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Dictionary of Wisconsin History

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Search Results for: Keyword: 'granger'

Term: Taylor, William Robert 1820 - 1909

Definition:

farmer, politician, governor, b. Woodbury, Conn. He attended Champion Academy in N.Y. and in 1840 moved to Ohio, where he taught for a few years, attended medical school, and served briefly as an officer in the state militia. In 1848 he moved to Wisconsin, settling in Cottage Grove where he farmed and held local political offices. A Democrat, Taylor was state assemblyman (1855) and state senator (1859-1860). In the gubernatorial election of 1873, Taylor, utilizing his membership in the state Grange as well as railroad and liquor support, and aided by his able campaign manager, George H. Paul (q.v.), was elected governor on the Democratic-Liberal-Reform ticket (Granger-Democrat). During his administration (Jan. 1874 to Jan. 1876) Taylor advocated moderate railroad rate regulation and also recommended passage of a law making railroads responsible for injuries to their employees. However, the outstanding issue of Taylor's administration was the Potter Act of 1874 which fixed maximum freight and passenger rates and provided for the establishment of a regulatory railroad commission. Although Taylor did not favor such an extreme program, both he and his chief railroad commissioner, George Paul, were forced to uphold the Potter law when it was deliberately challenged and disregarded by railroad interests under the leadership of Alexander Mitchell (q.v.). In a desperate attempt to retain the Granger-farmer support which had elected him to office, Taylor appointed E. G. Ryan (q.v.) to the state supreme court bench and Ryan ruled in favor of the constitutionality of the Potter Act. Nevertheless, both Taylor and Paul felt it necessary to work out a compromise with Mitchell, and in 1875 the Democrat-Granger-Reform coalition fell apart and Republican Harrison Ludington (q.v.) was elected to the governorship. After leaving office, Taylor was for a time involved in a series of legislative investigations which charged him with misuse of public funds. In his later years he lost heavily in grain speculation, and in 1905 he was forced to seek shelter in the Gisholt Home for the Aged where he died in relative obscurity. W. F. Raney, Wis. (New York, 1940); A. J. Beitzinger, E. G. Ryan . . . (Madison, 1960); Wis. Mag. Hist., 14, 15, 33; Wis. Legis. Manual (1875); Wis. Blue Book (1935); W. R. Taylor Papers.

View a related article at Wisconsin Magazine of History Archives.

[Source: Blue book]
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