books
    • 1892 December 16
    Cabinet officers
    • 1898 April 23
    Canals, Interoceanic
    • 1891 February 12
    Canals--Law and legislation
    • 1891 February 12
    • 1891 March 23
    Cleveland, Stephen Grover, 1837-1908
    • 1888 July 8
    • 1888 August 28
    • 1888 September 16
    • 1893 March 12
    Cole, Gordon E.
    • 1886 December 24
    Copyright, International
    • 1892 December 19
    Cuban question--1895-1898
    • 1896 December 30
    • 1898 January 28
    Cullom, Shelby Moore, 1829-1914
    • 1892 February 25
    Currency question
    • 1895 January 30
    Davis, Cushman Kellogg, 1838-1900
    • 1895 December 7
    Day, William Rufus, 1849-1923
    • 1898 April 23
    Democratic Party
    • 1888 September 16
    Depressions--1893
    • 1893 July 4
    • 1894 May 6
    Diplomatic and consular service
    • 1889 December 7
    • 1893 May 25
    Electioneering
    • 1892 October 2
    • 1892 November 10
    Executive power--United States
    • 1896 December 30
    Fairbanks, Charles Warren, 1852-1918
    • 1900 June 2
    Farmers--Political activity
    • 1890 July 18
    • 1890 November 13
    • 1891 June 10
    Filibusters (Political science)
    • 1898 July 4
    France--Politics and government
    • 1898 October 30
    Goodnow, John, 1858-1907
    • 1897 July 10
    Hanna, Marcus Alonzo, 1837-1904
    • 1897 July 10
    • 1900 June 2
    Harrison, Benjamin, 1833-1901
    • 1888 June 16
    • 1889 May 4, 13
    • 1889 September 1
    • 1889 November 16
    • 1890 January 3, 6, 19
    • 1890 March 24
    • 1890 July 18
    • 1890 August 12
    • 1890 November 13
    • 1890 December 9
    • 1891 January 24
    • 1891 February 12
    • 1891 March 23
    • 1891 April 29
    • 1892 January 13
    • 1892 March 13
    • 1892 April 15
    • 1892 May 12
    • 1892 June 23
    Haugen, Nils Pederson, b. 1849
    • 1888 October 14
    Hawaii
    • 1895 January 30
    • 1898 June 16
    • 1898 July 4
    Hill, James Jerome, 1838-1916
    • 1889 May 4
    Hoar, George Frisbie, 1826-1904
    • 1890 February 1
    Homestead strike, 1892
    • 1892 July 17
    Immigrants
    • 1890 May 22
    Imperialism
    • 1900 May 21
    Journalists
    • 1898 October 11, 13
    Legislative veto
    • 1888 July 8
    Lodge, Henry Cabot, 1850-1924
    • 1900 June 2
    Long, John Davis, 1838-1915
    • 1900 June 2
    Mahone, William, 1826-1895
    • 1890 March 24
    McKinley tariff
    • 1890 July 18
    • 1890 August 12
    • 1890 September 9, 24
    • 1890 November 13
    • 1890 December 9
    • 1894 May 6
    McKinley, William, 1843-1901
    • 1896 March 10, 28
    • 1900 May 21
    McMillan, Samuel James Renwick, 1826-1897
    • 1886 December 23
    • 1886 December 24
    Merriam, William Rush, 1849-1931
    • 1889 August 13
    • 1889 September 1, 30
    • 1890 August 12
    • 1890 September 7
    • 1891 April 29
    • 1892 April 15
    • 1893 January 25
    • 1895 January 28, 30
    • 1895 February 8
    • 1896 December 30
    • 1897 April 11
    • 1897 July 10
    • 1899 January 1
    Minnesota--Politics and government
    • See collection description
    Mormons--Utah
    • 1889 November 16
    Nelson, Knute, 1843-1923
    • 1887 December 31
    • 1888 October 3, 14
    • 1892 July 17
    • 1895 February 8
    • 1900 April 30
    Officials and employees--Selection and appointment
    • 1889 May 13
    • 1889 June 19
    • 1890 March 24
    Oregon--Politics and government
    • 1895 December 7
    Paris (France)--Description
    • 1898 October 13
    Paris (France)--Social life and customs
    • 1898 November 22, 25
    Patronage, Political
    • 1889 May 13
    • 1889 June 19
    • 1891 January 24
    • 1893 March 12
    • 1893 April 16
    • 1897 April 11
    • 1897 May 14
    • 1899 January 1
    Peace treaties
    • 1898 September 22
    • 1898 October 4 - 30
    • 1898 November 8 - 30
    Pensions, Military--Law and legislation
    • 1890 March 24
    • 1890 May 22
    • 1890 July 18
    Pettigrew, Richard Franklin, 1848-1926
    • 1898 July 4
    Philippines
    • 1898 May 13
    • 1898 October 21, 27, 30
    • 1898 November 8, 15, 21, 22, 25
    Photographs
    • n.d.
    Political conventions
    • 1892 June 23
    • 1900 June 2
    Political ethics
    • 1900 June 2
    Political parties
    • 1890 December 9
    • 1892 July 17
    • 1893 October 8
    Polygamy
    • 1889 November 16
    Presidents--United States--Election--1888
    • 1888 June 16
    • 1888 August 22
    • 1888 September 16
    • 1888 October 3
    Presidents--United States--Election--1892
    • 1889 September 1
    • 1891 March 23
    • 1891 April 29
    • 1891 August 11
    • 1892 January 13
    • 1892 February 25
    • 1892 March 13
    • 1892 April 15
    • 1892 May 12
    • 1892 June 23
    • 1892 July 17
    • 1892 September 4
    • 1892 November 16
    Presidents--United States--Election--1896
    • 1896 March 10, 18
    Presidents--United States--Election--1900
    • 1900 May 21
    • 1900 June 2
    Quay, Matthew Stanley, 1833-1904
    • 1892 April 15
    Racism
    • 1890 May 22
    Railroad travel
    • 1889 November 16
    Repeal of legislation
    • 1893 October 8
    Republican Party
    • 1886 December 23, 24
    • 1888 September 16
    • 1888 October 3
    • 1889 May 13
    • 1889 November 16
    • 1890 January 6
    • 1890 March 24
    • 1890 November 13
    • 1890 December 9
    • 1892 April 15
    • 1892 June 23
    • 1892 November 16
    • 1893 March 12
    • 1895 December 7
    • 1900 May 21
    • 1900 June 2
    Root, Elihu, 1845-1937
    • 1891 April 9
    Rusk, Jeremiah McClain, 1830-1893
    • 1889 November 16
    Sabin, Dwight May, 1843-1902
    • 1889 September 1
    • 1889 September 30
    Sherman silver law, 1890
    • 1890 July 18
    • 1893 July 4
    • 1893 October 8
    Silver question
    • 1889 December 7
    • 1890 August 12
    • 1895 January 30
    • 1897 July 10
    Smith, Charles Emory, 1842-1908
    • 1898 April 23
    Soviet Union--Foreign public opinion
    • 1891 March 23
    Spofford, Ainsworth Rand, 1825-1908
    • 1892 December 16
    Stanford, Leland, 1824-1893
    • 1889 November 16
    Sugar laws and legislation
    • 1894 June 12
    Tabernacles, Mormon
    • 1889 November 16
    Tariff--Law and legislation--United States
    • 1888 August 22, 28
    • 1890 July 18
    • 1890 August 12
    • 1890 September 7,9, 24
    • 1890 November 13
    • 1890 December 9
    • 1894 May 6
    • 1894 July 28
    • 1897 July 10
    Thayer family--Genealogy
    • 1896
    Thayer, Samuel R[ichard], 1837-1909
    • 1896
    Treaties
    • 1900 May 21
    Tripp, Bartlett, 1842-1911
    • 1900 May 21
    Turkey
    • 1895 December 7
    United States. Congress
    • 1890 January 6
    • 1890 May 22
    • 1890 July 18
    • 1892 August 3
    • 1898 June 16
    United States. Congress. House
    • 1887 December 31
    • 1888 October 14
    United States. Congress. Senate
    • 1886 December 23, 24
    • 1887 December 25
    • 1888 August 11, 22, 28
    • 1888 October 3. 10
    • 1889 November 16
    • 1890 January 19
    • 1890 March 24
    • 1890 August 12
    • 1890 September 7, 9, 24
    • 1894 June 12
    • 1896 January 8
    • 1898 July 4
    United States. Congress--Committees
    • 1890 January 19
    • 1890 February 1
    United States. Congress--Elections--1890
    • 1890 November 13
    • 1890 December 9
    United States. Congress--Election--1892
    • 1892 November 16
    • 1893 March 12
    United States. Congress--Election--1900
    • 1900 May 21
    United States--Foreign public opinion
    • 1898 October 13
    United States--Foreign relations
    • 1898 October 13
    United States--Foreign relations--Canada
    • 1892 March 13
    United States--Foreign relations--Chile
    • 1892 January 29
    United States--Foreign relations--Germany
    • 1898 November 30
    United States--Foreign relations--Great Britain
    • 1892 March 13
    United States--Foreign relations--Hawaii
    • 1895 January 30
    • 1898 June 16
    • 1898 July 4
    United States--History--War of 1898
    • 1898 May 2, 13, 21
    • 1898 October 11
    United States--History--War of 1898--Peace
    • 1898 September 22
    • 1898 October 4, 8, 13, 21, 27, 30
    • 1898 November 8, 15, 21, 22, 25, 30
    United States--Politics and government
    • 1889 September 1
    • 1889 December 7
    United States--Social conditions
    • 1894 May 6
    Washburn, William Drew, 1831-1912
    • 1888 October 10
    • 1889 May 4, 13
    • 1889 June 19
    • 1889 July 1
    • 1889 December 7
    • 1890 January 3, 6, 19
    • 1890 March 24
    • 1890 September 7
    • 1891 January 24
    • 1891 February 12
    • 1891 March 23
    • 1892 January 29
    • 1892 February 25
    • 1892 March 13
    • 1892 May 12
    • 1892 June 23
    • 1894 July 28
    • 1895 January 28, 30
    • 1895 February 8
    • 1900 May 21
    Windom, William, 1827-1891
    • 1889 August 13
    • 1889 September 1
    • 1889 December 7
    • 1890 August 12
    • 1891 February 12