Who Was Fernando Wood?

Fernando Wood was considered an intriguing figure in the politic scene in New York City during the mid-part of the 19th century. Considered a self-made success in the business world, Wood used the independence he found thanks to wealth to pursue a role in politics. This was something Wood pursued for approximately three decades.

Originally born on June 14th in 1812 in the city of Philadelphia, Wood had a rather unimpressive beginning. He failed at two business ventures prior to eventually succeeding with a shipping venture. During the California gold rush of 1849, Wood earned quite a bit of money that he decided to invest in real estate in New York and San Francisco. This is what gave him the funds necessary to engage in various political roles and ventures for the remainder of his life.

In 1836, Wood became a member of Tammany Hall and quickly gained a rather important role. He entered into Congress in 1841, but only for a single term. After he ran, but was unsuccessful for the mayor’s seat in 1850, he was finally elected in 1854 and then reelected in 1856. The administration that served under Wood had a rather mixed and diverse record with the protection offered by Central Park from issues with commercialism as a positive, but widespread inefficiency and corruption, too. Finally defeated in 1857, Wood was expelled from Tammany; however, he responded by creating Mozart Hall. This came with support from a range of different interests, from the labor and business realm. Later, in 1859 he had returned to the office of the mayor and resumed his position.

With the Civil War looming, Wood worked to represent the businessmen in New York City with a number of investments in the South. He wanted to accommodate the demands of the Southern states and even took an active role in the Democratic National Convention in 1860 with a pro-Southern stance. In 1861, on January 6th, during the interregnum of Lincoln’s election and his inauguration, Wood decided to make the proposition that NYC should secede from the state and become established as a “free port.”

This was not a proposal that was acted upon. At the time that Fort Sumter was bombarded Wood decided to throw support to the Union for a short period of time. After being defeated for reelection in 1861 it brought him back to the natural position of being opposed and he and Clement L. Vallandigham created the Peace Democrats in 1863. He also served for one term in Congress but was quickly defeated during the election in 1864. He then made a reappearance back in Congress the following election year and this is where Wood served until he passed away in 1881 on February 14th.

There is no question that Fernando Wood is a rather impressive example of someone who would never accept defeat. Even after failing in business and being beat in elections, he achieved a number of great roles in is life time.


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