June 17, 1894
Senate Service Record Set
Perhaps the moral of this story is that those who run for president need to take special care in choosing who will place their name in nomination. In 1880 John Sherman was a major contender for the Republican nomination for president. A former chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee, he won further distinction as secretary of the treasury in the Rutherford Hayes administration. Sherman asked his former Ohio colleague, Representative James A. Garfield, to nominate him at the convention. "You ask for his monuments," Garfield told the delegates, "I point you to 25 years of national statutes. Not one great beneficial law has been placed on our statute books without his intelligence and powerful aid." Unfortunately for Sherman, the convention deadlocked, passed over front-runners like himself, and instead nominated the eloquent James Garfield.
Although he never became president, Sherman was one of the Senate's most illustrious members. In addition to chairing the Finance Committee, he also chaired the committees on Agriculture and Foreign Relations, served as president pro tempore, and headed the Senate Republican Conference.
John Sherman grew up in Ohio with seven siblings, including the future Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman. Trained as a lawyer, he won election to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served from 1855 until he entered the Senate in 1861. There Sherman specialized in financial policy, sponsoring legislation to finance operations of the Union army and to establish a national banking system. As an anti-inflation, sound-money advocate, Sherman crafted laws to reduce the national debt and end the free coinage of silver.
After his service as secretary of the treasury, Sherman returned to the Senate in 1881, ironically to replace Garfield, whose election to the Senate had been superseded by his election to the presidency. In the Senate, Sherman sponsored the landmark Sherman Antitrust Act. He served until 1897, when another Ohioan, President William McKinley, nominated him for secretary of state.
Sherman captured one other Senate distinction. On June 17, 1894, he became the longest-serving senator, breaking the nearly 30-year record that Thomas Hart Benton had set back in 1851. When Sherman left the Senate in 1897, his tenure approached 32 years. In the century since his departure, 29 senators have exceeded Sherman's record length of service. There is no better measure of the increased attractiveness of Senate service in modern times.
Sherman, John. John Sherman's Recollections of Forty Years in the House, Senate, and Cabinet, An Autobiography. 2 vols. Chicago: Werner Company, 1895.