Photo (Runk & Co. 1886)
The Honorable Louis Hall was born July 4, 1833 in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, the son of William Maclay Hall and Ellen Campbell Williams.[i] His grandmother, Esther Harris Hall, was the sister of William Maclay, the first United States Senator from Pennsylvania. Hall later removed to Altoona, received a sound education, studied law, became a member of the Blair County bar in 1854, and built a successful practice in partnership with Republican Party strongman Daniel Neff. Developing expertise in corporate law, Hall received particular note as solicitor of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company of Altoona. Included on the 1859 ballot as Blair County’s Union Party Senate nominee, Hall prevailed victorious, becoming an influential legislative voice within the ascendant Union-Republican Party. He was selected as a Blair County delegate to the 1860 National Convention and developed a close professional relationship with Simon Cameron, writing the party boss on January 7, 1861: “I have been solicited as a member of Senators to be considered for speaker at the end of the session,” further asking Cameron for his assistance in Harrisburg toward that successful end.[ii] The request honored, Hall assumed the Speaker’s chair in April 1861.
Hall chaired Estates and Escheats in the same year, voting for U.S. Senator David Wilmot and casting the Cameron line to exempt the Pennsylvania Railroad from the tonnage tax. He supported the 1861 Morrill Tariff, backed the 1861 special session’s $3 Million bill (to back Lincoln and Pennsylvania’s war effort), and voted to enact the “Soldier’s Suffrage” bill.
Senator Hall supported passage of a “Joint resolution relative to the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, and to the subject of slavery in the states,”.[iii] a “Joint Resolution relative to the appointment of a committee to consider the manner of assessing and collecting the direct tax levied by the United States” (in effect, the nation’s first income tax law), a resolution directing the impeachment of U.S. Senator Jesse D. Bright for treason,[iv] an 1865 rule limiting the influence of lobbyists, and supported the session’s authorization for paying state debt and military bounties in federal greenbacks (objecting to U.S. Treasurer Hugh McCulloch’s insistence to retire the controversial paper bills). He backed the adoption of the Thirteenth (civil rights) Amendment, the 1866 U.S. Civil Rights Act, and the 1867 Fourteenth Amendment – clearly defining a freedman’s civil rights. While Hall supported landmark legislation granting Blacks unhindered access to railroad passenger service (as Speaker in 1867), he also supported a bill forming the controversial coal and iron police.
Louis served as a Cameron lieutenant, developing a lifelong personal association with the master politician. In the 1866 campaign, the senator backed John White Geary, his mentor’s gubernatorial choice to defeat the Curtin-McClure faction. Hall’s managerial prowess gained the recognition of the Bellefonte Democratic Watchman, the journal labeling the senator as “Geary’s principal wire worker.”[v] Recognizing Louis’s campaign support, Governor Geary awarded the position of Secretary of the Commonwealth to Hall’s brother-in-law, Francis Jordon. Cameron meanwhile promised the position to Henry C. Johnson of Meadville.[vi] While the conflict incited ill feeling between Cameron and the governor, the former later ignored Hall’s past indiscretion.
Reconciliation worked to the extent that Senator Hall married Cameron’s niece, Elizabeth Warford, on November 26, 1867. The Halls, thereafter, settled permanently in Harrisburg, the senator resigning from public service in 1868 to devote time to his legal practice and new duties as solicitor and counsel for the Harrisburg office of the Pennsylvania Railroad.[vii] Hall earned a respectable legal reputation, trying such cases as Commonwealth v. Credit Mobilier of America, Commonwealth v. Evans, and Commonwealth v. the Pennsylvania Canal Company.[viii]
Louis was a delegate to the 1867 Williamsport Republican Convention, budgeting additional time to aid Cameron with party organization before the upcoming election. Senator Hall appeared as a “large man with a heavy voice which (rose) to a high pitch in the excitement of a trial – an “insistent” man who experienced “frequent tilts with the court.”[ix] In the late 1890s, the Honorable Louis Hall and wife Eliza moved to Philadelphia, where the senator passed away on July 12, 1897.
[i] Commemorative Biographical Encyclopedia of Dauphin County, Pennsylvania (BDC) (Chambersburg: J.M. Runk and Company, 1896), 435; also: Eliza Cameron Warford, File Folder #3, Dauphin County Historical Society.
[ii] Louis W. Hall to Simon Cameron, January 7, 1861, Harrisburg, Roll 6, Cameron Papers.
[iii] SJ, March 13, 1862, 309.
[iv] SJ, January 30, 1862, 88-91.
[v] Bradley, 277.
[vii] Davis, History of Blair County, 171.
[viii] BDC, 435.
[ix] The Twentieth Century Bench and Bar of Pennsylvania, vol. II (Chicago: H.C. Cooper Jr and Company, 1903), 780.