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AMONG those who have graced the annals of our state in the wide, active and interesting fields of political service is the present efficient comptroller, Hon. Edward Wemple. He comes from an ancestry noted for their sturdy-characteristics, their devotion to principle, and their love of liberty. Away back in the history of Holland his forefathers lived and labored for the best interests of their country and humanity. But their enterprise was not confined to their own land. They sought other and wider regions for the advancement of the cause of civilization and human progress. Large numbers of them sought out this goodly land of ours, where they found ample room to develop material resources, where they went to work with strong hands and brave hearts to subdue the vast, old forests, to establish comfortable homes and to aid in the erection of a citadel of freedom as enduring as the everlasting hills. Nowhere is this more manifest in the rural portions of our country than in the Mohawk valley – the civilization, wealth and resources of which has been the result of their early, honest, manly efforts. And it may be remarked that the old Hollanders were the first to establish free schools in our land, and to introduce the noble sentiment that all men are born with free and equal rights. By reference to the genealogical records of the Wemples, it can be thus plainly seen that from the earliest periods in the settlement of this region of country, they have been identified with the interests of the Empire state, and have always been familiar with its wants, its resources and its people in every condition.
In the year 17 [2 a Johannes Wemple, an ancestor of the comptroller, was one of the company to whom Queen Anne granted the Caughnawaga patent, which included grants of lands in the Mohawk valley. Other Wemples came from their old homes in Holland and settled in this new region. Inspired with the principles of civil and religious liberty they built school-houses and planted churches here, and caused the waste and desolate places to bloom like a garden all along the now rich valley of the Mohawk. More than a century ago a Mr. Wemple was one of the founders of the old Dutch church at Fonda, which stood among the earliest landmarks of religious devotion in this country. This ancient church was taken down a few years ago.
The Wemples were noted for their patriotism here. During the old French and English wars they bravely defended their homes against the invaders, and when the storm of the revolution broke with all its violence over our shores they heartily espoused the cause of the struggling colonists. And no one rejoiced more truly than did the Wemples of those revolutionary days, who were living in the Mohawk valley, when they at length saw the sunshine of liberty gleaming through clouds and darkness, and the star spangled banner of Washington and Adams and Jefferson unfurled over this new and rising republic.
On the 23d of October, 1843, Edward Wemple, the subject of our memoir, first saw the light of day, in the old family mansion at Fultonville, N. Y. At the common school of his native village he was taught the rudiments of his earliest education, and was afterward a student of the Ashland academy in Greene County, and of the Schenectady Union School, where he was prepared for a collegiate course. He learned readily and was a diligent student; hence he was ready for college at an earlier age than most other boys. Entering Union college, then in a flourishing condition, he was graduated there in 1866, at the age of twenty- three. He was not long in deciding upon the choice of a profession, for during his college course the study of political and legal science seems to have possessed special charms for him. On leaving college he entered on the study of the law in the office of W. L. Van Denberg.
Mr. Wemple’s father was at that time largely engaged in the foundry business at Fultonville, and needed the assistance of an active, educated young man to assist him in carrying on the management of the concern, and so he persuaded his son Edward to relinquish his legal studies and enter into partnership with him. It just suited the active temperament of our young law student, and was an agreeable change from the close sedentary habits of professional life. He soon acquired a thorough, practical knowledge of the foundry business, and on the death of his father in 1869 he continued it with increasing success down to the present. At the same time he was diligently employing his leisure moments in the study of political and state affairs, in which he was to become so prominent, exhibiting those qualifications which belong to the right man in the right place.
Mr. Wemple entered political life as an ardent young advocate of the principles of the democratic party, to which he has always adhered with an uncompromising spirit. He had scarcely reached the age of thirty before he was chosen president of the village of Fultonville, in 1873, and from that period we may date the beginning of his useful, active and honorable career as a popular political leader. He next filled the office of supervisor of his native town, in the prosperity of which he has always taken a lively interest. This position he held during the years of 1874, ’75 and ’76. In 1876 he was elected as a democrat, to the legislature, over David W. Shurter (rep.) and N. T. De Graff (pro.) and served acceptably on the committees of railroads, villages, and the library. He was re-elected to the legislature in 1877. Increasing in popularity, his party nominated him four years after the close of his legislative term in 1882, for member of congress from the Twentieth district, and though the district was a strong republican one he was triumphantly elected over Hon. George West, of Ballston, the republican candidate.
His congressional record formed a bright page in his history, and demonstrated his capacity as a practical man, whose highest aim is not to serve party alone, but the country at large. He served with credit on the committee of public buildings and grounds, and also on that of railroads and canals. He advocated the measures for securing better mail facilities, and took a leading part in the welfare of the veterans of the Union army, pushing forward a prompt settlement of their just claims. He also presented the measure of giving the president the power to veto separate objectionable items in appropriation bills, without killing the whole bill. The justice of this congressional act must be apparent to all classes, irrespective of party. But one of the grandest measures for which Mr. Wemple contended till it was successfully accomplished, was the securing of an appropriation to erect a noble monument at Schuylerville to commemorate the glorious and decisive victory over the British on the ever-memorable field of Saratoga. All patriotic citizens will ever join in honoring him for his works and labors of love in a cause so worthy and just. He never relaxed his efforts in the support of so grand and patriotic a measure; and all through his congressional labors in this line, in his eagerness to see a magnificent shaft rise high in” massive solidity and unadorned grandeur,” he seems to have been inspired with the noble sentiment of Daniel Webster in his speech on the laying of the cornerstone of the Bunker Hill monument: ” Let it rise! Let it rise till it meet the sun in his coming; let the earliest light of the morning gild it, and parting day linger and play on its summit.”
Mr. Wemple has always been a strong friend to the Erie canal, and while in congress he earnestly contended that the federal government should do its duty and provide for the maintenance and repair of the main structures of the free’ artificial waterways of this state, which form an indispensable link in the chain of navigation from the great west to tide water, just as it provides for the maintenance and repair of far less important free natural waterways in all sections of the country; and that without affecting in the least the jurisdiction of the state. This measure seems to be eminently just and proper, while it recognizes and honors the importance of the canal system as an indispensable factor in the great commercial interests of our state.
Retiring from his congressional life with well-earned laurels, Mr. Wemple sought the quietude of his beautiful home at Fultonville, among the friends of his youthful days, and in the enjoyment of domestic scenes. But he was not long to remain in the walks of private life. In 1883 he was elected to the state senate from the Eighteenth district, composed of the counties of Saratoga, Fulton, Hamilton, Montgomery and Schenectady. His opponent was the Hon. Austin A. Yates, and the contest was carried on with great determination on both sides. Mr. Wemple won by a majority of thirty, and it was a striking instance of his remarkable popularity among his friends and neighbors that he should thus succeed in so strong a republican district, and with so powerful an adversary as Judge Yates. As a state senator Mr. Wemple added additional lustre to his already well-established reputation as an able, upright and patriotic citizen. He took an active part in the leading measures which came before that body, and while he always endeavored to sustain the honor of his party, he at the same time sought to advance the highest interests of the commonwealth.
In the fall of 1887 Mr. Wemple was nominated for state comptroller, and after a spirited contest was elected by a plurality of 15,374 over Jesse L’Amoreaux of Ballston, the republican nominee, receiving the highest vote of any candidate on the state ticket. Entering upon the duties of his new and highly- responsible position on the 1st of January, 1888, he has conducted its affairs with discretion and ability, faithfully watching over the large interests of the Empire state which are committed to him. He appointed Judge Z. S. Westbrook, of Amsterdam, his deputy, and the office work goes on with the utmost regularity and promptness. On the 1st of October, 1889, Mr. Wemple was unanimously renominated for comptroller, and after a hard-fought campaign, he was elected by a plurality of 11,190 over Martin W. Cooke. And it may be truly said, in the face of all partisan opposition, that he has been one of the most capable, far-seeing and popular comptrollers the state of New York ever had.
The grand secret of Mr. Wemple’s success as a politician lies in his general intelligence, his fine executive abilities, and his strict integrity as a public officer. He is regarded by his party as a man true to his political principles, strong in his convictions of duty, a champion in his chosen field, an able exponent of the old Jeffersonian doctrines. As a man he is plain in his manners, affable and easily approachable, a genial companion, and highly popular with those who know him best. He has already made a record of which any American may well be proud; and now in the very prime of life he may look forward to the possibilities of the future with no dimmed prospects – with no misgiving heart, with no faltering hands.