HISTORICAL SKETCHES OF NEW MEXICO
From the Earliest Records to the American Occupation in 1847
History of New Mexico (1891) by Helen Haines
L. Bradford Prince was born at Flushing (Long Island, New York) on the 3rd of July, 1840. He is a lineal descendant on the maternal side of Governor William Bradford, of Plymouth, one of the "men of the Mayflower," and had for great-grandfather and grandfather respectively Governors Bradford and Collins of Rhode Island. His paternal ancestors are the well-known Prince family of Long Island.
Owing to delicate health much of his early life was passed in the South. As he grew to manhood he engaged in horticultural pursuits at his father's place in Flushing, but after a short experience abandoned this line of employment to study law. Entering Columbia College Law School he passed through the course with special honor, and upon graduating received the $200 prize in political science.
From his youth he was exceedingly active in all matters affecting the welfare and improvement of his native town. In 1858 he originated the Flushing Library Association, obtaining the first subscriptions, drawing its constitution, acting three years as secretary and afterward as president, and from that time until his departure to New Mexico was the leading spirit in all local public affairs.
Very early in life he developed an extraordinary aptitude for political matters, and the activity he displayed in his district during the Frémont campaign won for him a vote of thanks from the town club, of which his age—he was then but a lad of sixteen—prevented his becoming a member. In the canvass of 1860, though still a minor, he was secretary of the local political organization, and worked enthusiastically for the success of the Lincoln ticket. In 1861 he was chosen a member of the Republican county committee of Queens County, on which he served continuously almost twenty years, during several of which he was its secretary and chairman. He was delegate to all State conventions, during the years from 1866 to 1878, with scarcely an exception; was elected a delegate to the National Republican Convention held at Chicago in 1868, which nominated General Grant, and the following year became a member of the State committee. The political labors of Mr. Prince at this period were all the more honorable from the fact that they were pursued merely as a matter of principle, and without the least expectation of personal advancement, the district in which he resided being strongly Democratic. His qualifications for filling a responsible position were, however, too apparent to be neglected, and in 1870 he was elected to the Assembly, members of all parties joining in his support. In 1871 he was re-elected to the Assembly by a large majority, although his opponent was the strongest Democrat in the district and an experienced legislator, who had already served both in the Assembly and in the Senate. The following year he received the extraordinary compliment of a request for his continuance in office, signed by more than two thousand voters, irrespective of party (being a petition over seventy feet long), and, having been nominated by acclamation, was re-elected without opposition. In 1873, having declined a nomination to the Senate, he was again returned to the Assembly without an opposing candidate. In the fall of 1874 the Democrats made a determined effort to redeem the district, which now for four years had been lost to their party, and placed the Honorable Solomon Townsend—who had served three terms in the Legislature and in the constitutional conventions of 1846 and 1867—in opposition to Mr. Prince. The canvass was an exciting one, but resulted in a victory for Mr. Prince, who secured a majority of 771 votes. There is believed to be no other instance on record of a person being elected five successive times in a district politically opposed to him. In the canvass of 1875 Mr. Prince received the Republican nomination for the Senate, and, although the Democrats were successful in the district on the general ticket by nearly 2700 majority, he won the election by a majority of 904, running 3594 ahead of the ticket. The legislative career of Mr. Prince was an exceedingly useful and highly honorable one. In 1872, 1873 and 1874 he was chairman of the judiciary committee, performing the multifarious and arduous duties in the most creditable manner, and rendering valuable service to the State. While filling this position, over 1100 bills came into his hands for reports—a larger number than were ever submitted to any other committee, either State or national, in a similar length of time. During the winter of 1872 it became his duty to conduct the investigation into the official conduct of Judges Barnard, Cardozo, and McCunn. This investigation extended from the middle of February to about the middle of April, during which time 239 witnesses were examined, and over 2400 pages of evidence taken. The thoroughness and fairness with which the investigation was conducted won the approval of fair-minded persons of all shades of political belief, and its results form one of the brightest pages in the history of the recent "reform movement." The reports of the committee in favor of impeaching two of the judges and removing the other met with general public acquiescence, and were adopted by the House, and Mr. Prince was chosen one of the managers to conduct the impeachment trial, receiving 110 out of 113 votes cast on the ballot in the Assembly. He was also appointed to proceed to the bar of the Senate and formally impeach Judge Barnard of high crimes and misdemeanors. He was active in the matter till the close of the trial, and it has been generally conceded that to no other man is the judiciary of the State so much indebted for being relieved of the disgrace that would have attended the retention of Barnard and Cardozo on the bench. The recent amendments to the constitution of the State received from Mr. Prince special attention. In 1872 he introduced, and succeeded in getting passed, the bill for the constitutional commission. During the sessions of 1873 and 1874 he had charge of the proposed amendments, both in committee and in the Assembly, and the task of explaining and defending them fell almost exclusively to his lot. Just previous to these amendments being submitted to the people for ratification—in the fall of 1874—Mr. Prince, at the request of the Council of Political Reform, wrote a pamphlet on the subject, which was widely circulated as a campaign document, and tended largely to their success at the polls. In the session of 1875 he prepared and introduced nearly all the bills required to carry the new constitutional system into effect, that work being assigned to him by general consent, although the Assembly was Democratic.
While in the Legislature Mr. Prince gave special attention to the canal system of the State and the question of transportation from the West to the seaboard. He made several speeches on this subject in the Assembly, as well as at the organization of the Cheap Transportation Association at Cooper Institute in 1874, and at the Produce Exchange meeting in 1875. The New York Chamber of Commerce twice formally acknowledged these services to the mercantile community by votes of thanks. In 1874 he was chairman of the Assembly committee to conduct the United States Senate Committee on Transportation Routes through the State, and performed that duty in September of that year. At different times during 1874 and 1875 he lectured on this subject of transportation in New York, Albany, Troy, Poughkeepsie, etc.
In May, 1876, Mr. Prince was a member of the National Republican Convention which nominated Hayes and Wheeler. In 1877, though tendered a unanimous renomination to the Senate, he declined to serve again, on the ground that he could not afford longer to neglect his private business.
Mr. Prince's reputation is not, however, confined to the field of politics. As a lawyer he occupies a high position, his clear, incisive reasoning power and rare ability as an advocate rendering him eminently successful. In 1868 he was chosen orator of the Alumni Association of the Columbia College Law School, and for two years was president of the association. In 1876, having again been chosen alumni orator, he delivered an oration in the Academy of Music on "The Duties of Citizenship," enforcing the idea that men of character and education should take the lead in political affairs.
Mr. Prince is well known also as a thoughtful writer and lecturer on various topics, among which those relating to legislative and governmental reform have attracted wide attention.
A work from his pen entitled "E Pluribus Unum, or American Nationality," a comparison between the Constitution and the Articles of Confederation, passed through several editions in 1868 and received the warmest commendations from statesmen and political scientists. In 1880 a Chicago firm published a work of Mr. Prince's on a somewhat similar subject, entitled "A Nation or a League."
As a speaker he is well known throughout the State, having been active in the general political canvass every year when not himself a candidate, and in 1876 speaking over forty consecutive nights, from Rochester and Salamanca to Plattsburg and Brooklyn.
He is also a prominent member of the Masonic fraternity, having been district deputy grand master of Queens and Suffolk counties for the years 1868, 1869, and 1870, and again in 1876. In 1877 he was appointed on the grand master's staff as grand standard bearer. He is now grand representative of New Mexico to the grand lodge of New York.
Mr. Prince has always taken a very lively interest in all that pertains to the best interests of the farming community, and has delivered a number of addresses before the various agricultural societies throughout the State—more notably those of Saratoga, St. Lawrence, Tioga, Orleans, Suffolk, and Cattaraugus counties. For ten years he was superintendent or director of the Queens County Agricultural Society, and in 1862 wrote an agricultural history of the county, which was published by that society. He is also a life member of the Long Island Historical Society, and for fifteen years—from 1864 to 1879—was an officer in that learned body.
During 1879, without any application or request, Mr. Prince was offered various appointments, including two in foreign countries, the marshalship of New York, the governorship of Idaho, and the chief justiceship of New Mexico. The latter he declined three times, but finally, at the urgent request of Secretary Evarts and the Department of Justice, consented to accept and left for his new home February 1, 1879.
He reached New Mexico on the first Saturday of February and opened court at Santa Fe on the following Monday. The district then embraced all of the territory north of Bernalillo, and before the advent of railroads was a literal "circuit," as the court traveled from county to county in carriages, crossing the Rocky Mountains from Cimarron to Taos and returning to Santa Fe, after many weeks, by way of Rio Arriba. Owing to the influx of population at the opening of the railroad, the business of the district was much larger during the period of Judge Prince's judicial term than ever before or since, but by administrative ability and an extraordinary capacity for work he cleared the docket of old cases and kept abreast of the new business. Great pains were taken by the judge in the selection of the most competent jurors, and the people of the district recognized an absolute impartiality in the court, which they highly appreciated. The first act of the Legislature of 1882 was the passage by a unanimous vote in each house, of resolutions exceedingly complimentary to the chief justice. In May of that year he resigned in order to become a candidate for Congress, but he continued to act as judge until the following August. To show what was accomplished during the three and one half years that he occupied the bench, we quote the following extract from his letter of resignation: "The Court calendars have been cleared of the accumulated business; no less than 1184 civil and 1483 criminal cases have been finally disposed of during the seven circuits which I have held. The critical period surrounding the coming of the first railroad is ended and good order and prosperity everywhere prevail." At the Republican Convention in September, 1882, Judge Prince's nomination was defeated; he generously accepted his defeat, however, and magnanimously moved the unanimous nomination of his opponent; but the party was so highly incensed at the course pursued at the convention, that for the first time in many years a Democratic candidate was elected. In 1884 he was again proposed for nomination and was heartily sustained by the progressive element of the people; at the Territorial convention of that year he was nominated; owing to an opposition ticket having been put in the field, growing out of a political feud in San Miguel County, an election under these circumstances was impossible. Judge Prince, however, made a campaign of wonderful vigor, speaking in all parts of the Territory and resolutely refusing, as the standard bearer of the party, to take any step which would impair the future of Republicans in New Mexico; he received a vote of 9930 against 12,271 for Joseph, and 5792 for Rynerson.
In 1880 he drew the act for the organization of the Bureau of Immigration, and when that board organized he was elected President and held that position for a number of years. He was one of the organizers of the Territorial Historical Society in 1880, and in 1882 he was elected president of that society, which position he has held up to the present day and has devoted to this institution much time and attention. In 1881 he was elected President of the University of New Mexico, and has continued to hold that position by successive elections to the present day. When the Tertio Millennial Celebration was organized in 1882 he was elected first vice-president, and in that position worked actively for the success of that wonderful exhibition until its close in August, 1883. He was at one time president of the Santa Fe Board of Trade, and in 1887 he was chosen presiding officer of "The United Miners of New Mexico," a territorial mining organization. Through all this period he was the enthusiastic friend and advocate of his adopted home, and by addresses when in the East, and frequent newspaper communications and interviews, he did a great deal toward removing prejudices and adding to the good reputation of New Mexico. On the 2nd of April, 1889, he was appointed governor of the Territory by President Harrison, and was inaugurated in front of the capital on April 17. The demonstration on this occasion was by far the largest ever known in New Mexico, a great procession escorting him from the depot and about 5000 persons being present at the ceremony.
Governor Prince is indeed a man of whom the Territory may well be proud and of whom it may be said, "His aims are noble and his methods just." He has been a leader in public thought, an authority in law and legislation, and there are few instances where a single mind has impressed itself so strongly upon the affairs of the people as his. He is a man of great and simple nature, of high intellectual powers, of sober and solid judgment, and he has brought to the executive office a well trained mind and a keenness of perception in financial matters that qualify him to make a successful and popular executive.