Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Richard Parks Bland

BLAND, Richard Parks, a Representative from Missouri; born near Hartford, Ohio County, Ky., August 19, 1835. The Blands were among the early families to emigrate from Virginia with Daniel Boone into the Kentucky wilderness. Despite the family pedigree and wealth in Virginia, Richard and his three siblings were raised in relative poverty on his parents small farm. In 1842, when Richard Bland was seven years old, the situation was exacerbated by the unexpected death of his father. His mother's death followed in 1849, leaving the young teenager an orphan and forcing Bland to hire himself out as a farm laborer to survive.     Despite growing up poor, he was able to attend Hartford College and graduate with a teacher's certificate. Bland then taught school in his hometown for two years before moving to Wayne County, Missouri at age 20, in 1855, thence to California, and later to that portion of Utah which is now the State of Nevada; taught school for several years; studied law; was admitted to the bar and commenced practice in Virginia City; also interested in mining; treasurer of Carson County from 1860 until the organization of the State government of Nevada; returned to Missouri in 1865 and continued the practice of law in Rolla; moved to Lebanon, Laclede County, in August 1869; elected as a Democrat to the Forty-third and to the ten succeeding Congresses (March 4, 1873-March 3, 1895); chairman, Committee on Mines and Mining (Forty-fourth Congress), Committee on Coinage, Weights, and Measures (Forty-eighth through Fiftieth Congresses and Fifty-second and Fifty-third Congresses); sponsor of the Bland-Allison silver purchase act of 1878; unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1894 to the Fifty-fourth Congress; elected to the Fifty-fifth and Fifty-sixth Congresses and served from March 4, 1897, until his death.

Richard Parks Bland was one of four children: Mary Sarah Bland 1815-1853; Richard Parks; Charles C. Bland 1837-? (a judge in Missouri); and Elizabeth Jane Bland  1837-1917. Looks like all four moved from Ohio County to Missouri and/or Illinois.

Richard Bland was a strong, if reluctant, candidate for United States President in 1896. He is quoted as saying "I have no desire in this direction. I have no ambition for this nomination and I am afraid my friends, thrusting my personality into this contest may confuse the greater question.". That question of course, like most tied to Bland, was currency and bimetalism. Rather than travel to the Democratic Convention in Chicago, Illinois Bland chose to remain on his 160-acre farm near Lebanon, Missouri as the political drama played out. At first the convention balloting seemed to be going Bland's way. He beat William Jennings Bryan 236 to 137 on the first ballot, 281 to 197 on the second, and 291 to 219 on the third. However, none were of the two-thirds margin to secure the nomination outright. By this time, the full impact of Bryan's Cross of Gold Speech began to be felt and understood by the delegates. Bryan took the lead on the fourth ballot 280-241. Bland, not wishing to risk a split party, sent a telegram to his supporters in Chicago throwing his support behind Bryan saying "Put the cause above the man." With that, the fifth ballot was a mere formality, with Bryan claiming a 652 to 11 victory. There still existed the possibility of Bland on the ticket as candidate for Vice-President. He trailed considerably behind on the first ballot, but gained steam to win the second and third balloting, although again by not enough margin to earn the nomination. Bland at this time, never enthralled with the idea in the first place, declined his name being considered in any further balloting, paving the way for Arthur Sewall to become Bryan's ticketmate.

Richard P. Bland died at his home in Lebanon, Missouri on June 15, 1899. He had been in failing health for some years, and in the spring of 1899 returned to Lebanon from Washington, D.C. to recover from a severe throat infection, but his condition only worsened. He is buried in the Calvary Catholic Cemetery in Lebanon, Missouri. A crowd of several thousand flocked to the small Missouri Ozarks town to attend Bland's funeral.

Richard Parks Bland

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