William E. Chandler
Wm Eaton Chandler (1).jpg
United States Senator
from New Hampshire
In office
June 14, 1887 – March 3, 1889
Preceded byPerson Cheney
Succeeded byGilman Marston
In office
June 18, 1889 – March 3, 1901
Preceded byGilman Marston
Succeeded byHenry E. Burnham
30th United States Secretary of the Navy
In office
April 16, 1882 – March 4, 1885
PresidentChester A. Arthur
Preceded byWilliam H. Hunt
Succeeded byWilliam Whitney
Personal details
William Eaton Chandler

(1835-12-28)December 28, 1835
Concord, New Hampshire, U.S.
DiedNovember 30, 1917(1917-11-30) (aged 81)
Concord, New Hampshire, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Ann Gilmore
Lucy Lambert Hale
EducationHarvard University (LLB)

William Eaton Chandler (December 28, 1835 – November 30, 1917), also known as Bill Chandler,[1] was a lawyer who served as United States Secretary of the Navy and as a U.S. Senator from New Hampshire. In the 1880s, he was a member of the Republican "Half-Breed" faction,[2] the wing of the party which advocated civil service reform. His credentials were established as a moderate in comparison to most of the Republican Party, particularly in his opposition towards sound money.[3]

Chandler, who continued advocated civil rights following the end of Reconstruction, criticized the policies of President Rutherford B. Hayes, whose actions pertaining to the South he viewed as too lenient.[4]

Early life

A young William E. Chandler with his parents, Nathan S. Chandler and Mary Chandler
A young William E. Chandler with his parents, Nathan S. Chandler and Mary Chandler

William E. Chandler was born in Concord, New Hampshire to Nathan S. Chandler and Mary Ann (Tucker) Chandler. William's elder brother, John Chandler, was a successful East India merchant and his younger brother George Chandler, an attorney who served as a major during the Civil War.[5]

William Chandler attended the common schools, Thetford Academy and Pembroke Academy before attending Harvard Law School, where he began a romantic correspondence with Lucy Lambert Hale, daughter of Senator John Parker Hale. He graduated in 1854, was admitted to the bar in 1855, and commenced practice in Concord.[6]

In 1859 Chandler married Ann Gilmore, the daughter of Governor Joseph A. Gilmore. In 1874, after his first wife's death, Chandler resumed his romance with Lucy Hale, who had been secretly betrothed in 1865 to John Wilkes Booth, Abraham Lincoln's assassin. Chandler and Hale were married in 1874, and in March 1875, their only son, John Parker Hall Chandler, was born.[7]

Political career

Photographic portrait of Chandler, taken circa 1865–1880 by the Brady-Handy studio
Photographic portrait of Chandler, taken circa 1865–1880 by the Brady-Handy studio

In 1859, Chandler was appointed reporter of the decisions of the Supreme Court of New Hampshire. He then served in the New Hampshire House of Representatives from 1862 to 1864 and was the Speaker during the last two years.[5][8]

In 1865, Chandler was appointed by President Abraham Lincoln solicitor and judge advocate general of the Navy Department. Subsequently, he was appointed First Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, until he resigned in 1867.[5] During Chandler's tenure as First Assistant, referenda for black suffrage in most states failed, and he explained to a Radical Republican that President Andrew Johnson believed the Republicans:[9]

...could not carry [black suffrage] as a national issue; and the result in Connecticut proves he is right.

Like most Republicans, Chandler advocated suffrage for blacks.[3] However, he broke from the party's loyalists in his opposition towards the perceived influence of trusts and railroad interests. Chandler also opposed the gold standard.[3] Among intraparty disputes on civil rights between the Radical and "Conservative" factions, Chandler stated:[10]

I notice, that everyone who goes South, whether Radical or Conservative, comes back confirmed in his previous opinion.

During Reconstruction, Chandler expressed pessimism of Republican efforts to safeguard Southern blacks from Democratic terrorism, viewing a demise of military protection as inevitable. As chairman of the Republican National Committee, he wrote:[11]

This southern business must have its run. We are bound to be overwhelmed by the new rebel combinations in every southern state.

On April 2, 1868, Chandler testified in the impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson, having been called as a witness by the prosecution.[12]

Chandler returned to New Hampshire and became a newspaper publisher and editor during the 1870s and 1880s. Continuing in politics, he was a member of the State constitutional convention in 1876 and a member of the State house of representatives in 1881.[5] Chandler, a Half-Breed and ally of James G. Blaine,[2] was appointed by President Chester A. Arthur as Secretary of the Navy in 1882. He took charge in 1883 in planning for the rescue of Lt. Adolphus Greely's Lady Franklin Bay Expedition. Chandler served until 1885.

As a Republican, he was elected to the United States Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Austin F. Pike and served from June 14, 1887, to March 3, 1889. Subsequently, elected for the term beginning March 4, 1889, he was reelected in 1895 and served from June 18, 1889, to March 3, 1901. He was an unsuccessful candidate for renomination. He served as chairman of the Committee on Immigration (Fifty-first and Fifty-second Congresses), Committee on Census (Fifty-fourth Congress), Committee on Privileges and Elections (Fifty-fifth and Fifty-sixth Congresses).

Amidst controversies that ensued in the wake of the 1876 United States presidential election, Chandler aided Republican efforts to ensure an ultimate victory for Rutherford B. Hayes over Samuel J. Tilden. In the state of Florida, the Tallahassee canvassing board tossed out 1,500 Democratic votes under the urging of Chandler, who believed the results tainted by Democratic election fraud and voter suppression, to "manufacture a Hayes victory."[13]

In 1892, Chandler proposed a one-year ban on immigration, to keep out "undesirables," which included cholera carriers, Anarchists, nihilists, polygamists, Mafia members, illiterates, "blind or crippled" persons, "persons without means," etc.[14] Among the solutions Chandler proposed for addressing the "evils which have been made apparent by the vast increase, within recent years, of degraded immigrants from Italy, Turkey, Hungary, Poland and Russia proper" were the addition of an educational requirement and property qualification for all persons or families seeking to emigrate to the United States.[15] The strongest opponents of the bill were the steamship companies, who stood to lose a major portion of their business.[16] A watered-down version of The Chandler Immigration and Contract Labor Bill became law on March 3, 1893. It simply required steamship companies to prepare lists of their passengers containing full information,[17][18] and thus very likely served as a compromise to get the steamship companies to back down on Immigration Reform at this time.

In 1900, he was one of only two Republicans and the only Senator from the Northeast to vote against the Gold Standard Act.[19]

Chandler was appointed by President William McKinley to the Spanish Treaty Claims Commission in 1901. He was the president of the Commission from its inception until 1907, when its work was nearly complete.

In 1907, Chandler served as the lead counsel during the Next Friends Suit, a legal challenge over the estate of Mary Baker Eddy, the leader of the Christian Science church. The trial was headline news across the country.[20][21]

Leaving public office, Chandler resumed the practice of law in Concord and Washington, D.C.

He died at Concord in 1917 and was buried in Blossom Hill Cemetery in Concord.[22]


USS Chandler (DD-206) was named for him.

Chandler's grandson Theodore E. Chandler joined the U.S. Navy in 1911 while his grandparents were both still alive, and later distinguished himself as a rear admiral in World War II. While aboard the cruiser USS Louisville, he was killed in action by a Japanese kamikaze aircraft during the Battle of Lingayen Gulf in January 1945.


  2. ^ a b Weisberger, Bernard A. James A. Garfield and Chester A. Arthur. Encyclopedia.com. Retrieved March 4, 2022.
  3. ^ a b c Guide to the William E. Chandler Papers, 1820-1917. New Hampshire Historical Society. Retrieved March 4, 2022.
  4. ^ Letters of Mr. William E. Chandler relative to the so-called southern policy of President Hayes : together with a letter to Mr. Chandler of Mr. William Lloyd Garrison ... Library of Congress. Retrieved March 5, 2022.
  5. ^ a b c d John Badger Clarke, Sketches of successful New Hampshire men... (J.B. Clarke, 1882) pp. 261-265
  6. ^ The New England magazine, Volume 36, "What's Doing at Washington" by David S. Barry, New England Magazine Co., (1907) p. 261
  7. ^ Kunhardt, Dorothy and Philip, Jr. (1965). Twenty Days. North Hollywood, Calif.: Newcastle. pp. 178–179. LCCN 62015660.((cite book)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  8. ^ Jenks, George E. (1866), Political Journal for the State of The New Hampshire 1867, Concord, New Hampshire: McFarland and Jenks, p. 45
  9. ^ Foner, p. 223.
  10. ^ Foner, pp. 224–25.
  11. ^ Foner, p. 451.
  12. ^ Extracts from the Journal of the United States Senate In All Cases of Impeachment Presented By The United States House of Representatives (1798-1904). Washington Government Printing Office. 1912. p. 241.
  13. ^ Muzzey, David Saville (1934). James G. Blaine: A Political Idol of Other Days, p. 126. New York: Dodd, Mead, and Company.
  14. ^ See, for example, "To Control Immigration: Four More Classes of Excluded Persons Proposed". The New York Times. Washington. January 5, 1893. p. 3. Retrieved January 7, 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
  15. ^ "Shall Immigration Be Suspended?", North American Review No. 434, January 1893, p. 7.
  16. ^ See, for example, "Prohibition of Immigration: Opposition of the Steamship Companies to the Chandler Bill". The New York Times. Washington. December 12, 1892. p. 4. Retrieved January 7, 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
  17. ^ "The New Immigration Bill". The New York Times. Washington. March 4, 1893. p. 9. Retrieved January 7, 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
  18. ^ "(Untitled editorial)". The New York Times. March 5, 1893. p. 4. Retrieved January 7, 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
  19. ^ "TO AGREE TO THE REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE OF CONFERENCE ... -- Senate Vote #21 -- Mar 6, 1900".
  20. ^ "How Factual Evidence Subdued Tabloid Fiction in the Next Friends Suit of 1907". Longyear Museum. September 10, 1995.
  21. ^ Peel, Robert (1977). Mary Baker Eddy : the years of authority. New York : Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
  22. ^ "Hon. W. E. Chandler Dead". The Boston Globe. Concord, New Hampshire. November 30, 1917. p. 4. Retrieved January 7, 2021 – via Newspapers.com.

Book sources

Government offices Preceded byWilliam H. Hunt United States Secretary of the Navy 1882–1885 Succeeded byWilliam C. Whitney U.S. Senate Preceded byPerson C. Cheney U.S. senator (Class 2) from New Hampshire 1887–1889 Served alongside: Henry W. Blair Succeeded byGilman Marston Preceded byGilman Marston U.S. senator (Class 2) from New Hampshire 1889–1901 Served alongside: Henry W. Blair, Jacob H. Gallinger Succeeded byHenry E. Burnham Political offices Preceded byEdward A. Rollins Speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives 1863–1864 Succeeded byAustin F. Pike