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Biography of John M. Bailey

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John M. Bailey

IN THE conflict of arms, in the arena of the law, in the struggle of politics, and in the principles of diplomacy, an Albanian who has been an active participant, gaining distinction at home and abroad is the Hon. John M. Bailey, the present surveyor of customs in Albany. His career, thus far, is illustrative of that success which usually attends a line of action clearly marked out and steadfastly followed amidst the phases of public life.

He is of New England origin. His father, Henry Bailey, owned and cultivated a farm in Bethlehem, Albany County, N. Y., where, on the 24th of August, 1838, his son John, the subject of this sketch, first saw the light. Remaining at home during his early youth, he attended the district school and assisted his father in working the farm. Reared amidst the healthful scenes and occupations of country life, his constitution became vigorous, while at the same time he manifested more than ordinary interest in his school books. It soon became apparent that farming was not to be his chosen occupation – that his taste ran wholly in the line of educational and some kind of professional work; and to foster his passion for study his father took great pains to have him carefully prepared at home, under the care of competent instructors, for a collegiate course. He diligently improved the opportunity thus offered to him, and when he had reached the age of nineteen, it was with bright anticipation that he went to Schenectady and entered the freshman class in Union college. His college life, faithfully devoted to the full, regular classical course of study, was a successful one, and in 1861 he was graduated from old Union with high honors, being one of the three valedictorians of his class. Having of his own accord selected the legal profession as the most inviting field of labor; he immediately entered the famous old law office of Messrs. Cagger & Porter in this city. Under such favorable circumstances, he began his legal studies with deep interest and made rapid progress in the same. But the civil war with its exciting scenes then stirred the heart of this young law student, and he could not resist the earnest call of the government for volunteers in defense of an imperiled Union. He, accordingly, threw aside his law books and hastened to enroll himself in the service of his country. He also lost no time in persuading other young men to enlist in the same loyal cause; and by his activity and persistent efforts he had the honor of raising the first forty men for the old One Hundred and Seventy-seventh regiment, New York volunteers, of which the Tenth regiment of the National Guard formed the nucleus. He was made a first lieutenant of Company H in this gallant regiment, in the fall of 1862, and with it went to the scene of active military operations. In the spring and early summer of 1863 he was engaged in the fierce attacks on Port Hudson, under General Banks. Of the first attack on the 27th of May, Mr. Lossing very justly remarks: ” The battle was furious, and never did men fight with greater determination than Banks’ little force against the odds of an equal number behind strong entrenchments, which were defended in front by rifle-pits and approached only through thick abattis, over which swept, like a bosom of destruction, the shells from Confederate guns.” Lieutenant Bailey also faced the foe in deadly conflict in the later attacks on Port Hudson, June 11th and 14th, and was present at its surrender on the 9th of July – an event which, following so soon after the fall of Vicksburg, filled the hearts of all loyal people with unbounded joy.

The One Hundred and Seventy-seventh regiment was sent to the Department of the Gulf under General Banks, and in the campaign of Louisiana, on the Mississippi, and in the dismal swamps of the surrounding country. Lieutenant Bailey participated with his regiment in all its rough marches and skirmishes, enduring many hardships “as a good soldier,” and doing his whole duty in maintaining the honor of the stars and stripes. His coolness and intrepidity were always shown in the sanguinary contest, and his excellent reputation as a true soldier was well earned.

On the death of Adjutant Richard Strong in 1863 Lieutenant Bailey was promoted to his place – a position which he held when his regiment returned from the seat of war and was mustered out. After a most creditable and honorable war record Major Bailey was discharged at the expiration of his term of service, and at once resumed his legal studies, which had been so suddenly interrupted. He again entered the office of Cagger & Porter, and at the same time became a student in the Albany law school, where he graduated in 1864, and was admitted to practice by the general term of the Supreme Court in Albany. In the following year he was made assistant district attorney of Albany County, which he held for three years. This was the beginning of his successful career as a lawyer and a politician. From the first he espoused the cause of the Republican party – the party within whose lines he has ever since been a prominent figure, unremitting in his efforts to advance its highest interests and uncompromising in his dealings with its opposing forces.

In 1869 Mr. Bailey was appointed by President Grant collector of internal revenue for the fourteenth district of New York, and served in this capacity until the close of 1873, when he was succeeded by the late Ralph P. Lathrop. In 1874 he was elected district attorney of Albany County, and ably filled the office for the term of three years. He was elected in 1878 to the forty-fifth congress to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Congressman Terence J. Quinn, and to the forty-sixth congress for a full term. He served in the committee on Pacific railroads, one of the most important committees of the house, and enjoyed the reputation of being a useful and active member, supremely devoted to the leading measures of his party as well as to the general welfare of the nation.

At the close of his congressional career Mr. Bailey was appointed, by President Garfield, United States consul at Hamburg, Germany, and in the summer of 1881 he sailed for that country, to enter upon his official duties, which for four years he discharged with efficiency and entire satisfaction to our government. His residence abroad was also of great advantage to him in becoming familiar with the workings of foreign diplomacy, and in seeing many places of interest in European history and art. He was accompanied abroad by his wife and three children, and they all learned to write and speak fluently the German language. On the expiration of his term as consul at Hamburg, in 1885, Mr. Bailey returned home, and has since devoted his attention exclusively to the practice of his profession, while at the same time he has taken a lively interest in the affairs of the Republican party, especially in Albany County.

On the 28th of August, 1889, President Harrison appointed Mr. Bailey surveyor of customs in Albany, to succeed Addison D. Cole, on the duties of which office he immediately entered, with ripe judgment, large experience in the science of government, and enlarged knowledge of human nature, and with a mental capacity of filling the requirements of his new post of duty in an able, conscientious and acceptable manner.


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