Nelson Aldrich

Nelson Aldrich

Nelson Aldrich was born in Foster, Rhode Island, on 6th November, 1841. After studying at the Academy of East Greenwich he entered the grocery business.

During the American Civil War Aldrich served as a private in the Rhode Island National Guard (1862-65). A member of the Republican Party, Aldrich was elected to the city council in 1869, serving as its president in 1872-73.

Aldrich was elected to the 46th Congress and served from March, 1879 to October, 1881, when he resigned to become a Senator. Over the next thirty years Aldrich was chairman of various committees including the Committee on Transportation Routes to the Seaboard, Committee on Rules and Committee on Finance.

In 1906 David Graham Phillips wrote a series of articles published in Cosmopolitan claiming that politicians were receiving huge payments from large corporation to argue their case in the Senate. Phillips claimed that the main figures in this scandal was Aldrich and Arthur P. Gorman of Maryland.

David Graham Phillips was murdered on 23rd January, 1911. Two months later Aldrich resigned from Congress. Nelson Aldrich died in New York City on 16th April, 1915, and is buried in Swan Point Cemetery, Providence, Rhode Island.

Primary Sources

(1) David Graham Phillips, Cosmopolitan (March, 1906)

He was born in 1841, is only sixty-four years old, good for another fifteen years, at least, in his present rugged health, before "the interests" will have to select another for his sate seat and treacherous task. He began as a grocery boy, got the beginning of one kind of education in the public schools and in an academy at East Greenwich, Rhode Island. He became clerk in a fish store in Providence, then clerk in a grocery, then bookkeeper, partner, and is still a wholesale grocer. He was elected to the legislature, applied himself so diligently to the work of getting his real education that he soon won the confidence of the boss, then Senator Anthony, and was sent to Congress, where he was Anthony's successor as boss and chief agent of the Rhode Island interests. He entered the United States Senate in 1881.

In 1901 his daughter married the only son and destined successor of John D. Rockefeller. Thus, the chief exploiter of the American people is closely allied by marriage with the chief schemer in the service of their exploiters. This fact no American should ever lose sight of. It is a political fact; it is an economic fact. It places the final and strongest seal upon the bonds uniting Aldrich and "the interests".

Has Aldrich intellect? Perhaps. But he does not show it. He has never in his twenty-five years of service in the Senate introduced or advocated a measure that shows any conception of life above what might be expected in a Hungry Joe. No, intellect is not the characteristic of Aldrich - or of any of these traitors, or of the men they serve. A scurvy lot they are, are they not, with their smirking and cringing and voluble palaver about God and patriotism and their eager offerings of endowments for hospitals and colleges whenever the American people so much as looks hard in their direction!

Aldrich is rich and powerful. Treachery has brought him wealth and rank, if not honor, of a certain sort. He must laugh at us, grown-up fools, permitting a handful to bind the might of our eighty millions and to set us all to work for them.

(2) In his book, The Era of the Muckrakers, C. C. Regier wrote about Phillips's articles that appeared in Cosmopolitan (1932)

Senator Nelson W. Aldrich of Rhode Island, who was singled out for special attack because of his connection with the Rockefellers and because of his tariff legislation, which, it was charged, favoured the oil and tobacco trusts. Aldrich, a Republican, was called the right arm of the interests, and Senator A. P. Gorman of Maryland, a Democrat, was called the left arm. Phillips, referring to this interest in business affairs which Democrats and Republicans alike displayed, spoke of the Senate "merger".