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Henry A. Du Pont

Railroad President/U.S. Senator

Centurion, 1891–1926

Full Name Henry Algernon Du Pont

Born 30 July 1838 in Greenville, Delaware

Died 31 December 1926 in Greenville, Delaware

Buried Du Pont de Nemours Cemetery, Wilmington, Delaware

Proposed by Beverley Robinson and William Jay

Elected 4 April 1891 at age fifty-two

Archivist’s Note: Brother-in-law of Beverley Robinson (his proposer)

Proposer of:

Century Memorial

Henry Algernon du Pont was one of the very few survivors of that group that almost antedates our Civil War volunteers—the West Pointers who went to the front in 1861 as members of the “old army.” Du Pont did not go as a veteran, however, for he graduated (at the head of his class) in July, 1861, and smelt powder first only along with the citizen recruits. But that was a war in which West Pointers rose almost overnight from command of a company to command of a division and, although du Pont never achieved the higher rank, he handled a brigade of artillery under Crook and came out of the war a brevet lieutenant-colonel with the Congressional medal for “most distinguished gallantry.”

The colonel was no politician, but the exigencies of Delaware politics drew him from the railway career, which he had pursued on retirement from the army, into the political lists. The gas promoter Addicks had contracted the habit, not unknown elsewhere in the nineties, of buying up in bulk the vote of the Delaware State legislators to be cast for himself as United States Senator. It was a time when men of convictions were urgently needed at Washington, for the free-silver coinage fight was on the cards. Du Pont, an avowed sound money man, challenged the gas promoter, whose convictions nobody trusted, and won the fight. The free-silver senators at Washington disputed the election. In 1926 or 1927, the Senate would have been moved by sensitive official scruples against claimants of a seat who, like Addicks, had bought their delegates. But that was 1895, when the qualms of senators were chiefly excited over credentials for a seat presented by a newly-elected senator who disagreed with them politically. The Senate’s Committee on Privileges and Elections confirmed du Pont, but the free-silver majority overrode the committee and voted him out. Only in 1906 did he finally reach the Senate, where he sat until his advocacy of American participation in the European War incited the pacifists to defeat him in the election of 1916.

Alexander Dana Noyes
1927 Century Association Yearbook