Michael Hahn
Michael Hahn.jpg
19th Governor of Louisiana
In office
March 4, 1864 – March 4, 1865
LieutenantJames M. Wells
Preceded byHenry Watkins Allen (Confederate Governor)
George F. Shepley
Succeeded byJames M. Wells
Member of the U. S. House of Representatives from Louisiana's 2nd congressional district
In office
December 3, 1862 – March 4, 1863
Preceded byMiles Taylor
Succeeded byJames Mann
Member of the U. S. House of Representatives from Louisiana's 2nd congressional district
In office
March 4, 1885 – March 15, 1886
Preceded byEzekiel John Ellis
Succeeded byNathaniel Dick Wallace
Member of the Louisiana House of Representatives
In office
Personal details
Born(1830-11-24)November 24, 1830
Klingenmünster, Palatinate, Kingdom of Bavaria (now Rhineland-Palatinate)
DiedMarch 15, 1886(1886-03-15) (aged 55)
Washington, DC
Political partyUnionist, until 1863 Republican
Alma materTulane University

George Michael Decker Hahn (November 24, 1830 – March 15, 1886), was an attorney, politician, publisher and planter in New Orleans, Louisiana. He served twice in Congress during two widely separated periods, elected first as a Unionist Democratic Congressman in 1862, as a Republican to the U.S. Senate in 1865, and later as a Republican to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1884. He was elected as the 19th Governor of Louisiana, serving from 1864 to 1865 during the American Civil War, when the state was occupied by Union troops. He was the first German-born governor in the United States,[1] and is also claimed as the first ethnic Jewish governor.[2] By that time he was a practicing Episcopalian.[3]

In 1865 Hahn was elected to the U.S. Senate, but Radical Republicans refused to allow him and other Southerners to be seated. Later he was elected for several terms as a Republican to the state House during the Reconstruction era, where he was also elected as Speaker. Hahn was active as a publisher and editor, owning and operating three newspapers in succession that supported the Republican Party, its program, and its candidates in the state. He spent much of his wealth in supporting these papers. Hahn continued to be politically active, being elected to Congress from Louisiana's 2nd congressional district in 1884 with a strong majority. He served about a year before his death in office.

Early life and education

Hahn was born in 1830 as the last child in his family, in Klingenmünster, Palatinate, then part of the Kingdom of Bavaria, now of Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. His father died before he was born.[4][5] Some sources indicate that Hahn's parents were Jewish.[2][6]

With his widowed mother and four older siblings, Hahn immigrated as a child to the United States, arriving in New York City. The family traveled to the Republic of Texas, before settling in New Orleans in 1840. The following year, Hahn's mother died of yellow fever and the children were orphaned.[4] With the help of his older siblings, Hahn continued his education and graduated from City High School. In 1849 at the age of 19, he began reading law under Christian Roselius, a prominent Whig attorney and later Attorney General of Louisiana.[4] In 1851, Hahn graduated from the University of Louisiana (Tulane University) with a law degree. He worked in Roselius' office after getting his degree.[7]

Political career

The following year Hahn was elected to the New Orleans city school board at the age of 22; he ran the school system as its director. He joined the Democratic party faction led by Pierre Soulé. In the Presidential Election of 1860, Hahn supported Stephen Douglas.[4] He was fluent in English, French and German.

In 1860 Hahn opposed secession, delivering a pro-Union speech in Lafayette Square. He avoided taking an oath of allegiance to the Confederacy. Opposed to secession and a supporter of the Union, Hahn was elected in 1862 as a Republican and the U.S. representative from Louisiana's 2nd congressional district. This incorporated most of New Orleans, which had been occupied by Union forces.

Hahn was one of two Louisiana Representatives seated in the 37th Congress, which adjourned on March 4, 1863, during the Civil War.[4] Eventually, Hahn advised that there should be no more representation from Louisiana until it was "reconstructed." During his time in Washington, Hahn met and befriended President Abraham Lincoln.[8]

Term as governor

In March 1864 Colonel's Short Villa briefly served as the executive mansion of the newly elected Federal Governor of Louisiana, Michael Hahn.
In March 1864 Colonel's Short Villa briefly served as the executive mansion of the newly elected Federal Governor of Louisiana, Michael Hahn.

In 1864, with almost all of Louisiana under federal occupation, General Nathaniel P. Banks, the Union Military Commander of the Department of the Gulf (responsible, among other things, for civil order in occupied Louisiana), called state elections and convened a constitutional convention. Benjamin Franklin Flanders and Thomas Jefferson Durant, prominent Unionists, opposed the moderate plan called for by General Banks. Hahn purchased a pro-slavery newspaper, the New Orleans True Delta, and used it to promote moderate Unionism supporting Banks' plan, including emancipation of slaves.[8] Hahn ran for Governor for the Free-State Party and won the election with 54% or 11,411 votes. J. Q. A. Fellows, a conservative Democrat, received 26% or 2,996 votes; and Benjamin Franklin Flanders, the radical Republican, received 20% or 2,232 votes.

Hahn was elected as the first German-born governor of an American state.[1] He is also claimed as the first ethnic Jewish governor in the United States;[2] by then he was worshipping as an Episcopalian.[3]

Hahn's inauguration in Lafayette Square, New Orleans, featured a huge brass band led by Patrick Gilmore.
Hahn's inauguration in Lafayette Square, New Orleans, featured a huge brass band led by Patrick Gilmore.

On March 4, 1864, Hahn was inaugurated as Governor of Union-held Louisiana in an elaborate ceremony paid for by General Banks.[9] As governor, Hahn supported universal education.[10]

In his term, Hahn tried to gain suffrage for freedmen and previously free people of color, but it was too early. He approved the state's ratification of the 15th Amendment. Hahn's administration made serious attempts to ensure enfranchisement of black Louisianans, laid the foundation for a public school system for blacks, and began an aborted Reconstruction in Louisiana. Governor Hahn played a leading role in the state constitutional convention of 1864, but he was opposed by Major General Stephen A. Hurlbut, who replaced Banks as commander of the Department of the Gulf. General Hurlburt refused to recognize the state civil government of Hahn.

Hahn resigned as governor in March 1865, and was elected by the state legislature to the U.S. Senate in 1865.[8] However, Radical Republicans did not seat him, as they believed the state had more work to do before being allowed to rejoin the Union.[11]

Lieutenant Governor James Madison Wells succeeded Hahn as governor after his resignation.[12]

Political editor and congressman

After President Lincoln was assassinated in April 1865, Congress refused to seat any Representatives or Senators from the South until a reconstruction plan could be carried out. Senator-elect Hahn returned to New Orleans and allied with radical Republicans calling for a convention to revise Louisiana's Constitution of 1864 to include black suffrage. He was shot and severely wounded on July 30, 1866, in the New Orleans Riot.[4]

In 1867 Hahn became editor and manager of the New Orleans Republican newspaper, his platform for opposing President Andrew Johnson's lenient Reconstruction program. In 1872 Hahn retired to a plantation in St. Charles Parish. There he established the village of Hahnville and published his third newspaper, the St. Charles Herald.[4] On his plantation, he grew sugar cane, the common commodity crop in the "sugar parishes" of this region.[13]

From 1871 to 1878 Hahn served in the Louisiana State Legislature. He was elected as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee and Speaker of the House. In 1878 he was appointed as Superintendent of the U.S. Mint in New Orleans, serving until January 1879. At that point, Hahn was appointed Judge of the 26th state judicial district, which included Saint John the Baptist, Saint Charles, and Jefferson parishes. During the 1880 elections, Hahn established and edited the New Orleans Ledger to promote Republican candidates.

Although Democrats had regained control of the state legislature, Hahn was personally admired for his integrity and consistency of position. In 1884 Hahn was elected to Congress as the Republican candidate from Louisiana's 2nd congressional district – a race which he won handily by 3,000 votes.[7] Serving as the only Republican Congressman from Louisiana, Hahn died on March 15, 1886, in his room at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C. He suffered a ruptured blood vessel near his heart.[4] His body was returned to New Orleans.

Hahn's funeral was conducted by an Episcopal priest, and he was buried in New Orleans' Metairie Cemetery.[14] He had never married and died poor. He had spent much of his previous wealth in trying to maintain the Republican-oriented newspapers he published.[15]


  1. ^ a b Merrill, Ellen C. (30 November 2014). Germans of Louisiana. Pelican Publishing. p. 71. ISBN 978-1-4556-0484-5.
  2. ^ a b c Fred Skolnik, Michael Berenbaum, ed. (2007). Encyclopedia Judaica. Granite Hill Publishers. p. 231. ISBN 9780028659367.
  3. ^ a b "Michael Hahn, 1864-1865". Louisiana Secretary of State.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Joseph G. Dawson (1 January 1990). "Michael Hahn". The Louisiana Governors: From Iberville to Edwards. Louisiana State University Press. pp. 148–152. ISBN 978-0-8071-1527-5.
  5. ^ Baron Ludwig von Reizenstein (10 June 2002). The Mysteries of New Orleans. JHU Press. p. 549. ISBN 978-0-8018-6882-5.
  6. ^ Stone, Kurt (2010). The Jews of Capitol Hill. Scarecrow Press. p. 23–24. ISBN 9780810877382.
  7. ^ a b "Hahn, George Michael Decker" Archived 2010-02-25 at the Wayback Machine, Dictionary of Louisiana Biography, Louisiana Historical Association, 2008, accessed 2 March 2016
  8. ^ a b c Walter Greaves Cowan; Jack B. McGuire (30 June 2010). Louisiana Governors: Rulers, Rascals, and Reformers. Univ. Press of Mississippi. pp. 90–92. ISBN 978-1-60473-320-4.
  9. ^ "The Inauguration Ceremonies". New York Times. 14 March 1864. Retrieved 13 January 2015.
    "The Election in Louisiana.; grand Ball at the Inauguration of Gov, Hahn, A Splendid and Interesting Affair". New York Times. New Orleans Times. 20 March 1864. Retrieved 13 January 2015.
  10. ^ Breaux, Peter J. (20 October 2006). William G. Brown and The Development of Education: A Retrospective On The Career Of A State Superintendent of Public (Doctor of Philosophy). Florida State University. Docket 3066. Retrieved 12 January 2015.
  11. ^ Spencer C. Tucker; Paul G. Pierpaoli Jr. (30 September 2013). "Hahn, Michael". American Civil War: The Definitive Encyclopedia and Document Collection [6 volumes]: The Definitive Encyclopedia and Document Collection. ABC-CLIO. p. 835. ISBN 978-1-85109-682-4.
    Joan B. Garvey; Mary Lou Widmer (2001). Louisiana: The First 300 Years. Pelican Publishing. p. 118. ISBN 978-0-9612960-4-9.
  12. ^ Richard Zuczek (1 January 2006). Encyclopedia of the Reconstruction Era: M-Z and primary documents. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 405. ISBN 978-0-313-33075-9.
  13. ^ Miriam G. Reeves (1962). The Governors of Louisiana. Pelican Publishing. p. 71. ISBN 978-1-4556-0520-0.
  14. ^ "Congressman Hahn's Funeral". The New York Times. March 20, 1886. p. 1. Retrieved 2015-01-21 – via Newspapers.com. The services were conducted by the Rev. Dr. Percival, Episcopalian, and the body was interred in Metairie Cemetery. open access
  15. ^ "Obituary: Michael Hahn". The New York Times. March 16, 1886. p. 2. Retrieved 2015-01-21 – via Newspapers.com. He was unmarried, but had a sister in New-Orleans and another in Louisville. . . . He was a man of great personal popularity, and some years ago had acquired considerable wealth, much of which, however, he expended in trying to run a Republican newspaper in New-Orleans and much more perished through shrinkage of values. open access

See also


Party political offices First Republican nominee for Governor of Louisiana 1864 Succeeded byJames Madison Wells U.S. House of Representatives Preceded byMiles Taylor Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Louisiana's 2nd congressional district 1862–1863 Succeeded by(Vacant 1863–1868) James Mann Preceded byEzekiel John Ellis Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Louisiana's 2nd congressional district 1885–1886 Succeeded byNathaniel Dick Wallace Political offices Preceded byHenry Watkins Allen Confederate Governor George F. Shepley Military Governor Governor of Louisiana 1864–1865 Succeeded byJames M. Wells Preceded byCharles W. Lowell Speaker of the Louisiana House of RepresentativesMichael Hahn (Disputed) Louis A. Wiltz 1875 Succeeded byE. D. Estilette Wheeler Compromise