Thursday, March 21, 2019
Bridgeport Mayors, Politics

James C. Loomis

by Michael Treadwell

At the start of his career, attorney and politician James Loomis posted the following advertisement in a Bridgeport newspaper: “James C. Loomis, Attorney & Counsellor at Law. Has removed to the City of Bridgeport, and taken an office over the store of Messrs. Hall & Niles, in Water Street, fronting State Street.   April  22, 1839”.[1]

In addition to practicing law, Loomis became involved in local politics.  Loomis was a candidate for mayor of Bridgeport in 1842, only six years after Bridgeport was incorporated in May of 1836.[2]  Two Bridgeport newspapers during this time were the Republican Farmer and the Republican Standard.  The October 3, 1842 election was anything but easy for Loomis.  The Standard’s coverage of the election was difficult to follow:

Our City Election yesterday, was a very curious affair. Five Tickets, all of a mixed order as to politics were in the field.  An ‘Anti-holding City Meetings to talk over Rail Road matters’ Ticket, first made its appearance and the others were got up in opposition. At the time of this present writing, it is ascertained that nobody in particular is elected Mayor by a great majority. [3]

The Standard referred to an “anti–holding meetings concerning railroad matters ticket”.   Perhaps this represented one or more of the candidates in the race.  One can only guess what the issues were and the differences between the candidates.

A second vote occurred one week later to determine who would be the winner.  Three candidates were running, D. B. Nichols, D. Thatcher, and Loomis.  Nichols received 128 votes, D. Thatcher, 109, and Loomis, 14, with a scattering of 13 additional votes.  Two hundred and sixty-four people voted.  In order to win, one candidate had to receive 133 votes.   None of the candidates reached that number, therefore, “no choice was effected”.[4]

Two weeks later the Standard reported:

a meeting was called in this city, on the 20th and a resolution was passed requesting Mr. Loomis to continue in the office of mayor, during the ensuing year.  In reply to an application, made by a committee appointed at this meeting, Mr. Loomis, after stating that he at first had no desire to retain the office with which he had been honored”, agreed to continue as mayor.[5]

[1] Bridgeport Republican Standard, Aug. 21, 1839
[2] Charles W. Bradley, Connecticut Register Being an Official State Calendar of Public Officers and Institutions in Connecticut for 1847 (Hartford: Brown & Parsons), 178.
[3] Bridgeport Republican Standard, Oct. 4, 1842
[4] Bridgeport Republican Farmer, Oct. 11, 1842
[5] Bridgeport Republican Standard, Oct. 25, 1842

The Standard provided no further details.   Did the voters appoint the committee that requested Loomis to continue as mayor?  Who was on the committee?  Nichols and Thatcher received more votes than Loomis.   Did they drop out and step aside for Loomis?

The following year, Mayor Loomis ran for reelection. The Standard endorsed Loomis with a sly reference to his personality, as well as referring derisively to the office of mayor:

As to a candidate for mayor, we go for the present incumbent, [Mayor Loomis]. Bating his sneaking propensity and a little superfluous grandeur which he carries about with him, he makes a very respectable functionary and we take pleasure in urging his claims for another ‘hold over’, particularly, as we know of nobody else just now, who would like to be honored or bothered with the office in question. [6]

Loomis was reelected by a majority of about 130 votes.[7]

After retiring as mayor, Loomis served as the City Attorney for Bridgeport from 1850 to 1858.  In 1859 he was succeeded as City Attorney by H. T. Blake.  He was listed in the 1857 and 1861 Register as a member of the Connecticut General Assembly, in the House of Representatives, representing Bridgeport.[8]

In February of 1861, Loomis was nominated by the Democratic party to run for governor.  His opponent was the incumbent governor, William A. Buckingham.  The country was in the middle of a crisis. Several Southern states had already seceded from the union and formed their own separate government.  In his acceptance speech delivered on February 6, 1861 he said,

What can be done to save our country? What reconciliations can be made to restore confidence, peace, concord, the reunion of the now dissevered states.  Let us strike for the reconstruction of this union, not with the sword, but with the olive branch.”[9]

Loomis believed there was still time to bring the Southern states back into the union through peaceful negotiation.

The Standard, having endorsed his opponent Buckingham claimed: “The nominee for Governor, in his speech is reported as saying that some of the Southern states had, “Not unreasonably” withdrawn from the union”[10]

[6] Bridgeport Republican Standard, Sept. 26, 1843
[7] Bridgeport Republican Farmer, Oct. 3, 1843
[8] Bradley, Connecticut Register, 1850-1854, 1856-1859, 1861-1863.
[9] Bridgeport Daily Advertiser and Farmer, Feb. 7, 1861
[10] Bridgeport Daily Standard, Feb. 7, 1861

The Farmer, which endorsed Loomis, printed his entire acceptance speech.  Loomis had said the Southern states “have suddenly withdrawn their allegiance and are now forming a separate confederacy, independent of, if not in direct hostility to us,” [the North]. [11]  Loomis never mentioned his support whatsoever for any of the Southern states that had withdrawn from the union.  He tried to find a way to convince the Southern states to return to the union.   Like the future president, Abraham Lincoln, he did not want a war.

In addition, the Standard mentioned that somebody had “reported” the information to them about what Loomis had said in his acceptance speech, yet they never identified who the person was.  The Standard was using character assassination against Loomis during his campaign, in an attempt to convince the voters that he was really a traitor who backed secession.

In 1860 Loomis made a speech at a “union meeting” at Bridgeport’s Washington Hall prior to the South’s secession from the Union. The purpose of the “union meeting” was to promote the union of the country, and to do all that could be done to prevent the Southern states from seceding and breaking up the Union.

Abolitionists had limited popularity in the North, partly because some advocated violence. [12]  William Lloyd Garrison, who published the abolitionist newspaper Liberator, delivered a speech in which he hoped that “Southern slaves ought, or at least had a right, to cut the throats of their masters”. [13] Connecticut born abolitionist John Brown was associated with the Pottawatomie Massacre, an infamous, “bleeding Kansas” incident in which Brown led a group of abolitionists to kill five pro-slavery party settlers in Franklin County, Kansas.[14]

Loomis staunchly opposed slavery but he believed that abolitionists such as Garrison, and especially Brown, only escalated the tension and animosity between the North and the South, and made a hostile situation worse.   He said the actions of “Northern fanatics” interfered with a “plan for gradual emancipation of the slaves” and had antagonized Virginia into forming a Southern Confederacy. [15]

[11] Bridgeport Daily Advertiser and Farmer, Feb. 7, 1861
[12] Lloyd Paul Stryker, Andrew Johnson A Study in Courage (New York: Macmillan Company, 1929), 49.
[13] Stryker, 49.
[14] David M. Potter, The Impending Crisis, 1848-1861 (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1976), 211-212.
[15] Bridgeport Daily Advertiser and Farmer, Jan. 7, 1860

The election took place on April 1, 1861. In Bridgeport, Loomis received 1,270 votes to Buckingham’s 1,024. He won in Bridgeport by 246 votes.[16]  However, it was not enough. Buckingham won the election statewide.  He received 43,012 votes and Loomis captured 40,986 votes. Loomis lost the election by approximately 2000 votes.[17]

Eleven days after his defeat the Civil War began at Fort Sumter in South Carolina on April 12th, 1861. His hope to convince the Southern states to reunite with the Union without a civil war was lost.

Loomis ran a second time for governor one year later against the same opponent, Governor Buckingham. The election occurred in April of 1862, in the midst of civil war.  Loomis lost Bridgeport by a margin of 251 votes. [18]  He lost the election statewide by a wider margin of 9,148 votes than the year before.  Buckingham received 39,782 votes and Loomis captured 30,634.[19]

Loomis supported the war effort in the North.  On August 15, 1862, he delivered a speech at a meeting to recruit a company of soldiers for the union army. [20]

After the war, Loomis became involved in several noteworthy Bridgeport organizations.  He was President of the County Bar Association, of the City Board of Education, of the Mountain Grove Cemetery, and most importantly, the Bridgeport Library Association.  He died on September 16, 1877.[21]

Loomis witnessed the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, and the subsequent secession of the Southern states that led to civil war. His career took place in the middle of a turbulent time in American history.  He never made history on a national scale, but he was a prominent figure in Connecticut politics.  He fell short of being elected governor, however, he was a prominent citizen of Bridgeport and served his city well as mayor, city attorney, and member of the General Assembly.

[16] Bridgeport Daily Standard, Apr. 2, 1861
[17] Bradley, Connecticut Register, 1862.
[18] Bridgeport Evening Standard, Apr. 8, 1862
[19] Bradley, Connecticut Register, 1863.
[20] “Stamford’s Civil War: At Home and in the Field a 2003 Exhibit,” Stamford Historical Society, http:www.stamfordhistory.org/cw_timeline.htm.
[21]“James Chaffee Loomis,” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Chaffee_Loomis.

Michael Treadwell
Michael Treadwell
Michael Treadwell - Grassroots Historian Michael Treadwell is interested in the history of Bridgeport and other local history topics. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from Sacred Heart University and recently wrote a paper on a 19th Century dispute between Episcopal churches in Weston and Easton and the lawsuit that entangled them. He may be reached at: historybuff1850@outlook.com