New Orleans Public Library
|Administrations of the Mayors of New Orleans|
Charles M. Waterman (d. 1861)
Charles M. Waterman, elected June 2, 1856, as the fourteenth Mayor of New Orleans, was born in New York. He was the son of Captain Robert M. Waterman, master of one of the celebrated “Black Ball” packets running between New York and European ports.|
When Captain Waterman retired from active service on the sea, he moved with his family to New Orleans, and died here on April 29, 1860 at the age of 78.
Charles M. Waterman, when nominated for Mayor, was about 47 years of age and had accumulated wealth in hardware business, in which he was engaged. He was the candidate for Mayor of the American or “Know Nothing” party as their opponents liked to style it. He was known in New Orleans as an ardent and zealous politician.
His administration was disgraced by violence and bloodshed. The inefficiency of the city government was becoming very apparent and after repeated riots by certain elements, Waterman deserted his post as Mayor, and took up his quarters near the Jackson Square. There he was visited by A. G. Brice and Judge A. G. Semmes, who endeavored to induce him to return to the City Hall in order to swear in a special police force which, in view of the disturbed conditions, the collapse or disappearance of the regular force and the unwillingness of the Council to deliver the city completely to the vigilance committee, seemed necessary. These two gentlemen urged him to do this or resign so as to make way for the President of the Council, who, it was expected, would deal resolutely with the situation. Rather than accept this alternative, Waterman made out a paper authorizing recorder Stith to swear in the special police force, in his place.
The Council met at 6 P. M. and Waterman, it was understood, would appear and explain his recent actions, however, he was not present when the meeting convened. Instead, he sent a message asking what protection he could expect if he decided to attend. Recorder Stith was sent to his place near Jackson Square to tell him that he would receive safe conduct to the City Hall. The unruly behavior of the crowd which had again assembled in Lafayette Square gave cause to his fears. The Mayor agreed to accompany Stith, but upon reaching the St. Charles Hotel, he learned of the evil conduct of the mob and refused to proceed any farther.
When the Board of Assistant Aldermen was informed of this decision, they preferred charges against the absent Mayor and his impeachment was ordered. The Board of Aldermen, which under the charter became the tribunal authorized to proceed with the impeachment, also adopted a resolution for the expulsion of Mayor Waterman from office, which was followed by a resolution to request H. M. Summers to act as Mayor. He immediately accepted and took charge and denounced the Vigilance Committee as a lawless band and requested them to disperse or suffer the consequences.
It is known that there existed dissensions in the American “Know Nothing” party of which Waterman was a leader. At any rate, when New Orleans awoke on the morning of June 3rd, it was to find that a large part of the city had passed into the control of the Vigilance Committee; that the city government had practically ceased to function; that the Civil War, if not actually in progress, was threatening and that Captain J. K. Duncan, an officer of the United States Army stationed at the Barracks, had marched to Jackson Square, occupied the Cabildo and posted sentinels at all approaches to that part of the city. It will be asked how Duncan, an officer of the United States Army became involved, but it has never been possible to answer this question. Of great significance is the Anti-American uprising as it gives us a picture of the lawlessness then existing in New Orleans.
A perusal of the records would suggest that in Duncan’s Vigilance Committee is to be found the germ of the White League and other organizations which, at a later time were to exercise a strong influence over the destinies of Louisiana. There is much about this affair which invites comment. The conduct of the Mayor is hard to explain. New Orleans had passed through one of the most critical trials which the people had been called upon to meet.
Henry M. Summers continued to act as Mayor from June 5th until June 21, 1858, when the new administration took over the city government. Henry M. Summers, a native of Christian County, Kentucky, died in New Orleans on June 23, 1865 at the age of 52, having been a resident of this city for thirty years.
Waterman retained his popularity with the people and continued to be respected and influential both in business and politics up to the time of his death. His disappearance was a topic of intense interest. He left his residence on St. Peter near Rampart Street and was never heard of again. A note which he left, gave cause to believe that he meant to commit suicide. On Thursday evening, June 14, 1860, a hat was found on board the Second District Ferryboat plying between New Orleans and Algiers, which was fully identified as belonging to Mr. Waterman, it was marked with his initials. Boats were engaged and a force employed to search the river and the banks of each side for his body.
Mayor Waterman was a man of great sensibility, very proud of character and position and very impulsive. At the same time he was liberal, warmhearted and highly esteemed. The failure of the respectable and old established firm in which he was a member, was considered the reason for his self-destruction.
|Members of the Waterman Administration|
June 17, 1856-June 8, 1858
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