Portrait: Bedford County Courthouse.
Born September 24, 1780 at Suffield Township, Hartford, Connecticut, the Honorable John Tod was the son of David and Rachel (Kent) Tod, descended from 1761 Boston progenitor-immigrants Robert and Isabella Tod of Shire of Perth, Scotland. John and brother George attended tuition schools before entering Yale College, New Haven – both preparing for the law. George matriculated about 1797; however, no record indicates brother John qualified for graduation. John’s older brother quickly emerged as a promising attorney, and the future Speaker became his legal understudy. John received his law certificate about 1799, later moving with his father to Aquasco, Maryland, 1801-1802, where he assumed teaching duties as Assistant Master of Charlotte Hall. The family eventually relocated in New York, all but John and George, who settled in Pennsylvania and Ohio respectively.
In late 1802, Tod moved to Bedford, Pennsylvania “without a shilling in his pocket, carrying a pack upon his back,” relating to his brother George, “he pledged his only pair of silk stockings for his supper, lodging, and breakfast at the tavern at Bloody Run." Indicative of Tod’s rugged spirit, he informed George, “I have been three or four months taking a tramp among the Indian Tribes to the Westward. Had there been a road, I should have seen you in Youngstown.” Tod built a “weather boarded log-house … on the Public Square,” and in 1802, he resumed teaching school and preparing for a law career. Tod became a member of the Bedford County bar in 1803, postmaster of Bedford in 1805, and clerk of the Bedford County Commission from 1806 to 1807. In 1808, he was elected to the state House of Representatives, where he served through 1812. He married Mary Read Hanna (1810), daughter of General John Andre Hanna of Harrisburg, congressman and grandfather of notable U.S. representative Archibald McCallister.
Tod emerged as a skilled legislator and Speaker of the House in 1812, an honor followed by his election to the state Senate the following year. After enlisting as a private in the War of 1812, he returned to the upper house to become Speaker of the Senate, 1814 to 1817. He opposed soldier suffrage, since “elected” officers in the field might unduly influence voting; he favored a high federal tariff; he led a vote for approval of the construction of a new Harrisburg capitol building and supported a similar plan for a state library. Tod resigned his seat on December 20, 1816 to represent Bedford in the U.S. House, 1821-24. Representative Tod remained an advocate of a prohibitive “tariff,” serving as House Speaker Henry Clay’s chair of the Manufacturers Committee, a position that brought him in direct conflict with James Buchanan and those who supported a low impost on foreign woolens. As a member of the Military Affairs Committee, Tod promoted an adequately staffed, modern national army. In January 1824, Tod aligned with Samuel Ingham’s Family Faction, protesting the selection of presidential candidates during congressional nominating caucuses, noting that the privilege of selecting a candidate rested with the people, free from legislative interference.
Governor Hiester appointed Tod, President Judge of the 16th District (Bedford), 1824 to 1827. He was an associate justice of the state supreme court from 1827 until his death at Bedford, March 27, 1830, at 51. Tod’s brother George settled in Ohio, where his son, David, served as Governor of the state during the Civil War, taking part in the Loyal Governors Conference at Altoona in late 1862. Brother George emerged as an important Ohio attorney and military figure, and is otherwise acknowledged by President Grant as the surrogate father of Jesse R. Grant, the president’s father.
John Tod, Some Account of the History of the Tod Family and Connections (Youngstown, Ohio: s.n., 1917), 33-34; Obituary Records of Graduates of Yale University (New Haven: The University, nd, pre-1956); Frank M. Eastman, Courts and Lawyers, Pennsylvania, vol. II (New York: American Historical Society, Inc., 1922), 457-458; Annals of Congress, 17th Congress, I Session, col. 1632; Philip Shriver Klein, Pennsylvania Politics, 1817-1832: A Game Without Rules ( Philadelphia: The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1940), 151; Ulysses Simpson Grant, Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant in Two Volumes, vol. I (New York: C.L. Webster & Co., 1885-86), 2-3.