Joseph Benson Foraker

Senator Joseph B. Foraker.jpgJoseph Benson Foraker (July 5, 1846 – May 10, 1917) was an American Republican politician, who served as the 37th governor of Ohio from 1886 to 1890 and a United States senator from 1897 until 1909.

Foraker was born in rural Ohio in 1846, and enlisted at age 16 in the Union Army during the American Civil War. He fought for almost three years, attaining the rank of captain. After the war, he was a member of Cornell University‘s first graduating class, and became a lawyer. Interesting himself in politics, he was elected a judge in 1879 and became well known as a political speaker. He was defeated in his first run for governor in 1883, but was elected two years later. As governor, he built an alliance with Cleveland industrialist Mark Hanna, but fell out with him in 1888. Foraker was defeated for re-election in 1889, but was elected United States senator by the Ohio General Assembly in 1896, after an unsuccessful bid for that office in 1892.

In the Senate, he supported the Spanish–American War and the annexation of the Philippines and Puerto Rico; the Foraker Act gave Puerto Rico its first civil government under American rule. He came to differ with President Theodore Roosevelt over railroad regulation and political patronage. Their largest disagreement was over the Brownsville Affair, in which black soldiers were accused of terrorizing a Texas town, and Roosevelt dismissed the entire battalion.  Foraker zealously opposed Roosevelt’s actions as unfair, and fought for the soldiers’ reinstatement. The two men’s disagreement broke out into an angry confrontation at the 1907 Gridiron Dinner, after which Roosevelt worked to defeat Foraker’s re-election bid.  Foraker died in 1917; in 1972, the Army reversed the dismissals and cleared the soldiers.

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