Biography of Charles Tracey
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A REPRESENTATIVE Albanian whose sterling qualities of the head and heart have brought him into popular favor, and who has already been honored by the bestowal of responsible political positions, is the Hon. Charles Tracey, our present congressman from this district. He is descended from a long and influential line of Irish ancestry. Born at No. 757 Broadway, Albany, on the 27th of May, 1847, he has thus passed his forty-third year, and is in the vigor of manhood, possessing the capabilities of performing efficiently the active and onerous duties of life. In 1838 his father, John Tracey, removed to this country from Canada, in consequence of the native rebellion then existing in that country. He lived in Albany till his death on the 12th of July, 1875. He was a man of high character, having served as a trustee in many local organizations, both financial and charitable; was once a candidate for state senator; was a most respected and excellent citizen, and his departure was deeply and widely regretted by his fellow-citizens. His wife, Maria Tracey, survived him five years, dying in 1880. The benevolent and charitable disposition of Mr. and Mrs. John Tracey will long be remembered by the citizens of Albany.
Charles Tracey, the subject of our present sketch, was sent to school very early in life, and became an apt and diligent pupil. He was educated principally at the Albany Boys’ academy, from which he graduated in 1866. While a student there he became greatly interested in elementary military tactics, and was elected major of the battalion of cadets. And it may here be said that his taste and love for military science have never left him. On leaving the Albany academy in 1866, he went abroad, on an extensive tour through the Holy land, Egypt, and various parts of Europe, visiting many places celebrated in civil and military history, and looking upon the treasures of art abounding in the old world. While in Europe at that time, young Tracey entered the Pontifical Zouaves, and served two years in that organization, returning home in 1869. The next year he crossed the Atlantic, went to Rome, and fought there during the siege of the city. He was captured and retained as a prisoner for some time. On his release he returned to the United States, and for some time took up a business residence in the city of New York, where he organized the Catholic Union, which in a short time had a membership of over one hundred thousand, and became its first secretary. He next returned to Albany, where he has ever since resided. After his return from Europe, Pope Pius the Ninth conferred upon him, in recognition of his military services, the order of St. Gregory the Great, with the rank and title of chevalier. At length General Tracey was urged by many of his personal and political friends to enter the field of politics. He was always a democrat of unwavering principles, and at first held several entirely honorary offices in his chosen party. He served as aide-de camp with the rank of colonel on the staff of Governor Tilden, and as a commissary-general of subsistence under Governor Robinson. His high personal qualities, his eminent fitness for filling responsible positions, his well-known executive abilities, and his ardent devotion to the Democratic Party through its entire vicissitudes made him a most available candidate for office. And at the democratic congressional convention in the fall of 1887, he was nominated for representative in congress from this district to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Congressman Kane. He was elected by the large majority of 1,659 over Hon. John M. Bailey, the popular republican candidate. There was also a labor candidate in the field.
Gen. Tracey entered upon his congressional work with clean hands and a heart willing to labor for the best interests of his constituents. While he served on various committees and was active in pushing forward different measures in congress, his greatest effort there, and one that will always be remembered with gratitude by many of the citizens of Albany county, was the part which he took in the establishment of the Watervliet arsenal. He took up the work which had been laid out for Mr. Kane, and with a little assistance from others carried it on with a brave, courageous spirit amidst the storm and sunshine which alternately came over the project until its complete realization. In June, 1888, he made a speech in congress in support of a liberal appropriation for ” the continuance of the manufacture of large cannon at Watervliet.” It was an earnest and strong effort and increased his reputation as a graceful and skillful debater.
Early in September of the same year the appropriation for the Watervliet gun factory passed the senate and the House of Representatives and was soon after approved by President Cleveland. This grand result for Albany County was mainly due to the perseverance, industry and influence of Gen. Tracey, who has thus been enabled to secure a great industrial interest for the county, besides having made many friends for himself, especially in Watervliet and its vicinity.
On the 22d of September, 188S, Gen. Tracey was re-nominated for representative in congress by the democratic convention which met at the city hall. On the occasion of his re-nomination the Albany Morning Express (rep.) very generously remarked: “Gen. Tracey is young, energetic, intelligent, with plenty of leisure for his public duties, and the tastes which lead him to enjoy their punctilious discharge.”
Gen. Tracey was elected over his political opponent, Moses V. Dodge of this city, by a majority of 2,306.
On entering upon the duties of his last congressional term Gen. Tracey renewed with vigor his faithful efforts for still more generous provisions for the Watervliet arsenal, and in the advocacy of other measures of great benefit to the public. He was the originator of the project to deepen the channel of the Hudson river so as to permit the passage of sea-going vessels as far as to the cities of Albany and Troy – a project which, if carried out, will be of incalculable benefit to those cities and the neighboring country. Among the numerous public bills introduced by him, which have since become laws, are these: To change the designs on United States coins; To make Albany, N. Y., a port of immediate transportation; For relief of the state of New York, to refund $42,000 duties paid on arms in 1863; For relief of enlisted men in ordnance corps, allowing them to collect bounties; To enforce the eight-hour law on government premises, etc.
Gen. Tracey’s congressional work was so highly applauded by his constituents that in the fall of 1890 he was unanimously re-nominated for congress, and elected over Mr. A. McD. Shoemaker, the republican nominee, by the magnificent majority of 5,078.
Among other honorable positions which Gen. Tracey has held are those of trustee of the house of refuge at Hudson, to which he was appointed by Gov. Cleveland and reappointed by Gov, Hill; principal manager of St. Peter’s hospital since 1882; trustee of St. Agnes’ cemetery and of the Albany Savings bank, and director of the National Commercial bank of Albany.
Among young men, especially, Gen. Tracey is deservedly popular, for he has always been their trusted friend and kind adviser, giving needed assistance and encouragement to many of such as were struggling to get along well in the world and succeed in some worthy calling.
As a speaker he is earnest in style and forcible in delivery. He has the happy faculty of expressing his views in clear, concise and direct language, without the waste of words. He is a great organizer of measures and strong in pressing them forward to a successful issue. He has made speeches in congress on the tariff and labor questions, and as a thorough business man himself, believes in the prosperity and success of all business and laboring men.
In 1883, General Tracey married Hermine Duchesney, an accomplished and highly educated young lady, daughter of Colonel Duchesney, of Montreal. They have a family of three children, whose young voices enliven and cheer many a passing hour.
Gen. Tracey is quiet and unassuming in his manners, sunny in his disposition, firm in his opinion of what he believes to be right, and honorable in his discharge of public and private duties. He is therefore well qualified to be a leader and adviser among men having charge of political affairs. And among the democrats of Albany County he is now regarded as their true and courageous standard bearer.