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Thomas Holliday Hicks (September 2, 1798 – February 14, 1865) was an American politician from Maryland. He served as the 31st Governor of Maryland from 1858 until 1862, and as a U.S. Senator from Maryland from 1862 until his death in 1865.

Early career[]

Born in 1798 near East New Market, Maryland, Hicks began his political career as a Democrat when he was elected town constable and then, in 1824, elected Sheriff of Dorchester County. Later, he switched to the Whig Party and was elected to the House of Delegates in 1830 and re-elected in 1836.

In 1837, the legislature elected him a member of the Governor's Council, the last to be chosen before that body was abolished. In 1838, he was appointed Register of Wills for Dorchester County. He stayed in that job until his election as Governor.

Governor of Maryland[]

In 1857, Hicks switched to the Native American Party, more commonly known as the Know-Nothing Party. As such, in 1858, he ran for Governor and defeated Democrat John C. Groome by 8,700 votes. The election, however, was notable for fraud, open intimidation of voters, and unprecedented violence. Hicks was one of the oldest men to become Governor.

In his gubernatorial inaugural address, Hicks railed on the numbers of foreign immigrants coming to America and warned that they would "change the national character". He opposed abolitionists. He supported slave-owners, stating, "The attacks of fanatical and misguided persons against property in slaves" and went on that the property owners had a right under the "Constitution to recover their property." Hicks belatedly supported the Union of the states and sought to prevent Maryland from seceding and joining the Confederacy. This would have isolated Washington, D.C. in confederate territory.

Hicks reflected the divisions in his state. In Hicks' writings about the South and its secession, he referred to it as "we." He wrote that "they", the North (and Abraham Lincoln), were wrong in "refus[ing] to observe the plain requirements of the Constitution" to permit new states to join the Union as slave states.

After the bloodshed in Baltimore involving the Massachusetts troops that were fired on in marching between railroad stations on April 19, 1861, Baltimore Mayor George William Brown, Marshal George P. Kane, and former Governor Enoch Louis Lowe requested that Hicks burn the railroad bridges leading to Baltimore to prevent further troops from entering the state. Hicks reportedly approved this proposal. These actions were addressed in Ex parte Merryman, the famous case of Maryland militia Captain John Merryman who was arrested by Union forces.

After initially denying that he had authorized such actions, he backtracked and voiced his support for the Union. But his writing to Lincoln on April 22, 1861 informed the new President that "I feel it my duty most respectfully to advise you that no more troops be ordered or allowed to pass through Maryland." He requested that Lincoln obtain a truce with the South and offered to mediate. He stated that Maryland's position as a border state was to remain neutral.

Subsequently, many prominent men lobbied Hicks to call the General Assembly into special session, purportedly for the mixed reason of opposing secession and opposing the Northern attitude towards the South. Initially called into session in Annapolis, Hicks changed it to Frederick. Annapolis was a Southern Democratic town, and secessionist, and Frederick was Unionist. Additionally, many legislators and Southern sympathizers were arrested by Lincoln. The legislature convened in Frederick unanimously adopted a measure stating that they would not commit the state to secession, "even though we have the constitutional authority to take such action."

Throughout the rest of the war, Maryland remained in the Union camp although history records it as virtually a conquered province. Much of that could be attributed to Hicks' role in refusing to lend support to the secessionists.

Late career and death[]

In December 1862, his successor as Governor, Augustus W. Bradford (D), appointed him to the U.S. Senate from Maryland following the death of his predecessor, James A. Pearce (D). Although ill, he campaigned for reelection, endorsing Lincoln's reelection in 1864. He died at the Metropolitan Hotel in Washington, D.C. on February 13, 1865. Abraham Lincoln attended his funeral in the U.S. Senate Chamber.

He was originally buried at his family farm in Dorchester County. He was later disinterred and moved to Cambridge Cemetery. The state erected a monument over his grave in 1868.

See also[]

  • Maryland in the American Civil War


  • White, Frank, The Governors of Maryland, 1777/1970, The Hall of Records of Maryland, 1970.
  • Baker, Jean H., Ambivalent Americans: The Know-Nothing Party in Maryland (1977). Describes Hicks's American Party.
  • Melton, Tracy Matthew, Hanging Henry Gambrill: The Violent Career of Baltimore's Plug Uglies from 1854 to 1860 (2005). Includes discussion of Hicks's election and his relationship to American Party politicians in Baltimore. Also describes his opinions on the question of pardoning several men, including Henry Gambrill, who were under a sentence of death by hanging.

External links[]

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Thomas Watkins Ligon |width="40%" style="text-align: center;" rowspan="1"|Governor of Maryland
1858 – 1862 |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="1"| Succeeded by
Augustus Bradford |- |- ! colspan="3" style="background: #cccccc" | United States Senate Template:U.S. Senator box |}

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