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Roscoe Conkling (October 30, 1829 – April 18, 1888) was an American lawyer and Republican politician who represented New York in the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate.

He is remembered today as the leader of the Republican Stalwart faction and a dominant figure in the United States Senate during the 1870s. As Senator, his control of patronage at the New York Customs House, one of the busiest commercial ports in the world, made him incredibly powerful. His comity with President Ulysses S. Grant and conflict with Presidents Rutherford B. Hayes and James A. Garfield were defining features of American politics of the 1870s and 1880s.[1] He also participated, as a member of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction, in the drafting of the landmark Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Conkling publicly led opposition to civil service reform, which he deemed "snivel service reform,"[2] and defended the prerogatives of Senators in doling out appointed posts, a lucrative and often corrupt practice. His conflict with President Garfield over appointments eventually led to Conkling's resignation in 1881. He ran for re-election to his seat in an attempt to display his support from the New York political machine and his power, but lost the special election, during which Garfield was assassinated. Though Conkling never returned to elected office, the assassination elevated Chester A. Arthur, a former New York Collector and Conkling ally, to the presidency. Their relationship was destroyed when Arthur pursued civil service reform, out of his sense of duty to the late President Garfield. Conkling remained active in politics and practiced law in New York City until his death in 1888.[3]

Conkling turned down two presidential appointments to the United States Supreme Court: first to the position of Chief Justice in 1873[1] and then as an associate justice in 1882. In 1882, Conkling was confirmed by the Senate but declined to serve, the last person (as of 2023) to have done so.[3]

Conkling, who was temperate and detested tobacco, was known for his physical condition, maintained through regular exercise and boxing,[1] an unusual devotion for his time.

Brady CC Honorable Roscoe Conkling

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